I Guess Anyone Can Be an SEO Expert These Days

See if you notice anything odd or out of the ordinary about these SEO and SEM firms?

“…visitors, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to improve your site’s rankings in popular engines.”

“We offer this Promotion Package specially priced @ only $75/year for unlimited submissions to 100 Internet search engines”

“professional search engine marketing and promotion, internet marketing, and web development”

“Internet marketing and SEO are two separate and complex entities that require individual strategies methods of implementation”

“CCommunity shares their competency in efficient and effective website design, SEO, and maintenance to select companies.”

“SEO Marketing Expert!”

“Providing search engine optimization (SEO), internet marketing, website design & development services”

“We specialize in SEO Expert services for top search engine ranking in Google, Yahoo, AOL and MSN.”

“If you need help or advice with your SEO efforts, call us…”

“Unrevealed How These Secret SEO Tactics Ensures You Unseen High-Rankings And Bring You Massive of Traffic Today!”

“SEO Trends USA, one of the rare SEO companies, offer exclusive services for increasing traffic to your site.”

“We utilize proven methodologies for maximizing your website’s potential. “

“We will show you what your site needs to get you placed in the TOP 20”

“A web site is only a valuable asset if prospective clients can find it. To help facilitate this, we offer complete search engine optimization.”

Taking Back the Feeds!

mybrand from FeedburnerAs of today, SEOlogs feed is now available at feeds.seologs.com/seologscom instead of feeds.feedburner.com/seologscom. This is thanks to FeedBurner’s MyBrand Service, which lets you use your own domain name to host your RSS feed instead of using the feedburner domain.

MyBrand was initially a pay service ($3-$14/month depending on the number of feeds), but now, it’s now totally free.

The MyBrand section was sort of hard to find. It’s located in the My Account link at the top of the page when you log in.
my account

Setup is really easy, and only involves adding a new CNAME entry to your DNS setup. It’s basically like making a subdomain of your domain, and forwarding it to feeds.feedburner.com. For those of you who are domain gurus, this will be a cinch, but others may need to get tech support involved.

As I mentioned in The Danger of Giving up Control of your Feed, I think FeedBurner is a great service, but I also think it’s really important to have full control of your own content.

Using Google to Assist in Reputation Management

Reputation-Management.movIn this screencast/ video, I talk a little bit abut reputation management, and more specifically, using Google to help keep track of what people are saying about you or your company online.

I mentioned two urls in the video, one from SEOmoz, and another from SEObook.

Download (19.5 MB, 8:16)

The Danger of Giving up Control of your Feed

… And How to Take Back Your Feeds

FeedBurner 500 ErrorIt seems as if my Feedburner feed has stopped working sometime this morning. I have been trying to get things worked out since around 9am today with no luck. The Feedburner contact page pretty much directs all queries to their forums.

I found several posts with the same problem, but none of them offered any solution that worked.

I posted my problem, but unfortunately, no one was there to help.
FeedBurner Forums

As a last resort, I called the phone number on the contact page (even though it says they don’t offer support via phone). The number was a direct line to Google. A nice lady answered, and gave me an email address to try: feedback@feedburner.com

So I’m still waiting, and my feed is still broken.

This situation does, however, raise some important questions and concerns about giving up control of your RSS to a 3rd party. I was hesitant in the first place to switch over to Feedburner, and now, I’m pretty much more concerned than ever.

I did a little bit of searching, and it turns out that I do have some good options.

Option 1: Use Your Own Feed AND Get FeedBurner Stats
It turns out that you can actually get the benefits of Feedburner without actually using their feed address.

To do so, you just need to:
1. Burn your feed at Feedburner (if you don’t already have a feed address)
2. Place this code in your Rss Feed Page. (I believe it’s wp-feed.php for WordPress)
$ch = curl_init();
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_USERAGENT, $useragent);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $feedburnerfeed);
$data = curl_exec($ch);

Option 2: Use Feedburner’s MyBrand Service
Feedburner offers a great service called MyBrand, which allows you to use your own domain as your feed address. The way this works is you:
1) Set up a new subdomain like feeds.yourdomain.com
2) Add a new CNAME record that points that subdomain to FeedBurner
This way, you’re still redirecting to feedburner, but you have the option to redirect that address anywhere you want. So if FeedBurner went down, I could always redirect back to the original feed if I needed to.

Don’t get me wrong here. I think feedburner is a great service. I just don’t like not being in control of my content.

Update: I finally heard back from FeedBurner support, and guess what? This whole fiasco was my own fault. I fouled it up while trying to set up a new subdomain to use with Feedburner’s MyBrand service. I’ll chalk it up to not understanding my new hosting admin interface yet. Sort of embarrassing, but hopefully I’ll be able to switch over to the MyBrand service now.

Are You Hiding Some of your Best Content?

Treasure Map
The other day, I was going through some of my older WordPress posts, trying to organize and simplify the categories of SEOlogs. While navigating through the archives, I realized that there were several really good articles that I had completely forgotten about. It was sort of like finding money in an old pair of jeans. These were quality articles that I had put a lot of time and effort into, and they were just hidden beneath hundreds of other posts.

Having good content buried deep down in your archives is bad in more than one way. First, it makes it hard for your readers to find. Second, it makes it harder for search engines to find. Also, burid articles don’t get as much link love from your main pages. You’d be surprised the difference the link and anchor text from your home page can make when it comes to ranking in the search engines.

For the time being, I have decided to showcase some of these posts in the sidebar. There they will be able to see the light of day, and get some of the fresh pageviews that they deserve.

For the long run, I’m gong to continue to organize my category structure in a way that makes the site easier to navigate. I think it’s fine to use previous and next for news, because those are things that go “stale”, but for other articles, I will try to avoid having them get buried more than 2 clicks deep.

Using WordPress is great, but I think it is really easy to loose track of good content if you aren’t careful about how you organize it. So start digging through that old content, and showcase your great content.

Understanding Goals and Conversion Optimization

Goals1If you use Google Analytics, you’re probably familiar with the terms Goals, and Conversions. Those two items are in just about every report that is available, and they aren’t there just for decoration, or extras. These features are pretty much the only reason to use Google Analytics as opposed to some other simple stat counter.

What are Goals and Conversions?
Basically, a Goal is what you want someone to do on your site, and a Conversion is when that user actually does what you wanted them to do. Conversions are good!

Goals are not just for people who sell stuff…
When you think of Goals, you may think of selling a product, making a reservation, or other simple transactions that result in your getting paid, however, there are tons of goals that don’t end with payment, that are equally as important, if not more important.

I’m talking about things like: Subscriptions, registrations, downloads, and even something as simple as encouraging users to comment on your blog. Unlike the goals I described earlier, these are the sort of goals that will keep on paying for the long term.

Conversion Optimization
For any goals, there are things that you can tweak on your site that will increase or decrease conversions. This is called Conversion Optimization, and it can be as simple as changing the color or style of a word, and can be as complex as redesigning your whole site. At any rate, the key to success with conversion optimization is to test, test, and test some more.

A Real Life Example
Not long ago, I decided to add a forum to one of my sites (dnScoop.com). The main site was popular, but I thought it might be a good idea to give users somewhere else on my site to go, instead of just leaving when they were done using the tool.

I installed the forum, and added a link to the main site menu that said “Forums”. Time passed, and, not much happened. I had the random registration here and there, but it was hardly enough to start an online community.

So I decided to add another link from the home page to the forum. This time, it said “Join the dnScoop forum”. I placed it in a pretty prominent place, and noticed that I started to get a few more sign-ups.

I think it was at this point that I realized that getting users to join my form needed to be treated as a goal. I had recently heard about Google Website Optimizer, a really great conversion optimization tool that Google offers. It’s officially part of adWords, but you can use it for testing anything on your site.

I tested several versions of the “Join the dnScoop forum” link, with different words, colors, and even images.
As you can see by the results, I had a clear winner at with a .47% conversion ratio. I tested 3 variations with buttons, and two with just text links, and this is the variation that won:

I definitely could have further optimized the link, but with the traffic the main site was getting, new users started to really pour in.
dnScoop Forum Stats
In under 5 months, the forum has gone from pretty much nothing to over 2000 Members. It’s a full on community now, and that definitely a result of setting Goals and testing.

Conversion Optimization Tools and Resources
Google Website Optimizer is one of the best tools I have found for testing conversions. It allows you to simotaneously test muntiple versions of your copy, and that makes testing go a lot faster.

The only drawback to using Google Website Optimizer is that installation and setup can be a little tricky. You should also be aware that this tool is geared toward testing only within your own site. So if a conversion involves a user leaving your site, you’ll need to try one of the other tools.

Google Analytics is another great choice for testing conversions. It’s not as specialized as GWO, but is a lot more flexible, and does a lot more. With Google Analytics, you test conversions by setting goals, and making changes to increase conversion rates. Unlike GWO, you can’t easily simultaneously test multiple versions of one test, but you can test conversions on external links by using the urchinTracker() function.

CrazyEgg.com is a really useful tool for testing different versions of content. You’ll have to pay to use the full functionality of CrazyEgg, but their free version is more than enough to get started with.

Just install the code on the page you want to test, and it records each click on the page. The click data is then presented in a really cool heat map format. To test 2 versions of content, you would just run 2 tests and compare the heat maps for both.

A Great Way to Increase Productivity

Yahoo-Backlink-CountsWorking from home is definitely a great thing, but those of you who do it, know how hard it can be to stay focused and productive throughout the day. Especially when you are addicted to reading Social Bookmarking sites like Digg.com and Sphinn.com.

In this screencast, I a new program I’ve started using to manage my recreational reading, and keep it all organized, so I can have more time to actually get work done.

Download (7.6 MB, 4:39)

Contact Pages From Hell

Today I spent several hours collecting latitude/ longitude coordinates for about 100 businesses (actually Casinos) for a project I’m working on. This usually involves going to the official web site of the casino, finding the contact page, finding the physical address, and entering it into Google Earth to get the coordinates.

Most sites have a decent contact page. The addresses are easy to find on the page, and when I plug them into Google maps/ earth, I am able to get the location of the business.

Then there are the contact pages that aren’t so great. The pages that make me want to stab my monitor with a bic pen. Contact pages where a business address is nowhere to be found. Contact pages that only have an email address, or an email form. So you have to go digging around the whole site (or some other site) to even find an address.

The thing that bothers me the most though, is when they have an address, but list it in a way that the mapping search engines can’t understand.

Here are some examples of bad contact info:

Example 1: Vague Address
Site: ctownraces.com
Address on site: U.S. Route 340
Charles Town, WV

Google Maps Result:

Example 2: Made Up Street Name?
Site: diamondjo.com
Address on site: 777 Diamond Jo Lane
Northwood, IA

Google Maps Result:

As you can see, these addresses don’t work in Google. I was able to find the locations eventually, but it wasn’t easy (the second example took a while), and I seriously doubt that the average searcher do the same.

More than ever, users are turning to Google for to find local businesses, and if you have bad contact info on your site, you are really shooting yourself in the foot.

Tips for a Good Contact Page
1. Clearly label your phone number, your mailing address, your email address and fax number.
2. A Contact Form and or an email alone is NOT enough
3. If your business has different addresses for the “Mailing Address” and the “Physical Address”, make sure to clearly label them as such.
4. Make sure your physical address works in Google Maps and other mapping search engines. If it doesn’t, find one that does. If you can’t, make a note on your contact page, and find some other way to specify how to locate your business (maps, directions, etc)
5. If customers are visiting regularly, add clear, specific directions, and if possible make a detailed map that clearly shows your location.

Getting Over the $100 AdSense Hurdle

HurdleA few years a go, back when I was just getting started with online marketing, someone (I can’t remember who it was) made a comment in a forum (Can’t remember where either, but please, bear with me … :)) that at the time I thought was probably just a bunch of hot air, but looking back, he couldn’t have been more right.

Basically, what he said was …

The biggest and most difficult hurdle in AdSense is getting past the $100 per month mark.

Once you make it past $100, getting to $1000 per month happens before you know it.

At that time, I think I was probably making less than $10 per month, and again, I was pretty skeptical about what he said, but at the same time, I was extremely intrigued, and motivated to find out if that was true. Or at least I hoped I would be able to find out.

Instead of going over some bullet points about how to get over the hurdle, I’m going to share with you my experience, and some of the things I did to achieve this goal.

Getting to the $100 Mark
So in the beginning, I had 1 site that I was running AdSense on (It’s this site . seologs.com), and the thing that was bringing me traffic and the $10 or so dollars per month, was the small set of 2 or 3 SEO tools that I had on seologs.com. I figured that if 2 or 3 SEO tools could bring $10 per month, then the next logical step would be to make more SEO tools. And that’s just what I did.

July 2005: As I said. I started out with SEOlogs.com. My goal was to learn about SEO and making money, blog about it, and make SEO tools.

This was’t my first month using Adsense, but it was when I started to make money. $8 this month.
Adsense Payment

October 2005: My new SEO tools were starting to pay off. One of them was actually mentioned by Danny Sullivan on SEW. I doubled my income in 3 months to almost $16.
Adsense Payment

January 2006: 3 months later, and not much had happened money wise, but I continued working hard on my tools and had a few more mentions, including one on nichewatch.com. I also held a promotional SEO contest.

At this point I was starting to wonder if I would ever get to the $100 mark, but I was having tons of fun, and that was great motivation.
Adsense Payment

Jumping the Hurdle
March 2006 to June 2006: At this point, I started to see a noticeable increase in my AdSense income. This spike was actually started by a Pagerank update. Traffic to my tools almost doubled, and that was the push that gave me the momentum to get over the $100 hurdle.
Adsense Payment

July 2006 to October 2006: As you can see, it took just about a year to get from nothing to $100 per month, but the next 3 months saw an average increase of $100 per month. October also saw my first Digg. It took me completely by surprise, and took my site down, but after all was said and done, it was a great thing.
Adsense Payment

Jan 2007 to March 2007: I decided that I better start to diversify at this point, so I started working a several new projects. As you can see, that really paid off.
Adsense Payment

May 2007: Now you can see that march was definitely a spike, and not in line with my average rate of increase, but it was the most I’ve made yet in one month with AdSense.
Adsense Payment

Aug 2007: Not much of an increase for August.
Adsense Payment

At this point, I can definitely see another hurdle in front of me, and that is the $10,000 hurdle. It may seem like I’m pretty far from it, but keep in mind, I don’t keep all my eggs in one basket. 🙂 Adsense is a big chunk of my monthly income from my websites, but it’s not always the biggest.

I’m still working harder than ever, and have more projects and content in the works that will hopefully help to propel me over that next hurdle.

So if you are struggling, and starting to wondering if you’ll ever get over the $100 hurdle, just keep working. You will make it. I won’t lie. It’s not going to be easy. I have definitely worked my share of 16 hour days (this plus my full time job (which I also love)), but if you enjoy what you are doing, you can definitely make it.