Saturday, 5 May 2012

How to Measure Email Marketing Success Rate

There are a few specific metrics which need to be measured in order to determine the success (or failure) rate of your email marketing campaign.

If you’re using a tool for your email marketing efforts, such as Aweber or an alternative, are using the services of an Email Service Provider, or are using Google Analytics to gauge the metrics of your email marketing campaign, you’ll have access to certain stats and data about your campaign. All of which will make up a stats pack which will help you ascertain how well your email marketing is doing.

So what exactly are these metrics? Here are six that should help you determine the success of your email marketing campaign:

1. Bounce Rate

Another word for delivery-success rate, bounce rate can be defined as the percentage of emails that went undelivered, as compared to the total emails sent. The resultant number is the bounce rate.

Use these to determine issues with your mailing lists, for instance if you have a high-bounce rate, why is it high? Why are your emails not being delivered. In order to determine these, make sure you know the difference between hard and soft bounce rates. Soft bounce is a result of a temporary problem with the recipient’s email ID, such as problem with the server or a full inbox. Hard bounce are those emails which repeatedly bounce back, and hence points towards an issue such as an invalid email ID, to which an email will never be delivered.

Remove hard bounce email IDs immediately, in order to have an acceptable bounce rate, otherwise you might be flagged a spammer by your ISP or email service provider.

2. CTR (click-through rate)

The number of email recipients who ended up clicking on one or more of the links within your email. This can be measured as a percentage of unique clicks per emails sent/delivered, or total clicks per emails sent/delivered. However only one of the aforementioned should be used, and not interchangeably.

CTR is easily one of the most important and useful statistic when it comes to online marketing, and especially email marketing campaign. Why? Because CTR tells you straightaway how relevant, interesting, related, compelling, appropriate and above all, valuable your message was to your recipients. An email with a high CTR would indicate an interesting and relevant email, and would mean that your subscribers and recipients found it to be compelling enough to open and click on the links within it.

3. Conversions

Conversion rate is simply measured by looking at the number of people who clicked on a link within an email and performed a desired action, which is ideally an action you wanted them to take with the help of the email. This could be anything – form reading your newsletter, to filling out a form, to reading your post, to liking your Facebook page, to purchasing a product off your website.

Conversion rate is another important tool in assessing the effectiveness of your email marketing campaign. Some would even argue that it is the most important tool when it comes to email marketing, as conversions are directly proportional to your success. A higher conversion rate would mean your offers are compelling, and all your marketing efforts are effective.

It is important to note that a successful conversion is one which completes the process.

Also, a lot of different factors contribute towards a successful or unsuccessful conversion rate – factors such as the quality of your landing page, problems with your conversion process and so on. Most importantly however, having a strong, effective and clear CTA (call to action) would ensure that you have a strong conversion rate as well.

For instance a bug in your form, or a dead URL would adversely affect your conversion rate.

4. List Growth

Simple, and pretty self-explanatory: This is a measure of how quickly your list is growing. This can be measured by adding opt-outs and hard bounces and subtracting the result from the number of new subscribers and dividing the resultant number by the total list size.

A good list needs to have a good growth rate, add new members and email IDs constantly and at regular intervals. This is especially important because many email IDs on your list will probably end up being unused to be closed down, as people switch to other providers, change service providers, switch jobs, forget their passwords, etc.

5. Forwards

In simple terms, the number of people who forwarded an email to friends, coworkers, etc, or clicked on the share button to share it on their social media profiles.

This also demonstrates the relevance and interest-level of your email among its recipients. For instance if your emails are interesting enough, and recipients find your newsletter, offer, etc interesting and compelling enough to share with others, they will most likely do so. Emails with interesting content, such as videos and images are likely to be forwarded and shared a lot, giving you the potential to go viral. Likewise emails that are forwarded a lot can end up being chain-emails.

6. Revenue

Return on Investment, or ROI, of your emails and your email campaign in general. Revenue and ROI gives you a clear picture of the success of your email marketing campaign in general, and in monetary terms as well.

While measuring ROI is important for all marketers, as well as all email marketers, ROI is particularly useful for ecommerce email marketers, who would want to determine the sales generated from email campaigns. However measuring ROI usually goes hand-in-hand with measuring bounce-rates, CTR and conversion rates.

Friday, 4 May 2012

How to Deal with Blog Comments

Blog comments comes in all shapes and sizes (well, not literally), all forms of goodness or nastiness, spam, trash, useful comments, long essays, offtopic, completely nonsensical, and what not!

I’ve been blogging for a while now, so trust me, I’ve seen them all!

If you’re a blog owner, the question then really, is how do you deal with some of the comments and the commenters? I’ll be looking at 5 different types of blog comments and how you, as a blog owner, can and should deal with these comments:

1. Spam

Spam comments are usually totally random, completely off-topic BS, stuffed with links which are meant for promoting commercial websites. Usually, these links direct you to porn or pharmaceutical websites. Spam comments are often bot-generated comments, and spammers are actually getting sneakier and finding clever ways of getting through, when once it was as simple as using a plugin to block spam. Solution? Delete on sight! If you’re on Wordpress, use Akismet or other plugins for the purpose.

2. The Troll

Troll is someone who takes particular pleasure in posting inflammatory, controversial or off-topic comments, and on purpose, with the sole purpose and intent of provoking others into an off-topic or emotional response. In addition, trolls often criticize people, products, the blog or just about anything else, and end up instigating people as well. Dealing with trolls can be tricky. You could choose to ignore them (aka. ‘do not feed the trolls!’), and/or simply ban them (by banning their IP) from posting on your blog. Your call! But remember that sometimes trolls too might have something useful to say, even if they don’t say it how they should!

3. Legit Commenters

These people are a rare commodity! Something that every blogger hopes he can get. Legit commenters, as the name implies, are people who post genuine comments, which are on-topic, thoughtful, relevant, and above all, add value to the post itself. And even when these guys disagree, they tend to do it respectfully. In short, they’re every bloggers dream! The only way you could deal with these guys is making sure you respond to any and all their comments, each and every time that they comment.

4. Skimmers

Once again, as the name implies, skimmers do not read the entire post, rather tend to skim through a post, picking up a couple of things in the 2 minutes that they took to read a 1000 word post, and base their comments and/or argument on the few keywords that they picked up during the process. So how exactly does one deal with skimmers? Well, for starters, you could tell them to read the whole post before commenting. However as a blog owner, be polite when doing so! The fact is, if they didn’t read it the first time, they probably won’t do so again.

5. Generic Commenter

Generic comments include annoying comments and one-liners like ‘Interesting post, thanks for writing’ or any one of its variants. Honestly, if I had a penny for each of these comments, I’d be a billionaire by now! Generic comments, while being polite, add nothing to the conversation, and lack substance of any sort. The only purpose that they do serve is acknowledgement. Such comments can also be spam, simply written to include links in the comment. The best way to deal with such comments, is to add a ‘like’ button to your blog, and delete all ‘nice post thanks’ comments, since the like button basically serves the same purpose.

Bear in mind however that unless you are absolutely certain that the comment is spam, deleting it could actually put off genuine commenter and/or a visitor, adversely affecting your traffic.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Effective Email Marketing

Any blogger would know the importance of email lists, and how important a tool email marketing really is.

Email marketing, if done right, is the fastest, easiest and potentially the most effective way of increasing sales.

Visitors, who have subscribed to your emails on their own accord, would ideally want to hear from you via email.   

However email marketing comes with two major pitfalls: (a) it is anything but easy to build mailing lists in the first place, and most mailing lists takes months, if not more, to be built up to a sizeable number, and (b) email marketing tends to have a rather small ROI, a low CTR and an even lower conversion rate.

However there are ways with which you can create a successful email marketing campaign. The first process involves building a list, and taking the right steps towards ensuring people open your lists and do what you want them to do, i.e. having an effective conversion rate.

List building

Easily one of the toughest parts when it comes to email marketing, and the first hurdle you’ll encounter during your email marketing efforts. In order to be an email marketer, you need to make sure that you have a list of people and email IDs to market (send emails out) to!

The bigger the list, the more people you’ll be able to reach out to, the larger your potential clientele will be, consequently allowing you to achieve a higher conversion rate with your CTA.

But building a sizeable list is easier said than done. But do-able nonetheless, here are some tips on how to build a list:

  1.  Making it easy and straightforward to subscribe – put a banner on your homepage which asks people to subscribe – on the top or on the sidebar, add a static form on your about page or contact page for the same purpose, send out updates on your Facebook and Google Plus pages and Tweets reminding people to subscribe to your posts (but don’t be too annoying about it, once every couple of days would do). Make sure that you let people know what benefit(s) they would get by signing up.
  2. Popups and opt-ins – even opened a website or a blog, only to be met with one of those annoying pop-up messages asking you to buy, like or subscribe to something? That annoying box that you always close? While it may be true that almost everyone closes any and all of those annoying boxes the instant they pop-up, they still are more effective than static forms to build lists and get subscribers. Aweber is one service that offers such pop-up boxes.
  3.  Incentives and benefits – you could also try your hand with giveaways or similar promotions, aimed exclusive at your subscriber/email list. For instance you could give away a free copy of your Wordpress plugin, your eBook, a free guitar lesson, a rebate coupon with 50% off on membership, or just about anything else applicable to your website. Sky’s the limit here. All these incentives could be offered to every 50th subscriber, the first 20 people to subscribe to your newsletter or to a random 100 subscribers. Give people an incentive to subscribe. Your incentive could even be something as simple as a series of posts that you do on your blog, and asking people to subscribe to your series.

Emails That People Open, Not Spam

Once you’ve built up a list (small or large), the next step would be to start sending out emails. However most of the email sent by email marketers don’t get through email spam filters, and most often simply end up in the junk.

And even those that aren’t categorized as spam, but as legit emails and do end up in people’s inboxes are usually not read or simply ignored or overlooked. Remember, people usually get a lot of emails every day, some even get hundreds of emails daily (if not more), so you’re facing some stiff competition here.

So what can you do in order to ensure that your emails (a) don’t end being categorized as spam and don’t end up in the junk folder, and (b) don’t end up being ‘just another email’ in people’s inboxes?
  1. Subject – make sure you absolutely nail that subject line. Use proper grammatical sentences, and keep it short when it comes to the subject line. In short, write your subject line the same way that you would write a subject line for any other professional email you would send out to, say, your boss or your coworker. Try to be honest, convincing, but sound less like a salesman. Be creative and innovative here. Put yourself in your subscriber’s shoes: what would you categorize as a good subject line if you were a recipient of such an email? What would make you want to instantly open an email as soon as you read the subject?
  2. Creativity – be creative with your newsletter. Provide your subscribers and recipients with value – something that they would want to see and would appreciate in your newsletter. Give them something extra, going the extra mile is usually a good idea. Use pictures and videos in your emails. There are tons of email marketing software and apps out there that let you design some extremely interesting and attractive-looking emails. Even Aweber does that for you.
  3. CTA – As with any of your marketing efforts, make sure that you have a clear and precise CTA in your emails as well – what action do you want your subscribers to take?
  4. Value – provide your subscribers with value. Provide help, tips, advice, and ask questions in your newsletter, feature the best answers and responses in the next edition. Give discounts, giveaways and the like. Make your newsletter an ‘experience’ for your subscribers and it will garner more interest and hence more subscriptions as well.
  5. Ask people to add your newsletter email in their safe-lists – most newsletters and subscription forms already come accompanied with this warning, make sure you ask all subscribers to add your newsletter’s email ID to their email safe-lists, or mark your emails ‘not spam’, so that they end up in their inbox instead of their junk email folders.

The problem-solution formula usually works here too. People have problems in some form or the other, and you have the unique opportunity to provide them with a solution, through the newsletter. If you are successful in doing so, you will get more subscribers. Making your email marketing campaign worth the effort.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Optimize Images for Google

We live and breathe in a world of images and visual content today. Words, are mere words now, insignificant. Visual content is the rage, and apparently, images and pictures are the new black!

Marketers have jumped on the bandwagon and embraced visual content such as videos and images, and made it a part of any and all of their online marketing efforts. This is especially true when it comes to social media marketing.

Social mediums such as Facebook and Twitter have been altered to give preference to visual content – Twitter has natively integrated Twitpic and Facebook has done away with walls and introduced timelines.

And that doesn’t even begin to mention the emergence and popularity of relatively-new social mediums such as Pinterest, a social networking website based solely on sharing pictures and images. And Pinterest, mind you, the ranked 3rd right now in terms of total number of visits-per-month (just 80 million shy of second-placed Twitter), and also in terms of generating referral traffic!

Importance of Images

Images and pictures are important, for numerous reasons.

  1. They make your content more engaging and interesting, helping your content garner more interest! Users are more likely to comment on a picture rather than a boring wall of text, if you think about it.
  2. They give your brand a unique identity, which is instantly recognizable and identifiable.
  3. They provide a lot of information in a short space, for instance through the use of infographics (literally proving that the age old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is correct!).
  4. They provide an opportunity for marketers to market their products, and get referral traffic. Pinterest, for instance, has just burst onto the scene, and is already generating more referral traffic than G+, Linkedin and Youtube combined!
  5. Enhances customer engagement by providing users with an opportunity to provide feedback and comment (such as on social mediums).

Google’s Image Indexing Criteria

Google’s crawlers and bots look at the following set of attributes when indexing images:
  1.  Image type – Google indexes all of the common image types, such as JPG, BMP, GIF and PNG.
  2.  Anchor text, image title and alt attributes.

How to Optimize Images for Google

According to Google, the following should be done with any and all images on your blog, in order to optimize them for Google and other search engines:
  1. Use supported formats – such as the ones mentioned above – JPG, BMP, GIF or PNG only, as Google will only index these file formats.
  2. Titles and Names – It is extremely important to name your files correctly, giving them proper filenames. For instance most camera pictures are usually titled DSC12498, or images could be titled IMG5423. Instead, name your articles something that would tell visitors as well as search engines what the image is about, e.g. football-player-tackle.jpg or iphone-5-concept.jpg or a similar descriptive title.
  3. Alt-Text Matters – Google does not have eyes and hence cannot ‘look’ at images. That’s where the alt-text comes in. Alt-text also helps describe images in a similar way as the title would, and in a similar way a human would ‘see’ the image. It gives Google the information about the image, and helps it determine which keyword(s) the image should be ranked for. Alt-text should never be left blank, and should be as descriptive as possible (in the least amount of words as possible), instead of simply a one-letter word. Bear in mind that according to Google’s recent changes, keyword stuffing should be avoided at all costs!
  4. Context – provide a few words about the image, around the image itself, for instance a few words describing the image and what it is.
  5. File size – no limitations or restriction. Image can be as small or large as desired!
  6. Image sitemap – similar to regular sitemaps (which is a list of pages on your website, telling Google about the pages on your website, it is also recommended to submit an image sitemap to Google, as it helps Google discover the images on your website.
  7. Image Protection – even though Google uses different ways to determine the original source of the image, it is difficult to do so, especially when multiple copies of the same image exist and hence it is important to ensure you protect your own images by providing as much information about your own images as possible. If you want others to use your original images, link to them and reproduce them on their own website, go for Creative Common License. If not, add copyright text and/or watermark your images. Similarly, if you use an image from another external source, do so with permission, and credit the original source/uploader.
  8. Create a user-experience for your visitors – use good quality photos, put images as high up in your posts as possible, create uniformity by specifying the same width and height dimensions for all your images and above all, optimize images so that they load quickly, and don’t hog down bandwidth and resources or affect your website load-times.

Additional Read

For a complete list of Google Image Publishing Guidelines, with additional image-indexing criterion and more details, do read up on Google’s Webmaster Tools!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

How to Set Up a New Wordpress Blog for SEO

When setting up a new blog on Wordpress, most WP bloggers and developers tend to ignore some crucial aspects regarding their blog and good search engine optimization. These developers tend to add their favorite plugins and to the blog and think that their job is done, and the plugins will do the rest. That however is untrue.

There is a set of things that one needs to do when setting up a blog on Wordpress. It is this set of ‘best practices’ that determines how well you SEO does.

These best practices include basic stuff like adding a few free plugins to your blog, strong link-building and other on-site and off-site aspects. It also includes some not-so-obvious stuff such as having good, quality content on your blog, using a theme that is SEO friendly, improving website navigation and the like.

Benefits of Good SEO

Without a shadow of a doubt, SEO is important. A good SEO strategy provides multiple benefits, such as a constant stream of traffic and revenue on a regular basis. SEO is hands down the best way of getting traffic, ranking high on the SERP for your keywords, having a good CTR and attaining a low bounce rate – just to name a few of the benefits.

Getting traffic at regular intervals is the key here! For instance if you run a promotion for your blog on your Facebook page, you might end up getting a 100 visitors the first day, or maybe even more, which is great. But then the next day, that number might be 0. You might end up getting no visitors at all the very next day!

SEO ensures that doesn’t happen, and that you continue getting a steady stream of traffic every single day. And not just any traffic, getting targeted traffic is the cornerstone of any good SEO strategy!

SEO is important from a purely monetary perspective as well. A steady stream of visitors on your AdSense-enabled blog, your affiliate marketing website or your ecommerce setup would ensure a steady stream of revenue as well.

In addition, a proven SEO record, which shows that you can consistently attract new visitors will also play a big role in helping you expand your SEO clientele.

SEO with a New WP Blog

With a new Wordpress blog, expecting a large number of visitors and a bagful of revenue and cash almost instantly is unrealistic and highly unlikely. It takes time and patience. However there are many things that you can do with your Wordpress blog initially, all of which form an essential part of good SEO. These SEO ‘best practices’ will ensure long-term success for you as far as your SEO efforts are concerned. Having a solid SEO foundation at launch usually goes a long way in providing you with far-reaching effects for your blog and your business.
  1. Use a SEO-friendly theme – I’ve created a countless number of blogs, and trust me when I say this: putting on a good, SEO friendly theme on your blog is essential. The beauty of Wordpress is that it is backed by and excellent support system in terms of plugins and themes. My suggestion would be to invest in a good, premium theme. Thesis theme would be a good place to start. A good theme will allow you to set up meta titles, descriptions, tags, as well as H1, 2 and 3 headings, and the like.
  2. Essential plugins – There are over 19,000 plugins available on the Wordpress gallery, so its safe to say that you have plenty to choose from! The WP plugins page will even recommend essential Wordpress plugins for you. Start off with Yoast’s Wordpres SEO and the All-in-one SEO Pack – both excellent plugins from the SEO perspective and a generally good place to start. You can add, edit or generate all sorts of meta information, breadcrumbs, XML sitemap, and the like with these.
  3. Understanding How Search Engines Work – search engines crawlers and bots look for specific keywords on your website. Keywords used the most frequently are eventually the ones you get ranked for. For instance if you run a blog on Football, you will probably end up using the word a lot. Search engines like Google will pick this up, and rank you for it. Keyword research is an essential part of SEO. Do your research, use Google’s Keyword Research Tool to find out which keywords are the most popular, and try including them in your content. Speaking of content …
  4. The Blog Content – writing good quality posts, unique content, which is not rehashed, copied or spun, is important. Google places a lot of emphasis on quality. All posts and pages should come with proper meta information, titles, and tags. Titles and tags should include your keyword in them. But above all, having good quality content that is updated on a regular basis (not necessarily daily), content that provides value to its readers, is perhaps the most important thing here. In addition, create proper permalinks (e.g. that accompany your posts, and include your keywords in the permalink. Keep it small, short and easy to read.
  5. Submit your blog to search engines – Google’s webmaster tools and Submit Your Content services allow you to do just this!
  6. Measure, analyze, adapt – Use an analytics package such as Google Analytics to measure and analyze how well your blog is doing. From basic information such as the number of visitors you’re getting, to looking beyond basics, it is all important. Check visitor demographics, trends, CTR rates, how well your social media promotions are doing… it is all important. Change and adapt accordingly.

Concluding Words

SEO is a really vast field, and while is it humanly impossible to cover each and every thing in a single post, getting a few basics right and building upon them is generally a good idea. Getting to know all aspects of SEO takes time. But getting the basics right usually goes a long way!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Content is King!

The Importance of Good Content

When it comes to high rankings, and getting ranked as high as possible on the SERP, the adage ‘content is king’ is as true as it gets!

If you’re looking to get your website or blog ranked, the formula for success is simple: create good content that is (a) unique, (b) fresh, (c) not copied or spun, (d) updated regularly, and of course (e) is comprehensive and thorough.

Ever since the now-infamous update to Google’s search algorithm called Google Panda, a lot of emphasis has been placed upon creating good content. Google will now look at the content of the website in order to determine its ranking (among other things), and websites with high-quality and fresh content will be placed higher up the SERP by Google, simple as that.

Furthermore, good content is also essential in order to have a low bounce rate and a good conversion rate. A page with low-quality content, with bad grammar, copied or spun content will only put off the readers, forcing them to move onto another website. This will result in a low conversion rate, a high bounce rate and hence, a low revenue.

What all of this means is that creating websites with high-quality content is the cornerstone to having good rankings and SERPs, and should be a vital part of any and all of one’s SEO efforts.

Value is Key!

According to statistics, it takes just 5-7 seconds for an average visitor to determine whether your website is worth sticking around on or not. If you put high-quality content that provides value to your target market, the niche that you might be targeting, as well as your readers, they would, most certainly want to stick around.

‘Value’ is the key term here. What value are you providing to your visitors? What is the one thing that is unique on your website? What makes your website different from the others? Why would someone want to stay on your website?

When it comes to content, going the extra mile usually pays off in the long run. For instance your target market might be football fans, but what sets your blog apart from the million-and-one other football blogs out there? You could try giving interesting statistics on your blog, or providing useful ‘insider information’ on fantasy picks or betting info, for instance, to provide that little extra something to your visitors.

Quality Content

Quality over quantity is what really matters. Remember that when someone sticks around on your website, becomes a regular visitor, or bookmarks your website, it is usually because of the quality of content on your website.

Not only will good quality get you higher SERPs and a stream of regular ‘targeted’ visitors, good quality content also tends to be shared and spread around more often, and will have a higher chance of ‘going viral’.

Quality Content Checklist

Good quality content is usually:
  • Informative
  • Unique
  • Relevant
  • Not spun or copied; in other words, unique
  • Updated regularly (not necessarily daily)

Quality Content Ideas:

Be creative, share ideas, provide ‘insider information’, ask questions, provide statistics and infographics, use humor, give advice, give tips, tricks and share DIYs, and be controversial. These are just some ideas that you can use to come up with interesting content.

Concluding Words

So in conclusion, good content will always form the foundation of any good SEO campaign, the defining factor of good Search Engine Optimization.

But remember, content should always be written for people and visitors, NOT for Google or getting higher rankings. Anything written with the sole purpose of serving and providing value to the people will always be given preference by Google when it comes to higher SERP ranking, and even Google backs this up.

Plus good content has the potential to be shared more, which gets your website more exposure and possibly traffic from high-PR sources!

So yes, in conclusion, content indeed is the king! 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Avoid Website Over-Optimization

Google’s ‘Panda’ updates have, quite literally, rocked the SEO and SEM industry to its very core, forever changing how Google’s search algorithm functions.

This is forced internet marketers and search engine optimization engineers and experts to adapt accordingly, and alter their marketing and optimization practices in accordance as well.

Google recently announced that over-optimized websites and pages would be liable to penalty as well. If you’re engaging in over-optimization practices on purpose, it could potentially land you and your website in a bit of a predicament. But you might also not be sure what exactly qualifies as over-optimization according to Google’s rule book.

In either case, read on, as I’ll be going over some over-optimization practices, how they can be avoided and what you need to do (ASAP!) in order to make sure your website does not end up getting penalized by Google.

1. Authentic Titles

All your titles need to be authentic and read and sound as if they were written by a human and not a machine. Titles that are too robotic, or make it obvious that they were written with the sole purpose of getting your keywords ranked are a big no here.
Consider the following example, which clearly demonstrates the difference between a good and a bad title:
  • Bad title: football transfer, football news, football gossip, match reviews
  • Good title: Your one-stop for all football transfer news, behind-the-scenes gossip and match reviews!

See what I did there? The first title is as far from being a human-written title as possible. No one would stop to read it and think yeah, this seems to be human written and look legit. The second one, however, has a much more chance of grabbing the reader’s attention, looks and sounds legit and above all, is still able to include all the keywords that were present in the first one!

You need people to think that your titles are legitimate and genuine, and not manipulative or spammy.

2. Keyword Stuffing

Often times, you find yourself on a website that, besides having useful and informative content, would have these text boxes scattered throughout the page containing absolute gibberish. It would typically be a totally random block of text, stuffed with the keyword, among other random, useless text.

That is a deliberate ploy to fool search engine crawlers to pick up the keywords and ranking the website for those keywords. While fooling Google might’ve worked in the past, all it’ll now do is help it penalize you.

With the recent changes, it is strongly recommended that you get rid of any and all such spam text boxes, as keyword stuffing is a sure-fire way of having your website de-indexed, thanks to the recent changes. They are not good for conversions, CTR, or even good traffic, might put off your visitors and now, might penalize your website.

Besides, there are other better ways to have your website ranked, not to mention which are legit and totally whitehat. Sharing your content and website on Facebook, for one, could be a good way to start!

3. Backlinks from Penalized Sources

Tough one to identify. You’ve probably spent days, if not more, to create backlinks on hundreds of thousands of places. What if those sources were also potentially in danger of being penalized? This would mean your website would now be getting traffic from penalized sources, which quite obviously would hurt your rankings.

Be wary of private link networks, reciprocal link-building networks, or any article marketing sites. There are many other great ways of building links than by getting onboard with sites which are using shady, quite possibly blackhat backlinking methods, putting you and your website in danger while quite obviously endangering their own.

Reciprocal links, where people exchange links by putting each other’s links on their websites is a big no here. Stay away!

4. Internal Linking

Manipulative internal linking is like handing Google a reason to ban or de-index you. Repeated words, thrown across the website or a page – like in the footer or a sidebar, and especially those containing anchor text which points to the same page repeatedly, is just asking for trouble.

From an SEO perspective, having too many backlinks pointing to the same page is useless anyway, as it doesn’t do anything to improve the value of the page, and above all, look like the page has been spammed with links to anyone reading our browsing the website.

The secret of effective internal linking is avoiding repetitive linking, and link once to those posts which you think people might find helpful or useful in the context of your post/page/content.

Also avoid putting too many anchor links in the footer of the pages, instead put things in your footer that people would actually expect to find there. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Google Panda and How It Affects SEO and You

March 2011 was probably the worst month of my life! A couple of my blogs and websites, which had generally been doing very well for a good few years until that point, took a real SERP nosedive, and I lost a lot of visitors and traffic (and a good chunk of my revenues) almost instantly.

Turns out that those websites had become the casualty of the now-infamous ‘Panda’ – the change in Google’s search algorithm dubbed the Google Panda.

My first thought was that it was all quite obviously a mistake, an error, a screw-up on Google’s part. Because all my websites were in complete coherence with Google’s list of recommendations for webmasters, had good quality content on them, and above all, all my SEO practices consisted of completely whitehat SEO methods. I was doing nothing illegal or what Google would term blackhat methods.

However upon further investigation, it was discovered that the dip rankings and the traffic was deserved. I had made some mistakes that had cost me a good 3+ years of hard work, and chosen to ignore a few good SEO habits. I therefore set about to rectify those mistakes and I’m glad to say that a year later, I have made a pretty good recovery from the setbacks.

So what exactly are these changes, and how do they affect you and your website? Most importantly perhaps, how can you, as a fellow SEO and webmaster, adapt? Read on.

1. The Content

Google’s Panda update was notorious for its emphasis on unique, high-quality, well-researched and comprehensively-written content that provides value to the reader.

Therefore, make sure you avoid writing those 100-words-or-less articles.

Write well, be comprehensive and above all, write quality! Quality over quantity is what the Panda and Google will look at, but having said that, you cannot honestly expect to be comprehensive and thorough with whatever you want to say in a 100 words, right?

While it is not a written rule, it is generally a good idea to stick with a minimum of 300-400 words. Spun or copied content is a big no here, as such content almost guarantees your website getting de-indexed and banned for good.

2. Breadcrumbs

Using breadcrumb navigation is essential. I am of course referring to the links on top of a website that show where you might be on the site at a single glance. For instance Home > Football > Match Reviews > Champions League. Or something similar to that that.

Almost every website uses breadcrumbs, as not only they are good in terms of good rankings, they also provide your visitors with proper navigation and help them from getting lost on your website.

3. Blog Speed

Google has pretty much made it crystal clear that blog or website speed (overall speed, load times, etc.) would be playing a big role in determining its rank. It is therefore essential to ensure that your website has optimal loading times. Pingdom for instance, is a tool that lets you check just that.

Make sure that (a) your website is hosted locally, or in the country you’re targeting, (b) you get a good host, because even shared packages from good hosts work well, however do look into investing in a dedicated hosting package if budgets allow, and (c) keep your website as light as possible, by not putting too many plugins, high-res and high-size images or anything else that would slow down its load times.

4. Social Integration

The Panda update is also well-known now for its emphasis on social integration, and I’ve always been a big fan and an advocate of integration all my websites and blog with Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, Youtube and more recently, Pinterest.

Not surprisingly then, did I see specifically all those blogs taking a hit which had poor social media integration. Now however, all my websites are properly integrated with social mediums, with Facebook, Twitter et all.

Above all, buttons for all these social sites are now properly displayed on all websites. This in particular is something that is extremely important – having ‘like’, ‘+1’ ‘RT’ etc. buttons on your website and all posts. Most themes (such as those on the Wordpress platform) already come with such integration; all you need to do is link your account with these buttons.

For those who might put this off because of time/hassle, well, it doesn’t take too long to set up a Facebook page, does it?

5. Rich Snippets

Panda also introduces a little something called rich-snippets, essential to good SEO. But what exactly are these?

Ever run a search on Google, and seen results accompanied with those little headshots or mug shots of people, in the results page? Well those are rich snippets, and they are actually a part of Google’s authorship program.

All you need to do to get your own mug right beside your website in the results is to create a Google+ profile, fill out a form, and get a markup code which is to be inserted in your website, and voila! You’ll be a certified author, with the ability to have rich snippets for your website appear in the search results.

Not only do rich snippets make your website stand out in a sea of search results (almost forcing the user to click), they also improve the SEO worth of your website considerably, allowing you to rank higher in the SEPRs. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

Getting Traffic through Social Mediums

Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin, StumbleUpon, Twitter, G+ and Pinterest are all the rage right now, right? It is therefore only logical to harness the power of these social mediums, in order to get as much as traffic to your website as possible.

The stats pretty much speak for themselves. Facebook recently crossed 900 million users and is quickly closing in on that magical and rather monumental 1 billion users mark. Every day, almost one-third of those user check-in to their Facebook accounts. Facebook alone is responsible for generating 26% of the total referral traffic!

Twitter isn’t doing too badly either: half-a-billion users (500 mil in February 2012, to be exact) – half of which are active Twitter users, and a million new users sign up on Twitter every single day. In addition, a massive 170 million Tweets sent out every day, and Twitter also generates 4% referral traffic, just about the same as Pinterest does.

Many even believe that it is just a matter of time before traffic generated from social mediums surpasses that from Google!

So we see that social mediums alone are referring massive amounts of referral traffic, and it is quite evident that there is massive potential to generate traffic. The best part is that these social mediums are free to use, and most of us probably are already active Facebook and Twitter users, which means there would be a much small learning curve involved.

But what exactly can you do to have your website make its mark on Facebook, StumbleUpon or Twitter, get 100s of likes, shares, +1s and retweets, and generate traffic off these social networking sites? Here is a beginner-friendly guide, which lists down 5 easy steps aimed at helping you and your website be part of the social media storm!

1.  Create a well-designed and attractive profile

First off, make sure that all your personal profiles are separate from your website ones. Create separate pages, groups, circles, channels and account for your website on any and all social mediums - whether it’s a Facebook fan page, Facebook group, a Twitter or a LinkedIn account or a Youtube channel.

Secondly, you need to make sure that the page is well-designed – has a proper niche-targeted name, proper information filled out such as the website URL, description and a logo. And it should look attractive – you might not have a lot of options in this regard on Twitter, for instance, But Youtube lets you build some extremely unique and attractive-looking channels.

Put the link to your website everywhere possible – on the profile, description, display image, etc. A good idea in this regard would be to watermark all your pictures with a logo and URL of your website.
A well-constructed profile will give you a good brand personality, and reflect well upon your image.

2. Engage and connect with your audience frequently

Usually, the most successful Facebook pages or Twitter profiles – usually those with a lot of ‘likes’ and followers – are those which keep reminding people that they’re there, they exist! Send out regular updates to your followers, subscribers and fans, and keep them engaged. Link back to your website as often as possible.

However know that there are certain limitations when it comes to sending out updates: send too many and people might ignore and discard your updates as spam. This varies from medium to medium – sending out a Facebook update twice a day would be the best strategy, while you could probably take liberty to send updates every few minutes on Twitter!

The important thing is to keep reminding people of your existence, and linking back to your website as often as possible.

Above all, remember that social networks are all about friends and relationships. Make sure you connect with people, reply to them, retweet and share their content, and be part of the conversation!

3. Target individuals with a high social networking potential

Facebook or Twitter users with a lot of friends, and those who are able to engage and influence a lot of people are individuals with a high social networking potential, or SNP. When one of these ’leaders’ shares content, it tends to usually be read out, retweeted, shared, and liked by a lot of people as well. You might just even see a nice surge or spike in traffic when this happens.

Your content might even spread like wildfire in some cases, allowing you to potentially ‘go viral’.
We all know such influencers from out daily lives – maybe a friend, someone from our social or professional circles, a Facebook friend with a large number of friends and subscribers even.

Connect with these people and build relationships with them. Ask them to share your content. And if they do, then make sure that your return the favor, whenever possible, by linking or sharing their content.

4. Go for paid solutions

Stuff like buying advertisement space on Facebook, sponsored or promoted tweets on Twitter usually work like a charm. Facebook Social Ads and Twitter Sponsored Tweets would be a good place to start. Sponsored tweets, for instance, is a platform where advertisers sell their tweets. Promoted tweets allow you to pay to target Twitter users in your niche.

Similarly, Facebook allows you to purchase ad-space, and the amount paid for these ads depends on how long you would the ad to run, its appearance frequency, target geographical locations, etc. Ditto for Youtube.

5. Reward your fans and followers

Giving something back to the community usually goes a long way! Find ways that you can reward the people who are following you and sharing your content. Running promotions usually is a sure-shot way of getting a lot of traffic back to your website. Sky’s the limit here – you could run a contest on the website, reward every 500th visitor on your website, add an interactive Flash-based game on your website and give winner a reward – and of course, link it all on your Facebook or Twitter.

In addtiton, running something like a Facebook-only promotion would also go a long way. Send out an update on your social mediums which includes a discount coupon; a fans-only promotion, where whenever one of your fans purchases something from your website, he is eligible to a discount.

It is up to you to determine whether you would want the reward(s) to be monetary or non-monetary. Stuff like upgraded membership, a discount, and/or access to a free eBook, a free consultation or a free lesson are good non-monetary ways of running an effective promotion campaign aimed to get more traffic on your website. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Advantages of Good SEO

Pretty much a ‘back to the basics’ post here, where I speak about why good SEO practices are important.

Anyone who has anything to do with internet marketing, or is even remotely related to web-design, web-development and the like would probably be well aware of search engine optimization and the benefits of good SEO practices.

However it is still important to know why good SEO practices are important. But before we get to that, it is equally important to know that SEO and all SEO practices broadly fall into two categories: on-site SEO and off-site SEO.

It is a combination of both that makes for a solid SEO strategy, enabling website owners to truly reap the rewards of their SEO practice. Both on- and off-site practices go hand-in-hand in order to produce far-reaching and long-term advantages in terms of traffic, conversions, CTR and revenues from your online efforts are concerned.

So what really are the advantages of having a good SEO strategy?
  1. SEO helps you pull in traffic to your website. By enabling you to be able to rank as high up on Google’s SERPs as possible, SEO increases the visibility of your website and its content and helps get you more traffic. This is just one example of how SEO can pull in traffic for your website, as there are a lot of other aspects involved which help you pull traffic.
  2. SEO takes your brand to the next level by increasing its global appeal. Geographical boundaries don’t mean anything now, if you’re online, and if you have a strong online presence, your brand, your business and your website can go global easily. SEO helps you do that, allowing you to reach clientele from all corners of the world.
  3. A good SEO strategy, which is ideally a keywords-based SEO strategy helps pull in not only traffic, but ‘targeted’ traffic to your website. For instance a website or an ecommerce setup specializing in the selling of electronics or Wordpress plugins would want to be ranked for keywords such as purchase TV online (for the former) and best wordpress plugins (for the latter). This would help you reach out to your potential clientele, and vice versa.
  4. SEO helps you achieve the purpose your website was built for. Every website out there has a purpose, an action that it wants its users to take. It could be purchasing a product, subscribing to the email list or liking its Facebook page. This is called call to action or CTA. Good SEO practices ensure you have a strong CTA, that is effective and works as intended.
  5. SEO is a proven way of making money off your online efforts, such as off your website. Filling your webpage with adverts is one thing, SEO is actually what tells you how to put ads the right way, and how to make sure that you get maximum revenue from ads and/or any other of your online efforts.
  6. SEO ensures that your website remains on top of Google’s SERP in the long run as well. As compared to traditional marketing efforts, SEO can prove to be extremely cost-effective over the years, and provide a better ROI than other methods of marketing.
  7. SEO strategies not only give more exposure to your website, they can also be immensely useful for your social media efforts, and enhancing the visibility and exposure of your social media presence such as your Facebook page, Twitter page, Youtube channel, etc. For instance with SEO, you could have your Youtube videos ranked – go viral even – very easily, and get a large number of views and subscriptions. These mediums can then become a part of your SEO strategy in the long run, by general referral traffic to your website.
  8. SEO allows you to measure the success (or failure) of your online marketing efforts. Coupled with stats and analytics, you can  easily view and analyze the success or failure of any and all your marketing efforts as well as how effective your SEO strategies really are.