Archive for February, 2012
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
SEO is a technique which is widely used to make your legal website or blog more visible in an environment (the Internet) where there are already plenty of websites with the exact same type of law firm or legal specialty as your own. Most research will tell you that if you want to get the desired traffic to your legal website or blog, you need to be within the top 10 in the search engines. As you probably already know, however, competition to be in that top 10 is fierce, and staying there once you’ve made it is just as difficult.
SEO crosses the barriers between search engines, as they all operate by the SEO Bible, and allow your business to attract more of the “perfect” client, thus increasing your offline business. If your law firm has spent thousands—or more—creating the highest quality, most creative legal website around, but have left it running in an un-optimized manner, then you are simply spinning your wheels on the Internet. In older advertising terms it is something like have the most fabulous sign made up for your firm, then sticking it in the storeroom, where obviously your targeted clients will never see it.
While SEO is imperative, ethical SEO is critical for natural or organic search engine rankings. Major search engines such as Google are highly developed and able to easily understand the credibility of SEO techniques. By the same token, they can quickly identify unethical search engine techniques, with a potential consequence of blacklisting your website or even banning it. While “black hat” techniques can boost your search engine rankings quickly, in the long run it is a bad choice. In case you are unclear about what constitutes “black hat” techniques, here are some of the most common:
- Keyword stuffing involves the repetitive use of the same keyword phrase over and over in your meta tags, comment tags, alt tags or the actual copy on your website. Repeat your targeted keywords no more than six or seven times within each 200 words.
- Inserting hidden text or links that are readable by search engines but cannot be seen by your human visitors is not good use of SEO. All search engines consider these hidden text and links to be spam and will penalize the page, or possibly the entire site.
- Cloaking involves a software program to direct search spiders to a group of pages which are created to “trick” the spider and re-direct the user—while cloaking can have some proper uses, by and large it is used to deceive search engines, and is therefore considered spam.
- Creating mirror sites or duplicate content and placing them on multiple servers with different domain names, and search engines will not only suppress duplicate content but will also count them as a violation of the search engine’s spam guidelines.
- Link farming refers to putting hundreds of links on one page to sites which are essentially unrelated to your site content and can contain poor quality content that is useless to your potential clients. Reciprocal links can associate you with “poor neighborhoods,” so you should avoid link farming at all cost.
- Irrelevant link exchange is often considered unethical SEO, and no matter how tactfully or carefully you hide them, hiding repetitive keywords is also considered unethical.
These types of spam can cause your firm to lose your rankings and be booted off the search engine index; while search engines have varying rules for spam detection, the end result will be the same, and it can be extremely difficult for your firm to recover from a ban, which is why ethical SEO is so critical. Used correctly on your legal website or blog, proper search engine optimization techniques will almost certainly get you ranked higher in the search engines, and achieved legitimately, organic links can last indefinitely. Acquire your search engine rankings fairly, and maintain them ethically for far-reaching positive results.
Friday, February 24th, 2012
Countless websites took a heavy hit during Google’s latest algorithm, known as the Panda, and those which contained weak or “spammy” content probably took the hardest hit of all. The underlying message from the Panda is that every site on the web should be striving for the evolution of organic search quality. Another component of the algorithm determined the relative trustworthiness of each site, and part of this trust was determined by actual human analysis.
Ad-Stuffing, Content Value and Link Quality
Those real human beings had a list of specific questions which were designed to evaluate their overall comfort level with a website. Those sites which were over-stuffed with ads (especially ads above the fold) were rapped the hardest as it was felt these overabundant ads were a deterrent to trustworthiness. Further criteria for a slap on the wrist from the cuddly bear included content value and link quality. Fortunately, those who have continued to rely on tried and true link building strategies escaped the Panda’s displeasure. Traditional tactics can bring targeted and unique traffic to your site, and quality links provide solid click-through traffic. So, just what are those “traditional” techniques you ask? Read on!
Partnerships and Networking
Establishing blog partnerships with a handful of highly relevant sites (no marginally relevant or totally irrelevant sites allowed) is an excellent way to develop your own Internet networking base. Start by making a list of all your real-life business contacts, then reach out to them. These days nearly all businesses have websites, so choose your business contacts which are within the same niche as you are, making sure their websites are trusted and well-ranked, although not directly competitive. Choose a few of the very best ones then offer to mention their site on your blog if they will do the same for you. Convey a sense of enthusiasm for the project, and make a point of mentioning the mutual benefits for both parties. If the other webmaster is unsure of how to manage reciprocal links, send along an easy-to-understand, step-by-step flow chart to make it as easy as possible.
Offer to Guest Blog
In the same way you reach out to your business contacts to exchange links and create a network of online partners, you can also offer select sites your services as a guest blogger. Additionally you can find other sites within your industry who accept guest bloggers simply by typing into Google’s search bar an industry-relevant keyword along with “write for us.” This type of search should take you straight to the top-rated sites which continuously post fresh content into the world of blogs. Every time you post a guest blog, you garner a relevant backlink—or two. Take extra care to create a highly valuable and informative guest post, and you will see benefits in the form of increased traffic and deeper link authority.
Comment on Other Blog Sites
Although there are a certain amount of spammers who have discovered this formerly valuable link building technique, it is still quite valuable when used properly. It is very possible to not only build on your loyal fan base, but to increase your brand exponentially and generate highly targeted traffic through blog commenting. While this particular link strategy takes time and patience, just remember to employ creativity and value when adding comments—no sloppy “what a great posting” allowed. Give your readers valuable information and insight, and let your personality shine through. Don’t be afraid of a little controversy—after all, that’s what keeps the comments streaming in. If everyone is of the same opinion, there is little to interest readers. Google is still very happy with high-quality blog comments which link back to your site, so employ this strategy wisely and reap the rewards.
More Still-Respected Link Building Tips
If you have offered your skills or knowledge in some volunteer or charity manner, ask politely to have the favor returned through a text link from their blog to your website. Send out a press release for a charity event—not only will you be bringing in additional traffic, you are adding to your image in a trustworthy manner. The goal is to acquire high-quality, trustworthy, respectable and honest backlinks, and while this takes time, these strategies should allow you to remain safe from Google’s next update.
Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Links are the lifeblood of your website’s eventual success and there are a variety of ways to secure high quality links, as well as a number of different types of links. Some of the more productive ways you can obtain those coveted links include inviting guest bloggers to post on your site, agreeing to be a guest blogger on another site which is in the same niche as your own, adding links to social media sites, as well as a whole array of other nifty link building techniques. Focus on one area at a time, such as bringing in guest bloggers to your site, then doing some guest blogging of your own.
Bringing in a Guest Blogger
It can be exceptionally beneficial to bring in a guest blogger to post on your site. Although it takes some time and effort to get the best guest bloggers, it can be a worthwhile endeavor. Once you’ve chosen a few potential guest bloggers, contact them and discuss your expectations. These particular expectations could include your requested word count or any other ideas you have regarding the guest post. Once you’ve loosely agreed on a topic, you should also agree to a deadline to ensure you actually hear from them again. Make sure you give the guest blogger credit then once the article or blog is live, send out the link along with a thank you for the post. Many times guest bloggers will forward the link to their friends, families and business acquaintances, giving you great link exposure.
Becoming a Guest Blogger
First and foremost do your research before you decide to submit guest posts. Take some time to get to know the content of the blogs you are considering as well as their owner and the audience. Read through the comments and get a good feel for what is popular on the blog. Once you are comfortable with the blog, brainstorm a few ideas, then narrow them down and submit an idea for a guest post which is both relevant and fills a necessary gap in their content. When you are pitching your post, provide your credentials and make the owner of the site truly understand why you are the best person to write this particular guest post.
If your own blog statistics are impressive—share them. Be straightforward when pitching your idea, go easy on the compliments and don’t embellish your credentials, but do show you are a pro at blogging not to mention your particular subject—which should also be the subject you are proposing to write a guest blog for. Provide links to your blogs as well as any other online writing you may have done. It’s a good idea to have your blog posting written before you pitch your idea, then you can quickly provide it should the other person agree.
Make sure your guest blog posting is the highest quality, and has been checked and re-checked for mistakes of any kind. While you shouldn’t overload the post with links, you do want to include a short bio with one or two key links to a page or website which will provide access to further links. You don’t want your guest post to look “spammy,” so avoid peppering it with links. Once your guest post goes live, you must promote it, sending the maximum amount of traffic to the site as humanly possible. If the other blogger sees a definite jump in traffic, you will probably be asked to write another guest post…and another. Each guest posting, whether one you write or one another writes for you will add valuable links to your site and increase your traffic and rankings.
Monday, February 20th, 2012
Just as most all professions are guided by a set of rules, the SEO world also has certain rules and code of conduct which should be followed by all those engaged in the business of SEO, and even those of us who undertake SEO practices for our personal websites should certainly be aware of the rules we should make every effort to follow. Most of us know the difference between right and wrong, and would not consider engaging in a practice which is obviously dishonest, however some of the SEO rules are ones you might not have fully considered. Additionally, because SEO changes and grows nearly daily, it is hard to maintain a “universal” SEO code of conduct, but following these general rules will ensure you never cross the ethical line.
The Most Basic Code
Slander is slander, whether in real life on online, and as such you should always scrupulously avoid it. Slander is providing any type of false information which would defame another person. Your goal is to make your own site, and your own brand look good to the public and to Google, however success is not achieved by going out of your way to make your competition look bad, no matter how tempting that might be.
Follow the rules as set out by Google, Yahoo, Bing, or other search engines—whether you agree with them or not, attempting to find a way around these rules will ultimately cause your site and your rankings to suffer. If you work for others, performing SEO for their business, remember they are trusting you with their personal information, and all privacy policies you would use in the traditional sense are applicable online as well.
Never, ever, sacrifice private or personal information no matter how valuable it could potentially be. If you use someone else’s work, give them credit, never claim it as your own. This is plagiarism, and is illegal. Copying and pasting may seem harmless, but it absolutely is not. Finally, if it’s against the law in your everyday world, it is against the law online. Take care with copyrighted names or trademarks so others don’t mistakenly believe you are associated with a particular company that in reality you are not.
More Specific Rules of SEO
You should take care to never employ so-called “black hat” techniques which include using mirror pages or sites, link farms, hidden texts, hidden links which promote websites, doorway pages or keywords written in minute text. By the same token, never take credit for another’s creativity in any way, shape or form, and never use unauthorized software or tools for web promotion. Websites which are made for AdSense, but consist of scraped content are completely unethical, as is deliberately misspelling well-known websites. If you are engaging in keyword stuffing and loading pages with irrelevant words in an attempt to boost your search engine rankings, you may get short term results, but they absolutely will not be lasting ones, plus you could cause your site to be banned from the Internet altogether. Essentially any method which tries to trick the search engines violates the SEO code of conduct
SEO tactics which are both ethical and provide long-term, long-lasting positive results include optimizing your existing web pages and HTML code, engaging in organic link building to get high quality inbound links, and going out of your way to build a website which offers great value to users. Ethical practices make everyone involved in the entire Internet process a winner, so make sure you always adhere to these rules.
Friday, February 17th, 2012
Deep linking is a technique which has had its critics in the past, and, in fact, was subject to a lawsuit involving Ticketmaster, nearly a decade ago. Ticketmaster sued a rival company known as Tickets.com in the United States District Court of California claiming Tickets.com featured links which took consumers deep within Ticketmaster’s site, bypassing home pages. When the courts were finished with the case, the bottom line was that while it was fine to link to another’s home page, deep linking without permission was a definite no-no. So, all these years later, where do we stand with deep linking, and is it beneficial to your site?
What is Deep Linking?
A “regular” link points to the home page of a website, such as yahoo.com, while a deep link points to a specific web page inside yahoo. In the same manner, a regular link would point to Facebook.com, while a deep link would take you to a specific member profile or specific page within Facebook.
What’s So Bad about Deep Linking?
Larger companies discourage deep linking into their website, feeling it sends visitors directly to a specific page they are interested in, bypassing sponsor advertising or other features that are fiscally beneficial to the company. In other words, although the user is getting exactly what they want through following a deep link, the company may not be getting every last penny they possibly can from consumers.
In some cases, deep linking can also be considered detrimental to the company being linked to simply because they have their web pages in a certain sequence, and that specific sequence is necessary to gain the maximum benefit from the site. If someone posts a deep link to page 17 which bypasses the prior pages which are leading up to 17, then the user has potentially lost some of the value of the site.
What’s Great about Deep Linking?
In fact there are many exceptional benefits of deep linking; it has been definitively shown that getting from a homepage to a specific product page contributes to over a fourth of the failures in getting a user to purchase a product. When deep linking is incorporated, the user does not have to spend inordinate amounts of time navigating a company’s unwieldy website in search of a specific product. When users are taken directly to the information they are looking at, then the conversion rates go up significantly, whereas if the link is only to the homepage of a company, the user must take many more steps to find the exact product they are looking for.
Even though companies might be losing out on the user seeing the initial advertisements on their home page, the payoff generally offsets that minor disadvantage many times over. Many of us have suffered through such a situation: we want a simple item such as a recipe for chocolate-chip cookies. After typing the words into the search bar, we are taken to a homepage that wants us to do many more things, and wants to give us the royal runaround before finally giving us the recipe we wanted. It can be extremely aggravating for consumers with limited time who merely want what they want in the most expedient manner possible.
Deep linking can boost your website’s page ranking, and, if done in an ethical manner is not only perfectly legal, but can also improve the site you are linking to by providing enhanced customer satisfaction to users.
Thursday, February 16th, 2012
Most all of us tend to judge others, at least in part, by our first impression of how they appear or present themselves. We judge businesses in much the same way. And guess what—we also judge businesses by how we perceive their website. In fact, the Stanford Web Credibility Project states that at least seventy-five percent of us freely admit to making judgments about a business’s credibility based solely on the website design and presentation. After reading that sentence you may be frantically wondering just how many times your site has been judged, whether that judgment was positive or negative and if it has hurt your rankings and conversions.
What is Credibility?
Of course credibility is important in your virtual business, but it can be just as much, if not more, credible in your online business. You may be wondering just what credibility really is. It its most concise form, credibility encompasses both expertise in your field and a solid feeling of trustworthiness. If your website visitors perceive your site as truthful and unbiased they will view you—the person behind the website—as experienced and knowledgeable. Add all these qualities together, and you have credibility. Consider the truly massive amount of information on the web, and you will see why it is more important than ever to stand out from all the rest, but only in the best kind of way. People find credible websites appealing, and the most highly credible websites are able to actually change the attitudes and behavior of their users.
Design Mistakes Which Can Damage Your Site’s Credibility
Elements of your design, including photos, graphics, dominant colors and your company logo all mix together to provide credibility. Research has shown, for instance, that when websites use a dominant red background in their design, users perceive the site as evil or dangerous. Very dark colors were found to give a sense of foreboding, and all in all there were few positive reactions to extreme colors of any type. Pictures and logos are harder to get a handle on, as the reactions to both were mostly based on personal preference. All of those questioned during the research on website design agreed that a website needed, first and foremost, to appear professional.
Positive Design Aspects Which Increase Credibility and Conversions
Keep your site professional, and make it extremely easy to verify the accuracy of all information on your site. You can do this through third party citations or links to your source data. Make a point of playing up the expertise behind the products, content and services you provide. It should be apparent that there is organization behind your site, and it should be very easy to find contact information for you.
Be sure to add your physical address and phone number as this is one of the primary ways you will build trust among your users. You want users to have no doubt that your organization is real, so provide evidence that you have a real business in the real world. You can show photos of your office, or list your membership with your local Chamber. Your site should be useful, but should also be easy to use. Update content often to give your users the sense that you are reviewing your site often. Don’t go crazy with advertisements or offers—users find it distracting and a little tacky. Avoid errors of any kind—even the smallest error in spelling, grammar, sentence structure or information can damage your overall credibility. Take the extra time and proofread not once, but several times.
If you have followed standard website design guidelines, then you should begin to see the fruits of your efforts very soon through increased traffic and a boost in your rankings. Building trust takes time, whether in real life or online, but the reward is worth the time.