4 Do It Yourself Local Search Marketing Tips

I’ve been finding alot of uses for SEO lately in the local business arena.  So many small business owners are trying to supplement their marketing efforts by moving online, and many of these owners understand that online search is ‘where it’s at’.

So, because I’m a nice guy  ;-)    I want to reveal a few of the tactics I use to help small businesses succeed in local search:

Getting Started:

First, you’ll want to have a website of course.  Most small businesses already have this covered, and hopefully the site is at least somewhat search engine friendly.  There is alot that goes into this, but generally, if your site is text based, easy to navigate, and has helpful content, you are probably ok.

Next, you need to get it into your head that your website is more than an online business card.  It can work as a marketing tool too.  But this means that you have to commit to developing it (which I’ll touch on in a minute).  If you’re willing to spend the time writing, marketing the site, and networking online, you’ll stand a good chance of turning your local website into a successful business generator.

4 Local Search Marketing Tips For a Local Business Website

1)  Create More Content:

This is a really common tip in the internet marketing industry, but most local business owners don’t realize that they need to spend time writing and developing more valuable content on their sites.  Try to write a few new pages per month for the site.  Having trouble coming up with ideas?  Here are a few:

Martial Arts Studio: Publish up to date class schedules.  Take video of some talented students for the site.

Accountant: Articles on new tax code and how it will effect local tax payers.

Real Estate Agent: Publish up to date market reports on local housing market activity.

Plumber: Post helpful home plumbing tips, or seasonal information about maintaining your home.

Dentist: Publish coupons for certain services and write about proper care of teeth.

Local Marketing Consultant: Publish cases studies on previous successes you’ve had with other clients.

Hardware Store: Post on new inventory, or a new tool or equipment line you carry.

Hair Salon:  Post pictures of recent customers that had styling done.

Those are just a few… hopefully you get the point.  You need to have valuable content on the site in order for local visitors to even consider visiting.  It can also work as a great marketing hook and help you drive more search engine traffic based on all of the new content you are writing about.

2)  Reach Out To a Local Audience:

Surprisingly, this is rarely practiced among most business owners.  In order to be effective locally, you have to connect with a local audience.  This is just as important offline as it is online.  Local networking groups, clubs, chamber of commerce, recreational groups, etc.  All can be effective in getting your name out there.  Online is just as important depending on the size of your target market.  If you live in a location with less than 20,000 people, it may be difficult to find online communities to participate in.  But most of the time, there is alot of opportunity right under your nose in the local online scene…

  • Find local blogs and participate by commenting or writing guest articles.  Try to reach out to the author of the blog for networking or linking opportunities.  (this is where having useful quality content on your website would come in handy)
  • Find local message boards.  Usually the more popular ones will be on a local newspaper website, or a large national community site like Topix or Yelp.  Participate where available and don’t forget to place your website in the signature of your posts.
  • Give something away for free to other local business owners to earn their trust.  Even if you’re not targeting them directly as a customer, chances are they have a significant amount of influence and have their own client bases.  If you can build a solid relationship, they will probably recommend you to others.
  • Reach out locally with sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and any social site that allows you to group together with local people.

3) Get Included in Local Directories

Very few people use the text version of the Yellow Pages anymore.  That market share has been snatched up by search engines, and other sites called IYP’s (Internet Yellow Pages).  These IYP’s are important to be listed on because a large number of people use them to find local business.  And when someone is looking for a local business they are usually in the mood to buy something…

You can start with the major sites like Google Local & Yahoo Local, but you’ll want to move on to some of the others such as:

YellowPages.com

Yellowbook.com

Superpages.com

WhitePages.com

CitySearch.com

There are a host of others, but ths will get you started.  If you’re interested in a service that will create all of these listings for you, try Universal Business Listing.  They will submit to about 40 sites for only $30.

4) Market the Website to Current Customers

The often overlooked audience of potential web marketing is your current customer base. They already know you and your business to some extent.  They trust you, and they are one of your largest sources of new business.

  • Do any of your customers have websites?  If so you should be exchanging links with them and talking about how you can help each other market.
  • Hand out some small cards with your website address, or social networking contact information.
  • Start an email marketing list that continuously offers coupons, special services and reminders.
  • Place your website and calls to action to your website on every piece of marketing material you have.
  • Provide exclusive web content.  Tell people that you have special online only coupons, or some other valuable information that they can only get online.

I hope these tips were helpful.  Keep a look out for a special small business marketing DIY checklist I’ll be publishing soon…

Search Engine Marketing Questions & Answers

SEO Question?Ever had a search engine marketing or optimization question that you wish you could find a specific answer to?  Google is usually a great help in this area, but sometimes you want to put skin on an answer and have a real person answer it.

That is the reason I’ve started the Searching Solutions Q & A. It is a free forum that allows you to post your SEO questions for free.  Super easy.

So please, ask away!  I can help you by answering your questions, and you can help me by helping me get new ideas for articles and help to build the content of my site.

To get started with your questions click Here:

Searching Solutions Search Marketing Q & A

Guidelines:

  • Only one question per person, per week.
  • Please be patient.  Most questions will be answered within 48 hours, but could take longer.
  • Please do not ask questions regarding your specific website (example: “why is my site not ranking for this term?”)
  • Before asking your question, please view the questions below to see if yours has already been answered previously.
  • There is no such thing as a dumb question.

Here are some of the questions that have already been answered:

  1. Does it matter if I use Bold or Italics in my website’s copy?
  2. How can I find out how much traffic my competitor is receiving?
  3. I’m trying to rank well for multiple keyword phrases, and thinking about buying multiple domains for each. Is that a good idea or a bad idea?
  4. With all the different search engines, which ones should I be optimizing for, and which are searched the most often?
  5. Should I be social bookmarking my own articles on sites like Delicious, Digg and Reddit?
  6. My Google Page Rank is currently at a 3. If it changes to a 4 during the next update will I see a spike in rankings?

More Reasons Why Quality Content is Important

Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, you probably realize by now that the best way to market online is through quality content.  By content I mean: articles, posts, pictures, video, etc…  I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the choir when I tell you that putting quality stuff on your website is the best way to market.  But besides from the obvious, why is this the case?

I just want to review a few reasons WHY quality content is important.

People Don’t Care About You And Your Business

I hate to break it to you, but people could really care less about you, your business, and your website.  If I’m going to take the time to visit your website, I want to know what is in it for me.

  • People don’t visit websites just for fun
  • People don’t visit websites because they’re curious
  • People don’t visit websites because they have nothing better to do
  • People don’t visit websites because they can’t help but spend money

PEOPLE VISIT WEBSITES BECAUSE THEY SEE POTENTIAL VALUE.

Think about it.  Why would you visit some random website unless there was actually something valuable for you there.  Give your visitors something real, or at least create the perception of value.

100% Commercial Content = Buzzkill

Nothing can kill a website or blog faster than spammy commercialized content.  We’ve all seen it.  You click a link and find yourself on a website that only talks about how great it is.  In fact, if this website were a person it would have an ego size comparable to Beckham.

No one wants to see a website that is obsessed with self promotion.

Why Building Quality Content is Best For SEO

In case you didn’t know, building authoritative links is one of the best ways to improve your ranking in search engines.  And there are plenty of ways to build those links… but the best way is to write/build/share something on your website that is of true value.  When you do that, people will be much more likely to link to you.

If you create a website that simply talks about how great your company is but doesn’t actually provide anything of value, you shouldn’t expect to get any respect from the internet community.  Traslation: no links.

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Last Thoughts…  If you are one of these companies that have made these errors, there is still hope for you.  Simply create something of value for your website visitors, and stop making people drink from your firehose of self promotion.

firehose of self promotion

Competitive Website Research Analysis | 10 Free Tools

This post is a Re-Mix of a post I wrote in 2006, Formerly called: “How to Scope Out a Competitor’s Website and Learn From It.”

It’s always fun and interesting to check out what your competitors are up to. When you type in a search for your keywords, who comes up? Are your competitors ahead of you or below you? Why? Do you know what kind of traffic they get? Do you know how many links are coming into their site?

Competitive Research

In search engine marketing, competitive research and analysis is everything.  Since search engines are all about ranking, the websites you see in the search engine rankings above and below you are your competitors.  So it’s very helpful to know how to research those competitors to discover how and why they rank the way they do.

10 Free Tools For Researching Your Competitor’s Website

#1.  SpyFu.com

SpyFu is one of my favorites as it can show you how much money a competing website may be spending on pay per click advertisements.  And is also useful to show you which organic keywords may be bringing in the most traffic.  Tool Use Rating: Easy

#2.  SEODigger.com

SEO Digger is a free tool that will show you what keyword phrases different websites rank for.  The ranking database is updated every 2 weeks and is usually very accurate.  This can be a great resource if you’re trying to find out what phrases a competing website ranks for.  They can also be sorted by order of Wordtracker popularity which shows how many times those phrases are searched.  Tool Use Rating: Easy

#3. SEOmoz Tools

If you are already familiar with SEOmoz, you know that they provide a host of tools that can help with SEO.  Many of which can be helpful for competitive website analysis including: SEO Toolbox, Trifecta, Term Target, and their new tool called LinkscapeNote on Linkscape: this tools is definitely for more advanced users, but can be very valuable to search for link data on almost any website.  Tool Use Rating: Ranging from Easy – Difficult

#4. WebsiteGrader.com

The Website Grader is an extremely user friendly site that will give a quick review of any website and show helpful data like: domain age, domain renewal information, meta data, backlinks, onpage factors, traffic, and alot more.  The really helpful thing is that it gives easy to understand explanations if it happens to find any erros on the website.  This is a great tool for discovering basic strengths and weaknesses with any competing website.  Tool Use Rating: Easy

#5. NicheWatch.com

Niche Watch takes a little different approach in that it doesn’t start with a competing website, but with keyword phrases.  You type in a phrase, and it will show you data on the top 20 competitors including backlinks, links to the page, Page Rank, and alot more.  This is a great resource to see info on offsite factors for each website and it can often times give you great insight as to why a site is ranking the way it is.  Tool Use Rating: Moderate

#6. SEO For Firefox

SEO for Firefox is one of the more famous tools of the bunch.  Aaron the creator claims that over 50,000 people are using it.  If you don’t already have Firefox, you may want to consider downloading it just for the purpose of using this great add-on.  When turned on, this tool will show extra data under each Google result after you complete a search.  The data includes useful things like: backlinks, page links, .edu links, pages, domain age, Dmoz, Yahoo Dir, and alot more.  Basically it lets you see why competitors are ranking in the results, and based on the data, it’s usually very easy to see why sites are being ranked the way they are.  Tool Use Rating: Moderate

#7.  Compete.com

Looking for exact traffic numbers for a competitors website?  Too bad, that is priviledged information.  But the next best thing can be found at a site like Compete.com.  They compile data on millions of websites to provide you with fairly accurate traffic analytics, and basic search analytics; like which terms are used the most often to bring search traffic.  It’s about as good as you can get unfortunately.  If you want to compare data try Quantcast and AlexaTool Use Rating: Easy – Moderate

#8. LinkDiagnosis.com

Link Diagnosis is a newer tool that I’ve only been using for a few months.  But I have been extremely impressed so far.  It basically will look at the backlinks of any website and examine the anchor text, Page Rank, quality of link, and number of outbound links on the page and displays it in an easy to read and export format.  It is really sweet for being able to tell how strong incoming links are to any giving website complete with data on NoFollow links.  Tool Use Rating: Moderate – Difficult

#9. SearchRascal.com

Search Rascal is purely a ranking analysis tool that allows you to see who is ranking for any given keyword.  The unique thing about it is that it tracks past ranking and will show whether or not websites have moved up or down in ranking in the last day, week, or month.  It is very handy.  Note: only works for more competitive phrases.  Tool Use Rating: Easy

#10. Google & Yahoo

Believe it or not, Google and Yahoo are a couple of the best tools you have available for competitive analysis.  You just have to know how to use them… Google consistently has the best search results, so make sure you use it the most when trying to search for actual competitors.  If someone is ranking above you in Google, chances are they deserve to be there.  Yahoo is great for searching incoming links to your website.  In fact, almost all the tools above use Yahoo’s data to search for links.  To get an overall picture of how many links are coming in, visit Yahoo Site Explorer, type in your domain name with or without the www, and click on “inlinks”.  This will give you a full picture of your incoming links.  Tool Use Rating: Easy

I hope these 10 free tools will come in handy as you try to learn more about your competition.  Make sure to keep track of your findings, and if you have any questions about how to use any of them, don’t hesitate to contact me.

THE Ultimate Guide To Blogging

I’ve been thinking alot lately about how to provide a single source for people to learn about how to blog effectively without having to jump to 50 different articles on the subject to find what you want.  So, I came up with this half baked idea to provide all the best tips into one post (there are 109 and counting).  Sort of a one stop shop for all the information you’d ever want to know about blogging.

I will be updating this post regularly to make it the most relevant and useful tool on blogging available.  I apologize in advance for the length, but there is simply alot to talk about; I will do my best to be brief and link to outside resources where available.  If you would like to add your own tip, please leave a comment and I will consider adding it to the post (and give you credit of course).

*** Updated 11/10/10 ***

Please consider bookmarking this post and sharing it with others:

Contents:

  • Tips For Getting Started
  • Basic Blog Formatting & Structure
  • Blog Design & Features
  • Blog Content Tips
  • Blog Participation
  • Blog & Article Promotion Tips
  • SEO For Blogs
  • Blog Link Building
  • Social Media

Tips For Getting Started With Blogging:

  • Track Your Analytics – I’m a huge fan of Google Analytics, but sitemeter can work for the more basic user.  Tracking all this data can be huge for SEO efforts, and help to give you benchmarks on traffic, pageviews, and search traffic.
  • Sign Up For Webmaster ToolsGoogle Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, and MSN Webmaster Center.  All of these can give you great insight into crawl data, errors, strong pages, keyword data, and alot more.  It’s like looking through a window into the secret search engine world… albeit a bit cloudy.
  • Register On Blog Directories – This is the classic first step when setting up a new blog or website.  Get on some relevant directories.  Since you have a blog, blogging directories would be appropriate here.
  • Get on Dmoz, Yahoo, and BOTW – Yes, there is a small financial investment here, but it’s worth it.  These will all help you build trust with the search engines.  When you submit to Dmoz, only do it once, and don’t write about your site like you’re writing an advertisement.
  • Claim Your Blog on Technorati – Go to Technorati.com and register.  Simple.
  • Use An RSS Reader – As a blogger, you’re an RSS publisher.  Because of that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with an RSS reader and get used to the technology.  Beyond that, it’s a great way to process alot of information quickly and will help you progress as a blogger.
  • Naked?  Put On Your Avatar - Register for the following:  Gravatar.com, Mybloglog.com, Blogcatalog.com, Yahoo Avatar, Blogger.com, WordPress.com.
  • Don’t Blog For Someone Else – Let me explain… there is nothing wrong with participating on industry blog sites like Activerain.com.  But don’t use them as your primary outlet.  It may be a great way to promote your articles, and network with other people, but you need a voice of your own on… a web property that you own.  When you write for a blog network site, you are giving away the rights to that content… read the fine print!
  • Have a Launch Party – Email everyone you know, send out cards, tell everyone you meet… the launch should be BIG.  Make sure you build up a decent amount of articles before you open the doors.  Your first big push (if done properly) should be able to secure many subscribers and create a buzz in your industry for at least the first couple of months.
  • Create an About Page or Mission Statement – Every blog needs a purpose.  There is nothing worse than going to a blog and not being able to figure out why it exists.  Make your purpose clear, and introduce yourself properly so readers understand the direction you want to take them in.
  • Build Core Relationships – Find 10 experts in your industry, and do what you can do to get to know them.  Comment on their blogs, participate on social media, interview them, write about them, call them, and work on building meaningful relationships.  These are the people that will help to grow your blog.
  • Write Your Brains Out - When you start, it is extremely important to build a base of content.  Try for 5 new posts per week for the first 3 months.  That will give you roughly 60 articles to work with and a good base to build from.  After the first 3 months, write at a pace that is comfortable for you.
  • Build Basic Directory Links – This can be a daunting task, but it’s completely necessary in order to build some basic links and trust with the search engines.  Here are some links to some lists of directories and tips:  From: Blogger Buster, From: Search Engine Journal, From Searching Solutions: Article #1, Article #2
  • Setup Google Alerts – This is a very simple way of finding out who is saying what about you or the blog.  Setup alerts for your blog name, company name, blog url, and anything else you want to be notified of.  Also, read this post on how to find new customers through Google Alerts.
  • Read The Best “How to Blog” blogs – In my opinion, these blogs have the best information about learning how to blog effectively… in no particular order: Problogger.net, Real Estate Tomato, CopyBlogger.com, ihelpyoublog.com,

Basic Blog Formatting & Structure:

  • Learn How to Make a Blog Post Pretty – There is nothing worse than a poorly formatted blog post with alignment problems, multiple fonts, poor use of bolded text etc.  Practice aligning pictures, and previewing posts before you publish.
  • Proofread – I’m as guilty as anyone in this area…  Spelling AND grammar.  Frankly, it makes you look like a dork when you mipsel wrds in a poast.
  • Use Complimentary Pictures – As opposed to uncomplimentary… think about how a picture can actually add value to an article.  What does that picture communicate to the reader?  Is it valuable, or is it just wasting space.
  • Learn a bit of html – There are great wysiwyg editors on most blog platforms these days, but a basic knowledge of html will save you in some instances when your editor is being uncooperative.  I still struggle with line breaks in WordPress… argh!  Focus on basic things such as: bold, headings, hyperlinks, spacing, breaks, etc.  Need help?  Try this html tutorial site
  • Choose Your Categories Wisely – For most blogs, categories act as a sort of table of contents.  Try to stay under 15 if you can and use them as an outline to stay on topic.
  • Subtitles are Crucial – Big blocks of text are the last thing people want to read online.  Even if it’s the best article ever written, people will still only scan it to find what they are looking for.  Try to break things up by using subheadings (H2-H4).  Don’t go more than 10 lines without breaking it up.
  • Create Lists & Use Bullet Points – The list post is a classic way to catch readers attention.  One of the reasons they are so popular online is because they are easy to digest.  The same can be true of bullet points.  If you can condense your ideas into small chunks, your readers will thank you.
  • Fewer Words – Don’t use 10 when 7 will do.
  • Titles Are Your Most Important Asset - Yes, you heard me right.  Titles can make or break a blog.  Not only is it the first thing people see on the page, but it is typically the first thing people see in search engines as well when they find that post.  Titles have implications with: search engine ranking, click through rates, clickability, readership, subscriptions, popularity, sharing, bookmarking, and more.  The perfect title will capture the attention of an audience by using emotionally charged words, and also include relevant keywords to help you rank higher in the search engines.  Check out Brian Clark’s blog for ideas.  His titles are so good it’s almost sickening…
  • Hold Off On Advertisements – Some new bloggers are gung-ho to throw adsense and banners all over their blogs thinking that somehow it will help supplement their efforts.  But this is rarely the case.  I suggest at least a few hundred subscribers before launching an ad campaign.  The last thing you want to do is turn off potential readers with intrusive ads.
  • Ditch Your Blogroll – The traditional blogroll appears in the sidebar of your blog… which in turn appears on every page of your blog… bad.  If you can’t help but create a large list of your blogging peeps, create a single page.  Your internal Page Rank will thank you.
  • Set Up Keyword Rich URL Slugs – Some people will argue that using a URL with an ID number is better for usability, such as: http://yoururl.com/post/1234   But I suggest using a keyword rich slug that matches the title of the post.  Not only will this improve click throughs in search engines, but it will also help identify your hyperlinks.
  • Can’t Help But To Monetize Through Advertisements? – A couple tips ago, I suggested holding off on advertising, but if you simply can’t help yourself, there is alternative.  Try some affiliate marketing.  This is a super easy way to make money from the sites that you are probably already linking to.  Simply sign up for the affiliate program, and when you create links in your posts to different services/products, make sure to include the affiliate code so you make some money if that person converts.  This can also work well sprinkled throughout an email newsletter.
  • Include Relevant Pictures in Posts – Pictures and visual elements can speak volumes by themselves in a blog post
  • Editing Pictures – Of Course Photoshop or Photo Elements are good choices, but if you’re technically challenged in this area (like me), try an online tool like: picnik.com, or a simple editing and screen capture tool like Snag it.
  • Finding The Best Pictures for Posts – I prefer to use a site like istockphoto.com where you pay a small amount as a license fee per photo.  But there are plenty of ways to get free pictures too.  Read this post about licensing before you go “borrowing” pictures from Google Image search.

Blog Design & Features:

  • Create a Best Post List – This is an awesome way to help promote some of your best work.  There are some posts that will become a legacy so to speak.  Your “Pillar” posts that people will come back to again and again.
  • Use a Favicon – These are those cute little icons that appear next to the URL in your browser and on bookmarks.  They are simply a neat way to brand your site, and I find that they can become quite memorable over time.
  • Social Bookmarking Options – Social bookmarking is becoming pretty commonplace in the blogging world.  Giving people options in this area can really help.  I prefer using the plugin called Share This, but there are a host of other plugins that do something similar.
  • Include Useful Widgets – I’m not a huge fan of widgets because they slow down blogs, and are rarely useful, but in some industries there are some very user friendly widgets that can add alot of value.  Make sure you think of the reader first, and not just how “cool” a widget is.
  • Publish Full Feeds – It is a well known fact that post people prefer to see the full version of your article in their RSS reader and email.  Don’t truncate to try to snag extra traffic… you’ll just end up annoying your readers.  Give them full access on their own terms.
  • Setup A Proper XML Sitemap – This is a basic plugin for WordPress.  If you don’t have WordPress, you can great a basic page that simply links to all of your posts and important pages.  Make sure to use relevant anchor text.
  • Update Your Design – Blog feeling a bit stale?  I feel that way about every 2 weeks.  If you haven’t changed your design in over a year, it may be time for a snazzy new design.  If you have the dough, get a custom design or at least a premium theme.  Even the simplest design changes can make a huge difference.
  • Call to Action | Related Articles Section – This is vital for any blog.  Make sure you have a section somewhere on each post (typically near the bottom) that lists articles related to the current one.  This can really improve page views, length of visit, stickiness, and overall usability.
  • Call to Action | Email Subscription – Every blog should have an easy way to subscribe.  For your technically challenged readers, the easiest way is through an email subscription form.  You can use a link, but a form looks so much nicer.  Go to the email management area on your Feedburner account to find the html for this form.
  • Call to Action | Connect on Social Media – Are you a Facebook, Myspace or Twitter user?  Make sure you give an invitation to connect via these sites.
  • Call to Action | Social Bookmarking – If you ask nicely, your readers and friends just may help you social bookmark your posts on sites like Digg and Stumble Upon.  This is good.  Giving them easy options can make it a painless process for them.
  • Call to Action | Extra feature – Have any extra features on your site?  Many real estate based blogs will have a MLS search feature built in.  If you have a valuable tool or service on your site, make sure to call attention to it often.
  • Call to Action | “The Classic” - Sometimes only a direct in your face call to action will work.  Not always appropriate for every post or every situation, but your phone number, email, and contact forms are all examples of the “classic” call to action.
  • Calls to Action | Where Do They Go? – Most calls to action will fit nicely into the bottom section of a blog post, but you can be creative.  If you can sprinkle them throughout a post without sounding too commercial, you’re in good shape.  The goal?  Try to include at least 2 calls to action in each post.

Blog Content Tips:

  • Pick a Niche – What is no one else writing about?  What are you an expert in?  Grab your corner of the web and hang on to it.  Set out to create the most useful and unique content in your area of expertise.  Adversely, you could find a topic alot of people are blogging about, and simply out-blog them.  Bottom line: pick something you can write alot about, and try to pick something you’ll enjoy.
  • Create a Slideshow – Too many pictures for one post?  Make a slide show.  They add a very nice feel to any post.  I like using slide.com, but nearly every photo sharing website has a slideshow creating feature.
  • Interview Other Bloggers In Your Industry – This can be a great way to meet people, give your website some clout, and build great content.  Try a simple email questionnaire or invest in a recorder for podcasts.
  • Hunt For RSS Feeds to Find Topics – One of the best ways to find topics to write about is through following what other bloggers have to say.  Pay special attention to the sites that are in your niche.
  • Find Insider Topics With RSS – Blogs aren’t the only sites that use RSS.  But most people subscribe to the top level RSS feeds and ignore the good stuff.  Hunt around for specialized RSS feeds.  Try subscribing to a tag feed in Delicious, subscribing to a special topic on a press release site, or subscribing to a single category of interest on a popular blog.
  • Write 5-10 Pillar Articles – The post you are reading right now could be considered a pillar article.  They are blog posts that are at least 500 words and help define the blog you write for.  It is a long term strategy for building links, visitors, and value to a blog.
  • Keep Track of Ideas - Most bloggers tend to one extreme or the other.  Too much to write about, or not enough.  You want to be the kind that has too much to write about… that way you can be extremely selective and only write the good stuff.  The best way to do this is to write your ideas down as they come.  I personally use a notebook gadget with Google desktop, and also write ideas down on my phone when they come.  The point is to keep the ideas coming and have lots of options to choose from when it comes time to actually write.  Good bloggers will only use about 1 in 10 ideas.
  • Hold Posts in Reserve - Sometimes the creative juices are really flowing and you can’t help but write 3 or 4 posts in one sitting.  But fight the urge to publish everything at once.  You may want to reserve posts for a later date when the writing isn’t coming so easy.  This can really work well if you don’t write alot of time sensitive posts that need to go out immediately.
  • Consistency & Frequency is Key – When famous blogger Darren Rowse asked his audience the biggest reasons why readers unsubscribe from blogs the #1 and #2 answers had to do with frequency.  Posting too much, or not posting enough.  This is huge.  You need to set a standard with your readers and stick with it so they know what to expect.  Do you post 3 times a day?  twice a week? twice a month?  There is no magic number… just make a decision, then make a commitment to stick with it.  Going on vacation?  Post date a post to be published while you’re gone… yes, it’s that important.
  • ReWrite An Old Post – I just did this recently with some success on this post: Competitive Website Resarch.  Chances are you have some great content that may just need a little sprucing up or updating to be a great post.
  • Write a Series on a Topic – Looking for a way to get readers to come back for more?  Try breaking a long post into 2 or 3 sections and linking them all together.  You could also try posting within a time frame like week long series on a particular topic, or 1 tip a day for 30 days.  Keep your readers hungry for more.
  • Make a List of Your Posts – This seemingly simplistic tip can really come in handy when you’re working on linking to related articles, building internal link juice, staying on topic, and keeping track of your goals.  A simple spreadsheet of all the articles you’ve written so far can help tremendously.
  • Take Pictures & Share – Many bloggers are in industries that lend nicely to photography.  If this works for your industry, make sure to capitalize on it.  Take alot of pictures of your subject/topic/product.  Set up an account on Flickr.com and join groups that relate to your subject.  You may also want to consider showing off these pictures in your sidebar with a widget, or by creating a slide show.
  • Leverage Your Friendships on Social Media - This can be a great way to get ideas for a post.  Try running a poll, asking advice, etc.  Before you post, try sending out a quick message on Twitter or Facebook to get feedback on a topic you are thinking about writing.  If they give you some good tips, make sure to credit them in the post.
  • Create a Video Post – This isn’t actually as daunting as it sounds.  There are plenty of cheap digital video cameras out there that take great video, and will upload to your computer and to video sharing websites without any editing or converting.  Try getting the help of an assistant, practice staring into the lens when you talk, don’t feel embarrassed, and invest in a small tripod.  Before putting it on the blog, you’ll want to upload it to a video sharing website.  I prefer Vimeo because of the quality, but Youtube and Google Video can work great too.  Oh, and if you have time, transcribe the video into a text version.

Blog Participation:

  • Return Comments – It’s common courtesy.  Not necessarily expected… but it will go a long way in building relationships with other bloggers, and show them that you care.
  • Answer Your Comments – This is expected.  Especially when someone asks you a question.  There is nothing that can kill the conversation on a blog faster than the author ignoring commenters.
  • Turn on Trackbacks – This will give the other bloggers that choose to link to your posts a benefit and show them that you’re not afraid to link out to them and share the love.
  • Have Feedburner Deliver Your RSS FeedFeedburner is in desperate need of updating, but it’s still the best tool out there to track your feed statistics, customize your feed, and have it delivered by email.
  • Allow Email Subscriptions – Make sure these are turned on with Feedburner.  Alternatively you can sign up for a service like Feedblitz.  Either way, this is a vital part of any blog and will help the technically challenged readers subscribe with ease.
  • Comment Reciprocation – Teaming up with another blogger to comment on each other’s blogs can be a great way to build some credibility and show your readers that your blog is active.  There’s nothing worse than have a page full of posts with no comments.  It can kill morale, and drive readers away.
  • Extra Blog Features – This can be anything from a message board to a Q&A to a job board.  There are alot of different features you may want to consider adding that will enhance the participation on the blog.
  • Ask a Question – One of the simplest ways to get people to comment is to ask a question.  It’s like giving an open invitation to participate.
  • Make a Guerrilla Comment – This is the art of being the first person to comment on a popular blog.  The first commenter will typically get very good visibility and traffic from a well visited blog, and will continue to generate long term traffic on some posts.

Blog & Article Promotion Tips:

  • Link To Other Blogs – This is huge.  Especially when getting started, linking to other blog posts on outside blogs can get really get things jump started.  Most bloggers will stand up and take notice when another blogger links to them, and this can be a great way to build relationships, and get the word out.
  • Submit a Guest Article – Classic way to get incoming links, readers, and traffic to your site.  Especially when submitted to popular blogs.  I find that these have real staying power and can effectively work for you over the long term.
  • Participate in a Blog Carnival or Contest – A no brainer.  Super easy, usually little competition, and fun.  Go to BlogCarnival.com to find one in your industry.
  • Ping Your Blog – This can be set up automatically if you use Feedburner, but for those of you that prefer to do it manually, Pingoat, and Pingomatic are the way to go.
  • Syndicate An Article – Try a site like Ezine Articles.  This can be a great way to get your post shared and help to build links.
  • Put on Your Own Contest – This is surprisingly easy to do and can be very fun.  If it’s your first time, try teaming up with some other bloggers to help you promote it and administrate.  Make sure the prizes are decent to capture people’s attention, and create a button for the contest winners so you can get some incoming links.
  • Publish a Press Release – Press releases can be great tools as long as they are about something actually newsworthy.  The trick is to write/launch/publish something that actually IS worthy of a press release, otherwise you’re just blowing smoke.  Try PRweb
  • Write a White Paper – Think of a white paper as a mission statement.  When your industry has a problem, or needs innovation… write a white paper about how you propose to change it or solve the problems.  People these days treat white papers like regular articles because the concept has been so watered down.  But if you write a truly quality paper that speaks to your industry and provides real value people will stand up and take notice.  Try Michael Stelzner’s blog for tips.
  • Offer Something Free For Registering To Your Email Newsletter - This is your classic give and take.  Offer something valuable enough for someone to sign up for your email newsletter.
  • Maintain a Separate RSS Email & Newsletter List - You’ll always have your RSS email subscriber list, but consider starting a separate email newsletter list that offers more flexibility, and isn’t bound by the content being published on the blog.  This is where you can email a monthly post roundup, offer special promotions, and customize at your discretion.  I’ve personally had success with Constant Contact.
  • Give Away A Free Pdf E-book – People love free stuff, and an e-book full of “secrets” will keep people coming back.  Make sure to create a special download landing page that describes what people are getting and gives people an opportunity to share and link to your freebie.

SEO For Blogs:

  • Block Duplicate Content – With the nifty All In One SEO pack for WordPress, you can easily set your category and archive pages to be noindex/follow… meaning that Google will follow the links to the individual articles, but not index those pages which will help guard against the duplicate content problem.  For those of you not running WordPress, try turning off your archives, and not placing posts in more than one category.  Read more about: Multiple categories & Onsite Duplicate Content.
  • Keyword Research Before You Post – This little tactic has helped me tremendously.  Before you get ready to hit publish, run the keyword phrase that you used in your title through a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Tool.  You may often find that with just a slight variation, you’ll be targeting phrases that get a higher volume of searches.  For more help on keyword research, read this post I wrote about the money tail.
  • Internal Link Juice – In order to properly pass Page Rank, and link value to deep pages of your site (like older blog posts), you’ll want to link to these posts often.  This can be achieved through a related posts section, or by simply linking back to previous articles as resources.  Sometimes a few basic internal links with proper anchor text can have a great effect on that page’s ranking.  Andrew Shotland gave a great tip related to this when I interviewed him about local search marketing.
  • Keep Your Link Count Down – This can be a problem with some
  • blogs… too many links on one page.  It can water down your internal Page Rank, and cause problems with full indexing.  Generally, try to keep the number of links on a single page below 100.  Google has said that it may not crawl any links past the 100 mark.  So be careful with your categories, archives and blogrolls.  These are the things that can eat up your links fast especially on the home page and category page.
  • Use Unique Titles For Blog Posts – Diversify your ranking potential by using unique titles on blog posts.  I’ve written about this topic extensively here: Keyword Cannibalization.
  • Each Post is a Ranking Opportunity – View each post you write as a new opportunity to rank for a unique keyword phrase.  Each post has it’s own content, title, title tag, and URL slug making it a prime candidate for unique ranking for certain phrases.  Don’t try to target the same phrases over and over in each post.
  • Use Heading Tags – Not only is this important for usability, it’s vital for search engine ranking.  If you are targeting a phrase in the title of the post, try to incorporate that phrase somewhere in the post within a heading tag.  This will also break up the article nicely and make it easier to read.
  • Label Pictures Properly – Each picture should include the tag that can be used to describe a picture with text.  Be descriptive, but try to also include keyword phrases that you are targeting.
  • The Perfectly Targeted Post - When you are attempting to rank a post well, you must do the following: 1. Identify a keyword phrase  2. Place the phrase in the post title towards the front  3. Place the phrase in the first sentence of the post  4. Use at least one subheading in the post that includes the phrase  5. Place the phrase in any images on the page using the alt tage.  6. Let the phrase flow naturally throughout the post.
  • Write a Linkbait Post – This is a post that is written for the sole intention of building more links to the website through viral popularity and interest.  It could be something funny, something controversial, a hoax, insider news, a free resource, and more.  Just about anything can be linkbait if it ends up getting other people to link to you.
  • Create Link Clusters – Each post has it’s own keyword phrase ranking potential in the search engines (usually based on the keywords used in the title and body).  Create extra links to pages like this in clusters.  Example:  you have a post that is targeting: “blue widgets”.  Create 10 links to that post from other related articles with that exact anchor text as the link: “blue widgets”.  This can dramatically increase the ranking of that page for the chosen keyword phrase.
  • Leverage Strong Pages – Every website has a few strong pages.  Usually these are the most popular posts that have the most incoming links and comments.  These pages can be leveraged to help build the authority of other pages on the site that may not be performing to their full potential.  Link generously.  Try using this tool for finding your strongest pages.
  • Monitor 404 Error Statistics – Using Google Analytics and Google webmaster tools can help identify error statistics.  Keep your eye 404 errors for pages that get consistently accessed.  It probably means that there is an old link to that page that is bringing traffic to it.  You’ll want to set up a 301 redirect for the 404 error page, or talk to the webmaster of the other site to have them change the link to a working page.
  • Check Status of Outgoing Links – Many times the pages we link to get moved, taked offline, etc.  It’s important that all of your outgoing links work properly so your readers can be taken to outside resources that actually work.  Try this dead link checking tool.
  • Find Missed Link Opportunities – Many times, your company or website can be referenced online without the actual hyperlink.  It can be an effective strategy to find these references and ask the webmaster to turn them into a link.  Use this query to find pages with these references.

Blog Link Building:

  • NEW!! – Blog Directories – First find any blog directories in your niche… then submit to the top 20, and to BOTW.
  • NEW!!Wikipedia – Find a couple of articles in Wikipedia that you can write intelligently about, and that are relevant to your blog.  Then, create a related article on your own blog.  Then, link to this article from the resource section in the Wikipedia article.  Make sure you take your time and make it truly resourceful.
  • NEW!!Get a .edu Link – Lots of ways… 1) Become an adjunct professor at your local city college. 2) Sponsor an event put on by a local school.  3) Look for an admissions page at your local college; many times they will have a local resources page you can get listed on.  4) Make friends with a teacher and shamelessly ask them for a link to one of your informational pages.  5) Create content that can be used in a class being taught locally and make the teacher aware of that content.
  • NEW!!Link Generously to Other bloggers – Pick out 20-30 other relavant blogs and link to them throughout a few of your articles.  They will see this link, and will often return the favor.  You will increase your chances of success by building a relationship with this other blogger through social media, commenting, and phone conversations.
  • NEW!!Links From Local Businesses – The best way to get links from local businesses is through relationships and flattery.  Create a simple links page that links to local resources including local businesses.  Then, contact each business, introduce yourself, and tell them that you linked to their website because you liked it so much.  Then, if the opportunity presents itself, ask for a link in return.  Better yet, write a complete article about the business or interview them.  They will almost always give you a link in return.  Link exchanges can also work well.  Check out the links on this local page for some examples: Loveland home inspection
  • NEW!!The Email Interview – Create a short list of questions you want to ask the top bloggers in your industry.  Then contact each one and ask if they wouldn’t mind answering each question through an email that you will post on your site.  You will get links from others in your industry that enjoy the informative post, and from the interviewees themselves.
  • NEW!!Make a List of the Top Bloggers – Create the definitive list of the top bloggers in your industry.  If it’s been done before, pick an angle like:  “The Top 50 New bloggers of 2009″, or “The Top 50 Most Subscribed Bloggers”.  This will create links from multiple directions including from the blogs you link to.
  • NEW!!Make a List of the Top Posts – Similar to the above… create a monthly or yearly roundup of the best posts in your industry.

Social Media:

  • Photo Sharing – Take your own photos for your blog?  Upload everything to a sharing website like Flickr or Photobucket.  This can bring significant traffic to your blog over time.
  • Twitter – This is a highly addictive tool/site/community.  It’s great for meeting new bloggers, solidifying relationships, and promoting articles.  Try TwitterFeed.com which takes each blog post you write and automatically publishes it on Twitter for you.  By the way, do you follow me?  @justinnerd
  • Go to a local Twitter or Blogger Meetup – There’s nothing like social networking in person.  These meetups can instantly solidify a budding online relationship and turn it into something beautiful like a blogging partnership.  Meeting in person can open up some huge doors… don’t be shy.
  • Attend a Conference – The next best thing to a meetup is a conference.  Many people go for the purpose of networking, and you’ll find that most people are down to earth even though they may seem untouchable at times online.  People such as: Rand Fishkin, Matt Cutts, Matt McGee, Seth Godin, and Chris Brogan just to name a few…
  • Network with Local Bloggers – You’ll likely find that local bloggers are very receptive to networking.  Even if they aren’t blogging about your industry there is value in the local relationships as they can lead to links and sticky traffic since local visitors seem to be more inclined to participation.  Make sure you have ways to connect with local people on the blog like a twitter feed, local photo feed, or GPS feed on your about page or sidebar.
  • Participate In Social BookmarkingCredit: Carol Cohen – Social bookmarking sites were born out of the social web content explosion that has happened over the last few years.  There is so much great content out there, and a social bookmarking site is a great way to share it, and make it known to a wider audience.  Leveraged properly, sites like Delicious, Digg, and StumbleUpon can provide boat loads of traffic, links, and subscribers.

***  Updated 11/10/10  ***


And it just keeps on growing… please comment if you have a tip you’d like to share (I’ll give you credit and a link).

    Come back soon for more tips!

Searching Solutions provides Denver Search Engine Optimization Services

Castle Rock SEO

Podcast: Matt McGee From Small Business Search Marketing

Click Here to Listen to this Podcast:

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I was very fortunate today to be able to speak with Matt McGee, a SEO industry expert that writes primarily about small business and local search marketing topics. Matt’s most well known blog is the Small Business Search Marketing Blog but he also writes on a blog called Hyper Local Blogger that gives tips on marketing smaller niche blogs focused on local areas.

Matt has always seemed to be a really down to earth kind of guy, and it was really great to get him on the phone and discuss some of the success he’s had with his local blogs, and hear some tips on social networking and social media based SEO.

Here are some things I brought away from the interview…

Social Media and Participation

  • Matt hasn’t spend a huge amount of time on traditional SEO for his 4 hyperlocal real estate blogs in regards to link building.  It sounds like he has had more success with social media participation.  He shared a story about how he shot some local video of a minor league baseball game that featured a draft pick for the Colorado Rockies.  After shooting the video, he contacted some bloggers in Colorado to see if they would be interested in the video, and shortly thereafter, they featured his video and linked to his blog.  He seems to have focused more on building unique content that people want to share as a link building technique.
  • He shared another tip for local blogging that included participating on photo sharing websites like Flickr that have small internal local groups.  His blogs have received a decent amount of traffic from these groups, and because the people are local, he has a great opportunity to build local relationships.
  • I found it interesting that Matt isn’t a huge fan of syndicating content or writing on social networking type websites since those websites are not an asset that he owns.  He prefers to stick with building quality content and value on his own sites.  In the conversation I used the example of Activerain, and I completely understand his viewpoint.  For one thing… you can write great content for a site like Activerain, but customers on the site can be on someone else’s profile within 2 clicks.  And all the while, you are only helping to build the value and authority of their domain name.

Tips on Finding Blog Content & Managing Your Time as a Blogger

  • Matt had some great tips on finding good local content: subscribe to local RSS feeds for newspapers, news sites and tv stations.  School district websites, utility companies, chamber of commerce, visitor’s bureau, local periodicals, etc.
  • Create a calendar for local events, and attend the events to get pictures and video
  • Matt writes at a furious pace, and the best tip he had to improve time management was to simply set a realistic goal for yourself for a certain number of posts per week.

Starting a local blog as a place for local conversation, information and events

  • The local blogs Matt started were purposely not attempting to be a blatant marketing tool, but a place where the community could come to get information, news, and join in a local conversation.
  • It is refreshing to see a model like this that focuses more on quality information instead of trying to shove a marketing message down someone’s throat.
  • Matt does have plans to transition the blogs to become more of a marketing tool once the sites have a decent amount of subscribers and readership built up.

Thank you again Matt for the interview!

If you enjoy articles about local blogging, you will really enjoy this short series by Matt:

The Value of Social Networking Relationships

This video post is all about why it’s important to build relationships online.


The Value of Social Networking Relationships from Justin Smith on Vimeo.
Social Networking is such a huge topic these days, but I don’t find many people that truly understand the value behind building online relationships.  Most people I meet are sort of haphazardly participating on these social networking sites and have a basic understanding of their value, but don’t really get the point.

This video attempts to explain that much of the value of networking online comes with tapping into a wider audience.