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Usually they will have heard about or seen Google sponsored links/ads, or want to be top for highly competitive single or two word key phrases the very next day. So it’s a bit of a tricky subject; offering some free consultancy, not giving too much away, trying to keep their interest all the while bringing them back down to earth without a bump (and run).
Typically this would follow a telephone conversation about what they are looking for – for most it's the same – better SE listings.
Having established your goals there are number of things that we can do to help better position your site in the Search Engines (SE’s)- to do so we'll have to make a number of home improvements, including:
Site design Page layout & site structure Content Link development
There are other factors, but if you get these things right it will have a large impact on your placing in Google. I'd concentrate on Google as they have the market share of search - but these concepts will also apply to Yahoo, Microsoft Search, Ask Jeeves and other SE's too.
Making changes to all these things will improve your standing in the search engines and in-turn will improve your traffic - without having to pay them. I would advise making these changes before you make any decisions to buy into an Adwords campaign – Adwords are the 'sponsored links' at the top of Google's Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
You could approach Google tomorrow and pay them to be the first sponsored link at the top of the page for the word 'widget' - however this would cost you a fortune as it would cost you money every time someone clicked into your site from their SERPs, regardless of whether they buy anything. Conversion is key to website traffic from paid SE listings - if you pay them for Adwords, a % of your visitors must buy widgets to make it a worthwhile investment. Adwords also leaves you open to attack from a possible competitors 'clicking' frenzy – it happens.
So for now I think it is better if you try and improve your 'organic' rankings for more targeted key phrases like 'rare red widget' - there is still competition for this phrase but the number of competing pages drops from 300,000,000 (for widget) to 10,000! * - A much more manageable number.
* or appropriate contrasting figures
Organic listings are free - basically they're the result of a websites importance determined by Google's algorithms - this forms Page Rank and determines a non-sponsored pages position in the SERPs. You have your home page listed in Google for the search term:
After a short period searching I could not find your other pages – so no one else will.
Not to worry though, some small on-page additions/changes/deletions will start to impact on your rankings for all your pages. This will, in turn, improve your traffic. It's quite a slow process but in the long term it ensures results continue without paying the SE's a penny.
You can do this in many ways. But before we talk about that...
…Imagine you are a potential visitor, you just got your pay cheque and want to spend your money on an "rare red widget that would look great in the dining room"… what do you think that visitor will be looking for from the website that they find…
Videos of your shop? Music?
Stylish graphics and animations?
Interestingly none of these things are as important as the first thing a user wants, subconsciously or not: Good content!
Well-written interesting content is the key to web success and is the single most important concept. Unbelievably it is still overlooked by many website developers. Everything is secondary to it – it may seem obvious but this simple nugget of knowledge will give you an advantage over many other rare-red-widgets dealers and their websites.
A little more on the improvements I listed above:
Your site needs some visual improvement - user trust is very important and none more so than that first impression they get when visiting your pages. A re-design will not only make you site more 'sticky' for the users who visit, but by designing with the underlying structure in mind it'll help SE's digest your content more easily too.
With a little tweaking and some imagination we could make a big difference to the way your site looks and make your site stick in the minds of your visitors.
(Accessible) Layout & Structure
Page organisation is critical. A clever website will start serving the page content as soon as people arrive, positioning the content in a balanced way that is well spaced and easy to digest. If a person wants more info give it to them, but paradoxically, it's best not to try and cram too much info onto one page.
The structure of most sites work in the form of a pyramid – the home page on the top - being the distributor for subsections, the subsections distribute to the most important bits: the money pages. Your money pages, for example, will detail each of your different rare red widgets.
Making your pages accessible so that any person, regardless of the type of software and hardware they use, can get the info they want easily is something that must be accounted for – this includes disabled visitors or those using mobile devices like PDA’s.
Well-structured accessible content is conducive to a happy Google.
I've already covered this but just to iterate: CONTENT IS KING!
Additionally, something you might want to consider is building up a community of people who also take an interest in rare red widgets. You could do this by writing about them regularly and using a publishing system called a Blog or small forum. By doing this you will get repeat visitors and generate better organic results because of the new content - and because people will link to you…
When all the above have been covered then you can begin a campaign to get as many inbound links as you can. This is important for SE's. Theoretically the more inbound links you have the higher the page ranking it will give you. Without good inbound links your site will not be as prosperous in the SERPs.
Inbound links should be composed like this:
Link: Red widgets – takes a visitor to your homepage Link: Buy rare red widgets – takes a visitor to a page about rare red widgets
Inbound links should not be composed like this:
Link: Click me – takes a visitor to your homepage Link: Buy it now – takes a visitor to a page about rare red widgets
So it's about context of the word inside a link – Google loves links.
While you are building inbound links, you should also give thought to linking out too. It may seem silly to link to other sources from your website but Google will award status for that too, as you are then seen as 'becoming an authority' on what you are selling and will reward you accordingly (obviously no linking to competitors unless you are making a point).
I may then go into a few keyword and site specifics, and a little about CSS, some caveats and maybe hint at rates ;)
I don’t know if this will be any use to anyone, but thought it might come in handy if you are doing something similar. Obviously it depends on your client – bamboozling them with too much info can be detrimental – but I think this gives a fair account of the work involved – thus managing their expectations from the start.
Please feel free to jump in if any of this is debatable :)
Adwords also leaves you open to attack from a possible competitors 'clicking' frenzy – it happens.
The ignorant siteowner may think "attack" means something else besides competitors clicking on paid links. Then, they would try to find out what you mean. Then, they would go to the sites and both Yahoo! and Google will reassure them that they have fraud prevention measures in place. You then sound less credible.
I know what you are trying to do, and it is a good thing to do--i.e., scare them away from the "SEOs" who buy ads only. But, I think you did that well enough with the preceding statements, without adding that last one. JMHO.
If you understand the few simple technical issues surrounding all of this then most of the fixes that you can implement are very simple. They are basic SEO and design.
Make sure that every page of the site has a unique title and meta description.
Make sure that every page of the site links back to "/" and to the main section indexes.
Make sure that all domain.com accesses are redirected to the same page in the www.domain.com version of the site using a 301 redirect.
If you have mutiple domains, then use the 301 redirect on those such that only one domain is indexed.
If you have pages that say to bots "Error. You Are Not Logged In", for example the "newthread", "newreply", "editProfile" and "sendPM" links in a forum, then make sure the link has rel="nofollow" on it, and the target page has <meta name="robots" content="noindex"> on it too.
If you have a CMS, forum, or cart that has pages that could have multiple URLs, then get the script modified to put a <meta name="robots" content="noindex"> tag on all but one "version" of the page.
Use the Google site:domain.com search to see what you have indexed, and work to correct these issues. The presense of Supplemental Results, URL-only entries, or hitting the "repeat this search with omitted results included" message very quickly are all indications that you have stuff that needs fixing.
It is a sad fact that systems like vBulletin, PHPbb, osCommerce, and a whole range of popular scripted sites, have a large number of SEO-related design errors built in to them. The designers are clever programmers, but have no clue about SEO or how their site will interact with search engines; and the situation isn't getting any better.
Run Xenu LinkSleuth over your site, and run a few pages through [validator.w3.org ] too - just in case.
If you have done all of that, then you'll just have to wait for Google to fix whatever they have broken at their end.