Posted by JoannaLord
I don’t like the word "optimization." It has surpassed the level of buzz word and has officially been overused in every which way. While the word itself annoys me, the process of improving what you have to get more from it still rings true. I think we can all get onboard with the concept, but what about the process behind it? I am constantly surprised by the number of people that tell me their boss or client simply doesn’t want to spend time on landing page optimization.
I’ve put together a little something I think explains the norm pretty well:
Instead they would rather work on increasing traffic to
ugly unoptimized pages. While you would think selling LPO in-house would be an easy task, you would be surprised. Often I hear objections centered around lack of resources, inability to project return, and my personal favorite–"We simple don’t have time to revisit pages that are already built."
So you, myself, and the rest of the cool kids know that optimizing your landing pages can be a huge win for your company, but how do you make the case for it in-house? It just so happens I have a few ideas for you on this. Below you’ll find seven ways I’ve been able to convince clients and bosses to take a break from building up, and rework the foundation. Hopefully, you can use some of these the next time you are faced with what I call, "The Anti-Optimizers."
1. Evangelize the cause prior to starting.
You know that old saying, "make the case before you need the win?" Yeah me neither, I just made it up, but it stands true in this case. For most things you want to push through in-house, you will see less resistance if you start talking it up prior to the pitch. For LPO in particular, I suggest sending out emails with links to good case studies that show the value of LPO, or possibly dropping stats in meetings about how simple tweaks can result in "X." Doing all of this before asking them to allocate resources can set a great base for future conversations.
2. Pull the numbers to make a case in-house.
Call me a pessimist at heart but I love looking up crappy data. Yup it’s true. The good news is we all have some of it to find. Your client, your company, whoever you are hoping to convince has data sitting in their analytics to help make the case for LPO efforts. The hard part is not necessarily finding the data, but relaying it in a positive light. You need to show all of the low hanging fruit around you.
Examples include things like showing industry standards for metrics like bounce rates or time on site, and then highlighting your own and the..uhmmm…discrepancies. Another idea is pulling your best converting pages, and showing what % of your site fails to perform at that standard or anywhere near it really. Those simple data pulls can go a long way.
3. Show potential successes.
Okay for you optimistic, rainbow-loving, happy data people…this one is for you. Do the number crunching. Take the time to show what an increase in performance could mean to your bottom-line. The best way to do this is to show ranges. Show them what a 10% increase in X would mean, a 5% increase in X would mean, and what something as small as a 2% increase in X would mean (don’t forget to stress "something as small" and pause for dramatic affect…it works). By highlighting the potential successes, you turn that negative conversation into an opportunity for growth.
4. Know the costs & resources involved.
This is all about doing your homework. Just like any other time you try to convince someone to spend time or money on something, you should be prepared to give estimations. Whether you use a free tool like GWO, or another option that costs a monthly price, have those numbers on hand.
Also know how much design and dev time you will require for these changes and tests to get up on your site. You will be prepared for the questions, and hopefully put to rest any concerns about LPO wasting your company’s money and resources.
5. Show competitors and their efforts.
This one is another favorite of mine. Nothing lights a fire like showing people where they are losing ground. If you want to make a case for your company doing LPO, what better way than to show your competitor testing out homepages, landing pages, different buttons, colors, etc. It may take a while to snag the screenshots, but it is sooo worth it. Trust me.
6. Run a small test behind closed doors & preach results.
This one is a bit of a gamble, mainly because it could totally backfire…but hey who doesn’t love a little risk? Exactly. So get testing. Take one of your medium trafficked pages, and set up a quick A/B test. Change something drastic though–like the intention of the call to action, page layout and nav, or possibly the entire color scheme.
You may be thinking wouldn’t this be more like a multivariate test, doesn’t this get complicated? Well yeah, but you aren’t really testing in hopes of finding out something revolutionary. Hear me out. This is what we call –down and dirty testing. Show two vary drastic alternatives for one page. Show Page A to 50% and Page B to 50% of your traffic , your results may not be the key to your company’s success, but it will prove that different landing page experiences evoke very different actions by users. It’s intuitive to us marketers, but sometimes people truly believe all pages are equal. Scary, I know.
7. Take ownership, start the ball rolling.
This is my last and final idea for you…it’s sort of like a virtual high five. When it comes to making the case for anything in-house, I find the most effective way to convince people something is worth doing…is by doing it. So go get started, get the specs written, or the test versions mocked up. Then pitch the four to six steps left, explain how the hard work is done, and it’s time to push it live. Your drive for the project will be appreciated, and hopefully the ambition will be contagious.
Well there you go. Hopefully you can use some of this the next time you run into a wall. LPO is no longer a side project we run when we "think something is wrong," it should be an ongoing process at every company. If you spend time driving traffic to your pages, you should spend time improving those pages.
Do you have a favorite tool or tactic for awesome LPO? I’d love if you left them in the comments below! We can all start sharing the LPO love together, group hug anyone?
The little guy often loses.
As market niches get saturated, the winners are typically those with the deepest pockets.
Up until the last few years, the little guy has been able to prosper with SEO. The little guy didn’t face much competition from big companies, because the big companies didn’t get SEO. However, Google’s current algorithmns and corporate strategy often have the side effect of benefiting large companies.
According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the Internet is a “cesspool” where false information thrives….Brands, he said, are the way to rise above the cesspool
There is a danger in reading too much into Schmidt’s words, however this statement mirrors a lot of what happens in the search results. A big company or brand, with a crawlable site, will find it easy to dominate the search results. A big company will be linked to, discussed in the media, and have established keyword query volume – all factors which Google rewards. All these factors are becoming increasingly difficult for the small guy to emulate.
Factor in Google’s ongoing moves to “own” verticals, and many more little guys will be crushed underfoot. It doesn’t matter if your site is white hat, grey or black, if your site competes directly with a big company, or with Google – who are now a big company themselves – you’ll almost surely lose.
This isn’t just true in the SERPs, of course. It’s also true in Adwords, which essentially rewards those with deep pockets. It’s true in print. It’s true across all media. It’s true in politics, in money markets, and in life.
Power is like that.
Even if you don’t face competition from big operators, you’ll face competition from a million other little guys, especially if there is no barrier to entry. This is often the case on the web. Check out this article by Tim O Shea, founder of the short lived UK group buying site Snippa. Snippa was similar to Groupon.
Due to the number of players, commission levels are being eroded far from the 40-50% that Groupon achieves down to 0% just to get the deal (at Snippa our deals averaged around 10-20%). Merchants are getting numerous phone calls from prospective group buying companies and the conversation with many is more about the commission level charged rather than how they could offer a great discount for a group of new customers. This will continue until a clear leader emerges that can demonstrate a large customer base allowing them to negotiate better deals and commission levels. Many companies chasing the same deal is counter productive for the end customer.
Too many competitors errode margins to zero. Eventually, the biggest operator wins.
When you’re looking for a niche to get into, how do you evaluate it?
Do you look at the search volumes and look to position a site top ten for that search volume? An ok strategy, and one used by many in the SEO business.
However, lets take it a step further.
If you’re thinking long term, you need to consider other factors, especially competitive threats. Ask: is this niche likely to be so lucrative that it will attract big companies? If so, then you may need a strategy to become one, or be bought out by one. You may win such a fight for a while, but the big company will invariably win in the end through greater reach and purchasing power.
Are you the cheapest, or are you the best?
The little guy is almost always better off aiming to be the best at what they do. Being the cheapest requires volume, and is very difficult to sustain. Many companies, both big and small, get locked in a downward spiral of price cutting. Again, you’ll last being the cheapest until a bigger company turns up. Bigger companies can get price advantage through volume. If the internet equivalent of Wal Mart is your competition, you’re in trouble if you compete on price.Zappos was a small company, that eventually became a big company, not by competing on price, but by competing on service. They aimed to be the best at service. Had they competed on price, they wouldn’t have got anywhere. The big shoe and clothing chains would have crushed them.
Is SEO your only strategy to dominate a niche? If so, then you’re vulnerable to the whims of Google. Instead, think about ways you can develop a brand. I use the term brand in the widest possible sense. Being the best guy in the world to talk to about, say, the eating preferences of neon tetra fish – is a brand. Whatever it is you do, if you’re not competing on price, aim to be the very best. If you have to carve a niche even finer, do it, at least until the costs outweigh the benefits.
Think about ways you can lock in customers/visitors and keep them coming back. If you only ever have search volume, then you rely on people who haven’t seen you before. Encourage visitors to bookmark you, or sign up for a newsletter. Hook them in some way. Above all, be memorable. Being memorable will create search volume out of nothing (how many people searched for Zappos years ago? Or SEOBook? ). Building an audience may not be enough to fend off big companies, but it will help you fend off other small companies and new entrants, especially if they only rely on SEO.
Be the big guy in the little niche SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.
Posted by randfish
For a long time, if you asked me about spamming the search engines, whether with hardcore black hat tactics or merely gray hat link acquisition, I’d say that in the long run, neither was the right move. Building a great site and a great brand through hard work, white hat links, solid content and marketing strategies has always been my path of choice. It still is today, but my faith is definitely wavering.
In the last 12 months, I’ve seen (or, at least, felt) less progress from Google’s webspam team than in any previous year I can remember. Popular paid link services that Google’s search quality folks are clearly aware of have worked for months on end (some have done so for years). Crummy, low quality directories and link exchanges have made a comeback since the big shutdowns in 2007-8. Even off-topic link exchanges, which experienced their own blowback in 2006-2007 have started working again. Horrifyingly bad sites are ranking atop the results using little more than exact match domain names and a few poor quality links. There’s even a return of the link farms of the early 2000s, with operators creating (or buying old domains and converting them into) junky, one-page sites to boost their own link popularity.
On nearly every commercially lucrative search results I pull up these days, I see bad links pushing bad sites into the top rankings at Google.
I made a promise to Aaron that I wouldn’t "out" spam, and although I still don’t believe it’s the wrong thing to do morally (it hurts everyone’s search/web experience, why should SEOs band together to protect it?), I do want to keep that promise. So, while I can’t point you to any particular links or sites, here’s a good set of queries where plenty of link manipulation is keeping a few, some or many of the top (5-10) ranking sites in those positions:
Just run a few OSE reports on some sites that rank well here and you’ll see what I mean. There are numerous players in these listings who don’t have a single natural or editorially endorsed link. And you don’t need to limit yourself to these queries either.
Step #1: Search for "SEO Friendly Directory" and visit a few of the sections included in the resulting sites that come up.
Step #2: Search for the primary keywords the directory-listed sites are targeting in their title tags or the anchor text they’ve gotten from the directories.
Step #3: Check out the top 5-10 listings in the rankings and you’ll find an abundance of sites with few to no "natural" links whatsoever
I don’t know. But, I do have some guesses:
Matt himself is finally taking a well deserved break, but even at home he’s much less public on the web, much less active on webspam topics on his blog, visits fewer conferences and now invests in startups, too (which surely takes up time). I don’t mean to criticize Matt in any way – if I were him, I’d have left Google long ago (and he’s clearly put in more than his dues), but the possibility remains that the team he built is no longer intact, or no longer of the quality it was in the early years.
"Blah. Blah Blah. So what if Google’s not doing as much to stop spam as they have in years past?" I hear you ask.
My concern is primarily around the experience of searchers and what it might mean if results become polluted not just by good or relatively good sites that happen to buy or manipulate links, but by really bad crap – the sort that makes searchers want to find a new way of getting information on the web (Facebook Q+A? Twitter? Yelp?). Search today is an amazing marketplace of web builders, marketers, suppliers and customers. If the last of these – the customer – slowly becomes disenchanted with Google, the world of search marketing and the amazing utility of search in general may come to an end.
If you use search engines or work in search marketing, that should be the last thing you want.
That said, if you believe that most of the "spam" will eventually be beaten out by either legitimate results or by better sites that also spam/manipulate links, then there’s much less to worry about (I’m not fully in either camp and can see both sides).
Please DO NOT go out and spam the results, buy links, submit to crap directories and open up link farms. Even with this current trend, I believe that would be terrible advice. Plenty of sites do get caught and filtered, and I’d rather know that my site was safe and every piece of content I added and link I built would help bring more traffic than constantly worry about the small but real risk of being penalized or banned.
One thing Google has done is continue to make the experience of penalization a horrific one. It’s hard to know if you really have a penalty, nearly impossible to figure out what triggered it and onerous, almost Kafka-esque, to attempt to get back into their good graces. If you can live with that risk, as professional black hats do with their churn-and-burn strategies, then it’s less of a concern. But if you’re building a real business, Google is still driving 70%+ of the searches on the web in the US (and 90%+ in many other geographies), and it would be foolish to take such a terrific risk.
As to the question of reporting the spam of your competitors – that’s up to you. However, Google has certainly made it a less likely, less rewarding activity. Nearly every day, we answer PRO Q+A related to the question of link manipulators outranking legitimate marketers and sites, and I can recall only once in the hundreds of questions I’ve answered in the last few years when a spam report actually led to action (to be fair, I don’t follow up consistently on every one, but many of our PRO members will send a regular ping with updates).
What we can do is to re-double our efforts to build great sites with amazing value for people. No matter what the "search" experience of the future is like, those sites and pages that provide a remarkable experience are sure to surface near the top and receive the added benefit of word-of-mouth praise, viral spread and citation in whatever forms it may evolve to, both online and off.
There are millions of queries that are remarkably spam free and Google has done a consistently exception job fighting spam over the years. However, the recent past has me concerned that they are no longer as interested, diligent or capable of combatting even the most basic spam techniques.
It’s also certainly the case that I’m regularly exposed to many queries and topics that SEOs, both black hat and white, focus on, and thus might see more spam than the average searcher (though anecdotally I’d guess they’re seeing more, too).
Have you been seeing more results in the rankings that are performing well despite having virtually no "natural" links? Have you seen Google take action on spam reports? Why do you think the recent past has many fewer examples of big spam-cleaning updates?
I’m looking forward to some great discussion – and this week I’ll be at SES San Francisco (on 5 different panels!) – feel free to grab me and chat privately there, too!
p.s. With regards to Bing, the only other major US search engine now that they’re powering Yahoo! (or on the verge), my opinion is that they have been making substantive strides. They’re still behind Google in many areas (and ahead in a few), but at the current rate, we might actually see Bing surpass Google’s spam detection and filtering in the next 18-24 months, though they will probably still be playing catch up in long tail relevancy/quality.
When I got my iPad, some of the things I wanted to know were how much could I actually get done on an iPad and in what situations could it replace my laptop. Here are the programs and apps that I use to help me get things done.
Here’s a screen shot of the programs I use
Google Apps for Domains Email and Calendar
I use the built-in mail and calendar functions, but each has its own problems. The mail function doesn’t handle multiple threaded messages well and doesn’t archive, so I only use that when I need to. Currently the iPad only syncs with one calendar (the iPhone syncs with more than one), so if I need to see something not on my default calendar, I use it here. It webpages bookmarks saved to the home screen. Here are instructions about how to do that if you’re interested.
This gives me the ability to see my analytics without needing to be in front of a laptop. I did a much more extensive review of the app when it first came out. I was part of the beta program. You can read more about it.
The Worpress app allows you to write new posts and to edit existing drafts and posts right from your iPad. You can connect it to multiple blogs as long as you have xmlrpc enabled. In fact this post was written using the app while I was waiting in a car dealership waiting room. The app isn’t perfect: the features for inserting links, placing images, and editing either don’t work or are so hard to do it’s not worth trying. If you have special plugins like Scribe SEO those aren’t accessible either. Don’t try and use safari and log into your admin panel: all the Ajax that WordPress uses makes that impossible. The best solution is to use the iPad to write drafts, note where links go, upload, and hire an editor–or add the link yourself later when you are in front of a computer.
Goodreader lets you connect to multiple places, download files, and upload them to a server ( see How to FTP Files From Email Using an iPad, for more details on how to do this). Its a lot less user friendly than other programs, but it has functionality they don’t and is the only one that lets you upload and download a wide variety of file types.
Lets you tie in with services like box.net and dropbox to access different files. You can also pull in documents from your mail account. You can view and read them and move them to other services, but you can’t FTP to a server using this program or edit them.
Need to log into a sever and edit a file? This is the program to help you do it. Editing files on a live server is a dangerous thing, but sometimes it needs to be done. My suggestion: don’t plan on doing a lot of big edits using this program. It’s best suited for small minor changes.
Need to FTP or upload images from your iPad? This is the program ( see how to FTP files from your iPad). If you need to move files from one server to another, this program lets you do it. Download the files to a temporary holding bin, then reupload them somewhere else. It’s a shame you can’t use this program to move email attachments. You still need good reader from above to get that done.
Want a quick snapshot of a Website’s link profile? Linkjuice will do it on the spot. It also links to SEOMoz(aft link), majestic SEO link tools(link), and SEM rush (aff link) to give you more in depth information (note some of those services are paid services).
If you use odesk to outsource some of your work, this tool lets you tie into the system, get status updates, or see screen shots from your remote team’s previous work sessions. Pretty handy when you have multiple people working for you and need to correct any mistakes before they get too far.
Need to edit pictures or screenshots? Then photo pad is the app for you. You can crop, resize, rotate, and do some basic color correction all while on the iPad. You can then upload using one of the FTP programs from above or email them to yourself and upload when you edit/format later.
Sometimes you’ll need to remote log into your home computer or file server. RDM+ lets you do it. You won’t be able to work like you are sitting in front of the machine but you can log in and do that quick thing you need or get that file you forgot to share … As long as you left that machine on before you walked out the door …
If you want to share files from your iPad over a wifi connection, this program lets you do it. It’s not super secure so don’t use it for really confidential documents. Emailing files is usually easier, but sometimes you’ll need to move files to a computer that has wifi but no email (like a presentation laptop at a conference). At times like that, it’s good to have this option.
Like most Internet centric companies with remote workers I use Basecamp for project management. There are some Basecamp apps but IMHO they don’t work as well as the Basecamp website. I saved it as a bookmark to my start screen and then moved it to my home bar .
Pageonce ties all my bank accounts, credit cards, stock market, Tripit travel plans, cell phone, insurance, cable, and utility bills together in one spot. It’s sort of a virtual overview of the financial and travel details of my life all on one page, which is extremely helpful. Again this is a bookmark saved to the start screen. As of this writing, they only have an iPhone app not an iPad app.
That’s a list of all of the programs I use on my iPad to help me get my work done.
This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.
The Webmaster, Programmer, Developer and Blogger’s Guide to Getting Things Done on an iPad
Posted by Lindsay
A typical SEO site audit takes me around 50 hours to complete. If it is a small site (<1000 pages), I am working efficiently, and the client hasn’t requested a lot of extra pieces, this figure can come in as low as 35 hours. If the site is large and has a lot of issues to document, the time investment inches closer to 70 hours.
At SEOmoz, we usually asked for a project time-line of six weeks to complete a full site audit. You need the extended schedule for resource coordination, editing for uniform voice and additional considerations when a team is involved. Even working on my own I prefer a six week time-line because it allows me to juggle several projects simultaneously and to put-down and pick-up various pieces as the mood strikes.
Regardless of how much time I spend on an audit, the best stuff is usually revealed in the first day. At the beginning of a project you’re excited, the client is excited and there is so much undiscovered opportunity! In this post, I’ll outline my recommendations for making the most of day one on a new SEO audit project. I’ve organized it by retro digital clock time stamp for your visual pleasure.
You have a 9:00 client call, so you better get cracking! Take the time upfront to get your documents ready. The first thing I do once I’ve received a signature on the dotted line is prepare two files; my Excel scorecard and the Word audit document.
The audits I’ve worked on have always been extremely custom. Even so, the base document without client content is around 20 pages. This may sound like a lot, but once you prepare a cover sheet, table of contents, the appropriate headings and sub-headings for all the important SEO factors, and short (reusable) descriptions about each factor… it adds up to a hearty file.
I recommend that you create the base Word and Excel files and save them. Try not to work backwards off of an existing audit that you have on hand. Before I was an SEO myself, I was an SEO client of several smart folks. More than once the deliverables I received included other client names. It happens! ‘CTRL+F’ is not fool proof.
Whether you closed the deal yourself or you are lucky enough to have a fleet of salespeople doing that type of leg-work for you, a client kick-off call once the deal has been signed is important. Spend an hour getting to know your primary contacts. Hopefully this includes a senior stakeholder, a marketing lead, and a development lead. More often then not, these meetings are over the phone with the assitance of a web conferencing tool like GoToMeeting.
A sample agenda is as follows;
When you come out of this meeting, you should have an excellent understanding of the website, business needs, and key pain points from the client. You’ll also have had an opportunity to set expectations.
Bonus Tip: If you are working with an in-house SEO person, find out about the projects they have been trying to push through. You may be able to help them get that SEO enhancement moved up the development pipeline and make them look good in the process.
Use this time to recharge your caffeine and make notes about the call.
If you are part of a consulting team, like we had at SEOmoz, ping the other SEOs. This is expecially true if you will be tackling this particular project solo. Send them an email and request that they conduct a quick 15 minute assessment of the site. We did this with great success at SEOmoz. With a dream team that included Rand, Jen and Danny the output of 45 combined quick assessment minutes was incredible.
If you are an indepenent SEO, you can still use a system like this. Form a group of trusted SEOs and provide this support for each other. Be mindful of NDAs and potential conflicts of interest (see Sarah’s post on consulting contracts for more great details).
I’m pretty structured in my approach to SEO auditing, but there is nothing structured about my process during the free form exploration phase. I’m all about creating efficiencies through discipline and a deliberate work plan. That is what gets the project done and brings home the bacon. However, I always set aside at least three hours for unstructured play and exploration.SEO is part art and part science. The actions I’m attempting to describe here are definitely more Pablo Picasso than Marie Curie.
I fire up all of my FireFox Plugins and browse the site, start GSiteCrawler, hit-up Google with a flurry of search operators, run LinkScape/Open Site Explorer, have a grand ol’ time in SEOmoz Labs, and check out the keyphrase landscape with Quintura and SEMrush. One find leads to another and I never know where I’ll end up. No two sites are alike and I’m still coming across things I’ve never seen with each new audit.
Analyze Page via the mozBar showing a less-than-fantastic title tag
I’d say I find 80% of a site’s issues and opportunities during this brief free form exploration. Most of the remaining 45+ hours of a project are spent elaborating on the findings and detailing the action plan to support my original finds.
Be sure to take notes and screen shots as you go. Bonus points if you manage to input them directly into your master Word file. Huge time saver.
Try to step away from the laptop, but bring a notepad with you. No doubt your brain will still be working as your hands work to fill your belly.
Based on the morning’s kick-off call and your findings in the free form exploration process you no doubt have a few questions for the client. If you don’t already have access to Webmaster Tools and analytics, now is a good time to ask. I usually have questions for the client about things that aren’t always apparent from an external view of the site such as how their expiring content policies work. This follow-up email keeps the communication lines open, impresses the client because you’ve uncovered so much opportunity already, and gives them a chance to ask additional questions or provide more info.
At the end of a busy day I like to shift my focus to something that requires less brain power and benefits from simple funcitons like copy & paste. I usually wrap up my day by populating things like the current robots.txt file (for analysis later), top 25 links from Open Site Explorer, etc.
Top Pages via OSE – Yikes! They need to fix those 404s…
Thanks for giving me a read! I’m working on a bi-weekly series that covers all things audit. If you liked this, you might also like 4 Ways to Improve your SEO Site Audit. You can find me in SEOmoz’s PRO Q&A and on Twitter as @Lindzie.