The Internet Advertising Bureau UK recently developed a set of good practice principles for online promotions, to ensure companies that collect and use data for behavioural advertising do so ethically.
Firms that have signed up to date include Google, AOL, Microsoft Advertising and the not-at-all-controversial Phorm.
The principles, which signatories have agreed to abide by after September this year, are fairly obvious.
They all relate to notifying people of data collection, offering them a choice about whether or not they want to participate and educating the online community as to the benefits and purpose of behavioural advertising.
So, does the search engine optimisation (SEO) industry need to worry about principles?
There is a wealth of best practice advice out there, from blogs casually addressing elements of SEO, to informative guides like this Econsultancy report.
What are the key principles of what we do? There is extensive debate about this and the old ‘white hat versus black hat’ argument has been done to death.
As far as I can see, search engines improve their algorithms constantly and what is unethical but safe today could see your client plunging down the results pages tomorrow. Risk it, risk destroying their online business.
Google lists four key principles for our sector. These are:
Number one: create pages for users and not search engines. Do not attempt to present different content to either group.
Number two: Avoid ‘tricks’ and question whether or not the action you are taking will add value to users and if you would bother doing it if search engines did not exist.
Number three: Do not take part in link schemes and avoid linking to web spammers and “bad neighbourhoods”.
Number four: Do not use unauthorised computer programs to submit pages and evaluate rankings. These consume computing resources, in violation of the search giant’s terms of service.
Yahoo! explains it wants to rank pages that offer: original content with genuine value; pages designed for humans rather than search engines; links that help people find interesting and related content; accurate and descriptive metadata; and good web design.
Live Search has a similar set of human-focused criteria; it warns webmasters from keyword stuffing, from using hidden texts or links and from using link farms to increase the number of inbound links to a page.
So, three leading search engines, three very similar sets of principles. Is it possible to narrow these down or summarise the thinking behind them?
I think there is and it is simply: make sure that every effort you make serves to enhance the experience of a human visitor to your site.
Search engines only want to deliver useful content to searchers and the quicker the SEO industry focuses on prioritising that sort of work, the greater ranking longevity we will win for our clients.
Okay, rant over. If you agree or disagree, your comments are most welcome.
Managed search engine optimisation (SEO) can be the difference between successful websites and those that fail, it has been claimed.
According to web designer and online marketing specialist Susan Lee, an effective site must have the right kind of content, code, design, navigation and visibility.
She added: “Code is the backbone of any website and should comply with the current standards, allow your site to be seen correctly by all major web browsers and search engines and it should employ SEO techniques such as meta tags, descriptions and alt tags.”
Ms Lee went on to say a professional web designer or developer who is able to write effective web content and understands SEO and online marketing techniques will be able to help firms maximise the effectiveness of their site.
Last month, Yahoo! India Small Business stated that more small and medium enterprises are turning to managed website hosting in order to maximise their profits.
Editor’s Note: Greg Laptevsky is a longtime Practical eCommerce contributor and a professional search-engine-marketing consultant. We asked him for tips to help ecommerce companies hire SEO firms. What follows, below, is his response.
The checklist below will help you choose the right specialist for your search engine marketing campaigns.
1. Stay away from agencies/companies that guarantee top rankings.
- If you’ve been in the business long enough, you know that there are few guarantees with search engine marketing. No company can guarantee top natural rankings on Google, Yahoo!, MSN or any other search engine.
- Agencies/consultants can, in fact, guarantee that you’ll be able to generate traffic via paid alternatives such as pay-per-click or paid inclusion but never via search engine optimization.
2. Inquire about realistic expectations on performance.
- Don’t expect to hear specific performance by a certain date, but inquire about results with previous accounts in a similar vertical and/or sites with similar competition levels.
3. Ask the consultant how it plans to execute your SEO campaigns.
- If you’re not getting a reasonably comprehensive response and/or hearing statements such as “we know SEO secrets,” choose another firm.
- An SEO firm could have a slightly different methodology for getting you best results. However, if the company is unable to explain the method to the madness, then it doesn’t know what it is doing or it will likely do something “unconventional” (which you might get penalized for later on).
4. Look around for company reviews and ask permission to contact their existing clients.
- It’s likely that you’ll get referred to a success story; nevertheless, you will probably learn a lot about day-to-day interaction going on behind the scenes.
5. Check SEMCompare.com to see what other people are saying about the firm.
6. Make sure you will own all accounts, domains, content, graphics and/or any other media used to promote your site.
- If your search-marketing guru builds out micro-sites and blogs, distributes video clips, or creates content, you’ll want to ensure all of this content is legally owned by you. It might get really messy, for example, if you realize that you don’t own half of the domains utilized in your SEO strategy. Spell this out in the contract.
7. Ask to see sample reports.
- Determine the minimum level of reporting to be delivered by your future SEO provider and the frequency of the report delivery. A one-page report every six months is not acceptable, in my view.
- You need to know how much you’re spending, your profitability levels, traffic patterns, and in depth custom analysis (put together by a human being) of your SEO (and paid search) campaigns.
8. You get what you pay for.
- Both SEO and search engine marketing are very time-consuming tasks. Your consultant will need to spend time and resources to monitor new developments, industry news, industry research and the like. If you’re negotiating a contract, it’s a good idea to inquire about company-wide hourly rates to understand how much time will be spent on your account. If a firm does not use hourly rate calculation, then determine how much your SEO/SEM campaigns will cost each month. Don’t expect great service for $100 per month.
Google has unveiled software tools that let people search the Internet using pictures or chronologically organize results of queries for news.
Fledgling versions of Similar Images and News Timeline made their way out of Google Labs, a place where engineers at the California-based Internet giant get to spend time tinkering with promising innovations.
A Similar Images feature added to Google’s Image Search tool lets people scour the Internet for like photographs with a single computer mouse click.
Examples provided by Google include refining a search for “jaguar” to provide only images of the jungle cat or the luxury automobile.
“So if you see an image you like, but you’re stumped on how to describe it, just click the ‘Similar images’ link to see more like it,” reads an online posting yesterday by ‘Googlers’ Chuck Rosenberg, Andy Hertzfeld, and Michael Cohen.
Google News Timeline amasses stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and other sources and presents search results in chronological graphs that can be zoomed in on or navigated by dates.
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of “Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company’s Web Site”
Search marketing. Perhaps you’ve heard this term kicked around, but you don’t know what it means. Or, if you do know, you don’t know where to start. As with anything new, if you take it step by step, you can learn it. A systematic approach can lead to search marketing success in any organization.
When a searcher types a word into Google, finds your home page, and clicks through to your site, you have attracted a visitor from a search site. If you do nothing at all, searchers will still find your site—sometimes. To maximize the number of searchers coming to your site, however, you must take specific actions to attract visitors to your site from search sites. That’s search marketing. This book shows you how to become a search marketer. This chapter covers the following topics:
• Web search basics. What do we mean when we talk about “Web search”? You might think you know the basics already, but it is important that you thoroughly understand search fundamentals as you start your search marketing career. The advanced topics you need to learn will come more easily if you do not skip over the basics. In this chapter, we describe several different types of search, we introduce the leading search sites on the Web, and we talk about what makes them successful.
• Search and your marketing mix. You are probably not reading this book as an academic exercise—you want to know how to get more visitors to your Web site. You already spend your marketing budget on other ways to entice people to visit. How do you reallocate some of that budget to fit search into the mix? In this chapter, we demonstrate the huge opportunity of search marketing and show why you need to make room for it in your company’s marketing mix.
• The challenge of search marketing. Attracting searchers to your site is appealing, but it’s harder to do than you might think. And the larger your Web site is, the more difficult it can be. In this chapter, we explain why so many Web sites struggle to attract search visitors.
When people hear about online marketing, they often think of two of the more popular methods that a company can use to enhance its visibility on the Web: natural search engine optimization and a pay-per-click program.
In an ideal world, you would use both strategically to maximize your site’s profile. However, budgetary constraints often make this impossible, and trying to do both on a limited budget or with minimal resources can result in neither campaign producing ideal results. In this case, it’s usually better to focus on one or the other.
But which is best for you?
Natural search engine optimization
Natural search engine optimization campaigns offer several distinct advantages over a pay-per-click program, as many recent studies have shown. What follows is a brief listing of some of the findings.
Propensity to Click
Study after study indicates people are less likely to click on paid search ads rather than on results from natural search engine optimization.
For example, one study found that search users are up to six times more likely to click on the first few organic results than they are to choose any of the paid results1, while an eye tracking study2 showed that 50 percent of users begin their search by scanning the top organic results.
Other studies have shown that only 30 percent of search engine users click on paid listings, leaving an overwhelming 70 percent who are clicking the organic listings.3 And a 2003 study found that 85 percent of searchers report clicking on paid links in less than 40 percent of all of their searches, and 78 percent of all respondents claim that they found the information they we searching for through sponsored links just 40 percent of the time.4
Studies are beginning to indicate that the trust level for organic results is much higher than that of paid results, and that paid results are looked upon as a nuisance by some searchers, making natural search engine optimization efforts more valuable.
One study found that only 14 percent of searchers trust paid listings, and 29 percent report being “annoyed” by them.5 Another study found that 66 percent of customers distrust paid ads.6 Clearly, it’s not generally a good idea to upset potential customers before they even click on your link.
Value of Visitors
Organic search engine results tend to be seen as non-biased, and they therefore are able to provide visitors that are more valuable. The overall conversion rate, or the rate at which searchers take a desired action on a site, is 17 percent higher for unpaid search results than the rate for paid (4.2% vs. 3.6%).7 Trends also have shown that more of the sales that result from search engines originated in organic search listings.8
Visitors becoming More Aware of What a Pay-Per-Click Program Means
As more and more people turn to the Internet for research and information, more searchers are becoming aware of paid results as a marketing tool. One study showed that not only are 38 percent of searchers aware of the distinction between paid and unpaid results, 54 percent are aware of the distinction on Google, which is widely recognized as the most popular search engine.9
Pay-Per-Click Program Costs Rising
Meanwhile, pay-per-click program costs are rising steadily. Between October and December, average keyword prices rose from around $25 to just under $55.10 And the cost of keywords can increase by as much as 100 percent during the holiday season.11 These costs aren’t going unnoticed either; one study of problems experienced by U.S. companies found that 57 percent of respondents felt that their desired keywords were “too expensive,” while 51 percent expressed concern that they are overpaying for certain keywords.12 On the other hand, when you outsource to an natural search engine optimization firm, your costs will likely remain more stable than the prices for a pay-per-click program.
Long Term Results
While a pay-per-click program may produce results more quickly than a natural search engine optimization campaign, natural search engine optimization campaigns can give you results that last.
When the budget runs out for a pay-per-click program, or when your company decides that the pay-per-click program should be terminated, the results end as well. With natural search engine optimization, the optimized site content and other changes made to your site can have an impact on your search results until the next change in a search engine’s algorithm, or possibly even beyond.
Users also have rated organic search engine results as more relevant than paid results. On Google, 72.3 percent felt that organic results were more relevant, while only 27.7 percent rated paid results as more relevant. Yahoo offered similar results, with 60.8 calling organic results relevant compared to only 39.2 percent for paid.13
Using a Pay-Per-Click Program
While the above statistics may make natural search engine optimization seem the clear choice in all cases, in certain situations it actually can make more sense to use a pay-per-click program. For those looking for fast results on a small budget, a pay-per-click program may be the answer.
As previously stated, the results from a pay-per-click program are immediate. On the other hand, a natural search engine optimization campaign may take up to three months or more for results to be apparent.
In this case, a pay-per-click program is advantageous for those who are looking to promote an initiative that will go live in a short amount of time, or whose business is seasonal in nature and who only do promotion during certain months of the year.
Small businesses with extremely tight budgets may find that pay-per-click is a better investment than natural search engine optimization because a pay-per-click program will almost always cost less – good search engine optimization companies simply do not work for $100 per month.
By limiting a campaign’s keyphrases to highly specific terms relevant to a company’s business, there will not be a large amount of traffic generated, but the traffic that is generated will be specific to the desired result. Plus, choosing such specific phrases can make them less expensive on a per click basis.
Moreover, in niche markets with a high average dollar sale, where there’s not a great amount of search activity because the prospect pool is limited, it may not make sense to engage a quality natural search engine optimization firm at several thousand dollars per month when you can instead buy varying niche-specific keyphrases and generate traffic in that way.
Easier to Handle In-House
A non-complicated pay-per-click program can be handled much more easily in-house than a natural search engine optimization campaign. Such campaigns generally involve business to business and high-end, service oriented companies, not those geared toward a large consumer base.
Since natural search engine optimization requires a steep learning curve and since there are so many questionable tactics that can put a site at risk of penalization (the tactics that neophytes to search engine optimization are likely to use), it may make more sense to run a pay-per-click program.
Since you are dealing directly with the engine, i.e., Yahoo Search Marketing and Google AdWords, you don’t need to pay a middleman, and these sites offer helpful tutorials on how to use pay-per-click marketing. Perhaps most importantly, the concept of pay-per-click is much easier to grasp and understand at the outset.
Most natural search engine optimization campaigns require a contract of a certain length because SEO companies know that meaningful results will rarely happen overnight. When dealing with an in-house pay-per-click program, obviously a contract is not an issue.
But in general, even when you are dealing with an agency, you will not tend to need to sign a contract because the agency instead makes money on a percentage of the spend, although there may be a setup fee. Without a contract, you are free to reallocate marketing dollars elsewhere if you discover that the pay-per-click program is not providing the desired results.
Clearly, natural search engine optimization has some distinct advantages over pay-per-click advertising. However, there are undoubtedly certain situations and scenarios where pay-per-click advertising makes more sense fiscally and strategically.
With a high enough budget, you would be able to have an effective natural search engine optimization campaign running in tandem with an effective pay-per-click program. But if you have to choose one, look into your unique situation before you decide.
With more than 120 million blogs in existence, how do people find YOUR content on the Internet? The key starts with great search engine optimization (SEO), which is an art and a science that helps search engines discover your content and understand how relevant it is to specific search queries.
You can blog your heart out, but if you don’t have good SEO, then odds are you won’t have many readers. Luckily, the WordPressWordPress reviews plugin community values SEO and has developed a number of plugins to help. Here are 20 of the best SEO plugins to help you choose the right tags, tell search robots what to work on, optimize your post titles and more.
Have another SEO plugin to recommend? Tell us more about it in the comments.
All in One SEO Pack – One of the most popular plugins ever for WordPress, this plugin does a bit of everything for you from helping choose the best post title and keywords, to helping you avoid duplicate content and more.
Automatic SEO Links – Automatic SEO Links allows you to choose a word or phrase for automatic linking, both internal and external, set anchor text, choose if it should be “nofollow” or not, and more. One of the best features of this plugin is that it will only do this for the first occurrence of a word in a post so you don’t have to worry about spamming your post with numerous links to the same thing.
Google XML Sitemaps – An essential tool in any blogger’s armory of SEO tools. While the name only mentions “GoogleGoogle reviews,” this plugin creates an XML-sitemap that can be read by Ask, MSN and Yahoo also.
Meta Robots WordPress plugin – An easy solution for adding robot metadata to any page you choose on your blog. You can use it to make your front page links into “nofollows,” prevent indexing of search pages, disable author and date-based archives, prevent indexing of your login page and numerous other features.
Nofollow Case by Case – This plugin allows you to strip the “nofollow” command from your comments, and then you can apply it to only the comments you don’t wish to support.
Platinum SEO Plugin – The Platinum SEO Plugin offers you such features as automatic 301 redirects for permalink changes, auto-generation of META tags, post slug optimization, help in avoiding duplicate content and a host of other features.
Redirection – For any number of reasons you sometimes need to move a page from one spot on your blog to another, but then you risk losing that page’s status in search results. Redirection helps you with your 301 redirects, captures a log of 404s so you can work on correcting them, sets up an RSS feed for errors and more.
SEO Blogroll – Do you worry that the people you link to in your blogroll are feeding off of your PageRank? With SEO Blogroll you can make separate sections for various groupings of links, with an unlimited number in each, and all of them will receive the “nofollow” attribute.
SEO for Paged Comments – With the introduction of paged comments in WordPress 2.7, there was a potential problem with search engines thinking you had duplicate content as the post would appear on each page. This plugin aims to take care of this issue for you until the folks at WordPress change things up.
SEO friendly and HTML valid subheadings – Some themes for WordPress will confuse your sub-header tags based on the page they are to be displayed on, but this plugin will automatically reset them to make them more SEO friendly by moving them down one spot in the hierarchical tree. In other words, h2 becomes h3, h3 becomes h4 and so on.
SEO Friendly Images – Images can be a great source of traffic as people search for images of various subjects, and this plugin helps you with making sure that you have “alt” and “title” tags on all of your images so that the search engines can properly index them.
SEO No Duplicate WordPress Plugin – If you must have duplicate content on your site for whatever reason, SEO No Duplicate will allow you to state which version of the post search engines should index while ignoring the others.
SEO Post Link – The post slug is the blog title you see in a browser’s URL bar, and if it’s too long, search engines won’t take a liking to it. SEO Post Link comes with an already populated list of words to cut from a title when it turns into a URL to make your post addresses that much friendlier. You can set it so that it’s limited to a certain number of characters, cut short words, cut unnecessary words and more.
SEO Smart Links – Interlinking your blog can be the key to getting more people to read more of your posts, but it is time consuming and tedious to do it by hand. SEO Smart Links does this for you automatically when you tell it what words to link to what URLs, and it also allows you to set “nofollow” and “open in window” comands for the links.
SEO Tag Cloud Widget – Love ‘em or hate ‘em, a lot of people use tag clouds on their blogs. Since their inception they have been fairly unreadable by search engines, but with this plugin they will be converted to an SEO-friendly HTML markup that can be indexed.
SEO Title Tag – Your tags are an important part of your site for making sure that search engines know where to place your posts, and SEO Title Tag focuses exclusively on this. Unlike some other plugins, and WordPress itself, this extension will allow you to add tags to your pages, your main page and even any URL anywhere on your site.
Simple Tags – An extremely popular plugin that focuses on helping you choose the best tags for your posts by offering suggestions, auto-completion of tags as you type, an AJAX admin interface, mass tag editing and a whole lot more.
Sitemap Generator – This is a more customizable sitemap generator than most with options to support multi-level categories and pages, category/page exclusion, permalink support, choices on what to display, options to show number of comments and more.
TGFI.net SEO WordPress Plugin – This particular plugin will do most of the usual SEO work of optimizing titles and keywords, but it adds a unique twist as it is mainly directed at people who use WordPress as a CMS.
Whew, I’ve been extremely busy the past couple of weeks which explains my short absence here on the blog. Between SEO client work, some personal soul searching, and buying my first condo in Chicago, I haven’t had much time for anything else – including writing the Internet marketing articles that you enjoy so much here on Winning the Web.
However, my recent busy schedule did get me thinking about optimal posting frequencies on blogs. I’ve pretty much tried everything, from multiple postings per day to weekly posts, and my experiences of each have allowed me to find a happy medium. So what’s the best frequency that will yield your blog with maximum results?
It really depends.
First you have to establish the type of blog you want as well as your goals for it. For example, a news blog selling advertising space will have a much different posting schedule than a personal branding blog or a blog used to generate leads for products or client work.
In this article, I’ll explain the three most common posting frequencies (multiple posts per day, one post per day, and a few posts per week) and the pros, cons, and optimal situations for each. Hopefully the list will provide you with a good starting point to experiment on your own blog and develop a schedule that will maximize the potential of your blogging efforts.
Multiple posts per day
You’ll find a slew of new posts everyday on big blogs like TechCrunch, LifeHacker, and Engadget. But just because the top blogs are pumping out endless streams of content doesn’t mean you should be doing it too. Writing multiple posts in a day is optimal only for multi-author news-type blogs that sell advertising space to sponsors. Since the goal with these blogs is to keep up with the industry and maximize page views for sponsors, this schedule works best. However, for everyday bloggers, multiple posts in a day is usually overkill and will quickly lead to burn out. Continue reading
Measuring success in search engine optimization can typically be done in four ways. “Indexation” measurements will determine if a search engine has properly identified all of your site’s pages. “Backlink” measurements will show the number of internal and external links that point to your site as a whole. “Rankings” measurements will show where in the natural search results your site appears for given search words or phrases. And “traffic and revenue” measurements will show the keywords used to find your site, revenue generated per keyword, the percentage of visitors that purchased products and so forth.
This article will explore each of the measurements, which we refer to here as “metrics.”
Indexation is the first critical step to natural search performance. Pages that aren’t indexed have zero chance of ranking in the search engines. However, more indexation isn’t necessarily better because that could indicate that identical pages in your site are duplicated in a search engine’s index, which will decrease a site’s ability to rank because the pages are, essentially, competing against themselves.
What is the “right” indexation number? Most ecommerce sites can only guesstimate based on the number of products they offer. For example, if a site offers 50,000 products but only has 5,000 pages indexed, there’s likely a barrier preventing a search engine from fully “crawling” a site. Conversely, if that same site has 500,000 pages indexed, there’s likely a duplication issue. The site will then have issues with self-competition and split-link popularity, both of which hinder a site’s ability to rank strongly.
Indexation is measured by performing a “site:” query in the major engines. For example, type [site:www.yourdomain.com] into the Google and MSN Live search boxes, without the [brackets]. For Yahoo!, just enter the URL into Yahoo! Site Explorer. These site queries measure how many URLs are indexed in each engine. Compare that number to the number of pages that should exist to determine actions required and progress made.
A complete list of the queries available in Google, some of which are also available on Yahoo! and MSN Live, can be found at http://www.google.com/help/cheatsheet.html.
Measuring “backlinks” will show the number of links pointing to various pages across a site. Generally, the more external links that point to your site, the higher your site will rank in natural search results. However, measuring backlinks varies among the search engines.
For Google, enter a “link:” query such as [link:www.yourdomain.com] in the search box. This is a measure of how many backlinks are coming into the entire domain. However, Google only gives the true measure of backlinks in its Webmaster Tools, which anyone can access once they have a Google account.
For Yahoo!, enter the domain into Yahoo! Site Explorer. Click on the “InLinks” tab and filter the results to show four different data sets: (1) all backlinks (internal & external), (2) only external backlinks, (3) only to the home page and (4) to the whole site.
For MSN, the “link:” query is currently disabled in MSN Live, so backlinks cannot be measured there.
How many backlinks should a site have? There is no way to estimate in the way we can for indexation, and the engines aren’t known for giving accurate, specific or detailed backlink data, unfortunately. The best advice for measuring backlinks is to watch the trend rather than be concerned about individual numbers. And more high quality links are always better.
Advanced Link Manager is a tool for scanning and reporting on backlink trends, including number and diversity of domains linking in, anchor text diversity, and a number of other reports.
Rankings are a tricky metric to report on. Rankings (i.e. where your site appears in natural search listings) vary greatly between singular and plural versions of the same term. Moreover, personalized and blended search affect individual rankings so that no two people are likely to get the same ranking result. However, I suggest a couple of ways to attack this issue.
- Targeted. Choose a select set of keyword terms that you’ll target based on keyword research. These will probably include the trophy terms for which management aspires to rank. Use a subscription rank checker such as WebCEO or a free tool such as the Rank Checker plug in for Firefox to check the rankings for the terms you’re targeting. These tools will give you only the rankings for the terms you specify, for the domains you specify.
- Aggregate. Subscription tools like Enquisite offer the ability to track the page on which a term ranks for every keyword that drives natural search to your site. So, say that [widgets] drove 10 visits to mydomain.com. Enquisite would report which URLs on my site drove those 10 visits, and what page in the search results the rankings were on. The information can be sliced and sorted by keyword, URL, IP, date, engine, and more.
Traffic and Revenue Metrics
Natural search-referred traffic is a common measurement in most analytics programs. The “holy grail” for measuring SEO effectiveness is frequently a report combining URL, keyword, traffic, orders, and revenue. Such a report tells you which URLs are effective, and by omission, which are not. It tells you which keywords and keyword phrases drive traffic, and by omission which don’t. And it tells you which URLs and terms drive sales through natural search and which don’t.
Consider which pages were optimized and how, for which keywords. Those pages and keywords are the ones where you should expect to see growth. Only by performing large-scale programmatic optimizations, like title tags across the entire site, would you expect to see a site-wide increase in traffic. Most optimization efforts will improve performance for individual pages and keywords. Knowing which pages and keywords are most valuable to your business will guide those optimization efforts.
6 Tips to Optimize for Twitter Search
1. Keyword research is still important
As long as search engine optimization exists, keyword research will always be important. In optimizing anything for search online, understanding the language of your potential customers and audience is crucial. It will help you not only to improve your search traffic but also to tweak your marketing message and better relate to the people you are selling to.
That being said, tweeps (people on Twitter) are no different than searchers on Google. They use the language that they’re used to, both in their Twitter conversations and in search queries. Use tools like the Google Keyword Tool and Keyword Discovery to better understand the most common keywords and incorporate them into your own tweets and page copy.
The great thing about Twitter is that you can easily use it as a market research tool to better understand the people you’re targeting. Use the wealth of knowledge existing on the site to look into popular keywords and market needs. Then work to fulfill those needs, both on Twitter and on your own sites (i.e. look at the questions people in your target market are asking on Twitter).
2. Brand yourself and your Twitter profile
Branding is extremely important, in SEO and in social media. If you’re using Twitter as a business tool to reach out to more potential customers and increase your traffic, then you absolutely need to have a strong brand presence. Rather than using the same Twitter account to target various audiences, set up multiple identities and use them to cater to specific audiences. For example, don’t use the same account to tweet about both SEO and gardening. It just doesn’t work. Brand yourself and stand for something. Twitter search will eventually give more weight in the search results to Twitter users who talk mainly about the specific niche being searched for.
Being focused will also help you to stay consistent with your marketing message and get the attention of your target audience. This in turn will increase the chances of people following you and paying more attention to what you have to offer (more on this in the next section) – which means you get better rankings in Twitter search.
It also helps to customize your Twitter profile to be consistent with your brand image. Use a catchy background with all of your contact information and write a descriptive bio that includes your name, location, and website. For examples, check out the list top Twitter users.
3. Build relationships and get more followers
Google uses factors such as domain age and the quantity and quality of inbound links to determine the authority of a site. In the same way, Twitter will probably do something similar and give more trust to users who have been using the service longer and have more followers. Tweets of trusted users will likely receive a boost in the Twitter search results.
So what does that mean for you, a Twitter SEO? You need to build relationships with other people in your industry and build your Twitter audience by collecting more followers. Make connections with other people, online and off, through whatever channels you have access to (e.g. other social media sites, blogs, conferences, etc). SEO is quickly becoming more and more social and it’s not necessarily what you know anymore – it’s who you know. The people who are most-connected will rise to the top and get the majority of the attention.
If you want to build your Twitter audience fast you can start some sort of contest or promotion (like John Chow, Shoemoney, and even Namecheap). Just be aware that whenever you run these types of campaigns your followers won’t be very engaged with you because of you. A lot of them want the benefits and prizes but don’t care about you or what you have to say, at least in the beginning. The best way to do it is organically through real connections but promotions do give a good jolt to your numbers.
4. Add to the conversation and be engaging
As you may know, Twitter is a giant online conversation where millions of users exchange ideas and information. Since Twitter search pulls information from this enormous pool, it’s important that you add relevant content and links where appropriate using the keyword research insights you learned in step one. Sure, you only get 140 characters of space but that doesn’t mean you can’t pack a punch and gain attention. Spark up debate and conversation in your niche, answer questions, and add relevant content and advice whenever possible. Be an expert and an authority and engage with anyone and everyone. It will pay off.
5. Start viral marketing campaigns
Whereas inbound links represent “votes” for a page in Google Search, Twitter is likely to incorporate re-tweets (another Twitter user broadcasting your message to their own audience) into their algorithm to better understand the popularity of content. As a Twitter SEO, this means that you need to maximize the number of re-tweets of your content. Viral marketing becomes extremely important and in order to do well in Twitter search you need to have people talking about you and sharing your stuff on a regular basis.
Write interesting tweets and link to exceptional related articles to share with your audience. It might be a good idea to use other social sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon to find good articles you can easily share. Build up your profile and get re-tweets to your content, especially when you’re linking to your own site.
6. Add links and multimedia where appropriate & use Twitter as a marketing channel
A Twitter search returns tweets, so you may be asking what benefit you get from ranking highly with a 140 character message. The answer to that question is that by getting exposure in Twitter you add a big marketing channel to drive traffic back to your own site and increase conversions. You not only drive traffic to your site through links but you also establish your brand and develop relationships with potential customers – which means a big boost in your bottom line.
Twitter SEO is a lot like email marketing. Your first priority is to develop a solid relationship with
your followers by offering interesting and useful content. Once you have that in place you can add your own links and promotional marketing to drive sales.
What are you doing now to prepare for the social shift in search engines like Twitter? Anything else you can come up with to optimize your sites and brands in Twitter? Leave a comment below and let us know! And oh yeah, be sure to follow me on Twitter
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