Free SEO advice (for what it’s worth)

They save that advice is free, but they also say that advice is worth only what you pay for it.  I suppose both statements are true, and if you add on an even more famous saying – caveat emptor – you should be free to listen even to free advice without needless panic.

I put together this little poster…

The main purpose of the poster was to rectify some serious violations of the telephone pole nudity prohibition bylaws in my town.  (If you see any nude telephone poles in your town, feel free to post this poster on them, too.)

 Must Read: Top SEO Tips

But since we have the poster now, let’s look at what free SEO advice it offers.

If you’re doing it just for the search engines…stop!

Basically, build your site for your target market.  Build links for your target market.  Social share for your target market.  It’s OK to give a thought to the search engines, but your main focus should be on your target market: your readers, your customers, your brand advocates, your early adaptors, your co-conspirators, etc.

Lately Google has been telling people to add and remove links based on what its algorithm wants to see.  This will ultimately make the Web a worse place.  Try to ignore the search engines as much as you can afford to.  It might put the headache medicine manufacturers out of business, but all good things come with collateral damage, right?

Variety is the spice of life and of search engine rankings.

OK, if you must pay attention to the search engines, here is a pretty good rule of thumb.  If you have several sitewide links on huge sites, that is not a lot of variety.  If all your inbound links say “steampunk pajamas”, that’s not much variety (and possibly not very comfortable, either!).  If all your inbound links come from press release sites, that’s not much variety. If all your inbound links come from a few identical articles or press releases syndicated to hundreds of domains, that’s not much variety.

Don’t ask me how much variety you need.  The answer is simply “more.”

You can’t orchestrate a natural link profile.

So don’t try.  The one thing that computers do infinitely better than us humans, is they find patterns quickly.  Try to orchestrate an organic link profile, and the search engines will discover the pattern of an orchestrated organic link profile – which is probably more incriminating than just an orchestrated link profile.  Do you prefer Google to call you a cheat, or a cheat and a liar both?

Think about the words your audience responds to.  That is what keywords are.  Use them.

People search with the words they use. If you use those words as makes sense to do on the pages of your website, the search engines will know to serve up your pages to searchers.  There, now – I have just saved you the expense of subscribing to a keyword research tool.

Google isn’t half as dumb as you think it is.

Please re-read “You can’t orchestrate a natural link profile.”

Do something worthy  of mention in the New York Times.

Want coverage in the New York Times?  And in other newspapers and their websites?  And radio stations?  And blogs?  Then do something worthy of it.  Make some news!

Don’t believe half  of what you read  on the Internet.   

I read this line on the Internet. It was attributed to Abe Lincoln.  ‘nough said.*

There is no such thing  as the Tooth Fairy or keyword density.

Please re-read “Think about the words your audience responds to.  That is what keywords are.  Use them.”  Yes, if you use those words in your text so that it makes sense… OK, why not also re-read “If you’re doing it just for the search engines…stop!” while you’re at it.

The Internet is a cocktail reception. Act accordingly.     

Forget that you are sitting in front of a PC or an iPad.  You are in a large room, filled with millions of people.  Some are possibly even customers, but most are other business folks and media folks and would-be-celebrity-expert folks.  They all have followings, communications channels, etc.  You want them talking about your brand, your website, your products, your services, whatever.

What’s the first thing you do?

You start pitching your company and handing out business cards and…  Hey, where did everybody go?

I guess you’ve never been to a cocktail reception.  The first thing you do is size up the room, see how people are dressed, listen to how people speak, get a sense of what is considered acceptable(which will vary from blog to blog, from social site to social site, from Skype group to Skype group – so pay attention) and what kind of talk might be considered overly self-promotional or even “spam”.

Then, start to give.  Offer to help.  Suggest getting in touch later.  You get the idea.  Do that on Twitter and FaceBook and in blog comments and before long people will also be giving.  To you.

Link to this poster.   It will bring you good karma.

Yup.  When you read something really good (Oops, I guess I am being presumptuous.), share it.  That’s what this cocktail reception is all about, isn’t it?

So that’s my free advice for the day.  Free SEO advice.  Free business advice.  Take from it what you can use and leave the rest for next person foolish enough to follow free advice.

*  I told you advice is worth only what you pay for it.

Why build links to non-converting “fly-over” pages

What is a fly-over state, and what does it have to do with SEO?

You might have heard the term “fly-over”, referring to Utah and Wyoming and Colorado and Kansas and Nebraska.  It refers to those states that the politicians and business travellers rarely visit, but often fly over on their trips between east coast and west coast.

I like to think the same of New Brunswick – I have been in the province three times, twice driving through ( a “drive-thru province”?) and once to actually visit, and I have flown over it four additional time to get to the east coast.

Fly-over states get ignored.

Your website might have some fly-over pages, which might also get ignored.  But some of them are worth a second look.

I was looking through Google Analytics, and noticed a couple pages for one of my websites was getting a surprising amount of traffic.  The pages were describing very specific aspects related to the site’s topic.  Looking at the search terms that were bringing most of the visitors there, it was clear that these visitors were researchers, perhaps doing term papers or just curious.  These were NOT customers.  These are NOT buyers.

Aargh.  What a waste.

Or not?

Turning fly-over pages into landing pages

Not.  Here are five reasons to feed your fly-over pages, to build internal links to those pages and to build deep links from other pages on the web when you get the chance. (Here is a guide to building deep links.) In other words, why you should help build the ranking of these fly-over pages so that more people land on them.

  1. If people like the information on the pages, some of them will social share them on places like FaceBook and twitter and Google Plus.  And that gives your entire domain credibility with the search engines.  Tip: Make sure those pages are definitive sources of information, quotable and share-worthy.
  2. The more people visit, the better your Alexa Rank on Compete score, and that does count for something in many cases (like selling your site or seeking online partnerships).
  3. Some of those researchers might be bloggers, who will build links into the page and maybe also to your home page.  Either way, every link into your domain helps the entire domain – including your money pages.
  4. Some of the researchers might be journalists.  As long as the topic is related to your main site topic, it is to your advantage to be quoted in the media; don’t forget that offline media can drive customers, too.
  5. And you never know when a researcher might actually be interested in your product or pass your site on to someone they know who is interested.

Time to review your fly-over pages and see if any of them are worth turning into landing pages.  Your whole website could benefit from the valuable content on those pages.