Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Carapace, the Armor, the Shell

Published in Geek Health by

Recently I reconnected with a friend I’d not spoken to in several years.  She and I came from a similar background, parents that just weren’t there, didn’t care.  We found ourselves both looking for love, filling that void, with the love or attention or affection of others.  We are both extroverts, quick to jump into a crowd, quick to say hello, but at the same time constantly wearing this armor, this face that we think we need to wear.

Will you like me if you really get to know me? Can I take that risk?

Will you like me if you really get to know me? Can I take that chance?

This past Sunday I was listening to Josh Lopez and the band at Community Bible Church (Check out Josh on Twitter @JoshDLopez).  What I was seeing in my mind while Josh and his band got the room hopping was this caricature of myself wearing this mask, this armor created by what I thought I should be.  Who I thought I should seem like, or who I wanted to be perceived as.  Going back to our Mr. Big Stuff post, the motivation from that comes from wanting to create a reality, instead of just letting reality happen.

I found what I needed within my faith.

I am truly blessed.  Not just lately, but looking back, nothing bad has ever happened to me that didn’t also come coupled with opportunity for growth, or even advancement.  Every trial was rewarded with knowledge or a new adventure.  Why isn’t that enough?

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Romans 13:12-14

I decided last Sunday to leave my armor at home, and to instead wear God’s armor.  That isn’t to say I am going to become the next generation of missionary, or suddenly dedicate my life to prayer and seclude myself away like a monk.  What that means is I’m going to let my heart guide me, and God protect me.  I worry so much about the thoughts and opinions of others when at the end of the day unless those people are hurting me directly, I need to just let that negativity bounce off His armor.

After @AliciaSanera‘s boot camp today we talked about how many of a businesses problems, are really just the problems of the owner manifested through the business.  If I have a flaw, if I have a weakness, that will become a weakness for my business.  If I let these weaknesses diminish me, if I let them hold me back and stop me from getting up and putting myself out there, I’m letting the fear of that armor being penetrated stop me from achieving what I want to achieve.

I choose not to let fear hold me back.  I choose to take that energy that I’m using to construct my own personal armor, and spend it on more worthwhile goals.  I will use that energy to learn more about my SEO tactics, and remain a student of web development.  I will use that energy to find those speaking engagements and follow up on those existing offers to share what I have learned.

I am where I am for a reason, and I now choose God’s protection before my own.  My armor I leave at home, His armor is with me always.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:11-12

SEO for Dummies

I follow a lot of really cool blogs about Search Engine Optimization, I can’t say I read them all but I try to.  It’s my job to do that.  I don’t expect you to do the same.  My job is to know about SEO for when you have a question, or God willing need my help.  I’ve been in business in San Antonio for under a year, but I’ve been blessed by tapping into various communities who change me practically every day.

Today I was sitting down at Week 2 of a new Camp Sanera class.  @AliciaSanera asked me to come by and share how I’d grown personally, and I was happy to meet the new class.  Afterwards a few of us stayed behind and were talking about SEO, and how most people, including I’m sure some of you reading this, are completely clueless as to what SEO is, how it actually works and when it is necessary.

The problem is your average SEO is a crook.  Makes my life harder, because I’m always doing damage control for the lies spread by other SEOs.  I’m not perfect, sometimes I reach for goals that are unreasonable, but I’d like to think I’m very honest about what is possible, but also what I’d like to achieve.

My new buddy Mani Karthik wrote a blog titled “5 Ways to find out if an SEO is lying to you“.  He touched on some really sad realities within the Search Engine Optimization community.  So let’s talk about some of these things, do you really need SEO?  What is SEO going to provide you?

How does SEO Work?  What is it? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  Different people will define it differently, but I’ll define it as being aware of trends and tactics to create web content that will place highly on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.  SEO works by targeting the keywords people use to find content on Google.  One of my keywords for Image Freedom is “San Antonio SEO” so often on my site you’ll see images titled “San Antonio SEO” or that phrase placed in my content (like in this blog, shameless).

When targeting a keyword, you want to be aware of two things.  #1) Is this a keyword people will ACTUALLY search for, and #2) can I place this keyword in a way that won’t look out of place or obstruct a users experience reading my content?  Number one, take the keyword you want to target and log over to The Google Keyword Tool which I talk about a lot.  Type in your keyword and you’ll get results like this.

I used the Keyword Tool to search for "San Antonio SEO"

I used the Keyword Tool to search for "San Antonio SEO"

The graphic here shows that there are 1,300 searches each month for “San Antonio SEO” which isn’t a whole lot but is enough that it’ll make the phone ring if I’m the one that comes up on Google when a company is interested in SEO.  For most businesses, you’ll want to go after keywords with more search volume, but sometimes the keyword you come up #1 for is easy to do because it only gets a few searches a month.  The more search volume a keyword gets, the most potential value that keyword has.

Does that make sense?  The more people who are interested in “San Antonio SEO”, in my case, the more potential visitors to my site are out there.  So if I can rank really high for a keyword with tens of thousands of monthly searches, my web site traffic is going to spike because so many people will be seeing my site.

Secondly, you want to place your keywords on your site in a way that doesn’t obstruct the user experience.  If I’ve learned anything from my six weeks in Camp Sanera it’s that user experience is everything.  This is where design comes in and your web site needs to be setup as easy as possible, so you don’t make the user work for what they want to find, and don’t pack each line with so many keywords that it becomes unreadable.

“San Antonio SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEO San Antonio, Web Design, Internet Marketing, Experts”
OR
San Antonio’s SEO Marketing Solution. No hidden costs. No drama. Just the web design your business has always deserved.”

Which line speaks to you more?  Do you want a list of keywords, or do you want an honest statement?  See how my description still targeted my keyword, but did so in a content driven way?  I’m from the camp that you don’t insult your user by cramming so many keywords into a paragraph that it becomes unreadable.  That will cost me business, guaranteed, but I’m not going to do that for you, so why should I do it myself?

What are backlinks?  Why do links matter? Besides putting keywords on your site, and naming things with keywords in mind, you want to also build links to your web site.  Why does it matter if people link to you?  The way this works, is Google is asking other web sites if they’ve heard of any cool sites worth visiting, and most webmasters wouldn’t link to a site unless they liked the content, the design, or SOMETHING offered by that site.  So when Google visits and sees that you are linking to someone, they check that person out and you’re basically giving that other site your seal of approval.  You have just created a backlink.

The more backlinks you have the higher you typically rank on Google.  Sites like mine with hundreds of backlinks might have a PageRank of 3 or 4, where sites with 10,000 easily have a 5 or a 6 PageRank.  There is also a relevance factor to these links, you want to be linked to by sites that are related to your business or your blog.  So if you sell Tennis Balls, consider building relationships with a Tennis Racket or Tennis Shoe company because a link from those sites is going to be more valuable than a link from, say, a Tire Company.

I can’t afford an SEO consultant, what can I do? The cheapest way to build your SEO is to create awesome content.  Be authentic, be genuine, be yourself and share honestly with the world.  Marketing messages don’t work anymore, the second you tell me what to think, I’ve already tuned you out and am probably off playing Peggle on my iPhone.  If you build relationships with your web site you can reach a much higher potential than if you stick to “HOLY CRAP BUY THIS” methods of advertising.

Did you learn anything?  Awesome!  I’ve got some homework for you:

#1) Consider Blogging: If you had to write 5 blog articles about your business or your web site, what would you blog about?  Take those ideas and put them into The Google Keyword Tool and see if any of those topics get a lot of search traffic.

#2) Admire the Competition: If you have competing businesses that are getting the kind of sales you’d like to achieve, take a look at their web site.  Is it obvious what that site is about?  Is it easy to find a map, a phone number, a product?  Could your web site do this better?  How could you stand out next to their web site?

#3) Oodles of Backlinks: What web sites out there would link to you?  Are you a member of an organization that would link to your business?  Have you donated money to an organization that might spotlight your service?  How could you generate references of your business out on the web?

My goal is to make SEO accessible to everyone and hopefully by educating folks on what is out there, it’ll be a lot harder for you or your friends to be taken advantage of by shady SEO’s promising the stars.  Comments and questions appreciated!

Big Numbers vs. Real Leads

Often I hear from clients that they want a lot of web traffic, that if only they had the traffic, some random percentage would convert to sales.  That is true to an extent but wouldn’t you rather have 50 customers, over 1,000 visitors?  When optimizing for the search engines it is possible to evaluate which keywords are of most value, and through ongoing optimization of a site you can achieve fantastic conversion rates without needing huge traffic volume.

I am a small business SEO, so right off the bat I am at the disadvantage that a lot of the articles you read apply to much larger enterprise level businesses.  I chose to be a small business SEO because I believe in the small businesses value to America, and because often the small business is in greater need than the larger business with a huge built in marketing budget.  When I get your small business onto page one of Google, that is an accomplishment when you consider how many people are linking to these larger name brands.  That one small local business stands out, and the hits they get from being there quickly turn into sales.

Let’s use the example of “san antonio medical text books”.  I don’t have a client that sells medical texts, but let’s assume I did, and I optimized for phrases related to medical text books.  I could target ‘book store’ I could target ‘text book’ I could target a pretty wide variety of subjects, but how likely is a person searching for ‘book store’ going to need my medical text books?  The traffic may come, the site may get hits, but the conversion rate would hardly be noticeable because these terms are related, but not necessarily supportive of the goal of our site.

This is why Keyword Research is so important, and it pains me to see the web sites designed BEFORE any kind of SEO or Keyword Research has been done.  When you put the SEO as an afterthought to the development of your site, you have to work backwords, and as any business owner can attest to, no one wants to pay for the same work twice.

So once again, our friend the Google Keyword Tool comes into play, and we sit down with the phrases we feel will generate sales.  On average I try and build a list of 5 or 6 keywords that are related and can be worked into site content without much issue.  For the most part, small businesses live or die by a single keyword and you start by making an educated guess about which keyword that is, and then follow the search volume over time to attach value to each keyword.

Ryan Kelly from @PearAnalytics makes a product called SiteJuice which we’ve talked about before.  SiteJuice assigns value to each of your keywords, and Ryan tells me that in future versions of SiteJuice you’re going to be able to assign specific value based on your industry to those keywords.  So just because you come up under “san antonio book store” doesn’t mean the value is there that you’d want targeting “san antonio medical text books”.  I’m really excited to see the progress there as that will make tracking the value of these keywords that much easier.

What are your top performing keywords?  Do you even know?  Contact an optimizer near you and tell them you want an hour of their time to talk about your existing analytics.  See what they can tell you about your best performing search terms and see if you can better target those phrases.  At the end of the day, you don’t just want big numbers in the visitors column, you want a hige conversion rate, and targeting the RIGHT keywords is the way to get there.

What are your top performing keywords?

Was this helpful? SEO can be frustrating, so if you have any questions please post them in the comments below.  Check out the Image Freedom homepage for the full SEO kick or contact Matthew directly for a free consultation.