20 December 2009

Search Engine Optimisation OR Pay per Click, whats right for you?

Recently, we looked at a debate over what is better between search engine optimization and pay-per-click. Of course both should be used typically. The general consensus seems to be that you should use both when possible, but that SEO is better for the long term, and PPC is better for quick results.

On the SEO front Google is making changes that could have some effect on the success of organic rankings. One of these changes is the introduction of personalized search to all Gooogle users. You no longer have to be signed in for Google to personalize your results, and that means it is much more important to get that first click from a user.

On the other hand,  the usefulness of PPC to people who are just establishing themselves on the web. The reality is that SEO takes time, and while it is of great importance and provides long-term benefits, it is very hard to be competitive right out of the box.

When you have a brand new domain name, a new site, and no links, you're probably going to have a hard time jumping up in the rankings for any competitive keywords. PPC lets you do it and start getting your ROI quickly.
SEO is an absolute must when dealing with new web sites. None of the search engines are going to rank you very high in the organic searches if you are not meeting their criteria. And...the Organic search results are 24 hours per day ads. Not so with PPC, unless you are dealing with an unlimited budget. 
PPC should be used after SEO to target special sales, or services. It is a great way to help searchers locate your products when they are on sale, or your services when a special price can be obtained.

10 December 2009

Search Engine Optimisation - What you need to know

I have compiled a list of 10 vital things - from choosing an expert to instructing your web developer - that every marketer needs to consider when undertaking search engine optimization as part of their marketing mix.

1. Strategy First
Please, don't ask for a full SEO proposal from an agency until you have set your strategy. Too often, agencies will respond with a full proposal, including lots of articles to be created, sites to be built and links to be implemented without a clear strategy. Some sites are more straight forward but others are complex and would benefit from asking a couple of agencies to get involved at the research stage - ask them about the strengths and weaknesses of your site, what they think of your competitors, and what strategic approach they would take with your site.

To get the best advice from this process, expect to pay the agencies involved. A small percentage of your online budget spent on good strategy will save you Rands in the long term. Even better, pay two agencies for a strategy recommendatíon and then choose the best one for your business!

2. Choosing a Consultant
You need to work with someone who can communicate about SEO in plain English, someone who can take complicated ideas and techniques and turn them into something you can understand, then make a decision on - especially as there are often many possible solutions to choose from.

Someone with experience in your vertical - such as travel, finance, retail - as well as several other verticals is important. An SEO consultant with experience across multiple types of business, as well as experience that is directly relevant to you will have better problem solving skills and more exposure to technologies. Experience in your sector will mean the consultant will be very helpful in defining your strategy, understanding terminology, and knowing what your competitors are doing.

3. Expectations
What are realistic expectations from your investment in SEO?

Too often, we see marketers defining their keyword set or crazy goals for their site without any basis in how SEO really works. If you are a law firm, for example, and you want to rank highly for terms such as "lawyer", or "barrister", then you have to take into account that these are extremely popular and competitive terms. It might not be achievable, and even if it is, it's probably a very hard road to get there.

Be open to advice when setting the goals for your website (which should be a part of the keyword research period of your SEO project). If you have a PPC campaign running first, you can use the keyword data from that campaign to gain an understanding of what is important for your website.

4. Using the Right Language
Optimizing begins with keyword research that helps you understand the language your customers are using to find your products and services.

Be realistic. It may sound obvious but, if the words your customers are using to search are not on your website pages, then you won't be found in the search engines for those words.

Similarly, brand words and buzz words are all very nice in marketing, but if people aren't using those words to search, then again you won't be found.

Be ready to change the language of your site. Be open to the idea of conforming your website to the language people use. Optimization is about including those words in the right areas of your pages (such as navigation, links, headings, meta tags and content) so the search engine sees all the right signals to understand what your site's pages should be ranked for.

5. Measurement
Rankings are not the only measure of success! For many years, SEO firms have measured everything on rankings. However, we recommend using analytics similar to a PPC (paid) search campaign for a more comprehensive measure of success.

 Here is a simple description of how to do that: Take what you are spending on SEO and put it against traffic and conversions to work out cost per unique browser, cost per click and cost per conversion. It's best to analyze these over a period of six and/or twelve months to allow for any changes in SEO to come into effect. This is because the major difference between SEO and PPC is the implementation time - for SEO, the results will take months, rather than days.

6. Moving Variables
There are so many moving variables in SEO that it would be impossible to find one person who knows everything! But a good SEO consultant is worth their weight in gold. Their value is not necessarily in the implementation, but in tapping into their experience to find the right implementation. One tiny piece of advice from them which may take 10 minutes to explain could be worth more than a copywriter producing numerous articles for your site each month.

7. One Agency or Two?
Some agencies have two separate teams working on SEO and PPC. Some marketers choose two completely different agencies to handle their SEO and PPC campaigns. H2L offers both services under one roof.

However, the two are very closely related and the results from one can be useful to the other. For instance, the keyword data from your PPC campaign can help with your SEO keyword research. On the flip side, optimizing pages for SEO will usually provide your PPC campaigns with a better quality score. When PPC and SEO listings are seen together on a search engine, they usually improve the click-through and conversion rates for both campaigns.

They go hand in hand, and each can have a positive effect on the other if done well. And with one agency on both campaigns, they will have a greater depth of experience with your business, which can only help you to succeed.

8. Web Developers are not SEO Experts
Finally, a word on expertise. Most web developers say they are experts in SEO. There is no doubting that many of them do a reasonable job, but they are not truly specialists in the area of SEO. At H2L our team has over 15 years experience ranking site, from pubs to insurance agents

In the same way, I wouldn't recommend that an SEO specialist designs your website. They are specialist skills, which both contribute to the success of your business.

9. Use of Java Script
Those pesky robots that the major search engines rely on to rank web pages have until recently imposed some limitations for web development. While useful code such as Java Script can make your website really functional - a simple example is a loan calculator, and many websites' navigation and links - and thus attractive to users, the robots often couldn't follow the code properly, and thus skipped over it. The major problem was that commonly, web developers didn't know that Java Script wasn't being read or followed by the robots.

That has changed recently, with Google updating its technology so that the robots can read and follow Java Script. When the robots can follow a website's navigation and links properly, the SEO rankings are greatly influenced.

10. Flash
Potentially any Flash file can now be indexed, according to Google, but it still depends on how that Flash site is constructed. Generally older Flash sites are not seen in the most effective way by the search engines, though it depends on the practices of the Flash developer. Many older Flash sites have overcome this problem by building an underlying version of the site in html - though this method too has its drawbacks.

Flash sites need to be built like html sites, with multiple files that optimize each keyword. If you are building a new Flash site, be sure to consult with an SEO expert before the developer starts on the build. All sites built by H2L are fully SEO freindly.

07 December 2009

Top Searches in South Africa for 2009

Google announces 2009 Search Trends for South Africa; sports, celebrities, politics and the recession top the 2009 list
2009 has been a year of change in South Africa and Google has shown that people having been using Google Search to keep abreast of the most interesting news and trends as well as their favourite websites.
As part of its year-end Zeitgeist trends results, which monitors search trends around the world, Google has released results of what South Africans have been searching for this year in the categories of politics, sport, celebrities and recession related queries.
In the political arena, some of the most popular searches included firebrand ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema, who pipped Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance and Mvume Dandala of COPE as the third most searched for politician. Despite having a high volume of searches to his name, the Youth League president had to make way for his seniors, Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela who demonstrated their staying power by leading the rankings.
Former Springbok Joost van de Westhuizen had us all scrambling for our keyboards and heading for the Google search box when he released his biography. Joost’s relatively late entry into the gossip columns meant he was no match for perennial celebrity, DJ Sbu from youth radio station YFM who led the ‘most for searched for celebrity’ category.  He was followed by socialite Khanyisile Mbau.  Benoni-girl done good, Charlize Theron, was not to be outdone coming a close third in the rankings.
In the sports category, the Super 14 rugby was the most searched for item, followed closely by the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket, which was quite an achievement as the event was moved to South Africa from India at a late stage in the planning process.  Surprisingly, the Confederations Cup was fourth in the rankings despite it being a prelude to the 2010 World Cup, following the third placed Cape Argus cycle race.
This year's Zeitgeist also reflects important South African concerns, such as understanding how the recession has impacted the local economy.  In addition, recession-related keywords such as 'recession jokes' showed that not everyone was taking the recession so seriously. South African consumers have also adapted to the recession by being on the lookout for a good bargain, reflected increasing searches for goods in the second hand market on website such as Gumtree and Junkmail Cars.
H2L can assist you with your sites search needs, through correct use of keywords and meta tags. Take a look at our SEO packages.
This year's global fastest rising searches show interest across pop culture (with the King of Pop at the helm, followed by searches for movie New Moon and singer Lady Gaga), social networking sites and new technologies such as Windows 7 and Torpedo Gratis:
Global Fastest Rising Queries
1.michael jackson
6.new moon
7.lady gaga
8.windows 7
10.torpedo gratis
 South Africa's Top Searches
Fastest rising
Most popular
Most searched for sports events
Most searched for politician
Most searched for celebs
Most searched recession queries
facebook login
super 14
nelson mandela
DJ Sbu
what is recession
gumtree cape town
jacob zuma
Khanyi Mbau
credit crunch
cape argus
julius malema
Charlize Theron
surviving the recession
absa internet banking
confederations cup
helen zille
Oscar Pistorius
double dip recession
yahoo mail
comrades marathon
robert mugabe
Gareth Cliff
technical recession
currie cup
trevor manuel
Trevor Noah
recession cartoons
fa Cup
mvume mandela
Joost van der Westhuizen
recession over
british lions tour
jackie selebi
recession jokes
standard bank
absa premiership
patricia de lille

04 December 2009

How to get quality Linkbacks

In mid 2007 Google began editing toolbar PageRank scores and rankings for many sites that were selling links. It is not legal to buy links, you need to earn them.

At the same time, more and more people are writing online. Setting up a blog only takes a few minutes. There are hundreds or thousands of people talking about every topic imaginable, so if you create something remarkable and capture the attention of a few thought leaders who like it, you are going to get links. But how do you create content that people will like?

Passion = Market Knowledge = Links

One of the easiest (and most effective) ways to predict a future and to predict what people like is to immerse yourself in your topic. If you are passionate about a topic, know more about it than anyone else, and openly share information, then eventually people will notice and link to you. If you know what people are interested in, rather than asking them to link to what you have, create something that they would be interested in linking at. Express your world view and your bias in a way that matches their world view.Become a Platform

Each of us is the most relevant thing in our own lives. It sounds selfish but it is true. If you promote other people they will be more likely to promote you. Popular bloggers search to see what people are saying about them. If you want someone's attention linking at them from a blog post on your site is an easy way to get them to notice you. The Web is a Social Network

Social interaction of any type leads to links.

    * Speak at a conference? Someone will likely blog about it.
    * Want to get thought leaders to promote your site? Create a community project or contest and ask them to participate. Or give out awards.
    * Lack the budget needed to go to conferences? Moderate forums, comment on related blogs, and build social relationships online.
    * Track hot news in your space and try to get out in front of important trends.
          o As an example, when Google did a big update that promoted some big brand websites we were one of the first websites to analyze it.

Be Credible

But for people to take you credibly you need to make sure your website adheres to good web credibility standards.

    * Is your domain name memorable?
    * Does your design complement your copy?
    * Is your content interesting and conceptually unique?
    * Does your site have an editorial component and voice, or is it a boring low-value thin product database?
    * Is your about page memorable?
    * Is your site easy to use and understand?
    * Do you have a brand people care about?

You do not need to "have it all" to get started, but the more credible you look the faster you will gain momentum.

Build on Your Success

Work to improve your site every day. Over the course of the year fixing or creating one thing a day will lead to a large advantage. Building up a leading market position can take years, but once you get at the top those years are the barrier to entry which prevent others from being able to replicate what you buit up.

How to ask for a link back

Below is an example of an email to send out, remember no one will link to a site with a lessor page rank then their own website.
Dear Sir / Madam
We came across your web site on Google and would very much like to exchange links with you. Swapping links  with similar themed and good quality web sites can help improve search engine positiopns and encourage mutual visitors to each web site.
If you would like to swap links with us, please add our link using the following information.
Title H2L Onlinemarketing
URL www.h2lonlinemarketing.co.za
Description: H2L Online Marketing is a Cape Town based Internet Marketing company, with over 15 years experience on the web. We offer a variety of Online Marketing services including Web Design, Logo Design, SEO(Search Engine Optimization), PPC(Pay Per Click Advertising), Email marketing, Web Hosting and bespoke Programming and Scripting. Please send us your own details in the same format and we would be delighted to add a link to your web site here:http://www.h2lonlinemarketing.co.za/links.php (page rank 3/10)

Many thanks for your time and we look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards

H2L Online Marketing - A Scream Media Company

03 December 2009

Writing Content for your site

Content is one of the most valuable things you can focus on during development of your website. Consider each page of your website a chance to capture or lose your audience. If a web page has paragraph after paragraph of text, many visitors won't bother to begin reading. There are various other things to be leery of when writing for the web. This article covers eight tips to help you succeed when writing content for your website.

Entice with Communicative Headings

Visitors decide whether to invest their precious time reading your content, typically after scanning a heading or two. Consider which headline will receive more attention:

    • PHP solutions for the Web
    • Three eCommerce PHP Solutions for the Web

While both could be headings for the same content, the second heading will attract more attention because it clearly denotes what will follow. Additionally, it adds a level of expertise. It is also important to keep your headings concise. When headings wrap to multiple lines, they start becoming paragraph-like and readers cannot scan them. Sub-headings are another way to make your content easier for visitors to scan. Once readers have decided your heading is worth investing more time in, they often scan the sub-headings to jump to the section that is most applicable to them.

Conclude Before You Expand

Every page of your website should cater to the most impatient reader and clearly state what the page is about in the first few lines. Most readers won't want to read an entire page to get to the point. Write an introductory paragraph that summarizes the most important parts.

Many successful writers outline the points they want to get across, fill in those points and only then do they write their first paragraph. It is not necessary to write from top to bottom and this method can help you write a stronger introduction.

Create Effective Lists

It is quicker to scroll down a web page than it is to read from left to right and keep your eyes wrapping from line to line. For this reason, readers appreciate lists. However, it is important not to use overwhelmingly long lists. Studies have shown people can remember 7 things at a time. A list of seven bulleted items is digestible, while a list of 50 is intimidating. If it is crucial for you to list 50 points, break up your lists with sub-headings so readers are able to jump from section to section efficiently.

Write Clearly and Succinctly

Whether your visitors are coming to gain information, make buying decisions or simply be entertained, respect that they don't have all day to read your content. If you are wordy, you can expect your visitors to drift to competitors' websites. However, don't sacrifice clarity for brevity.

Similar to print writing, each paragraph should contain only one idea. The attention span of a web reader is shorter than that of a print reader though, which makes it important to trim your paragraphs to a few sentences each.

Eliminate unnecessary words. For example, there is no need to say, "at this point in time" when you can say "currently." It is useless to say "an awful tragedy" when tragedies are awful by nature. Avoid describing an object as "round in shape" when you can just say round.

Avoid the passive voice. For example, replace, "My life has been made easier by templates" with "Templates simplified my life."

The above paragraph helps illustrate that examples are useful; however, I should specify that repeating yourself is not. Do not say the same thing in three different ways.

Use consistent language. Consider your audience when writing in first, second or third person and be careful transitioning from one to the next. Jumping from a formal paragraph to a first person story sounds like two authors wrote the content.

Finally, read your content aloud and trust your first reaction. If you have to re-read to put the emphasis in the correct part of the sentence or to understand your point, you can bet that others will too.

More importantly, have someone else read your content - preferably, your target audience, not your business partner. You are too close to the ideas you want to communicate and others may find ambiguities that you will certainly want to clarify.

Create Content Relative to Your Audience

Know your audience and speak to them, not at them. Whether your objective is to sell toilet seats or convey a change in the stock market, play to people's emotions. Don't use technical terms for a less than savvy audience.

Don't assume your readers have been to certain pages of your website before others. With a growing dependence on search engines, visitors often arrive at a website two tiers down from the home page. Consider the visitor's point of view: If I knew nothing about this company or website, would I understand this page?

Be cautious of tangents, information and links that will distract a reader from the web page's primary purpose.

Specify Links with Style and Language

Links are another way visitors can scan your web pages as they stand out from normal text - or at least they should. Make sure your links differ in color or style from other text on your website. Using "click here to learn more" is a waste of space. Instead, use "learn more." Your links should tell readers where they are going, but they shouldn't be reminded they need their mouse to get there. For example visit H2L Online Marketing  to have your content professionally written for your website

Be specific with where the link is leading to. There are many websites that break up articles into two or more pages. Readers are more apt to click on a link that says, "Part 2: SEO Tips" than they are to click on a link that says "next."

Proofread - Forward and Backward

There are some people who are a captivating force to typos and grammatical blunders. While some will gloss over these errors, the people who do notice are typically repelled. Websites with typos look unprofessional - or worse - like the author didn't care enough about the reader to take the time to proofread.

Tips for proofreading:

    • Use spell check and grammar check.
    • Read backward. When we read forward, our eyes skip over small words and miss mistakes.
    • Have someone else proofread your content.
    • If in doubt, look it up!

Trusting copy/paste is a common mistake; be sure to proofread your content after it is on the web page.

Conclude with Action

Although many of your readers won't make it to the end of your content, it's important to summarize for those who do. Include your overall point, as well as where you would like to lead your reader to next. If you are fortunate enough to have your readers want more, don't miss a chance to provide it!

For example, I would like to conclude by articulating that web writing has similarities to print writing (entice and be concise!) but differs in that readers are more impatient and can easily "surf" elsewhere. The more you understand how people read on the web in general and what your audience wants to know, the more you will keep visitors coming back for more.

01 December 2009

Top 5 SEO - Search Engine Optimisation Questions

1. Is there any fixed rule for Google as far as SEO is concerned? If so, what are the steps?
If only! There are no fixed rules because every website is different and has different needs. There are basic things that all websites need to do in order to improve their chances of showing up in Google search results for relevant phrases, but no magic formula.

2. Do the following play important roles in website page ranking and positioning?

  - Page Rank
Yes, real PageRank (PR), the kind that only Google knows about plays a very large part in websites showing up (or not) for search queries that are relevant to it. For example our site www.h2lonlinemarketing.co.za has a page rank of 3/10, we would not consider link backs to any site with a lesser page rank.

The number of incoming links
Not so much in and of itself. Real PR, as mentioned above, is calculated not only on the number of links, but also on the quality of those links. A handful of links from authoritative, trustworthy, relevant pages should far outweigh hundreds of links from so-so sites. The key here is quality not quantity.

  - Keyword density
This is very important when writing content for your site. It is more then helpful to have the keyword phrases that you'd like to show up being used within the content of your page. Surely, if your page is about a certain something (your keyword phrase), how could that phrase NOT be on the page?

3. Is there any special technique for content writing?
Yes there is a special technique, but I highly suggest hiring a professional marketing copywriter. You will see a positive return on your investment very quickly if you do.

4. Should we cater to code-to-text ratio while developing websites?

There's not one shred of evidence that this would have an effect on where a page would show up in the search results for a relevant search query.

5. If active scripting is a must for webpage development, how harmful can it be for PageRank and positions?

It's typically not harmful if used correctly because it's usually done before a browser (or search engine spider) sees a page. To users and search engines, your dynamically generated pages are just static HTML by the time they get to them. Still, not all dynamically generated pages are created equal. There are some ways of developing your site that are less search friendly than others. For example, some JavaScript menus, some AJAX, etc.