Video Tutorial: Practical Competitive Keyword Research

In this video, I talk about a couple of simple ways you can find out how popular a keyword phrase is, and the general level of competition.  This is done through Google’s keyword research tool, and a simple check of the titles in the Google results for that query.  By the way, here are a couple of sample search queries that may help you along the way:

  1. “my keyword phrase”  (your phrase placed in quotes)
  2. intitle:”your keyword phrase”
  3. inurl:”your keyword phrase”

Hope you enjoy the video!


Practical SEO Competitive Research from Justin Smith on Vimeo.

New Search Engine Long Tail Statistics

Hot off the press… Hitwise just published updated statistics on long tail queries and search engine market share. Have a look!

Search Engine Long Tail Statistics

*** Based on the percentage changes above, we can see that long tail searches are dominating on the search engines.  People are starting to realize that they can get better results on more descriptive phrases.  If there was ever a case to create more descriptive content, this is it!!!

Search Engine Market Share Stats

*** This table shows Google’s continuing dominance.  The most surprising stat here is the 15% decline in Yahoo’s market share!  That is a huge drop in just a year.  The search engine wars are officially over and a clear winner has emerged.

What does this mean for you and your business??  Well if you read this blog regularly, it doesn’t mean much.  You are prepared, because I’ve always been a major proponent of quality conent and lots of it.  Keep writing those descriptive articles, keep creating valuable content, and pay close attention to this blog…  there are some changes afoot with the Google algorithm, and you’ll want to be paying close attention…  STAY TUNED!!

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…

Podcast Interview: Lorelle VanFossen – WordPress & Blogging Expert

Click Here to Listen to this Podcast:

[display_podcast]

 

I had the great pleasure of being able to interview Lorelle VanFossen yesterday afternoon.  For those of you that are not aware of her work, you can head on over to Lorelle on WordPress.  She is considered to be one of the top blogging and WordPress experts in the world and can be regularly seen keynoting at large blogger conferences such as WordCamp, and SOBcon.

The podcast is quite long for an interview, so I won’t be able to transcribe the entire thing, but I will hit a few of the key points here.

  • 0:58 – Lorelle launched one of the first websites in ’94 – Taking Your Camera On The Road
  • 2:10 – Lorelle as one of the early adopters of WordPress just after the 1.2 release.
  • 4:45 – Development of early coding, plugins, and early testing.
  • 5:10 – WordPress 1.5 and the launch of modular themes making design incredibly easy.
  • 5:50 – Alpha testing WordPress.com based on the WordPress MU.
  • 6:31 – Creating a blog network using the MU (New York Times, REI, and many other companies currently using WordPress MU)
  • 7:52 – “blogs are not to be replaced by Facebook or Myspace, they are your online business card and resume.  They speak very loudly for who you are, what  you do, and what you’re offering to the world whether it’s your opinion, your product, or your service.”
  • 8:40 – Discussing the number of websites that run WordPress, and the difficulty measuring downloads versus installations.
  • 12:50 – Plug for the WordPress Sandbox Theme as a structurally sound theme that acts as a blank canvas.
  • 13:35 – “micro-formats are very critical to the future of the semantic web”
  • 15:43 – Lorelle’s prediction for 2009: “Alot of development in comment WordPress plugins”
  • 16:25 – “The Captcha is dead – if you have a captcha comment system on your site, kill it.  People are seeing it, and not commenting”.
  • 17:25 – Video commenting, image uploads, more integration with microblogging; Twitter, etc.
  • 18:05 – Biggest prediction for 2009: consolidate online administration, monitoring, and management of online tools.  Better monitoring, and tracking.
  • 19:02 – New social networking platform theme: BuddyPress
  • 20:38 – Tips for new bloggers:

“You can’t get anywhere without a plan; my tip is multi-fold…”

  1. Write down all the words that describe what you want to write about (what you want to write about, what you want people to search for, etc.)  25-50 words
  2. Narrow the list down to 5-10 words.  These should ultimately describe what you are going to write about, and will become your categories
  3. Write a minimum of 5 blog post titles for each of the 5-10 categories (these are poswts that you could write immediately.  You have the concept, the material, the ideas, in your head already)
  4. “As you’re working through your list, you will naturally gravitate towards the things that are inherently important to you, and not just the things ‘I think I should be doing’.  If you find yourself struggling to find just 5 articles per category, then don’t blog about it.”

This is just a sample of some of the great tips Lorelle has to offer from her book: Blogging Tips – What bloggers won’t tel you about blogging.  Make sure to check it out!

Thank you again Lorelle for your time.  I am genuinely thankful for the time you gave for the interview.

Make sure to check out Lorelle on these sites as well:

** Lorelle On WordPress

** Camera On The Road

**

**

4 Internet Marketing Statistics You Should Know

More reasons to rely on organic SEO…

  • When Internet users look for information, services or products to buy, more than 8 out of 10 rely on search engines, not simple surfing.
  • 85% of these searchers don’t click on paid links.
  • 63% of links that are naturally displayed at the top of search engines get clicks.
  • Over the last year, Pay-per-click (PPC) costs have grown 37%, and they go on rising.

The 5 Step Website Error Checkup

Probably the most common request I get in the SEO field is: “Can you check my website for errors and problems?”.  People often seem to be paranoid that there may be some feature of their websites causing the ranking to suffer, or that some secret piece of code is hurting their ranking ability.  Usually this paranoia is unfounded, and they simply need better content, more links, etc.

But in some cases, I’ve found that there can be problems with sites that hurt the ranking.  Usually these have to do with the ability of a search spider to crawl a site.  I call this “Search Engine Friendliness”.

The Most Common Website Errors

The most common errors that lead to search engine ranking problems are:

  • Use of flash and java – the search engines can’t read text that appears in these website features.
  • Error in robots.txt – some site developers try to get fancy with this to allow or disallow certain search engine spiders but often make mistakes causing the site to turn away the search engines.
  • Use of noindex in the meta tag section is meant to tell search robots not to index the page.  This is usually not intentional unless there is a developer that doesn’t know any better.  I’ve seen cases where plugins in wordpress accidentally turn this on.
  • Spam links can often times draw a penalty from the search engines.  This is another one that isn’t always intentional.  Sometimes a site can get secretly hacked and spam links placed in secret hard to find places without the owner knowing.  This can often times cause a search engine penalty as sites you link to can be viewed as an association or endorsementthr from you.
  • Large database driven sites with poorly written URL structures can sometimes run into ranking and indexing problems because the search engines can’t navigate dynamic pages and URL’s very well.

The 5 Step Website Error Checkup

So how do you know if you have any of the above problems, and how do you check for common errors?  Try these 5 steps:

  • Step 1 – Do You Have a Penalty? Has your search engine ranking suddenly dropped in a drastic way?  The best sign of this is a drop in search traffic.  Did you go from 2,000 search engine visitors per month to 0?  There is most likely a search engine penalty in place that dropped you from the rankings.  Proceed to step 2…
  • Step 2 – Do you link to any spammy websites? This coule be intentional or unintentional.  Either way, it could bring a penalty… and if you are seeing problems like in step 1, you may want to consider checking your outbound links.  I use 2 tools for this that both work very well, the Link Validation Spider, and Link Slueth (more advanced).  Both are mainly for checking for broken links on your site, but can be used to find hidden links and spam links.  You might also try a simple query on MSN.  Visit MSN.com and type this in the search box:  “linkfromdomain:www.yourdomain.com”.  It will search for all outbound links from a domain.
  • Step 3 – Don’t Drive Away the Search Spiders.  More times than not, if someone is having serious ranking problems it can be due to a robots.txt or a meta data problem like the use of noindex.  Try this tool from Submit Express to test for meta tag issues.  To check for robots.txt issues, try this robots.txt checker.  Make sure to use the address for your robots.txt file  (Example:  www.searchingsolutions.com/robots.txt)
  • Step 4 – Indexing Problems? Do you have hundreds of pages on your website but find that the search engines only record a handful of these pages?  The easiest way to check how many pages you have indexed with the search engines is through the site command.  Example:  In Google, type: “site:www.searchingsolutions.com”.  If for some reason only a very small percentage of your pages show up, you may have an indexing problem.  This means that the search engine is having a hard time reaching all the pages of your website.  Make sure to set up an xml or html site map that has a hyperlink list of all your pages.  For smaller sites, you can put all your links on one page, and for larger sites, you can use multiple sitemaps or multiple categories.  Make sure the search engine spiders can reach every page of your website within 3 clicks of the home page.  Also, remove any javascript links, links that require form submission, frames, flash links, or anything other than a simple html based link.
  • Step 5 – Check For Meta Tag Duplication.  This isn’t a problem that can lead to penalties or problems with indexing, but can seriously hurt your ranking.  Page titles should always be unique as to avoid keyword and page cannibalization.  Seomoz has a great Crawl Test tool that can help in this area.

I hope these 5 steps are useful.  You may not need them very often, but when you do you’ll wish you would have bookmarked this post…    ;-)