May 082013

BrightLocal conducted a “Local SEO Industry Survey 2013” and posted it on May 03, 2013 on their blog. The numbers are on one hand enlightening and on the other simply validate what other sources are saying.

For instance, when it comes to SEO pricing and costs there is much confusion with customers. And much of this confusion comes from variation within the industry. On the higher end of the spectrum SEO customers can pay upwards of $5,000 per month for larger corporate websites. On the lower end, less than $100 per month is paid for low-grade, cookie cutter (probably off-shore) services.

The true sweet spot, according to the survey is around $500 per month plus or minus depending upon services offered, size of the website to be SEO’d, competition, etc. For consumers, this ballpark figure is at least a good starting point when researching SEO services and costs.


Jan 302013

Sometimes SEO’s like myself get tired of hearing (for the past 10 years or so) that SEO is dead and that something else will take its place. Well, SEO is not dead, just evolving.

Brad Miller at Search Engine Watch has a good take on how SEO is evolving by way of Search Marketing Integration.

Mr. Miller says, “Over the last few years the changes to search algorithms and user behavior on the Internet have made “old” SEO almost redundant. It’s even gotten to the stage where any so-called “SEO” who’s still using the same techniques from 5 years ago will actually be doing more harm than good. These days, search engines and consumers want quality, engagement, and social proof.”

Unlike in the old days, SEO’s now have to pay attention to other areas such as social media, branding, PR, SEM, and perhaps even video marketing.

Read the full article here:


Oct 122012

Over the years I’ve heard various people say that you should treat your website as if the search engines didn’t exist. The theory behind this assertion is that you don’t want your website to become search engine dependent or that by some magic the search engines will treat your website more favorably in the results for not going overboard with the optimization (which is true but not the same as doing no optimization). Now, even a few of those who work at the major search engines have made similar statements about wishing SEO didn’t exist so that all results would be “natural.”

But, in an online world where search engines do exist and deliver traffic to your website, acting as if they didn’t exist is a mistake. And I’ll tell you why.

If search engines truly didn’t exist we would have to get website traffic directly from other websites such as directories, social media, article banks, blogs, complementary industry websites or even competitor’s websites.

In an online world with no search engines what we’d be neglecting to do is to pay attention to keywords. We wouldn’t have relevant keyword phrases in our website’s titles, body text, internal links, or image alt tags. There would be no meta tags. All of our external links on other websites may have anchor text that says “buy now” or “click here” instead of relevant keyword terms.

Now, if we acted like the search engines didn’t exist and did not do on-page or off-page optimization, how do you think your website would rank in a world such as we really have it with search engines? Badly. Search engines key off of keyword phrases. These phrase may be exact, partial or synonyms but they still count. And of course the words surrounding the keyword phrases count as well.

So, in an ideal world with no search engines, yes, you could act as if the search engines didn’t exist, do a lot of banner and display advertising and pay no attention to keyword phrases with text ads. But, in a world where search engines do exist deciding not to optimize your website is a strategy you can throw right into the wastebasket.

May 022011

Okay, so no many things in the SEO world are so clear cut. The dashes (as in hyphens) or underscores in URLs question has been a long running one. But when it comes to clarity we turn to Matt Cutts of Google who says to use dashes.

Now what is the reasoning behind this? According to Google using dashes in a URL is a word separator and using an underscore is a word joiner.

So for instance you would want your URL to read like this: dashes-or-underscores-in-urls

You would not want your URL to read like this: dashes_or_underscores_in_urls

The reason is that to a search engine the dash separates the words correctly, but as in the example above the underscore would make the word read like this: dashesorunderscoresinurls

Now, it may not be worth it to go back and change all of your URLs from underscores to dashes. But, going forward this is good SEO hygiene to use dashes.

May 062009

As things heat up this Spring heading into Summer so its these tweeting season courtesy As you know, Myspace and Facebook have their loyal following but there is something about Twitter with its 150 character limit and drive-by, drive-thru mentality that is quite an attraction to many.

It’s so attractive in fact that Larry King is a tweeting fool as well as Barbara Wa-Wa (Walters to you and me). In fact, Twitter is now so popular that neither could get their own names on the social media site and had to opt for something less brandable.

But, the big news perhaps is that AOL is rumored to have an interest in acquiring Twitter. Now the Wall Street Journal has pooh-poohed this idea but its really not that far-fetched. Right now Twitter doesn’t monetize itself through ads, so it makes sense that someone will want a payday with this large Internet property.

Google, where are you? If anything one would think the Big G would want to spread its domination to one of the hottest social media sites for now and sometime to come.

May 102008

There is an article on CNET that speculates that Microsoft may be interested in acquiring Powerset, which is close to publicly rolling out its semantic search engine. The early reviews of the Powerset semantic search have been favorable.

Instead of basing its search results on keyword as Google does, Powerset uses word relationships, concepts and meanings plus other linguistic aids in order to deliver more meaningful results. For instance, if a user types in a phrase or question, they may be directed to part of page where the answer appears and not just the page itself.

During user testing of Powerset, the Powerlabs testers will be able to give search results a thumbs up or down, which will help the developers in refining their algorithms. Google has also experimented with this feature on a limited scale.

But, Powerset may change more than how a search engine delivers results. It may change user behavior in those searches. When was users were encouraged to type in questions that affable butler would try to answer.

Powerset semantic search may be similar in that it may urge users to type in longer search strings, sentences or questions in order to achieve optimal results. Perhaps if Microsoft passes on this technology, then would then be interested since it would take them back to their roots in search.

If user behavior does change in this new semantic world of search, then this will also affect the SEO community. Will SEO’s optimize pages based upon keywords or semantics? Ten years from now, keyword searches may be a thing of the past.

Powerset may not be a Google Killer, but it may start changing the tide as to how searches are performed and results delivered on the Web. And, this changing tide may help Web surfers get their information more quickly and more accurately than ever before.

Jan 152008

When a client comes to me complaining of low rankings, one of the first items I check is to see if their homepage or any other page is optimized for too many keyword phrases. The client may have tried to optimize the page themselves, had a friend do it, had an SEO do it that was working under outdated rules, or had an SEO do it who thought they could make it work through sheer force of will.

But, optimizing a web page for too many keyword phrases such as the website’s homepage is an exercise in dilution. For instance, if you try to optimize a web page for the keyword phrases green apples, yellow lemons, red cherries and purple grapes you could, at one time, rank well for all of these phrases. But, as time marches on, competition encroaches and more web pages are optimized for each of these singular keyword phrases, your fruit basket of a page will also drop in the rankings.

The solution is to set up a separate page for green apples, another for yellow lemons, etc. so that each page is well-defined and only optimized for one keyword phrase apiece. This will also making it easier to gain targeted back links to these pages with the appropriate keyword text.

Some clients think that because their homepage is optimized for several variations of the same keyword phrase that this dilution does not occur. But, this is a mistaken assumption. A page needs to a have a certain keyword density, otherwise it is diluted. It also needs to have back links with that same specific keyword phrase in it, otherwise it, too is diluted.

The trick is to be as targeted as possible on a page with the same keyword phrase emphasized on that page and on the links pointing to this page. When these elements are in alignment then the rankings most often fall into place.

Jan 102008

Every day I get a dozen or so email offers for reciprocal link trades, which mostly offer me the short end of the stick. These emails are quickly deleted. But, there generally are a couple during the week that will pass the test of being truly reciprocal. So, I’m letting you know what I look for in a quality reciprocal link trade by telling you what to look out for first.

Let me say, upfront, that I have never been offered a quality 3-way link trade. I’m sure some people have and they are out there, but I’ve only been offered a link in some third rate directory in exchange for a link from my site to someone’s prime homepage. These I delete quickly.

Second, a link page doesn’t have to have PR in order for my site’s link to be upon it, but it has to have the potential for Page Rank. Some webmasters will do all they can to hide this page from the search engines.

Some of the things to look out for are orphaned link pages, links with a nofollow tag upon them or links (or pages) with redirects upon them that mean that PR will never be passed from their web page to mine.

There are some webmasters who will conduct a linking campaign and a month later orphan the links page, put on nofollow or redirects or use other methods to taint the reciprocal link. So, it’s important to check on these links on a regular schedule to see that they are still intact.

Some software will check to see that links are still on the links page, but may miss orphaned pages. This is true if the software only checks to see if the link is at the specific URL.

Now, since I’ve just stated what to look out for in link exchanges, here’s what I look for when trading links. Is the web page relevant to my site? I only trade links with relevant sites. Does the page have PR or the potential for PR? Is the site itself well indexed and will it bring in direct traffic? If the search engines did not exist, would this be a good trade?

Be picky about whom you link to and who links to you. Remember, your link is a vote for another site. If you trade links with a few relevant sites, you have the potential to trade targeted traffic for years. And, this is a good situation to be in.

Jan 072008

SEO has always been composed of four simple steps, so simple that anyone can do it. Over the past 10 or so years, many SEO techniques have come and gone. Some white hat techniques have changed into gray or black hat over time because of the changes in direction of the search engine algorithms.

But, the basics of search engine optimization have not changed. The four tried and true methods of any SEO campaign include:

1. Keyword phrase research
2. On-page Optimization
3. Link building
4. Results tracking

Picking the correct keyword phrase for a web page is the heart and soul of SEO. If one picks the incorrect phrase, then no visitor or the wrong visitors will come to the site. If a too competitive keyword phrase is picked, then the page will be buried in the search engine rankings in favor of older, more authority pages.

On-page optimization simply means writing a web page around a certain keyword phrase and making sure that phrase is in the body text, headline, title, keyword and description meta tags and even image names and tags.

Link building involves getting links placed on other websites pointing to your website. The link also needs to have the correct keyword phrase in the title of the link. In addition, the link needs to be free of the nofollow tag or redirects that obscure Page Rank from being passed from one site to the next.

Results tracking basically means just what it says. Once the SEO has been completed, it is important to use software to track new visitors coming to the website so the effectiveness of the SEO campaign can be determined and adjusted if necessary.

Of course, although SEO is simple, it is not always easy. What I’ve just listed is a primer in search engine optimization. Anyone can do it. Not everyone can do it well, however, or has the time to devote to it and that is why SEO professionals are most often enlisted.

Jan 062008

Customers often ask their search engine optimization professionals for guarantees before signing up. This is understandable since the customer is spending a considerable amount of money in order to improve their rankings and bring more targeted traffic to their website.

What customers who are new to SEO, don’t often understand, though is that SEO professionals don’t have any control over the search engine rankings as a person might have when they sign up for a Google Adwords or Yahoo PPC account. Customers, in fact, have more control with Google or Yahoo PPC, but they end up paying a lot of money for that control, compared to SEO in the long run.

This myth of SEO control is perpetuated by companies seemingly offering SEO in their ads that say, “Get your site to the top of the search engines in 48 hours.” What these companies fail to say upfront is that they are not talking about SEO but rather sponsored listings from pay-per-click (PPC) programs.

Some customers are also confused as to how the search engine results pages (SERPs) are divided one area for the organic listings and other areas for the PPC sponsored results. It is the duty of the SEO to educate the customer on the differences.

Now, what guarantees can an SEO give? Search engine optimizers run the gamut from giving no guarantees whatsoever to guaranteeing the number one result on all search engines. Neither of these extremes is realistic. Why would a customer pay money to an SEO when a guarantee of no results is offered?

On the other hand, some fly-by-night SEOs will try to lure customers in with guaranteed number one results that no SEO can deliver. The most logical guarantee that an SEO can give a customer is something along the lines of letting the customer know that their results will be better off than before the SEO was hired and that the SEO and customer can track the results and make adjustments if necessary somewhere down the line.

Though customers who start with a PPC program may find this SEO guarantee vague as this does not give the same control that paying Google or Yahoo for sponsored results does, this will satisfy most people. SEOs have to contend with proprietary algorithms, competition from other websites and other SEOs and even their own customers unknowing hurting the SEO of their own sites.

When working under these conditions, the organic listings are just as the name implies: a growing, changing and moving target that can fluctuate in unexpected ways. The most any SEO can guarantee is giving the customer better results than the customer can achieve by themselves and that SEO is indeed cheaper than paying for PPC over the long haul.