9 SEO Basics That Everyone Should Know

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of obtaining high rankings in Google Search. Yet Google algorithms change at such an alarming rate that it can seem impossible to keep up. Fortunately, rather than chasing the latest updates, simply staying the course can help you gain and maintain high rankings. Before you go looking for the most recent tips and techniques, make sure your basics are as good as you can possibly make them. Here is what you must know about basic SEO.

1. SEO Is an Ongoing Process:
Too often, business owners make the assumption that SEO is a one time commitment. The reality is that it is something you must continually monitor and tweak over time. Like regularly scheduled car maintenance or health checkups, keeping a close eye on your SEO can minimize the time and effort that is required to fix most problems. Addressing issues as soon as they occur is always better than putting them off.

2. Content Is King:
Long gone are the days of poorly written web pages stuffed with unnatural keywords. Today, SEO demands that you provide high-quality, authoritative content on each page. At a minimum shoot for 500 words, but 700 to 1,000 or more words are preferred. Organize your content for web readability, using lots of sub-heads, bullets, images, and other features to break up walls of text.

3. Keywords Matter:
Exactly which keywords you choose to optimize for makes a big difference in your success. Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to identify relevant keywords your ideal prospects are searching to find your products or services. Then edit your web pages and/or create new web pages that are 100 percent focused on your target keywords.

4. It’s NAP Time:
NAP refers to your business Name, Address, and Phone number. Google reviews your NAP listed on your website, as well as your NAP listed on other websites across the internet. For example, business directories publish your NAP and this information needs to match the information listed on your website. If there are any discrepancies, then your search rankings will suffer.

5. Above the Fold Is Where It Counts:
“Above the fold” is from an old newspaper term that referred to the spot where the newspaper was folded. Today this phrase refers to the part of a web page that a reader can see without scrolling. Use this space to capture the attention of your prospect right away and encourage her to keep reading. Use engaging, useful, highly relevant content to minimize your bounce rate, or the percentage of people who click immediately back off of your page.

6. Mobile Optimization Is Crucial:
In today’s always-connected world, savvy shoppers move effortlessly between multiple devices, and they expect websites to travel with them. To take this into account, Google released an update to their algorithm in April 2015 in order to include mobile-friendly factors. In other words, if your website is not easy to use on a mobile device, then your search rankings will suffer.

7. Get Fast Results from Local SEO:
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your Google My Business profile for searches within your local area. For example, when you search for a nearby dentist, then you’ll see a map in the Google results along with dental offices near your neighborhood. Those “map” results are the Google My Business results. Ranking your profile on the first page is typically easier and faster than traditional SEO to rank your website. The key is to complete and verify your profile, ensure your NAP is consistent across the internet, submit your business to online directories, and encourage your customers to post reviews on your Google My Business profile.

8. Social Media Cannot Be Ignored:
Social media has become an increasingly important part of a solid SEO strategy. As stated above, content is king and social media is the content superhighway. Engaging, high quality content can be shared virally across social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which in turn drives more visitors, more links, and more conversations that can help improve your search rankings.

9. Tracking Is Essential:
Without tracking in place, how could you possibly know which parts of your SEO campaign are working and which need some help? Google Analytics is a powerful and free tool that lets you analyze your search rankings and user behavior on your website. Use the data to determine which web page rankings are driving traffic and conversions, and which web pages are on the 2nd page of Google and just need a little push. 

What Type of Google AdWords Campaign Is Best for You?

If you are new to Google AdWords, you might be completely unaware of all the different types of AdWords campaigns from which you can choose. Most people think solely of the ads that appear in Google search results.

If you are new to Google AdWords, you might be completely unaware of all the different types of AdWords campaigns from which you can choose. Most people think solely of the ads that appear in Google search results. This makes sense, because anytime you run a Google search, the list of ads is easy to see. Yet this is just a fraction of what Google AdWords has to offer. Choosing which type of AdWords campaign to use depends largely on exactly what you sell and who makes up your target market.

The Search Network

The search network is where I recommend most businesses start. After all, people who see your ads in search are actively looking for whatever it is you sell. In many ways, the search network is the new Yellow Pages. In the “old days,” people looked up what they wanted under a category heading in the phone book. Now they do the same thing in Google. Plus, if you target the Search Partners in your ad campaign, then your ads will display not only in Google search, but also other Google partners such as Amazon, AOL, and Ask.

The Display Network
The display network consists of over a million news sites, blogs, articles, and other websites that accept text ads, banner ads, and video ads from Google AdWords.  This type of advertising is often called “interruption marketing,” because it interrupts what the viewer is doing rather than showing up when that person is actively searching. That means to be successful with display network advertising, your ads and landing pages need to be carefully crafted to this specific purpose, rather than simply reusing your search network ads.

The Shopping Network

Do you remember the old department store catalogs? Sears still puts out a particularly nice one known as the Wish Book for the holiday season, though it’s also digital now. Anyway, the shopping network is the online equivalent of a catalog that stretches across not just a single company, but thousands.

If you sell products rather than services, and you have an online storefront for customers to complete their purchases, Google Shopping might be an ideal choice for you. Your ads will appear not only when users specifically search within Google Shopping, but also when a regular search triggers Google Shopping results. Just be careful. You are only allowed a product image, price, and name, without the text that accompanies a search ad. Make sure your ad speaks for itself.

The Video Network

If you have spent much time watching YouTube videos, you are probably aware of the pre-roll videos, which look much like traditional TV commercials. However, unlike a traditional television commercial, you do not have to pay every time an ad begins. Instead, the video network uses a pay per view (PPV) advertising model. Pre-roll ads give viewers the option to skip through the ad. If a viewer clicks the Skip button, you are not charged for that display. In addition, a regular commercial requires the user to make a phone call or type in a URL to take action. In a pre-roll video ad, all the user needs to do is click on the video to visit your website.

The App Network

The app network focuses specifically on getting prospects to download your mobile app or digital content, or to engage more fully with your app. The ads are displayed only on smartphones or tablets, and redirect the user to the appropriate download site or spot within your app.  The app network is geared toward those targeting the younger generation or trying to build a robust market for their apps.

Managing Multiple Networks
If you’re just getting started and you know potential customers are searching for your products or services in Google, then I recommend setting up a search network campaign.  If you have an e-commerce business, then the shopping network is another opportunity to gain additional exposure.

Once your search and/or shopping campaign is working well, then expand to the display network to get in front of potential customers while they are surfing the internet.  Also, if you have the resources to create a pre-roll video ad, then the video network is a great opportunity because there is still very little competition, which means lower ad costs.

Regardless of which networks you choose, be sure to test different ads and landing pages for each campaign.  Just because one ad and landing page combination works well in the search network doesn’t mean it will work well in the display network, and vice versa.

Want more Google AdWords tips? Get my Ultimate Google AdWords Checklist.


To Succeed Long-Term With SEO, Focus on Relationships

While the word “best” is still a bit nebulous, Google is basically looking for rich, deep content by subject matter experts who are trustworthy and credible. To meet that description, stop chasing techniques and start focusing on relationships. Here are three relationships that can transform your SEO strategy and keep your rankings high.

As Google algorithms continue to change at a tremendous rate, it can be tempting to chase after the latest SEO (search engine optimization) tips and techniques. The Internet is full of conflicting and confusing advice, and trying to keep up can feel like a full-time job. To get out of this loop, try thinking of SEO in a whole new way. Google’s fundamental goal is to provide the best search results. While the word “best” is still a bit nebulous, Google is basically looking for rich, deep content by subject matter experts who are trustworthy and credible. To meet that description, stop chasing techniques and start focusing on relationships. Here are three relationships that can transform your SEO strategy and keep your rankings high.

1. Your Relationship With Google
Many company owners and web masters have an adversarial relationship with Google. Yet if Google succeeds in its mission, everyone benefits, from conscientious business owners to potential customers. Look at Google as your partner in the quest to deliver the best, most useful information to your buyers and prospects. The more you understand Google’s mission, the easier it will be for you to align your website and content to rank higher in the search results.

2. Your Relationship With the Searcher
Building relationships with web searchers is at the heart of both improving your conversions (turning a prospect into a buyer) and boosting your Google rankings. The concept is extremely simple. Provide an excellent user experience from the moment a searcher clicks on your website. Deliver on your promises, describe the benefits of your product or service, present an irresistible offer, and use a clear call to action.

A big part of this is also providing a great mobile experience on your website. Today’s searchers move rapidly between computer, tablet, and smart phone, and they expect your website to move with them. Make sure that every web page is mobile friendly, and that your website functions properly in all devices. Pay particular attention to page load times, playability, and providing an experience on mobile devices that is as rich and complete as your full computer-optimized site.

3. Your Relationship With Other Websites
Ongoing relationships with other websites help you earn organic links, build referral traffic, and send signals to Google that your website is trustworthy. All of these factors improve your Google rankings. Yet they are not enough on their own. Increasingly, building strong rankings requires you to develop human relationships with brand advocates, social media followers, and especially influencers.

An influencer is a person with a strong online following, generally through a popular blog. Influencers typically focus on a niche market, and have become respected experts within their niche. Whether they are actual subject matter experts or not, they heavily influence trends and can be invaluable in spreading the word about your product or service.

To connect with influencers, search for bloggers that cover your industry. Drill down to see how active the blogger is, how many followers he or she has, and how active the followers are in commenting on posts. When you have a short list of potential influencers, start following them. Tag them in your social media posts, comment on their posts, and become part of their community.

Finally, reach out via email to the bloggers you like and explain why you think it makes sense to work together. Most will likely not work out so approach this like dating. You may need to kiss a few frogs to find your prince!

Today, SEO is no longer an individual pursuit. While it is important to continue to follow the basic SEO best practices, many tactics are giving way to relationships. Building relationships is not fast or easy, but when done correctly, it is a key factor to improving your Google rankings.

10 Steps to Create a Profitable Google AdWords Campaign (From Scratch)

Creating a Google AdWords campaign is both exciting and terrifying for many business owners. AdWords has the power to change your company’s fortunes, but whether it will be for good or ill can be tough to predict. Fortunately, following a proven recipe for success can remove a great deal of the guesswork and vastly improve the chances that your campaign will be profitable.

Creating a Google AdWords campaign is both exciting and terrifying for many business owners. AdWords has the power to change your company’s fortunes, but whether it will be for good or ill can be tough to predict. Fortunately, following a proven recipe for success can remove a great deal of the guesswork and vastly improve the chances that your campaign will be profitable.

1. Verify Customer Demand
No matter how amazing your AdWords campaign is, your hard work and money will be for naught if the search volume is simply not there. Use Google’s free Keyword Planner tool to check the keyword phrases for which you want to optimize. This tool lets you analyze a great deal of data, from how often a phrase is searched to how much you’ll likely pay per click to advertise on the keyword. You can also get suggestions for similar phrases.

2. Basic Math
Once you have narrowed down the keyword phrases that interest you, it is time to perform some basic math. Calculate your maximum cost per click (Max CPC) according to the following formula:Max CPC = (average profit per customer) x (1 – advertising profit margin) x (conversion rate)For example, your average profit per customer might be $200. Perhaps 1 in 100 prospects turns into a sale, and your target profit margin on advertising is 20%. Then the formula would look like this: Max CPC = ($200) x (1 – .20) x (.01) = $1.60*Note that if you are just starting out, you will need to estimate these numbers. Later, you can use historical data to calculate your real numbers.*Compare your max CPC to the estimated CPC in the Keyword Planner tool. If your max CPC is higher than the estimated CPC, you are in good shape. If it is significantly lower, then you’ll want to put off using that particular keyword phrase because it will likely be unprofitable.

3. Monitor Your Competitors’ Intelligence
KeywordSpy and SpyFu are incredibly useful tools that let you track your competitors’ historical ad data. You can see at a glance which keyword phrases your competitors are using and how well they are performing. You can also scrutinize your competitors’ ad copy to see what kinds of ads resonate with your target market, and figure out how to differentiate your company within the marketplace.

4. Find Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
After reading through several competitors’ ads, you should have a good feel for the kind of ads you want to write. Now you need to decide how your ads will answer your prospects’ most basic question: Why should I choose you over every other option, including not making a purchase at all?Play to your strengths. What does your company do better than anyone else out there? Is it something that customers find valuable? How can you turn that strength into something that differentiates your company from everyone else’s?A great example is Domino’s 30-minute guarantee. Those ads don’t even mention taste or quality. Domino’s focused on a single aspect — fast delivery — and turned it into an empire.

5. Create an Irresistible Offer
An irresistible offer is what convinces your prospects to take the plunge. To be successful, your offer must:

  • Provide Value: The benefits must outweigh the price.
  • Appear Believable: Shoppers are skeptical, especially online. Tell them why you are running a sale or giving something away for free.
  • Reduce Risk: Provide some sort of guarantee.
  • Include a Call to Action: Tell your prospect exactly what you want him to do next, and make it crystal clear how to do that.

6. Write Compelling Ads
Each ad needs a strong 25-character or less headline that repeats the keyword phrase and convinces your prospect that you can solve a problem or fulfill a need. You also get two lines of 35 characters each to describe your USP, benefits, and call to action. Get creative, using the work you already did in the previous steps.

7. Develop Congruent Landing Pages
Rather than directing your ads to your homepage, develop a tightly tailored landing page for each ad that fulfills the promises made in the ad. The more congruent the experience, the more likely a prospect is to continue along the path towards conversion.

8. Use Conversion Tracking
Conversion tracking is the only method you have to determine which ads are generating sales. To track online conversions, just grab the tracking code from the Google AdWords tool and add it to your e-commerce receipt page or your webform thank you page. To track offline sales, invest in a separate phone number that you only use in your ads and landing pages.

9. Change Your AdWords Settings
Google’s default settings are not always in your best interest, but they are easy to change. Set the Keyword Match Type to Phrase, which displays ads when a prospect types part of your keyword phrase. Also add a list of negative keywords. When a searcher uses one of your negative keywords, your ad will not be displayed. For example, if your keyword phrase is “office space,” make “movie” a negative keyword to avoid displaying the ad to people searching for the film of the same name.

10. Optimize Your Campaign
After you enable your AdWords campaign, the next step is to optimize it based on your tracking data. Raise your bids if your keywords are profitable but you are not yet ranked No. 1. If a keyword is not profitable, lower your bids or pause that keyword. Test different versions of your ads to maximize your click through rate. Also test different variations on your landing page to determine which one maximizes conversions.

Starting an AdWords campaign is always a bit of a gamble, and there are no guarantees. But following this recipe and staying on top of your data will help increase your chances for success.

Want more Google AdWords tips and advice? I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

5 Ways to Improve Your Google AdWords Quality Score

Your Google AdWords Quality Score is Google’s grade of your ad’s overall quality and usefulness. The system is designed to ensure that only the highest quality ads rise to the top, while weeding out those that are of poor quality, spammy or fraudulent. Your Quality Score affects your ad auction eligibility, cost per click, and ad positioning, so it is extremely important to earn and maintain a high score.

Your Google AdWords Quality Score is Google’s grade of your ad’s overall quality and usefulness. The system is designed to ensure that only the highest quality ads rise to the top, while weeding out those that are of poor quality, spammy or fraudulent. Your Quality Score affects your ad auction eligibility, cost per click, and ad positioning, so it is extremely important to earn and maintain a high score.

To arrive at the Quality Score, Google analyzes three key metrics: click-through rate, relevance, and landing page experience. All three are important, but by far the biggest factor in your Quality Score is your ad click-through rate so that’s where you should focus the majority of your time and effort. Here are five steps to help you continually boost your Quality Scores.

1. Create a Congruent Path
The most important step to a high Quality Score and effective advertising is to create a congruent path. By that I mean your ad copy and your landing page copy must precisely match the keyword searched. When this happens, your click-through rate will improve, your ad relevance score will improve, and you’ll create a better landing page experience. In other words, you’ll kill 3 birds with one stone!

2. Create Keyword Groupings
Organize your keywords by similar phrases, and then divide each group into subgroups and, if necessary, sub-subgroups. This ensures that each grouping is tightly focused and makes it easier to create a congruent path mentioned above.

Remember, the closer the match between your keyword, your ad, and your landing page, the higher your relevance scores will climb.

3. Write High Quality Content
For both the ad and the landing page, write clean copy that is free of spelling or grammar mistakes. Create compelling headlines. Break information into easily digested chunks. Make sure your landing page is easy to navigate, clearly explains who you are and what your business does, and provides authoritative original information. Raise your credibility by providing accurate contact information, listing details about any relevant organizations or associations of which you are a member, and explaining your professional credentials.

4. Improve Your Call to Action
Calls to action are essential in both your ad copy and your landing page copy. The call to action tells visitors what to do next, from clicking on your ad to filling out a form on your landing page. In the ad, a strong call to action entices prospects to visit your landing page, which improves the click-through rate component of your Quality Score.

On the landing page, the call to action plays two roles. It improves your conversion rate, or the number of prospects who actually make a purchase or complete a webform. It also boosts the user experience component of your Quality Score by providing clear instructions.

5. Track Your Results
Tracking your results is a vital part of any successful Google AdWords campaign. To review your Quality Scores, you need to add an additional column to your Google AdWords Keyword report. Go to the Keywords tab in Google AdWords, then click on the “Columns” button, then select “Modify columns…” to get started editing your report.

Next, click on Attributes and then click on the “Add” link to the right of “Qual. score”. Click the Apply button and now your report will display your keyword Quality Scores.

Remember that it takes time for changes to make a significant impact on either your conversion rate or your Quality Score. If you make several changes at the same time, it can be difficult to determine the individual effects of each change. Make a first attempt at following these best practices, and then wait several days to see the results. As you make later tweaks, change only one or two things at a time. A bit of patience will help you see the true results of each tweak and help you decide where to focus your efforts.

Want more Google AdWords tips? Click here to get my complete Google AdWords checklist.

SEO Is Really an Acronym: [S]ocial Media, User [E]xperience, and Content [O]ptimization

In times not so long ago, SEO (search engine optimization) was an isolated marketing tactic. The best practices changed over time, evolving through the Google Panda and Penguin updates from keyword stuffing to long-tail keywords and everything in between. Today, however, while SEO remains an important part of an overall strategy, it can no longer be rigidly defined and segmented. Today’s SEO should blend seamlessly with social media, user experience, and content marketing. Here are 5 reasons why.

  1. User Experience:
    Internet users today are savvy and demanding. They expect an excellent experience that answers their questions, solves a problem, or provides the opportunity for further research. Blogs, videos, and other multimedia or interactive tools increase engagement and make it more likely for users to return to the site in the future. Even more importantly for SEO, users tend to share those websites that they deem high-quality with their friends, often through social media. Rather than simply trying to attract visitors to your site by ranking high in Google search, you can now tap into the power of the shared Internet experience to drive traffic. These tools work hand in hand, as increased sharing can lead to more backlinks and higher Google rankings, while a highly ranked site is more likely to be shared.
  1. Link Building:
    Link building, or getting other sites to link to yours, is a vital component of SEO. While its importance has not significantly changed, the best practices for developing those links have. Instead of investing in old-school, manual (or even automated) link building tactics, focus on creating quality content that can be easily shared around the Internet. As your content is passed around via social media, more and more authoritative sites will naturally link to yours.
  1. Bounce Rates:
    The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that immediately click away from your website and try another listing. This number is important to the Google algorithm, because it indicates which sites users find the most helpful and relevant. To reduce your bounce rates, you’ll need to make sure your webpages are 100 percent relevant, engaging, and easy to use. In other words, focus on usability and the user experience so that your visitors don’t get confused and click back away from your website.
  1. Time on Site:
    Time on site is how long users remain on your site. It takes only a few seconds for a web searcher to decide whether a site is worth exploring in more detail. Therefore, Google takes the bounce rate a step further. If users do not spend much time on your site, it counts against you more than if they remain on the site for several minutes before moving on. Therefore, engaging users for a longer period of time is critical to retaining high Google rankings.
  1. Quality Content:
    The Google Quality Update launched in early May 2015, but Google kept mum on the subject in the first few weeks. The company is still holding its cards close, but has admitted that its latest algorithm update affects site rankings based on perceived quality. We don’t know exactly what factors the algorithm considers, but the following likely play a critical role:
  • Richness and credibility: Each page should be expertly written and filled with deep content. If the writer or sponsoring organization is a recognized subject matter expert, or quotes those that are, the page may get a boost. An easy way to boost your credibility is to provide full, accurate contact information on your site.
  • Value: Find an angle that makes your content unique, while maintaining the highest quality standards, and you should have no trouble passing the value test.
  • Professionalism: In addition to using spelling and grammar checkers, make sure to proofread each page manually to avoid simple mistakes. Also, quickly remove spam comments in your blog or forum, and build up any pages that have thin or outdated information.

As you can see SEO has not gone away, but it has fundamentally changed over the past few years. To be successful, you now need to incorporate social media, website user experience, and content optimization.

Want even more SEO tips? Click here to get my SEO Checklist, which walks you through specific actions you can take to improve your rankings and traffic.