By Carl Weiss

English: a chart to describe the search engine...
English: a chart to describe the search engine market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you own a small business and have a website or plan to launch a basic business website in order to get more visibility, it is imperative to consider Search Engine Optimization, otherwise known as SEO for your new website so that it can be found by prospects. This is especially important if you plan on selling goods directly on your site.  The rub is that many times web designers spend more time fretting on form rather than function.  As a result, many websites that we have surveyed are lacking many of the on-page SEO elements that are needed to get properly indexed by the search engines.  To address this conundrum you need to either hire a knowledgeable optimization expert, or you can try a little DIY action.  When you consider the number of website analysis programs on the market, DIY SEO is not as much of a mission impossible as many people believe. In fact, if you invest a couple of hours a month on your website’s SEO then you can do it yourself. 

Before you start your analysis, it is important that you select the right keywords or phrases for your website. That is to say, you need to select the words or phrases that someone who is unfamiliar with your business would enter on the search engines in order to find businesses like yours. For example, if you have a furniture business, you must have the keyword furniture somewhere in your domain. We can take a second example, say your business is plumbing and fitting services provider, then you must have the keyword ‘plumbing’ or ‘plumbing services’ somewhere in your domain name.

Google Science Fair
Now that you have some suspects lined up you need to weed them out.  The best way to do this is by entering your keywords and phrases into Google’s Keyword Planner which is found by accessing your Adwords account.  (If you don’t have an Adwods account you can set one up by going to The tab for the Keyword Planner is located under the Tools tab at the top right of the page. Once you enter your suspects into the Keyword Planner’s lineup it will come back with the traffic count for each and every keyword or phrase entered.  More importantly it will also suggest other keywords and phrases along with their respective traffic counts.  The biggest mistake that most people make is to either choose too many keywords or choose keywords with little or no traffic.  The Keyword Planner is the perfect tool to help you identify the best keywords to target.

Once you have selected the right keywords or phrases for your site now you need to plug them in.  There are several areas that you need to apply these keywords, namely your Meta Tags, the Alt Tags and at the beginning and end of your website. The Meta Tags are located directly below the Title Tag.  An example of how these tags should be formatted is listed below:

<meta name="keywords" content="Jacksonville Video Production | Jacksonville Video Production Companies | Jacksonville Videographer”>

<meta name="description" content="Jacksonville Video Production and Viral Video Marketing. Local, Affordable and Effective. 3D Animation & Motion Graphics. 904-410-2091"/>

Next come the Alt Tags which are descriptors used at the end of the code for every image on your website.  Since search engine spiders can’t see images, these descriptors tell the spiders what the image is all about.  While many people ignore the alt tags this is a mistake since it is another way to let the search engines know how to rank your site.  Below is some sample code that shows you what the alt tags look like.  Make sure all off yours are complete if you ever hope to make it to page one of any search engine.

<img id="JaxVideoProdlogo" src="Resources/jaxvideoprodlogo.png" width=366 height=74 alt="Jacksonville Video Production Logo">

Next you need to include the keywords in your content. Whether you are creating verbiage for your website, blog or video you need to find a way to insert the keywords and phrases into each and every one of these.  Just don’t go crazy with the keyword density or you risk being penalized by the very search engines you are trying to woo.  (In fact there is a black hat SEO term called keyword stuffing that every search engine knows and loathes.)

So the key is to use the desired keywords in your content in a fitting way. That is to say, it should not look like keywords are thrown in unnecessarily. Always remember that content is designed first and foremost to be read by human beings.  This means that keywords should be used only in the proper time and place.  They should also be grammatically correct.  Last but not least the most important keyword or phrase should be used at the beginning and end of your website in a font that is bold and italicized.  This lets the spiders know that the word or phrase is important. 

Off-Page SEO

In today’s content-rich world, even the best on-page SEO is not going to usually be sufficient to
generate a page one result on most search engines.  But it is a good start.  To really get into the game and get the spiders to sit up and take notice you next need to start providing regular content that is valuable and interesting. (That’s right folks, the spiders have learned how to read.)  Weekly content has become king due to the increased competition of the marketplace. People are eager to learn what’s new and exciting with your business.  They want to know how you can help them save time and money or overcome obstacles.  They want to hear what other customers think about you.  Since most people rarely update their website this makes it difficult for people and spiders to find out the latest about news regarding you and your business.  That’s what blogs and social networks are all about.  They are also good for creating backlinks to your website which is another benchmark that the spiders use to rank sites.

When it comes to self-promote your website you need to use both On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO techniques. Once your website receives good ranking on all the major search engines, do not stop your Off-Page SEO activities. You should continuously work for your website each week so that your competitors will not overtake your ranking. Yes, you will require lesser effort and time to do the maintenance work as part of the Off-Page SEO once your website receives good ranking. If you do not have the time to promote your website, you can also outsource some or all of your online marketing tasks.  Just take care to thoroughly check out any SEO expert that you are considering turning your web presence over to or your site could wind up DOA.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, a digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.   You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4pm Central on BlogTalkRadio

Google Gives Everybody the Bird with Their Pigeon Update

By Carl Weiss

Many of these birds are used for the release i...
SEO is for the birds, at least in terms of the last two updates from Google, the first of which was  called Penguin and the latest that has been deemed Pigeon.  While birds of a feather, there are big differences when it comes to the intent of the two most recent algorithm tweaks.

Penguin Puts a Chill on Black Hat Operators

First released back in May of 2012, Penguin was designed to penalize websites that were deemed to be using deceptive online marketing techniques to achieve ranking on the world’s most popular website.  What this meant was that anyone using such tactics as keyword stuffing, link farming, hidden text or any of a number of other back door techniques employed specifically to generate search engine ranking was punished by having their sites relegated to the backwaters of Google.  In some cases if the infractions were serious enough, Google delisted these sites, meaning that they would never again appear in search.

The reason that Google was able to accomplish this was due to the fact that their spiders were now sophisticated enough to not only read what was on a site, but they were able to comprehend the meaning of what they read.  This made the job of sifting through hundreds of millions of websites possible.  Prior to that it was necessary to flag a site and then have a human being physically check it out so that it could be determined whether black hat tactics were being used.  When you consider that more than 130,000 new websites are published every day, this was a superhuman task prior to 2012.

Pigeon Flies the Coop

Male homing pigeon, (showing of ;-)
Male homing pigeon, (showing of ;-) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Where Penguin concerned itself with identifying and penalizing cheaters, Pigeon is more interested in improving localized search parameters.  In fact the most pressing reason that Google commissioned its latest update was due to local directory Yelp complaining that its listings were being unfairly weighted in Google search.  What this means is that local directories will benefit directly by the latest update.  If your site is not listed, or if your directory listings are incomplete or inaccurate now is the time to address this issue.

Another vital task is for website owners to police their online reputation and to embellish it by actively pursuing a policy that encourages satisfied customers to rate your website.  Face it, sooner or later you are going to rub a customer the wrong way.  While in the past this could have produced a snub, what it is more likely to produce today is a ding.  By ding I mean a negative review on any number of local directories such as Google Local, Yahoo, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.  Since many companies have no policy that encourages satisfied customers to post positive reviews, all that leaves for the public to find online are negative ones.  Even if you have to offer a reward to customers in order to get them to post positive reviews, the reward to your business far outweighs the cost.

Learn a Few Tactics from Homing Pigeons

Homing pigeon
Homing pigeon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you really want to create a local sensation on Google then you need to take a lesson from homing pigeons.  These birds have been known to find their way back to their nests after being released as far as 1,100 miles away from home.  So long has their ability been known and so accurate was their homing instinct that Genghis Khan used the birds as a pre-aviation version of air mail.

Like the homing pigeon, if you want to achieve outstanding local results then it is vital that you start feathering your next with local content.  This can include everything from location specific landing pages with keyword sensitive urls, to blogs and social posts that are keyed to local events.  Also make sure that you include a Google map on your site and landing pages.  Include (and label) videos and images that pertain to your locale.  In short, anything and everything that points out your location is going to be vital to getting Pigeon to roost.

Instead of Merely SEO You Need to be Concerned with GEO

If you want Pigeon to make sure that people in your neighborhood can find you, then you need to make sure the name of your neighborhood is included on your website, landing pages, your blog, your videos and your social posts.  As geotargeting gets more and more prevalent you need to seed your site with geographical breadcrumbs that can be seen by the spiders.  Just make sure that you don’t overpopulate any content piece with them or you might wind up being considered a spammer.

Keep in mind if you find out that Google Pigeon has done to your site what pigeons the world over do to statues, the best way to keep pigeons from dropping all over you is to leave breadcrumbs in front of someone else’s door.

Eggs of the homing pigeon
Eggs of the homing pigeon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Top 5 Ways to Feather Your Nest:
1.      Use location specific landing pages.
2.      Create more location specific content such as blog posts.
3.      Encourage your customers to review your site on local directories.
4.      Generate more local links
5.      Make sure your local profiles are accurate and complete.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, a digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.   You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4pm Central on BlogTalkRadio

Does PPC Advertising Spell Pay Per Crook for Your Business?

By Carl Weiss

When you think about it, it’s amazing that the bulk of Google’s revenue is derived from Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.I say that because many small business owners whom I speak to, who have used PPC ads, are dissatisfied with their results.  It’s not that they aren’t appreciative of the fact that PPC can generate a Page One position for their business.  It’s more that using PPC does just that and little else.  Generating a click doesn’t mean generating a lead or a sale.  It simply means generating a click, every one of which erodes your ad budget.  While some clicks are spurious at best, before you decide to declare your PPC ads DOA, there are a few things you should consider.

#1: Have You Fine Tuned Your Ad?

One of the things that many neophyte PPC advertisers don’t realize is there are a number of ways to fine tune their campaign.  Adwords, along with most every other PPC engine will leave the pipe wide open unless you specify otherwise.  This means is that you need to determine when, where, and how often your ads are displayed.  If you aren’t the kind of business that offers 24-hour service, why run your ads all night along?  Simply by specifying you only want your ads to be displayed form 9 5 p.m. will literally cut the burn in half.  If you don’t sell your products or services worldwide (or in every state in the Union for that matter), you need to tune your campaign to specify its geographic scope.  Keyword selection is also key.  Not only is it important to choose the keywords and phrases that best describes your business’ products and services, you also need to add negative keywords to exclude your ad being displayed for similar keywords that will generate browsers as opposed to buyers.

#2: Why Being Number One Isn’t the Best Bet

Other than failing to test and measure your keywords effectiveness, the second biggest blunder that any PPC advertiser can make is to insist on being the number one result.  In the first place, since all PPC advertising is based on an auction, jumping right to the head of the line only assures you that you are going to pay top dollar for every click you receive.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to generate the most results.  Far from it, since you will burn up your ad budget the fastest this way.  All that shooting for the top slot means is that you run the risk of creating a bidding war that you can’t win.  

What we aim for is position number three for our clients that use PPC.  The third from the top means that your ad will display at the top of Google.  It also means that your limited advertising budget will go further before your ad reaches your daily limit and goes dark.  

#3: How Strong is Your Offer?

If you really want to get the biggest bang for the buck, you need to spend more time working on your message and offer, and less time worrying about being atop the pile.  In fact, a world-class, text-based ad can help you generate more clicks in the number three spot than a weaker ad can at the top of the page.  Since PPC ads are the only thing online that requires you to be more succinct that when you use Twitter, less is definitely more.

The key to maximizing results is to thoroughly understand the demographic and psychographic profile of your ideal customer.  What age brackets do you wish to target?  Which income brackets are representative of your ideal prospects?  Where do your ideal prospects shop?  Knowing these factors will not only help you hone your ad to a fine edge, but it will also aid you in selecting the best keywords and phrases from which to campaign. 

Once you have a complete profile of your ideal prospects then it’s time to create the ads that are designed to appeal to this group.  That’s right, I said ads.  The beauty of working online is that every click can be tracked.  In order to maximize your results in any PPC environment you want to design and test a number of different ads.  What sounds good on paper may quickly prove to be next to useless in the fast-paced world of the Internet.  Unlike print ads that are fixed in stone for a set amount of time, online ads are imminently adjustable.  Within a few days of launching any PPC campaign, you should be able to determine which ads are pulling their weight and what ads need to be either tweaked or pulled out of rotation altogether.  You should also do the same for your keywords, as well as the networks upon which your ads are displayed.

Unless you intend to shred a mountain of money in your initial attempts to locate and appeal to your ideal prospects, all of the steps above must be accomplished before your campaign is activated and the first click is produced.

#4: Looking for a Happy Landing?

Unlike in aviation, where it is said that any landing you can walk away from is a good one, if you want to have a high probability of converting clicks into cash you need to look at the place you intend prospects to land.  The single biggest mistake advertisers make is to send the prospect to their homepage.  Your homepage is designed to showcase your business, not to create new customers.  As a general rule, it’s too busy.  It offers too many choices to prospects. It wasn’t designed with the express purpose of dangling the bait and reeling in the fish.  In short, if you send a prospect to your homepage you have just reduced your ROI by as much as 90%.

Just like your ad, your landing page needs to be customized to funnel the prospect through the buying process with the least amount of speed bumps to accepting your offer.  It needs to contain a short series of selling lures that will make your landing page stickier.  In short order, you need to answer the following questions:

    1.      What need or desire are you trying to fulfill?
    2.      How does your offer remedy a problem or ease a pain?
    3.      How does your offer stack up to the competition’s offer?
    4.      What counteroffer are you promoting in case the fish doesn’t take the bait?

The best way to crystalize the process is to take a look at your existing landing page.  From a visual standpoint, what catches the eye?  Are you wasting valuable real estate above the fold with nebulous graphics or fancy Flash cells that do little to entice the prospect into taking action?  What type of funnel have you created to limit the prospects’ choices and lead him or her inexorably to agreeing with your marketing message and taking the bait?  How much sales resistance is your offer likely to cause and how does your copy address it? 

#5: Don’t Drop the Ball at the One-Yard Line

U.S. Air Force Academy senior linebacker Aaron...
U.S. Air Force Academy senior linebacker Aaron Shanor recovers a fumble by California Golden Bears tailback Justin Forsett during the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. ID: 071231-F-0558K-010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So you have made a successful pitch and have generated a lead.  Bravo! Don’t pat yourself on the back just yet.  The secret to turning leads into sales without running yourself to ground is via a drip marketing program.  While most business owners feel that they can kick up their feet and relax once the lead or initial sale is in the bag, I disagree.  All you have done is taken back a tiny amount of ground for a battle that was hard-fought.  If you really want to maximize the ROI of any online marketing campaign, what you need to do next is craft a multi-touch drip marketing plan that reaches out and touches a prospect no fewer than ten times.

If you want to enhance your return, I suggest sending buyers a monthly online newsletter that keeps them appraised of your growing business.  Feel free to include an offer at the bottom of each newsletter.  This tactic not only is a cagey way to dangle an offer in front of a prospect, it is also a way to keep your business top of mind.  If you really want to generate maximum return on every dollar invested, this technique is truly gold-plated.

While many business people lament the sometimes uneven results that they achieve when they employ PPC ads, the best way to turn clicks into cash is to up the ante and make sure that you aren’t robbing yourself blind by failing to fine tune your campaigns.

Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on