Monday, September 19, 2011

Online Reputation Management: a Lot Depends on the Strategy

Internet is open to be used for maligning the reputation of any person, organisation or brand. There is no fool-proof way to ensure that internet is not used for these mischievous acts. The competitors can play the dirty game and start saying all sort of negative things about you through the internet medium which can adversely affect your reputation. There could be some disgruntled customers or even the employees who can take a dig at your reputation. The net surfers are most likely to take the feedback or comments on face value and, without much reasoning or going into the details, might be inclined to believe these. The companies, which care about their image and brand value, take the necessary steps to stem the rot in time. The online reputation management is all about doing all the necessary activities which can stop these malicious and mischievous attacks on the reputation of a person or organisation. The methods of SEO can be used quite effectively for this purpose, which is quite an uphill task and a lot depends on the strategy used for the same. This article discusses some of these strategies, which could be the following:

  1. Keep Mum: Sometimes, doing something to prevent the reputation might be feeding the readers with wrong notions. Your actions might, in fact, be proving counter productive. The issues on which it is better to maintain silence are the ones which are not material, or significant enough to be considered worthy of comments. As the time will go by, these trivial issues might be forgotten. However, it is important that the company knows which issues need to be responded back and where response can be avoided. At the same time, the company shall not get complacent about taking some material issues as trivial ones since taking no action then prove to be very costly.
  2. Be neutral: The SEO services providers also take up the strategy of neutral marketing of a person or product if there has been an attack on his reputation. This is done by way of not providing positive content but rather being neutral in overall tone and tenor. Here again, it is important to understand what is the nature of attacks. Generally, this strategy is used when the nature of attacks is quite serious and therefore, there is need to push down the negative comments using the SEO methods. Why are positive things not said? If positive things are said, there is a chance that the readers will believe that there must be something negative being said about the person which is prompting a positive response. Therefore, it is better to be neutral in tone and tenor of the language while adopting this strategy
  3. Defend: When there are issues which are quite glaring but have arisen due to miscommunication or misunderstanding, then the company or the individual under attack might feel important to defend the same. This defense could be done by posting the clarifications with sound conviction in the very same forums which have been used for attacking.
  4. Counter attack: This is a strategy which is not normally used. This is so for two reasons. At first, the identity of the person who has posted the adverse comments or remarks is not clear, so the counter attack can not be done. Secondly, using counter attack might actually mean walking into the trap laid by the other, when the identity of the person or organisation behind the mischievous act is known.
Before using the SEO services for reputation management, the company must thoroughly investigate whether the nature of complaint or the remarks are true and to what extent. If these are true, then it is far better to admit the lapses and assure the readers of the steps being taken to correct these. SEO services providers make use of the internet forums for managing the reputation effectively using the right strategy in coordination with client. In a way, it is SEO providers doing the PR work. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

SEO Copywriting: The Art of Producing Search Engine Friendly Content


With worldwide focus on SEO increasing and businesses are hunting the spaces on search engine result pages (SERPs). The strategy of developing the inbound links to the site and the wise usage of content are important considerations for any service provider. The term – SEO copywriting – is used for all the content related tweaking that is done both on the website pages as well as on the off-website resources. In simple terms, SEO copywriting includes the following:

ü      Insertion of keywords in the website content.

ü      Insertion of keywords in the off-page content activity such as articles, press releases.

ü      Insertion of meta-tags, header tags, alt tags and other coding related alterations which are required to make the site SEO-friendly.

For these activities to be carried out by a SEO Copywriter, there is a need to be familiar with the web development and scripting languages and also with the usage of optimised content for the various off-page activities.

The individuals providing the SEO copywriting services shall be knowledgeable about the following:

ü      Keyword density within a particular content. It shall be well known to the writer as to where the keywords shall be placed and what is the maximum number of times a keyword is used in content? Using it too much could result in spamming.
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ü      Style of writing. This refers to the knowledge of what will work on which resource. Essentially, it means deciding on where the promotional content could be written and where the informative content will work. It also means how the content in the tone of announcement of news shall be written. Therefore, the content writer has to be very skilful in writing these for the different online media since, if not written as per the rules, these can get rejections.

ü      Grammar is another vital aspect which has to be taken care of. There are difference in the UK and the US English and the SEO copywriter has to understand these well. Since most of the big and reputed content directories are US based and follow US English, the problem arises when the content is written in non-US English. The SEO copywriter shall be aware of these issues and shall write the content is such a way which minimises the issues. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

URL Matters: Importance in SEO


There are two aspects of URLs which are of significant import to the SEO practitioners. One aspect is related to taking of the URL which carries the keywords and the other is related to dynamic-static nature of the URLs.

Keyword-rich URLs

While many SEO services providers would be advising that the keyword stuffed URLs do not count, there are hardly any takers for their advice in reality. Afterall, no one wants to lose out to their competitors on the score that keyword-rich URL was not taken. That is definitely not a problem and therefore, all said, done and heard, they opt to play on the safe side and take the keyword rich URLs.

Dynamic URLs

The enigma of the search engine behaviour towards the dynamic websites and the extent to which these are SEO-friendly is something which is of even greater import than the keyword rich URLs. Mind you these are not the ones which are showing the flash animations or the ones which are featuring some sort of literal dynamism. Dynamic websites are the ones whose pages could be created during the run or on the fly. There may not be any physical presence of the page (consequently you can not download the same using the ftp protocol) but it could be generated from the content or the information stored in the server side databases. Each dynamic page is linked with a master template page. The benefit is that limitless number of pages can be generated and it renders creation of the multiple-pages website very easy.

Consequently the work of designers is rendered easier. Whether a site is dynamic or not can be seen by checking the URL of pages contain the special characters and query strings or not. If these are present, then the site is of dynamic nature.
The pitfall of such a dynamic site is that the search engines are not able to read through the full URL and, to the extent to which they are able to read the URL and if it is same for many different dynamically generated pages, the search engine bots might mistake it to be the same URL. For example, if there are following different pages,
www.xyz.com?sssss-ttttt?bbbb&cccc
www.xyz.com?sssss-ttttt?bbbb&dddd
www.xyz.com?sssss-ttttt?bbbb&eeee
, and the search engines are able to read till the last special character & but not beyond it, then the three URLs will be same, indicating that there is a problem of duplicate content pages. While many argue that the present search engines are able to read through 4 to 6 different special characters and differentiate the pages, the problem is that if the URL is longer than what these can read, the problem will persist. Even otherwise, the crawling speed will be slow and the rankings will get affected.  

So, what shall be done? The strategy which is most commonly used is to change the URLs to the static ones by using the various tools available for this purpose. But, what would you do if the client refuses to do the same. You probably have no option but to go ahead with the SEO of the dynamic site. The results will also come just like the ones that are obtained for the static sites. The only problem will be that the rankings will fluctuate violently. These will keep coming and going and there will be less stability. So, you will have to live with it and the client will have to understand the same as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to do Keyword Research for SEO? - the Three Golden Rules


SEO is the game of keywords. The better the keywords you choose, the more are the chances of achieving the objectives with a well directed online marketing campaign. There are many free and paid tools which can be used for this purpose. Google’s keyword tool and Overture are two of these which are used by a larger number of people. The research on the appropriate keywords depends considerably on the nature of business and also on the short and long term goals of the business. This can be explained better with an example. Imagine a company into the designer garments manufacturing business which goes for SEO services to get more clients.

The SEO service provider shall be able to analyse the nature of the business (designer garments), identify the niches in which it operates (rich and famous people, speciality stores) and then determine which keywords would be typed by the people in the search engines looking for products of this nature. Invariably they would be typing the words such as “designer garments manufacturers” or the likewise. However, there might be some SEO companies who would be using the more common keywords such as “clothing” which might be inappropriate. So, the first rule of keyword analysis is that it shall be relevant.

Now, there might be some keywords which could be used by users who are not-so-particular about the choice of keywords. They might be beating somewhere about the bush. In our example, they would be using the keywords such as ‘speciality garments’ or the ‘special occasion wear’ which is the purpose for which the designer garments are meant. So, the SEO services providers must take into account all these diffused keywords which could be used by the users. Therefore, the second rule for finding the keywords is that it shall be reasonably broad based to include the related keywords which the prospective customers might be using.

Another important factor for keyword analysis is the number of people who search using a particular keyword globally or locally. It is quite natural to include those keywords which are being used by maximum number of people. However, this is also the point where it is important to balance the relevance-number of searches equilibrium. This means that some keywords might be having a good search volume, say the keyword ‘clothing’, but the same may not be relevant for marketing of the business. At the same time, there might be some highly relevant keywords which might be having very small search volume which might be ignored by the services providers. So, the third rule for search engine services providers is to make sure that the equilibrium between the relevancy factor and the search volumes is maintained. It is always better to include the relevant keywords even if the search volumes are less.

The use of skills, knowledge and experience is vital while applying these rules to make effective marketing efforts for the clients. This is attained over a period of time and by virtue of doing a number of different projects. These parameters could also be the differentiating factors between your company and the other SEO services providers. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SEO for Small Businesses: Making Local Businesses Aim Global


How many businesses are global in nature? While it can be conveniently assumed that the global businesses are of medium and large scale, the small ones are essentially operating with a local focus. This local focus could be confined to the perimeter of a few kilometres or to the regional level. It is a fact that the large businesses have far greater resources at their disposal which can make them undertake any effort to promote their sales further. But, this does not mean that the small businesses will remain small or that these would be waiting for their time to be big. One of the fundamental problems faced by them is that of the financial resources required to market themselves with the aim of making it big. While this resource constraint could have tied their hands in the past, fortunately for them, the present time internet medium, with all its marketing innovations, does permit them to make some kind of marketing effort to create more chances of growth. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one such method which is suited for small businesses.  

As compared with the other online marketing methods, the SEO creates far better chances of achieving the growth objectives. It provides a better return on the marketing investment as compared with the other methods as it aims at the vast majority of the search engine users and has the potential to make a significant impact on them. SEO marketing brings more online visibility to the products and services which may not be possible with any other method. So, if the small businesses want to create more opportunities with better chances of getting concrete results and at the same time, by spending within their limits, then the same can be done effectively with search optimisation.

SEO services providers carry out a number of activities which can be segmented to suit the client budget while, at the same time, reaching out to the target audience. This method can be used to focus at niche segments with proper keyword research and by focussing on the local and regional resources for marketing the business. At same time, the same work can be undertaken to direct the efforts to a more broad based market globally. This does require a lot of experience and skills on the part of the company providing these services to make the campaign as effective as possible.

Another question commonly asked is that since the SEO can be used by the small and big businesses alike, would it not be difficult to beat the big businesses in the same line of business or will it not become a costly affair to do the same? While this is true, it is relevant only for a very small proportion of the businesses. For vast majority of small business, there is considerable scope of manoeuvrability possible to make the SEO services deliver on their objectives. Even if the competition is hot on some very generic keywords, the vast majority of small businesses can skip these to focus on some more relevant long tail keywords. Further, even in the case of hotly contested keywords, small businesses can leapfrog ahead by being perseverant for a longer period of time.

Therefore, it is wrong to assume that search engine optimisation services are meant for the rich and the big businesses only. It is just that the small businesses have to shed their inhibitions and invest some part in promising online marketing efforts as per their budgets. Doing something will create chances, not doing nothing.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Analysis of Keywords Forms the Backbone of SEO


People type certain words in search engines to find whatever they wish to find. The more carefully thought of are the words, the better are the chances of finding the right thing in the least possible time. This fact brings us to two crucial conclusions. First, the basic premise on which the search engines function are these keywords and the other is the fact that these words assume a lot of importance by the SEO marketers in their service delivery. It is inevitable for both the search engines as well as the SEO services providers to base their operations on these words.

From the search engine perspective, if the keywords are to be dispensed with, then what could be the other possible method or means which can be used to locate whatever a person wants to find? A quick thought about some other alternatives, apart from the written content, can make it abundantly clear that this is perhaps the only way which is practical, easier and all encompassing in the scope of description of the things or ideas which have to be used for searching.

Since these words become the inputs on the basis of which the whole edifice of the search engines are based, it becomes even more important for the SEO services providers to analyse these correctly based on the type of the business of the client, the objectives which the client wants to achieve and the understanding of the target market. This calls for thoughtful conduct on the part of the SEO marketers while approaching the SEO for a particular project.

It is generally considered to be a good approach to use the keywords as close to the type of business as is possible in the optimization efforts, whether on-page or off-page. Longtail keywords, or the keywords which are a combination of a number of words, usually in the form of a phrase which better describes the search query of the users, are considered to be better for turning up accurate search results. Therefore, SEO services providers find it important to include these longtail keywords in their optimisation requirements. But, it would be wrong to assume that only this could bring is results. There are a number of other considerations which play an important role in keyword selection. This is covered in the other posts of this blog.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Take the First Right Stride in the SEO Process: Understand Client Business


Before the beginning of any SEO project, understanding of the client business is important. In fact, if you have understood this part well, you have determined the path that you want to tread while doing the SEO. It is interesting to note that many of the SEO services providers do not spend enough time on this aspect. They are aware of the activities which they would be undertaking and do not want to go any further. Lack of understanding of client business results in problems, such as:

  1. Inappropriate delivery of client’s brand to the web resources, resulting in lowering of brand image. This happens because of the inferior choice of web resources for good brands and this, in turn, is the result of inappropriate understanding of the client business.

  1. Wastage of effort, time and money. There is a tendency among many of the SEO India services providers to go as per their well defined SEO practices. Where a little more thought could have reduced effort and saved time and money with same results, the chance is lost by being stereotypical.

  1. Wrong market-targeting: There have been many cases where the delivery of actual results has fallen short of expectations. This is precisely because the wrong markets have been targeted. This is a direct fallout of the inability to understand the business and hence the markets of the client.

Inappropriateness of the client business results in the SEO services India providers to commit the following mistakes:

  1. Wrong keyword analysis: When there is need to find the niche markets with long tail keywords research, the SEO services provider might be finding the wrong ones since he misjudged the product of the client. This is the most common mistake made. Since the first important is wrong, the whole edifice of the SEO building would be on wrong ground.

  1. Wrong choice of off-page activities: While your standard and time tested procedures might work well with most of the project, some others might require a different strategy. This can not be known if the project is not understood in entirety.

  1. Inefficiencies, Delays and rising Costs: Imagine that you get a project from a client who owns great brands. Since this is a pricey project, it would mean that the brand can not be dragged some of the most commonly used web resources. It has to be promoted differently and using an entirely different approach which is in line with the brand value and brand image. Further, there might be some projects which have already made use of the common resources and, for these, the inefficiencies and duplication of effort needs to be avoided.

What the SEO services providers need to do is to ensure that they are having the right managers who have an understanding for most of the business and the likely markets for these. At the same time, there needs to be brainstorming on each new project so as to develop the right strategy and minimise the costs. Regular meetings also provide fresh inputs to the projects and are helpful in determining the right approach.