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4 Pillars of Social Media Marketing

This is a Guest Post by Michael Jenkins, Director of Shout Web Strategy. Shout is an online marketing agency based in Melbourne, Australia that is specialized in Search marketing, conversion rate optimization and web usability testing and more. You can read more of their articles in the Shout Blog.

4 Pillars of social media

No matter how big or small your business is, you are most likely trying to tap into the new media that has evolved in the last couple of years. Social media is the cool kid in town. Every website owner now works extra hard to get some ‘social love’. There are lots of factors that determine the success of your website or campaign in the social media space. But if you focus the right amount of time on the four main pillars of social media marketing, you are most likely to succeed. The four pillars are: Research, Content, Socialize and Testing.

It is logical to start any decent social media and SEO strategy with research. The more knowledge and tools you accumulate, the better prepared you will be for your tasks and the upgrade of your site’s content. As you know, websites would simply not exist without content, and search engines would have nothing to monitor and analyse. In a way, content is the glue that holds everything together and, therefore, should be considered as one of the main component of social media marketing.
Every successful marketing strategy slots in time for socialising. This is necessary, to spread the word about your company’s brand. Just think about it, if nobody hears about your products and services, who will buy them?

Aside from research, producing quality content and promoting your company through social media sources, marketers should also spend a fair amount of time testing. Analysing your website’s performance is one of the most efficient ways to determining your strengths and weaknesses. Now that we have established which components are vital to your online survival, and why, lets look at them in detail below:

Research

Doing proper research is very much needed in the social media space. It has to be conducted often and at regular intervals. Listen to what your audience says, because if you don’t, you will be unable to understand what their needs are and eventually your online presence will fade. You can avoid such a disastrous situation by incorporating social media monitoring programs into your online marketing strategy. Without your collected social data, the guidance of your audience, the support of influencers, and a chance to participate in real-time marketing opportunities, you will be flying blind in cyberspace.

While there are many things to monitor, pay close attention to these 4 elements, as they can help you achieve success in your social media campaign:

  • Define Your Social Channels – If you know your audience, you know where they socialise online. Do they interact on Facebook or Twitter, or are they LinkedIn members? Some people prefers media sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr, while others regularly visit popular forums and niche blog sites. Through social media monitoring you will discover where your followers gather, which will help you decide which social channels you should focus on most.
  • Acquire Social Keyword Insight – Proficient social media monitoring tools are able to analyse anchor text, tags, comments, and other forms of written content to identify keywords associated with your particular monitoring requests. The results of such an inquiry can be quite helpful as they will show you which subjects your audience is interested in. Furthermore, once you know your followers’ web behavior and interests, you can manipulate your website’s content and optimise around those ‘hot’ topics.
  • Identify Your Influencers – Research will also help identify your influencers, or the people who are – intentionally or unintentionally – promoting your company. Once you have categorised your influencers, you can prioritise who you want to connect with.
  • Track SERPs – Social media monitoring resources do not track search engine results pages (SERPs), but you can. Monitor key terms that are relevant to your business, as well as the social sources that use them. For instance, if Google displays blog posts containing certain competitive keyword phrases first, you may benefit greatly from blogging or commenting on those issues. Just don’t forget to include a back link to your own site.

Content

One of the growing industries in online marketing revolves around Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the creation, optimisation, and promotion of web content. Copywriters, editors and publishers pop up like wild mushrooms, creating great quantities of new content, and giving all businesses a chance to acquire a wide variety of promotional materials. Be careful though, as not all content is appropriate or of good quality. Many people believe they are superb writers, when in fact, they are not. Beginners or hobbyists simply do not have the skills, or they only practice traditional paper writing, which is quite different from the keyword-rich content necessary to stand out on the Internet. Publishing content online is more than uploading creative features and information about your products and services. Today, customers want more, and expect web pages with inviting images, informative videos, relevant audio, charts & statistics, and various file types that can be used for promotional purposes on social channels. Search engines recognise highly targeted content quicker, which will benefit your rankings. The faster you show up in a Google, Bing or MSN search query, the sooner potential customers will find you!

Socialise

Socialising is quite beneficial to those companies familiar with the most popular social media sources in their industry, a target audience, and rock solid content. But that is not enough. They also need a plan to connect all these elements so they can be used to communicate with their customers and prospects.

Be smart and don’t waste your marketing efforts. Instead, concentrate them on the following three socialising aspects:

  • Study Your Buyers’ Personalities – Discover what your customers do on social sites. Widen your research so you will also find out what their consumption and sharing preferences are. What persuades them to buy something, and who do they share their shopping experiences with?
  • Expand your Social Networks – Although a lack of time is often the main cause, there are numerous reasons why marketers fail to expand their social network circles. Nonetheless, it is important to maintain your social connections. Even if you are overloaded with work, try to spend at least 10-30 minutes a day writing blogs, following up on comments, updating your Facebook page, tweeting, etc. That is all you need to keep networks growing organically.
  • Carefully Select Your Promotions – Familiar with the preferences of your audience, you can now develop promotions that will further your business. Blogs are quite helpful, but so are other advertising features like cartoons, videos, and audio sound bites. Switching between different promotional options will give you valuable exposure on all your preferred social media sites.

Testing

Anyone involved in web development & maintenance, social media marketing, and SEO understands that ‘testing’ is crucial to success. Though many social media analytics and monitoring tools are free, or cost little; they usually take little time to learn. Do not ignore them, but use them to your advantage. Study the information they provide thoroughly and monitor your progress as you optimise your keyword selection, improve your content, and upgrade your social media strategy. Do A-B testing and see which one works and which doesn’t.

Changes do not translate into overnight, earth-shaking results, not even if you employ the most elaborate social media strategy. Be patient, and before you know it, your online identity will start to grow. Success will be yours, but remember, you will have to keep up the good work to continue with your success.


SEO Toolbar from SEO Book

seo-toolbar-logo

If you haven’t heard already, Aaron wall of SEObook.com has recently launched a great SEO Toolbar. Aaron has previously launched a lot of popular tools & plugins that every search marketer loved and now this time he has created yet another awesome tool that brings everything together in a simple toolbar that you can easily install in your Firefox browser.

He writes:

What would happen if you smooshed together many of the best parts of Rank Checker, SEO for Firefox, the best keyword research tools across the web, a feed reader (pre-populated with many SEO feeds), a ton of competitive research tools, the ability to compare up to 5 competing sites against each other, easy data export, and boatloads of other features into 1 handy Firefox extension? Well, you would have the SEO Toolbar.

The toolbar shows a lot of useful data:

seo-toolbar-data-overview

And that’s not all! The toolbar comes together with a lot of awesome features that I’m yet to explore. Aaron’s tools are always very useful and Interesting – So download the SEO Toolbar today and get your hands dirty!


Credibility is more Important than On-Page Optimization

Trust - A Key factor of Search Ranking This morning when I saw an article submitted by QualityGal at Sphinn which made to the Front Page. I wanted to write a comment on it, but as my comment became big I thought maybe I should just post it in my blog so that everyone can read.

So long story short – Ragan Communications, a PR & Marketing firm recently covered a presentation done by John Spagnuolo about “SEO” in general. The reason the I’m linking to a cached page of Google, is because the actual article has been ‘moved’ and has been added under Ragan Select (Where readers need to pay a Membership of $279/year to read the content). This is what I hate about PR companies, they just can’t deal with a criticism can they? Instead of any ‘protest’ or ‘debate’ they just prefer to ‘hide’ under the table.

But anyway, If you think I’m going to bash Ragan just like how Jack Leblond did on his article, questioning the credibility of the company — then you are wrong.

Let me start by saying that with all due respect, I completely disagree with Jack Leblond on this one. I think whatever advice John gave away on the article were all valid and the reporter Michael Sebastian also did a good job in covering it.

Regan is not a SEO Company. As far as I can tell they don’t provide any “seo services”, they are just a marketing/PR firm. So I don’t think it is wise to question their credibility here, because the article that they delivered for their readers were accurate and its indeed some of the best practices that any new website show follow. Now whether or not they follow those ‘mentioned steps’ on their own website certainly should not involve their ‘credibility’.

Code Bloat

Many of the on page factors that Jack highlighted has very less or ‘no’ importance in search ranking today. For instance, Jack mentioned ‘code bloat’ and how Regan has so many javascripts, internal css codes above the content. But Google along with other search engines at 2008 are very smart and can distinguish between javascript, css, flash, video and the text content. And since Regan are ranking OK for their pages, why should they even bother changing that ? Have you ever looked at CNN or Dell? They also have a lot of so called code bloat, but aren’t they ranking well in the SERP?

Yes, I agree that if content is first sourced it definitely helps the crawler to get all your content first before it see’s anything else. However having said that, for a mid-scale site like Ragan I don’t think this is a big issue.

Meta Keywords

Meta Keywords have been dead for a long time (R.I.P). It was not mentioned in the article. And the meta keywords that Jack referred to in Regan’s site are probably auto generated by their CMS. Since search engines became smarter and they dont’ really want you to tell them what keywords your page is related to, I don’t think putting anything in the meta keywords is an issue. Certainly those keywords are not helping them, but its not doing any harm too. What John suggests in the articles are all valid points – content is king, have your keywords in side your title/content etc.

Stuffing Keywords in Alt Tags

Alt Tag for Images are basically needed for two main reasons – 1) So that the search engines can find your image via the image search, 2) User Friendliness – Browsers which can’t display images should be able to display the text to the user.

Over-optimizing and stuffing keywords in ur images is not really going to help Ragan or anybody else :)

Page URL Structure

Search engines are getting better at crawling dynamic URLs. Ragan has over 4k+ pages indexed in Google so I don’t think they have any problem with that.

Many big websites are still doing well, even after having 8-12 parameters in their URL.

Page Title

I agree that Regan can probably do better in their titles. But I have seen a lot worse than that. Its all a matter of ‘personal’ preference. For example, some companies, prefer to have their “Brand Name” on every page title because of branding purpose. So not everything done ‘on the page’ are for SEO purpose.

What to take away from this article?

You need to really focus on building the trust of the search engines first. Once you have built that trust & credibility, you can climb your way up in the rankings and sort of ignore the ‘little things’ as long as it doesn’t give user any bad experience. None of the things that were highlighted by Jack has anything to do with User Experience. They were all meant and targeted for the search engines.

Once you site reaches a substantial level, it sort of the Search Engine’s Job to crawl you site properly. Google itself is nothing. What makes Google useful and valuable is their search results (relevant pages/sites). Now if they fail to actually crawl sites and give their users what they want, Its Google’s failure ultimately.

Suppose the top 100 News sites (on all topics) team up and decide that they will stop using “Title Tag” and use something else. Do you think Google will stop crawling or ranking those sites? Google will soon have to adapt to that change and the demand of the users.

So many websites doesn’t have “Meta Description” tags but still Google Manages to show the generated snippets of those site in their results page. Images without alt tags are still showed in Image Search based on the texts around the Image or the file name of the image.

What does this show? When ‘not enough’ people are following something, search engines always came out with an alternative way of handling it for their OWN Sake! Because without the search results they are not even worth a penny.

Best practices are ‘best practices’ for the mass market, but that doesn’t mean every single one has to follow those ‘best practices’ at every level. When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, the game has certainly changed over the years. Now we have Universal Search, Localized Search, Personalized Search blended inside the traditional 10 plain links. So companies needs more than just “On Page Optimization”. Ultimately Your site’s credibility and trust is the most important factor in today’s ranking.

Disclaimer: I have absolutely No affiliation with Ragan or the writer of the original article.


Bloggers Best Practices Guide by Google

After launching the Official Google SEO Guide, many webmasters has really appreciated Google’s effort in trying to help out web community. The blogosphere demanded that Google should often come up with more such guides so that at least the ‘best practices’ of the subject matter is clear to the public.

And now It looks like Google has came up with another Guide for Bloggers, unfortunately its not a PDF this time but instead its a new document inside the Google Webmaster Help archive. So in this small guide, the Google Webmaster Central team has offered some basic but useful tips on how bloggers can improve their blogs. They have divided the document in 3 parts – Creating great content, Making the content Crawler & user friendly & lastly use of Google Webmaster tools for your blog.

I have created a small summary of what the guide talks about. So here goes:

Creating Great Content

  • Write Good content & Write as Frequently as possible — As you may already know, Content is King but do you know that writing more ‘frequently’ can encourage your readers to come back to your site more often? But obviously you need to take into account that the subject of your writing should be the same as what your readers expect from your blog. A very good quality post once a week is better than many low-quality content published daily.Tip: — Perform a search in Google for a subject of interest on your niche. If you can’t find a good answer, simply create a blog post about that particular subject – chances are that other people are also searching for the same thing.
  • Always follow the Webmasters Guideline and try do things naturally. Try not to get involved in shady practices like this.
  • Organize your content to make your Blog more User-friendly! Use categories, tags & labels appropriately so that your content are easy to find.
  • Host your blog in your own domain and link it from your Home page so that the users & search crawlers can easily find your content
  • Always create original content & content that are primarily for users and not the search engines. If you are promoting a affiliate product, DON’T use the content that they provide which has probably been used in tons of other places and are just duplicates. Always write unique & original content that you feel will be useful for the reader (e.g. Product reviews, How-tos etc.)
  • Stop Comment Spam – Comments are Good but SPAMs are not. Read more about how to stop comment spam.

Making your Blog Crawler & User Friendly

  • Always use Descriptive Titles for each your posts – Think of words that people may use to search for that particular post and include them in your title. Write Unique Titles so that it doesn’t get mixed up with another post of yours in your blog.
  • Engage in your community, participate in discussion and interact with the readers who leaves a comment in your blog
  • Publish a FULL feed of your content rather than a partial Feed. Full feeds can make users happy because they can view your content with a lot less effort. Even though it might result in a short-term decline in visits to your actual blog, but it has long-term benefits for you

Webmaster Tools For Your Blog

Thats all! Pretty basic isn’t it? If you were expecting more “advanced” stuffs I invite you to read some of the following:

Bloggers Guide to SEO by Aaron Wall & Giovanna Wall – SEOBook.com

WordPress SEO – Definitive Guide To High Rankings For Your Blog by Joost de Valk – Yoost.com

Search Engine Optimization for Blogs by Darren Rowse – Problogger.net

Whitehat SEO tips for bloggers by Matt Cutts – Mattcutts.com/blog/

21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic by Rank Fishkin – SEOmoz.org

Tips for Optimizing Blogs and Feeds by Ross Dunn – SearchEngineGuide.com

Do-It-Yourself Search Engine Optimization Guide by Lorelle – Lorelle.Wordpress.com

SEO For WordPress – The Complete Guide by Jim Westergren – JimWestergren.com

Did I miss any great resources? Please Include it in comments or notify me via twitter (@saadkamal).

Update: I forgot to add my very own post that I wrote particularly for Bloggers titled: How to Rank Your Blog High in Search Engines. Check it out and I’m sure you will be able to take some useful pieces from it.


Official Google SEO Guide

Google SEO GuideGoogle has just released an Official Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide for the webmasters. In a recent blog post at Webmaster Central blog, Brandon Falls of the Google Search Quality Team writes that many webmasters often have some basic SEO questions that goes unanswered or they just get confused due to the fact that SEO is an emerging thing and there are lots of different resources on web. So Google has decided to make their own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide public, which covers around a dozen common areas that webmasters might consider optimizing. So from now on If anybody has any SEO related doubts they can easily refer to this easy to read 22 page(PDF) – Google SEO Starter Guide.

This guide was already being used internally within Google to optimize their own sites such as Youtube, Orkut and so on. I have personally gone through the guide and I must say that it’s a very basic 101 type of guide that any SEO newbie should read. Its very well written had contains a lot of illustrated examples & screen shots.

I have created a small one page summary that basically covers everything that is written in the Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

  • Always create unique & accurate Page Titles – Page title should accurately describe the page’s content. Webmasters should make sure that their titles are unique for each page. The Title should be descriptive but not extremely lengthy. Don’t stuff your title with only Keywords – write a title that will benefit both the user and the search engines.
  • Make use of the “description” meta tag – Google clearly states that Meta tags such as (Meta Description) is not dead! Meta description should accurately summarize the page’s content. Webmasters should write a description that would both inform and interest users if they saw the description meta tag as a snippet in a search result. Don’t fill up your meta description tag with only keywords and avoid writing a description meta tag that has no relation to the content on the page. Try writing unique descriptions for each page, if your site is really big try to generate description meta tags based on each page’s content automatically.
  • Improve the structure of your URLs – Try to use words in your URL. – URLs with words that are relevant to your site’s content and structure are friendlier for visitors navigating your site. Visitors remember them better and might be more willing to link to them. Don’t use lengthy URLs with unnecessary parameters and session IDs. Avoid choosing generic page names and using excessive keywords. Provide only one version of your document, if you accidently happen to have multiple version of the same page, do a 301 redirect from non-preferred URLs to the dominant URL
  • Make your site easier to navigate – Create a naturally flowing hierarchy – Make it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want on your site. Try to use text for navigation and its a good practice to put an HTML sitemap page on your site, and use an XML Sitemap file. Have a 404 page that is user friendly.
  • Offer quality content and services – Practice writing easy-to-read text as users enjoy content that is well written and easy to follow. Break your content into logical parts so that the users find the content they want faster. Use relevant keywords in your content and take help of the Google Keyword Tool where necessary. Write fresh, unique content and avoid re-writing or copying existing content from the web. Always create content primarily for your users, not search engines
  • Write better anchor text – Always write descriptive anchor text, The anchor text you use for a link should provide at least a basic idea of what the page linked to is about. Use keywords in your anchor text and use anchor text for your internal links too.
  • Use heading tags appropriately – Take advantage of the HTML Header tags H1, H2, H3 to break down your content for easy scanning by your readers. Give some thought into what the main points and sub-points of the content on the page will be and decide where to use those heading tags appropriately.
  • Optimize your use of images – Use brief, but descriptive filenames and alt text for all images. Avoid using generic filenames and stuffing in excessive keywords in the alt tag.
  • Make effective use of robots.txt – Robots.txt is not enough to block your sensitive or confidential material. So take appropriate security measures for your confidential information.
  • Be aware of rel=”nofollow” for links – Setting the value of the “rel” attribute of a link to “nofollow” will tell Google that certain links on your site shouldn’t be followed or pass your page’s reputation to the pages linked to. Avoid using no follow for links in blog comments or other sites that you don’t trust. You can nofollow all of the links on a page by using “nofollow” in your
    robots meta tag, which is placed inside the tag of that page’s HTML.
  • Promote your website in the right ways – Blog about your new content or services to get your users excited. Use appropriate offline promotion, social media to promote your content. Add your business to Google’s Local Business Center.
  • Make use of free webmaster tools – Google provides a lot of free tools for webmasters inside Google Webmaster Tools to help webmasters better control how Google interacts with their websites and get useful information from Google about their site.
  • Take advantage of web analytics services – Use Web analytics programs like Google Analytics that can be a valuable source for identifying your users, the content that they are reading, the source of traffic etc.

My Two Cents

Its really good to see that Google is genuinely trying to help the webmasters to succeed. If you are new to SEO, I strongly recommend you to Download the Full 22 Page PDF of Google’s SEO Starter Guide.


Link Building : A Complete Walkthrough

Link Building Tutorial

External Links (Links coming from other sites) was (*and still probably is) one of the major contributor of any Search Engine Optimization effort. Obviously links alone can’t help you to rank well in the Search Engines, but they do play a “major” role to push your ranking up to the top.

What is Link Building?

Link Building is basically the process of getting quality Web sites to link to your Web site, in order to improve search engine rankings.

Why is Link Building Important?

Link building is absolutely essential for your SEO campaigns because currently majority of the search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo etc.) uses link popularity as a metric to judge the quality of your website. An incoming link from a 3rd Party site works like a “vote” or “recommendation” towards your site. So say if 500 people are linking to you from their websites, you can look at it as — 500 people has recommended your site.

Are All Links Treated Equally?

This is a very common question among the Webmasters. Well, The answer is “No”. Each website has their own “reputation profile” that enables them recommend other websites. Now when a high profile website links to you, their link value is much higher compared to a low profile website who is probably new in the market and doesn’t have any reputation to spare for you. A perfect example of this would be, Suppose if CNN links to your website, that particular link would be more trusted and will be more valued by the search engines due to the fact that CNN is a authoritative website and their news/stories are trusted by everyone. So if CNN links to you it gives an indication to the Search Engine that your website is also of high quality and value.

Which Sites are Worth Getting a Link From?

CNN is not the only authoritative site on the Internet, the above was just an example. There are thousands of other quality sites that have high authority. Now you may ask – “How do I determine the quality of the site”. Well below are some of the easy metrics that you can use to determine a site’s quality:

  • Age of the Website: The older it is, the better. Old sites are likely to be more Trusted by the Engines.
  • Page Rank: Even though I pay very little attention to this myself, But it is some what a good metric to determine the quality of the site. The only Page Rank that is visible to public is the Google Toolbar PR. Its a number between 0 to 10 where 10 denotes the highest quality and 0 denotes the lowest. The Toolbar Page Rank is updated every 3-4 months and its just a partial representation of the Actual Page Rank (an proprietary algorithm of Google to determine a site’s quality & rank them accordingly).
  • No. of Pages Indexed : This is another metric that I like to use to determine whether the site has a good search engine presence. If a site has thousands of pages indexed in Google, its an indication that the site has been in business for a long time and it some what trusted by Google. To find out how many pages are indexed, simply go to Google Search and type the following command – site:www.domain.com. This should show you all the pages of domain.com indexed in Google.
  • No. of Incoming Links : Since “authority” & “trust” flows from one domain to another via links, its important to see who is linking to the domain that you are testing for authority. There are many tools out there that can help you to check the link profile of any domain. e.g. Yahoo Site Explorer, Backlink Watch etc. The easiest way would be to type link:http://www.domainname.com in Google or Yahoo and it will show you a list of websites that are linking to that domain. Do note that Google often shows a lot less links compared to Yahoo. So if the site has a lot of good quality incoming links, then its likely that a link from that site will give your website a lot value.
  • Traffic: Traffic is often a good determinant of a quality website. To check how much traffic a site gets, you can use tools such as: Google Trends for Websites, Compete, Quancast, Alexa and so on. Remember, these tools are not 100% accurate and may not display the traffic information of all domains. (Websites below a certain traffic threshold is not being monitored by these services.)
  • Others: There are many automated applications out there that can help you to determine a site’s quality/authority on the web. E.g- SEOmoz Trifecta Tool.

How Do I Get These Links?

There are basically two types of link building, the first type is Organic (a.k.a Natural Linkbuilding) & the other type is “Artificial Linkbuilding”.

Continue Reading


Top SEO Mistakes Video

If you are very new at SEO, you might find this video really useful. The video presentation is done by Stephan Spencer at WordCamp 2008 San Francisco.

And for those who don’t know Stephen – He is a Internet Marketing Guru and also the founder and president of interactive agency Netconcepts. He is a journalist and also a professional Speaker. He is often invited to speak at different search conferences. Read his full bio here.

So what do you think of the above video? Is there any comments that you would like to share?

Update: Some of you have asked for the presentation slides, so I’m including a direct link to the ppt file – http://www.netconcepts.com/learn/seo-mistakes.ppt


Keyword Research – A Complete Walkthrough

Firstly, If you are new to the world of SEO & Search Marketing, I’d strongly advice you to read my Newbie Guide to SEO. It has all the basic elements that you may need to get your blog/website to rank in the search engines.

In that article I briefly touched on “finding a niche” and “…using keywords in Title” and someone emailed me last week to ask – “How to Find the Right Keyword(s) for a Blog?“. Well I basically gave her a brief answer already, but as promised I’m covering the whole “Keyword Research” topic in more detail here in the blog. If the post gets too lengthy please bear with me – I promise that by the end of the article you will become a Master of the Basics of Keyword Research & Optimization.

Before I continue, I advice you all to Subscribe to this blog (Free) by using the Email Subscription or RSS Subscription (..Located on the top right hand corner of this page…). The reason I want you to subscribe is, I’ll be covering some great topics here and I don’t really want you to miss anything!

What is Keyword Research?

In regards to Organic/Natural/Paid Search, Keyword research basically means researching for words that are supposedly going to be used by your customers/readers/visitors to find your website/blog/business/product.

Why Is Keyword Research Important?

Well, If you can know what your customer is looking for, its easy for you to sell them the right product. If a person is looking for a Dish washer but ends up in an online tire store, he is less likely to make a purchase.

So if you are selling tires online you need to know what ‘keywords’ or ‘search terms’ searchers use to search for your product online. For example are they searching for ‘tires’ or ‘wheels’?

– Car Tires <> Automobile Tiers ?
– Snow Tire <> Winter Tire ?
– Bridgestone Tire <> Firestone Tire ?

How would you know? How can you differentiate between all these keywords? How can you tell which one is more “important” or better (in terms of search volume).

Well all these questions can be answered when you will do a proper Keyword Research. Now since my target audience is Bloggers & Small Business owners, I’d like to give an example of how Keyword Research can actually help a blog to become successful. Lets say you have a technology blog and you write about all sorts of technology news, tutorials, how-tos, tips & hacks. You only get about 100 visitors a day and most of them are from your own community of friends. You don’t get any significant amount of traffic from search engines because most of the things that you write about are either “too general or common” (there are thousands, if not millions of pages on the same topic), or you just don’t know what people are interested in the technology arena. You only write about things that ‘you feel’ is important, but not necessarily the whole blogosphere thinks the same.

So after you did some basic keyword research, you noticed that people in your area of expertise/interest are searching for the following – (The amount of searches shown are from Google Alone! The figure will be even bigger if you consider the other engines on the market)

facebook group – 18,000+ searches/mo
Vista Theme for Xp – 33,100+ searches/mo
best free antivirus – 22,200+ searches/mo
backup iphone – 22,000+ searches/mo

And all these search phrases has “minimal” amount of competition in Paid + Organic search. (I’ll write about how to determine competition later in the article).

Now with the above data you created few ‘top-notch’ blog posts (I just made up some example titles)-

Target Keyword: “Facebook Group”

– How to Join a Facebook Group?
– How to Create a Facebook Group?
– How to Make a Facebook Group Popular?

Target Keyword: “Vista Theme for Xp”

– Top 20 Windows Vista Theme For Xp
– Beautiful Windows Vista Theme for Windows XP
– Collection of Windows Vista Theme for XP

Target Keyword: “Best Free Antivirus”

– Best Free Antivirus for Windows Vista
– Best Free Antivirus for Windows Xp
– The world’s Best Free Antivirus Review

Target Keyword: “backup iphone”

– How to Backup My Iphone?
– How to Backup your Iphone using Itunes?
– How to Backup Iphone Data?
– Iphone Backup Tutorial
– Free Iphone Backup Software

After writing the posts, you promoted them among your community and also via the social media and soon after they got indexed by google and some other major search engines, you got some decent ranking for some of those terms. As a result you to get an additional 10-20 thousand visitors / per month from the search engines. So from only an average of 100 visitors per day, you straight away jumped to 600 visitors per day! Now just think what you can accomplish, if you are always doing keyword research when thinking about writing your next blog post.

How to do Keyword Research?

Now that I have convinced you (I hope~) that keyword research is very important, let me go straight to the steps that you need to perform in order to do some basic keyword research.

Continue Reading


How to Rank Your Blog High in Search Engines

Every blogger dreams of getting a lot of targeted traffic from search engines. Because first of all – organic search traffic is absolutely FREE and secondly it gives the blogger a wider reach of audience. For instance, I’m from Malaysia but I believe a lot of you who are reading this are from different parts of the world. So a blogger doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to his own locality but with the help of Search engines his blog can reach out to the whole world.

Search Engine Optimization For Blogs

So Today I have decided to share some of the simple tips that anyone can implement in order to “Optimize” their blog and get good ranking in the search engines. Please note that this tutorial is not only limited to ‘blogs’ but any website that exists on the web. However the article has been written for bloggers in mind so some of the things may be a bit different for other types of sites.

Step 1: Know Your Self – Select a Niche – Set a Goal

The first step is to know yourself and your blog, so that you know exactly what you are writing about. Many bloggers just blog about their daily ramblings (like a personal diary). So if you are a blogger who only keeps your journal for your daily ramblings you are probably witting about – what you had for lunch, how much did your kitty ~poo~ today (jking) etc….

Is there anything wrong with that? Well absolutely not! Its your blog and you can write about anything you want. However the problem raises (especially among the asian bloggers) when it comes to “earning money from blog” or “getting international traffic”.

Unless you have a selected a “niche” (or many niches) that you are comfortable talking about, its very hard to attract traffic just by writing about ‘random’ stuffs.

For example – if you are a female blogger and you are particularly interested in fashion, your posts can be targeted for the fashion world. Your daily ramblings that you put up in your blog will then be more “fashion” related. E.g. new cloths you bought, picture of the latest shoe you saw in the mall etc. Similarly, if you are a car freak, your blog posts can be slightly partial about cars, racing, modifications, sound system and so on. A blogger can choose as many niches he/she wants like- politics, food, cooking, fashion, pets, lifestyle, dining, travel, technology etc.

So you should ask yourself, what are the topics that you are more comfortable to talk about? Whats Interests you? Once you have gotten that answer, slowly sail your blog to that direction.

No, You don’t need a new blog or a domain to do that. You can start writing ‘on your niche’ in your existing blog. And I’m not staying that because you choose fashion, you can’t write about “politics”. Remember, Its your blog so you are the Boss. You can write about absolutely anything you want. However if your writing has a particular focus, it would be easier for your readers to categorize your blog as a part of your respective niche. Even fashion and politics can be blended together if you are creative! (Think about it…)

So once you have selected your comfort zone, set a target for yourself. For example, how are you going to measure your success? It can be in terms of No. of visitors, No of RSS subscribers, Earnings from Blog etc.

Step 2: Optimize the Title of Your Blog Home Page

This is probably the most important “on-page optimization” factor that is the most easy to do. The title of your blog is what everyone sees on the top of their browser when they visit your blog. For search engines its the most important determining factor of what your blog is all about. So for instance, If your name is “John Doe” and you want everyone to find your blog when they search for your name in Google, you MUST put your name “John Doe” in your blog’s Title Tag. So You can perhaps format your title tag like – “John Doe’s Blog” or “John Doe – Recipe Blog” etc.

Bad Title Examples:

“My Daily Ramblings”
“My Blog”
“My Blah Blah”

Why are the above bad Titles? Because no one is actually going to search for “My Blog” in google. You should put something in your title that you think people will search for. Try to get some of the important keywords in your title, such as – your name, your blog’s name, keywords from your niche etc. So If my niche is digital cameras & photography, My title can be:

“John Doe: Digital Camera Review Blog”
“John Doe Digital Camera Blog”
“Digital Photography blog by John Doe”

……and other combinations that makes sense.

Step 3: Meta Tags Optimization

Even though not all meta tags are not as important as before, Meta Description tags are still very useful and a determining factor for increasing your chance of ranking in the search engines. So sometimes Title tags can’t do it alone, if you also optimize your Meta Descriptions tag, you have a higher chance of succeeeding.

A blog’s Meta description should contain a brief description of your blog focusing on the areas and niches that you often write about. This small piece of text can be considered as a selling snippet, if a reader finds it appealing he is likely to click and go inside your blog to find out more information. But if your Meta Description is too generic and isn’t written too well then there is a good chance that your blog will simply be ignored even though its probably ranking well in the search engine. Check out an example of a good meta description:

Example of a Good Meta Description

Now Why do I call the above a Good Example? Because:

  • The meta description is descriptive enough for a reader to know what to expect from the blog.
  • It contains important keywords – For instance, the name of the photographer is specified (e.g. Laura Novak), The type of photography is also described (e.g. Wedding & Portrait) and her locality is also specified (e.g. Wilmington, Delaware).
  • The meta description automatically appeals to someone who is looking for a wedding photographer in Wilmington. So If the searcher sees this result in the search engine.

Of course this description can be improved and further tweaked, but I guess you already got the general idea of having a good meta description.

Important things to include in your Meta Description:

  • Include your Selling Point– Tell your readers what they want to hear through your site’s Meta Description, and you will definitely get some advantage over others in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). For instance – if you blog about digital camera and photography then including a phrase like “Digital Camera Review & Advanced Photography tips” may result in more clicks and visitors because your description will exactly match the flavor of search performed by the user.
  • Keywords – Including some of your keywords (E.g. Wedding Photography, Photography Tips, Camera Review) will give you some advantage in Google’s relevancy algorithm.

Step 4: Structuring Your Content

Another important thing is to structure your content so that its becomes more readable. Important text should go in top and less important text should go in the bottom. Usage of Bold, Italic, Heading (h1 tags) is a must. If you properly structure your content, it will be more readable for your readers and it will also help the search engines to determine what is more important. For example, when you write a new post, always choose the Post title carefully. Whatever you choose as the title becomes the Header of the particular page and it appears in “big letters”.

So if your post heading reads “I am Bored…” and inside the post only the first two line is about ‘why you are bored’ and after that the whole post is about How to cook cheese macaroni…Its just not going to work! Ask yourself, How do you usually read a newspaper? Do you start reading from the left and read every single word? No – we usually “skim” a newspaper and we look at the heading and if the heading interests us, we read the news beneath the heading.

Blog kind of works in the same way, if you have a poor heading you can’t expect people to read the whole entry. Similarly a Search engine will not consider your Post very related to “cheese macaroni” unless your heading has the words inside. So a Post title “How to Cook Cheese Macaroni” is better compared to “I am Bored….”.

Things to Remember:

  • Always use short Post Titles. Think of something that people may use to search for that particular post and use it as your title.
  • Always Use Header Tags (h1, h2, h3) effectively. If you have a big article, break it down into different sections and give each section a sub-heading.
  • Use Bold, Italic where necessary. Its often good to highlight important words so that they are easily noticeable to your readers as well as to the search engines

Step 5: Image Optimization

No matter what type of blog you are running, You must use a lot of images! Human eyes love images and its often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Its actually true! If your blog has a lot of images, it would be a lot easier for you to engage your users. Moreover You can get additional traffic from Image search engines like (Google Images). When You are putting an image in your blog, you must optimize it for the search engines so that the search engine knows what the image says… (Search engines are dumb and so they can’t see inside images…yet).

Some Important Image Optimization Elements:

  • Alt text : ALT text or Alternate Text is the text to describe your image when your mouse moves over an image on your web page. The text should be meaningful but short. You can use your relevant keywords as ALT text. If your browser can’t display the image for some reason, the alt text is used in place of that particular image.
  • File name : always use meaningful file name for your images, use names like “apple-iphone-cover.jpg” instead of meaningless “DSC24045.jpg”. Keep image file name same or similar to the ALT text.
    Image Title : always use the title tag in images which will show the title as tool tip when a user moves his mouse over the image. Example of an image with title tag: [img src=”http://imagelocation.jpg” alt=”Image description” title=”Title of the Image”]
  • Image Linking : Whenever you want to link to your image, use the image keywords in your link text. Example: use “view an Apple iPhone”, instead of “Click here to view” as the anchor text.

Step 6: Keep your blog Up-to-Date

Search engines loves fresh, new content, so always feed them! Not only your blog will grow automatically if you always add something to it; search engines tend to come and spider your website more often if they always find something new. So you will have a higher chance of ranking high in the search engine if you keep on adding fresh, quality and unique content.

If you follow the 6 steps that I mentioned above, you blog will already be considered as one of the Search Engine Aware blogs. You will definitely see some improvements in your ranking as well as traffic.

Those of you who are using Blogger, Xanga, WordPress, Typepad and other blogging platforms and doesn’t know how to change “title” or meta description, I’ll definitely try to put up separate instruction guide for all of you. But there are hundreds of good resources already available on the internet, and you can simply do a Google search to find them =)

This guide is no way complete and its very basic as I have particularly wrote it for Newbie bloggers (especially those who have absolutely no idea about SEO). So if you run into any problem you are free to put your questions in the comments or you can always email me at – me[at]saadkamal.com.