Blog

Address Change

We have moved.  Our mailing address is now:
4422 Melrose Avenue
Montreal, Quebec
Canada
H4A 2S6

Moved again 2014:

4800 Connaught Avenue
Montreal, Quebec
Canada
H4V 1X3

SEO for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal: Which one is the Most Search Engine Friendly CMS?

Content Management System (CMS) is a buzzword in the IT industry these days. While business and website owners want a CMS just because it sounds so impressive, website developers love it for all the benefits it has brought. Thanks to CMS, there is hardly any need to hand code HTML and PHP scripts. That does not imply that there is no need of a developer anymore. CMS is simply a tool to help a developer create better solutions in less time.

The one difficult issue, perhaps, is making the right choice between WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, three of the most popular and powerful CMSs out there. All of them are open-source tools based on PHP and MySQL with regular updates. Each has extra plugins including ones for SEO. The plugins are called plugins in WordPress, extensions an Joomla and modules in Drupal.

While there are many factors on which a CMS is compared, an important one is its SEO friendliness. Let’s take a look at WordPress, Joomla and Drupla and determine how each one rates on the SEO scale.

ABOUT WORDPRESS
WordpressWordPress has been around since 2003 as an open source blogging tool and CMS platform. More than 200 million websites online are based on WordPress. Due to its notable user-friendliness, it is considered the foremost choice for small websites and blogs.

With WordPress, everything is so easy that many website and blog owners just choose to do it all by themselves. This definitely earns it negative points from developers.
As one of the most commonly used CMS, WordPress offers thousands of plug-ins and a huge community ready to help, two very attractive incentives.
When it comes to features, WordPress proves to be more generous than most people expect CMSs to be. A basic WP website not only offers the usual search, comment, tag, index, etc., but also provides multi-level access and authorship for up to ten users.

SEO for WordPress
For SEO, WordPress is perhaps the most powerful CMS, most favorite as well, due to a plethora of SEO plugins and its supportive community. The SEO module All in One SEO pack allows you greater control over your titles, descriptions and duplicate content. Another good module is Google XML Sitemaps which automatically generates a sitemap to submit to Google webmaster tools. Features such as tagging, indexing and WP’s clean URLs make things even better. WordPress sites can get a high ranking; however, as with any website your ranking greatly depends on the effort you put in the keyword selection and optimization process. Contact Red Carpet Web Promotion to optimize your WordPress site.

ABOUT JOOMLA
JoomlaUnlike WordPress which is foremost a blogging platform, Joomla is and always has been a pure CMS; consequently, it offers a window of opportunity for developers as well as designers. Because it is not that simple to use, it is unlikely that just anyone could create a Joomla-based website without help from a developer.

The best thing about Joomla is that it offers plenty of room for customization. There are numerous extensions and plug-ins, which further add to its abilities.
Joomla has a powerful API which enables easy integration into other systems and software. Therefore, there are endless possibilities for developers to create unique and customized websites.

SEO for Joomla
When it comes to SEO, Joomla has been severely criticized since its inception. And although there is ongoing talk about its awful built-in URLs and encrypted plug-ins, newer updates and extensions have changed the story. A proficient developer with a broad understanding of SEO can obtain great results and ranking with Joomla. However, it still lacks ease-of-use and is not considered favorable in terms of SEO. But given the popularity of Joomla over 400 extensions come up in a search for SEO. A few of these SEO extensions facilitate the job of optimizing titles descriptions, page names, links and other factors. Contact Red Carpet Web Promotion to optimize your Joomla site.

ABOUT DRUPAL
DrupalJust like Joomla, Drupal offers flexibility and power to handle huge, complex and highly customized websites. Released in 2001, it is also the most senior among the three open source CMSs under discussion here. Developers love it because it does not limit their ability to create large, robust and scalable websites.

One major difference between Joomla and Drupal is that the latter is more developer-centric rather than designer-centric.
Drupal offers better extensibility than Joomla or WordPress. The add-ons are easier to integrate with the core and third-part systems alike. Overlapping issues are not common, making Drupal a reliable platform as well.
Drupal is an excellent choice for a website where security is a key factor. Even the third party extensions are almost as secure as Drupal core.

SEO for Drupal
Drupal takes the cake here. Although, WordPress does offer best SEO possibilities, it is still not flexible and robust enough for large and complex websites. Drupal offers a good level of control over SEO. It has everything ranging from SEO-friendly URLs to extensive SEO modules. Moreover, there are plenty of tools that automate the whole SEO aspect for a website. Contact Red Carpet Web Promotion to optimize your Drupal site.

Conclusion
There is simply no point of argument or viable comparison between these three most popular open source CMS as they widely differ. The choice depends on the website’s requirements and the developer’s own style and preference. Nevertheless, SEO for WordPress tends to yield better results and ranking if forced to choose. The content of the website, the keyword choices the optimization and the quality incoming links are much bigger factors for good search engine rankings than the choice of CMS.

Written by Tammy Corbett

Tammy Corbett is the resident expert for social media marketing at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
www.redcarpetweb.com

Social Media Marketing Strategies

There has been a significant increase in the popularity of social media websites over the past few years. With it has come a shift in the way that people search for information and how they share and consult opinions on the internet when making purchasing decisions.

social-mediaSocial Media MarketingSocial media sites such as StumbleUpon and Digg, give users a voice on the internet by providing tools to connect, exchange views, share content, information, and recommend products and services using the “thumbs up or down” approach. This has caused a huge shift in the way people search for information online. More and more, Internet users rely on the opinions of others before they buy into the validity of a product or service. “Word of mouth” is no longer only from mouth to ear, but is more frequently spread on social media sites and it has never been so powerful. Any product or service deemed worthy are promoted, shared, or discouraged against in these online social communities.

Social Media Marketing (SMM) targets users by promoting content through bookmarking, blogging, online video sharing, and social networking to potentially expand their audience and drive traffic to their website. Businesses are beginning to understand the power of these influences when it comes to establishing a reputation and growing their online business. Social media marketing strategies such as a business’ engagement in various social media websites can help to generate branding and a personal connection with its users.

Business Profiles
One of the most important social media marketing methods includes posting business profiles on social media websites such as Facebook and linkedIn. Instead of waiting around for consumers to come to you, you have to reach out to your target audience. Solidifying your presence in the social media community creates a direct interaction between business and consumer that may not dramatically increase conversion rates but is definitely capable of establishing branding power and credibility. The valuable feedback consumers provide promotes insight in determining what business strategies are working and what could be re-evaluated to make a website more user-friendly.

Search Results
facebookFacebookThe influence of social media sites has changed the way search engines define placement. Images, videos and news content featured on social media sites such as Youtube, Digg, and Flickr are equally capable of sitting comfortably at the top of the search results leaving others, who have not yet jumped on the social media bandwagon, a little confused.

Effective Social Media Marketing Strategies
Take a hint from the popular social media websites by adding some type of interactive quality to your website. Engage the viewer and create an atmosphere of inclusion and direct contact that encourages a user to come back and visit again. Forums and social applications can help you compete for traffic in an evolving market.

Become an expert in your niche. Yahoo Answers is a great place to start. You can create a business or company profile and begin answering direct questions and supplying information to those in your target audience.

Join Social Networks. Social networking provides a means to promote association and the exchange of knowledge while also establishing business contacts and connections. Post your business profile in the popular social and business networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, but also make sure to concentrate your attention on your niche audience by joining social media networks that represent and support your business or company’s ideas.

For example if you are selling organic produce and you set up a profile in a social media network such as Care2.com, an environmental portal, you are then communicating directly with those individuals who will support your product or service because of a shared interest. These types of social media communities will extend their approval by sharing in discussions about your products or services with other users and even in some cases “become a fan” of your featured webpage.

Some examples of popular niche social networks include:

TravBuddy.com for the traveller
Tipd.com for those seeking financial advice
AutoSpies.com providing money saving and insider information on cars

Publish articles to popular social media news sites such as Mixx.com, Digg.com, and Propeller.com. These sites allow you to post articles and vote on news stories.

Share videos and images by setting up accounts with Youtube.com and Flickr.com, leaders in online video and imaging to reach a broad or targeted audience.

Social bookmarking on sites such as Del.ici.ous and Ma.gnolia.com provide an opportunity to store and share links.

Blogging enables you to provide information and updates about your business to customers.

Businesses that incorporate social media marketing into their conventional marketing plan have the advantage of reaching audiences using a whole new approach. The benefits of branding and traffic are just the tip of the iceberg, establishing your business as a leading authority in your industry promotes good quality links, better search engine placement, which in turn increases sales.

Written by Tammy Corbett

Tammy Corbett is the resident expert for social media marketing at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
www.redcarpetweb.com

The A to Z Guide to Getting Website Traffic

In September of 1999, Brett Tabke wrote “26 Steps to 15k a Day” in the Webmaster World forum. A lot has changed since then, and now is the time to consider a new 26-step plan that meets the current needs of webmasters in 2006. Some of the old ones still apply (writing new content everyday, for example), and some don’t (submitting to the search engines is no longer necessary), and we’re here to tell you which is which! As you probably already know, bringing in traffic is not easy – it takes hard work, determination and lots of elbow grease. So if you’re ready, roll up your sleeves and follow these 26 simple steps, and within just one year you will generate enough traffic to keep you busy for a long, long time!

A) Keyword research
Before you do anything else, use a keyword research tool and do an extensive job researching the right keyphrases to use for your site. What keyphrases are your direct competitors using? Are there any keyphrases that create a potential for market entry? Are there any that you can put a spin on and create a whole new niche with?

B) Domain name
If you want to brand your company name, then choose a domain name that reflects it. If your company is Kawunga, then get www.kawunga.com. If it’s taken, then get www.kawungawidgets.com. No dashes, and no more than two words in the domain if appropriate.

C) Avoid the sandbox
Buy your domain name early, as soon as you have chosen your keyphrases and your company name. Get it hosted right away and put up a quick one page site saying a little about who you are, what you sell, and that there will be more to come soon. Make sure it gets crawled by Google and Yahoo (either submit it or link to it from another site).

D) Create content
Create over 30 pages of real, original content on your site. This will give the spiders something to chew on. It will also give you more opportunities to been seen in the search engine results for a wide variety of keyphrases.

E) Site design
Use the “Keep It Simple” principle. Employ an external CSS file, clean up any Java Scripts by referring to them off the page in an external file, don’t use frames, use flash the way you would an image, and no matter what, do not create a flash site. Do not offer a busy site with lots of bells and whistles to your visitors. Keep things nice and simple. Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for and they’ll have no reason to look anywhere else.

F) Page size
The less kilobytes your page uses, the better – especially for the home page. Optimize your images and make sure the page loads quickly. Most people and businesses in the Western world may have high speed, but cell phones and other countries might not. If your site loads slowly, you may have already lost your visitor before they’ve even had a chance to browse around.

G) Usability
Make sure that your site follows good usability rules. Remember that people spend more time on other sites, so don’t violate design conventions. Don’t use PDF files for online reading. Change the colours for visited links, and use good headers. Look up usability for more tips and tricks, it will be worth your while.

H) On site optimization
Use the keyphrase you have chosen in your title (most important), your headers (when appropriate), and within the text. Make sure that your page/content is ABOUT your keyphrase. If you are selling widgets, than write about widgets. Don’t just stick the word widgets into the text.

I) Globals
Globals are the links that remain the same on every page. They are the reference for new visitors to keep them from getting lost. Sometimes they are on the left of the page, sometimes they consist of tabs at the top. Often they are in the footer of the page as well. Make sure that you have an old style text version of your globals on every page. I usually create tabs at the top, and put the text versions in the footer at the bottom of the page. Find out what works best for you.

J) Headers
Use bold headers. On the Internet, people scan they don’t read. So initially, all they will see are the headers. If your headers don’t address their concerns, they won’t stick around long enough to read your content. Use appropriate keyphrases when you can.

K) Site map
Build a site map with a link to each of your pages. Keep it up to date. This will allow the spiders to get to every page. Put a text link to the site map on the main pages.

L) Content
Add a page every 2-3 days: 200-500 words. Create original content, don’t copy others. The more original and useful it is, the more people will read it, link to it, and most importantly of all – like it enough to keep coming back for more.

M) White hat only
Stay away from black hat optimizing techniques. Black hat optimization consists of using any method to get higher rankings that the search engines would disapprove of, such as keyword stuffing, doorway pages, invisible text, cloaking and more. Stick to white hat methods for long-term success. People who use black hat optimization are usually there for the short-term, such as in porn, gambling, and Viagra markets (just look at your email spam for more black hat markets). These black hat industry sites are usually around just long enough to make a quick buck.

N) Competition analysis
Who is linking to your competition? Use Yahoo’s “link:” service to see the back links of your competition. For example, type in “link:http://www.yourdomain.com” into Yahoo search without the quotes). Try to get links from the same sites as your direct competitors. Better yet, see if you can replace them!

O) Submit
Submit to five groups of directories:

1. Dmoz.org and Yahoo (local, such as Yahoo.co.uk, or Yahoo.ca, etc… if you can).
2. Find directories in your field and get into them. Pay if you must, but only if the price is reasonable.
3. Local directories that relate to your country or region.
4. Any other directories that would be appropriate.
5. If you are targeting the local market, make sure that you are in the Yellow Pages and Superpages (because search engines use these listings to power local searches)

P) Blog
Start a blog about your industry and write a new entry at least once a week. Allow your visitors to comment or, better yet, write their own entries. This will create even more content on your site and will keep people coming back regularly to see what is new.

Q) Links from other sites
Simply submit your website to appropriate sites, asking that they link to your site as a reference because it will benefit their visitors. Don’t spend too much time on this, if your content is good and original, they will find you and link to you naturally. Remember that Linking is Queen (www.redcarpetweb.com/promotion/0409.html#feature).

Stay away from reciprocal linking, links farms, link scams, and any other unnatural links. They may not necessarily hurt you, but Google tracks when you get a link, how long you have had a link, who links to the site that links to you, where you live, what you had for breakfast, and more (not really… but kind of).

R) Statistics
Make sure your server has a good statistics program. Use it! If you don’t have access to a good program, then pay for one. Without the knowledge of who is coming to your site, from where, and how often, you will be missing out on some essential tools to improve your site.

S) Pay-per-click (PPC)
Sign up for Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing. Spend money getting people to your site. Use it for branding too. This will create a steady flow of visitors to your site, and will make your site more accessible to your potential clients. You don’t have to be #1, you don’t even have to be #5… just make sure you are on the first page of search results for most of your keyphrases, when the cost is right.

T) Look ahead
Stay informed of what is coming up in your market. If a new product will be out next season, write about it now. Take advantage of being a first mover. The search engines, and linkers, will reward you.

U) Articles
Write an article once every week and get it published in as many online publications as you can (with a link back to your site). Include the article on your site. Not only will this create many links to your site, but it will also get people to click to your site, and most importantly you will become an expert in the eyes of your visitors. They may even begin looking for your site by querying your name!

V) Study your traffic
After 30 to 90 days you will have enough results to analyze in your statistics program. Go over them with a fine toothed comb. Get the answers to these questions:

– Where are your visitors coming from?
– Which search engines do they use?
– What queries do they type in?
– What pages on your site do they visit the most?
– What are the entry pages on your site?
– What are the exit pages?
– What path do they follow when they browse your site?

Use this information to tweak your site.

– Use the most popular page to encourage the visitors to make you money.
– Adjust the paths they use to send them where you want them.
– Figure out why they leave from the exit pages.

Also, see what search terms people use to find you, and fine tune your keyphrases. If you targeted “green widgets”, but your visitors are finding you with the query “green leather widgets”, then start creating content about “leather widgets”!

W) Verify your submissions
After 3-4 months, check that you got into Dmoz.org and all of the other directories that you submitted to. If you have not been included, then submit again, or better yet, write a polite email to the editor and ask why. Also, find any new directories that would be worthy of your submittal time and submit to them.

X) RSS feeds
RSS (Real Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary) is becoming a powerful tool for Internet marketers. You can quickly and easily add fresh content to your website. Article feeds are updated frequently, so you can give your visitors (and the search engines) what they want – fresh content! You can use RSS to promote any new content, such as new pages, articles, blogs, press releases, and more!

Y) Press releases
A press release is a written communication that you submit to journalists in the media (newspapers, radio, television, magazines) which are used to make announcements that are newsworthy. Create press releases announcing publication of any new articles or new company information or products. If it is interesting/original enough, a journalist may pick it up and write an article about it. Before you know it, your website address may get published in the NY Times.

Z) Keep your content fresh
Remember to write a new page every 2-3 days. I only mentioned it briefly, but it is probably the most important point in this article. Keep writing! Without fresh content, your site will gradually drop in the search engine results. To stay on top, your content has to be the most up-to-date, freshest, and most interesting and original content in your field.

Follow these 26 simple steps and I assure you that within one year you will call your site a success. You will bring in a massive amount of traffic from within your industry and watch as your business grows!

So start writing, and write yourself to the top!

Shawn Campbell

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
www.redcarpetweb.com

Web Statistics for Dummies (part 2: Referrers)

Do you know how to use referrers to increase your traffic? How to increase your conversions? This article is the second in our series on learning how to analyse and understand your website’s statistics. The goal of this series is to help you increase your site’s revenue.

Part one was about using your sales statistics to enhance your web business (part one can be found here: www.redcarpetweb.com/promotion/0509.html#feature). Part two is about using your referrer statistics to increase traffic, ranking, and conversions.

Part 2: Referrers
A referrer is a website that directly sends you traffic. The bulk of your traffic is referred by search engines, but other sites send you traffic as well. These referring sites will help you increase your position in search engines because by linking to you, they are essentially “voting” for your site. The search engines take these “votes”, and count them towards how popular your site is. The more popular the site, the higher the site will rank on a search. Of course it is not that simple; content actually plays a more important role, but everything should be taken into consideration when fighting for your hard-earned placement within the search engines.

Referring domains
So to get back to our main point: How can you use referring sites to help you make more money? Simple. By looking at your statistics, and finding out who is linking to you, you can see trends or patterns and capitalize on your site’s strengths. For example, if you sell real estate, who is linking to you? Local businesses? Government sites? Other real estate sites? Is it only sites you have swapped links with or are there a pleasant amount of unexpected sites linking to you as well?

If you do not have many sites linking to you, than maybe you should consider posting more useful information on your site. Try to make your site useful for anyone who wants to know about your industry (not just potential customers) by writing new informational pages. This will do two things:

Your potential customers can find out about your industry without leaving your site, thus increasing your site’s professionalism and usefulness.
Other sites in your industry will start seeing your site as a useful resource to link to. You will become a leader in sharing information about the industry online.

This can only lead to more links, more traffic, and ultimately more people talking about your site.

Exchanging links is a good idea too, but it should only be done if the site is appropriate to link to. Do not link to sites that are unprofessional, or sites that are just a gathering of links (link farms); it will make your site lose its authority.

Finally, there are directories. Directories like www.dmoz.org will link to you if you have good useful content on your site. Even if people do not actually search for your site on those directories the links from them tend to propagate your site throughout the web. Take your time and read the directory’s instructions carefully before submitting. If you submit to them haphazardly, they will simply ignore you.

Search Engine Referrers
Looking at your site’s statistics, you can find out which search engines are sending you the most traffic. Usually the search engines that show up in statistics are Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask Jeeves. Find out with search engine sends you the most traffic, then take a look at what keyphrases the surfers are using to find you. These keyphrases will tell you what your clients are looking for. For example, here at Red Carpet Web Promotion, we get a lot of searches for carpets. Obviously we do not want or need this traffic, but due to our name it cannot be avoided. For us, it is important to keep track of this “carpet” traffic because it skews our numbers. If traffic doubles one month, is that because our position for “carpets” went up, or is it because our position for “web promotion” went up? It is important for us to figure this out, because if our position for “web promotion” went up but we did not get more sales, than we would need to update our website to convert these potential clients into paying customers.

By verifying the keyphrases that people are finding you with, you will better understand why people are coming to your site. If you are a plumber and most people find you with the keyphrase “sump pumps”, you’d do best to make sure your site, or the section of your site they are arriving at, offers them sump pumps! Likewise, if they are coming from a site that is referring you as a great deep well repair man, than make sure that that section of your site promotes your deep well repairing skills.

Conclusion
Look at your stats regularly, see where your traffic is coming from, and make sure your site caters to these people. If they are coming looking for sump pumps and you do not sell sump pumps, either start selling them, or sell something of value to these people. If you do offer the product that these people are looking for, but they are not buying, than figure out why. Is it your price? Is the shopping cart too complicated? Do people not see the “Buy a Sump Pump Here” link? Figure it out and fix it fast, because the Internet is so fickle that your “sump pump” traffic might be gone next week, and you would have missed out on the easy jackpot.

Shawn Campbell

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
www.redcarpetweb.com

Web Statistics for Dummies (part 1: Sales)

Do you understand the numbers that your website generates? Do you know how many sales your site actually generates? Do you know how you can apply that knowledge to your business and cause it to grow?

I will answer all of the above, and also discuss how to use statistics to enhance your web business through the use of sales, traffic flow, uniques, hits, click-through rates, and many other important business factors. Part 1 focuses on sales and traffic, while part 2 is all about where your traffic is coming from (and how to get more of it!). Part 2 will be discussed in the next issue of our newsletter – so be sure to stay tuned!

Sales

The most obvious statistic for many businesses is sales.
Here are 2 of the most pertinent questions every business needs the answers to:

How many sales do you make per day/month/year?
How much profit do you make per sale?

Not hard figures to find, but how many sales actually came from your Internet business? Often it is easy to gather this figure simply by looking directly at either online sales, or by asking your customers (“How did you find us?”). But sometimes the Internet is just one part of a very complicated sales process. You may make all your sales in person, but how many of your clients go home and research your products/services using information found on your website?

These are the questions you need to find answers to in order to estimate how many sales were completed due to your Internet presence but not necessarily completed online. If you make sales online, the answers are easy. If you sell real estate or other “in person” products or services, then you have to ask your customers individually. Either way, it will come down to a concrete number that can provide insight into how you can grow your business.

Profits

From the number of sales made per month, you can easily figure out your gross sales amount. Then you have to take your expenses per sale into account and figure out your profits. Only cost of sale expenses should be deducted and NOT one-time expenses such as overhead. On the Internet, this would normally be the cost per click of pay-per-click campaigns (such as Google AdWords or Yahoo Marketing Solutions), or the CPM (cost per thousand) for banner ads, and of course, your direct costs for the item or service being sold. Once you have these figures in hand, you can then calculate your profit per sale.

Traffic

So now that we know how many sales we make per month, and how much profit we’re actually making off of those sales, let us take a look at how many potential customers walk through our virtual store. There are many different statistics for website traffic: page views, hits, daily uniques, monthly uniques, etc… Which one should you be using? From my own experience, I recommend using daily uniques.

Daily uniques measures how many unique visitors come to your site in a single day. By that we mean that no single user is counted twice in the same day even if they visit the store several times within a twenty-four hour period. Thus, if someone comes to your site four times on Monday, and six times on Tuesday, he/she would only count as two daily uniques.

Page Views measures how many times your page is viewed (usually including reloads). Page views are also counted for each page. Thus, if someone comes to your site four times on Monday and views eight pages each time, and six times on Tuesday (viewing two pages each time), you would measure (4 x 8) + (6 x 2), or 44 page views.

These statistics are usually available through your server’s statistics program. Alternatively, you could also use one of a myriad of other statistics programs available on the Internet. For most of our clients we set up www.hitbox.com on their sites. With our daily uniques per month figure in-hand, we suddenly have some very powerful numbers to work with.

Conversions

Conversion is the measure of how many people who visited your site were subsequently converted into clients of some sort. Measuring how many uniques turn into buying customers is one method of conversion, but you could also measure how many visitors your site gets vs. how many visitors sign up to your newsletter, or how many of them go to a specific page, or how many send you an email, etc… These are all measures of conversions, and simply use the ratio of sales (or sign ups, emails, etc…) to visitors (or uniques).

Let us assume our site has the following statistics:

Sales: 100/month
Gross: $250/sale
Average Profit: $150/sale
Daily uniques: 12 000/month

In the above example, we have 100 sales per month, and 12000 daily uniques per month, thus our conversion ratio is 1:120 or 0.83%. Not such a bad ratio, especially for items that cost $250 each. Most markets would want a ratio of 1% or 2%, but of course each industry is different.

Analysis

Using our imaginary numbers (profit of $150/sale, gross $250/sale) we can then figure out how healthy the online business really is. At 100 sales a month, we are grossing $25 000 per month, and profiting $15 000 per month. At this point in our analysis, we can now see that there are three ways in which to improve the site:

Increase profit margin
Increase conversions
Increase traffic

1. Increasing profit margins involves lowering costs or raising prices, both of which fall out of the context of this article.

2. Increasing conversions involves optimizing the usability of your website; usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. For more information on usability and how it can help your Internet business, go to www.useit.com.

3. Increasing traffic involves improving your link network, your PPC campaign, or your search engine optimization. We will look at the latter in detail in Part Two of this article (exclusively available by signing up to our FREE Monthly Newsletter at www.RedCarpetWeb.com). Part Two will also discuss referrers, search engine keyphrases, search engine positions, and how to use these statistics to increase your sales. Don’t miss out! Sign up for the Newsletter today and learn how you can make the most of all your web statistics and improve your Internet business.

Shawn Campbell

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
www.redcarpetweb.com

Back to Basics in SEO

There has been a lot of talk about Google and MSN’s new algorithms and Yahoo’s search engine changes. When these changes finally do occur, it is always important to remember the number one rule in SEO: DON’T PANIC!

If there is one guaranteed constant in this business it is that there will always be changes in the search engines’ rankings. Our job, as search engine marketers, is to stay on top of the changes and to monitor how the change affects our clients’ site’s traffic.

I am actually excited about any algorithm change, because it means that the search engines should actually get better.

What follows is a “back to the basics” on getting good rankings:

Keyphrases

First things first: Always be sure to research the keyphrases you intend on using. Find out what keyphrases Internet users most often employ to find your product or service. There is no point optimizing your site for “online web marketing” if everyone types in “Internet marketing”.

Once you have a list of potential keyphrases with a high amount of Internet traffic, comb over that list and see which keyphrases best describe your product or service. These are the ones you should consider.

Here are some sites that can help you in your research:

Competition

Research your competition with these questions in mind:

  • What keyphrases are they using (take a peek at their keyword Meta tag)?
  • What are the titles of their sites?
  • When you do a search for the keyphrases you are considering, who comes up in the top five rankings?
  • What is their title/keyphrases?
  • Are the top ranking sites your competitors or are they industry associations?

Use the keyword effectiveness index (KEI) tool at Wordtracker to compare the effectiveness of your keyphrases. A higher KEI signifies a better ratio of demand-to-competition for a keyphrase.

Do a link search to see who is linking to your competition. In a search engine, type in “link:” (without the quotes) followed by the URL you want to verify. This will allow you to see all the important links to the site that the search engine tracks (I would recommend doing this in both Google and Yahoo).

  • Can you get links from the same sites as your competitors?
  • Are there industry associations or organizations that are linking to the top sites, but not to you?

Get your link campaign going! (see the article about linking for search engines to learn why links are important)

Optimizing Your website

Now that you know what keyphrase you are optimizing for, here is how to optimize your site: write good quality content that focuses on your keyphrases.

Above all else, this is the single most important factor.

Sure there are other on-site factors such as:

  • Getting the keyphrase into the title (this is the second most important factor)
  • Getting the keyphrase into the Meta description tag, the Meta keyword tag, the headers and sub headers, the alt tags, and into some link text (some of these factors are VERY minor)
  • Having a good site map so that the search engine spiders can easily navigate your site
  • Having a robots.txt to include the pages that you want the search engines to include
  • Don’t use frames
  • Use flash wisely (not the WHOLE site in flash)
  • Use external files for your java scripts
  • Use cascading style sheets (a .css file)
  • Use dynamic URL’s wisely (Avoid using URL’s with ? or & in them)

Content is king

Oh…and did I mention that you need to write good quality content that focuses on your keyphrases? All of the points above are superfluous if you don’t have good content. Content is the food that the search engine spiders like to gobble up with a voracious appetite. The items below are just the side dishes. You need good content to get decent rankings, but you need the side dishes to become a serious competitor in your market.

  • Write about your keyphrases.
  • Write extra pages.
  • Write about your industry.
  • Write about your product or service’s uses.
  • How will your product/service improve the life of the consumer? Find out, and then write about it.
  • Why is your product/service better than your competitor’s? Think of a reason and write about it.
  • What is the history of your product/service? Or your industry? Write about it.
  • Who are you? Everyone always enjoys “about us” pages…
  • And of course, be sure to serve the search engine spiders with a tasty main dish full of keyphrases!

Whatever you do, be sure that you don’t write junk or filler copy and double check that everything reads well. Keep in mind that writing about your keyphrase doesn’t mean adding the keyphrase unnaturally into the text. If you have any doubts, employ the talents of an expert to do the writing for you!

Links

Start soliciting links today! Get people in your industry to link to you. Contact:

  • Industry associations and organizations
  • websites about your industry
  • Sites related to your product or service
  • Suppliers
  • Resellers
  • Competitors who don’t compete in the same region
  • Sites that sell products/services that relate to your, but don’t compete directly

See my article on soliciting links for more information on how to go about it: Linking is Queen

Submissions

Submit to all the directories you can find, so long as they are related (e.g., don’t submit to the Abba directory unless your site is about Abba). Submitting to a directory should not be a mindless activity. Read the directory’s directions on how to submit VERY CAREFULLY. Write your description very well, and tailor it to each directory in order to follow their guidelines. Make sure you submit (and get in) to www.dmoz.org – it is probably the most important directory out there today.

Do research and find “vertical directories” that focus on your industry, and submit to them. These directories are very important because, for example, if you have a dodo bird site, what better potential client than someone who found you through a dodo bird directory!

Search engines and directories are different. Do not confuse them. You can submit to all the search engines you can find, but it usually won’t do much because the good search engines will find you anyway. Submitting to random search engines will usually only increase your email spam. Don’t waste your money on search engine submission software for the same reasons.

Here is a partial list of the current important search engines:

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • MSN

Conclusion

  • Build your website for your customers, within the guidelines that the search engines set out.
  • Don’t make the site awkward by over-conforming.
  • The site’s first focus should be on what your clients want.
  • Create good content. Good, quality content that reads well and flows seamlessly.
  • Update it regularly. An active, living site is healthier than a stagnant, dead one (the search engines spiders like their food alive and full of life).

And remember: Content is King!

Shawn Campbell

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
www.redcarpetweb.com

Yahoo SM vs. Google AdWords

Yahoo has announced its new pay-per-click product: Yahoo Search Marketing (SM). This product was formerly known as Overture, but you may also recognize it as Goto.com, the name it went under prior to 2001. In our experience, advertising with Google AdWords has resulted in higher conversion rates than with Yahoo Search Marketing (SM). However, both programs have advantages and disadvantages. How does Yahoo SM compare with Google’s AdWords? Let’s start by looking at how they differ (all amounts are in USD).

Bidding

Yahoo SM

  • Yahoo places your bid at 1 penny over your next lowest competitor. Thus, if you bid $3.00 per click, and the next highest bid is $1.95 per click, you will only pay $1.96 per click.
  • Yahoo allows you to see who you are bidding against and what they are bidding, so you know exactly where you will rank, and how much you will pay.
  • Yahoo’s maximum bid is $999.99
  • Yahoo’s minimum bid is $0.10

Google AdWords

  • Google doesn’t tell you how much you will pay per click. Thus, if you bid $3.00 per click, you will pay anywhere from $0.05 to $3.00 per click.
  • Google does not allow you to know how much your competitors are bidding per click.
  • An advantage with Google is that you will rank higher if your click-through rate (CT rate) is better (a CT rate is the ratio of clicks on your ad to the number of times your ad is shown). Thus, you may have a better rank than your competitor, even if he or she bids more than you (because of your CT rate).
  • Google’s maximum bid is $100.00
  • Google’s minimum bid is $0.05

Low CT rate dropping

Yahoo SM

  • Yahoo will drop your keyphrase if the CT rate is ranked very low for a significant period of time. In actuality, this rarely happens. Your keyphrase has to perform quite dismally for it to get dropped.

Google AdWords

  • Google drops keyphrases with POTENTIALLY low CT rates. If Google deems that your keyphrase has done poorly for other customers, then your keyphrase won’t even get the chance to make a single (first!) impression. This can be very frustrating when your keyphrases are very relevant, but Google won’t even let them see the light of day. The flip side, of course, is that if your keyphrase’s CT rate is good, you will get a higher ranking (even if you bid lower than your competition).

Showing ads by country and language

Google AdWords

  • Google allows you to choose your country and language by selecting them in a dropdown box. Very simple, very efficient, and very effective.
  • The language is based on the language setting of the visitor’s computer. For example, if you are targeting Spanish Americans, than you will want to target the Spanish AND English languages because many Spanish Americans use English computers. Just make sure that you choose Spanish-only keyphrases.

Yahoo SM

  • Yahoo’s system for countries and languages is downright miserable. You have to re-register for every country (and only twenty countries are available).
  • Worse, you have to re-submit all your keyphrases and reset all your bids.
  • What’s more, each country has different criteria for submission. This means you have to rebuild your campaign for the USA, UK, and Australia. Canada is there, but you are not allowed to submit English keyphrases (?!?), only French (FYI: Canada’s workforce is 73% English, 22% French). In Switzerland, you can submit in Italian, German and French; there is no language differentiation.
  • Notable missing countries: Mexico, China, English Canada (which is grouped with the USA), South Korea, India, Russia…

Reports

Yahoo SM

  • Yahoo offers many useful reports. And while you can find just about everything you might need, it’s left up to you to figure out which report contains the information you were looking for.

Google AdWords

  • Google offers customizable reports. You can ask for anything you want, and you will get it.
  • They also offer to email you your customized report on a regular basis.

Keyphrase comparison

I have bid on some keyphrases from February 1st to April 30th, and held them in similar positions during that time. These numbers are for search related impressions only. These campaigns were not involved in content advertising.


“Okeeffe print(s)”
#3 position
Yahoo:
1 click
8 impressions
12.5% CT rate
$0.10 cost per click
Google:
63 clicks
1642 impressions
3.8% CT rate
$0.13 cost per click

“Ansel Adams photo(s)”
#5-6 position
Yahoo:
20 clicks
2401 impressions
0.8% CT rate
$0.05 cost per click
Google:
25 clicks
2529 impressions
1.0% CT rate
$0.06 cost per click

Conversions

Our client February Point counted emails + contact forms as conversions. Here is a comparison from February 1st to April 30th.


“Real estate Bahamas”
#3 position
Yahoo:
1037 clicks
19 879 impressions
5.2% CT rate
$0.34 cost per click
3 conversions
0.30% conversion rate
Google:
1557 clicks
35 348 impressions
4.4% CT rate
$0.45 cost per click
13 conversions
0.84% conversion rate

Clearly then, Google AdWords is a better choice if you are interested in clicks, impressions, and conversions. If you want the lower cost per click for the same position, it would seem that Yahoo is the better choice (though conversions are lower).

Competition

FindWhat is possibly the third biggest pay-per-click (PPC) search engine, although there are a few that might be its equal: Kanoodle, GoClick, 7Search, Search123.
E-spotting is very big in the UK, and competes heavily with Google and Yahoo in the PPC marketplace.
MSN is getting ready to launch its own PPC engine to compete with Google and Yahoo (MSN currently uses Yahoo SM on its site). No date yet, but watch out for it.

Overall

To sum up, you will definitely have more control over your money with Yahoo’s system. It is more open and honest, and you will pay less per click than with Google’s system. Google does not tell you why you are paying what you are paying, but it does have the added bonus of rewarding you with rank for a better converting ad.

Of course, Google does get more traffic and it converts better than Yahoo, and in the end, isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Thus, Google should be the winning choice for anyone that is looking to convert clickers into buyers. Because after all, who doesn’t want to increase their sales?

Shawn Campbell

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
www.redcarpetweb.com

Are You in for a Safe Landing? – PPC Landing Pages

You’ve paid for your ticket and your ads are up on Google AdWords and Yahoo’s Overture, but have you set up a safe landing for your clients?

Run a test landing. Do a search and find your Pay Per Click (PPC) ad in Yahoo or Google. Click on it. Where does it bring you? Your home page? I hope not. You should create a specific landing page for your PPC ads. A landing page is the page you create to convert your PPC traffic into sales. This page should get your potential customers (that you have already paid for!) to go exactly where you think they want to go.

Here are some tips to create a good landing page:

1) Focus! Focus! Focus!

The landing page should be about your product or service. No links to other sites, no advertisements, no “how do you do”. When people arrive at your landing page, they should already be predisposed to buy (since you wrote such an excellent ad to get them here in the first place) and are trying to either: a) Get more information about your product or service b) Find the “Buy now” button Use the search term on the page, because searchers will key into the section of the page with their search term. If the search term is “buy skidoo” then have a button that says “Buy Skidoos Here”. Don’t distract them – give them what they want.

2) Customize your landing page

Use a different landing page for each group of keyphrases. If you sell seadoos and skidoos, don’t use the same landing page for each. Create a new landing page for each product (or each group of products) and send the clients directly to the page they are interested in.

3) Give them information

If they are not yet sold on your product or service, then they are going to be looking for more detailed information when they arrive at your landing page. Give it to them. You have to convince them that you have the perfect product or service to solve their problem. If they run out of information before they make a commitment to buy, then you have lost them. Nobody will spend money until they are convinced that your product or service is the right choice for them. So prove it.

4) Tell the reader what you want them to do

Use calls-to-action. If you want them to buy your product, than tell them often how to do it (“Click here to buy”). If you want them to call you, post the number up with instructions (“Call us now at 1-877-717-3667”). Repeat it throughout the text, then again in big and bold at the end.

5) Use graphics

Use pictures to sell your product or service. Pictures of the product or pictures of satisfied customers sell. Use them – and use them often.

6) Run tests

Set up two landing pages to see which one converts better. Set up two identical ads and send one to each landing page, then compare conversion rates for each page. Figure out why one converts better and try to improve the other one. Then, run more tests until you are completely satisfied with the results.

Set up your landing pages so that your potential customers arrive for a safe landing. If all goes well, they will step out of the plane with their credit cards already in hand – and their money almost in your pocket.

Shawn Campbell

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
www.redcarpetweb.com

A Search Engine Optimizer’s New Year’s Resolutions

With the ringing in of the New Year, I resolve to become a better search engine optimizer (SEO). Below is a list of resolutions that I have made in order to make my clients’ websites the absolute best on the web.

  • I will not use flash as text.
    • Even though many search engines can now read some of the text embedded in flash, flash sites do not perform as well in search engine results as non-flash sites. Flash should primarily be used to enhance sites; in the same way one would use pictures to make the site look better.
  • I will not use images as text.
    • Although I personally believe that text in images will be read by search engines by the end of 2006, we are not there just yet. As it now stands, image text is invisible to search engines and therefore should not be used in that capacity.
  • I will use good usability techniques.
  • I will not use cloaking.
    • Cloaking is frowned upon by search engines. Once they catch you, you will get penalized (or in some instances, banned).
  • I will not use frames unless I have a REALLY good reason to.
    • Frames complicate things for the search engine. There are very few good reasons to use frames and thus they should be avoided whenever possible.
  • I will use a catchy title with the keyphrase in it.
    • Marketing is what we are all about. A catchy title will bring in the customers. A title containing the target keyphrase will raise the result in the search engines. Put the two together and you have a professional marketing title that works hard to bring in traffic.
  • I will track the return on investment (ROI).
    • By tracking the ROI, I will clearly see if the site is making or losing money. To track ROI one needs to co-relate the marketing dollars spent with the revenue earned. This statistic is usually hindered by the site’s owner, who cannot (or does not) provide the financial information, nor the conversional statistics I need to track ROI.
  • I will write an alt tag that clearly depicts what the image is, for every image.
    • This will help people without images on their screen know what the image is about. Using the keyphrase in the alt tag is a bonus because it will help the rankings slightly in the search engine results, but it is most important to describe the image as clearly as possible.
  • I will use good informative content.
    • Ah yes, “Content is King”. All the above resolutions are meaningless if I don’t have good content. This is what will bring in the search engines. This is what will bring in the clients. And this is what will bring in the dough.
  • I will not stuff the pages with keyphrases.
    • Stuffing the page with keyphrases goes against the golden rule of good content. If you stuff the pages with keyphrases, they will no longer read well, and readers won’t like to read them. Consequently, people won’t enjoy your site, and because the search engines are designed to figure out what people like and then display it to them, the search engines will eventually begin to disregard your site. Therefore, ALWAYS use keyphrases wisely.
  • I will not use “spammy” techniques.
  • I will use pay-per-click (PPC), even if it is for a very small amount.
    • I have found that using even a minuscule PPC campaign will bring in more traffic. It also propagates links to your site throughout the Internet, and thus makes your site more prominent. If you are worried about losing money, then use the free conversion tracking tool available at both Overture and Google AdWords. USE IT. Only then will you know how effective your PPC campaign really is.
  • I will track unique hits to the site.
    • By keeping track of whether the site’s traffic goes up or down, I get a big picture of the health of the website. If traffic goes up, then the rankings probably went up. If traffic goes down, then rankings probably went down. Of course there are also seasonal variations (and marketing pushes), but you should be familiar enough with the market to know when to expect such cyclical fluctuations.
  • I will get a good copywriter to write the content.
    • “Content is King”, so get a professional to write it. You may think you are good, but are you really? Would you bet your Internet presence on it? Use someone who knows how to write specifically for the Internet. Use someone who knows how to balance writing for people, writing for sales, and writing for search engines.
  • I will not send out “spammy” emails asking for reciprocal links.
    • Reciprocal links don’t bring in clients, and they tend to only slightly boost your PageRank. An SEO’s time is better served getting the site listed in directories and on sites where people would be looking for it (such as associations, suppliers, clients, and more…). Personalized emails to these sites requesting a link to yours are fine. Templates or mass emails requesting reciprocal links are definitely not.
  • I will work hard getting valuable links to my site.
    • “Linking is Queen”, thus getting links is essential. Find directories that relate to your market and take your time to submit to them (in the best category). Contact your suppliers and/or resellers and see if they will link to you. Figure out where your potential clients hang out on the Internet, and get those sites to link to you. Do your homework to choose where you want your links to appear, then roll up your sleeves, get out the elbow grease and get those links to show up!

With a little dedication and a lot of work, I will get my clients into the top search engine results. If you want to do well with your website, stick to these resolutions and before you know it the traffic (and the sales) will roll in smoothly, just like the New Year.

Shawn Campbell

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
www.redcarpetweb.com