Submit your Rss Feed Link Below

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing

Quickly Diagnosing Problems in Analytics

by Manoj Jasra

[Guest Post by Tom Demers]


If your boss is anything like mine, you don't just hand over reports and call it a week/month/quarter/etc. When traffic jumps or drops, you're asked to explain not only what happened, but why it happened. For any online marketer, this means a deep dive into your data. But how do you extract meaning from the numbers quickly?


1. Consider the Source

I find traffic source to be the most common driving force behind changes in performance you can't immediately identify. This is the case because when elements that a company has direct, transparent control of (such as altering page designs or mark up) change they often document those changes. Meanwhile traffic sources can shift without any explicit change in strategy. The first step is to start looking at the sources of your traffic, and to compare them to past results. If you're using Google Analytics, there is a handy date-picker that allows you to compare two chunks of time:


2. Analyze Your Overall Mix

Word of mouth, an offline campaign, or some other variable might cause a surge in direct traffic, which might have positively impacted your conversion rates. Or you might have driven a lot more traffic through SEO or referrals because of ranking shifts or a mention of your company driving lots of visitors.

You can check this easily enough by looking at your traffic sources, and comparing them month-over-month (and then comparing date ranges):


3. Identify Who or What is Sending You Traffic

Additionally, referring sites and specific keywords can send you unexpected traffic. For instance, last month on the WordStream blog Ken had a post go "hot" on Sphinn. While we anticipated some degree of traffic, we saw more than we expected. The same could be applied to a specific keyword; you might have a keyword jump a couple spots without actively building links or doing any on-page SEO, which might affect your organic traffic numbers.

So how do you drill down to figure out what caused the change?
First, make sure you have the appropriate dates selected. If you're analyzing month-over-month, see the screenshot above and be sure to grab the date range that makes the most sense. Next, drill down to the area in question. In this case, referring sites:


Next, you'll want to drill down even further to see the specific sites that saw a change. Once you have the date selected, you can then use the comparison feature to see precisely which sites had the biggest uptick in referred traffic:


In the screenshot above, we see that by selecting the comparison option, we can instantly see that a site (in this instance Sphinn) has sent more than 700% more traffic than usual. Obviously we've likely identified a major driving force in our traffic spike.

You can also apply this methodology to identifying a number of other metrics, as well. For instance, if you want to analyze goals or user engagement metrics, you simply select a different view:


Why is this Type of Analysis Important?

While you could certainly do more in-depth analysis than that outlined above, I think this is a really good way for small business owners and small marketing departments to get a quick handle on the way that their numbers are changing, and the reasons for the changes.

Tom Demers is the Director of Marketing at WordStream, a keyword analysis and organization software provider for PPC and SEO. You can get in touch with Tom by following him on Twitter, checking out the WordStream Internet Marketing Blog where he's a frequent poster, or by sending him an Email at tdemers at wordstream dot com.

Check out our small business news site.

What does this have to do with search engines?

by Sage Lewis

That was one of the recent comments on my series I'm doing at Search Engine Guide. A good question. Here's my answer...

Check out our small business news site.

Perfect SEO Costs Extra

by Stoney deGeyter

Years ago, when I was in Jr. High School I remember a guy who worked for my parents. He always used to say "perfect costs extra." This wasn't one of those, "that's as good as you're gonna get from me" statements, it was more a testament to the expectations that customers have. In everything we do there will be an element of imperfections. If a customer or a client wants perfect, well, that's a whole other pricing ball park.

Recently I dealt with two clients that have suddenly gotten into "rush" mode. Everything needs to be done and it needs to be done now. Normally, this isn't a concern for me because I'm the same way about most things. I don't like to procrastinate, but instead I try to stay ahead of the game.

What makes these two clients unique is that I've been working with both of them for several months and they, not I, have been the primary holdup in making progress. Bear with me here, I'm not just passing the blame.

Perfect is Unattainable.

Case Study: Client #1

I've worked with this client for about five months before my primary, and only contact, quit (or was let go, I don't know which.) I inherited a new contact who really didn't know much of anything that had been going on and they had to go through a pretty steep education process. Any time you put a new person in a new role, it's like throwing someone into a moving vehicle and expecting them to grab the wheel. It can be done, but it takes some time for them to get oriented and up to speed.

As my new contact was getting situated in the new position, the web stuff was moved to the back burner. They new enough to know that the didn't like the way some things had been planned out but not enough to know what it was or what to do about it.

With this we jumped in and began re-organizing the campaign, developing new strategies. Several months later I was finally given the opportunity to bring my new contact and company president up to speed and together we decided on a course of action. Many of the keywords we were told to focus on had been thrown out and we began anew.

That's when things came to a screeching halt, as the companies priorities never quite shifted into giving the SEO top priority. The site went through a re-structuring, and they had been working with their developers and a few times brought us in to provide some guidance. In the mean time we moved forward with the keyword research only to have all our calls and emails ignored for months at a time.

As the site development neared completion my contact wanted to get back in the SEO game again. We had loads of research for them to review and make decisions as to how to move forward. Which meant that we were once again waiting on the client to review the research and provide their input, thoughts and suggestions back to us.

Several weeks later we finally get enough feedback to move on to the next stage of research. Within a few days we provide that to them again and the waiting starts all over.

Once the research was returned back to us, it was our turn to do more research. I found it completely ironic that after a few days of not hearing back from us I received an email from the client asking what's happening and when will they hear from us again. It's been a whole week! (gasp!)

We spent months being ignored, but now everything is rush, rush, rush. On a conference call the company president tells me I need to be more proactive in keeping this process moving forward. "Call us every day, if you have to!" Over the past six months we've sent emails, made phone calls and sent notes to the client asking for their input so we can move forward. Almost all of which were ignored. At some point we have to stop badgering the client.

I do a good deal of client hand-holding to ensure the SEO process moves forward. Whenever we need approvals from the client I'm calling or emailing them weekly until we get the feedback we need. Short of that, there is not much we can do other than to just do an end-run around the client, implement what we want and risk the client disapproving of something that they didn't bother to review when they had the chance.

Case Study: Client #2

This client came to us with what should have been a quick SEO job. We planned to provide keyword research, get the client's input, and optimize the site in a couple of months and then work on more detailed keyword targeting as the months progressed. Here we are six months later and we have only just finished completing a quick search engine friendly optimization of the site. Why? Client perfection.

The keyword research took far longer than it needed to. The client sent us their AdWords keywords assuming that was all we would ever need. While that information helps a great deal, it does not supplement good research on a variety of keyword tools. Each time we would perform research and then seek their input they kept referring back to their AdWords campaign.

What should have been a two-week process at worst, dragged on for well over month. But finally, we got keywords settled and were able to move forward with the site optimization. We made an initial round of changes to the site and presented them to the client for approval. Two things happened.

First, he rejected almost all of our changes out of hand. I spent an hour on the phone going over each change point by point (his doing, not mine.) Each time he would ask about why we are making such and such change and I would explain to him the reason why. It got to the point that I was providing the same explanation for each and every page, but he kept asking anyway. Questions like "why did you put my geographical location here," "what's the point of the calls to action," and "can we change this" were repeatedly asked and answered.

I continuously stressed, we can change anything he doesn't like. But then he feared that if he changed it then he wouldn't rank well. Yeah, that's quite possible. Over and over we covered the same questions with the same answers.

He decided to go through each page and to send us his edits via email. We then had to go back and make all the changes in the site. He took weeks to go through the pages and send us edits. He'd send them in batches that we would implement as we got them.

Not long after this process started we received an email asking why the process is taking so long. !!!?!!! I couldn't believe it. Here we were hung up on keyword research because the client wasn't providing the feedback we needed, then he rejects all of our changes, and spends a couple months correcting everything. Now he asks what is taking so long? Wow.

Every time we implement his edits, he reviews them and makes more changes. The majority of the changes he makes are to his own stuff, not the changes we made. He's a perfectionist and can't let it go until its just right. While he continues to edit and re-edit he's losing valuable time in gaining search engine exposure.

I suggested he upload all our changes as-is months ago just to see if we can start getting some exposure and rankings. If he didn't like the results then we could change things, and edits could be made later. But he couldn't let it go live until it was perfect.

Both of these clients are burning money. In the first case, they have a lot of unused time that we can invest once we get past the research phase. The second case, because he kept having us make edit after edit after edit, he's gone way over the estimated number of hours when we proposed this campaign. But for both of these clients the real cost is in lost time. Both campaigns should have been well on their way to moving up in the search engine rankings, but their delays have set us back considerably.

Sometimes it's best to just move through things quickly, get it done, start getting the benefits, and perfect it later. Hey, it works for Microsoft!

I don't suggest doing shoddy research, or even shoddy work, but waiting on perfection to move forward is a time-losing strategy. Putting out less than perfect work isn't ideal, but perfection rarely ever comes. Look at what George Lucas did with the original Star Wars Trilogy, trying to make it perfect. He pretty much screwed it up. But at least Lucas wasn't dumb enough to perfect Star Wars for 20 years. He got the first version out and screwed it up later.

I'm not a proponent of rushing things through, but sometimes you just need to move things forward. When it comes to SEO, perfect may not cost you any more money, but it will cost you time, and time is a very valuable commodity.

Check out our small business news site.

What's Your True Conversion Rate?

by Mike Moran

A percent sign.

Image via Wikipedia

Good Internet marketers pay close attention to conversion rates, checking their Web analytics system to see how many folks came to the site and how many actually bought something. Some interesting research from Sun Microsystems shad some new light on the limits to how easily we can calculate certain types of conversions.

For some kinds of businesses, conversion rate calculations are easy. Think about Amazon--people come to their site every day and many complete their purchases in the same visit. For Amazon, all they need to do is to divide the number of purchases by the number of visits and they get their true conversion rate.

Most businesses don't have it so easy. If you customers visit your site several times before they convert, you don't want to figure your conversion rate based on visits, but rather on unique visitors. If you are selling computers, such as Sun does, three visits to the site over three days by the same person doesn't tell you that you had three chances at a sale--you had one.

So, the mechanism that you use to identify each of those three visits as being from the same visitor is extremely important. If, for some reason, the mechanism fails, you might interpret two or all three of those visits as being from different people, throwing off your conversion rate calculation.

For most sites, the mechanism used to identify returning visitors is tracking cookies, and this is where the new research from Sun becomes interesting. Every time cookies are deleted, the tracking mechanism is upset--some visitors are counted multiple times because the analytics system can't match their cookies from a previous visit. Sun's research showed that almost 30% of cookies are deleted within a week, but that some cookies are retained even months later. The article suggests that businesses with long buying cycles might need to adjust their calculated conversion rates using this information.

To some, this news might be alarming, but it needn't be. After all, the real reason that you track conversion rates is to understand the effectiveness of what you are doing. As long as user behavior remains consistent--they delete cookies at about the same rates and on the schedule as they used to--or it changes very slowly over time (a safe assumption), whether your numbers are precisely accurate or not isn't important.

What you care about is the trend--the difference between last month's conversion rate and this month's, for example. If both numbers are inaccurate because of cookie deletion (and they are), it's OK, because you can still compare last month to this month to make the decisions you need to make.

Sun's research is important, yes, but it will be more important if that research is conducted every six months to see how behavior is changing, rather than to be used to frantically adjust your conversion rates to make them seem better. Your real conversion rate isn't important as long as you pay attention to what actions made that number go up and down each period.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Check out our small business news site.

Adding Search to Your Marketing Mix

by Scott Buresh

The powerful capabilities of organic search engine optimization (SEO) are now a highly sought after marketing tool by many companies that want to alert customers to their products or services by focusing on certain keyphrases that highlight these offerings. And though SEO has embarked on a meteoric rise in the past few years, other non-traditional forms of marketing are now gaining a great deal of well-deserved credibility as well. More and more marketers are using paid ads to hone in on a potentially profitable client base, while other more traditional channels, such as PR and print ads, appear to be becoming somewhat less effective.

In a recent study (1), Forrester Research found that interactive marketing spending will reach nearly $55 billion by 2014, representing 21% of all marketing spend. And the fact of the matter is that marketers are continuing to place more stock in newer forms of marketing and social media, leaving many higher-ups to wonder if it is time for them to include these channels in their own marketing mixes. And with the help of your search engine optimization company, it's possible to achieve outstanding rankings and results!

What follows are some common considerations that should be analyzed prior to the launch of an SEO campaign so that you will know what you are getting into, what you will need from your own team and your prospective search engine optimization company, and how to most effectively pursue this particular form of marketing.

Achieving Buy-in

Search engine optimization is unlike many traditional forms of marketing in that several departments must be involved in order for the SEO campaign to be successful. Apart from the obvious need to get buy-in from upper management (unless, of course, you are upper management), you will also need to get buy-in from your sales department and, very importantly, your IT department before pursuing the powerful capabilities your search engine optimization company can bring to the table.

Upper Management

While a well thought out, highly targeted SEO campaign is becoming an increasingly popular marketing tool, many "old school" bigwigs are uncomfortable pursuing something that is completely foreign to them. This is not an indictment of the individual - keep in mind that the traditional marketing methods that the company has likely relied upon (trade shows, direct mail, print advertising, etc.) have been relatively unchanged for decades.

While these traditional marketing channels may have remained relatively stagnant, the allocation of spend for them has not. As a recent study by SEMPO indicates marketing dollars are increasingly flowing away from these channels and into the online arena (see chart #1). One of the reasons for this is obviously the effectiveness of the channel (see chart #2), but another, which can be used as ammunition when you are trying to convince your higher-ups to go with a search engine optimization company, is the ultimate accountability that goes along with online marketing: the data that indicates success or failure of your SEO campaign is of the black-or-white variety.

Chart #1

marketing mix chart

Chart #2


When describing the effectiveness of a company's marketing strategy, there is often an old sentiment tossed around - "I know that half of my marketing is not working, just not which half." Because of the analytics involved in search engine optimization, your company higher-ups can take comfort in the fact that this is not another marketing initiative that will self-perpetuate indefinitely - the metrics involved in your SEO campaign will demonstrate that it is working, justifying the continued expenditure.

When trying to get buy-in from upper management, you also have a formidable weapon in the actions, or inaction, of your competitors. If your hated rivals are actively embracing the tools offered by a search engine optimization company, there will be a tendency among upper management not to want to let them get too far ahead. If none of your top competitors appear to be actively pursuing this channel, your company can gain traction before your rivals do and thus gain the competitive edge. Whichever the case, it is now much easier to present a compelling argument to pursue an SEO campaign.

Sales Department

There is often a mutual suspicion and distrust between sales and marketing, but in order for your SEO campaign initiative to be as successful as possible, you should involve sales in the process of selecting a search engine optimization company as early as possible. Achieving buy-in from the salespeople is critical in making certain that the leads that are generated from the website are followed up on as diligently as they should be. By asking sales to assist in important areas of the SEO campaign, like creating an ideal prospect profile and helping to identify targeted keyphrases (after all, they talk to your prospects more often than anyone), you should be able to ensure that when the leads start coming in, your sales team will believe that leads from the website are high-quality and worthy of their immediate attention. After all, without increased revenues, the SEO campaign is not a success - and your salespeople will play a crucial role in determining this.

IT Department

This can be your most difficult challenge. Unlike most other forms of marketing, search engine optimization is a mixture of marketing and technology. Without achieving buy-in, or at least acceptance, from the IT team prior to the launch of an SEO campaign, you are likely to run into problems. IT teams can be particularly protective of their "turf" and may be reluctant to hand over information to your prospective search engine optimization company. This is not inherently bad (it obviously shows dedication to the job), but it can make things difficult when your search engine optimization company is requesting that changes be made to the company website or that analytics platforms be introduced (to name only two likely scenarios).

If you are not used to dealing with your IT department, it would probably serve you well to involve your prospective search engine optimization company in the process of achieving buy-in with them. After all, the vendor should have years of experience in approaching these situations without ruffling feathers. If you choose to approach IT yourself, make it a point to let them know that they will receive a fair share of credit for the success of the initiative and involve them in how you are defining success. This may be enough to win them over to your side.

Works Cited: 1. U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2009 - 2014

Check out our small business news site.

That's Not Possible. Don't Do That!

by Sage Lewis

Financial services companies are the symbol and essence of reality instructors. Their compliance departments lock down communication to extreme degrees. These institutions serve as good reminders of all the people in our lives telling us what we can't do.

Check out our small business news site.

You Don't Know What You Want

by Sage Lewis

Take the first steps of getting out of the life you hate. People live lives of quiet desperation primarily because they don't know what lives they want to live. Here's how to figure out what you want in life. Knowing what you want is absolutely crucial to start living the life you most dream about. Your life is being clouded by reality instructors. Your life is being controlled by meaningless judgments. Every day you let false constructs control your life is a day you have lost and will never get back. Stop that from happening right now. Live the life you most dream about.

Check out our small business news site.

The Matrix Has You

by Sage Lewis

If you are telling yourself or are being told about all the things you can't do, you are living in a false reality. You are living in a construct that has been fabricated to keep you in your place. If you are able to watch this video, you are blessed beyond the vast majority of the people alive on this planet right now. No matter your current situation, you are blessed with incredible opportunity. Don't let that opportunity slip by because of some false rules put in place by society. You owe it to the world to live the life you most dream about.

Check out our small business news site.

Search Marketing Certification Courses

by Robert Clough

We are happy to announce that Search Engine Guide is now offering search marketing certification courses in partnership with Market Motive.

These are 100% online courses priced from $299 to $3500 and are taught by an all-star faculty -- including our own Editor in Chief, Jennifer Laycock:


We are also offering annual and monthly learning plans where members have unlimited access to streaming video classes, weekly webinar-style workshops and self-paced certification courses in all topics.

For the serious marketer, apply now for the September 14 Master Certification Course. This $3500 program includes 90 days of intensive interaction and study with the "Dream Team" internet marketing faculty covering SEO, PPC, Web Analytics, and Social Media Marketing.

Coupon Codes:

To kick off our new courses, we are offering several coupons just for Search Engine Guide readers:

  1. SEGMC1K9 $2500 ($1000-off) Master Certification Course in SEO, PPC, Web Analytics, or Social Media Marketing. 90-day course starts September 14. Start now for early access to classes.

  2. SEGPC99M $99 ($200 off) for first month of continuous training. Subsequent months are automatically billed at $299. Cancel anytime.

Enter your coupon at the bottom of the final checkout page for an adjustment in your tuition.

If you have questions:

Call: 831.706.2369

Toll-Free in US & Canada: 866.323.9444


Current Members Share:

"With the Master Certification, I was able to improve my job performance, and clout within the business community. I would recommend it to anyone who is serious about being a real player in this industry."

-- Mark Bietz , Online Marketing Manager, Rasmussen College. January 2009 Certified Web Analytics Master

"These programs offer a great opportunity to expand your skills into other areas or increase credibility in your current profession. I highly recommend the program."

-- Jennifer Day , Sr Solutions Architect, Coremetrics, Certified Online PR Master, January 2009.

"I feel really empowered with the tools Market Motive has taught me. Viewing sources of web pages, checking out headlines, evaluating sites."

--Margaret Clark (via Twitter). Master Certification Graduate for SEO

"Use the faculty professors. They are extremely open to questions if you are proactive. One of them even gave me his cell phone and invited to call him in the weekend if I had questions!"

--Certified Paid Search and Web Analytics Master, Andres Snitcofsky of Di Paola | WPP

Check out our small business news site.

Blogging Small Businesses have 55% More Traffic, 97% More Inbound Links

by Mack Collier

A recent study by Hubspot found that among their small business
customers, those that blogged had 55% more traffic and 97% more
incoming links than non-blogging small businesses.

The study confirms what most of us that are active in the social media space have known for a while.  Blogs generate more traffic and links than static websites, on average. 

Which is great, but more traffic and links alone does not make your blog successful, right?  And neither does more comments.

What your business needs to do is correlate these metrics back to larger business goals for your blog.  For example, if you are wanting to use your blog as a tool to increase sales on your website, does sending more traffic to your site from your blog really matter, if sales don't increase?

Put your metrics on trial.  Make them accountable, and traceable back to a predetermined goal.  If your goal for your blog is to increase sales, then you can't simply track visitors to your blog.  You need those visitors to take the action (buy something) that you want. 

If they aren't, then you need to drill down and determine why this is happening.  But don't get suckered into thinking that because your blog is getting a lot of comments, and sending a lot of traffic and links to your website, that this signifies success.  Think about what the larger business goal for your blog is, and make sure you are tracking the metrics that have an impact on that goal.

Because you can believe that your skeptical boss will definitely want to know what bottom line impact your blogging is having on her business.

Check out our small business news site.

Best Practices in Search Are Where You Start

by Mike Moran

Consultation with the Customer Service Associates

Image via Wikipedia

"Best practices" is one of those dry as dust phrases that conjures up a consultant orating at you and a dozen co-workers sitting in uncomfortable chairs, each one wishing you could go back to work. If you missed Adam Audette's interesting article entitled, "SEO 'Best Practices' Are Bunk," you should pull up a chair and follow the link to read it. (I'll wait right here.) Adam alluded to my Do It Wrong Quickly concept as a way to do things right (if that isn't an oxymoron in itself), and on the whole I think he is on the right track. His title is a bit audacious (link-baiting must not be a best practice), but what he is saying is important for anyone in Internet marketing, not just organic search.

The problem with the "best practices" concept is that it assumes a relatively static and homogeneous world, where situations are mostly the same from company to company, and they don't change that fast. Neither is true in Internet marketing.

We all know how fast the Internet changes. If you ever discover a best practice, just wait ten minutes and it will be outdated. But we often overlook how unique our companies are. We think that there is some magical success place that other companies have arrived at, and we just need to get there and we can relax. Wrong.

The point of Do It Wrong Quickly is to try things and then fix them. For that, you need a feedback loop—usually in the form of a metric that tells you that your business is succeeding, such as sales (online or offline). When you try something new, you see whether sales go up. If they do, do it some more. If not...

But people so want the best practices so they don't have to think. And they especially want some benchmark that tells them they got it right and don't have to focus on it anymore. I've often had people ask me, "What's a good conversion rate?" And my answer is, "Higher than what you had yesterday." Snarky, yes, but also true. It doesn't make any sense for you to benchmark your company against your competitors, because they probably aren't as comparable to you as you think. Instead, you need to keep your eye on your own business, and continually modify what you are doing to see what works better.

The truth is that you never stop experimenting because the Internet keeps changing, your company keeps changing, your competitors keep changing, and most importantly of all, your customers keep changing. What most people call best practices are no more than rules of thumb—you can think of them as a smart place to begin your experimentation. But they are nothing more than that, in most cases. They are a jumping off point for you to start your improvement process.

If you continually focus on creating a better feedback loop and you make your decisions based on how they fare with that feedback, you'll end up doing something far better than implementing someone's hackneyed idea of best practices. You'll do what's best for your company with your customers.

And then tomorrow, you'll try another experiment to see if your best practices can be made even better.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Check out our small business news site.

Stop Being a Victim. Make Things Happen

by Sage Lewis

Humanity has less control of their lives than ever. But, as they say, God closes a door and opens a window. I believe there is a new way of taking control of your life. Today I am a business owner of a multi-million dollar company. But my history would not have been any indication of that becoming a reality. If you are tired of living a life that you don't like I can help you change that. On top of that, I'm going to give you this information for free. Your life is not a dress rehearsal. You don't get a second chance. I want to help you do what you want to do.

Check out our small business news site.

Out Of Control

by Sage Lewis

The world we live in is less reliable and dependable than it ever has been. I'm starting a series where we look at how you can start taking back that control.

Check out our small business news site.

One Simple Step to Building Credibility

by Stoney deGeyter

I'm going to start this article with the conclusion, so if you read no more than this first paragraph you can walk away knowing the most important thing this article has to say. And here it is: Fix your broken links.

That's it, you're free to go now. The rest of this article is just stories, opinion and my thoughts that reinforce the point above. But if you need more convincing, read on.

So many times I see businesses investing thousands of dollars building their websites, tinkering with SEO improvements, or increasing/improving their content, only to neglect one of the most basic problems that may be a significant contributing factor in reducing their conversion rates: broken links.

Every broken link a visitor encounters causes a loss in credibility and possibly prevents the visitor from getting the information they need in order to "convert" into a customer, a lead, or a member of your community. Even worse, every visitor that encounters a broken link on your site is given a nice kick in the but out the door. They literally have to push their way back in order to stay on your site. Most won't.

Credibility Crash

I'm a fan of the Better Business Bureau. I believe that having the BBBs "accredited business" symbol on your site adds an additional element of trust that can be the deciding factor for those contemplating doing business with you. The few hundred dollars a year it costs to be a BBB accredited business is worth it.

I've been a member of the Better Business Bureau for the past five years and have an A+ BBB Rating. Until recently I was accredited in Reno, NV, but I have since moved and needed to get re-accredited with the local BBB in Canton, Ohio. Unfortunately, the BBB isn't globalized and an accreditation in one location does not transfer to an accreditation to another. (That's a broken link of another sort, if I ever saw one!)

Several days ago I was on the local Better Business Bureau site looking for information on becoming an accredited business. (You can't "apply", you can only inquire. That makes me feel like I'm part of an exclusive club!). Looking to contact them to get the information I needed I navigated to their "Contact Us" Page. On that page I found a link to a "quickform". This is what I got:

BBB Page Not Found

Does anyone else find it ironic the customized broken link / redirect page reads "Start With Trust?"

There are so many things wrong here I don't know where to start. First thing's first. They need to fix the broken link! If the quickform doesn't exist then remove the link. If it does exist... well, you'd think someone would start to wondering why they don't get any submissions.

But now let's move on to the result of the broken link. The fact that the BBB has a custom 404-Error page is wonderful. But the page itself has many problems.

First of all, the message tells me only "Page Not Found." Hmmm, not very helpful there. How about a polite message that says "Oops, the page you are looking for has gone missing?"

Which leads us to the other problem with this page, it has no links, except one, the logo. If you know to click there you'll be led only back to the home page but first you have to know to do that and then you have to re-navigate to find what you were looking for. How about adding a few links to the most main destinations of the site?

What makes this page most inefficient is that it varies so widely from the rest of the site:

BBB Home

This page at the very least should come with navigation similar to the home or other main pages. Follow these steps above and you eliminate a good chunk of your broken link issues.

But that's just a band-aid. The real solution comes from eliminating all broken links to begin with. Use a program like Xenu to check for broken links no less than once per month. You never know if something has changed that needs to be fixed.

Bad Link: Play Dead

It's also not a bad idea to track any incoming broken links. This happens frequently as site's change. Links from other sites point to pages that don't exist. The first thing to do here is to be sure you've implemented 301 redirects from the old pages to their newer counterparts. You might also want to contact anyone who links to you and ask them to change the link location.

You can't fix every broken link from external sites, but you can implement a custom error page and fix all broken links from within your site. Encountering any broken link tends send visitors away from your site, causeing you to lose credibility as they go.

What was the most important thing you could learn from this post? If you don't know you skipped the first paragraph. Fix your broken link issues:

  • Run broken link checks

  • Implement a custom 404 redirect page

  • Make sure your redirect page directs visitors back to your site

  • Contact other sites to fix their broken links to you

Ok, so I lied, this is slightly more than one simple step. But all these steps boil down to one thing: fixing broken link issues that deplete your credibility.

Check out our small business news site.

Rankings Change. (Here's How to) Deal With It! Part III

by Stoney deGeyter

There are three primary things that factor into search engine ranking changes. 1) Your site changes, 2) a competitor's site changes, or 3) a search engine algorithm changes. I've already provided information on the first and third (see links above) so in this final installment of the series I'll talk about changes made to your competitor's site and how to deal with the ranking changes they cause.

(How to) Deal with Changes Made to Your Competitor's Websites

You're not the only site on the web so don't be concerned when you suddenly find someone else ranking above you. When it comes to search engine rankings there are hundreds of signals that factor in to how any site ranks. Now consider that every site on the web also has hundreds of signals that are being factored in. On the web the chaos theory reigns supreme. One small change on a website completely unrelated to you can have a dramatic affect on your own search engine rankings.

Everybody wants that coveted first page placement, and many are actively fighting for it. But in reality, there is only so much that you can control. If your rankings drop, it may not be you, it may be them.

New pages added

Every day new competitors come online seeking to gain space in the top search results. Every website has a handful of pages now being factored into the search results and one or more of these pages are going to be topically similar to one or more of yours. With every new page added to the internet, and subsequently indexed by the search engines, another couple hundred of signals are now being factored into the ranking landscape.

Initially most of these new pages will do poorly. However as they gain traction, popularity, links and implement good optimization strategies will have an impact on how well your pages do in the search results. Their lack of success allows you to be more successful. Their improved success may cause you to be less successful.

It may not just be direct competitor's your fighting for space against. There are all kinds of websites, informational, commercial, hobby, or a mix of all three. All of them seek good search engine positioning, bringing information sites into competition (ranking wise) with commercial sites, hobby sites overthrowing informational sites, and commercial sites succumbing to a popular hobby site. All this depends on the strength of each site, it's pages and the pages of all other sites targeting the same or similar keywords.

(How to) Deal With It:

The primary thing you can do to combat new competition, or aggressive competition, is to continue to build out your website. Begin to add new (and valuable) content pages to your site on a daily basis. Give each product it's own page with unique information, add new tools, write more articles, provide more tips. The list is endless. The key is to never stop growing and improving the informational value of your site.

Increased relevance

Search engines are on a constant quest to determine which sites are most relevant to any particular search query. While we may not agree with their conclusions in that regard, the fact remains that other websites may be determined, for whatever reason, to be more relevant than yours.

This is where website marketing (SEO and SEM) comes into play, but you don't just want to optimize your website, you want to build a highly relevant source of information for your industry. Just because you sell products or provide a service that is a match for a search query doesn't automatically make you the most relevant for that query. You need to increase the value of the information, products and services that you offer.

Don't confuse this with just adding more pages. It's not the same thing at all. More content pages are great, however its the quality of that content that matters. Start with your home page and work your way through. Little things can make a big difference. Be sure that all of your pages provide value.

Many businesses get stuck in sales mode and that's all their sites do. But people aren't always trying to be sold. In fact, rarely are people trying to be sold, but instead they want to be helped. Learn how to help them and you'll sell them at the same time.

(How to) Deal With It

Whether you sell something or not is irrelevant to the information you can provide. You can sell products yet still have a highly valuable, informative website. The goal is to provide the best user experience possible, giving your visitors more of what they want. You want to turn your site into destination website for your industry, creating a place that visitors return to on a regular basis.

Better linkage

One of the most powerful factors in achieving good search engine rankings is links. If you have a strong and natural link profile then you're off to a good start. But you can't rest there. Competing businesses can at any time invest in optimization and link building of their own tipping the scales in their favor. Given enough time and investment you may suddenly find yourself at a distinct disadvantage.

Maintaining a healthy and growing link base is essential to maintaining top search engine placements. Link stagnation can ultimately cause you to be replaced in the SERPs by other sites with a more continuous stream of quality links coming in.

(How to) Deal With It

The single best thing you can do to build your incoming links is to focus on improving the value of your site, your services, your products and the information you provide. It's not enough to just do what you do, but you have to do it better than anyone else. And you have to give a lot of information away for free. The more valuable your site is to your audience, the more links you'll get from other quality sources. You don't have to invest in link building schemes, but investing in link building and social media campaigns can be a great way to increase your audience and link profile. Look for opportunities to increase your exposure, and find ways to improve what you are already doing.

Almost every site owner will, at one time or another, find themselves face to face with significant ranking drops. It may be you, it may be a competitor, and it may be the search engines. Either way, something has changes and you need to find out what it is. Panicking is not an option. Neither is jumping to making changes before you fully understand what caused the drop.

But there is one change you can always make and that is one of improvement. Don't wait for rankings to drop be make your site better. And don't worry about any negative impact improving your site will have. If you do it right, making sure your improvements are not just visual and are performed with search engines in mind, then you'll always be in a position of advantage. Build your site, look for opportunities to get new exposure, and continue to build a site that gives your visitors more of what they want. Do that, and you'll be dealing with ranking changes like a pro.

Check out our small business news site.

No comments:

Post a Comment