Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Difference Between Website Ranking and Website Optimization

The term "website ranking" (or PageRank) has become a very popular way to define website performance. Unfortunately, most people do not know what the term means. Even most SEO professionals, for whom website ranking is crucially important, interpret this term in the wrong way. Additionally, website marketing firms often cite the advantage of website ranking without even explaining exactly what the term means. For website owners, this lack of clarity can lead to bad decisions. By promising a high website ranking, an SEO professional or website marketing firm might make a good impression on a potential customer--but the promise is often an empty promise.

To truly understand website ranking, one should first understand website optimization. For an in-depth analysis, please read "Natural Website Optimization." For now, we might simply say that website optimization is a marketing strategy applied to a website’s content, and partially to technical aspects of the site’s development, that allows the site to be easily “crawled” by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines

Website ranking and website optimization are two distinctly different classifications. A website can be optimized or not, but optimization will not influence website ranking in any way. When a user performs a Google search, for example, Google delivers different results, and among the first page results not all websites enjoy a high ranking. In fact, most of these websites are not ranked at all! And yet, even without a website ranking, many websites appear on the first page of Google results.

How is this possible? For an in-depth analysis of website ranking, or page ranking, read this Wikipedia article. Numerically speaking, Wikipedia defines page ranking like this:

"The most popular websites have a PageRank of 10. The least have a PageRank of 0. Google has not disclosed the specific method for determining a Toolbar PageRank value, which is to be considered only a rough indication of the value of a website."

That last sentence is the most important: page ranking is only a "rough indication" of a website's value.

For our purposes, let us talk about how the confusion over website ranking effects website owners. Often the problems start about two months after the start of a new SEO campaign. Since website optimization uses an "organic" approach, website visibility often does not occur right away. If you are an SEO customer, you should know this; your SEO professional should have told you this before he/she started your website optimization campaign.

In our experience, however, most customers can only tolerate their unsuccessful website performance for so long. After about two months, most customers ask, "Why is my website not appearing on the first page results?" At this point, a smart customer will try to try to learn more about website optimization. Unfortunately, many customers learn to little to late--and only then do they realize that their SEO professional or website marketing firm has offered empty promises!

Here is a typical scenario: 

After two months, a new SEO customer realizes that his/her website ranking is 0, just like a newly-developed website. So the customer tries a different SEO professional or website marketing firm. Unfortunately, the process repeats itself: two months later the SEO customer discovers again that his/her website is not so successful, and his/her website ranking is still 0!

Here is the problem: website optimization has nothing to do with website ranking! And because most SEO professionals and/or website marketing firms do not understand the difference between website optimization and website ranking, the customer suffers.

Of course, a poor website ranking is not the reason your website is not successful, but because you were promised a high ranking within a short period of time, you feel lost. Whom can you trust, after all, if your SEO professional does not even know what he/she is talking about?

At Stepmans PC, we believe knowledge is power. We believe the best step a website owner can take is to  learning some basic SEO terms before hiring a marketing company. Only knowledge will help you ensure that you hire a real professional to work on your website. The Organic SEO Blog is a good place to start, especially if you're building a new website. Start here now: "Building a Website? Read This First!"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Organic SEO: The Right Choice for Website Marketing

As more brick-and-mortar businesses migrate online, more business owners are facing the challenge of website marketing. A business might have a physical location, but without a website a company might not exist to most potential customers. But even with a website a company might not exist to most potential customers.

The key difference between a successful website and a failure is website marketing. Proper online marketing can significantly improve a website’s visibility, attracting a great deal of new traffic. But how do you discover a trustworthy Search engine optimization (SEO) specialist or website marketing firm?

First stop: A handy SEO Checklist!

If you're a website owner, you've probably noticed that the web is crowded with website marketing firms and/or SEO specialists. The reason this market feels so overpopulated is quite simple: it is overpopulated. There seems to be a new website marketing firm or SEO specialist for each new website. At certain times, you might even feel that the word "SEO" appears everywhere in your journey across the web. Well of course, SEO specialists know how to market their services!

Abundance can be very good. At Stepmans PC, we believe that website optimization should be available to every website owner. But the problem with abundance is simple: when faced with a choice of thousands, most people either a) make the wrong choice or b) make no choice!

The Wrong Choice

Business owners who are not familiar with website optimization, SEO, or online marketing can be easily misled or manipulated. I said above: SEO specialists know how to market their services. But more importantly: Does an SEO specialist know how to market your website's services? This is the first question you should ask any SEO specialist or website marketing firm: How will you market my unique product? An SEO specialist or website marketing firm might answer this question in many different ways: website optimization, Pay-Per-Click, keyword optimization, banner ads, or even new blogs. Whatever a specialist says to you, remember: Do not be fooled by jargon! You might believe that in order to be fully-optimized your site must be intricately designed, developed, and optimized, and that only specialists know the trick. Nonsense! As we wrote last week in our discussion on hashtags, many people use SEO without even knowing it!

SEO can be very easy to understand. Remember: a high-quality SEO specialist should be able to explain exactly what he/she will do to optimize your website in a way that you easily understand. When there are so many choices, why would you accept anything less? 

No Choice

Most website owners know that they need some form of website marketing or search engine optimization. Unfortunately, however, many of these same website owners never choose to use a specialist's services.The problem is trust--many website owners simple believe that they cannot trust SEO.

First, the term SEO itself is misunderstood. Luckily is it easy to educate yourself. You can read The Organic SEO Blog. Once you learn about SEO--and specifically, Organic SEO--you can learn how to ask the right questions.

If you still do not trust SEO, however, read this article: SEO is Not the Enemy.

No choice can be worse than the wrong choice--or at least equally bad. In both cases, your website is still losing income by the day!

The Right Choice

Although both SEO specialists and website marketing firms can increase your website’s online presence, the organic approach to website optimization is preferable. The major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing admire organically-promoted websites, and these search engines reward well-optimized sites with top placement in search results.

Also, with organic website optimization your company’s success is not dependent on an advertising budget--unlike a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign. PPC can be effective. However, PPC is very costly. And like other traditional advertisements—the periodicals and radio ads noted above—the success of PPC is entirely dependent on your advertisement budget.

Finding customers can be costly and ineffective. So why not let the business come to you? Organic SEO empowers customers to find your website. When optimized for search engines, your website will be visible to the exact customers who are looking for your product or service. Once again, I suggest you read our handy SEO Checklist for some practical tips.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Hashtag: A Key SEO Strategy

Facebook announced this week that user hashtags would soon be both clickable and searchable, making posts more widely discoverable across the social network. Beyond the implications this change has for Facebook privacy--or, if you prefer, publicity--the move might also influence the public's opinion of search engine optimization, or SEO. Once regulated to Twitter and Instragram, the hashtag has now gone viral, and more and more users are understanding how to use keywords--a key SEO strategy.

By studying how people use keywords to attract attention on social media networks, one can learn a basic SEO principle: relevant keywords can attract people to you, your product, or your service. Marking your relevant keyword with a hashtag is the easiest way to attract attention on Twitter and Instragram. For SEO, of course, the use of relevant keywords can attract attention to your website.

Many popular Twitter and Instragram users practice SEO without even knowing it. A Twitter or Instragram hashtag is basically the simplest form of search engine optimization. By using a hashtag like "Instababy," for example, on Instragram, you enable other users to more easily discover your pictures of your baby.

An Instragram of Stepman PC's Seth Pollins with his #Instababy, Ella

As Wikipedia notes, the hashtag gained prominence on Twitter during the last Iranian elections:

"Internationally, the hashtag became a practice of writing style for Twitter posts during the 2009–2010 Iranian election protests, as both English and Persian-language hashtags became useful for Twitter users inside and outside of Iran."

Today, Twitter is overrun with hashtags, and the sheer quantity can teach us another lesson about SEO: relevant keywords are crucial, but quality content is truly the most important aspect of optimization.

Just like the spammers who abuse Twitter with excessive hashtags, certain "Black Hat" SEO specialists have practiced "keyword stuffing," where keywords are excessively loaded into a site’s content. To maximize relevancy, a seedy developer might also apply alternative text to every image on a website with a similar set of keywords. This practice is unethical, and ineffective. A sophisticated search engine, like Google, can easily identify keyword stuffing techniques

A high-quality Twitter or Instragram user, or a "White Hat" SEO professional,  never uses keyword stuffing. The best of the best always realize that well-written, thoughtful, and relevant content is the best optimization strategy. If you would like to learn more about Black Hat and White Hat SEO professionals as well as a few SEO tips and tricks, please read "Search Engine Optimization 101."

If you are a business owner who currently uses hashtags to promote your business on social media networks, you are practicing SEO. If you have a website, then, you should be applying similar website optimization techniques to your own content. Of course, to truly attain the benefits of organic website optimization, you could contact a quality SEO company, like Stepmans PC. But if you're not convinced of the power of website optimization just yet, follow the hashtags. You might just learn a little bit more about SEO.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Learn SEO: Know Your Enemy

The goal of website optimization is to make a website visible on the first page of Google, Yahoo, and Bing--and really, all available search engines around the world. Search engine optimization (SEO) specialists and website marketing companies devote a significant amount of time to optimizing websites, but even if SEO is performed correctly most websites will not see quick results. Smart website owners understand this simple truth: website optimization requires time, effort, and patience.

Still, many website owners encourage SEO companies to expedite the process; some even try to help SEO specialists by providing valuable company information, or by learning search engine optimization techniques. The SEO specialists at Stepmans PC believe that knowledge should be shared. The more people who understand SEO the better. Understanding the basics of SEO, and how to approach the practice, can be a very valuable asset for any website owner. Indeed, you might even help expedite your SEO specialist's website optimization campaign. With a website owner's help, a website can achieve online success and visibility more quickly.

An easy way to learn SEO is to "know your enemy."

Of course, we're not talking real enemies. When it comes to business, your "enemies" might simply be your competitors in your specific industry. In terms of SEO, the sheer quantity of competition is what makes your battle both dangerous and difficult. If you own a brick-and-mortar store, your competitors are likely located nearby. When you enter the online marketplace in your industry, you compete with all other similar websites--thousands, or even millions, around the world!

The numbers might seem daunting, but you can learn from these websites. By learning your enemy's website optimization techniques you can optimize your own website, and even outperform your enemies, taking their placement on the first page of the major search engines.

If you are an SEO company or SEO specialist you probably know most aspects of website optimization,and how to optimize a website for each specific search engine. SEO specialists also know how to analyze top-performing websites for website optimization clues. If you are a website owner, and have no website optimization knowledge, you can learn by paying close attention to the valuable information contained on your enemy's website: his website design, website layout, and even promotional sales. Learning what works for your enemy's website will help you convert your website's visitors into actual customers.

Even though it's called "search engine" optimization, and most SEO specialists optimize websites with search engines in mind, the true purpose of SEO is to make a website appealing to potential customers. Search engines also compete for customers, and the best way for a search engine to attract business is to deliver perfectly relevant search results. By delivering the most relevant and appealing websites, search engines cultivate repeat customers. This is why Google, Yahoo, and Bing are so popular--each delivers only high-quality websites on the first page search results. (For more information on how search engine's work, check out A Quick Google Lesson).

Today's SEO lesson is simple: If you want your website to appear on the first page search results, study each website that currently exists on the first page. By learning what makes your enemy's websites successful, you can duplicate that success, and perhaps even surpass it. Know your enemy!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Every Website Needs Organic SEO!

Some form of search engine optimization (SEO) has existed since the mid-1990s, and although SEO remains obscure to some website owners, the popularity of website optimization is now nearly equivalent to bread. And yes, for many website owners, SEO really is the best thing since sliced bread. In simple terms, SEO means marketing, and every business needs marketing.

However, despite a seemingly endless demand for organic website optimization, many website owners have lost faith in SEO. The painful truth is that a great number of so-called SEO companies have abused their customers. Disreputable SEO companies have extracted a lot of hard-earned money from unsuspecting clients without improving website visibility.

If you’re a new website owner, do not let yourself fall prey to a costly and unsuccessful website optimization campaign. Remember this crucial fact: most marketing companies or SEO professionals cannot achieve true organic optimization within a short period of time. Despite what an SEO specialist might tell you, it is nearly impossible to optimize a website in only one or two months.

Nearly impossible—but not entirely impossible.

A few top-notch SEO professionals can actually perform successful organic website optimization within a short period of time (one month or less) without causing harm to website ranking and visibility. Since this type of natural website optimization often requires aggressive change, make sure your SEO specialist is humble and attentive. The best SEO specialist is someone who can deliver speedy, high-quality work while making you, the website owner, feel comfortable and happy.

To make a good choice in selecting the right SEO company, please refer to this brief SEO Company Checklist. This checklist should give you a good idea of your minimum requirements for a true SEO professional.

A true SEO professional really is the best thing since sliced bread.  Many website owners recognize this truth. Unfortunately, many website owners also believe that natural website optimization is not appropriate for their website because their product is not essential enough to attract a large customer base.

One website owner actually told me: “I don’t need SEO. I sell widgets. I don’t sell bread!”

This website owner assumed correctly that his product is only for a limited amount of people. And yet, he assumed incorrectly that website optimization and website visibility would not benefit his business. Of course, not every product is indispensable like bread! However, of the billions of people that demand bread, surely a certain percentage also demands widgets!

Organic website optimization is about finding your specific customers. Even if you think you’re only catering to a small or local client-base, your worldwide numbers might surprise you! High-quality SEO can take you worldwide.

Imagine, if you will, the famous Kama Sutra. How many people actually buy the Kama Sutra? Have you bought the Kama Sutra in the last five years? Have any of your friends or relatives bought the Kama Sutra recently? Probably not! Still, every time you visit Barnes & Noble, the Kama Sutra is available for purchase. Why? The answer is simple: I might not need it, and billions of others do not need it, but a certain amount of people do need it—enough so that the book remains profitable.

This is the way website optimization works: SEO targets local populations first, and then worldwide populations. Online business owners: do not limit yourself! If you tell yourself your product is only for specific people, and is not suitable for website optimization, you limit yourself from promoting your product or services to thousands of potential customers every day, week, and month. It's as simple as sliced bread, really--if you find the right guy to slice the bread!