The Zen of Search
the Image Freedom blog
The Zen of Search
the Image Freedom blog
I am very excited to welcome you to the new Image Freedom web site! Endless appreciation to the amazing design abilities of Juan Barrera and the Blue Clover crew and the programming mastery of David Stinemetze and Internet Direct. We now have what I feel is one of the best looking SEO Company sites out there.
With Lent starting soon, it may be a good time for us here at Image Freedom to examine our sinful ways and help our fellow website owners do the same.
The Image Freedom team has likely been guilty, at one time or another, of some of the horrid behaviors listed here, both in our personal and professional branding:
Lust. Greed. Envy. Company bloggers can be guilty of these capital sins and many other vices. Chris Lister at SEOMoz helps company bloggers avoid destructive habits such as blogging just for the sake of blogging (Gluttony) and making the blog all about you (Pride).
We at Image Freedom struggle with this on our own blog. We want readers and especially potential clients to get to know us and feel comfortable, but how much personal sharing is too much?
Lister reminds bloggers, “If you are like me, you probably enjoy a little sin and occasional debauchery in your [life], but when it comes to your company’s blog, it is best to practice virtue in your posting routines.”
Unfortunately, many strapped-for-cash churches or non-profit organizations really phone it in when it comes to creating their web presence. Instead of paying for professional web design, they’ll delegate their website to whoever volunteers.
From automatic background music to cheesy animated images to the dreaded two years out-of-date community calendar, Catholic blogger Matthew Warner takes his fellow church geeks to task for sins against website design dogma. He bluntly suggests that churches should “start spending more money and time on your website than you do on donuts.”
You may think that your clever company tagline, “The Strength To Be there” is cute, but visitors who stumble upon your landing page for the first time won’t be able to figure out what you’re offering if they have to decipher some cryptic slogan.
This is a difficulty for us SEO professionals who are hired by long-established companies. The client may be very attached to their awkward company slogan or ambiguous-sounding company name and URL. Aaron Kupferberg at Website Magazine exposes this common mistake and several other landing page blunders, such as having a link to the Home Page on the Home Page!
If you would like to add to the list of sins or confess any of your own past deadly website sins, we’d enjoy hearing them!
I don’t mean to be a jerk, but sometimes your website just sucks.
Some of you paid a lot of money to have your site designed by someone who pretended to be amazingly talented. But, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is whether or not your website brings results.
I often have to explain to clients, “Your web site doesn’t have any Title Tags.” To which I often get the response of, “But I paid a lot of money for that website,” as if somehow paying a lot of money means that effective Search Engine Optimization will magically happen on its own.
Not every graphic artist should be programming. Not every programmer knows how to do SEO. And not every website, whether you paid $300 for it or $30,000, is created for success.
That’s why I’m a jerk. You leave me no choice!
I’m the poor sap who gets brought in to fix your website. Maybe you hired a “Black Hat” SEO — a company that uses sneaky tricks to manipulate search engines — and you figured you wouldn’t get caught or you just didn’t know any better. Now your website’s been banned from Google and you need help repairing your company’s online reputation.
Maybe your website looks good and serves as a great brochure for your company, but it doesn’t motivate the reader to interact with the site or to engage with your company in any way.
Maybe an SEO company lied to you and made outrageous promises that they knew they couldn’t keep. And for that I’m sorry.
I’m not going to lie to you. But please remember that the truth can hurt.
Here are three of the biggest things I look for when I’m doing a website review and establishing what a company needs to do to improve their internet marketing:
#1 – Are you using the right keywords?
You should use keywords with intent. Is your website designed to bring spectators or customers into your business? A spectator just stops by your website and reads, but a customer will actually pay you. It seems pretty simple, but you’d be amazed how many websites exist purely to “get hits” but aren’t good at making money.
You need to use the keywords that paying customers would use. Don’t be generic. Be specific. Help the searcher find you and they will.
#2 – Are you following On-Site SEO Best Practices?
A missing Title Tag always kills me. I’m not so worried about Meta Descriptions and you’ll only ever see me fill out a keywords tag when I’m asked to (kicking and screaming). The Title Tag of a website is just so valuable that you can’t ignore it. But, very often, companies only include the name of their business in their Title but neglect to include keywords or any geographic information. Even worse, some companies simply use “Home” as their website’s Title, which is a rookie mistake and an SEO killer.
You need a Title Tag, Meta Description, Header 1’s, keyword relevant page content and links that tell search engines what your pages are about.
This is why you should hire an SEO before your website is designed. The impact of having an SEO help you develop your site architecture from the ground up is huge. You can have your website generating traffic and revenue right away instead of spending time later fixing a bad site that doesn’t attract customers.
#3 – Did you claim your Google Places page?
Taking advantage of Google Places is free, so you would think that everyone would do this. It only takes a few minutes and you should take the opportunity to do it at all the similar sites (Yelp, CitySearch, etc.).
Remember, Google and other search engines crawl the entire internet, not just your website, so references to your business should be all over the place. Google is a “handshake” game. The more sites there are out there “vouching” for you or even just verifying your address or phone number, the better.
Don’t shoot the Messenger!
I hate having to be the bad guy. I’m often the guy who comes along and tells you that you invested money in a web programmer who didn’t know what SEO stood for, let alone how to bring fresh customers to your site. This is me apologizing in advance for their incompetence.
Can I go back to being a jerk now? It sucks, but my being a jerk and getting all this stuff fixed for you is what’s going to finally let you make money with your website.
I can promise that I’ll tell you the truth. I can’t promise you’ll always like it.
Matthew Egan is the President of San Antonio SEO consulting firm Image Freedom. When not dancing to the blues, Matthew helps web pages like yours get more traffic through content driven Search Engine Optimization.
My blog is really important to me. Not only as a marketing tool, and a great way to get yourself out there and linked to, but I really enjoy sharing thoughts about Internet Marketing and for the most part I have gotten great feedback. This year I am working on the #100blogs challenge to write 100 Blogs in 100 (week)days. So Monday through Friday I try to write a blog, be it personal or professional, it all usually ties back to the web SOMEHOW.
It is a struggle finding topics to Blog about, and everyone will find their own method, but I started writing notes to myself of possible topics on the inside of my accountability journal. So on one side, is my daily to-do list, and on the opposite side, the left side in my case, is usually a list of two or three options to blog about. This way I can go back and say, “Ok, I need a topic” and there are options from the saved thoughts of previous days.
That’s great, but what happens when you get busy? This past week I haven’t been home much, and I tend to blog as an afterthought towards the end of the day. So how do you stay on top of a daily blogging routine? Write in advance!
So because I missed a couple of days this past week, I had to look at it and ask myself what the solution was. What would I tell a client to do? Writing blogs, in many cases four before you post one, ensures that even if you miss a day, you only have to catch up with yourself and your readers will never notice the gap in content.
So today, when you sit down to write your blog, why not write two? Keep one in the can for a rainy day, and tomorrow write two as well and post today’s extra blog. Make an editorial process of it, because the last thing any of us want to do is disappoint our readership.
What are you going to blog about?
Lately I’ve been organizing my life with the help of @MichellePoteet of Reclaim Order. Michelle helps people connect with the organizational techniques that work for them. I’ve purchased countless books, read blogs and just wasted a whole lot of time on other people’s plans for their own organization, instead of coming up with my own. Michelle helped me do that.
The funny thing here is, the same does not apply to your web site. We let perfect be the enemy of good in our personal lives, and we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear, but we cannot do this and still successfully navigate the online sector. Does this mean your web site needs to have the biggest flash navigation and boldest color scheme? Nope. You just need to answer YES to our Web Design Fundamentals.
Can anyone find my web site? Will they take some action when they get there? Will they come back after they take that action?
This is an all or nothing endeavor. Will you refine your plan over the years? Of course! What is important is establishing the plan to begin with. How am I going to draw traffic to my web site? Can I get by on SEO and Social Media or do I need to invest in Pay Per Click advertising? Does my web site have a clear call to action? Once my visitors have met the call to action, does my site give them a reason to return?
The important thing is to build the plan WITH your web professional, don’t let your web professional dictate these things to you. I preach about how I know best, but it is still YOUR business, and I can never love your business like you do.
Refine your plan. Ask those questions, make sure you’re always meeting the YES answer to each question. Anything less than YES is unacceptable.