Sunday, August 31, 2008

Search Engine Opitimzation Basics - Creating a Master Keyword Phrase List

How to build your keyword list?

Oftentimes, we talk with clients who absolutely know what keyword phrases that they want their website to be ranked for in the search engines.

This can be an awkward place to start with a new client. I am a firm believer that individual business owners, marketing folks, communications people, etc within an organization and industry know their marketplace better than we do as the web design, development, and optimization firm. However, we too often spend resources, time and money optimizing a website for keyword phrases that just don't get searched for by web surfers.

As a search engine optimziation firm, it becomes very easy for us to get good rankings for a keyword phrase that is not searched on very much. Clients love us because we meet and exceed their expectations. But we wish that we were focused on the best keyword phrases for a company based on search statistics which we as a firm have access to.

But again, most companies know their industry better than their web design and development firm will.

Therefore, we always ask our clients to create what they consider their master keyword list (see my last post entitled "Keywords versus Keyword Phrases - how are they different?" for the difference between a keyword and a keyword phrase). First, we ask that they start with individual keywords (for example, vermont, web, page, design, development, programming, etc). Then we ask them to use these keywords to create keyword phrases based on those keywords.

Using the client's keyword and keyword phrase list, we then create a "master keyword list" which contains all the keyword phrases that might be possibly and logically be combined for search engine purposes. A keyword phrase list based on a keyword list might contain: vermont web design, vermont programming, VT web development, vermont web page development, vt webpage development, etc...

But it is critical that you do not stop there. You then need to take that keyword phrase master list and make sure that people are in fact using those keyword phrases in the search engines. We do this "keyword analysis" for most clients and find out how many times each of the keyword phrases are searched in a given month. And then we use some of the keyword phrase search engine tools such as Word Tracker (Wordtracker Free Trial) to expand the master keyword phrase list to include keyword phrases that the compnay not have thought of and that do get searched on the major search engines.

Using these search counts, we can then pare down the master list to only include keyword phrases that have solid search traffic counts, and that are attainable (we are not going to go after the keyword "jumbo mortgage" for a local vermont mortgage company as it is too broad and too expensive to go after, but we will go after "vermont jumbo mortgage").

If you are having trouble generating your keyword list on your own, do some searching yourself and the sites that do rank well on the first 1 or 2 pages of Google. Use keyword phrases that you are sure would be used by your potential customers. Start simple like "vermont web design" in our case.

Then look at the "source code" for the page (most browsers, there is a View, Source combination to view the HTML coding for a page) and see what keyword phrases the page is built with (once the source code is opened, do a search for the word "keyword" and you should find the META tag for keywords. It is usally at the top of the page and very plain to see if the code is clean and tight). You can use your competitor's sites and sites that already rank well to target the keywords that will be helpful for your site.

After doing your keyword initial research, combine the keywords into keyword phrases that your potential visitors/customers would use to find your website.

There are many different ways to do this keyword analysis yourself or to use a service or a firm. If you use a service, just make sure that you know what you getting for the money and certainly double check their work using the tools i suggest through these articles.

If content is king...keyword phrases fill the king's coffers.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Keywords versus Keyword Phrases - how are they different?

Keywords and keyword phrases can be a tricky subject. There is a bad habit in the search engine optimization and web development industry in general about using keyword and keyword phrases inappropriately.

To make a point clear: I myself have had a tendency to use "keyword" and "keyword phrase" phrase interchangeably. I try not to but it still happens. I will try to make it very clear when it is important to realize the difference between the two.

But for most part, your keyword list is really your keyword phrase list. For example, Vermont Design Works keywords, technically, are: design, development, vermont, seo, winooski, burlington, graphic, etc.

Keyword phrases are multi word phrases derived from a keyword list but target more appropriately the words that a searcher will actually type into a search engine. I don't necessarily want my company website up on page 1 in Google for the keyword "vermont". That is not my market. But the keyword phrase "vermont web design", I very much want (and we are #1 for this keyword).

One might ask: "why wouldn't you want to be on the first page for the keyword 'design'?" Good question, I might respond...

While design as a single word keyword phrase is searched on quite a bit, the niche it defines is not narrow enough for me to want to expend energy to capture. It is too broad, too unfocused for me to allocate any resources towards getting ranked for it in Google.

In summary, I consider Keywords as individual keywords which will make up the individual words in your master list of keyword phrases.

A subtle but important distinction in terminology for what is considered the heart of search engine optimization (SEO). Make sure to start any SEO campaign, take the time to establish the targeted keyword phrase list that will generate high quality, good return on investment (ROI), website visitors (future customers).

Friday, August 29, 2008

How and why to brand your title tag?

You might be asking "what is a title tag?". The Title tag is a recommended 117 character (including spaces) description of a web page. It is created using an HTML title function. Visually, the tag appears in the blue bar on top of Internet Explorer and describes what a web page is all about. Any decent Content Management System should allow you to edit each page's title tag individually. Or if you are editing or hand coding in HTML yourself, you will need to set this tag for each page.

The title tag also has 2 other main uses. One is for bookmarking (adding to favorites) and the back button drop down list. Bookmarking is critical. When someone bookmarks your site, you want them to be able to tell from the bookmark itself, what a page is all about. Similarly, this page title is used when navigating through a site and using the back button.

Many websites have the same title tag for every infuriating! Imagine bookmarking a website with 3 different products and then looking at your favorites later only to see that the page titles are exactly the same and therefore you have no idea which is which.

The other main use of the title tag is by the search engines and specifically on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Again using Google as the example (currently representing 71% of all searches on the Internet) they use the title tag in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Here is an example of how my company Vermont Design Works writes our title tags for the SERPs (do a search on google for "vermont design" to see the results:

Our title tags tell you a lot about what this page is going to discuss, provides a solid description for the back button or bookmarking, and is keyword driven to optimize rankings in the search engines. This is just one of the reasons why Vermont Design Works is ranked so strongly in Google.

Some webmasters don't pay much attention to page titles (or aren't compensated enough to spend time on customizing page titles or don't know how). Every page ends up being "page" or just the website name or nothing (BAD). Anytime you have tried to use your back button on a browser and pick the page you want to go back to will see the same page title repeated over and over.

Some webmasters set this tag once in an "include" file which means it will have the same format on every page. For example, it will use the page heading (the page heading is the main page heading that appears in the body of the web page) and the website address (BETTER). So the About Us page will have a Page Heading and a Page Title of "About Us".

While this is a step up from a generic title tag on every page (GOOD), doing a truly custom title tag is a BEST technique (the ratings refer to our BAD, GOOD, BETTER, BEST rating system for SEO techniques).

Title tag summary:

  • BAD: nonsense, non-existent or meaningless words used for title tag

  • GOOD: generic website term used for each page

  • BETTER: derivative page titles using page heading or navigation/menu title as title tag

  • BEST: custom written keyword driven title tags that fully describe what a page discusses

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Human Friendly URLs - good for SEO, good for users

When creating pages for your website (either a brand new website, a redesign, or just adding new pages), most people rely on their web master or web development company (or marketing manager, department head, or communications director) to decide what to call each page of the site. Or worse, they are using some numerical or database driven system.

For example, this page for one of our local Vermont power companies:

If I emailed you this page, you would have no idea what this page is about.

So how do you think search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN are supposed to be able to figure out what this page is all about? What the search engines will do is look at the page content, titles, headings, and META structure. However, why not help out not only the search engines but your website users by giving page names meaningful titles that also contain your keywords.

For example, this page from one of our SEO redesign customers with headquarters in Brattleboro Vermont.

Not only can the search engines determine what this page is about, but if I got this URL emailed to me by a friend, i would have a pretty good idea what this site and page are all about.

Volunteers in Partnership offers programs for people, mostly students, to live abroad for weeks or months at a time and do volunteer work. This page is obviously about their program for volunteering in Brazil. And while a URL can't necessarily give you all the information about a page, the difference between these 2 examples is staggering.

As part of our search engine optimization and website development process at Vermont Design Works, before we even get to design, we put a project plan together that organizes the page titles, URLs and page names, and structure so that we can then build a keyword optimized website at the beginning.

Thinking about what you name each of your web pages with an emphasis on keyword optimization is critical when having a new website built or even doing a redesign of an existing website (or just adding new pages). A little effort as you create each page will pay dividends down the road with your rankings in the the search engines and the ease of use by your site visitors.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Stock Options Trading website Terrys Tips Google Bot schedule

Every Monday, we load up a 1000 plus word update to the home page of the Terry’s Tips. What we have learned through our webmaster tools is that the Google bots are visiting the site on Sundays. Therefore, our content doesn’t get updated until a week after we post it.

Therefore, we are going to add a blog to the home page that we will update daily. Between the newsletter content once a week and daily blogs, we hope to “train” Google to visit the site more often and index our content in a more timely fashion.

Just another something to try…training Google is a constant process.

Andrew Allen

Page Titles, META Description, etc and DMOZ - SEO in Vermont

I reported last time about how to use the DMOZ tag that tells Google not to use the DMOZ description in the SERPs. Now i want to share a small insight that if your page titles and META descriptions are exactly the same, Google will use the DMOZ description instead of your META description because it will look silly on teh SERPs. Google's main job is to provide meaningful and helpful SERPs for searchers. If you can't even bother to create different titles, METAs, descriptions, page headings, don't expect google to play along.

So make sure you use customized page titles, headings, descriptions, keywords, abstracts, etc on every page that you want to show good relevant search results.

And of course back this up with optimized, useful, human friendly content on the page discussing your keyword driven topic! Without good keyword driven content, no amount of optimization will work at all.

If you have minimal content, focus on Pay Per Click and optimized landing pages (more on this later).


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DMOZ tag and Google descriptions

Everyone should submit their website to DMOZ, the manually maintained index of websites. It might take a few submissions of your site and make sure you pick your cateogory carefully. Hopefully, someone will review your site and add it to the DMOZ index.

The down side is that unless you specifically exclude the use of the description that appears in DMOZ, Google will use the DMOZ description for the description on every page of your site in the SERPs (search engine results pages). The META tag code that you need to include is called NOODP.

meta name="ROBOTS" content="NOODP"

Use this code and eventually, Google will stop using your DMOZ description in the SERPs.

However, make sure that you have custom descriptions for each of your major pages (ideally all of your pages).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Able Paint and Glass update - Burlington Vermont SEO Project

Great progress. We optimized the pages with new H1 tags, descriptions, METAs, etc; cross linked pages; submitted to the search engines; and blogged about the site changes.

In just a few weeks, here are some results: #1 for Flooring Burlington Vermont local and natural, #4 for Paint Burlington Vermont natural Glass Burlington Vermont #3 Natural #4 local, Eco Paint Burlington Vermont #2 natural, Eco Paint Vermont #6 natural Flooring Vermont #12 Natural.

And today, they are #1 for Burlington Vermont flooring and Burlington VT flooring, the biggest division of their company. They were not even in the top 50 on Google for these terms 2 months ago.

In addition, their YouTube commercial postings have been viewed 100 times in the first 5 days.

We are going to run a full position report tonight and I can give an update. Able Paint and Glass is on our OnlineMarketingWorks intermediate program.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stock Option vs Stock Options on google - Terry's Tips

Knowing how search engines work is the most basic concept one has to grapple with when considering how to gain position for your business website or blog. For example, Google, the most popular search engine with a suggested 65% of the search engine market, differentiates between the keyword "stock option" and "stock options". The plural version of this keyword phrase is essentially an entirely different keyword except that stock option is actually contained within the keyword phrase stock options and not vice versa.

So as I work toward getting Terry's Tips to the top 10 in Google results for the keyword phrase "stock options trading", the fact that I am working towards getting the plural of this keyword phrase makes a different.

And more strange results are in store. I have currently achieved #17 position for "stock options trading" for Terry's Tips. And in my efforts to get this ranking, I have made Terry's Tips #5 in Google for the keyword phrase stock option. The keyword phrase stock options, we are not even in the top 30.

so where I have succeeded in getting this coveted top 5 position for an even more popular keyword than my goal, i am left a bit confused on how to proceed in my efforts. I will keep plugging away and see what happens.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Able Paint and Glass SEO quirk - Burlington, VT

Similarly to our Stock Options Trading challenge, we have been working with Able Paint and Glass in Burlington, Vermont on their local and national search engine results. We have done a great job getting them locked in on a local level: Most combinations of Burlington, vt glass, Burlington, Vermont windows, doors, carpet, flooring etc, we are in the top 3 (mostly #1) for Local results in Google and are doing fairly well in the regular organic SERPs (search engine results pages).

We were struggling a bit with “Burlington, vt paint” however. We did well with local search on Burlington vt with "paint store" but not just “paint”. This week, we managed to crack the top 15 for “Burlington, vt (or Vermont) paint”. And in another “how did that happen” moment, we are now #15 in Google for Burlington, vt paint but for the GLASS page??

We do not know why…

Andrew Allen

Good news, bad news ... Stock Options trading challenge

We made progress! We have been blogging, posting, and optimizing all week about stock options trading in conjunction with articles written by Dr Terry Allen and Terry’s Tips. Our hope was to move up from 22 in Google for “stock options trading” to the top 10. While we are still languishing between position 20 and 22 on Google, we did make progress. The good news (and truly bizarre) is that is now #5 in Google for “stock option”, a much more sought after, highly trafficked keyword.

Our goal was to get his site up on Google for stock options trading and we succeeded in getting a much shorter, more competitive keyword…but we don’t know why!

Andrew Allen

Monday, August 18, 2008

SEO Basics

A few folks have emailed in and asked for some basic information on how a small business should approach Search Engine Optimization. Particularly local SEO on a budget.

There are six basic parts of SEO:

  1. Navigation/Sitemap structure
  2. Site programming and backend programming
  3. Page content optimization
  4. Keyword driven back links
  5. Site submission
  6. And finally….ADD NEW CONTENT!

The web is fundamentally based on having good webpage content (yes, the words that go on each page), the right structure and programming, and some basic promotion.

In my next few posts, I will give more detail on each of these 6 sections.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Terry's Tips Newsletter content...trying to get the bots to visit

Well, so far, the fact that we are adding over 1000 words of optimized content to the home page of Terry’s Tips is making no difference. For some reason, we can’t get the search bots to return to the site and index this lovely new content. We are using some of our tools to track search bot activity on the home page and submitting the site wherever we can. Anyone have any great ideas? Anyone want to put a link on their site to our home page? Stock Options Trading Strategy at .

In fact, we offer a $40 commission to anyone that drives traffic to our site that results in a sale of the Terry's tips white paper.

Email Andrew if you are interested.

Google #2 in Yahoo for "search engine" though

Google manages to get into the #2 spot on Yahoo search. Yahoo makes itself #1 for “search engine”. (Yahoo considers “search engine” and “search engines” as the same keyword). Google does not.

Anyway, while Google can’t seem to crack the top 10 for its own search engine display results for “search engine”, it seems to do alright on yahoo search. More to come…

Friday, August 15, 2008

Google is not #1

If you do a search on “search engine” or “search engines” on Google….who is number one? Tim and I did this search today and it turns out that Google says that the most relevant “search engine” is either AltaVista or Dogpile…who knew?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tim Obarski, our new SEO specialist

Recently, I hired Tim Obarski, formerly of Burton Snow Boards and SEO Creation Labs. Tim will be doing Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click management, and overall search strategy for us at Vermont Design Works. I might have him work on my making “Andrew Allen” #1 in Google project. He will definitely be doing work on getting Terry's Tips up to top 10 for “stock options trading”.

Tim has experience with backlink strategies, directory and search submissions, meta and content optimization, and in particular social media marketing strategies. Combined with my local and content optimization experience, we are going to make a great team. Welcome aboard Tim!

In the first week that we have posted Tim’s bio on our site, he is now #1 in Google for “tim obarski”. Not too bad to start…

Wagathas - Vermont Dog Treat Company success

Wow! After doing a full optimization and submission program for newly created Wagathas, a small kosher organic dog biscuit manufacturer in Manchester, Vermont, we have had great success. This little company with BIG optimization goals signed up for the Online Marketing Works intermediate SEO package. We optimized their site for about 30 keyword phrases comprising about 10 keywords.

Wagathas had great success with local Vermont based web position ranking. They are in the top 2 positions on Google for "vermont dog treats", "vermont dog biscuits" (the VT versions as well), all variations of "vermont kosher" dog treats and biscuits, etc. This was our main goal. Mission accomplished (but in reality, not the George Bush sense).

What great results! We are truly blown away.

The great news is our more aggressive optimization gained us some national placement. On Google, Wagathas is now:
  • #2 for "organic dog treats"
  • #4 for "organic dog treat"
  • #3 for "organic dog biscuits"
  • #6 for "organic dog biscuit"
  • #8 for "kosher dog treats"
  • #10 for "kosher dog treat"
  • #45 and gaining for "dog treats"
  • #17 for "dog biscuits"
All of this for a small Vermont company that has been in a business for a short period of time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Stock Options Trading" Keyword Challenge UPDATE

So far so good! In just a month, we have moved up from position 248 on Google to number 20 on Google. i hope to get Terry's Tips in the top 10 of Google by the end of the month but that might be pushing. The new newsletter tool which just launched will certainly help with our position as the main top of each article is a discussion of a Stock Options Trading tip of the week!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Terry's Tips adds newsletter tool

As we continue to add valuable content to the home page of Terry's Tips, we are now posting the free weekly newsletter content for our Stock Options Trading Idea of the Week to the home page. We have provided an archive of past issues as well. Each contains a stock options trading tip, a weekly market conditions report, an Overbought/Oversold status report, and a testimonial. With this, we hope to get the search engines to come back and visit at least every 7 days to capture and index this new content.