In this eleventh and final part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss Press Release Distribution.
Although many may view Press Releases as being part of the old-school model of Public Relations, press releases still serve a vital purpose. Studies have shown that journalists and consumers still search for and read press releases. The key is to optimize your press releases to be found, and to provide sufficient linking back to your site to generate the traffic that you want. When your company has something news-worthy to report, a well timed and well placed press release, with appropriate embedded links, can provide a boost of SEO for your site.
Title it well- Your main keyword should be the lead of your title.
Cover the basics – Who, what, where, why and when.
Tell a story – Human interest narrative will help get you distributed.
Include links to your site– Include at least 3 anchor text links, one directly to the homepage, one to the product you are talking about, and one to a blog post that can elaborate in a more informal way on what the press release was about.
Use your keywords – The key phrases you are trying to get your site ranked for should be used liberally throughout your press relesase, as well as locality information.
Include images optimized for search – Be sure and use keyword rich Alt-tags for your images for them to be found by search engines.
Have a Press Release section to you web site – Include a Press Release section on your web site and archive all press releases there
Promote the press release – Mention it on social media, email it to local journalists and bloggers
Avoid PR fatigue – Don’t send press releases unless you have something newsworthy to say
Some other free press release distribution sites are:
free-press-release.com, iNewswire.com, MyFreePR.com, NewsWireToday.com, PageRelease.com, TechPRSpider.com, and TheOpenPress.com.
Press releases can be an important part of driving traffic to your website. A well written and well timed press release with links to more in depth information can reach important people who may not know of your business or your website. A complete Online Presence Management plan should include the use of press releases for creating buzz when something happens that is buzz-worthy.
In this tenth part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing.
Pay-Per-Click Marketing basically means paying to have a link to your site placed in a place somehow related to your site, where hopefully the link will have some appeal to the viewer. If the user clicks on your link you pay a fee. The sponsored ads that you see around search engine results in Google, Yahoo, and Bing are pay-per-click advertisements. These ads are positioned in response to what you have typed in as search criteria. When you join a program like Google Adwords, you can select the search criteria for which you would like to have your pay-per-click ad appears. If the user clicks on your ad, you pay a fee. That fee varies depending on the desirability of the search phrase used.
- Google Ad Words – The biggest and most popular PPC program, easy to use with a high return rate.
- Ask.com Sponsored Listings – different levels to meet different needs, easy to use.
- Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) – Sponsored search and content match
- Bing Paid Search Advertising – Smaller but growing program
- Pandia’s Guide to Pay Per Click Search Engines– Round up of links to other PPC programs
Some of the advantages of PPC Advertising vs. Organic SEO are:
Speed- Getting listed as a paid advertiser for your key search terms is a lot faster than waiting for organic search engine results for the same key phrases.
Reach- PPC can deliver traffic to your site, especially for highly competitive key phrases. It may be wise to use PPC for highly competitive phrases, while saving you organic SEO effort for less competitive key phrases..
Return on Investment (ROI)-PPC can be extensively tracked, accurately and quickly. This makes calculating the ROI for every dollar spent on a PPC campaign very easy.
Some of the disadvantages of PPC vs. Organic SEO are:
Click thru rates (CTR)- The click thru rates for PPC ads are significantly lower than the click thru rates for organic search engine results on the same page. Savvy search engine users recognize sponsored links and tend to ignore them to a large extent.
Cost and Longevity- PPC Search terms that are highly competitive will be more costly, and you will only see results (traffic) as long as you continue to pay. Although an organic SEO campaign may take longer to get results, it can continue to achieve results for years.
In a comprehensive Online Presence Management strategy, Pay-Per-Click advertising definitely serves a purpose. That purpose may be paying to drive traffic to your site until organic SEO kicks in, or attempting to drive traffic to your site for short-tail keywords where achieving a first page Google ranking is extremely difficult. A good online presence manager can help you establish a balance of organic SEO and PPC campaigns to drive the kind of traffic to your site that you need to meet you online presence business goals.
In this eighth part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss Analytics.
Analytic tools are used to measure and report on the status of measurable goals of your online presence. There are a few key areas of measurable analytics where tools are available to monitor your progress. The first is the area of website analytics. These are basic numbers that tell you how many visitors you have to your website. A good analytics package allows you to dissect those visitors on many different parameters, including time spent on site, pages visited, technology used, etc. The second is the area of keyword tracking. This type of analytics allows you to track how well the keywords that you have targeted for your site are ranking in various search engines. The third area of SEO analytics is a tool that can rate your website on overall SEO soundness in a number of key SEO areas.
There are some paid services for website analytics available, but Google Analytics is far and away the most widely used tool for gathering analytics. It is a free service that provides amazingly detailed and concise reports on traffic to your site, where the traffic is coming from, what search engines the traffic is coming from, search terms that were used, demographics of the visitors to your site, technology being used by visitors to your site, and much more. Google Analytics can also be used to track conversion goals. For example, if your conversion goal is to have users make a purchase or sign up for a free whitepaper, you can tag the landing page for an ad campaign and then tag the page where the conversion transaction completes. Google will automatically report the ROI and other figures on this defined conversion funnel.
During Search Engine Optimization stage you should have selected at least 5-10 key phrases that you want to rank well for on Google. As part of your regular analytics, you should be checking how well you rank for each of those keywords. At least once a month you should review a report of how you rank on the major search engines for your selected key phrases. There are a few tools that help you automate this process. SEO Power Tools, SEOMoz.org, Hubspot.com, WebCEO.com, Kutenda.com, and cuterank.net all offer tools to help you in tracking key SEO analytics, including keyword rank checking.
Overall SEO Website Health
Another tool that can be used to give you an overall picture of your websites general health is Website Grader. This tool gives your website a score on a scale of 1-100. Some of the things it checks for are content (blog exists, how many blog posts, blog grade, blog content reading level), optimization (Metadata, Headers, domain info, MOZ rank, backlinks), promotion (tweets, twitter grade, Facebook), conversion (RSS Feed, conversion form found, email grade), and analytics (traffic, Google analytics set up). This is a good overall indicator of whether a sites online presence has been managed well. A score over 70 indicates the site is in relatively good shape. A score under 50 indicates the management of the site is probably not being handled effectively.
To successfully manage your online presence, it is important to be able to quantify, measure, and track web analytics, to be able to gauge your success or failure. An ongoing online presence management strategy is a continuing process of redefining, measuring, and perfecting various components of your online presence. It takes many components working together to eventually build better search engine rankings. Good online presence managers understand that building a strong online presence takes time, and is an ongoing process of refinement, measuring results, and repeating. Good analytics and tracking are an integral part of this process.
In this sixth part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss Content Creation. Constantly creating new content in blog form or video form can help engage visitors as well as improve your search engine rankings.
When it comes to engaging your visitors, and impressing the search engines, content is king. New content shows the search engines your site is continuously evolving and worthy of being considered relevant. New content is a great way to engage visitors and to compel them to become repeat visitors to your site. Blogging has long been recognized as a strong signal to search engines that your site is relevant to the content you are blogging about. More recently, video content has had a growing impact on search engine rankings for your site. With the Google ‘Freshness’ update in November of 2011, having fresh content is more important than ever.
In addition to engaging your potential customers and showcasing your expertise in your field, blogging is one of the best ways for your website to stay current and relevant to search engines. While blog posts may be about things directly related to your core business, don’t be afraid to create posts that are only tangentially related to your core business. Anything that the visitor you are trying to attract would find interesting is fair game for a blog topic. You should add blog entries about things that will interest visitors to your web site. These are not necessarily limited to stories about your business. Content that showcases your knowledge or expertise in your field of business while educating the visitor makes excellent engaging and relevant content. Blog posts covering any topic that might be of interest to your typical visitor will make your site more engaging.
Setting goals for your blogging activity can help keep you focused and help you to decide on what will make valuable content. Some typical blogging goals are:
- Showcase your company’s expertise in your field.
- Educate visitors on your products or services.
- Engage visitors with interesting news or popular culture references related to your business.
- Use keywords to help your site’s overall search engine ranking.
- Keep current content on your site to encourage repeat visits.
Video content can be an entertaining and educational way to engage your website visitors. But did you know that it is also one of the easiest ways to obtain a page one rank on Google? Google now returns blended search results for many keywords. You may have seen these blended results in your own experience with Google. For many search terms, a blended search results page may include news, maps, images, and videos in addition to the standard search results and paid search results. A Forrester Research Report used 40 common keyword phrases and examined the blended search results to estimate chances of achieving first page results. Of the phrases that returned blended results, there were 16,000 videos vying for one of an average 1.5 videos positions. Comparing this to an average of 4.7 millioin text pages vying for the average of 9.4 slots of text based results. This means your competition is a lot weaker when vying for a slot in the video results, and on average you chances are 50 times better of receiving a page one organic result with video content than with text content.
There are a few guidelines that you need to follow to get the maximum search results from your video content.
- Host the videos on YouTube, and embed them in your site. In the Forrester Research nearly every vide returned in Google’s blended results was a YouTube hosted Video.
- Optimize your video content by including the key phrases you are targeting into video filenames, video titles, descriptions and tags.
- Embed the videos into related text pages on your site. Make sure the text on the page is optimized on the same key phrases, to help Google figure out what the video is about.
- Create a video library of all video on your site.
- Create a video sitemap. Use Google Webmaster Tools Video Section, which has instructions and tools to help you with this process.
When developing a strong online presence, remember that content is king. Content serves a dual role. It can make your website more current, more relevant, more informative, more engaging and more entertaining. It also makes your website more appealing to search engines, which will allow you achieve the search engine results that you need to be found by the people who are looking for you. This will allow you to ultimately be more successful in achieving the business goals of your online presence management strategy.
In this fifth part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss the next step to consider once you decide to take control of managing your online presence, Directory Listing.
Getting listed in all relevant directories is critical to being found. Getting listed in various directories, and making sure that your website is linked to correctly from those directories actually serves two purposes. You can be found by people using those particular directories, but also links from those websites can improve your search engine ranking. Directories that you want to be found in and linked to from fall into three different categories. Those categories are:
- Search Engine Directories
- Web Based Business Directories
- Local Neighborhood Organizations or Professional Groups
Search Engine Directories
Since all search now has a local component, it is important to make sure that your website is correctly registered in Google and Bing’s local business listings. Search results in these search engines are location based, and being correctly registered geographically is critical to being found by local searchers for your goods or services. Both Google webmaster tools and Bing webmaster tools allow you to manage all of the information and links for your business, and make sure they are accurate and up to date.
Web Based Business Directories
There are also other internet based business directory sites on which you should consider being listed. Some of these sites are free to be listed, many charge to be listed. Here is a good list of the top 40 Web Directories based on inbound link quality.
Local Neighborhood Organizations or Professional Groups
It is also important to maintain current registration in all neighborhood organizations, professional groups, or any business organizations that are relevant to your business. These are going to vary widely depending on the type of business and the community you live in. It is important to spend some time researching any organizations that your business can become a member of, especially organizations that have websites with directories of their membership. You should also research any niche search engine, for example Lawyers.com for the legal profession. These registrations are important for two reasons. First, searches may find you if they happen to find the listings of that organization. Second, the linking to your site by theses other sites provides valuable back links that will give your site credibility, and thus higher ranking, with search engines.
In this fourth part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss the next step to consider once you decide to take control of managing your online presence, Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is not the only component of a successful online presence, but it is one of the more important, and is often the measuring stick of how successful all the components of your Online Presence Management (OPM) are working. Many of the other components of a successful online presence, such as adding a blog to engage users, will ultimately result in a better search engine ranking.
Search Engine Optimization is a process of refining, measuring, and repeating the process. It is not actions that can be taken overnight with instantaneous results. Beware of anyone who says that it can be done that way. Google has published a great introductory guide, the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.
The basic steps in search engine optimization of your web site are:
- Market Research
- Define Key Phrases
- Site Structure
- Web Site Optimization
- Search Engine Submission
- Monitor Search Engine Rankings
- Link Building
Before getting started in optimizing your website, it is time well spent to see what others in your market are doing. Think of a few simple key phrases that you would use to search for your website, and see who comes up in the search results. See what their websites look like. These are going to be your competitors. There are some tools to see what they are doing in a little more detail. SEO Tools for Firefox is a set of extensions that you should download and add to you Firefox browser. (Download the Firefox browser, too, if you haven’t already). These tools give you a lot of valuable SEO information for every page you visit. Things like site age, Google PageRank, inbound link count, major directories they are listed in, and if bloggers link to their sites are all reported in a tool bar for every web page that you visit. You can use this tool to see what your competitors are doing, and later to monitor your progress on your web site.
Define Key Phrases
This is probably the most important step in the SEO process. You want your key phrases to be an educated guess at what users who are looking for your business would key into a search engine. You should start by brainstorming a list of all possible things that you can think of that someone may type into a search engine if they were looking for you. One tool that can help in this phase is the SEOBook Keyword Research Tool. Once you have made an exhaustive list, you will probably have 50 or more phrases that could potentially be typed in by someone looking for you. At this point you need to do a little research on those phrases. Using Google’s Keyword Grader Tool, you can now begin to research the key phrases. The keyword grader tool will tell you how many times a month each phrase is keyed in to Google. Key phrases with very high numbers of queries per month are known as ‘short tail’ keywords. They will be harder to win, but will return greater traffic. More specific phrases with lower counts of queries per months are referred to as ‘long tail’ keywords. They will be easier to win but will return less traffic. When selecting the keywords you are going to target, you should have a mix of long tail and short tail keywords. If you pick all of the toughest short tail keywords, you may not be able to crack onto the first page for any of the terms for a while. You should narrow your list of key phrases down to 5-10 key phrases that you are going to target on your web site. Put those keywords in an excel spreadsheet or word document, because you should be referring back to them often.
Evaluate your site structure with your selected key phrases. Your site structure, including URL’s, folder names, and page titles should be evaluated. Determine which pages should be associated with which keywords. Once you’ve determined which pages are associated with which key phrases, the phrases should be uses in folder names, URLS, and page titles whenever possible. Your newly selected keywords should be reflected as much as possible into the structure of your site. You need to make sure that all pages in your site are linked to by at least one other page on your site. You should also make sure that you are using consistent anchor text in all links within your site, and whenever possible, use key phrases as the anchor text for links on your site.
Web Site Optimization
Once you have selected the keywords that you wish to rank for, you must now make sure those keywords appear in the places on your website where Google looks for clues about what your web site is about. The Page title is the first place keywords should be used. The actual content of your web page should be written for your audience, but there some things that you should keep in mind about how the content is structured. Google recognizes certain cues when scanning content. You should make sure that your content is well structured, using headers (H1 tags) for titles, subtitles (H2) and body tags. Google recognizes these when trying to classify content. The Meta Description tag is not a factor in search engine ranking, but will probably be used as the short 25 word description that Google returns when you page is listed in results. Fill out the Meta Description accordingly, with all pertinent information that you want someone viewing the search results to see located in the first 25 characters of the Meta Description.
Search Engine Submission
Once your site has been optimized, it is time to let the search engine know you are ready for them. If your site is new or if you have made changes (like optimizing) you can submit your site to the search engines to be crawled.
Monitor Search Engine Rankings- Once your site has been optimized you need a tool for ongoing monitoring and recording of the performance of your selected keywords in the search engines. The objective in monitoring is to track the performance over time of your web site for all of your key phrases across the major search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo. There are various tools for performing this type of monitoring. Paid services like SEO Power Suite, SEOMoz.org, and webCEO.com can do a lot of the legwork for you and make monitoring you search engine rankings, as well as the search engine rankings of your competitors, an automated task. There are also free tools that, with a little more effort on your part, allow you to compile some of the same statistics. Two examples of free tools are mikes-marketing-tools.com and webseoanalytics.com.
Link Building- This is sometimes referred to as ‘off page optimization’. You can begin building links to your sites by submitting them to directories that link back to your site. Other link building strategies include:
- Submit your site to general directories like DMOZ, the Yahoo! Directory, and Business.com. Here is a list of the top directories.
- Submit your site to relevant local sites like the local chamber of commerce and niche directories related to your business or location
- Join local or national trade organizations and make sure they have up to date information and links to your site
- Create content people are more likely to link to
In conclusion, Search Engine Optimization is a process. You must evaluate your competition, select key phrases that are important to your business, optimize your website for those phrases, monitor your search results, and perform link building activities. The ongoing process of SEO requires continuous monitoring, refinement, and optimization. Building strong search engine results is a continuous process. It can’t be accomplished overnight. Be wary of anyone who says it can.
In this third part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss the next step to consider once you decide to take control of managing your online presence, a website audit.
A website audit is a comprehensive review of your existing website for all of the technical factors that affect how search engines see your website, as well as other factors that affect your optimization of your website. Search engines routinely use ‘robots’ to spider through your website. That is how they build the complex indices of data that are used to return search engine results. These ‘robots’ expect certain practices to be used and certain structures to exist to be able to find and accurately index all of the pages of your site. Meeting all of their criteria is the first step to being found, and the first step toward search engine optimization, which we will discuss in more detail in a later post.
There are many technical factors that can negatively impact how a search engine crawls and sees your website:
- Broken links
- Un-indexed web pages
- Duplicate content
- HTML code errors
- 404 and other server response code errors
- Titles and meta descriptions that are too long or missing
There are automated tools that can perform a lot of the steps in a website audit. There are also many resources that provide excellent guides or checklists to performing a site audit. SEOMoz.org, a leading search engine optimization website, has a website audit checklist. SearchEnginePeople.com has a 5-minute website audit checklist. SearchEngineJournal.com has a 20 minute (or less) website audit. SearchEngineLand.com has How to Improve Organic Search Results with a Simple Site Audit.
As a means of understanding the process, let’s look at the major components of a site audit. Remember that your main goal in the website audit is seeing how search engines see your site, and making sure that your website is technically sound that search engines accurately and thoroughly index all of the content on your site.
Check the pages that Google currently indexes
Google provides a means to show you the pages that it has indexed for your site. Go to Google.com, and type “site: www.yoursite.com” in the search box. The number of search results returned is the number of pages Google has indexed. You can then use Google Webmaster Tools to also get a count of indexed pages. These results should be similar, or this is a potential red flag that you have an indexing problem, such as duplicate content or pages that did not get spidered by the Google robot.
Check your sites XML sitemap file
Every website should have an XML sitemap. There are many tools available for creating a sitemap. You can then use Google’s Webmaster Tools to make sure that Google has found and indexed your sitemap, so that the indexing and spidering of your site is as complete as it can be. You can directly submit the location of the sitemap for your site to Google using Google Webmaster Tools. Compare your sitemap to the indexing results from the Google “site:www.yoursite.com” results in the previous step to make sure they are similar, and that they both accurately reflect all of the content of your site.
Check your sites Robots.txt file
The Robots.txt file is file that allows you to provide explicit instructions to Google’s robot on how to crawl your site, specifically which pages of your site not to crawl. Make sure your robots.txt file hasn’t inadvertently blocked the crawling of content that should be crawled. Google Webmaster Tools has a built-in robots.txt checker in the Crawler Access section under Site Configuration.
Walk through the site like a user, checking the links and the flow
Step through the site follow the hierarch of the site. Is the site easy to follow? Is the flow logical? Do the internal links easily and logically guide you to all of the available content? The more logical the structure, the better it is for users as well as search engines.
Use a tool to walk through the site like a search engine
There are tools available in Google webmaster tools, and other tools like SEO Browser that allow you to see your pages the way a search engine spider does. Walk through your site with the tools. Are the links crawlable? Is important content visible? The walk through with a tool should be very similar to your walk through with a tool, or there could be a potential problem in how the site is indexed.
Check the content of your site
The content on each page needs to be as unique and thorough as possible. Check for duplicate content across pages. Check that all non-www pages redirect to www version of the pages. Check the amount of content on the page. Too many pages with just links and images are seen as low-quality to the search engines. Check for too much template driven content. If your site is template drive, each page should be customized as much as possible. Duplicate template generated content is also seen as low quality content.
Check the title tags and H1 tags and meta descriptions
Check for missing title tags, duplicate title tags, and missing or duplicate meta descriptions. Google Webmaster Tools provides an automated tool for doing this in the Diagnostics, section. Duplicate title tags can lead to “keyword cannibalization” where pages on your site are competing for ranking on the same search term. Make sure that your keywords are the first words in the title tag and H1 tag. Don’t use your company name to lead off.
Check your sites redirects
It is import that an optimized site redirects requests using a 301 redirect. For example, http://yoursite.com needs to be redirected to http://www.yoursite.com. There are tools to allow you to check those redirects. A tool like Live HTTP Headers will allow you to check the redirects to make sure they are 301 redirects.
A website audit is the first step in make your site search engine friendly. Following the guidelines here will make help you make sure that your site is doing everything technically so that it will be successfully crawled and indexed by search engines.
Every business has an online presence. Managing that online presence to actually generate new business has become an increasingly more complex task. But with the increasing complexity comes greater opportunity.
In this second part of my series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss one of the first steps you should take when you decide to take control of managing your online presence, business goal refinement.
The success or failure of your online presence is ultimately going to be measured by meeting some business goal. What is this goal for your business? Increase brand recognition? Generate Leads? Increase Membership? Make Sales? Generate Revenue? The first step in managing your online presences is to define one or more quantifiable business goals for your online presence. The goals should be business related, as opposed to internet focused. Ranking #1 on Google for key search terms is a goal, and it is quantifiable, but it is internet focused as opposed to business focused. It may help you reach your goal, but it is not your ultimate business related goal. A strong vision of what you hope to accomplish with your online presence is important in guiding your priorities when deciding where your money and effort can best be spent. Without a clear business goal, it is often easy to get caught up in creating a strong online presence that may make a good pitch, but just can’t close the deal.
The business goal for your online presence is probably closely related to the core goal of any business, making money. This is where the refinement comes in. You need to refine ‘making money’ down to one of its business components that is critical to your success. To be able to measure the success or failure of your online presence management efforts you need to define specific, quantifiable, and easily measured business goals. Your return on investment (ROI) for money spent in developing your online presence should only be calculated in terms of how well you meet those goals. It is not enough to say you want a strong online presence that makes you money. You need to say ‘I want to strengthen my online presence so that I generate 300 new sales leads a month from my website alone’ or or ‘I want to get 200 phone calls requesting more information’ or ‘I want to generate 100 direct website sales per month’ or ‘I want to generate 50 new customers a month’.
Before moving forward, take the time to define a clear, specific goal that is quantifiable and easily measured. Having a goal will make all of the questions that come with managing your online presence easier to answer. A clear business goal can keep you focused, and help you move towards meeting that goal in the most effective way possible. Pick a prize, and it will be easier to keep your eyes on the prize as you manage your online presence.