When Flash Strikes: Another SEO Disaster

The following is what I just emailed someone who contacted me about why their site isn’t showing up in the top 500 Google results for “interior decorator denver”:

I looked at your site, and it falls into a common trap: Flash. Because most of the content of your site is a Flash movie, there’s really nothing for robots to consume. They can’t look inside Flash (or photos, or images, or movies, etc.). So they return to the Google mother ship and pretty much shrug their shoulders when the mother ship asks “What is the site about? What terms should it rank for? How high?”

Sure, your designer put in meta tags, but a) too many and b) Google’s not going to rely blindly on them when nothing else says what the site is about.

Flash isn’t inherently evil when used sparingly, but when it’s the “everything” of the site, search rankings suffer.

That’s it in a nutshell. Common problem.

I know that Adobe is making effort to have Flash be more transparent to bots, but I kept it out of this email conversation because it may or may not be what the client ends up choosing to do. I’ll provide an array of choices.

We plan to meet next week and get him out of this SEO mess.

I’m not anti-Flash (I use it on this site), I’m anti-dumb-use-of-Flash.

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AdWords bids getting too costly?

I had two clients ask me what to do about this in two days. Here’s what I told them:

“Ramp up your bid per click every couple days until you’re comfortable, keeping in mind you might run out of comfort before you get good clicks. In that case, the market has bid those terms to a level above what you’re willing or able to pay.”

The market in AdWords for your term might be so small that a) some newbie idiot is bidding up the term for everyone, or b) the term might not be small, but people are willing to spend more than you per click and make a profit with their services. Probably their site converts better than yours, so for instance they make more money out of 100 clicks than you do.

My AdWords Bidding Advice is to

  1. Use misspellings and see if you can poach terms for cheap… for instance I bid on “vovlo” for my Volvo site.
  2. Try another text ad marketplace (sorry, no recommendations).
  3. Increase your site’s conversion rate so you CAN spend a couple dollars per click and still eat… put another way, make your site a better salesperson.
  4. Or lastly, forget AdWords and simply improve your site’s visibility and relevance to search engines.

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Free Outstanding Pro-Level SEO Tool

For the next 22 hours, that is.

SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer is free for the next 22 hours. It gives insanely good insight on why Google and the other search engines send (or don’t send) traffic your way.


Improve a Stock WordPress Install

A client asked me — now that his new site is working well and he’s comfortable running it — what improvements (tweaks, plugins, whatever) would I suggest to make it better? Here’s what I said:

  1. His site is not served from the “root“, so I recommended he serve it from the root. Example: don’t do http://example.com/wordpress instead do http://example.com! If it’s not possible to serve from the root, it’s not a showstopper. SEO will actually not suffer if you don’t act. Your content is generally judged on how relevant it is + how many link to it + how often it’s freshened. The depth of the URL — at only 1 directory — shouldn’t matter. Do it for human readability reasons.
  2. A nice touch/eyecandy is a Javascript called Lightbox (link to WordPress plugin). You can see it here http://sianafashions.com by clicking on the images. It can also act as a dumb gallery for sets of images. Works automatically — nothing for you to do.
  3. Your traffic may already be tracked by a server-side app like AWstats. Whether it is or not I suggest the free Google Analytics. Warning: Google will know your site’s traffic from the inside. I feel that using Analytics isn’t giving up my sites to the Dark Side, and that getting the (very, very powerful) traffic analysis is worth the trade. I use GA on all my sites.
  4. Many Twitter plugins like this one are available to display (presumably your) Tweets if you’re interested.
  5. Sitemap plugin improves SEO by writing to an industry-standard xml file at site root that search engines bots read and digest. I use sitemaps on all my sites. Highly recommended and nothing for you to do.
  6. Social bookmark plugins like this one add a “Share This” link on each blog post. I’m not crazy about these but there is no downside that I can think of. Helps SEO if the links are used.

Blog Post Indexed Within 30 Minutes

I almost coughed coffee out of my nose when I noticed Google had indexed a blog post on my Volvo site in 28 minutes. Maybe less, I wasn’t checking for this specifically.

Why? There is probably a myriad of reasons why Google pays close attention to my site, but the biggest are these:

  1. MVS has been up for years — it’s trusted as a Volvo authority and thus gets Google attention.
  2. It has a site map. A site map is a simple text file that sits on the server and is meant for search bots, not humans. It tells search bots what’s where, and what’s new.
  3. I publish content constantly. The more frequent your posts, the quicker search bots come around to see what’s happening at your site.

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How Can I Get More Website Traffic?

Traffic levels are all about content. People ask me about SEO… should they do some SEO basics to their site? Well yea! Do the basics of SEO and promote your site.

I’ve never asked a webmaster if he’s doing everything he can to promote his site and gotten a “yes”.

Real world, online, whatever. If you don’t have your URL in your signature, get it in there! If you don’t hold your website in high regard, nobody else will.

But most importantly, write good content as frequently as possible and users will come. If you can do only one thing do this.

That’s why it’s important to have a site where you can write without noodling with HTML. This is where WordPress comes in, and it’s why I’ve recommended WordPress for probably 19 out of the last 20 websites I’ve consulted on.

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Publicity & Rankings: Chicken or Egg?

I was going over rankings with a client, and she asked if her book’s recent publicity push was responsible for several #1 Google placements. Great question.

Your continued blogging helps traffic, a lot. Steady, frequent, quality content has no equal. You give people a great reason to go to your site, and Google recognizes that. Google helps those who help themselves with regular quality content.

To answer your question though, recent publicity got you more traffic, but not higher rankings. Two very different animals. Search engine rankings are usually a lagging indicator of real-world popularity.

Breaking Up Long Pages = SEO Benefits, User Glee

Usually my clients don’t have enough copy. Here’s a case study of (and actual email to) a client’s site that has too much copy. Well, too much copy per page; there’s really no such thing as too much content as long as it’s divided into sane-sized pieces.

A client contacted me about reducing the long stretch of dense, small-sized text with hidden paragraphs that can be revealed by the user with a show/hide button. Here’s my response:

I think that would be the right idea but the wrong method. Personally, if this was my site, I’d break each of those sections into their own pages. It would help users and help spiders.

Your pages tend to have a lot of small-ish text, and I think it gets a bit daunting. I know you’ve done your best to break it up nicely with bolded subheaders.

For spiders, when you have a laser-focused page, you increase your chances of coming up in Google’s top 10 for that term because there’s no extraneous content to dilute the page’s message to Google (and thus users).

As individual pages, we can put a nice big arrow at the lower right to create a flow to move through your content in bite-sized chunks like I do on my site http://www.sitesforphotographers.com.

Three well-marked steps and you’re dropped at the Contact page… reducing the falloff rate and driving the user to an action.

Moral: 1) breaking up long pages into multiple shorter pages is a win-win. It helps your users and it helps your site’s SEO effort, 2) guiding the user with Next buttons helps you convert users into customers.

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Should I Run Google Ads?

I get this question often. Here’s the deal.

If you have fewer than 50 visitors per day, Google AdSense ads showing on your site would help you to make money, but not very much. You ‘rent out’ space on your site, and Google fills that space with ads from third parties. The revenue you’d get from Google ads, given your traffic, would be maybe a few dollars a month, depending on your business. If you run a site dedicated to cameras, your AdSense revenue is going to be higher than a site dedicated to knitting.

Running Google ads does not help SEO at all. Sorry folks, no shortcut here.

Generally ads are placed on content sites, like my Volvo site I’m not selling anything, but rather offering content.

Sometimes there are sales sites with ads, but they’re rare because it’s hard to do both sales and content, and many times the ads Google chooses to run on your site will compete with the products you’re selling. My client StyleMatters is one that does both.

I’m not a big fan of the mix, but I do recommend Google ads on content sites getting 100+ visits per day IF you can’t find a private ad deal first.

I’d be happy to talk to you about how your site can make you money.

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The Three Legs of a Campaign

An Immature Ecommerce Site Needs Help

Case Study One

The following is taken from client correspondence. This case study involves a 1.5-year-old ecommerce site that’s getting very poor traffic, and no sales conversions. The site supplements a brick-n-mortar home and beauty products store.

These are the Three Legs of a web site campaign, although two or even one can make your site successful. Note this campaign does not include Product Search Marketing efforts, which in this case is out-of-reach given the owner’s budget.

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Increase Web Sales: ID’ing Bottlenecks

To improve your ecommerce sales, it’s important to identify the bottleneck in the buying process and attack that first, whether that’s the cart, the colors, the design, the consumer trust level, or the quantity or quality of incoming traffic.

Terminology:  traffic is people visiting your site via organic search, advertising, or type-ins. Your cart, your site design, and site content, are all components of conversion. To increase your sales, you increase traffic or increase conversion, or both.

But which? The answer is whichever is cheapest.

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Keep it Simple: Domains

Here’s why it’s best to keep things simple with domains.

Summary: a webmaster wonders why a domain isn’t getting love from Google. Answer: duplicate content penalty… she has a handful of domains that are duplicates, showing the same text.

The lesson here is to keep things simple. The minute you start thinking about plans that involve two or more domains to get more traffic, a BIG RED LIGHT should go off in your head. Unless you are an advanced webmaster who knows exactly what you are doing, forget about complex, multi-domain plans.

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Chase Terms, Not Your Tail

Here’s what I wrote to a client just now about a request to add a term to their keyword META tags:

I’ll add it, but don’t expect a whole lot. Google long ago put a minimum of importance on these tags, and a maximum on what text is on the site for people to read.

That’s why your blogging is so good — it’s real, actual text that people read, and it’s a regular occurrence on your site.

The term “colorado shopping guide” isn’t mentioned once on your site. It’s mentioned once in your PDF document xxxx.pdf. That lets Google know you really don’t put much emphasis on this term, so why should Google?

If you really want xxxx.com to be listed in the top 10 for this term, write about it in your blog, and I’d recommend even going so far as to make a page about it.

I advise clients that they must pick their Google battles. Go after what matters, not everything, because if you chase every term you’ll just end up chasing your tail instead!

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