Saturday, December 16, 2006

The 80/20 Of Search Engine Marketing - Part 1

I joined Perry Marshall’s Renaissance Club to get my copy of the Definitive Guide To Google AdWords at the discounted rate, however I’ve started to realize there is a lot more value in it than just the AdWords eBook, which I guess makes sense since Perry wants people to stay subscribed to his club, so he must keep dishing out good stuff.

Just this morning I had a listen to one of the CDs you receive when you first join the club. This one was with Brad Fallon, the search engine optimization (SEO) expert. It formed the third part of the Jay Abraham’s Power To Profits seminar series that was completed earlier this year with Perry, Brad and Ken McCarthy. You get this CD, titled “The 8 Essential Things You REALLY Need to Know About Search Engine Optimization“, when you first join Perry’s club, along with the two other CDs that make up the seminar.

Who Is Brad Fallon?
You have probably noticed Brad Fallon’s name, his free e-course and SEO product, Stomping The Search Engines, pop up in the yellow boxes on this blog lately. This is because I know Brad is the real deal after reading his material and listening to his audio and I feel confident recommending him to you as one of a handful of SEO experts that I trust. Much of my understanding of SEO, in particular about sitemaps, has come from Brad. He also has the credentials to back up his products, having grown his business My Wedding Favours from brand new in January 2004 to about $700,000 per month operation 15 months later, mostly thanks to his position in the search engines (his site is number one for most of his key phrases, including “wedding favors“).

As a result of his success with his online store he went on to teach others how to get great results in natural search engine rankings. The audio CD I just listened to had some fantastic materials on the 80/20 of SEO activities we should all be doing. Brad’s skills have come from testing things on his websites and research - lots of real life testing to see what works and what doesn’t. Perhaps more importantly he knows what might be sound SEO practice but falls into the 80% of activities that only have 20% impact on your search engine performance, so shouldn’t be prioritized, and the 20% of activities that have the greatest impact that you need to devote most of your time to.

The 80/20 Rule For Search Engine Marketing
When I say 80/20, I mean the 20% of activities that account for the 80% of results you get. In this case it’s the 20% of things you should spend the most time regarding optimizing your website to get the 80% of results in search engines. Wasting time with the other 80% that produces 20% of the results is obviously not a good idea. If you are at all familiar with this principle, and you will be if you read my blog regularly since I reference to it a lot, then you know that the 80/20 equation is not a strict mathematical rule but definitely is something that every business should heed.

There are very few variables in any organisation that account for the majority of results. When I say variables I mean anything from people, marketing methods, customers, infrastructure, systems, suppliers, products, pricing points, seasons - anything and everything, can usually fit nicely into a 80/20 relationship. In this case I am discussing the 80/20 of search engine optimization techniques - these are the activities that you should spend the majority of your time on.

The Top 8 Search Engine Optimization Techniques
I’m going to list the top 8 techniques that Brad discussed in the seminar. Bear in mind that I’m only going to briefly review them since it wouldn’t be fair to Brad, Perry or any of the guys selling this stuff if I simply reposted all their materials. The fact is I couldn’t do it anyway, it would take a 50 page post to cover everything Brad discussed in the audio CD. If you are interested in having a listen to this CD I suggest you try Perry’s Renaissance Club.

Brad broke down his top 8 list into two categories - On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO. On-Page refers to things you can do to your website, Off-Page refers to the things that happen to your website from other sites (usually talking about incoming links from other sites). Let’s start with On-Page since you can action these items immediately and test results.

On-Page SEO

1. Title Tags
If you are at all familiar with SEO then I’m sure you would have seen this one coming. The fact is, and this has been proven time and time again, what you put in your title tags is the most influential variable to determine how your pages show up in natural (organic) search results.

Brad gave an excellent example of how he played with slight changes to the title tag of his Wedding Favors home page causing a dramatic change to his search engine result page (SERP) placement. He was sitting at number 2 on Google and was testing methods to get his site into number 1. With Google you can make a change to your title tags and within 24-36 hours you will see the results. His results were often quite dramatic, dropping to number 9, then completely gone, and finally finding the combination of title tag phrases that resulted in a number one ranking. He now owns the number one ranking in Google and Yahoo!.

During this process Brad recommended that you optimize for only two to three key phrases per page. The keyphrases that start the title tag (the ones on the left) have the most power, so should be selected very carefully. His example was interesting because it showed how his three key phrases for his homepage were adjusted to create a number one ranking for all three of his phrases (Wedding Favors - Wedding Party Favors - Bridal Shower Favors). It wasn’t very complicated, just moving words around and seeing what happened. Not rocket science, just practical testing. I have since added an entry to my ‘to-do’ list for to start testing title phrases again.

2. Keyword Density
Keyword density was listed the second most important on-page factor in the 80/20 of SEO activities. Keyword density is the percentage of times your keywords appear on a given page. There is no strict rule or percentage to aim for but Brad offered a very sound practice to determine what works - copy what your competitors do. Search for your key phrases, the phrases you want to show up for in the search engines and see what the current top result site’s keyword density is.

To do this Brad gave away this fantastic little gem of a resource - go to this website - and use it to test out the keyword density of your competitors pages and your pages. See how the number one site handles their keyword density - how often in title tags, heading tags, alt tags, body content and other areas of their site certain keyword phrases appear and then copy their techniques. Once you have your on-page keyword density equal or better than your competitors then all you have to do is worry about your off-page SEO to beat them (and test test test!).

3. Site Structure
Site structure covers the way your site is linked together internally. Brad didn’t talk too much about this and I know why - he’d need a full seminar just to explain all the different things you can work on! However I think there is one really important thing to mention regarding site structure and I know Brad would agree with me - it’s your sitemap - whether you have one to begin with and how you structure it. My suggestion is you do Brad’s free e-course that covers a lot on site structure and in particular sitemaps. It’s free so there is no reason why you shouldn’t do it.

4. Internal Links
You have to remember that Google treats each webpage as a single page, not as a part of a website, so when it comes to linking to your own pages it’s very important you take great care to optimize your keyword linking methods. The beauty of this technique is that you can control it, it’s an on-page technique that in lets you add backlinks to your own pages (What is a backlink and why should you care? Read this - The Backlink FAQ and this - Monitoring Your Backlinks - How Popular Is Your Website?).

The two most important things to consider is how you anchor your internal links (what phrases you use to link) and that you take advantage of all the opportunities to link your pages together. Make use of a footer by linking to all your most important pages using the appropriate anchor text keyword phrase (especially your sitemap) and make sure your navigation structure links with keywords, not just blanket statements like “click here”.

Two words of warning with this - don’t forget about usability and don’t over optimize. Brad mentioned that Google recently added technology to their algorithms that penalizes sites that appear to be over optimizing. This is usually indicated by too much use of a particular keyphrase, for example always using the exact same word or phrase to link to one page in your site and all incoming links from other sites are also use the same phrase. To avoid the penalty just mix up your phrases a bit and, leading to the other warning to watch out for - usability -keep it human, use phrases that humans will understand. Afterall your goal with all this SEO is to get humans to your site and there is no point if they can’t figure out how to navigate to what they want because your linking text is all the same or poorly labeled.

Off-Page Search Engine Optimization in Part 2
That’s it for the on-page SEO tips. In part two of this series I’ll go through the final 4 tips Brad Fallon mentioned regarding off-page SEO and then you will have a complete picture of the top 8 most important search engine optimization factors. Part two will be posted in the next couple of days.

Part 2 is now available - The 80/20 Of Search Engine Marketing - Part 2

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