SEO Training 101

As promised in my blog last week, today I want to discuss SEO. For those of you that may not know this term, it means Search Engine Optimization. As defined in Wikipedia, “SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results.”

While I don’t claim to the the all knowing expert with regards to the internal workings of the search engines, or what logarithms are put into place to rank or position pages, I have been doing this for my clients for roughly a decade, and I can say they have been pleased with the end results, and have seen huge improvement in where they come up in the search results.

So with that in mind, what I am going to impart on you today will make many of my competitors cringe, since it will empower you as the business to be able to start this process for yourselves, without having to pay their “expert” fees.

Now, to give you some of the background on what has been going on during the last 6 months with the search engines and their spiders (those are the robots that crawl and scan your page), both Google and Bing have started to crack down on web sites. They are rapidly deleting ad spamming sites, dinging web sites that use back-link services, reevaluating pages on content to keyword positing, moving sites that have keyword generators to the bottom of the heap, and removing any extra pages that have replicated titles.

All this is in an effort to make the search results you see more relevant to your search. For those of us that hate clicking through page after page of garbage results, this is a blessing.

Now on to your SEO Training 101.

The first item you need to do is register for a webmaster account on both Google (www.google.com/webmasters/tools/) and Bing (www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster/). In doing this, you will be able to add your site, and actually track what your keywords and pages are doing. This is where most of the SEO companies get their information from when they “run reports” for you. You will need to validate your site, though that can be accomplished in a few different ways.

Now we can begin to look at your web pages, and put into place the items you will need to optimize them.

In the top of your page, which is the header area (that part of the page that isn’t viewable to the visitors), there are 5 items that you should always include:

  • Page Title – <title>Your Page Name</title>
  • META Title – <meta name=”title” content=”your title here” />
  • META Description – <meta name=”description” content=”your description here” />
  • META Keywords – <meta name=”keywords” content=”your keywords here” />
  • META Robots – <meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow” />

Now let’s look at each piece, and I will explain what they are.

Page Title – The page title is the title of your page, for example: Contact Us or About the Company. It should be a short title that describes the page itself. Every page should have it’s own title.

META TITLE – This is the title that the search engines use for the page, and it works just like the Page Title. The big thing to note, is that is should be different from your page title, since they will ding you for duplicates. We recommend putting in the company name. For example: Contact Company Name or About Company Name.

META Description – This is where you put in a description for this page. Try to keep it to 2 or 3 sentences, though the key is to make sure it is a summary of the content that is on the page. These are the descriptions that show up in the search engines under the link.

META Keywords – These are the search keywords for the page, and are what triggers your page in the search results. Make sure they match the content on your page though. If you try to spam (yes, they call it spam) the search engines with dozens of keywords that have nothing to do with the content on your page, they will ding you for every one. The key is to target.

META Robots – This makes sure the search engine spiders follow all of your links within your site.

Now to the biggest part of the lesson. Even with all of these pieces in place, your Page Content needs to be rich and informative. Do Not repeat your keywords over and over on the page. It will cause the search engines to drop you like a hot potato, since they look at this as another form of spamming. If you are selling a product, describe that product in detail. If you are promoting a service, be as explicate as possible. Even if it is just a contact form, write an intro to let the users know.

Also, it is important to make sure all of your images have “alt” tags, and that your links have “title” tags.

This should give you a solid start to moving your site up in the ranking. There are also a few other things that can be done, though that I will save for another lesson.

My company has bundled all of these items and more into our web site management engine. Our 302 Engine is full module based solution that will help you manage both your content and your SEO, all from one interface. Our goal in developing this, was to be able to offer an affordable solution to small businesses, to help level the playing field. By leveraging my experience designing solutions for numerous Fortune 500 companies, we were able to do just that.

Feel free to drop us a line, and let’s make the future happen.

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Getting Value For Your Money

Today I wanted to relay to you an experience that I had recently, that made me take a real hard look at exactly what value I was really getting for my money.

If any of you have ever been house hunting, you know that it is a long process that seems like it can take forever. You look at house after house, and either this doesn’t work for you, or you don’t like the layout of that, or maybe even the location of the neighborhood. There is also the fact that there are other people looking at the exact same houses, and you may start to feel pressured to make a decision rather quickly, which only adds to the growing frustration that this process brings.

The frustration of this process is why many people start looking into new home construction. If you have seen the signs, they are very enticing, basically offering you a new home for the price of the other ones you have been looking at. You start to think “Hey, we can get a new home built the way we want right from the start for the same price”. So with this thought in mind, you leap forward and go in to talk to their sales person. The thing you should pay attention to though is the “Starting At” on the sign.

Now every builder has multiple models that you can look at, to find the layout that is perfect for you. The catch though is that these models have been finished with every extra and add on that you can imagine. They also have professional interior designers come in to finish it off, so that you are presented with a product that is as close to perfect as you could imagine for your new home.

You find the model that has the layout that you want, and now you are excited because you are going to get your new dream home.

So ready to build this house, you then look at the map of the neighborhood, and pick the open lot that you think would be perfect for your new home. The questions you should ask though before you even sit down to go through the process are:  is that lot available now, and is there a homesite premium for it? Many lots might not be available now, and many come with an extra charge for them.

Now comes the process that can be a shell shock to any home buyer. The process of picking out your “upgrades”. This is where that “Starting At” price comes into play. That price is just for the lot and the construction of the home, with a few “base level” items. The “elevation” of the home also impacts the price. For those of you that don’t know, as you go through the letters A,B,C etc… the fancier the look of the home from the outside.

So, after an hour of going though picking out the outside look of the home, the optional this, that and the other thing, picking out flooring, the cabinets, counters, baths, tile, etc…, which you have to pay for no matter what you pick since it is not included in the base price, they give you the final price on this home. To let you know, we pretty much went right down the middle with our selections to get the look we wanted, and those “upgrades” came out to almost $98,000, plus an extra $10,000 for the lot since it was a premium (all 3 available lots were premiums). After looking at that, I couldn’t get out of that office fast enough. I was in shock and reeling over the final price.

As we drove away, 2 things hit me. The first was if we did buy this house with all of these upgrades, we would be paying for them in the mortgage, meaning they would cost us more than $200,000 after all was said and done. The second was that we could purchase a resale home and renovate it for less, thus getting a greater value for our money.

After reflecting on this whole exercise, I realized that many technology companies do the same thing with their clients with regards to their web site and solutions. They bring them in with the whole “affordable solution” sales pitch, then show them the ultimate in web site design and functionality. The business gets excited that this is what they are going to get, are ready to move forward, and then get hit with the “upgrades”. More often than not, they are sold a package that is more than what they need, and wind up paying a small fortune for it.

At Delaware 302 we don’t believe in charging our clients for extra upgrades, or for things they don’t need. Our solutions are module based, and designed to grow with our clients. We don’t charge for a full re-design as your needs change, instead, just like with renovating a home, we build on as needed. We also do this at a cost far lower than our competition.

If you are a business owner and struggling with your web site and solutions, drop us a line. We are here to help.

When Free Doesn’t Mean Free

Today I wanted to relay a story to you of a recent interaction I had with the owner of a young and growing business. He asked me to come in and do a discovery session with him, to find out how he could better utilize social media for his business, and to look at his site to see how it could be optimized better for the search engines.

Now as you all probably know, these are 2 separate pieces to doing business, and usually fall at the opposite ends of the discussion board. I was up for the challenge though, since it showed that he had isolated these areas as “needs” for his business. Yes, I referred to it as a challenge, since it can be difficult at times to keep these specific topics separated, and blocked into their own discussion. I have found from years of experience, that most business owners have been told by other companies that SEO and Social Media are almost the same.

The truth of the matter is that they work hand in hand, yet only to a point. Your social media outlets are the extension of your reach to your intended audience (customers) that would find your products and services beneficial to their needs. SEO is the optimization of your web site to “qualify” and “validate” it with the search engines, and there are necessary steps that need to be taken with regards to this. I will be posting on both of these topics in-depth in the very near future.

So, back to our business owner. I sat down with him and one of the ladies from his staff, and told him I had a few questions to ask up front to get a better understanding of his business, the day to day processes, his audience, and where he saw his business evolving and going. I will tell you right now, that if you are a business without a business plan, some of these questions are probably some of the hardest ones to answer.

About 30 minutes into our discussion one thing became very evident and clear. This business was struggling with a time management problem, and was spending an enormous amount of time on their web site. So, I stopped the discussion, and said I wanted to switch gears for a few minutes. He was very agreeable, so I asked him to walk me through their web site updating process. What ensued was a mesmerizing experience as I watched him click on all of these favorite tabs at the top of his browser, and log into site after site. After about 5 minutes he was logged into 7 different sites and sitting on the control panel pages of these site.

So I asked the obvious question: What are all of these?

The response was: This is a free tool that does this for our site. This one is a free tool that manages this part of our site. This is a free platform that we got for our web site. This went on for all 7 sites: “This is a free…”.

So I asked the next question that came to mind: Do you log into these every day to manage all of your site processes, and how long do you spend?

His response made it hard for me not to let loose a low whistle. He said “Yes, we log into these every day and spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on how much we need to do. Probably about 6 to 7 hours a week.”

As you can probably guess the next question that came was: Why not purchase a bundled solution that does all of this for you from 1 interface?

He told me: “Why pay for something that I can get free?”

What I told him next is a lesson that I learned through trial and error over the years, and something all business owners need to consider when it comes to doing business. The lesson is the valuation of your time. If you are spending hours of your time each week managing an aspect of your business that could be done fairly quickly and easily with the right tools and solutions, then these are hours that you are not dedicating to your customers, building your brand, or dedicating to helping your business grow. Your time as a business owner has a price tag attached to it, and it is not free.

We here at Delaware 302 understand this, and are here to help our clients not only with our technology and social media solutions, but also with helping them better understand and use the tools available to them, thus saving them time that can be used to build their business.

How much is your time worth?

Crossing The Line

It has been a while since I have posted to the blog, and there has been a good reason behind it. My company underwent a metamorphosis to enable us to turn our attention towards providing best in class web site, social media, and SEO solutions to our clients here in this great state of Delaware, and beyond. It was a move that seemed to be a long time in coming, yet one that was necessary given the turmoil and strange developments going on within the technology industry in the state as of late.

To give you some background on what has been going on in the industry, since it has the potential to be very important to your business and the future of your web site, there have been a lot of developments in the last few months.

One of the major players in the web development world in Sussex County had a parting of ways. The dynamic duo that closed the deal on many web sites in the beach area of Delaware split up, and the disgruntled partner (as was shared with me) left to start his own business. It has now been a mad race for this new company to get as many web sites as possible migrated to its hosting platform from the former partner.

The problem with this, is that the customers are the ones that lose in this whole battle of control. It is no longer about customer service, and placing the customer first, it is about having the most “residual income”. For those of you that may not know what that means, for a development company, the number of sites they host makes up their guaranteed revenue stream each month. The more residual income you have coming in each month, the better it looks on your books and profit margin.

At Delaware 302, we offer enterprise level cloud based hosting with 24/7 tech support and guaranteed 99.9% up time. Since we are not in the business of gouging our clients to make our bottom line look better, we pass on our savings to our clients.

Another recent development, was the “verbal blasting” of his clients, by the owner of another fairly well known development company in Kent County. I read the blog posts that he put up and I was stunned and shook my head in disbelief. This business owner put down in black and white for the world to see, that most of the companies that his company designed the site for, and hosted, were a losing proposition and not worth the time or effort.

Then came the insult to injury as he bashed the chambers of commerce in his blog a few short weeks later. The post opened with:

“I will explain how you can save your business time, money, and frustration in dealing with your local chambers of commerce so that you get the most out of what they have to offer, while limiting your exposure to them.”

Now I happen to know for a fact that he still hosts many chamber sites, and most of his business came from the very chambers that he is telling people aren’t worth the money to join.

Delaware 302 is a proud member of both the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce (www.cdcc.net), and the Milford Chamber of Commerce (www.milfordchamber.com). We have gotten great value out of our membership, and built many relationships with other businesses.

Giving everything that has been going on, it leads me to one conclusion: These solutions providers have forgotten the golden rule of business: The customer comes first.

In the 15 years that I have been designing sites, applications, and systems, that rule is one of the keys, and the driving force behind everything I do in business.

Am I crossing the line with my post? I don’t think so at all. You the business owner deserve to know what is going on, and be treated with the respect you and your business deserve.

At Delaware 302, our clients are not a number or a dollar amount, they are a person, the owner of a business, a valuable relationship, and the very reason we are in business.

Don’t you deserve to be offered the best, and not have your provider crossing that line and making you feel like you have no value, or are only worth how much they can make from you on a monthly basis?

Give us a call, and let’s build the future together.