SEO Series Part 3: Time, Persistence, and Dedication

Search engine optimization is a never-ending game that takes time, persistence, and dedication. Even worse, Google tweaks its search algorithm every few months with new releases of Google Panda. This means that just when you think you might know all the best SEO strategies and practices, Google will change them. EVEN worse, Google never tells you the exact changes it makes, they only hint at the changes and leave it to SEO experts to interpret these hints.

What does this all mean? It means that if you really want your site to consistently come up on the first page of a search engine, you have to work on your SEO constantly. There are no breaks, time outs, or half times in this game. If you’re not doing it, you can bet your competitors are. It will take more time in the beginning because you have to learn SEO strategies; such as those I shared with you in Part 1 and 2 of my SEO series blogs. After that, though, you can’t slow up too much. You still have to constantly create content, work on optimizing your pages both meta-wise and design-wise, and stay up to date with Google’s updates.

Besides knowing all the latest “tricks” that will help you outrank your competitors, probably the best thing you can do is just focus on your site in a genuine way. By that I mean maybe not worrying so much about SEO, and instead focusing on your customers and making your site the best it can be. I think that if you truly care about your business, optimization will come naturally. You’ll have people talking about your products or services, sharing your content, referring their friends to your site, and so on. These are all great for search engine rankings, and come from just being an extraordinary business.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important to have a basic understanding of link building, and you can spend months learning every trick in the SEO book, but if you don’t have a great company/brand, it’s not going to do much. Just like no matter how many inbound links you have, if you have a crappy website it’s not going to do much good.


Some things to keep in mind. Always have SEO in the back of your head for everything you do to your website.  Constantly be making your website better, whether it’s improving your keywords and meta, or the design, look, feel, and functionality of your site. Constantly produce great content. For example, maybe master blogging for a few months, then move onto making content for YouTube. Try and become an expert in these different Web 2.0 fields. When you start have enough revenue, become an expert in Google Adwords or Facebook advertising. Make sure your site is optimized for smartphones. Trust me, there’s always something you can be doing to improve your SEO.

Some sites that can help you keep up with the SEO landscape: Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, Matt Cutt’s Blog, and Search Engine Round Table. There are many more on the internet, spend some time to get to know the ones that you feel are most relevant to your website. Other then that, make sure to dedicate time each week to SEO, and good luck!

Feel free to post any questions or comments below!

SEO Series Part 2: Link Building

Improving your website’s SEO can be thought of as a popularity contest. The more popular you are, the more search engines, especially Google, will like you. Just like in real life, popularity is measured by the amount of people talking about you and referring other people to you. This means that the more websites that link to your website, talk about your website, and direct people to your website, the more popular your website will be on Google.

The heart of SEO lies in link building. Link building is the process of linking other websites to your website. Links on the internet that lead to your website are called inbound links. The more inbound links you have, the more popular you will be.

One of the easiest ways to get links to your site is to publish yourself on live web directories. Live web directories are large, topical, searchable directories that differ from traditional relevancy search engines in that their content is maintained by actual humans rather than by ‘robot spiders’ that scan the worldwide web. Live directories personally review your site and decide whether to include your website in their index. There are lots of live directories, some of them are free and some of them are paid. Some directories are much better than others, but the overall strategy here should be to register your website with as many live directories as possible. Search Google for a list of free and paid live web directories online.

Blogging is another effective way to build inbound links. Set up a blogging account on the major platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr) and become an active blogger in your target market. This means that you leave relevant comments on as many posts as possible that are in your industry/target market. If you have a profile on the blogging sites, you should be able to have your website underneath or in the signature of every post you comment on. You can also imbed your website into the text of your actual post. Just make sure that your site is relevant to your comment, or it will be seen as spam and your comment will not be approved. When you begin to have an active voice in your blogging community, you will not only build inbound links, but you will also create relationships and trust within your industry.

There are all kinds of Web 2.0 sites that will help you create and share content online. Social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious, etc. are good places to bookmark/share your content with the rest of the world. Sites like YouTube, Flixtime, Animoto, Squidoo, WikiHow, etc. will allow you to create online content (videos and articles) that contain links and lead to building trust and awareness around your site. Basically, the goal is to create as much quality content as you can on the internet that points back to your site. For Google, it’s about quantity, variety, and quality. The more content, links, and media you have that link back to your site, the better. Google is also getting smarter, though, meaning that you must now have quality stuff on the internet to be considered a contender on the first page of the search engine.

SEO Series Part 1: Copy, Meta, Page Titles and Consistency

In this first of three parts, I’ll talk about SEO practices that you can implement on your own website. These include specific things you can do on your site that will help you get an edge over your competitors in search engine ranking.

First of all, you need to know the proper keywords that relate to every page of your website. Keywords directly relate to your search engine rankings are CRUCIAL for SEO success. One handy tool you can use to try and figure out the top 5 keywords for your site is Google’s Keyword Tool. Using the Keyword Tool allows you to see the number of global and local monthly searches for specific keyword(s) and keyword phrases. It also shows you the level of competition on Google for those keywords and other keyword ideas that are similar. If you aren’t familiar with this, get familiar.

The goal here is to find 5 keywords that relate to each page on your site that have high global monthly searches (>1000). If you’re lucky, some of your keywords or keyword phrases might have low or medium competition ratings too, which is great but somewhat rare. After you have found the five keywords or, keyword phrases more likely, that you will use for your page, write them down because you’re going to use them in more than one place. 

Copy, or text on your site is very important. It is recommended that each page on your site have 300-500 words of text. For some sites this is easy, for others, especially ecommerce site, this may be much more challenging. So why is it important to have that much text on each page? Well, the short answer is that’s how Google likes it, which is really all that matter because in this SEO driven world that we live in, Google is God. On a more realistic level, though, what really matters is the keyword density of the text on your page. This means the ratio of keywords to total words on the page. You want your keyword phrases to equal about 2-3% of your text. is a great site that will show you your keyword density. Use your keyword phrases more than once to get a good 2-3% density, but use them in a way that makes sense for the context and doesn’t sound weird.

Next is meta. Most websites allow you to customize the meta for each page of your website. Again, use the same 5 keyword phrases in your meta field. Next is custom URL’s. You should customize the last part of each page’s URL to match the best keyword for that specific page. Lastly, page titles are also very important. This means the title of the page that shows up on the top tab of your browser window. One thing you can do to optimize the page title is to separate it into three sections, separated by two pipes. For example, say I was optimizing a page title for a page selling popular men’s running shoes. The page title might be something like, “Men’s Running Shoes | Athletic Footwear | Running Footwear” In this way you have three of your most popular keyword phrases (whatever they may be) right in the title of your page, which Google likes. Just make sure they make sense!

So to wrap up, consistency is king! Make sure that each page of your site is properly optimized with a select few keywords or keyword phrases that are used in your text, meta, URL, and page title. This is just one of the first steps to optimizing your website, but it’s probably the easiest thing you can do starting out.

What is Google Panda?

Google Panda is an update to Google’s search algorithm that fundamentally changed the way search engine optimization works on Google. Introduced in February 2011, Google Panda (named after Google engineer Navneet Panda) increases the quality of search results provided from a Google search. Before Panda, PageRank (named after Larry Page) was the main methodology that Google used to determine who showed up in what position on Google searches.

PageRank ranks pages by a number of attributes, but the biggest is the number of inbound links a website has, and the quality of those links. So for instance, say you own a men’s fitness website. The more links you have that lead to your website, the higher up on Google you will rank with search terms like “men’s fitness.” The more links the better, but the links have to relate to your website. So a link from a fitness blog or an exercise machine company is way better than a link from some random website that has nothing to do with men’s fitness. Moreover, the higher the PageRank the site that links to you has, the better. So even better than a fitness blog linking to you would be linking to you, because it has a nice PageRank of 7 (out of 10).

With Panda, Google makes its algorithm even more complicated, because sites were beginning to focus only on generating the most inbound links, without regard to the actual content of their site. Now sites can get penalized for having content deemed “too thin” or low quality. In addition to looking at a site’s PageRank, quality of content, and a number of other attributes, Panda now looks at a site’s “usage metrics” to determine what actual visitors think of the site. Panda looks at the average time users spend on a site, the site’s bounce rate, page views per visit, how the site is being shared socially through social networks and +1’s, and how people are navigating through the site.

With Panda, Google is trying to find unique, popular, and high quality content that matches your search terms. Even though the first version of Panda was released in February 2011, new versions of Panda are released periodically. The newest update, Panda 3.3, was released last month. It was only a minor update with no major changes (read the official blog post about the update here). The thing about Google, though, is that they won’t tell you specifically how Panda works. No one but Google knows exactly what a perfect, Panda-friendly website should have and not have. If they did, everyone’s site would be the first result on a Google search.

Even though Panda is only 1 of 200 factors Google uses to rank pages, SEO experts have to keep up with the latest Panda updates if they want to keep up with the industry. There are many studies, theories, books, etc. on how exactly to beat Google at its own game and get the top search result without paying for it as an advertisement. Those who have a really good idea of how Panda and its algorithm work have become multimillionaires just because their site pops up as the first search result for a given search term. Anyone with a website that is concerned with SEO should be aware of Google Panda and keep up with its frequent updates. Take a look at this infographic to learn even more about Panda.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments below!

The Year of Tech IPO’s: From Groupon’s Success to Renren’s Disappointment

As you have probably noticed, over the past year there has been a lot of news surrounding tech IPO’s. New companies like Pandora and LinkedIn have made HUGE splashes with their IPO’s in recent months. It seems like every month a hot new company goes public, but these IPO’s aren’t always pretty. Today I’m going to talk about some recent tech IPO’s, how they are doing now, and some future IPO’s that investors are about to bust a nut for.

The biggest tech IPO’s of the year include: Demand Media (online media/content farm company), Zipcar (membership-based car sharing company), Renren (China’s largest social networking site), LinkedIn, Yandex (Russia’s largest search engine site), Bankrate (personal finance company), Pandora Media (online radio), Zillow (online real estate database), Skullcandy (headphones), and yesterday, Groupon.

Groupon has been trying to go public for a few months now, and ended up being the biggest tech IPO since Google went public in 2004. Groupon offered 35 million shares total at $20 each, and as of this morning the company is worth almost $13 billion with shares sitting at $26.11. The IPO was a huge success for the company, even though there is a lot of skepticism about its future. One thing is for sure though, the IPO made a lot of investors happy. Like many IPOs, there were a lot of people who became millionaires and even billionaires overnight just because of the IPO.

For Groupon’s IPO, check out this Business Insider list of lucky people that made a lot of money as shareholders. The biggest winners include Starbucks’ Howard Schultz who got $50 million, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz’s venture capital firm got $92.2 million, and Groupon CEO Andrew Mason’s stake is now worth a whopping $1.2 billion.

Even though most of the recent tech IPO’s have initially been successful, a majority have gone downhill since. Demand Media went public in January with a debut price that was 33% higher then the share price of $17, valuing the company at more than $1 billion. Today however, the shares sit at just $7.47. Renren, basically the Facebook of China, was said to have a spectacular IPO in May with shares surging 28.6% above its $14 IPO price. Today Renren share’s are down to a dismal $5.74.

There are some companies who have kept their value, though. Since LinkedIn’s huge IPO in May, where shares closed 109% above IPO price, they now sit at $81, just below the IPO price of $83. Today Pandora is also doing all right, with shares just a few cents below the IPO price of $16. Real estate database company Zillow is still doing really well, with shares staying almost $10 above the IPO price of $20, but still way under the debut price of $57.

The chart below shows 25 recent hyped up IPO’s and how they’re fairing. “Pop” refers tothe jump from the offering IPO price to the debut price. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Overall, it’s not very pretty after the initial offering. In terms of the average of the 25 above companies, shares have slipped 31% from their opening price.

The successes of some of these companies in the beginning of the year triggered an IPO race with many tech companies, but since seeing disappointments such as Renren’s, a lot of companies have backed off or are waiting until later for an IPO. Of these companies, the most notable is of course Facebook, which plans to go public next year sometime. Also there’s Zynga, the Facebook game company that could have an IPO this year, Living Social, Groupon’s biggest competitor, next year probably, and Twitter, which will probably wait until 2013.

It has definitely been an exciting year for tech IPO’s, I think it’s amazing how a company like Groupon or LinkedIn can be worth BILLIONS in such a short period of time. This is the land of opportunity, and there’s money to be made out there, but just because a company debuts way above the IPO price doesn’t mean it will stay there. We’ll see how long Groupon CEO Andrew Mason stays a billionaire. My guess? Not very long…

Feel free to leave any questions or comments below!

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