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Getting Found on the Web: Tips from an SEO Expert

SEO is a hot topic for any business, whether local or global. But I find SEO “tips” to be buried in slick-talking promises by SEO sales people, or confusing jargon from tech blogs. So I decided to reach out to a trusted source.
Nicole Skuba is one of the founding partners of Blue Tree Digital, a digital marketing agency that provides SEO services, but also serves as an outsourced marketing department for businesses that need to increase brand recognition and leads. I have found Nicole to be refreshingly honest, realistic and practical. She gets SEO as one piece in an overall online approach.

There have been so many changes by Google over the past year with their search engine algorithms. What are the major shifts in your opinion?

Starting in 2011, Google began releasing algorithms to “fix” its search rankings. One of the series of releases, called Panda (after Navneet Panda, the Google developer), aims to push sites that are more likeable to the top of the rankings. Google first employed human beings to sit and rank sites on whether or not they 1) liked the content, 2) trusted the site, and 3) would share the page. Google then transferred that process to machines. The result is that Google now cares and will penalize sites that:
- Have too many ads in ratio to content
- Have pages that appear to have duplicated or similar content
- Force the user to click too often
- Have “thin,” or mediocre, content
- Have high bounce rates
- Have metatags that don’t match content (which makes it confusing for searchers)
- Have lots of pages that are obviously there for SEO purposes

There is also a series of algorithms called Penguin. Penguin targets the black-hat SEO practices that many shady SEO companies use to dramatically increase the number of links to a client. Link buying and link exchange are frowned upon. Blog comment spam is targeted. And, these sites are being heavily penalized.

I’ve seen companies disappear from rankings overnight when using these bad SEO practices. It pays to be diligent and honest in SEO.

What are the most important things small businesses can do to boost their web search rankings?

The most important piece of SEO is the on-site set-up, and that begins with the selection of the right keywords. A website should be optimized with keywords that a potential client would use to find the business… Not the keywords that the owner thinks are cool, not the words that the legal team permits. These should be words that the target customer will type into a Google search box.
Once keywords are selected, it is crucial to write appropriate metatags for each page. Duplicate title and description tags will harm a website. Invest in getting this set up properly and ranking will increase.
Then, make sure there is great content, consistent traffic to the site, with links back to the site from important resources. SEO must be continually optimized to be continually effective.

What about for local businesses?

Local businesses are lucky! They get to take advantage of lots of services that allow them to naturally boost their rankings. A few tips:
- Make sure a physical address is on the website.
- Set up a Google Places account.
- Use Google + and get as many reviews as possible
- Use rich snippet code to optimize the address on the website.

How long before a company can see an impact on their search ranking? What measurement tools or metrics do you recommend in order to gauge progress?

Results can be noticed in as few as two days. But, most new businesses see the full results of their efforts in about three months.
The easiest measurement is search engine ranking. I also take into account the quality and quantity of referring websites, and how many non-branded keywords are bringing traffic into the site. The goal should be to improve those numbers.

There are many “shady” SEO firms out there. How should a small business select a digital marketing partner for SEO work?

Our philosophy is that SEO should be done by humans, not just machines. We are often called in to fix SEO that was done cheaply by a company that simply uploaded data to a program to spit out keywords and tags. SEO requires a human eye to analyze data, creatively integrate keywords, expertly draft metatags that are meaningful to search spiders and people, and be sure not to create bad links. Whatever SEO firm is hired should be able to point to their expert on staff who is analyzing the data, not just whatever software they use.

I would also steer clear of any firm that promises to get a company linked from hundreds of local sites overnight. Ask questions: What sites or directories are you using to link my site? (The answer should be that they research the appropriate, industry-specific sites.) Have they ever had any clients dropped from Google’s ranking because of their practices?

If all else fails, ask for long-term references.

Jeanne RossommePresident, RoadMap Marketing
Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish. | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne

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Discussion (10) Comment

  1. Great SEO tips you have mentioned in this blog. These tips are really very effective to boost the web search engine rankings of your website.

  2. Tazul IslamVisitor

    Thanks Jeanne, Appropriate keywords and tags is very important for SEO. a human eye to analyze data, creatively integrate keywords, expertly draft metatags that are meaningful to search spiders and people, and be sure not to create bad links. This service is very important for Quality work, I agree with you.

  3. kennVisitor

    Social networking is also very important for your both local and global seo. The problem could be that you don’t really know how to properly optimize your site for local search. Sometimes the process of achieving the ranking you expect can be a lot more complex than you think.

  4. JordanVisitor

    Thanks Jeanne, I agree that most often SEO advice is sold in the form of a product or super hyped webinar. The landscape for search is changing a lot especially of late and lot of what worked in the past isn’t working anymore. Your tips are spot on and will hopefully help those out there confused on SEO. Thanks for sharing!


  5. CarsonVisitor

    The SEO business gets a bad rap from
    the amount of snake oil salesmen and outsourced companies around
    Added a share on my Facebook, hope thats okay!

  6. FionaReesVisitor

    Nice tips. Thanks for sharing it. Keep posting and keep updating us.

  7. This is a great article. Thanks for posting it.

    As an SEO Copywriter and Google Analytics Analyst, I also agree keywords and keyword phrases (those your visitors are searching for) are important to improve your SEO. I’d like to mention a few things to avoid with keywords though:
    1. Avoid keyword stuffing, which is adding these words to your content where it sounds unnatural when read.
    2. Avoid placing a list of keywords at the bottom of the page in the same color text as the page background. Google’s Penguin update will find you and could blacklist your site as a penalty.
    3. Don’t include your list of keywords in your source code with the meta tag “<meta name = "keywords" (and then you list your keywords being used)”. Google searches your website's content for applicable keywords; you no longer have to list them in your source code. Listing them only allows your competitors to easily figure out your keyword strategy and then begin using it immediately to potentially get higher rankings than you.

    The other thing I'd suggest is one, ensure Google Analytics is installed on your website and two, learn some of the basics of Google Analytics (or hire a Google Analytics Analyst to provide this info for you). It will help you to see what keywords are working and which are not; which pages have the highest bounce rate (meaning visitors are entering a page and quickly leaving) and where your visitors are coming from – i.e. search engines, other websites, etc. All of this information can be used to improve your content, provide ideas for future blogs posts/articles/etc. and tell you where to best spend your marketing dollars.

    Again thanks for posting this helpful information. Even if a small business owner implements just the use of better keywords and keyword phrases, their site will see improved SEO rankings quickly.

  8. Cheryl GnadVisitor

    Jeanne – I took some of your tips and offered a quick snapshot of that topic about being aware of those who sell you on being able to Get Tons of Traffic because of their SEO and mentioned that even a well educated social media person who blogs on wordpress can do a fairly good job of optimizing their blog or website. No they are not an expert, but they CAN do far more good SEO than the normal small business who decides that they can’t afford the “expert SEO” person and so never get any of that done. Ha! Someone actually got a bit disagreeable! Lo and behold, it was someone who does SEO optimizing for websites! She didn’t like me saying that. I teach my clients to provide great content that relates to what the customer wants! If they use words that the client uses then you have a great shot at getting traffic without paying someone $$$’s! SEO is an ever changing “science” so one must stay up on new trends. Most small business owners won’t bother, but might consider an affordable Social Media Specialist who is more educated in SEO optimization on their Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin and Blog. I’d think it is worth the consideration!

  9. bshlenslyVisitor

    nice article but to much what is not working and the changes and not enough what to do except content .
    For example what is the role of social media, blogs , and even ad words on SEO

    • Yes, just about everything a business does online these days relates back to SEO. Content is definitely king. And, a great way to develop that content is through social networking and blogging. AdWords can help push traffic to the website, which ultimately helps SEO. As I’ve said to clients, ultimately, everything is in some way related to SEO. It’s a subjective choice as to where to draw the line. Thanks for the comment!


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