David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

Tips for better SEO (search engine optimization) and website marketing …

THE HAPPY GUY MARKETING

 

Online Contact Forms for Better Website Conversion

Jun 25, 2007 - filed under clients, website conversion, website updates Comments Off on Online Contact Forms for Better Website Conversion
 

This posting is counterintuitive, but I have found a way to get more leads from this website.  Here is the story:

On all the services pages, we would encourage people to email or to phone.  We made it very clear that we prefer email for first contact.  This was in order to do some triage, and not spend half-an-hour on the phone with someone who will never be a client.  Also, once on the phone, a person is inclined to ask a hundred questions, whereas by email they are more likley to confine themselves to those questions that are actually relevant. 

I estimate that at least 80% of queries would come in by email, but still too many by phone.  Furthermore, the email queries often contained very little information, so there was still a bit of back and forth before we could assess what to do with each query.

So we replaced our message with a contact form on each page.  Our phone number and email address are still easy to find on our contact page, but we are now prompting people to contact us using a form.  The form contains all the basic information we need to understand a potential client’s project.  The key is to customize each form for the specific type of project. 

For instance, if you go to http://www.seo-writer.com/freelance/report-writer.html, you will see that the form is very specific about what type of report the client wants written.  On the other hand, http://www.seo-writer.com/freelance/book-writer.html contains different fields based on what is appropriate for that service.

Unexpected website conversion bonus

We loaded the forms to the pages, and two things happened.  First, the suspected.  In several days, there have been no phone calls.  In several days, there have been no emails.  In the several days there have been more total queries.  Yes, the forms are helping drive leads.  I would have though it would be the opposite, since we are forcing people to think a little about their project before contacting us (not a bad thing, mind you, but something I would thing that would act as a small barrier).  I suspect that by giving people an indication of what information we need and making it easy for them to provide it without writing from scratch, we are increasing our leads. 

Will that increase our revenue, our actual conversions?  Too early to tell.  But I sure hope so!

Microsoft Surface

Jun 22, 2007 - filed under computers, personalized search, SEO Comments Off on Microsoft Surface
 

Get ready for a brand-new wave of computing, and yes, this will affect how we market over the Internet.  Microsoft is letting people know that it is ready to move forward on a computer screen that looks like a coffee table…but more importantly, where you can move objects and images around like pieces of paper on the surface, plus manipulate them (rotate, enlarge, merge, etc.)  Watch the Microsoft Surface: Hands-on First Look video.

It’s a very small leap before web programmers will be designing websites with elements that can be manipulated in this fashion.  For instance, if you like this blog post, you might wish to place it in a collage or flip-folder on your coffee table along with my other posts that you really like.  Or you might want to rotate it to be read by your business partner sitting on the other side of the table.  Or you might want to zap it (through no specific connection) onto a portable digital storage to bring it along with you, without having to copy and paste and save with a new filename.

From an SEO perspective, we might have to start considering that a web page might not be the same to everybody viewing.  Already there are ways to filter our most ads, most pop-ups and all images.  But people could set criteria for what they do and do not want to see, and SEO might be about how to reach the most number or the most targeted of visitors to the website.

HitTail – long tail keyword research

Jun 19, 2007 - filed under Google, keywords, SEO, stats, traffic Comments Off on HitTail – long tail keyword research
 

Not long ago I blogged about Crazy Egg Website Conversion Tests, which I thought was a pretty neat little tool.

One of our readers suggested trying HitTail, which is certainly not the same thing, but is very, very useful for anyone trying to learn something about a website’s visitors.  It is a long-tail keyword research tool.

While I am logging in to HitTail, I should explain that this requires placing a little snippet of code in the template of your website, to capture every visitor landing on every page of your site.  Now that I am logged in, let me describe to you what I see…

The first view “search hits” shows the last 15 visitors from the search engines and the exact date and time..real time coverage of the crowds moving through this website (except the blog; I just realized that I did not place the HitTail code in the blog template, so I will add that to my to-do list).  For each visit, the search URL is provided, clickable so that I can visit the actual search (to see where my website ranks for that search, for example).  Hmm…a search for SEO tips at Google and it appears we are #4.  Not bad!  Note that the keywords searched are actually highlighted so that it is ever so much easier to see than in regular log files.

I switch now to the “keywords” view, and the same information is provided in even easier to read  format, listing each keyword and the engine it comes from.  This time if you click on the keyword, you can move it into the “suggestion” view, for later consideration.

My favorite mode is to use the Excel option, so that I can manipulate the data, group some of the long tail search terms, and mark them in various ways.  From a practical perspective, it seems that a lot of people are getting to my site using queries with the words “hire” and “looking”.  So if those search terms are getting me traffic, and I am only in the top 20 somewhere for those search terms, maybe I could tweak my pages, build a few keyword-targeted links, and increase my traffic measurably. 

I should note that the account is free, but HitTail also offers paid subscription services for enterprise websites and those who want to crunch some serious numbers.  But for the average website owner, the free subscription will do fine.

Google cracking down on paid links

Jun 12, 2007 - filed under ethics, Google, linking, pagerank, rankings Comments Off on Google cracking down on paid links
 

First, let me preface this post by saying there is nothing wrong with buying paid links, regardless of what Google says or what you think Google says.  Paid links are called advertising.  “Free” links, which are never actually free, are called public relations.  This has been going on since someone in ancient Egypt first wrote a sandwich board reading “The End is near” and someone else asked, “How much to add ‘Reserve your burial plots today!'”

However, Google does not appreciate links sold strictly to boost PageRank, specifically targeting its ranking algorithm.  This is understandable.

So what is a website owner, intent on promoting his website and his services, to do?  Go for the best links possible, whether they are paid or free, sticking within budget.  If most of your links are paid, that sends quite a red flag that maybe there is nothing on your website of enough value to actually earn links.  In fact, that in itself is a pretty good case for Google to demote your website in its rankings.

On the other hand, if there is a website that could be sending you some targeted traffic, that can show high relevance and offers good link juice, why not pay for the link?  Google will not penalize you for having bought a link or two; Google will penalize you for trying to purchase a re-arrangement of its listings.

Link Exchange No-nos

Jun 05, 2007 - filed under clients, linking, pagerank, SEO Comments Off on Link Exchange No-nos
 

Yes, even The Happy Guy can fume…but this blog post will turn a lemon of an experience into lemonade for all of us to drink.  The most frustrating, if nevertheless polite, lady I think I have ever met will give us all a lesson in how not to conduct a link exchange. 

She approached my client about doing a triangular link exchange.  Whereby our site (A) links to her site (B) and in exchange, her other site (C) links back to (A).  The concept behind this is the she can fool Google into thinking she is not doing reciprocal link exchanges.  Lol 

I have no problem with doing triangular link exchanges, but don’t think Google’s mighty computing power missed that all the sites linked to from (C) just happen to also link to (B).  

So I posted a link to (B) on our site (A) and also on another site (but I will leave that out to avoid confusion), PageRank2 and PageRank 3 pages.  She reciprocated with a link at (C) pointing to our site (A).   

So far, so good?  Not quite.  The page where she placed the link to our site (A) was a PageRank 0 page that was not cached by Google.  Now I don’t make too big a deal about PageRank, but not cached by Google means that Google will never even see it.   

So I suggested she find another page to place the link to our site.  I’ll let her own words explain her position: 

I’m sorry, I am only authorized to add links to our link pages, which have no PR. 

Maybe I can add them to some other pages (sill with no PR) to make it more worth your while and so more people will see your link? 

Let me know what you think! 

Which is just what I did.  I suggested their main links page, which still had PageRank 0, but was cached by Google and is hyperlinked from the home page through a tiny, obscure link at the bottom.   This was a superb idea that she jumped on immediately….NOT! 

I’m sorry, but [Link URL suppressed] also doesn’t have a PR. I would gladly add them there but please understand, my admin system only allows me to add links on the link pages. 

In any case, people looking through our links pages will see your link.  

OK, why do we build links.  So people can see them.  So search engines can see them.  So…well, that’s pretty much it.   The pages she had been offering were completely hidden from the search engines and almost completely hidden from humans.  Anyway, at this point it sounds like she is ready to place my link on a page that is only mostly hidden from the search engines and mostly hidden from humans.  So I ask her to confirm when it is live.  Yes, she comes back with more (very polite) excuses.  

I’m sorry, but, as I have stated, my admin system won’t allow mw to add links to any other pages apart from the link pages (the links mist go under a category) 

I hope this is ok. 

Of course, this is not OK, which is what I say. I point out that there are links right on her PR2 home page, and ours could just as easily go there, so could she please get whomever is in charge of placing those links there to put our amongst them.  What an obvious solution.  But (You knew there would be a “but”, didn’t you?)… 

1-       I don’t see any links from other companies on our link page. 

2-       I am the person who adds the links it is my job within the company, and I have an admin system which only allows links under the categories… I cannot add the links anywhere else!!!!!! 

Now, if you want remove our links because you are not happy with this you may, I hope you don’t but I’m sorry, there is absolutely nothing I can do about adding links to our home page! could lose my job! 

Please accept my apologies, I hope we can reach a cordial agreement on this matter. 

Ever polite, it still does not erase the fact that she came banging on my client’s door asking to exchange links, and then showed empty palms when it was her turn to reciprocate…and has proven to be the most steadfast excuse maker I have ever encountered. 

Oh, and yes, as a matter of fact I did remove her links.

SEO website audit available

Jun 04, 2007 - filed under SEO, website updates Comments Off on SEO website audit available
 

We have just added a new page to the website, offering an affordable, customized and comprehensive 99-point SEO Audit Checkup for your website.  This is a superb way to begin an SEO campaign for an established whose owners need to know where to start.  Whether doing the SEO in-house or outsourcing it, an outside audit is a good way to get a handle on the size and direction of the SEO needs.

Crazy Egg Website Conversions

May 28, 2007 - filed under website conversion 4 Comments
 

Here is another great free tool, which can also be upgraded for a cost.  Crazy Egg offers some simple website conversion analytics.  I have taken the free version for a spin, and I might just sign up for the paid version at some point. 

The folks at Crazy Egg give you a tiny snippet of code to add to your page, then they start tracking clicks.In the case of the page I am testing it on for the past 4 days, there have been 341 visits, resulting in 116 clicks.  Is this a good conversion percentage.  It seems ludicrous to me that anybody would want to visit a page and not at least go one click deep into the site…unless the site is something totally different than what they are looking for.  However, this page is very much what it appears to be in the search engines (it’s main source of traffic).

The “Overlay” view shows that there were 17 links on this home page that were clicked.  First piece of useful information is that one of those clicks was the privacy page.  Yes, people read the privacy page so make sure that it makes your privacy policy very clear in an easy to read, non-legalese fashion.Second piece of useful information is that people do click on your links pages, so make sure you keep your message in front of them when they visit.

Next is the “List” view, where you can see a list of each link and how often it was clicked in absolute and percentage terms.  In the case of this page, 20% of visitors clicked a “buy now” call to action from the home page.  Is that good?  Could the page sell better?  I have no basis of comparison, but over time I am sure I will know…especially if I make changes and then test them.Most of the clicks went to links that look like they provide more information, essentially two different pages.  So those pages need to sell, and need to offer more opportunities t click the “buy now” button.

The “Heat Map” view shows very clearly that on this page, with a fair amount of text, there are nevertheless a strong number of people who keep reading and then click toward the bottom of the text.  In fact, some click the “buy now” button (Good thing we provided lots of text on the page so as not to lose them.) and many more click from there to the pages for more information…meaning that people want to make informed buying decisions, and you can’t provide too much information, as long as you give people options to buy at intervals.

This is a very useful website conversions tool because of its simple user interface that lets you visually see the difference when you make changes, which makes testing easier for those who are less mathematically-inclined!

New Look for the Blog

May 23, 2007 - filed under blogging, website updates Comments Off on New Look for the Blog
 

You might have noticed a new look for the blog, building on the design of the rest of the site (but more bloggy, less commercial).

You might also have noticed that we are also offering preview snapshots of  and links within the blog posts.  This is cool, although they don’t always work.  There is also the MyBlogLog widget on the upper left side, showing you  your very own face (if you happen to be logged in to your MyBlogLog account when you come a-callin’).

Self-serve blog links

May 17, 2007 - filed under blogging, deep links, linking, SEO Comments Off on Self-serve blog links
 

Rick Hendershot, a fellow Canadian has come up with an interesting idea…not just because it is new and innovative, not just because he’s Canadian, not just because it’s a really useful idea, but also because it is something I had thought of earlier (same concept, different business model) but have been too busy to give it any serious thought.

You will find Rick’s self-serve blogging service Linknet2 an attractive alternative to the pay-per-post model, where you have to wait for someone to jump on your opportunity.  Unlike the pay-per-post model, you have very little control over the content and the link text, and even the number of links you garner.  So you control boith your reputation management and your SEO.  This is a great way to build those elusive deep links.

Self-serve blogging means that you write the post, you insert the links, etc.  Right now he has 13 blogs going as part of his system, but he soon will have more.   The key to how valuable this will be is whether he can keep the quality of postings high and get inbound link juice to each of the blogs. We’ll check in again to see how this new service is doing.

Top ten free SEO tools

May 15, 2007 - filed under keywords, linking, SEO, social media 1 Comment
 

Have you ever wondered which are the best free SEO tools available on the Internet?  Well here is my top ten list, so listen closely. 

Free SEO Tool #10: Top Ten Analysis SEO Tool at http://www.webuildpages.com/cool-seo-tool/ is a great way to get a snapshot of your top ten competitors at Google for any given search term. 

Free SEO Tool #9: Go Rank Analyzer at http://www.gorank.com/analyze.php reviews your web page for a given search term to give you a snapshot of how the search term shows up on the page.  Actually, this probably should be higher up on the list.  In other words, I should use it more often. 

Free SEO Tool #8:  Aftervote at http://younanimous.com/ is a really different tool, and I’m not sure too many people would think of it as an SEO tool.  It is, in fact, a meta search engine that combines the results of Google, Yahoo and MSN, along with some other factors to provide its own original results.  So you can see at a glance which sites are doing well for a given search term across all three engines.  It also features a number of performance indicators, including Google PageRank, Alexa ranking, Compete page strength, and a link to see the WhoIs data.  You can also add a whole slew of plugins, including Netcraft reports and submission links for Digg and other social bookmarking websites.  In short, this is a great all-in-one tool for sizing up the competition for an individual search term or for finding joint venture or link partners of value.  One of the handy features is that you can see the Alexa ratings for some of your top competitors at once, so you can better judge the value of your own Alexa rating.  Hmm.  Actually, Aftervote is a bit like #10 above. 

Free SEO Tool #7: Overture Keyword Selection Tool at http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/ is useable.  OK, this is one area where Mr. Cheapie here is willing to pay the big bucks, specifically for Keyword Discovery. But if you really want a free tool, Overture can really help.  It just doesn’t carry over search data from previous months, so if data is seasonal, you have to wait until, say, the Christmas season to do the keyword research that will carry you next Christmas. 

Free SEO Tool #6:  Google Toolbar at http://toolbar.google.com/T4/index_pack.html is pretty useful.  Sure people make way too much of it, but the little green bar gives an instantaneous snapshot of the value of a page.  No green, and you might as well check the drop-down to make sure a page is cached.  If it’s not, forget it.  The difference between a PR2 and PR4 might be irrelevant in practical terms, despite the world wars and family feuds that can be fought over such minutia, but if the Toolbar shows a PR5, that’s pretty impressive (if it is real).  If all you need is a quick snapshot, use the toolbar.  If you want better info, use the Page Strength Tool or another. 

Free SEO Tool #5: Spider simulator at http://www.webconfs.com/search-engine-spider-simulator.php .  This lets you see at a glance what the search engines see, which links they can follow and what text they see.  I have often found major problems much quicker this way than wading through a jungle of code.  It can also be helpful for locating hidden text and hidden links on competitors’ websites if you think they are all a bunch of thieving hooligans.  There are probably hundreds of spider simulators of similar quality.  I use this one; it works for me. 

Free SEO Tool #4: Social Bookmarking Aggregator Tool at  http://www.seo-writer.com/tools/bookmarker.php should really be at #1, given that I created it and it is, of course, perfect.  But it is more of a viral tool than an SEO tool.  Still, the more people bookmark your pages, the more links they build and the more bloggers are likely to pick up on the bookmark and build links – all natural links the way Google and Yahoo like them!  And it’s available in Spanish, too, at http://es.seo-writer.com/tools/bookmarker.php Go to the bottom of this post right now and click on the social bookmarking links to bookmark this post.  You’ll see how it works and make me happy all at once.  :-) 

Free SEO Tool #3:  Common Links at http://www.randycullom.com/common_link.php is an even more ingenious backlink tool than Yahoo Site Explorer, but it is less flexible.  Pick a search term, and plug it in.  It will tell you which are the top ten sites for that term at Google or at Yahoo, then get the common backlinks.  For instance, if a page links to three of the top ten websites for a certain search term, chances are that the same page is more likely to link to your similar website than a page that links to only one of your competitors (and could be the owners’ mother’s website, a satisfied client, a supplier, a buddy, another site owned by the same person, etc.) 

Free SEO Tool #2:  Yahoo Site Explorer, at https://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/ shows pages indexed and backlinks to either the site as a whole or to a specific page.  This is superb competitive intelligence.  You can mine your competitors’ backlinks to create your own backlinks.  Unlike Google, Yahoo gives you the whole list.  Why stop at your competitors?  Why not look for complementary websites and what their backlinks are, too? 

Free SEO Tool #1 –  SEOmoz PageStrength Tool at http://www.seomoz.org/page-strength/ is a superb alternative the Google Toolbar’s PageRank measure.  I like the PageStrength Tool because it pulls information from a number of indicators – including the Google PageRank toolbar – and provides a composite view of how important a page is.  This is useful in evaluating potential partners, purchasing domains, sizing up the competition, etc.    However, it does have some limitations.  I have noticed that it sometimes draws inaccurate backlink data from Yahoo, and it gives big marks to certain very specific criteria, such as links from Wikipedia and Digg, rather than from a range of  major Web 2.0 sites.  Still, it does include age of domain and Alexa ranking, both of which are also important, as well as a number of other indicators totally lost on the Google Toolbar addicts (and we all know how reliable the Google toolbar is every third Tuesday of even numbered months!).  In some ways, this is similar to Aftervote and to the Top Ten Analysis SEO Tool, but it is a little more sophisticated. 

So there you have it, my top ten list of free SEO tools.  And no sooner will I hit the “publish” button, that I’ll tell myself that I really did not put them in the right order.   

If you have ideas on the top free SEO tools, please leave a comment. 

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