Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cyber Monday Three SEO Tips For Optimized Sites

Last year, 127 million people shopped online on Cyber Monday (source), the consumer "holiday" that now rivals Black Friday. In fact, the distinction between Cyber Monday and Black Friday has essentially collapsed, for consumers, at least, who now view the Thanksgiving weekend (which also includes Small Business Saturday) as one long shopping event.

Even Thanksgiving, the sacred family holiday, is part of the action. Last year, both Thanksgiving and Black Friday broke online sales records, of $1.33 Billion and $2.4 Billion respectively (source). On Thanksgiving Day last year, "mobile traffic accounted for 52.1 percent of all online traffic – the first time mobile devices have outpaced their PC counterparts for online browsing" (source), a trend that likely threatened many dinnertime discussions.

Whatever your personal thoughts about America's relentless consumerism, and how it has now invaded Turkey Day, it is clear that certain online retailers stand to benefit greatly from the upcoming holiday weekend. Of course, who benefits (and who does not) will be determined by traffic. Who will attract the most attention?

For any online business, the distinction between success and failure is not necessarily about the quality of a given product; instead, success is more often defined by effective marketing, not simply SEO, but content marketing, email campaigns, social media campaigns, and more. A day like Cyber Monday makes this distinction all the more evident. If you want to succeed, you need to attract more attention than your competitor.

Perhaps this distinction is obvious. We venture to say, however, that too many retailers (both online and brick-and-mortar) spend too much time on product development to the detriment of marketing. And too many online retailers ignore SEO in favor of PPC campaigns that yield little results.

For two years now we've offered SEO tips for Cyber Monday. In offering these tips, we have also submitted a basic truth: good Cyber Monday SEO is simply good SEO. In other words, a thoughtful, consistent SEO campaign performed over months and years will prove beneficial for your site on any given day, especially Cyber Monday.

If you have yet to perform basic SEO for your site, we suggest reading our first Cyber Monday article:

Organic SEO: Five Tips for a Successful Cyber Monday and Beyond 

If you want to get a little more advanced, read last year's Cyber Monday article:

Organic SEO: Five More Tips for a Successful Cyber Monday & Beyond

Ah, the wonder of window shopping--today a great deal of our gifts are purchased online.

If you do perform consistent SEO,  and your site is established and competitive in its industry, you can improve your clicks (and hopefully your sales) by performing a few small SEO tweaks. This is SEO for established brands.

1. Create a Gift Guide

This advice is akin to our previous advice to "create a unique Cyber Monday landing page." Creating a new page on a well-optimized site can attract immediate attention. This is the advantage of an ongoing SEO campaign. (New page on a site that has not been optimized will likely not attract much attention).

A gift guide collates your best products into a unique landing page that you can easily promote on social media. If your guide is stylish and savvy, you will attract increased shares and likes. If you have the budget, this is the place to use new product photos, models, or savvy art work and design.

2. Create a Thoughtful Social Media Campaign

Again, if you're already practicing SEO, you likely have a good social media following. Take advantage of your followers by crafting a unique and thoughtful social media campaign. Start early by promoting your best products. Be consistent in your message from the beginning of your campaign to Cyber Monday. Share your gift guide.

On the day itself, schedule time to interact with your customers. Be responsive to immediate questions and concerns. If possible, answer all and any queries on your Facebook page or Twitter profile. By showing yourself to be responsive to your customer's needs, you create a relationship that might extend beyond the day.

If you're on Pinterest, this is a great opportunity to take advantage of great design or marketing collateral.

3. Update Your Popular Pages

A well optimized site should enjoy a variety of popular pages. Take advantage of the existing traffic by updating these pages for holiday-specific keywords (change the keywords after the holidays). For your most popular pages, you might even create Cyber Monday-specific header and title tags to attract a specific audience. Just make sure to give the search engines time to "crawl" the new content. If you're already a trusted site, this should happen relatively quickly.

Cyber Monday Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites for specific seasonal shopping days--such as Cyber Monday, Christmas, or Valentines'--we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepman's PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective SEO campaigns that can attract your ideal customer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What is "Good" SEO?

"Build for users, not search engines." This popular maxim has been a guiding SEO principle for many years--and for good reason. After all, the goal of algorithm design is to improve the specificity of search results. The goal of a good SEO firm is to deliver an optimized website with content tailored to a specific audience. When the two disciplines come together, all stakeholders benefit: the search engine, the website, and the user.

So the maxim is true: Good SEOs build for users. This truth, in theory, should inspire more people to use SEO, especially any online business focused on customer service. Unfortunately, SEO is often viewed as counter to the user experience.

Many view SEO as a manipulation of algorithm design, a way to trick the system. Those outside the SEO community often dismiss SEO talk--algorithms, alt text, anchor text, and we're still at "A"--as so much technobabble. For many people, SEO is sheer manipulation of code; the guiding principle is flipped on its head: "SEO builds for search engines, not users."

In the experience of our sponsor, Stepmans PC, this misconception is the primary reason so many websites do not take advantage of SEO. As Alex Stepman says, "You would be surprised: many website owners dismiss SEO as a manipulative practice. It is 2015! Still, so many people view SEO as counter to the goals of the search engines."

The problem, Stepman notes, is that too many people associate modern SEO with the Black Hat practices of the past: unethical coding, spammy link-building schemes, and domain jacking, to name a few.

In fact, when asked, "What is black hat SEO?" Google offers a definition from webopedia:

"In search engine optimization (SEO) terminology, black hat SEO refers to the use of aggressive SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that focus only on search engines and not a human audience."

So Black Hat SEO "builds for search engines, not users." This distinction is important--there is a difference between good and bad SEO.  Elsewhere, in its own page on SEO, Google discusses the difference between a good and bad SEO:

"Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site."

Many website owners collapse the implicit idea of this quote, viewing SEO as an either/or proposition: Improve your site and save time vs. risk damage to your site and reputation. When practiced ethically, however, good SEO is not an either or proposition. From Google's (and other search engine's) perspective, algorithms reward organic SEO efforts. At the same time, algorithms dissuade Black Hat SEO practices.

What Google is advising here is to perform your own research to find a good SEO company that understands the value of users--read: customers. Ask any potential SEO: What can you do for my customers? How can you attract my unique customers? What do you know about my customers? If an SEO cannot speak to the human side of online marketing and SEO, look elsewhere.

Is SEO Worth Your Money?

To navigate the complicated challenge of SEO, you might need to hire an SEO specialist like Stepman's PC. Do not let the changing algorithms compromise your sales. You need the astute wisdom of a search engine optimization professional who can help you answer the question honestly: Is SEO worth your money? Contact Stepman's PC today to learn how you can improve your website's performance: 215-900-9398.

Stepmans PC has a handy checklist to help you discover a good SEO company.

Click: How to Choose an SEO Company

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why #SEOHorrorStories Presents the SEO Industry in a Bad Light

Last week on Twitter SEO trended when the industry, following the lead of Aleyda Solis, a columnist for Search Engine Land, tweeted her own "SEO Horror Story." For industry insiders, the tweets offered a sardonic view of SEO horrors. This following tweet, from Google Analytics offered a relatively straightforward (and common) horror.

We couldn't help but notice, however, that many of the tweets (including the tweet above) implicitly poked fun at industry outsiders--the people who perpetuate these horrors.

Of course, it was all in good nature (we hope). And of course, most "outsiders" wouldn't understand (or care to understand) a great deal of the tweets.
Say what? This was all apparently quite funny:
Funny, right?

What struck us about the "hilarious and horrific" trend was how easily the industry slipped into pessimism. All of these SEO horrors seemingly involved clients, or developers, or designers who had made grave mistakes while the SEO insider stood by, aghast, shocked, horrified.

At times, frankly, the tweets read as spiteful.
We couldn't help but think: in a way (a big way), SEO is about fixing problems. The fact that the problem exists is not necessarily the fault of a specific client, developer, or designer. SEO is a complicated affair, mastered by few, misunderstood by many. By poking fun at the mistakes of others aren't we betraying the mission of the industry: to help our clients; to demystify the process?

SEO, as we've noted before, is a highly specialized talent:

"A talented professional should be able to speak fluently about the latest algorithm changes in a way that makes sense to you. If he/she cannot do this--well, then, you might be best finding another specialist. And take our word for it: like lawyers, this country is overrun with SEO specialists."

Some in the SEO community might read this post as sour grapes. Fine. We wonder, though, how would the same people react to, say, another hashtag from another specialized industry? What if your lawyer was tweeting about your "legal" mistakes? Well, of course, that would never happen--lawyers abide by a Modern Rules of Professional Conduct, and confidentiality is key. Perhaps the SEO community needs a similar rule book.

In the end, we must admit, #SEOhorrorstories was a harmless exercise that elicited little attention outside of the industry. For us, however, the lesson here is clear.

If you're searching for an SEO company to optimize your website, make sure you choose wisely. You want a firm that believes in the value of a consultative approach. You want a firm that will make you feel comfortable with the process. A good SEO firm will teach. You should not be excluded from the process or the knowledge. And you certainly do not want a firm that pokes fun at your mistakes.

If you simply want to learn more about SEO, do not be discouraged by the condescension of insiders. And please do read our blog, which is decidedly not written by experts. Our writers aim, simply, to learn and to share this learning in an accessible way.

As we've noted before: "once you get past the misconceptions, you discover real human beings." It's important for the SEO community to understand that this is a two-way street.

Internet Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to demystify the process of SEO, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398.

Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.