Category Archives: How To

Great Tips That Will Help You to Build Links Naturally

Link building is one of the most important parts of your SEO strategy and one of the most valuable things that you can do to improve the web presence of your site. Search engines will rank your website higher if you have a lot of high quality links to your pages. The more links that you have, the more likely you will be to rank higher when someone searches for a keyword that is relevant to your website.

There are many ways to build links, from requesting that another website link to you, to writing a guest post for someone to submitting to a directory to building social links by posting on forums, making blog comments and using social media. However, natural link building is not as easy as it looks and there are a lot of important factors that you need to keep in mind. So what tips should you know so that you can build links naturally? Here are some helpful pointers that you can use in your link building strategy:

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Crafting the Perfect Marketing Email

Despite the ravages that the spammers have wrought on email’s trustworthiness, the format actually has a long established trusted reputation. It’s used widely in the business world as the main form of communication replacing the traditional letter. Our energy providers, our local councils and our banks all use it to contact us. We use it in the same way in which we also used personal letters and postcards in the past. While we may use social networks to chat, make friends and generally avoid getting bored at work, we don’t hold private conversations on them (OK, most of us don’t) in the way that we would on email. The DM functions on these sites are invariably used to say “email me”. Email is trusted and widely used by users from all backgrounds and ages across the world and when it comes to marketing choices this factor is an important one to consider. So how do you create the perfect marketing email?

Copy – the Essential Ingredient

The fact that email is a trusted format really does make a difference when it comes to marketing, however, trust can easily be lost in the virtual world. Even something as a misspelling can make your firm appear rather more cowboy than corporate. Get your copy produced professionally, unless you actually want to project a homely, unprofessional image (fine for cup-cake bakers, church and school groups, but not, generally for anybody else).

The Words and Pictures Mix

You don’t need (and it won’t work anyway) to write a novel to entice your customers. If you’ve got the segmentation right then you’ll be able to tailor your message to each group. Good quality email marketing mailings should include an eighty/twenty mix of words to images. Images are great but too many clutter the space and confuse the message (which should be “click here and buy”, but in hopefully more sophisticated terms). Email, like the traditional letter it has replaced is a written format, imagery, videos etc. can be left for your site. For some products the exception may be a link to a relevant YouTube video, as a “see [your product] in action” type of message, but in general, use words to cajole, convince and get your customers clicking in the right direction.

Succinct Copy & Subject Headings

Keeping the email short has two effects, one it allows you to distil your message down and get to the point of your campaign. For the customer it offers all they need to know, in a short space of time, without causing too much interruption to their lives. One advantage of email marketing over newer social media marketing techniques is that your message, once it has reached the inbox, isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Your potential client has to make a decision before the email goes away. With social networks your message can be drowned out in the (very loud) conversational stream that it’s only a tiny part of.

Basic Instincts and the Delete Button

Understanding this decision making process is crucial when it comes to successful email marketing. For most of us it goes something like this;

How many emails, oh, [expletive of choice here], better clear some out”

Who, oh, yeah, remember signing up to that one..”

This is the make or break point for your campaign, sadly. The subject line has to be compelling enough to get past the delete button at precisely this point. “Sale Now On”, doesn’t cut the cake any more. There’s always a sale on somewhere. Creative, funny, intriguing, whichever route you choose, engagement at this point is crucial. Beyond this point comes the “too much information” point; keep the email short, one or two images should be enough to get the point across and a clear message, over several short paragraphs should be enough. Calls to action to one side, where they’re nice and visible, and one at the bottom should do the trick. A single font or two at most, no bright disturbing colours and/or moving images. Very few people have time to waste and very few will waste it.

Technical Issues

An SMTP server provider makes sense if you plan to make the most of email marketing. Those who offer a range of tracking reports and allow you to segment your lists to reflect different age groups, interests or locations are often best placed to help you to create effective, efficient campaigns that can be put in place quickly and run promptly. In addition using a quality provider will ensure that your marketing campaigns reach those inboxes in the first place and avoid the email providers spam filters. While many marketing firms will place an increased emphasis on SEO, link building and social network marketing (all of which have their place) the good old fashioned email shot, to existing or interested customers, can take far less time to implement and produce faster, more effective results.

About the Author:

Andrew Schneider, online marketing professional and copy writer looks at why ‘traditional’ online marketing still beats the more recent arrivals.

How Can I Make My Website a Winner?

A lot of website owners might ask themselves why they’re not attracting the amount of traffic they expected. And if you’re not attracting enough people, then your business, art, or whatever you might be promoting, suffers as a consequence. Isn’t it as simple as getting a website online and watching the hits roll in?

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Which Comes First – A Website or SEO?

As an SEO, I can say that in theory website design should include a good bit of input from SEO people. SEO should be part of the entire design process, included along side items like database design, UI design, and architecture choice.

I’d say that in the majority of new websites, especially for companies of any size, this is the case. SEO has earned a spot at the table now that the business drivers realize the days of “if you build it they will come” never really existed. For smaller businesses and business owners who really don’t “get” the web, the sad fact is that usually they will be sold a bill of goods that does not deliver on their wildest imagination.

I can say with great certainty, that as an SEO company in Richmond Virginia, we see more clients who have a website and absolutely no SEO plan than vice-versa. Usually by the time we get the call, the business owner has read about this stuff called search engine optimization and knows that people call it SEO, but other than that they have no clue what to do.

We also get a fair number of client contacts with business owners who have heard of pay per click, and might even know it as search engine marketing or SEM, but again, are at a loss for how to really utilize it.

As a company who also provides website design and development,Three Stone Media LLC obviously includes SEO in our most initial of conversations. Almost all of our competition in the Richmond market does as well. If you are looking in to building a website for your business, or even are looking to do a site redesign, make sure that your development company includes SEO as a topic of discussion from day one and as a major factor in the design.

Retrofitting code and UI for SEO after the fact is costly and can be an arduous process. Of course, we always welcome work like this! 🙂

Finding The SEO Firm for Your Business

I quite often get questioned about what exactly we do as an SEO firm and how one goes about finding the right SEO firm for their business. These are actually highly correlated questions.  In my mind, finding the right SEO firm is equal parts finding a firm that offers the services you need and finding a firm that you can trust to perform. Of course the follow up question I usually get once I answer is usually “how do I even know what services I need?”

What SEO Services Does My Business Need?

The short answer is “what ever it takes”! Okay, that’s a little trite.  In reality though you want an SEO firm that will take the time to work through that with you. Your SEO firm should provide you with either a high-level analysis of your current status in the search engine world or a search strategy document. In either case, the document you get should layout where you are, where you want to be, and an approach to getting there.  Possible SEO related services that would likely be addressed include:

  • On page SEO – are there glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed with the structure of your current HTML?
  • Keywords – are there opportunities to enhance or expand your keyword reach?
  • Internal site structure – is there an easily followed path for search engines to navigate your site? are important pages found via natural navigation?
  • Linking – are there opportunities to improve internal linking? how can external links be improved?
  • Content – is your content optimized for both human readers and search engine spiders?
  • Paid search – is there a paid search component to your site that should be explored or optimized?
  • Social networks – what are the opportunities to take advantage of social networks to generate traffic, links, buzz?
  • Local – is there a local component to your business that should be explored?
  • Mobile – is your site for the growing mobile search market?
  • International – is there an international component to your business that needs to be addressed?

You may or may not see each of these items addressed in an analysis of your business.  However, you should think about how you would assess your own business in these areas, and look to have any analysis provided for you address these concerns.

Evaluating a Potential SEO Firm

In the end, your evaluation and selection of an SEO firm will come down to gut feeling based on your interactions with the firm. However, some important factors that I urge you to consider include:

  • Can you contact them?
    It is likely there will be a point in time when you want to pick up the phone and call someone to discuss progress, concerns, upcoming goals, or any number of topics. At that point you don’t want to be dealing with a firm that give you an email address and promises 24 hour response. Look for a phone number on their site and give them a call.  Leave a message if you get voicemail, and note how long it takes to get a response.  Slow response to a “sales” call is not a good indicator that you will get better response when you have an important question once you have a contract with them.
  • Do they rank?
    If you found them via a search, then that is a good sign (unless you found them on page 88!). Much like your business, search on reasonable terms.  Trying to find a firm ranking for “SEO” is like trying to get people to come to your site for a search term of “shoes” — people who search the term “shoes” are not likely to be highly converting users on your shoe store.  So try local terms if that is your preference, maybe something like “virginia SEO firm” or “Richmond SEO consultant”.  You are going to want to see that they have some ability to rank.  Ranking #1 is not the end all be all in your search as you can not be sure of their targeted keywords, but you should see them demonstrating ranking power in obvious targeted keywords.
  • Is their content good?
    You are looking for an SEO firm that will likely be making suggestions on your content.  If they can’t demonstrate the ability to write on their own site, do you really want them telling you how to write?

What Do You Expect to Pay?

Of course you expect me to give you a binding quote here, but that is not even close to realistic.  That would be like me meeting you on the subway, finding out you have a shoe store, and asking you to give me a firm quote on a pair of tennis shoes.  You would obviously reply “that depends on lots of factors”.  So it is in every business, so it is in the SEO business. Some firms are so busy that they will basically set a floor price for any work they take on.  Some firms are in the bargain basement business and will sell you “a #1 ranking for $19.99” (run, don’t walk from an offer even resembling that).

One thing I like to stress on the subject of SEO cost is that you should not expect to get 10, 20, 160 hours of service/support per month without paying a fair average hourly rate. Get an idea as to how much support your SEO firm is proposing to provide and put what you think is a fair rate on it, then make the value judgement on your own.

Remember also that sometimes you are expecting an SEO firm to make your ugly duckling in to a princess. Other times you are just looking for someone to pin the dress up a little. Make sure you spell that out up front and that may help you avoid sticker shock. You may also find it valuable to have your SEO firm explain the up-front services that they are proposing versus the ongoing support.

You Signed a Contract, Now What?

It’s simple right?  You signed the contract, the firm spent a few weeks putting everything in place, and now your site is rolling.  You are done. If you did not catch my sarcasm, then let me explain.  SEO is not a put in the fix and reap the rewards type business.  It is an ongoing, constantly tweaking, iterative process.

Going back to my shoe business analogy, if you have a shoe business and I come in and say “my shoes aren’t shiny any more, what can you do to fix it?”. You are likely going to sell me shoe polish; you may even shoe me how to use it. You surely don’t expect me to come back in next month angry that your polish shined my shoes up but they are dull again.  You expect me to repolish my shoes.

Such it is in SEO.  We look for the bad spots and fix them. Then we keep working to continuously keep the shine on!