Archive for the ‘Search Optimization’ Category

Extreme Web Makeover IV: Music & Memory

Monday, November 26th, 2012

If you have any experience with a loved one who struggles with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, you know the great challenges and sense of loss for all involved. But what if there were a medication-free way to help your loved one reawaken to the world?

It turns out there’s a simple and elegant solution: personalized music playlists. Hearing personal favorites on a device like an iPod can tap deep emotional memories and enable many of those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and other cognitive challenges reconnect socially and feel more energized and upbeat.

I’ve learned all about this amazing process from Music & Memory, a non-profit based in metro New York that trains nursing home professionals how to set up and manage a comprehensive personalized music program for those in their care. For the past three months, I’ve been helping their great team revamp their website and create a professional, easy-to-navigate user interface designed to boost donations and subscriptions to their webinar training series. The new site went live on November 19.

Capitalizing on a Viral Video

Music & Memory’s challenge was an enviable dilemma: Last April, a video clip from a documentary about their work went viral. The clip told the story of Henry, a 94-year-old with dementia, who is non-communicative and doesn’t recognize his daughter. But as soon as he listens to his Cab Calloway favorites on his iPod, he awakens to his surroundings and can express himself quite effectively.

Nearly 7 million people have viewed the video, which has aroused tremendous interest in Music & Memory’s great work. The non-profit has sought and enjoyed extensive media coverage from major news outlets, including the New York Times, NPR and CNN, among others.

Converting from an Organically Grown Website to Strategic Web Content and User-Friendly Design

But Music & Memory’s website was a jumble of information and calls-to-action that did not effectively represent or explain the quality of their program. The site had grown organically, using a free template. Content was written from the organization’s point of view, rather than the user’s. Benefits were not clearly articulated. Navigation was cluttered and confusing. In addition, Music & Memory was in the process of switching over to Salesforce, a sophisticated contact management system that required a better web platform.

Working with the Music & Memory team and web developer Ed Booth of Insight Dezign, I took these steps to upgrade the site:

  • Defined key target audiences and established a hierarchy of calls-to-action, with donations and enrollments in M&M’s webinar training series at the top of the list.
  • Researched keywords that would boost search; salted these keywords throughout the site, in text, title tags, tabs, headlines and subheads, urls, ALT tags, search result descriptions and keyword tags.
  • Revised and wrote new content for the entire site, creating a conversational, unified tone throughout.
  • Reorganized content into a logical site navigation.
  • Selected the StudioPress Streamline theme template as the starting point for the new design; this template includes options for a hierarchy of multiple calls-to-action, essential for the site.
  • Selected images from Music & Memory’s documentary stills for the featured image within each main section of the site.
  • Laid out all page content within the template, unifying styles.
  • Integrated testimonial quotes throughout the site, including a rotating sidebar widget, a main Testimonials page and forms.
  • Using the Premise plug-in, wrote and designed a vertical sales page for the webinar series to expand the inquiry pool for this important revenue stream.
  • Wrote three Resource Guides—how to run an iPod donation drive, a guide for elder care professionals who wish to bring Music & Memory to their facility, and a guide to creating a personalized playlist for a loved one at home—that serve as free lead-generation downloads.
  • Served as project manager of the site build, in coordination with Ed Booth and Music & Memory staff. Oversaw completion of all details for the site visitor interface.

Ed built the site and added in many modifications to the template, enabling Music & Memory to fully realize their vision. Working closely with M&M tech pro Melody Ward, he integrated all forms with Salesforce. As always, he worked his magic on every technical challenge and request for greater functionality that we threw at him. He also patiently fixed whatever broke or jammed, all the inevitable problems that arise in a complex site build and launch.

Promoting the New and Improved Website

Whenever a site goes live, it’s always a thrill to see it in action. We coordinated the site launch with a year-end appeal letter that is scheduled to arrive in people’s homes today, November 26. Next steps for Music & Memory include an emailed site launch announcement tied to the annual appeal and a targeted email campaign to drive elder care professionals to the webinar training landing page. We’ll be following Google Analytics results to see how the site performs and making any needed modifications in the weeks and months to come.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to help such a great organization strengthen their ability to attract more donors and reach many more people who can benefit from this affordable, uplifting form of personal care.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

SEO Best Practices: For Keyword Density, Less is More

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The rules for keyword use are changing as Google and other search engines develop more sophisticated algorithms for page rankings.

It used to be that you’d use as many of your keywords as possible, high on the page and throughout your homepage, especially, as well as in hidden meta-tags (no longer relevant), title tags, headings and subheads. “Black hat” webspammers would pack long strings of keywords in the background of a page, unseen by the human eye but detected by search engines, and inject keyword links out of context.

Keyword Stuffing Can Hurt Your Rankings
But now so-called keyword stuffing can actually lower your rankings. Google, in particular, continues to refine their search algorithms to punish SEO tricksters and reward “white hat” developers who create excellent, relevant content for their websites.

Most significantly, Google now recognizes synonyms for search terms relevant to your copy and rewards your for keyword phrases that are woven naturally into content.

Say, for example, you’re a CPA offering small business accounting services and tax preparation. You do basic keyword research and discover that both of those phrases have robust search. But the phrase “small business accounting services” is a mouthful and it doesn’t feel natural as you write, knowing you want your text to sound conversational and client-centered.

Rest assured that Google will recognize a phrase like “accounting services for small businesses” to be the equivalent of the precise keyword match. You could even use a string of phrases such as “accounting services, including tax preparation, for small businesses” and not damage your search optimization.

Use Keywords Naturally, as in a Real Conversation
The key is to keep your content readable, relevant and informative. You need to identify your most important keyword phrases and use them intelligently throughout your website, as you would in a conversation. More and more, Google can read your site and understand it as a human would. Scary but amazing!

Bottom line: Don’t stuff keywords. Include them in title tags, headlines and subheads, but keep them in context to boost search optimization. You’re writing for your ideal client, first and foremost. Keep it clean, clear and conversational. Less really is more.

Here’s an excellent interview with Google SEO guru Matt Cutts by Karon Thackston, from her Marketing Words Copywriting Blog, that explains more: Matt Cutts Reveals Google’s Updated Copywriting Strategy.

And here’s more detail from Cutts himself: Another step to reward high-quality sites.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Going for the Gold: Four Lessons from Olympic Athletes about Building Your Online Presence

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Whatever you think of the logo, the mascots, the opening ceremony, the controversy over security staffing, Mitt Romney’s pre-game gaffs or Mayor Boris Johnson’s haircut, the London Olympics are now in full swing. I’m looking forward to the gymnastics and diving competition and some of the lesser-viewed sports, like trampoline and taekwondo. And, of course, the canoe slalom.

Whatever your favorite Olympic sport, the athletes who’ve made the cut have some important lessons to teach about what it takes to succeed. Well worth remembering, as you build an online presence for your own good work.

Lesson 1: Maintain Focus
When you’re training to be an Olympian, you need to be very clear about your goal and stay focused. Everything you do is geared toward becoming your best at your sport.

In building your online presence, the same holds. You need to know what your goal is for your business and your website, who is your ideal client, and how you can best meet her needs.

All of your content, all of your social media networking, all of your collateral marketing materials must maintain that clear focus and message. Don’t get sidetracked with the latest social media sensation or technological gizmo. Keep your sights on your goal.

Lesson 2: Train with Experts
Every Olympic athlete invests time, money and energy in getting the best training possible. No one earns a gold medal by skimping on trainers, equipment or training facilities. And no one becomes an Olympian in isolation.

As you develop your website and marketing strategy, learn from and engage the best experts you can afford. Many small business professionals try to save money by spending the minimum on marketing, using free web platforms or a best friend’s recent college grad who knows some code to build a site. But having a website, any website, is not the way to get found online.

Even if you have to start small, be sure to understand the fundamentals of quality web content and design, and choose consultants on the basis of experience and proven results, not by lowest project fee. Remember: You get what you pay for.

Lesson 3: Practice, Practice, Practice
Olympians work hard, every day, to develop their athletic skills. The practice can get tedious, boring and frustrating. But repetition, learning to refine skills, learning from experience how to make adjustments that distinguish a medalist from the rest of the pack—all are essential to winning.

Building an online presence requires daily focus and discipline, as well. You need to read about trends in your field, adopt and refine best practices for your specialty, and keep abreast of your online competition. You need to keep your site content fresh, blog on topic and on schedule, even when you don’t feel inspired.

You also need to monitor social media and build your social network, one blog comment or Facebook post or Tweet at a time. Even if it seems like you’re not making progress day to day, all of this work builds over time to put you ahead of your competitors.

Lesson 4: Learn from Losing
No athlete wins every competition. Everyone loses at some point. Olympians don’t give up. They take risks, learn from failures and go on to win the next meet.

Building an online presence is hard work and takes a lot of persistence. It also takes a willingness to take risks, experiment, mess up and learn how to improve. One of the great things about websites and the Internet is that there is so much room for experimentation, tracking results, getting feedback quickly and figuring out a better way to share your expertise.

So even if your current website isn’t working or your social media strategy is a flop, don’t give up. There’s always room and opportunity to improve and get the results you’re looking for.

Hope you enjoy the Summer Olympics! And take stock of your own accomplishments with your online marketing—then go yourself one better.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

Keywords v. Brand: How to Choose Your Business URL for Best Search Results

Monday, June 25th, 2012

One of the first question’s I’m asked by clients who are building their first professional website is this:

Should I use myname.com, or a title for my business that includes relevant keywords (primarycaremd.com), or another title that’s my brand but may not have any keywords in it (coolbrandname.com)?

The answer: It all depends on name recognition and whether your brand is memorable. If you have equity in your name—say, you’re a lawyer or doctor with an established local practice and a great reputation—then it’s valuable to put your name in your website url, because people will search for you that way.

Alternatively, you can choose a title for your practice that’s easy to remember (and spell!), and include your name in your title tag (the phrase that shows up on a search engine result page, or SERP ) as well as a keyword-rich description of what you do.

Here’s a good explanation of how title tags work in search by Jill Whalen, CEO if High Rankings in Boston.

If you’re choosing between a keyword-rich domain and a brand domain that’s easy to recall, it’s a toss-up for search rankings—but a memorable brand in a crowded field of experts on the same topic, instead of a keyword-laden domain, probably works best.

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam Team, explains in this short video:

A strong, memorable domain name and relevant keywords are critical for good search results. But remember—the most important element of effective search is excellent content in your site. And it’s much easier to figure out the right domain name and keywords after you’ve done the research to identify your target market and created client-centered content that speaks to their needs and concerns.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Boost Your Website’s Search with Branded URLs

Monday, June 18th, 2012

An easy way to increase the chances that your website will be found is to brand each page’s URL—the address line that shows up when you click on that page—with keywords relevant to your business.

It’s a step that often gets missed, because web content management systems (CMS) generate URLs automatically, based on the title for each page. With some systems, when you click on a page within the site, you’ll see your website url followed by a slash and a series of numbers, letters and symbols in the address line; in other systems, you’ll typically see your url followed by the title of the page, say “About,” like this: www.yourwebsite.com/about.

But you can make your page urls work harder for you by customizing those addresses to boost search. For example, let’s say you’re a CPA who specializes in tax returns for small businesses. You’ve done some basic keyword research using Google’s free keyword tool and learned a few interesting facts:

Identify Relevant Keywords with Robust Search
The phrase you think people search on, “small business tax accountant,” has a lot of AdWords competition (which means that a lot of CPAs are buying Google ads using that phrase because they think it’s relevant), but surprisingly little actual search—about 390 searches in the U.S. per month!

As you look down the list of related keywords, however, you notice that “accounting for small business” has 40,500 searches nationwide per month. (It’s also a competitive phrase for AdWords, but you don’t need to worry about that for branding your URLs.) And you see that “cpa tax accountant” gets some decent search. You also discover that “small business tax” gets good search, about 33,100 searches nationwide each month, as does “tax savings.”

Integrate Your Best Search Phrases into Your Page Addresses
So, now it’s time to put those phrases to work for your website. Let’s assume your business is called Acme Accounting, so your url is acmeaccounting.com, and you have four basic pages for your website: homepage, about (your bio/credentials), professional services and contact. You want to include your name, Jane Doe, in your branding, because people may search for you by name instead of your business monicker. You also want to include your geographic location, because many people search for local services. For this example, let’s use Worcester, Massachusetts.

Here’s how I would set up the URLs, using the best keywords we’ve identified, above:

  • Homepage: www.acmeaccounting.com
  • About: www.acmeaccounting.com/about-jane-doe-cpa-tax-accountant-worcester-massachusetts
  • Professional Services: www.acmeaccounting.com/jane-doe-cpa-accounting-for-small-businesses-central-massachusetts
  • Contact: www.acmeaccounting.com/contact-jane-doe-cpa-small-business-tax-savings

You can have your web developer customize your URLs for you, or, if you have a user-friendly CMS like WordPress, you can easily set up these branded addresses yourself. In the user interface for each page, you’ll see a line below the page’s title called “Permalink.” Click on the Edit button, and you’ll be able to add your custom url extension for your page.

As you can see, your page addresses are now working much harder for search phrases relevant to your business. In addition, never take search phrases for granted: always check a keyword tool to see how your target audience looks for your line of work. The results, as noted above, are often surprising and always helpful for sharpening your marketing strategy.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.