July 19th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Hang tight, folks! Before we get into the whooo-done-it part of this post, here’s a basic illustration of how URL shorteners work.
It’s pretty simple actually, on the surface.
Here’s a real example of a URL I recently shortened with Bitly:
See? NORMAL. And Bit.ly uses a 301 redirect which is also most liked, since 301′s pass link equity.
And the Bitly URL should (ideally) never rank above the final “real” URL.
Danny Sullivan’s post, although a bit outdated now, shows (of the shorteners from that time) which services use 301s and which use 302s. Note that he highly advises against the use of URLs with 302s. Remember that for later
If you want to examine more details before we begin, you can check out the wikipedia page on URL shortening. However, the point of this post is to analyze a particular SERP which returns a shortened URL instead of the normal URL.
For one, startupcity.org should probably rank #1 – implied brand search. But… that’s not quite it. See it?
Perhaps if I restate it.
No prize though I’m afraid.
Strange result credit: tweet by Rand.
There are two things wrong with this screenshot.
Needless to say, Rand’s tweet highlighting this strange behavior certainly led to the idea for this post.
But what’s different about them? What’s causing one to rank on the first page?
Who’s at fault – Google, owl.li, or the site owner?
Let’s see if we can find out!! In the process, we’ll examine the implications of using owl.li and come up with some best practices that you can follow to avoid this happening on your site.
The first thing I’d like to invite you to do is to join me on a guided video tour of a bunch of screenshots I took while investigating this.
Oh boy, this is a multimedia extravaganza on the Moz blog! I decided to walk through all my bits of evidence in a screencast - to give you a quick overview of the investigative process behind this.
Video 1/2 – you’ll want to expand to full screen
Video 2/2 – again, full screen will look best!
Well now… those videos were fun, yes? Alright, let’s examine the biggest takeaways from this first look.
You didn’t want to watch the videos? (Sadface) OK. Here are the 5 most significant screencaps:
1. What’s the Redirect Path To the Final URL?
This naturally was my first question. How is owl.li executing the redirects? And what a fabulous opportunity to use this new redirect checker chrome plugin by Ayima. The redirect path of this owl.li URL is as follows:
It’s a 302 redirect followed by three 301 redirects. I know redirect chains are not the best thing in the world, so could this be causing the strange indexation? I file that question in my brain for later.
2. Does StartupCity Have Internal Links Sending Mixed Signals?
You should ALWAYS internally link to the current version of your URLs. This makes your site faster, it prevents things from breaking in the future, and allows only external links/bookmarks to be passed through redirects.
Sometimes internal links pointing to pages which then 301 can send mixed signals. Sure enough, there’s some of that happening on startupcity.org
However, I’m not entirely convinced this is causing Google to actually rank the owl.li page.
Google states pretty clearly that they can and do index 302′s.
I do find it interesting that Google doesn’t say either way if a 301 can be indexed.
I switched around the keywords, and now we have both URLs ranking on the first page. Yes, the owl.li URL AND the startupcity.org URL are both on the first page.
You’ll see in the video that I had a few unsuccessful attempts at making an owl.li URL (had no idea, never done it before!). I finally figured out where owl.li links come from. I’m sure some of you already know, but as I am not a heavy HootSuite user, I had to look. (Note: this image is not in the video. So consider this a bonus? Unless you’re watching the video – then you’re missing out.)
The following conclusions and recommendations are my personal thoughts – I would follow them myself and refer them to clients. However, I have to be completely honest. I’m not 100% sure why Google is ranking that owl.li result for [startupcity 100].
I do have some strong hypotheses and tips for site owners.
I finally found some record of when and why the owl.li shortener was put into place.
Now I know WHY this was put into place, but still don’t know why they chose to use 302′s.
Also, they claim users can avoid the .ly TLD – this isn’t entirely true though, because everything still passes through ow.ly as a redirect.
Owl.li is not like other short URL services. It sends you through a 302 and then a 301.
This is perhaps the biggest takeaway of all, which is worth restating. Owl.li sends their links via 302, through ow.ly which then 301 to the final page. This, again, seems like a double whammy. Not only is the “double redirect” not necessary, the 302 means none of the link equity is being passed on to your page.
Again, I would like to know – why does HootSuite tell us owl.li is an alternative to ow.ly (to avoid the .ly) but then direct all URLs through ow.ly anyway?
Redirects alone don’t prevent indexation – Google does not say they don’t index 301′s or 302′s. They state in the affirmative that they may index 302′s – and they don’t state anything either way about 301′s. So it does make sense as to why the shortened URLs are in the index. (Please note that Bing does not index 302 redirects, according to this article from 2010 – which is likely why there are almost no owl.li URLs indexed).
Ranking signal - They were likely indexed because they were tweeted. Perhaps further indication of Google using Twitter as a ranking signal? Index the short URLs and assign a page value to them (by number of tweets, inbound links, etc.)? There’s really no value for the user to have them in the index, right?
Destination pages had issues – The pages they pointed to had some internal issues – like the IP addresses not resolving, or the internal linking, or large chains of redirects.
A short URL ranking well Is an anomaly – However, the startupcity.org result was the ONLY one that actually ranked above its destination page. All the other ones may be indexed, but I have never seen a short URL ranking on page one before. (If you have I’d be interested – tweet me @dan_shure with a screencap).
Ultimately, I don’t blame the site owner in this case (or in many others). But there are some best practices to follow that can reduce the risk of these issues (or others) appearing in the SERPs.
To eliminate redirect chains; instead of Page 1-Page 2-Page 3
Page 1-Page 3
Page 2-Page 3
Google will index 301 and 302 redirected URLs. If the page still exists, use a meta noindex tag on the page and request removal with webmaster tools. If the page no longer exists, do the URL removal request and use robots.txt to keep it from getting back in the index.
As mentioned, this helps to;
Point your users at the current version of your URLs whenever possible. Anything from pointing to the homepage as /index.php when its just / – always keep your internal links updated.
Use Screaming Frog to crawl the site and look for any that need fixin’
We have seen that by using owl.li you’re STILL using Ow.ly – because the ow.li 302 redirects through ow.ly. Who knows if this will always be the case, but why send your links through an extra redirect and also risk the owl.li URL showing in the SERP of the destination page?
Right – I never did say
It sure would be most fun to point blame at one particular party – but in this case it’s completely a team effort.
I believe it is the combination of these three factors that’s causing this, but my findings are certainly not scientifically conclusive. I always encourage you to do your own questioning and investigating.
So site owners, follow the best practices above, and remember how interesting it is to bring this third service of URL shortening into the mix to contribute to these sorts of issues.
It seems this topic was of much larger discussion around 2009. Understandably so, since its kind of “old news” now. But is it really old news? Danny Sullivan says that it’s really time for an updated look into this topic.
I personally hope this post may get some other people to look more into this topic, starting with the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
You thought this post was done? Well, so did I! And then I did one last search for startupcity.org – only to find the whole site now redirects to another URL, startupseattle.com
So if you go and try to research this yourself – it seems like this case is changing by the hour! Definitely an interesting one to follow.
July 19th, 2012 @ // No Comments
There’s been a lot of buzz around Facebook’s Promoted Post feature over the past few months. I’ve read several blog posts (the HasOffers post was great) who have tried testing the effectiveness of Promoted Posts vs Facebook’s Sponsored Story ads, and thought it would be interesting to do a similar test here at SEOmoz. Before I jump in to the results of my test, I’ll give a quick overview on Promoted Posts for those who aren’t familiar.
Facebook rolled out their Promoted Post feature at the end of May, allowing Brand Page owners to pay to push content to a broader audience than normal. What some people don’t know is that when you publish content on your Facebook Brand Page, only a small percentage of your fans are seeing that content appear in their news feeds.
Facebook uses its complex EdgeRank algorithm to determine which content each user sees in their news feed. Facebook estimates that only 16% of a company’s fans will see every post they generate in their news feed. Some companies will obviously have a much higher percentage of engaged fans than others, but it shows that simply publishing content on your Brand Page won’t get it seen by 100% of your audience.
So, this is where Promoted Posts come in handy. You now can dedicate up to $100 to “promote” a recent post on your Facebook Brand Page. Facebook says, “Your promoted posts will be seen by a larger percentage of the people who like your page than would normally see it. It will also be seen by a larger percentage of the friends of people who interact with your post.” What this means is that Facebook will distribute your content to a much broader segment of your fan base instead of just the fans who are already engaged with your brand. Sounds interesting, right?
Now, let’s quickly discuss another tool for distributing your content on Facebook to a broad audience. Facebook’s Sponsored Story is created within the Facebook Ad Platform and functions just like a Facebook Ad. You can set this up the same way as you set up Facebook Ads and select your targeting from the large list of available targeting and interest category options that Facebook provides. You’ll create an ad image, write your ad copy, link to your content, assign a budget, set your bid, and then activate it. The main difference is that Sponsored Stories look like Facebook ads so they only appear in the right side of the Facebook Page where all the other ads are, and they will mainly target people who aren’t fans of your Brand Page.
Show me the results, baby! We decided to use a recent update to our Beginner’s Guide to SEO as the content piece that we would Promote and run in our Sponsored Story. For the Promoted Post, we created a simple post on our Brand Page linking to the Beginner’s Guide and dedicated $100 to it. This Post had a reach of 26,275. It generated 198 actions, 1,311 clicks and had a CTR of 4.99%. The CPC was $.076.
For the Sponsored Story, we targeted 266,580 people who live in the US, Canada, UK, or Australia and like SEO related topics and websites. The actual reach of the campaign was 44,247 with a frequency of 6.2. This Sponsored Story generated 16 actions, 162 clicks, had a CTR of 0.366% and a CPC of $1.44.
As you can see from our test results, the Promoted Post generated far more engagement than the Sponsored Story, had a higher CTR, and had a significantly lower CPC!
The only area that the Sponsored Story out-performed the Promoted Post was in campaign reach. This makes sense since we were targeting a large group of SEO professionals and enthusiasts through Facebook Ads’ interest targeting. At the end of the day, our Promoted Post to our fans who had not engaged with us in a significant amount of time generated a huge amount of interest in our content and drove a majority of the actions and clicks on our post.
To conclude, the combination of a Promoted Post and a Sponsored Story helped us to achieve metrics on our post that we have never seen before on our Brand Page.
This was our most viewed post ever (more than 5x’s the previous record and was also the most liked and most shared)! While this didn’t necessarily generate revenue for us, it was great to see how the Promoted Post and Sponsored Story can work together to achieve massive reach and engagement. The next step will be to see how the Promoted Post and Sponsored Story tools perform when driving a promotional offer or direct CTA type of content.
In the end, the main thing this test taught us was that it’s important for every advertiser and brand to test things on their own. Just because one company sees a certain set of results doesn’t mean that your company will see the same. Every brand, fan base, target audience, and customer base is different and will react differently so what it boils down to in my opinion is test, test, and test again.
I hope this analysis was helpful, and I’d love to hear from any of you who’ve run similar tests or messed around with the Promoted Post and Sponsored Story to see what types of results you’ve experienced.
July 19th, 2012 @ // No Comments
I was reading the article about “Broken Link Building” the other day when I realized that there might be a possible extension to the idea of helping webmasters with keeping theirs sites together. Since there is a lot of stuff that can go wrong with a website, I started probing possibilities. Here is what I came up with.
Definitely, there might be other problems with an internet site that might be noticed by an ordinary user. And in order to take a well-structured and organized approach, I had to find sites with a certain clear and present problem, and be able to find these sites in bulk.
While thinking about this, I was doing my usual everyday routine when suddenly a php error popped out on the site I was browsing at the time. You are no doubt have encountered something like that lots of times.
I knew for sure that I had seen such type of error A LOT. Only all of those times I was in an absolutely different frame of mind and had no idea how I could use it to my benefit.
The site was related to my own (that’s why I was browsing it in the first place), and of pretty decent quality and value, so it made perfect sense for me to ask a responsible person for a link from it. Only all of us know that you do not simply contact a person and ask them to link to you right away. You wouldn’t, would you?
From experience we all know that all our requests that generate little or no value to the requestee should better be based on relationships, even if they are established by one simple sentence which says “Hi man, it seems your PHP is getting out of control, you had better do something about it: link to the page with a PHP problem”.
OK, let me explain everything step by step.
Try more subtle approach, show them that you sent the message only because you felt that it would be appropriate to let them know about the problem, not because you wanted to use it to your benefit.
“By the way, I was thinking if there is any chance that you can link to my site. It seems your visitors might be interested in this sort of thing. Anyway, size it up for yourself and if you of the same opinion, kindly add the link and let me know”
But let me explain everything step by step.
A lot of you probably have quite perfunctory understanding of PHP. So do I. The beauty of it is that you do not have to be a programmer to help webmasters with their PHP problems. I will try to explain in short what you should know in order to be ready to write a PHP error message.
Let’s assume that you already know that PHP is a server-side scripting language.
If something goes wrong and a php command/function can not be executed properly on a page loading in a browser, PHP engine throws up a notification on the page (like the one displayed on the picture above). Sometimes they are not displayed, though, if the webmaster has chosen the “not display notifications in browser” option in the PHP settings.
There are several major types of notifications, but all of them are uniform, which makes it possible for us to find them on Google. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
Warning: include(../inc_header.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/actualad/public_html/hotel_soaltee_crowne_plaza.php on line 21
Notice: Uninitialized string offset: 0 in /var/www/odkryjpolske.pl/op3/functions/functions.php on line 1952
Fatal error: Call to undefined function tweetmeme() in /home/content/40/8396940/html/blog/wp-content/themes/magilas/single.php on line 54
Deprecated: Function ereg_replace() is deprecated in /var/www/virtual/sleepingparis.com/htdocs/admin/filemappa.php on line 18
Strict Standards: Non-static method DB::connect() should not be called statically in C:wwwAmautaphpdosmanosperuconnectiongateway.inc.php on line 28
I was able to spot five types of error notifications and then made an attempt to figure out a way to find them on Google so that the results were as relevant as possible. After taking a closer look I figured out that the part “php on line” was present in all the types of notifications. The only other part that seemingly remained the same were the words “Warning/Notice/Fatal Error/Deprecated/Strict Standards”
So, in order to get results containing pages with PHP error notifications, you should form queries:
But that might not be enough. Instead of getting search results with actual error notifications on faulty pages, you might stumble on a discussion of that error on some forum, or even the official PHP site.
The solution is as follows: add some relevant keywords to your query (defining the type of site you want to deal with). Let's assume I have an online hotel reservation site and I want to get in touch with tour and hotel sites all over the world. I do the following:
The result is more than satisfactory one. There are 1,380,000 results for the query "warning:" [function." "php on line" intitle:tours and even the last hundred results out of 1000 displayed on Google are at least 50% relevant to what I was searching for. I mean the pages displayed indeed have a php error notification on them and offer tour services.
But if you somehow feel that the results aren't relevant enough, you can always expand your search query by adding additional keywords.
There is also a more thorough way to go. You may further brake down the types of PHP errors by the contents of a notification.
Let's assume you have stumbled upon the warning notification which looks like:
Warning: include_once(language/mn.php) [function.include-once]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /hermes/waloraweb061/b490/pow.sndmn/htdocs/destination/index.php on line 34
It is the easiest one to solve since it clearly states that the file or directory are missing. So all you have to write to the webmaster is “check your files and their names carefully”
Let’s find the constant value of the message and delete all the information which changes (like the names of the files and folders, paths to them, etc.). And do not forget to attach your keywords!
That’s what we get after some tweaking.
“Warning:” “[function.include-once]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in” “php on line” intitle:tours
The query produces 132 results, which is quite something to start with since you already have the solution to the problem in your pocket. Now all you have to do is send your message to the respective parties in the results and wait for them to reply!
Usually, if you direct the attention of webmaster to the problem with their site, they should know what to do about it since they have probably earned being called “webmasters”. Still there are a considerable percentage of people who take care of their site to some extent without deep understanding of its mechanics. The site might have been created by a company for a client who does not know much in this sort of stuff. In this case, your ability to search for information on the Internet will enable you to warm up the hearts of mighty number of people who can add your link on their sites.
What I am talking about here is trying to get to the bottom of the problem before contacting the webmaster so that not only could you state the presence of it, but also could help with figuring things out. It’s nice if you are into PHP and can crack any related problem without referring to World Wide Web.
If, however, you are not that sort of person, you might want to read some specialized PHP forums:
If the search comes up with a page which contains a following notification:
Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /home/zungahto/public_html/includes/joomla.php:836) in /home/zungahto/public_html/includes/joomla.php on line 697
you have enough information to be able to find a solution. Let’s try to perform the following search:
site:forums.phpfreaks.com “Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by”
site:sitepoint.com “Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by”
Google comes up with as many as 4,350 and 4,700 results for forums.phpfreaks.com and sitepoint.com respectively, which is one damn mighty pile to browse through. You might want to look through the top 10 and send the links to the discussions you deem appropriate in your message. Another way to go is just simply send the url of the forum so that the recipient could start a new thread for themselves to address their problem exclusively. Of course it’s not an exhaustive solution, but it will give the webmaster something to lean on. If you want to go hardcore though, you can plug in one of your company’s programmers to give advice to the recipient (only I think it should be one hell of a good site to go into such extremities for a link).
Finally, check out this list of common PHP error messages. If you want to proceed with the idea of searching for a specific sort of error, you might want to read this one and then continue on with the search.
Let’s assume I have chosen to proceed with the “use of undefined constant” error. I have some sort of solution already, poor as it is. (It’s in the document provided above). So all you need to do is search for this sort of messages:
“Notice:” “Use of undefined constant” “php on line” intitle:tours
And heeeere we go! 59 results.
Further on, the fact that an error notification has been around long enough for a search engine to index it means that the site is getting seriously out of hand and might have been completely abandoned by the crew, so before sending a message insure in some way that the site is still in business. I do it by performing these steps:
Remember, this is far from precise and I would be glad to hear of any other ideas about how one can discover whether a site has been abandoned or not.
You may also want to check whether there are any other php errors of one sort or another by performing a respective search query modified by the “site” search operator:
site:phperrorsite.com “warning:” [function.” “php on line”
The higher the number of the documents found, the higher the likelihood that the site owners/editors just do not give a rat’s ass about their website and won’t probably respond to your message of good intention.
Now you have ensured that the site is still kept a close watch on by finding out that there is only one document with a php error, which, in its turn, happens to be in some secluded corner of the site and might simply have been missed by the webmaster. There is no excuse for a php error notification right above the header on the main page of a site. I think twice before contacting sites of that sort. Like, how could they have missed that and even gave time for a search engine to index it!?
Well, I guess I have fed you all I had on the subject. Now for the pivotal point – email composing. I guess it’s one of the most popular subjects among SEOmoz blog writers, so I do not want to write something that has been written thousands of times before me. Try to check out the most recent article on the subject (at the time of this writing).
Nevertheless, here is my way of doing business. I hope this example might be of use to someone.
Subject: recipient’s name, I have spotted a problem with your site.
HI, recipient’s name
I was browsing through your site phperrorsite.com out of professional curiosity (I maintain an online hotel reservation site myself) and came upon a page that was obviously getting out of hand:
the url of the page with a PHP error
I understand how tiresome it might be to keep everything in line, so I have attached a document with possible solution to this type of problem as specified in the error notification, “use of undefined variable”, etc problem.
There are also quite a few discussion on the internet pertaining to this problem, check them out if you will:
the link to a thread on PHP Freaks forum on the subject
the link to a thread on SitePoint PHP forum on the subject
However, I would recommend you to start a new thread on one of the forums laying down all the details.
Please drop me a line at your convenience; I would like to know how things worked out for you.
Best of luck with your work!
You could omit some of the stuff like specifying the urls of forum threads. To keep it simple, you could just mention the page with the error and ask them to get back to you. After the reply, you can move on to asking for a little favor. Hopefully, you will be granted one!
Hi again, recipient’s name
I am glad my message was of use to you. I guess we, webmasters, should back each other up when we can. We could learn a lot from each other.
By the way, I got this idea that maybe my hotel reservation services might be of use to some of your visitors. Hotel reservation and tour services go along quite well, don’t you think so?
Please check out my site yoursite.com and if you of the same opinion, kindly add a link to it where you think it would be most appropriate.
I hope I do not impose you. It’s just that it’s so hard to stay on surface these days, if you get my meaning.
Hope to have a word from you soon.
Well, I guess that’s about it. It might not be the best message ever conceived, but it worked fine for me.
A thing to remember: I guess it’s not a good idea to ask for a link in the very first message – wait for a little while in order to establish some sort of connection with the webmaster, and when you feel that you get along quite well – make your pitch.
Remember, if you do not get link – you still get yourself a grateful person who might do you a favor of one sort or another later on. So, not time wasted.
I would be glad to hear any suggestions for improving my messages!
I have been trying to make the point that you should be creative and try different approaches based on something that has been done before. Helping webmasters to keep their site neat and clean is the core here.
So let’s take a look at another method you could use as a reason for contacting webmasters:
Looks familiar, doesn’t it? If you spend eight hours a day on the Internet (as most of us do), it’s something you have seen a lot of times. And you probably know that there is something wrong with the site when you stumble upon something like that. And “that” can be called “directory indexing/browsing enabled in Apache server”.
There is a whole movement of hackers excited about finding sites webmaster of which were reckless enough not to disable this default feature of Apache server. Having this enabled constitutes a great security risk to your website since there are a lot of ways in which the sensitive data could be manipulated. It can be even a lot easier for someone to breach your site if you are one of those guys who has a document with password for all of your accounts. Believe me, there is a lot more of those than you can think.
Besides, it simply looks untidy to find such page in Google results.
There is a system and structure to everything. If you look at a couple of pages like the one on the picture, you will realise that there are constant values which never change. Here is what I use for finding such pages:
intitle:index intitle:of port apache server
The query comes back with 100% relevant results. (OK, let’s say 95% relevant results just to be on the safe side)
But we do not want to contact random sites, do we? Almost all of us involved in a specific kind of business and we want to find sites relevant to it.
Assuming that my own site is dedicated to online hotel reservation, I modify the query as specified below:
intitle:tours intitle:index intitle:of port apache server
I come up with lots of tour sites around the world who have some security issues.
You contact the webmaster (or anybody else involved with the site) and tell them to disable building of directory index by opening the apache config file “httpd.conf” and removing the word “indexes” found in it. After that you can gradually shift to the “quid pro quo” part of the conversation.
July 19th, 2012 @ // No Comments
We work with a lot of different clients here at SEO.com. Some are more prepared to engage in an SEO campaign while some are not prepared at all. It is definitely night and day when you compare the two clients side by side in terms of readiness and results at the end of a campaign. Because of this, I wanted to put together a guide to help businesses of any size begin to prepare themselves to get started with SEO.
If you are going to hire an agency to do your SEO, then you need to be ready to accept them as part of your marketing department. Be ready to share with them insight into your other marketing initiatives so that your agency can help integrate themselves into your team and be working toward fulfilling your department initiatives. When this happens, you will be able to create synergies and accomplish much more as a whole than if you leave your SEO team to fend for themselves.
It’s 2012… almost 2013. If you still think that ranking #1 for a trophy keyword is an online marketing goal, then you probably aren’t ready to engage in SEO. Yes, rankings can be a leading indicator of good things to come, but at the end of the day, if you aren’t growing your business from that number one position, then you probably spent a lot of money and really didn’t get anywhere.
Real online marketing goals should be established before your your hire an in-house SEO or SEO agency. In most cases, I believe that real online marketing goals should be revenue driven. For example, I need to increase online leads by 15%. If I can do that, it will be worth $100,000 in new revenue for me this year. Okay, now we are talking.
Once your have some real goals established, you need to be ready to give up full analytics access. I don’t really care what analytics package you are using (Google, Adobe, Webtrends, Etc), your SEO needs daily insight into what’s happening on your website in order to set a proper SEO strategy and be able to make tweaks throughout the campaign.
If you aren’t willing to give up full access to your analytics data, there is no way your SEO can help you accomplish your goals. At the end of the day, your SEO can take your money and perform work for you, but you aren’t going to get anything out of it… so don’t even bother.
Sharing sales data pretty much goes hand in hand with the point above about giving up full analytics access. Some businesses are really nervous about sharing sales data. I’ve even had clients tell me, “I’m not going to tell you that, I don’t want you to know how much money I’m making from your efforts.” Really? When all is said and done, I don’t care how much money you make as a company or even from my efforts. All I care about is that your SEO efforts are growing your revenue and that you are seeing an ROI… PERIOD!
You don’t have to share your yearly revenue data, but be ready to share how much your products/services cost, what your margins are, and so forth, so that your SEO can put a dollar amount to sales from their efforts.
Your SEO just needs to establish a baseline of where they started and start tracking that each month. So please freely give them the information they need to help you grow your business.
I, along with probably every SEO out there, have worked with a number of clients who are either miseducated about SEO or aren’t up-to-date when it comes to SEO best practices. Nothing can kill an SEO campaign faster than when the client takes everything they’ve read about SEO (even material published five+ years ago) as gospel truth and won’t let their agency apply current best practices because they have a big ego and they “know how to do it.”
To prepare yourself to engage in SEO, you will oftentimes have to check your ego at the door and understand that your agency lives and breathes this stuff all day, every day. They stay current with best practices and will build you a campaign based on your needs.
This point probably ties into the point above about putting your ego aside. When you prepare your business for SEO, you need to be ready to change your website. Your SEO will perform multiple audits including a site optimization audit in which they will provide you a list of improvements that need to be made to your website. Please make these changes and be happy about it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Oh, you can’t change our website, it’s perfect the way it is.” Um, ego check… I also can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed a site optimization recommendations document over to a client and have them not implement it. There’s only so much an SEO can do through off-page efforts. Those efforts have to be married with on-page efforts, so be ready to make those changes!
This point goes along with being ready to change your website. There are a lot of complicated CMS platforms out there that many clients use to run their businesses on. There are also a lot of clients who will only let their I.T. department touch their website code. So when engaging with SEO, you need to be ready to prioritize your I.T. initiatives and be ready to place site structure changes high on the list.
As the search engines continue to put emphasis on fresh, quality, relevant content and the sharing of that content socially, it is more important now than ever before to be ready to blog regularly as an organization. This doesn’t mean just you as the business owner or the marketing manager, this means everyone! Plan on producing at least one piece of content per day that can be published to a blog on your site. Your SEO can help produce some of the content, but should be spending most of their time helping you build a content strategy and editorial calendar instead of doing the actual blogging on your site.
This is a sticking point with a lot of businesses. In most cases, they feel as though they cannot trust their SEO with a company issued email address. This goes all the way back to being part of your marketing department. If you want to be uber successful, you will need to integrate your SEO into your team, that includes giving them an email address.
This email address will mostly be used for link development and content placement outreach. Your SEO can only be somewhat successful using an email address like [email protected] vs [email protected] Imagine if you were a blogger and received an email from [email protected] The blogger is much more likely to engage with the SEO than getting an email from a Gmail address from someone claiming to represent that brand.
Outside of attracting natural backlinks to your amazing content, it is pretty difficult to go out and secure GREAT links for clients. One of the ways to do this is by leveraging current business development efforts and tapping partnership relationships to acquire links. This is something that your SEO cannot do alone.
It requires ample effort between your SEO and your biz dev guy, and possibly, the leader of your sales team. Your SEO will have to get with them to identify opportunity and then work with the individual to do outreach to these contacts. Once acquired, these are the types of links that are very difficult to replicate and also the types of links that drive results FAST!
In closing, in order to prepare your business for SEO, it will require a lot of team work between the client and the SEO. This isn’t a “pass the baton” effort when you can hire an SEO or agency and say, “here you go… good luck!” If you want to grow your business through online efforts, then you’ve got some work to do as well.
If I have left anything out, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.