SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of those skills we think EVERY entrepreneur should know. Its in the top 5 for sure. The future of business will always have an online component. Getting traffic to your site can be the difference between success and failure. Matt and Brandon spend 2 full hours discussing both basic SEO and some very advanced tricks that only the best SEO companies know about. If nothing else, listen to this podcast so you don’t get screwed over by all those “fly by night” SEO companies promising to get your site ranked #1 and figuring out that they are crap 6 months too late and THOUSANDS of dollars down the drain.
Welcome to Automate My Small Business where we show you how to set up and run your own automated business on the cheap. So get ready to take back your life and add a little spice. It’s time to build something automated.
MATT: Hello and welcome to episode #28 of Automate My Small Business. I’m Matt.
BRANDON: And this is Brandon.
MATT: And today we’re going to talk to you about Search Engine Optimization and how you can optimize your site to rank higher on Google. But before we get into that, Brandon, what have you been up to?
BRANDON: Well, gosh, there’s a lot to cover…
MATT: It’s been a long time.
BRANDON: … since we did our last podcast and now I’m just kind of tracking the popular questions on our community site. It’s got to be that, “We want more podcast,” and we hear you so this going out to you guys and we apologize for being a little bit delayed on some of these because we actually had been a little bit busy. Matt and I both have been travelling a little bit doing some keynote speaking to a few business conferences, one in Florida in fact that we just got back from a week or two ago. Verio is a web hosting company that invited us out to speak to their partners about 150 small business owners that are in the web space. And I have to say…
MATT: And it was a lot of fun.
BRANDON: … it was kind of fun. Yeah. It was fun. It was one of our firsts so I have to do a lot more of that. But anyways we did that and you know I got a commercial that I’m running on the Google Adwords TV version of adwords.
MATT: So you’re back to that. I remember you’re looking in to that a while ago and ran a couple of testings but now you’re really doing it.
BRANDON: Yeah. Well you know I did it about six to eight months ago and I kind of did an infomercial. It kind of failed to be honest because we got about, I think we did, we got one order from the infomercial but at the same time we got our best month ever. There’s a metrics I had to take a deep look into to figure out why we did so well on the website but didn’t do well on the direct 800 number. And it turns out I think what happened was we got great exposure but the infomercial format was just the wrong fit for the price point we’re looking at and you know the type of product because it’s a complex product the people want to know more about. They just don’t pick up the phone and order something that is kind of elusive and they wanted more research.
So I figured you know what, let’s do this as a real commercial. We’ll drive everybody to the website and not do this 800 number, three payments of 49.95, you know very ‘salezy’, pitchy feel. So I said you know forget that. Let’s go back to the “We have a solution. We see your problem. Here’s where you can go find any more information.” So we drove everybody the website as a change of pace. So I think it’s going to do very well. So we made a 2-minute spot and that was my first learning experience was there is not a lot of space on the TV networks for a 2-minute spot. So if you’re out there, you’re going to do a commercial and you’re going to use something like Google TV ads, try to stick to a 60-second spot. That’s my little learning lesson.
MATT: That’s quite—I think you’ve learned a lot of stuff and we will probably have to do an episode on video and commercials and all that stuff at some point to share what you’ve learned.
BRANDON: Yeah. I have learned a lot in that area so it has been a learning experience. Other than that, we’re getting ready to open our Canadian warehouse using Shipwire. I think we’ve talked about Shipwire in the past, a great source for fulfillment all over the world if you’re ready to expand in that direction. So that’s good because we had a lot of Canadian customers wanting to get our products for a lot cheaper for shipping purposes…
MATT: And it’s surprisingly expensive to ship to Canada…
BRANDON: It is.
MATT: … when you cross the border, I couldn’t believe it. It’s ridiculous.
BRANDON: You know by doing this, we’re lowering our cost to ship to Canada from like $280 to about 75 bucks. So 75 bucks is still expensive but a lot better than 280 bucks.
BRANDON: So it’s worth it to get a warehouse in Canada and you know it doesn’t really cost that much to ship, relatively, it doesn’t cost much to ship a truck to Canada full of product. But other than that I got Drench Fitness going well. You know we’re expanding that. It’s a lot more difficult doing a local business than it is an online business just for obvious reasons. You got employees and all that to deal with and the drama.
Fortunately, my wife is running the store and she likes that better than the online businesses. So I’ll stick with my online businesses and she can run the local businesses but we still do a lot of you know online stuff of course. Yeah. So that’s been keeping me busy. How about you Matt? What’s going on with you? What’s the latest?
MATT: Well, my wife just opened a new speech pathology practice in Beverly Hills so I had been helping her get set up with new addresses and new stuff all in the open, all the local stuff and that’s been really exciting to kind of get the flavor of local stuff that you had to do.
MATT: And learning all about, learning even more about local SEO and all that sort of stuff and getting into that. And then also I’ve been finally getting around to launching Qanda Forums which is the software that runs our Q&A site. So if anyone is interested in building a Q&A site for their business or for one of their hobbies or something, you know by the time we finally get this thing edited and pushed out hopefully it will be launched then you can go sign up.
But that’s been really exciting, finally getting that from kind of proof of concept just out there and letting people use it to you know a real polished product that I can sell and everything like that. So it’s been fun. I got some good developers in Russia and testing is being done in India and our web designer is in Bangladesh so definitely living the virtual lifestyle.
BRANDON: I’m looking forward to you know getting to test the final product. It sounds like it’s going to be great.
MATT: Yeah and AMSB will get the you know the first update right before we go live to make sure everything is okay. So if you noticed the difference on the Q&A site, that’s what it is. It’s the new version.
BRANDON: So with no further ado, let’s get into our topic. So today’s topic is SEO and I have a feeling this might take two episodes.
MATT: I’m hoping we can get it done in two because there’s a ton of content we’ve prepared for this thing.
BRANDON: Yeah. This is a monster and it seems like it’s such an easy topic to cover especially if you’re not familiar with SEO because it’s a simple idea of just increasing your page rank when somebody searches for what you are trying to sell or give them information on.
MATT: It’s all about coming over the top of the search list, right?
BRANDON: Yeah. This might sound like something that is peanuts when it comes to building a business and getting traffic and getting people to come to your website but this is a billion dollar portion of getting business. This is what makes or breaks businesses online. So this is important stuff.
MATT: We’re going to go in to a lot of details about all the strategies and all these things you can do but everyone is kind of guessing at what Google and Bing and all those guys are doing because those are the only guys that know the secret formula of you know how search works. So everything we’re going to talk about you’re going to be able to find someone else that has a different opinion but we try to include what has worked for us, what we’ve learned from other SEO experts. And there’s a ton of great content out there and we’ll try to share all the tools and experts that we’ve learned from over the years as we go through this.
BRANDON: So let’s do this. Let’s try to like be real basic at the very beginning here and try to get the people that really have no idea what SEO is. By the way, it stands for Search Engine Optimization, and then we’re going to get really detailed in showing some real advanced techniques later on in the episode. But just to get started, Matt, why don’t you just kind of do an overview of how SEO functions and what the basic formula is.
MATT: Okay. So probably everyone is familiar with searching for something on Google or searching for something on Bing. You go to that nice search bar and you just type whatever you want to find and somehow Google figures out what page you really want to see. To get to that point, Google has to index all the pages on the web. So they go and they have their computer software look at that page, take all the text, take all the images, take all the information that’s on that page and put it into a data base like Google so that they can then sort in order and figure out which one of those pages is most relevant to whatever topic you’re searching for.
So if you search for shoes, you know it knows, “Hey, let me send you the Nike page or the Footlocker page.” Or if you search for whatever movie you want to watch then they’ll send you to the movie page. It’s going to go get all the content from all sites and store it in a data base and figure out which site should rank first. You know should it rank Nike first for shoes or should it rank Joe Shoes from Minnesota or whatever? So it’s got to figure out what is an authoritative page about something.
So the way that Google is originally structured, they came up with this algorithm which is kind of a system for figuring something out. Their algorithm was that they figured out that if someone links to your page, if they link to your pages it’s kind of a vote for your page, and so the system of counting the votes for a page or counting the links to a page is something that they termed the page rank. I mean this is very early Google how they just got started when—this is what they figured out when they were at Stanford when they started the company.
BRANDON: Yeah. This is kind of what made them famous.
MATT: Yeah. And so…
BRANDON: In the beginning.
MATT: In the beginning, this was the only ranking factor. This is how they rank the pages and as they’ve gotten more sophisticated over the years and more complex in their search and there’s more orders of magnitude, more pages on the web, they’d have to come up with a more advanced algorithm and added other ranking factors. And so we’re going to talk about all these other ranking factors as we go through this.
But it was really about you know how many links until they get to your site. That’s still a really important part of it but that’s not the whole thing anymore. So they’re going to count all these links. They’re going to give you some sort of page rank then they’re going to try to figure out how relevant is your page to certain terms and these terms we’re going to call keywords.
Keywords are really whatever the searcher typed into that search thing. So if it was shoes or if it was the name of a movie or whatever they’re searching for, they’re going to try to correlate that to your site or to someone’s site. And then there’s a whole bunch of other ranking factors that we’ll go into like domain authority, how fast your pages load, how you quick stream data, how quickly you’re getting more links or losing links or you know if your friends have shared your page on Twitter or Facebook.
There’s ton of stuff and we’ll go into all that. But just know that basic SEO it’s all about what’s your content is about on your website and how many people think that your content is important and vote for it by either linking or mentioning it or citing it somehow. And we’ll go through a bunch of ways to do that.
BRANDON: So just to be clear, everything we’re going to be talking about today is all non-paid page rank. So everything that’s below the advertised or sponsored links that we’ve talked about in the past using adwords, that’s not anything what we’re talking about. This is all free page rank, bringing your page to the top of the Google results for any particular keyword.
So if somebody says to you, “Oh, I rank third for the keyword white shoes or cool shoes,” basically that means that if you type in cool shoes to Google, you’d expect their link to be third. As we’re going to end up showing that that changes for every person that searches but we’ll just assume that their page rank is a number and that number is correlated to the number from the top of the natural or organic search results.
MATT: We’re going to talk about some strategies about how to do this and one of the strategies that I like to use is to fish with the net not a line or hook. You know if you’re fishing with a line or hook, you’re fishing for you know one fish. When you’re fishing with a net, you’re trying to capture for a whole bunch of fish.
And so what I’m talking about when I say this is you have to build kind of a funnel into your site. And it may not be just your website that they’re going to or it may not be just your home page. You have to think about people might end up when they search for you on your Twitter page, on your Facebook page, you know some Squidoo article that you wrote or on Wikipedia and some citation to your product or your expertise as a professional.
All these things are funnels back in to your site where they might have searched for something and not ended up directly to your site but they end up to your site through these other channels. And so the more things that you have like this the more you can really dominate the first page. It’s one thing to say, “Hey, I’m number one on Google,” but it’s a completely different thing to say, “Hey, my brand is number one through ten. I control the entire the first page for this term,” that means there’s no room for your competitors and that’s really where you want to get to.
BRANDON: That is I would say your number one strategy. If you have a brand, you need to own the whole first page of Google with that brand so if you’re targeting other keywords and you’re not getting your brand to be dominating the first page, stick to your brand first and then you can get other keywords after that but your brand is important. So that is something you should try to dominate the first page with.
MATT: Now a lot of SEO stuff is really focused around Google but Google is not the only search engine in town. In the US, it controls about two thirds of the search market and then Bing controls somewhere between 25 and 30 percent and Bing is Microsoft search engine. It was MSN search. It was Live search and they only have about you know maybe 10, 12 percent of the market until they struck up a deal with Yahoo where Yahoo actually stopped using their own search engine and started using Bing. Their 25 to 30 percent market share is basically the combination of all the searches at Yahoo and all the searches at Bing and some other smaller partners that they have.
Before that, most people just optimize for Google because you have a bunch of players that were around 10 percent and then one guy that was like 60 or 70 percent. So it didn’t make sense to optimize for both of them and there’s different strategies for each one of them. So now I think it makes sense to focus on both Google and Bing and if you’re in other parts of the world, you might have other search engines with more market share like Baidu in China. They really dominate the search engine in China. So if you’re in China, you have to learn how to optimize for Baidu. I don’t really know about it so we’re not really going to cover it but it depends on where you’re at I guess.
BRANDON: So in general we have a couple of areas of strategies we’re going to focus on. Over the next few minutes, we’re going to talk about your keywords and how to find your keywords, how to do research on those keywords, get them from your competitors and using certain tools. And then we’re going to talk about some onsite SEO, everything that you can control that’s on your website, and then we’re going to also talk about some offsite SEO which has different strategies altogether.
So if you ever hear people talking about onsite SEO or offsite SEO, it’s accomplishing the same thing but just in different domains what you can work with and strategies to use. And then finally we’re going to talk to you a little bit about SERP optimization which is how to grab somebody’s attention when you actually do show up on the search results. So starting off with keyword research, Matt, how would you say is the easiest way to go about finding keywords to target for like a Google search?
MATT: Okay so when you’re trying to figure out what keywords you want to rank for, you need to figure out what people are going to be searching for when you want them to come to your website. And you could guess or you could use some tools that are out there. The best free tool out there is the Google Keyword Tool. I know they had a couple of tools and they all merged into one but basically you can point it at your site. You can give it your URL and then it will come back with some suggestions of what it thinks your site is about.
And that might be pretty good. You can also then add some other like of your guesses and it will give you feedback about how many people are searching for that. The tool really intended for the paid advertising world so they give you ad competition which is not necessarily the same as SEO competition, how optimized the sites are that you’re trying to compete against. There are some tools from SEOmoz if you want to figure that out and we’ll talk about them a little bit more later. And then there’s also a paid product called Word Tracker. I think they’re out at the UK and they have some really good suggestions about finding keywords that you want to optimize for.
BRANDON: So you’re looking for keywords that have a lot of traffic but don’t have any real good landing pages or people filling that void. If your website is about a shirt that helps you with your posture or something like that and you find the keywords such as you know neck pain and you’re realizing that there’s all these people that are searching for neck pain but there’s very few people that are either advertising for it or providing good content in the search results. You’re finding good keywords there that you can really focus on and get a lot of attraction with.
MATT: And then there’s also kind of optimizing for long tail words versus short keywords. So if someone just searches for shoes, that’s going to be something that’s really hard to rank for but if someone searches for Italian custom stilettos or something that might be something that is more of a niche and something that you can really dominate. So you want to look for something that is reasonable for you to go after.
It would be nice if you rank number one for shoes but you know you got to start somewhere and start at the places that’s going to really bring you business and money and that’s the longer keywords. And you’re getting even more traffic in to those longer keywords now that Google made a change on some of the—to do instant search and this is where Google is actually showing you results as you type. It’s also showing you auto complete for longer phrases of common things people search for. So as I type in shoes, it might say you know it might add on shoes snickers, shoes Nike and all these kind of things that’s adding on to the end before I’ve even typed it and more likely to choose those longer searches than it was before.
BRANDON: So if you get a few keywords you know you can always test them using even adwords. Yeah, you do have to pay a little bit to test them out but it’s really important that you find out the most relevant keywords that brings you the most traffic before you spend all your time doing all these SEO content building on it. And so adwords world and the SEO world are very closely related so you can use similar keywords in both instances and learn a lot.
So you might run an ad that uses your particular keyword in fact a host of keywords, let’s say 10 or 12 and you’ll find real quickly that half of them brought you 80 percent of the traffic while the other half brought 20 percent of the traffic. So you can start focusing on the most relevant keywords and the ones that people really are gravitating towards your site or for your ad for.
MATT: Now I mean you said earlier that SEO traffic is free and that’s true in that you’re not paying for people that are clicking on those links on Google and coming to you. But it’s not true in the sense that you can spend a lot of money and a lot of time trying to get yourself up on those rankings on Google. SEO is a very painstaking process. It can take a lot of time and a lot of effort. So you want to make sure that you are getting those right keywords and not wasting your time optimizing for something that either isn’t going to convert or is too hard that you’re never going to rank high for. Finding the right keywords is really important.
BRANDON: So I guess there is a cost so to speak. Even though you don’t pay when Google shows your link or your page on the organic results but you do have to consider that what it cost to get you to that level of page rank. If you’re selling shoes and your page rank is high for pianos, it doesn’t matter that you’re ranking high for pianos if you’re selling shoes. What’s the point, right? Why would you go through all the work and all the time? So it is important that you choose the proper keywords here.
MATT: Yeah. So like we mentioned before there’s a tool from SEOmoz called the Keyword Difficulty Tool. Check that out to figure out you know how hard some of these keywords might be to rank for because what you see in the Google Keyword Tool is not about SEO difficulty. Just ignore that in the Google Keyword Tool. One other thing about the Google Keyword Tool is that when you’re using it, make sure you’re searching for phrase or exact match keywords because otherwise it’s going to bring back way more search traffic than it’s actually going there. It’s going to show you the general broad match and that’s not what you want.
So moving on, a lot of people search for something but they might not type it right. So there’s a whole section of SEO around typo optimization and ranking for things where people might not spell the thing right. I think entrepreneur is a great example. You might have noticed sometimes on Automate My Small Business, we misspell entrepreneur on purpose because we know people search for it with the e and the u reversed. And we want to make sure that we rank for that as well. I did that on some of my Camcorder sites where I misspell their name like Canon or Sony or something like that because people misspell them a lot and I want to make sure that I have that contented them and I’m showing on there and maybe I’ll rank higher because of that.
BRANDON: So is Canon spelled with two n’s or one n?
MATT: Spelled with one n but a lot of people will type it with two n’s.
BRANDON: It’s a good example.
MATT: And as you’re building up all these keywords that you want to rank for, what you’re going to optimize for, you really need to figure out what’s important and pick like maybe five of them that you really going to go for. And some of the ways that I’ll do this is I’m trying to figure out what combinations of different things. Maybe I’ll take different permutations of things.
So I might take the actual object, the noun that I’m marketing the product. I might take a location where it is and some other factors like the condition or whatever you can come up with. But I’ll take different variants of these so I might have a product name. If I take my wife’s business for example, I might say speech therapy, speech pathology, speech pathologist, speech therapist, speech and language therapist. These are all variants of what her profession is and then I might talk about her location which is Beverly Hills or Los Angeles or Southern California.
Now if I take those combinations and mix and match them, you know, I’ll get speech therapy Beverly Hills, speech therapy Los Angeles, speech therapy Southern California, speech therapist Beverly Hills, and all these you know sorts of things and then I’ll throw those back into that Google Keyword Tool that we talked about earlier and try to figure out which of those get a lot of traffic. I’ll throw it in to the keyword difficulty tool and try to come up with the set of five of those that I think are most important to optimize for.
Some people will call that into the categories or keyword categorization but I think it’s a really good way to you know come up with a big broad list of long tail keywords that you want that you think they might want to target and then test it and figure out which ones are the important ones.
BRANDON: And so now there’s also search intent, right?
BRANDON: Explain a little bit about search intent.
MATT: When I’m trying to get optimized for a keyword, I may want people to come in to my site but I wanted them to come in to my site especially if I’m selling them something when they’re ready to buy and there’s different reasons that people are on Google searching. Some of them are just trying to get to a site they already know. I know a lot of people that just go to Google instead of typing PorchPotty.com into the address bar with their browser which would take him right there, they’ll type PorchPotty.com into Google and that’s you know they’re navigating and they’re trying to get somewhere.
Those people you’re not going to sway from wherever they’re going. They have a place in mind they’re trying to go. There’s people that are looking for information so they’re just you know trying to figure out what are all the possible options out there. Not maybe a good time to get someone but a lot of magazine style sites where they’re talking about a whole broad set of products or something like our podcast where we mentioned a whole bunch of stuff. So these are people that are getting information.
The next level of intent is research. The people know about a couple of products. They’re trying to get more deep, deep information. You really want to start getting—heading some of these people come to your site and getting information from your site so you can bring them in to this funnel. The next step of intent is review. So they’re trying to figure out what are other people think about this product. And this is really important that you have good reviews. We talked about that before. And then the last part of search intent is buy and you really want to make sure that in those last couple from research to review to buy that you’re targeting keywords that have signals that people are trying to do that.
Obviously, some product name reviews at the end of it is a good signal that they’re looking for reviews and really making sure that you’re ranking for those things because if you’re ranking really high for informational that might not translate into conversions and sales for you. But if you’re ranking really good for something where they want to buy like discount or promo code on this product then I know you’re going to make a lot more money off of that.
There used to be a good tool from Microsoft called the Online Commercial Intent Keyword Tool. When we went to it today it was offline. I don’t know if it’s gone forever or it will be back. But if it’s online then you can find it when this airs and try that out. It’s a really cool way of kind of figuring out the relative intent of different keywords and that might factor into your decision on which keyword you’re going to choose to target.
BRANDON: Yeah. I think the commercial intent is a big deal and a lot of people forget to look at that because it basically tells you how far along somebody is in that buying process, if they were just researching or if they’re reviewing or if they’re actually ready to buy. They use certain keywords that indicate how far along they are in each phase.
And then picking your keywords, so the final strategy once you get all this information about all your keywords, like I said before you really want to make sure your brand is highest priority to make sure you rank high for so that you don’t have other people selling products off of your brand…
MATT: Yeah. If they’re searching for your brand, that’s pretty good intent that they want to buy something from you.
MATT: So you don’t want to lose those people.
BRANDON: Right. Matt and I do this all the time. We would even buy keywords from adwords as long as it’s really inexpensive which it usually is because your brand is rarely searched and therefore cheap ad keyword to search or to target. It’s important that you dominate not only the entire page but even one ad at the top if you can afford it. So that’s my personal opinion but I think it has worked out well for me at least.
And then the rest of them I’d say focus on about 10 keywords. So if you take out all these strategies that we’ve just talked about and finding all these keywords, really you know maybe put them all in excel spreadsheet, rank them by how much traffic each one gets and then how relevant it is to your product or your service you know. Is it something that is further along in the buying cycle? You know maybe that gives it a little bit more weight and then come up with your top 10, your top 10 keyword that you really want to start focusing on and then go at it.
MATT: And don’t forget to test them on adwords because that will give you all kinds of data like conversion rate among the different you know the top 20 and that will help you narrow it down. So now we have some keywords, how do we optimize for that? And the first step, the first thing you should think about once you have these keywords is how to change your website to be optimized for these things. You have a lot of control over your website. We’re going to talk about offsite SEO in a minute and that’s everything that’s not on your website and that’s a lot harder to control. But onsite SEO, you have a lot of control.
So the most important things that you can do for each of your pages is have a really descriptive and keyword rich title and meta description. Now if you don’t know what these are, they don’t really show up on the page when you look at it. The title is what shows up on that tab at the top of Firefox or Chrome or IE but it also shows up on Google. So it’s the blue link when you’re looking at the search engine results page, that blue link is the title tag that comes off the page.
And then the other thing that’s right below that is the meta description. And these are just two tags on the header of your HTML code where you put exactly what you want to show on Google. And they’re probably the most important things that you can do on your website.
BRANDON: So not only is it important to get keywords in your title and meta description but it’s your first interaction with the customer so it’s got to sell. It’s got to be able to get them to click on it. If it doesn’t drive them to click on that link, then what good is it if you put all these keywords in it and it starts to look like it’s some sort of foreign language because you’re trying to pack in all these keywords on to your title or your description. And then somebody reads it and they’re like this just isn’t English.
MATT: It looks like spam, right?
BRANDON: Yeah. So make sure you structure it so that it’s very natural sounding, something like a human would describe it. But you do want to, if you can, and this is where the art of it comes in is to try to get those keywords to kind of fit nicely into that description or into that title.
MATT: And we’ve talked about split testing before and there’s not really a good way to split test your title and your meta description in that way. But like we said earlier if you’re testing these things in adwords, that’s a great way to figure out what’s the right thing for that title and what’s the right thing for that meta description because it really functions almost exactly like the ad that’s right next to it. You know you have the top headline and you have the description below it. Figure out what’s in there and then you can you know put that in your SEO work as well.
BRANDON: I think this would be a great time to talk about meta data.
MATT: Meta data really is just information that’s in your page in your HTML code that’s giving more context and more information about your page to Google. Now there used to be something called the meta keywords and you’ll still hear people they’re still on the page but they don’t really matter anymore. And that was one of the original ways that Google figured out what your page is about was you basically told it. You have this tag or you said my page is about wine or my page is about whatever and Google would just trust you even though that word might not show up anywhere on your page and eventually they figure out that people are just stuffing these keyword tags with tons of information that didn’t really matter or wasn’t even on the site just that they wanted to rank for.
So they started analyzing the content of the actual text that’s showing on the page and they started looking at how big is that text on the page. So there’s a couple H1 tags which are they’re supposed to be headers and they typically show bigger than the rest of the text. You know H1 tag is the biggest header and so it’s going to look at what are the keywords that are on your H1 tags.
What are the keywords that are in your links, so when you link to some of the page on your site you know, what’s the text that’s in that and what’s the text that’s right around it? What are the keywords that are at the beginning of the paragraphs or at the top of the page? So they’ll try to figure out what someone can see when they first look at the page and if you bury all your keywords at the bottom of the page those aren’t going to be as impactful or Google is not going to think it’s as relevant to the page as the words are at the top of the page. I mean it will also look at how frequently a keyword is used on the page so if you use it once you know then at the bottom of the page they’ll thing that’s not important.
But if you say a certain word like entrepreneur a bunch of times on the page, it might think, “Hey this page is about entrepreneurship.” They’re just trying to glean from all the information that they can find both the metadata that’s in the header that’s not shown and the information that’s on the page and is visible and is big and bold and bright. They’re trying to figure out what this page is about, what keyword is this page going to be relevant to?
BRANDON: If you’re picking your domain name or your business or for your product and you’re deciding you know which dot com to go with or should I do a dot net or should I do a dot org, you know there are all these great domains that are kind of taken, there is a lot of weight that is placed on what keywords are actually in your domain name. So it is important that you choose a domain name that might have some descriptor words that somebody might search for in the actual name itself and that might also—it’d be nice if it actually correlated with your brand as well.
You know if you use the example Porch Potty, the words ‘porch’ and the words ‘potty’ are both very good descriptors of the kind of what the product is. It is also the brand. It is a dot com. Those are all extremely good ways to go if you’re choosing a domain name from the very beginning. So make sure that it is in your URL.
MATT: Yeah. So I mean you mentioned domain name but also after the domain name whatever the path of that URL is. So WordPress would do it for you when you come up with the title for the article that you’re writing on WordPress. If you look at the slug that it says above it, it’s actually creating a URL that has keywords in it. And if your system, your shopping cart or your content management system or whatever supports this, you really want to make sure that those words in the URL are really targeted at whatever keyword you’re trying to target for that page, and are fully for two different reasons.
So one, Google’s going to look at the keywords in the URL and say, “Hey, this is about this.” But the second thing that you might not think about is when people link to you, they don’t know they write different text for that link to there—sometimes they’ll just take that link and they’ll paste it on their page and whatever is in that link is actually the text that’s going to show up in that link and Google’s going to say, “Hey, this link is about contact us. This link is about Porch Potty.” Because it’s in that URL it’s also going to show up in the link text for people that don’t put any human readable description in their links. So it helps you in a couple of different ways.
BRANDON: Another great way to make sure that the search engines understand your site and therefore rank it higher is to make sure that you have a site map. Basically a site map is either an XML file or an HTML site map. Both of which can be used with Google but I think the XML is kind of taking preference now. And basically it’s a machine readable format that allows Google to know what pages are on your site and how they all navigate with each other and how they all link to each other in what fashion. So if you don’t have a site map and it’s not—or you have maybe errors on your site map that’s not in the proper format, Google or Bing really could kind of dock you on that and if they don’t trust it then they’ll start lowering your page rank for sure.
MATT: Yeah. So that kind of brings up spidering in. We really didn’t talk about spidering in when we’re doing the overview. So maybe now is a good time to talk about it. So when Google is trying to figure out what’s on your page, they actually have a little program that will come and request every page on your site or what they think is every page on your site. So they will come, they’ll read the first page and then look at all the links on that first page and they’ll go to some of those links.
And so when they go to link, they’ll pull on that page and they’ll look for other links and they just kind of try to get to all the content. And so if you have content where you can get to every page on your site which is you know maybe two, maybe three clicks, then it’s a high likelihood that Google’s going to find all the pages that are on your site. But if there are pages on your site that are buried way deep and it takes like five, six, seven clicks to get to those pages, then Google is probably going to give up once they get a couple of pages in and they’ll go, “Oh, there’s nothing else down here. We’re not going to crawl anymore to the links.” And they might not follow them.
So if you have that case, a site map really helps Google find those pages that they might not have found otherwise. But still you want to work on the structure of your site so that people aren’t having to click, not just Google, but the actual users to your site aren’t having to click six or seven levels in for them to find something.
BRANDON: Yeah. I like to have every page on my site available from home page personally.
MATT: But if you have small enough site, that’s great. You can do that. Sometimes it’s not. If you have you know a hundred thousand pages on your site, that’s not really conducive to that.
BRANDON: Yeah. So talk about the types of site maps there are.
MATT: So there’s just the standard site map which is basically a list of all the pages in XML format but there’s other things that Google is looking for. If you’re a news site, they have a specific format for news articles called a news site map and that will help you get into things like Google news and Bing news and all those news aggregator sites. If you’re not a news site, then don’t worry about it. It’s not relevant to you.
But they also have video site map and this is how you show up or one of the ways that you’ll show up in Google video and Bing video, and video is really up and coming thing and it shows up really high and it’s really prominent in the search results. So if you’re going to host video on your site and you have a video about your product, make sure that you have all those videos listed in the video site maps so that Google knows that they’re there and they’ll index them and show them in the video search.
BRANDON: So sometimes where you change the location of your website or maybe you change the name or the domain name, how do you deal with that?
MATT: You deal with that with a redirect but there’s a couple different types of redirects and one of those redirects which is called the 301 redirect will actually tell Google to flow all the Google juice, the page rank whatever you want to call it, all that authority that was with the other page on to the next page. And so when you move, you have a slight penalty because not all the authority that was at the old page will move to the new page but you get most of it. But if you redirect it with a 302 or a 307, then these are HTTP status codes, then those are called temporary redirects. And Google doesn’t change any of the page ranks or any of the authority for redirects that are using a 302 or 307 redirects.
So it’s kind of a technical detail but it’s something that could really bite if you are moving or just changing a page or moving a whole domain. You want to make sure that you do that right because all that work that you did for SEO before, you want to make sure all those links, all those things that were pointed to that old page all flow to the new page or the new domain and you get to keep all that SEO credit that you had.
BRANDON: What’s your opinion about using the www versus no www and how do you get them to link to each other without getting penalized?
MATT: So it’s another way that you can use 301 redirect. So you can either have mydomain.com redirect to a 301 redirect to a www.mydomain.com or you could do the reverse where you have www.mydomain.com because some people will type that in, redirect to you know just mydomain.com. Either way you should do the redirect but you should not have both of them resolved.
So this gets into a good point on the duplicate content. So people talk about duplicate content penalty and really what’s happening is that you’re splitting your page rank, your authority for these pages among other couple of different pages on your site. So Google will index all these pages and they will index a page at mydomain.com/homepage and it will index www.mydomain.com/homepage. And Google thinks is there are two separate pages and so it’s going to split all the links and all the information among all those two different pages and you’re not going to rank as high as you would if Google thought they were the same page. So you want a 301 redirect so that you’re only using one version of those.
Same goes for HTTP and HTTPS. If you’re going to do that, you want to make sure that you’re redirecting from the http to https or vice versa so that you’re not getting different versions. Even different casing, a slash at the end, a slash not at the end and there’s all kinds of things that you need to watch out for and make sure that Google thinks that they’re the same page. And even in Google Webmaster Tool, there’s a place that you can go in and say www.mydomain.com and mydomain.com are the same thing and you can tell them which one you prefer to have them show links as.
BRANDON: So that you don’t get penalized for having a split.
MATT: You’re not really getting penalized but it’s really just kind of …
BRANDON: You’re splitting your authority.
MATT: You’re splitting your authority when you really want to combine it into one more authoritative thing because it really is only one page. You’re just showing it at different URLs.
BRANDON: So speaking of kind of telling Google or Bing how to work your website into their format like what kind of instructions or what kind of control do you have over telling Google what to search, what not to search, what those spider can look at, what they can’t look at, how do you go about doing that?
MATT: There’s one file at the root of your website called robots.txt and this cab contain instructions to Google to say, ‘don’t index these parts of the site.’ And it can actually contain instructions to any of the spider robots you can tell specifically Bing not to do this, specifically Google not to do this, specifically some other spider that you don’t want to come to your site at all. You can exclude them specifically. So there’s a lot of power on this but then you can also have these commands on individual pages.
So you can tell for specific page maybe that you don’t want Google to index it. That you don’t want to show up for search results for this one page. There could various reasons for that. It could be that you’re trying to—or just the page that you don’t like, your sign in page maybe you don’t want that to show up in the index or it’s a category page or you have a page that shows page results. So it’s like page 13 of 52 results. You may not want those sorts of trashy pages that don’t have a lot of content to show up on there. It also may help Google figure out what are the important pages that are on your site if you’re saying don’t index these unimportant ones.
The second command that you can have is a no follow which is telling Google not to pass any authority from your page. So you gained all this authority by other people linking to you and when you link to someone else you pass on that authority. And last when you link you add a no follow attribute to the link or a no follow attribute to the whole page saying, ‘don’t trust any of the links on those page.’ Basically you’re telling Google that you can’t vouch for the places that you’re linking. Usually people will do this with user generated content. So if you go to a blog and you post a comment to the bottom of the blog and you’re linking off to your blogger site, the blog owner is going to say, “I can’t vouch for any of these things that these other people are posting on my site. I’m going to mark them as no follow. Google, don’t pass any of my authority on to these things.”
BRANDON: Because you can kind of get dinged as an authoritative site having all these…
MATT: … spammy links. Yeah.
BRANDON: Spammy links on your site. In fact, I would say that the number of links you have on your site also dictates your authority. If you have too many, they ding you.
MATT: Kind of, yeah. So there’s a certain number but also say, you have a certain value. Let’s make an arbitrative value, and say you have a hundred of the authority. Google is going to split that authority among all the places that you link so if you link to a hundred things, each one of those might get one percent of that authority that you had on that page. If you link to two or three things then maybe you’re getting 50 or 33 percent to each of these things.
BRANDON: Alright. What else? What other meta tags are there that you could use to tell the search engines what to do?
MATT: So there’s a couple of other tags, no ODP and no snippet are basically controlling what Google decides to show on the search engine results page. So it’s possible that if your title is not there or your title is not very good that Google might replace it with a description that it finds from the DMOZ Open Directory Project which is the ODP, no ODP. They might replace whatever descriptions there with whatever title that you had on the page. They might also replace your description with the snippet that they find from the page that’s around whatever keyword that they were searching for. So you can tell Google, “Hey, don’t do that. Really use the meta description. Really use the title that I put on my page. I know what I’m doing. Don’t try to customize it for the user.”
BRANDON: So all this is very detailed stuff and maybe we’ll get over the head of a lot of our listeners. So just know that you can control some of the indexed information that the search engine looks at so there’s some control there. It is part of coding and the html that you need to get familiar with. But getting back to kind of the more basic stuff, you know your onsite SEO has a lot to do with your site performance because Google will look at your site and actually measure how fast it loads and it gives you a lot of credit for being able to load quickly. So it’s important to know some good tricks to you know take a or very rich or if you have a lot of media video to be able to take that and offload it on to very fast server so that you can load your site very quickly. What are some of the tips you’d give to kind of increasing your site performance?
MATT: So one thing you can do is enable caching on your web server and there are some plug-ins for WordPress that will help you with this or if you have your own custom site then you’d figure out how to turn these things on. But basically what you’re doing is saying you have your logo and you have all the little button icons and all these graphics that you have on your site and really you want your users to just download those once and then not have to download them again. So if you turn on this caching features up on your web server, basically it will tell the browser when it goes to the site just you know, ‘save this image or this script toward this CSS file on your local machine and don’t come back and get it for another three days or 10 days or 50 days,’ or however long you wanted them to not come back for or not have to go refresh from the server.
So the more of these things they can cache the less stuff they have to request from your site and the faster your page is going to load. You can also do things like cache a rendered version of your site so when someone goes to WordPress and request your site, WordPress has to go to the database, pull back all the content out of the data base, figure out all the plug-ins that you have, run all these extra processing, do all these stuff that takes a lot of time and then finally at the end spit out some HTML and send it across the network to you.
Now there’s some plug-ins that we’ll talk about in a minute that will actually take that final version that was output after they had already gone to the data base, done all the rendering and everything, it will save that rendered version and just when the next request comes, just send that back and they might cache that for a couple of hours, a couple of days, whatever you configure it to do but it saves a lot of that latency time from when I request the page from your site and when I actually get it back. And Google has really correlated that latency of how long it takes for your page to load to the experience that someone is going to have going to your site.
BRANDON: Another way that I think is really a great tip to increase your site performance is using a CDN or Content Distribution Network which are basically server set up specifically for large files or images or scripts of some sort that are going to you know bog down a typical web hosted site.
MATT: The things that don’t change, right? Static files.
BRANDON: Right. Things that are you know usually large but they’re static and it might be okay to host them on your web hosting location but it’s better and faster to host them on a network that’s geared for that.
MATT: The other interesting thing about CDN is that with your web server that’s just one server sitting somewhere. I use DreamHost and I think they’re in Southern California. So if someone from New York comes to my site, they have to transfer all those little bits and electrons across the whole United States and it takes a certain amount of time for this to be able to do that, right? So a CDN gets around this problem by taking the same files that were on your website and putting them among servers all around the world. I think Google and Microsoft and Amazon, they have 20, about 20 places data centers all around the world that are close to people. So if someone from France comes and looks on my site, they’re not going to get that data, all the images and stuff from my server in Los Angeles. They’re going to get that served up from something that might be in London or Germany or Paris or something that’s close to them that’s going to be a lot faster for them to load those things.
BRANDON: And there’s a side note, a little benefit you can actually gain from it is that if you have a website like I used Volusion for my e-commerce platform and you know they seem all cheap at the beginning because they are however once you pass a certain level of bandwidth that you use, you know if you have a certain number of customers that come to your site and are buying, then you have all sorts of flash and different large images or maybe video files that you’re hosting that you know this easily passes your bandwidth level threshold then you have to pay for it and you pay for it you know at high rate because they got you traffic basically. So what you do is you offload a lot of that, you know the flash and the images and the video onto a CDN and you can lower the price, the cost of hosting your site, on Volusion in this case.
There’s some really good tools out there for measuring the site performance. There’s some add-ins to browser tool in Firefox called Firebug. Then there’s some Yahoo Performance Tools and Google Performance Tools you should try out if you want to see. It will give you like eight ranking of your site and how fast it is and things that you could to optimize it. It’s really descriptive and you know you should check that out.
And one last thing that you can do around the CDN thing is I just found this service the other day called CloudFlare.com. And they basically act as a CDN but you really don’t have to do anything. Other CDNs, you have to load up the files and figure out what goes there and change the links. You just change your DNS server over to them and they figure out where all your files are and how things rank and they’ll just become a CDN and start serving content for you.
And it’s free to get started with them and it’s a really cool service. So I encourage you to check them out. I pushed a couple of domains on to them to see how it works and I’ve been impressed so far so I like them. They also do a lot of security checking so they’ll try to stop hackers and malicious people from even getting into your site. So we’ll see how that works. I haven’t had any attacks yet so I can’t vouch for that part of it but the CDN part is really cool so far.
BRANDON: So there’s other factors also that you could do for your onsite SEO. There’s you know the freshness of the content if you’re constantly uploading new content, that always votes well for good page ranking. There’s internal linking structure. Do you have to go six or seven layers deep to get to certain pages in your site or can you get to every page on your site with one or two?
MATT: And what is the text on those links once you’re actually linking? The link at the bottom says ‘click here,’ well you don’t really want to rank for the words click here. Make sure that whatever links you’re using in your site actually describes whatever page you’re going to because Google is going to look at that and say this page is about whatever is in that blue link text.
BRANDON: Then there’s quality of your content. Do you have a very little amount of content and then you have this large amount of advertising space that you’re just filling up the whole page with? It may not be so good for a person coming to you or a site and Google by their definition is they’re trying to serve up the most relevant, most informative, most purpose-driven content to the searcher in the fastest way they can. So if you got, you know, 90 percent ads, that’s not what you know they consider high quality page.
MATT: And quality is really kind of at the forefront of what they’re doing with search now. I mean you might have read in the news about the Panda Update. And Panda was a change to Google’s algorithm that was really focused on the quality of the site and trying to weed out sites that had really low quality articles and poor over optimized SEO. So quality is something that they’re still trying to figure out and still trying to get right. But if you write good articles and you’re really providing a good resource to readers, that’s what they’re really looking for and I’m sure we’ll see more and more algorithm updates to try to programmatically figure out what is quality and what isn’t.
BRANDON: What we want to do is kind of fill up a few more site links here that you should check out. There’s some tools that you should know about. I think we’ve already covered a few of them. But just to wrap it up, we have Bing Webmaster Tools, which is a great place to make sure that your site is registered with. Of course, Google Webmaster Tools which is also important, absolutely important to make sure that you’re registered with so that you can gain all the insights as to how well your site is loading and where your inbound links are. It tells you a bunch of information about how Google sees your site.
MATT: Yeah. Both of those webmaster tools, I mean that’s the best source of information about any errors that are happening or things that Google thinks you can do better or it’s having a hard time reading or understanding. You know make sure that you go register your site with both Bing and Google Webmaster Tools. That’s not the Add Your Site to the Search Engine Link which really doesn’t do anything. This is webmaster tools. Look for that. That’s really what you want.
BRANDON: Yeah. It’s basically a whole set of tools that lets you see what the search engines see when looking at your website and gives you really good insight on to what it is.
MATT: There’s some other tools that will actually go and analyze your site and tell you how good it is or what it thinks it’s about and what your content is doing. If you have a Windows PC called the IIS SEO Tool Kit, it’s from Microsoft, and it’s a really good indication of what Bing sees with your site and how it’s going to react and how it thinks you can improve the SEO of your site. Another great company is SEOmoz. They make a bunch of SEO tools. They’re widely regarded as some of the best SEOs in the business. So they have a tool that’s called the On-Page Keyword Optimization or On- Page Report Card and they will tell you, you know, what keyword it’s finding as it analyzes your site and how different pages rank for those things.
And if you’re using WordPress, there’s you know WordPress starts out as pretty good SEO out of the box but there’s even some more plug-ins that can help you out with that. One of those is the All In One SEO Pack. If you just go to the plug-ins and you search for All In One SEO, you’ll see this plug-in. You install it. It basically lets you customize some of the titles and meta descriptions that we’ve talked about. It fixes things like canonical links which we didn’t even talk about but making sure that there’s one source for all your pages. It does a whole bunch of all the SEO things that fixes. It fills that gap between the out of the box pretty good SEO of WordPress and getting to the point where you know you have really good SEO.
Another tool that I really like is SEO Smart Links and this basically lets you set one place in your WordPress configuration and say whenever I say the words ‘Automate My Small Business’ that it will link to a certain URL that I configured. We do this for all our podcast so that if we mentioned Google it always links to Google. If we mention whatever, all the link show up in our text and we don’t have to go through it manually to link everything. It’s a great central way to configure all the links and where things point.
We talked about site maps earlier. There’s a Google XML site maps plug-in, the Google Site Map Generator that will make sure that your WordPress site has an optimized site map. And the last one that I recommend is a tool called Scribe SEO and this is a paid plug-in. But basically it gives you feedback about SEO and your content as you’re writing that article. It’s really cool. Go watch their video on their site but basically it will show you, you know, what keywords it thinks you’re writing about as you’re writing.
As you’re writing your article it’ll say, “Hey, I see that you’re writing about cooking. Here are some other words that you might consider including in your text as you’re writing,” and so you can SEO your article as you’re going along. And then also once you’re done, it will say, “Now you’ve finished this article, here’s some places that you can go look to try to get some links.” It’s a very cool plug-in. You should check that out.
BRANDON: So we have a lot of links here that we’ve talked about and just to use as an example, all of these links will be on our website in the transcribed version of this podcast. All those links will get authority from us, the AutomateMySmallBusiness.com website. The website does have its own level of authority in the eyes of the search engines and all of the links that we post on our website get a little Google juice as they say in the SEO world.
And speaking of getting a little Google juice, you know we do have some people that have been generous enough to give us some donations over the past month. Tim was nice enough to give us a $50 donation. He has the website Bald-Hair-Loss-Cure.com with hyphens in it, Bald-Hair-Loss-Cure.com. So hopefully this gives a little shout back to Tim for giving us a little donation and we thank you for that. Yes, of course, your link will be on our website to help you out. And we also had one for Gregory Hendrix who gave us a nice $75 donation. Thanks, Greg and who has a marriage and family therapist practice in Berkeley, California. So thanks guys.
MATT: And we appreciate that everyone that gave donations. Anything you gave, $5, $20 whatever else you gave, thanks to everyone. We can’t mention everyone that gave but we appreciate it all. And everyone who’s listening should appreciate that they donated as well because it helps keep us doing this and you know making sure that you guys can download and we can get good high quality editing done for you guys. So if you love the content, you get a lot of value out of this, consider donating and helping us keep produce more of this. We promise we’ll do them more often than we’ve done in the last couple of months.
BRANDON: Yeah. So next time we’ll have to follow up this episode with episode #29 to discuss more of the offsite SEO strategies that we used which really is a large broad area that we can cover in a whole episode easily. Don’t forget to rate us on iTunes. If you like what you hear, put a little rating on iTunes so that you can spread the word about Automate My Small Business so that everybody that’s looking for us can get the content because I think a lot of people are feeling like they get good stuff here. So thanks again.
MATT: Thanks for listening and we’ll see you in part 2 of Search Engine Optimization.
BRANDON: See you guys. Thanks again.
You’ve been listening to Automate My Small Business. We hope you enjoyed this episode. To get a list of the links we’ve just talked about or download more episodes and How To videos, go to AutomateMySmallBusiness.com. Thanks for being with us and catch us next time on Automate My Small Business podcast.