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« Go Back | Posted in: - on January 13, 2014

Search engines use automated spiders to crawl your site and understand the content so your site can be found during search queries.  Despite all the effort you put into making your website’s design as attractive as possible, there are certain elements of your website that these automated programs simply won’t be able to process.

In general, the search engine spiders are limited to understanding the text and text-based features (for example, backlinks) on your site.  However, there are some SEO workarounds that make it possible for the search engines to understand and process non-text elements.  For more detail on how this occurs, let’s look at each of the different elements found on standard web pages, as well as how the search engines view and value them…

Element #1 – Text

As mentioned above, search engine spiders love text- based content.  They derive a number of different clues about your website’s theme and quality from these words, simply because text is the type of content they’re most easily able to digest.

However, that doesn’t mean that all websites are built to optimize the text-based content they include.  There are a few specific things you’ll want to watch out for when it comes to making your text as cleanly written and easily accessible as possible:

  • Make sure text is visible to the search engine spiders.  Occasionally, snippets of code, embedded content or formatting inconsistencies can cause text to be hidden from the search engine spiders.  To get an idea of what these automated programs see when they land on each of your pages, use the Webconfs “Search Engine Spider Simulator” tool
  • Use a text-based browser to check for additional formatting concerns that may prevent the proper indexation of your site’s content.  Lynx is one example of a browser that will allow you to view your website’s content without any additional features engaged


Element #2 – Images

The concept of avoiding images from an SEO standpoint is fairly well-established, but to review – any text that’s incorporated into your images can’t be indexed by the search engine spiders at this point.

So say, for example, your site uses a graphical header to introduce your site’s name and tagline.  Be aware that, because they’re embedded in an image file, these words are no longer accessible to the search engines, which can be a big problem for your site’s SEO.

As an alternative, you can add text to your images’ ALT tag attributes, but this is no substitute for hiding either large chunks or extremely important pieces in your images.  Instead, stick to design options and graphic elements that enhance your site without steamrolling its ability to rank for your chosen keyword phrases.

Element #3 – Flash

Flash is another content type that often gets a bad rap for having a negative SEO impact.  And it’s true – just as with image files, any text you embed in your Flash files won’t be read or indexed by the search engine spiders.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid them entirely.  When used properly, Flash videos can be a great way to engage your audience and convey important points in an interactive way.  Just be sure to incorporate them in small, subtle ways and to add any relevant content from your videos to your site as text in other areas.

Element #4 – PDFs

Contrary to popular belief, the search engine spiders can access certain elements of PDF files.  While their overall “word-for-word” translation of these documents can be hit or miss, they are to read certain tags associated with your PDF files, including the title, author, subject and keyword tags, as well as your headline and image caption tags within the document.

For this reason, it’s important to pay special attention to the keywords you integrate into your PDF files as you create them.  While it’s unlikely that adjusting these factors alone will result in higher rankings, they’re one of the few opportunities you have to guarantee that the search engine spiders will see your chosen keywords – so don’t waste it!


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« Go Back | Posted in: - on December 30, 2013

No matter what type of website you’re building, you likely have some type of goal in mind for the visitors who arrive on your pages.  Maybe you want your readers to purchase your products or maybe you simply want them to share the information they find on your site with others who are interested in the same topics.


Whatever the case, if you want your visitors to take a certain type of action, you’ve got to make your intentions clear to them by building effective calls to action into your site! A “call to action” is just what it sounds like – using the text and design elements on your site, you’re asking your visitors to take the specific action you desire.



Type #1 – The Sales-Oriented Call to Action

Sales-oriented calls to action – as you might expect – include the text and design elements you use to convince website readers to purchase your items

Consider the example below from Amazon, a leading web retailer:

How many specific calls to action can you see on this sales page?  Just a few include:

  • “Try Prime”
  • “Shop by Department”
  • “Sell your iPad”
  • “Shop Now”
  • “Try Amazon Prime FREE for 30 days”
  • “Get 20% or more Off Select Llaptops”
  • “Shop Women’s Coats”
  • “See all movies included with Prime membership”

Visitors arriving on this website should have no doubt as to the specific actions Amazon wants them to take.  At this point, the only decision left is which particular action to take – not whether or not to engage with the company in the first place!

So what goes into an effective sales-oriented call to action, and where can you incorporate them into your site?  Consider any of the following elements when determining how and where to add these useful features into your website:

  • Good calls to action should be noticeable. Don’t bury your calls to action at the bottom of your website and expect them to still be effective!  Make them large and prominent, using bold graphics and eye-catching fonts in prime locations on your website to make your calls to action as effective as possible.
  • Good calls to action should be direct. When adding calls to action to your website, be specific about what you want your visitors to do and use direct language that makes your requests as compelling as possible.  For example, “If you have a second, consider checking out our range of women’s coats” simply doesn’t have the same punch as, “Find the best women’s coats now!”
  • Good calls to action should be used sparingly.  The more calls to action you add to your ecommerce website, the more you’ll dilute the strength of each individual element.  When adding these tools to your website, think carefully about which one or two actions you most want visitors to take, then use your calls to action to encourage these activities over lesser priorities.

Type #2 – The Opt-In Call to Action

Depending on your unique business model and the type of website you run, you may not be asking readers to buy anything at all!  Plenty of offline service professionals (including real estate agents, insurance agents and many other employees) use their websites to generate qualified leads to contact in the real world.  In addition, many websites use email marketing newsletters to pitch their prospects – a process that begins with an info-gathering opt-in form.

In these cases, the goal isn’t to get visitors to fork over their credit card information – instead, you’re after their personal contact information.  Because you’re appealing to different personal motivations in these readers, the calls to action you’ll want to use on your site are different as well.

Here’s what to consider when adding opt-in calls to action to your website:

  • Pitch benefits in your opt-in calls to action.  When asking visitors to submit their personal contact information through your opt-in form, be sure you’re basing your call to action on the benefits of subscribing, not the features.  Use your call to action to show visitors how they’ll benefit by completing your form, not just what they’ll receive for doing so.
  • Every element of your opt-in form should be tested. Test the location of your form, the color you use for your opt-in button, the specific wording featured on your button and the text you use when introducing your form and its benefits to your readers.  The more elements you test successfully, the more effective your form will be.
  • The fewer pieces of information you ask for, the higher your opt-in rates will be. When developing your opt-in call to action, keep in mind that requesting fewer pieces of personal information will improve your subscription rates.  Consider testing the benefits of a shorter opt-in form as a part of your call to action.

Type #3 – The Social Sharing Call to Action

Finally, suppose you aren’t trying to engage with individual users on a further level – whether through product sales or follow-up information – at all.  Suppose all you want them to do is to share your website content with others, either through “Click to email” buttons or on popular social networking sites.

Even in this case, you still need to make use of calls to action to increase the likelihood that your visitors will follow through and share your content.  Although the practice of social sharing is becoming more commonplace, it’s still unwise to assume that your readers will take any action on their own without your explicit reminders.

To encourage readers to share your content with other users, you need to make the process as simple as possible.

  • Build social sharing tools into your content. If you want people to share your business blog articles on Facebook or Twitter, don’t assume that your readers will take the time to copy your link, navigate to their favorite social networking site and then paste your URL into their profiles.  Unless your content is truly tremendous, website engagement isn’t usually high enough for readers to go to these lengths to share your articles.  Instead, make the process as easy as possible by integrating social sharing features directly into your website.
  • Use sharing tools in multiple locations.  There are plenty of different social sharing tools out there that can be added to your website, but be aware that one style may not be enough.  For example, suppose you use the popular TweetMeme button, which adds a small “Share on Twitter” button to the upper right-hand corner of your articles.  But what happens if a reader doesn’t decide that he wants to share your article until he gets to the end of the page?  Again, don’t assume that he’ll take the time to scroll back to the top of the article to find your social sharing button.  Add a second set of sharing features to the ends of your articles to capture as many potential “sharers” as possible.
  • Ask your readers to share your content directly.  As long as you’ve written good content, most readers will respond well to text that’s written into your articles asking, “If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Twitter so that others can benefit as well.”  Using variations of this request in your content makes your call to action more personal – and, therefore, much harder to ignore than a simple social sharing tool.

Although the process of integrating calls to action into your website may seem overwhelming, try to start small.  Over time and with continued improvements, you could see big changes in your overall conversion rates as a result of these simple additions!

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on December 16, 2013

So you think you’re ready to start building a website for your business. Maybe you’ve seen a few websites that you like, or you’ve found a template with the design elements you seek. Proper site planning involves a lot more than picking pretty colors or choosing a template and with a plan, it will go more smoothly.

Before you inadvertently set yourself up to fail, check out the following tips for building an effective site plan. This plan will start the design process off right — and help guide your site’s development.

Step 1: Plan out your pages.

Depending on the size and scope of your business, this stage of your site plan can be easy to complete or require several hours to flesh out. For example, if you’re a sole proprietor offering a single service (such as tax preparation or massage therapy), you may only need a few pages to convey all of the necessary information about your business. On the other hand, if you’re planning a major e-commerce site, the number of pages you’ll need to create will be much more extensive.

To get you started, consider the following list of typical pages that you may want to include on your website:

  • Home page. This page represents your visitor’s first impression of your brand, so you’ll want to be sure it’s designed well and contains all of the necessary information to get visitors to take the next step and engage with your business.
  • About page. “About me” pages are frequently the most accessed pages on websites, because potential customers want to know more about the people they’re doing business with. No matter what type of website you’re building, include an About page.
  • Contact page. The Contact page is also vital, because it offers visitors options for getting in touch with you for more information. Include this page and plan to offer several different contact methods, including physical address (when appropriate), telephone number, email address, contact form, and social networking profiles.
  • Product or service offering page. Your product page(s) provide the fundamental details about everything you’re selling. If your selection is limited, one page may suffice for this entire section. If you’re planning a larger site, plan for a single page for each product.
  • FAQ or information page. One way to cut back on unnecessary customer queries is to post answers to the most frequently asked questions. FAQ or information pages are a great place to educate visitors about your business or products, and they often help to remove barriers that would otherwise prevent people from buying.

While these standard page types represent a good starting place for most businesses, you may also need to plan for account login pages, blog posts, order history sections, and more, depending on the specific needs of your company. One way to determine what other pages you may need is to look at your competitors’ websites. If all of them include a specific page type that you’re on the fence about, consider including it; there’s a good chance they’re using it because it serves a valuable purpose.

Step 2: Decide on an effective navigation structure.

Once you have an idea of all the different pages you’ll want to include in your new website, it’s time to start piecing them together into an effective navigation structure. It’s best to do this before you choose a website template for your new site, because it will allow you to pick a template that works for your needs, instead of hammering your content into a site design that doesn’t fit your desired navigation structure.

The first step in this process is to determine which items will appear as category headers on your main navigation bar. Nearly all website structures contain one main navigation section (whether it runs horizontally across the top of the site or vertically down the left sidebar) with drop-down sub-pages or sub-categories. And although your site may have secondary navigation bars or linked call-outs from the main page, the elements that form your main navigation bar should receive the most attention, as most visitors will use these links to navigate your site.

When planning your main navigation bar, follow these standard guidelines to make it as effective as possible:

  • Number of items. Your main navigation bar should contain no more than 7 or 8 items. After this point, visitors’ attention begins to lag, causing them to miss important information on your site.
  • SEO. Whenever possible, incorporate target keywords into your navigation structure for better search engine optimization.
  • Navigation depth. Google prefers sites that have a “wide” navigation structure, not a “deep” alternative, so make sure that every page on your site can be reached within three clicks.

One of the easiest ways to build out your navigation bar is to write each of the pages you came up with in Step 1 onto a sticky note and organize them on a wall or other large surface. This allows you to visually create categories and manipulate layouts until you come up with a structure that makes sense for your business. Clearly, this might not be an option if you’re anticipating hundreds or thousands of pages — in these cases, consider scoping out your competitors to see what categories and sub-categories they use.

Step 3: Follow established design principles.

Although most people jump to design considerations first when planning a new website, it’s listed here as Step 3 for a reason: Until you know what information you want to present and how you want to present it, you won’t be able to choose a website design template that will work best for your business!

Now that you know how many pages, categories, and navigation bar items you want on your website, you can start looking for design templates that will allow you to present the information you’ve come up with in the most attractive way possible. As you go through different template options, consider the following established design principles to ensure your new site conveys the right message about you and your business:

  • Avoid “over-designing.” Although you can add plenty of bells and whistles to any site, the most important thing you should consider is whether or not your chosen design interferes with the way your site’s message is conveyed. Whenever possible, stick with easy-to-read fonts, high-contrast text and background colors, and limited images that enhance (rather than overpower) your content.
  • Use high-quality imagery. The days of dancing GIFs and pixelated images are over!  At Homestead you can choose from over 1 million royalty-free stock photography images  to include in your website – all for free.  Or use your digital camera or cell phone camera to take powerful product photos. Think of the images on your site as an extension of your brand and make them as high in quality as possible.
  • Pay attention to your color schemes. According to the tenets of color theory, different hues convey different emotions and psychological impacts. Choose colors carefully to ensure that your site gives off the right “feeling” to future visitors.

By taking the time to follow each of these steps in order, you’ll wind up with a website that not only looks good, but also works well from the perspective of both website visitors and search engine spiders

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on November 27, 2013

We recently talked about how building a business blog can help you to increase brand recognition, forge stronger customer relationships, and ultimately boost sales. However, running an effective blog isn’t just about installing a blogging platform and making a few token posts. If you want your business blog to be successful, you need to set up a publishing calendar.

A publishing calendar dictates what you’ll post and when, as well as how you’ll manage the other ongoing tasks associated with running a blog, such as promoting its content and engaging with followers.

An effective publishing calendar addresses the following issues:

  • When posts on your blog will go live
  • Who is responsible for each scheduled post
  • How and when you will respond to comments on your blog
  • How you will promote your blog posts

Let’s look at each of these tasks in more detail.

Step 1:  Schedule content ahead of time.

The first — and most important — task in creating a publishing calendar is to determine your desired content and schedule. Effective bloggers don’t just throw together a new article whenever the mood strikes. If you want to maintain a thriving, growing audience, you need to have a plan for what types of content and how often you’ll post.

In our previous post on business blogging, we talked about three major types of content to consider sharing:

  • Fresh” or newsworthy content (articles that offer a timely reaction to an industry news story or current event)
  • Evergreen content (how-to and advice-filled articles that will be useful to readers no matter when they’re posted)
  • Personal content (posts that reveal more about your personal life and opinions)

First, choose a rough ratio for your post types. Your ideal balance may vary depending on what industry you’re in, but a good place to start is 50 percent newsworthy content, 35 percent evergreen content, and 15 percent personal content. You don’t have to adhere to your target ratio religiously, but having a rough idea of how many articles you’ll need from each content category will help you to ensure that your posts are always valuable and interesting to your readers.

Next, determine how frequently you’ll post to your business blog. In order to build an audience, you’ll need to post regularly. If your last post is weeks out of date, readers will quickly grow bored and stop paying attention to your site — exactly the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve.

You don’t have to post daily in order to build an engaged audience, but you should aim to post new content at least once a week. If you can manage it, posting 2 to 3 times a week is even better in terms of creating the perception that your blog is active, interesting, and worthy of repeat visits. Posting daily enhances this effect even further, but be wary of investing too much time in your business blog at the expense of other aspects of your company.

Next, brainstorm at least 2 to 3 months’ worth of topics — and make a list. If you have the time, consider preparing some of these posts in advance, so you can easily launch them when you’re pressed for time. Even if you are unable to stockpile future articles, simply having a list of pre-approved topics will help get you motivated on days when you’d rather do anything but write for your blog.

Step 2: Manage authors and publishing rights.

When building your publishing calendar, consider is who will be responsible for launching each of the blog posts you scheduled in Step 1. Obviously, if you’re the only one writing, you can skip this section altogether, because you won’t need to worry about approving drafts or scheduling posts from multiple writers. However, if multiple employees share the responsibility of writing posts and publishing to your business blog, you’ll want to establish a procedure for managing multiple authors and publishing rights.

In general, if several people write for your blog, it’s easiest to have one person retain final authority for reviewing all article submissions and setting them up to go live. Depending on the blog platform you’re using, you should be able to give multiple authors the rights to load posts to the site, but not to publish them for public viewing.

Once the posts are loaded, the one person with editing rights can review and approve posts to publish to the site. By setting this approval system up in advance as part of your blog publishing calendar, you’ll minimize confusion and ensure that posts are published according to the schedule you established in Step 1.

Step 3: Review and respond to blog comments.

When you set up your business blog, you’ll need to decide whether or not to enable readers to leave comments on your posts. Although enabling comments ultimately creates a little more work, turning on this feature makes your blog seem more interactive and engaging to readers.

If you turn comments on, be sure to assign the following responsibilities as part of your publishing calendar:

  • Manually approving comments
  • Weeding out spam messages
  • Replying to comments left by readers on your posts

Approving comments and deleting spam messages can be done quickly and shouldn’t require more than 10 to 15 minutes per day. Replying to comments left on your site, on the other hand, can take quite a bit of time. To minimize your total time investment, consider replying to only those comments that are left within a day or two of the post going live.

Step 4: Promote each new post.

The final element that your publishing calendar should cover is how and when you’ll promote each new post that goes live on your site. When you launch your blog, your initial readership may be quite small, making it vitally important that you get out there and spread the word.

New blog posts can be promoted in numerous places. Choose the ones that are right for your industry and schedule time to do them into your publishing calendar:

  • Social media sites (including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+)
  • Industry forums and message boards
  • Social bookmarking sites (including Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, and others)
  • Blog carousels
  • Press release directories

By taking the time to assign each of these responsibilities and create a system for tracking task completion, you’ll ensure that your business blog becomes the thriving community portal it should be.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on November 13, 2013

Although the word “blogging” can be associated with personal websites in the digital world, building a business blog actually has a number of different advantages. Not only can business blogs be an incredibly useful tool in branding your business as an authority within your industry, they can also help you to attract and engage visitors and turn them into repeat customers. Today, we’ll look at how business blogs work in more depth, as well as cover the steps you need to take to add one to your own website. Let’s get started!

If you have a Homestead Business or Business Plus package, a blog is included as something you can add to your website. With that easy-to-use blog in place, it’s time to update it with fun and informative content. There are a few different types of blog posts that you’ll want to consider adding to your publishing schedule:

Newsworthy Content  In late 2011, Google released a major “Freshness” update with the goal of providing up-to-date results for specific topics. Basically, for certain search queries – like those related to conferences, major events or other time-sensitive occurrences – the search results follow a new algorithm which prioritizes timely content over articles that would otherwise rank well according to traditional SEO. Because of this – and because of the potential for your business blog to brand you as an authority in your industry – it’s a good idea to feature many articles on your blog that are related to high priority industry news. For example, if a new product or service is released in your niche, weighing in on it could help your site to get noticed in the Google SERPs faster than it would through traditional SEO.

Evergreen Content  “Evergreen” content is referred to this way because it contains information that will always be useful to your website visitors. For example, if you run a website in the fashion industry, certain trends will come and go, but articles on topics like “dressing your figure” or “budget shopping techniques” will always appeal to your readers. For best results, try to structure evergreen content around good long tail keywords in your niche – that is, keywords that have consistent search volume and a low number of competing pages. As your evergreen articles get shared around the web, these back links will help your articles to maintain high positions in the search results pages, ensuring that even more traffic finds its way back to your site.

Personal Content One of the other advantages of running a business blog is that it lets your readers see “the man (or woman) behind the mask.” When you run an internet business, you aren’t able to connect with customers the way you can in a traditional offline store. This often prevents the loyalty and associations that people have with their favorite offline retailers from developing with online merchants. A business blog lets you remedy this situation by sharing elements of your personal life or personal opinions with your readers. Obviously, your business blog isn’t the best place to post on the great dinner you had, but by carefully referencing pieces of your family life or personal philosophy can help readers form a more personal connection with you and your business.

When it comes to balancing these types of blog posts, there’s no exact formula to follow to determine what percentage of different types of posts will be appropriate. If you work in a fast-paced industry where things change quickly, you may want to dedicate more of your posts to newsworthy content. On the other hand, if you work in personal development or personal finance, sharing more information about your life through personal content could be valuable.


To identify the ratio that’s right for you, track how visitors respond to specific posts on your site. If you get more comments or social shares on one type of post over another, that could be an indication that your audience prefers this type of content. By paying attention to the reaction each post gets, you’ll be able to better tailor the content on your business blog to meet the unique needs of your audience.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on October 28, 2013

At a basic level, both branding and SEO are important elements in ensuring your website’s success. Getting your website ranked highly in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for your target keywords through SEO is an important part of generating a steady stream of free visitors back to your pages. At the same time, establishing an effective brand is vital to helping your website stand out from your competitors and developing the staying power to outlast changes in the search engine algorithms.

But what should you do when these priorities conflict with one another?  Let’s look at an example to see how and why this might happen….

Suppose you run a website that sells high end, custom women’s shoes under the brand name “Tootsies”. You’re new to the market, and although you don’t have the name recognition of some of your larger competitors, you’re confident that your product will speak for itself – if you could just get it in the hands of a few buyers!

At this point, you have a few alternatives. You could go the SEO route and identify a few potential keyword phrases in your niche to target. For example, after conducting your keyword research, you might find that potential visitors in your demographic are entering the SEO keyword phrases, “top quality high heels” and “best leather heels” into the search engines most frequently. By structuring your website around these keywords, you could increase your rankings within these particular results pages, generating traffic and interest to your website.

On the other hand, building your website around these generic phrases doesn’t allow you to build up the Tootsies brand. Ideally, you don’t want to rely on a few high SERPs rankings to be responsible for the bulk of your traffic – search algorithms change every day, and it’s entirely possible that a future implementation could knock your site out of the top spot and put an end to your natural search traffic.

From a business standpoint, you don’t want to rely on search rankings either. You want people to fall so deeply in love with the Tootsies brand that they come back to buy again and again, while recommending your site to their friends and family members at the same time (both of which occur when you’ve built up a solid brand). With this in mind, you might decide to optimize your website for the keyword phrase, “Tootsies shoes”, but there’s just one problem with this – no one is searching for this phrase yet!

Because your brand is new, your branded keyword phrases have little to no search volume. Even if you were to snag the top spot in the SERPs for these words (which, frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult!), it wouldn’t matter to your bottom line, as no one is using these phrases in the search engines to find you yet.

As you can see, this interaction between SEO and branding can present a potential challenge for website owners who are trying to figure out how to best optimize their pages in order to bring in traffic and revenue. If you’re feeling stuck about how to proceed with your website’s marketing strategy, consider the following advice on balancing SEO and branding on your pages:

Step #1 – Analyze Your Website Goals

First of all, it’s important to note that not all websites need to focus on both branding and SEO. Although both of these pursuits are valuable, a website doesn’t need to have both marketing models in place to succeed.

For example, consider the way a site like Twitter developed. At the time, no one was searching Google for “ways to share mini-blog posts”, but the company’s brand was strong enough to create this need in the marketplace. Alternatively, consider a business like Lowes, whose brand is strong enough that the company doesn’t need to worry about optimizing its pages around branded keywords.

On the other hand, if you’ve only recently launched a website and are in the process of determining which product lines will perform most successfully for your audience, it may not make sense to start building your brand until you know more about how your business will look down the road.

Investing time into optimizing your site for a particular brand doesn’t make sense if you think there’s a chance you’ll change your branding down the road. However, this doesn’t mean that the “branding versus SEO” debate is an either-or situation – in fact, most websites will find that a balance between the two pursuits works best in terms of capturing visitors in the short term and creating business stability in the long term. What’s important is that you understand what you want to achieve with your website, as well as which type of promotional method will help you best meet these goals.

Step #2 – Analyze Your Current Position

The next step in determining how much of your energy should be dedicated to SEO versus branding is to understand your site’s current position. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

1. How much traffic does my website currently receive?

2. Where does this traffic come from?

3. How established is my brand within my industry?

If, for example, you determined in Step #1 that a combination of SEO and branding will work best for your business, take a look at your analytics data and your keyword research to find out how your site is performing. If you see that most of your traffic is coming from SEO keywords, you might decide to focus more of an effort on your branded keywords until that aspect of your marketing plan levels out.

Based on your stated goals and your existing site performance, try to nail down a ratio of how you’ll spend your time – for example, promoting SEO keywords 75% of the time and branded keywords the remaining 25%. These figures don’t need to be set in stone, but having concrete guidelines will help you to ensure your marketing strategies are on track.

Step #3 – Launch and Reevaluate Your Strategy Over Time

As your website grows and changes, you might find it necessary to adjust the ratio you set in Step #2. If, for instance, you’ve settled on a brand that your customers are responding well to, you may find it worth your time to invest more heavily in promoting branded keywords. Again, be sure to consult your website’s analytics data to determine how people are finding your site and how strong of a penetration you have in both SEO and branded SERPs.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to revisit your existing data and your proposed marketing strategies every few months or so. By doing this, you’ll ensure that your website receives the best balance of both free traffic from the natural search results and the long-term benefits of having an established brand within your industry.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on October 21, 2013

As we discussed last time, pay-per-click (PPC) ads can be a great way to send a steady stream of visitors back to your website. However, it can also be an easy way to lose your shirt if you aren’t carefully tracking your budget and the ultimate ROI of your advertisements.

So today, let’s focus on how to get the most out of your PPC ads by choosing the best wording and the most persuasive calls to action. You might be surprised – even the smallest tweaks in your ad’s content can make a dramatic difference in your overall conversion rates!

The first challenge you’ll run into when drafting your paid ads is that the character limits on popular PPC engines are notoriously short. For example, if you decide to advertise with Google’s Adwords program (by far the largest provider of these services), you’ll be held to 25 characters for your title, 70 characters for your ad text and 35 characters for your display URL. These limitations mean that each and every work you include must be carefully chosen in order to be as effective as possible. Let’s look at each element in your PPC ad to make the most of them.

Element #1 – Headline

Effective PPC ad headlines generally are built around an attention-grabbing call to action and use of keywords. Building a “call to action” into your PPC ad headline helps your advertisement stand out from all the other advertisers who are bidding on your same keywords. For example, if you run an auto repair shop in your area, the headline, “Save 55% On Oil Changes” could help your ad get more attention as a result of both the promised savings and the inclusion of specific, measurable savings. You could also use keywords that your searchers are likely to use such as “Oil Change Atlanta” or “Cheap Oil Change”.

Element #2 – Your Ad Text

Once your headline is out of the way, you can breathe a sigh of relief – now you’ve got a full 70 characters to write the bulk of your ad message. Unfortunately, when you actually sit down to write your ads, you’ll likely find that these characters don’t go nearly as far as you’d like them to!

Because of these limitations, PPC ad text must be as concise and engaging as possible. Encouraging someone to click through to your website in this small number of characters can be challenging, but you can increase your chances of success by following standard accepted PPC strategies:

  • Include a sale or promotion in your ad text – No matter what industry you’re in, people love to save, which makes including specific sales figures in your ad text a powerful way to get their attention.
  • Add a call to action to your ad – Don’t expect readers to put all the pieces of the puzzle together on their own! Instead, eliminate confusion by telling readers what you want them to do by including phrases like, “Act Now,” “Get A Free Estimate Today” or “Sign Up Now.”
  • Focus on benefits, not features – This standard piece of copywriting advice applies to PPC ads as much as any other type of copywriting. Instead of telling readers what specifically they’re going to get, tell them how they’ll benefit and what they stand to gain from working with you. It can be tricky to do this in such a limited amount of space, but if you get it right, focusing on benefits can be extremely compelling!

Element # 3 – Your Display URL

Of all three elements you’ll need to address when writing your PPC ad, your display URL will be the easiest by far to write, as you likely won’t have a lot of different options to consider. Simply enter your web address into this section and launch your ad.

Of course, you’re not finished yet! Given how much of a difference subtle tweaks to your PPC ad copy can make, you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t go ahead and create a second ad version to split test against your original. Split testing means running two ads at the same time and the audience is split randomly so half see one ad and half see the other. The following are a few different elements you can experiment with in your split test campaigns:

  • Different headline variations
  • The placement of calls to action or promotions in your ad’s body copy
  • The specific type of promotion you run
  • The features and benefits you focus on in your body copy
  • Geographic targeting within your headline and body content
  • Different capitalization schemes throughout your ad
  • Unique landing pages for each ad group you develop

In order to split test effectively, you’ll also need to change a few elements that control how your ad is displayed. In Google Adwords, specifically, campaigns are set to display the most successful ads more frequently by default. Obviously, this won’t work from a split testing perspective, so be sure to set your campaigns to display ad variations more evenly to determine which ad converts better overall.

Once you’ve run a single split test long enough to gather statistically significant data about which ad variation results in better overall conversion rates, eliminate the losing ad and replace it with yet another variation. By continually testing and improving your campaigns, you’ll ensure that your ads are as effective as possible in terms of generating increased traffic and revenue for your website.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on October 7, 2013

In this article we would like to focus on how one should build online traffic and achieve high search engine ranking. Traffic can be generated through PPC (pay-per-click) usually referred at SEM (search engine Marketing) or organically which is known as SEO (search engine optimization). SEO traffic can take a long time to materialize and lot of effort goes into ranking high organically. For the purpose of this article, we will concentrate of how to build traffic through PPC (pay-per-click).

Step #1 – Choose a PPC System

First, let’s cover a little background information on PPC ads. PPC ads are small snippets of text (or images and video files, depending on the service that you use) advertising your website that display in various places, including in the natural search engine results and as ad blocks on websites that publish these ads. They are free to run in most cases, and you only pay when a reader clicks on your ad and ends up on your site.

As you might expect, this type of system offers a number of advantages for businesses. Compared to the upfront cost of magazine or television advertisements, you don’t pay for your PPC ads until you’ve found an interested prospect. In addition, the nature of PPC ads allows you to target visitors more effectively (again, compared to the broad reach of magazine and TV ads), ensuring that your ad spend reaches only the people who will be most interested in your products or services.

So where can you find PPC advertising programs? The most widely known program is Google Adwords, which allows you to display ads within the Google search results pages, as well as on a huge variety of websites that participate in the Google Adsense publisher program. You can also advertise on Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo’s Search Marketing platform. Google is a great place to start, because the interface is easy to understand and the help section Google provides is extensive. Once you’ve honed your PPC advertising skills here, you can move on and apply these lessons to other sites as needed.

Step #2 – Identify Your Target Keywords

Once you set up your account with Google Adwords, the first thing you’ll do is to create a campaign for each web page you want to send traffic to, which will contain the specific keywords that your ads will display for in the search engine results pages. Choosing the right keywords for your ad is as much an art as it is a science, but the following guidelines should help you to choose the best phrases when you’re first getting started:

  • Start small – Create a single campaign at a time and add no more than 5-10 highly-related keywords to each campaign. This will allow you to create ads that are well tailored to your chosen phrases.
  • Think narrow – Advertising for popular keywords like “lose weight” or “make money online” will be prohibitively expensive. Instead, target less expensive long tail keywords that still have the potential to drive significant traffic back to your site.
  • Focus on “phrase” and “exact” match to start – Read up on keyword match types in the Adwords help section, and stick to “phrase” and “exact” match keywords for your first campaign. When you’re more experienced, you can add in “broad” match keywords to expand your reach.
  • Track your competitor’s keywords – See which advertisers are running PPC ads in Google for the keywords you’re considering. If you see your competitors there, chances are good the phrases will work for you as well.

Step #3 – Write Your Ads

Once you’ve chosen your target keywords, the next step is to write the ad that will display in the search engines when your phrase is searched for. Because you’ve only got a limited number of characters for each ad, it’s important to make them count! Here’s how to structure your ads effectively:

  • Write a compelling headline – As with other types of internet advertising, you only have a short time to cut through the noise and engage a prospect, so make your headline as compelling as possible.
  • Use your target keyword in your ad text – When you do this, your keyword will appear bolded in the search results, setting your ad apart from others.
  • Consider your landing page – Don’t simply send visitors to your homepage! The specific landing page to which you direct visitors should be as closely related to your keywords as possible.
  • Split test your ads – Whenever you set up a new PPC campaign, create two ads that can be split test against each other to learn what works best and improve your performance.

Step #4 – Set a Budget

Because the default setting in Google Adwords is to run your ads as often as possible in order to generate data faster, it’s incredibly easy to blow through your entire advertising budget – and much, much more – in a short amount of time.

To protect yourself from overspending, take advantage of features within Google Adwords and other PPC programs that let you set a daily spending budget. Set your budget as low as $5-10/day until you get a feel for how these ads work and how you can maximize their impact on your business.

Step #5 – Evaluate Your Conversions

Of course, even if you’re only spending a few dollars a day, it’s still important to ensure that you’re seeing a positive ROI for your efforts. That is, if you’re paying for traffic, you’d better be sure it’s resulting in sales!

Although there are several third-party software programs that offer this functionality, the easiest way to evaluate the conversions of your PPC ads within Google Adwords is to tie your account to your Google Analytics data. This will help you to see which of your PPC keywords are resulting in conversions for your website, and which keywords should be eliminated from your campaign for non-performance.

Finally, as you begin adding PPC advertisements to your promotional strategy, be aware that there is a learning curve associated with this technique. It may take some time until you achieve a positive ROI with your campaigns and are able to implement them on a wide enough scale to make a difference in your bottom line. But by carefully launching campaigns and tracking the performance of every ad you run, you’ll ultimately find that PPC ads can be used to bring fast, steady traffic to your business website.

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