When is the Best Time to Begin Search Engine Optimization?

search engine optimization

Quizzical about when to start SEO?

The short answer is: yesterday. And that applies no matter what stage of development your online business is in. If you have been online for months or years, you have been missing out on a wonderful opportunity to use that time to develop your online presence. One of the most often asked questions I get from potential clients is “how long will SEO take?” The answer is, it will take time. And depending on your budget and your competition, it may take lots of time. Don’t believe the charlatan, fly-by-night, snake oil, so-called “search engine optimization” firms who claim to guarantee rankings in days or even a few weeks. These types of guarantees often come with unbelievably low prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! But even if the price sounds reasonable (and by reasonable I mean the price would support a decent working wage for an educated individual doing a heck of a lot of work on your behalf each month), any short term “guarantees” should be avoided.

This is why the best time to begin an SEO project is always yesterday. It does take time. And each day that you wait, you are losing ground and opportunity to your competition.

But I haven’t even launched my site yet – it is still under construction!

Well, the song remains the same. You should have begun your search engine marketing campaign yesterday. We’ve had clients, and I’m sure we are not the only SEO firm who has seen similar results, rank on the first page of Google for competitive keyphrases before the client site was even live! Then, when the site is launched, ta-da! Open for business!

One way to go out this is to first go ahead and purchase your domain. Have your SEO firm throw a placeholder page up with some good title tags and a paragraph or two of content related to your future online business. And let your future customers know the full site is coming soon. If you are an established “brick and mortar” business, go ahead and include contact information such as your address and phone number. Maybe include a map.

Then, and this applies to brick and mortar business with a physical address, go ahead and get listed in Google Places. This provides you a free listing on Google Maps. In fact, you don’t even need a website for this. Either way, your SEO firm will know how to do this.

Now, for all businesses, brick and mortar or otherwise, let’s get back to the placeholder page. Include on the placeholder page a link to your blog (yes, you will need a blog, whether you knew that or not). A good SEO firm can install your blog at yoursite.com/blog, while the front end, final version of your site is still under construction. Your SEO firm can then begin creating content on a regular basis on that blog, promoting that content, and building links to that content. Following this methodology, you can get on the first page of Google prior to the launch of your final site. Even if you don’t get on the first page of Google prior to launch, you have that running start for when you do launch.

So the time to begin your search engine marketing efforts is now. Oops – I mean yesterday. Good luck!

About the Author: Matt Foster is the CEO of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Internet marketing firm, who has been active in the industry since 1995. Mr. Foster can be found on Twitter @ArteWorks_SEO. ArteWorks SEO can be found at www.arteworks.biz.

7 Reasons Why Every Business Should Be On Twitter

It is hard to find a big business that does not regularly maintain a corporate Twitter account. Even small businesses are catching on and the ones that have not, should. Twitter is an invaluable resource and should be incorporated into a well rounded search engine optimization strategy. Not only is it a place where you can directly connect with your customers, but it a place to build a business’s reputation and sales among other things. Here are seven reasons why every business, both big and small, should be on Twitter.

1. Customer Service- We have all had those dreaded occurrences where reaching a business representative to take care of a problem has been overshadowed by automated phone recordings and long menus with a number to push except for the reason you are calling. A business can respond directly through an at-reply to a customer following their Twitter account. Not only will the problem be addressed, it will be answered almost immediately because of real time search. The best customer service you can offer your customers is direct and immediate responses to questions or concerns.

2. Lead Generation Marketing- Twitter is a place where you can promote and advertise your business for free and generate quality leads. A consumer may find your live tweets through searches and be directed to your website directly from Twitter. It allows you to market in real time. Sharing information and becoming an authority figure on Twitter can allow you to convert connections/followers on Twitter into leads. Having a background with your contact information and website URL is a must.

3. Public Relations- If you have ever been in a crunch or have experienced bad press, the best way to start the repair is to address the negative press promptly and not to ignore it. Addressing a customer’s concern on Twitter will allow other customers to see that you are handling the problem in real time. Businesses can use Twitter to engage a CEO directly with customers, monitor discussions, keep in touch with other media, promote news, and give live updates of news or other announcements.

4. Marketing- Twitter is a place where you can promote your business excessively without being too obnoxious. You can promote blog posts, announcements, products, and much more. It is a great place for personal branding, promotion, and link building. You can announce business growth, job opportunities, and exciting news and announcements. You can search and reach out to users who are interested in what your business does.

5. Crowd Sourcing- You can gain a lot of insight by using Twitter Search. You can find out in mass what people are saying about a certain phrase and/or product. You can take your search a step further by using a smiley face or a sad face to determine the attitude of the conversation. Crowd sourcing on Twitter will offer quick results that will give you direct, real time responses that will show a lot of insight on what customers are thinking and saying. The results are at your fingertips within seconds and are free to evaluate.

6. Sales- Twitter can be used to direct tweets into sales. You can give updates to specials, sales, and/or new products. Some restaurants are even starting to accept orders via Twitter. How great is it that you can tweet what you want to eat or drink and then have your menu choice ready to pick up upon arrival? A lot of businesses run contests on Twitter that give away a free product or subscription. During the duration of a contest and the added exposure, most business will see an increase in sales and traffic.

7. Real Time Updates- Viral marketing is one of the greatest benefits resulting from real time updates and searches. You can send out one Tweet and have a viral effect from a contest or announcement because of Twitter’s real time feature. A business can search and respond to their customers in real time rather than the 1-2 day delay of receiving and answering an e-mail or phone call and then providing a response. Twitter is one of the fastest platforms to share and promote content.

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Well SEO is a Bit Difficult

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, SEO and Internet marketing was simple. There was nothing but a blog. No such thing as MySpace or Facebook. It was just a simple search on AltaVista. Way before Google was around.

That was 1995 or so. Things have changed a lot since then.

Now we got all these people and companies and everybody who think they know about it. It is very interesting.

Look you can’t get “ranked”, if that is what you want to do, for a bill a month. And you must understand that things are changing.

Rome Was Not Built In a Day

search engine optimization snake oil

beware of snake oil in seo


Search engine optimization would seem simple to anyone who reads the simpleton items on the Internet. Just follow Google’s rules, read a few things, and then you are now an expert.

Not.

Actually, you are all idiots if you believe everything you read on the Internet. And then you call us, and act as if you know?

Do you really believe that you can build Rome in a day? Do you really believe that you can take over Walmart, Target, Ebay, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and others for the rate of a mere $1000.00 per month? Are you really that stupid?

Start Small

If you have an idea, and wish to get it promoted, think local. Start with your local area. If you have a “brick and mortar” store, have your SEO firm promote that. Get involved in your local community, via social media. By that I mean blogging, social bookmarking, Twitter, and other social media such as Facebook and others, depending upon your specific audience.

Start small, and grow big. Very big.

You Can Do It

Your business can grow, quite easily, if you listen to your SEO advisors. They know more than you about online marketing, and if it is a reputable firm, it will be transparent regarding how it spends your money. So listen with your ears, and hush with your mouth. You would not have called an SEO firm if you knew what you were doing.

Here’s One Way

Don’t call up and say that your brother, or cousin, or ex-wife’s-dead-grandmother’s-buried-husband’s-mistress-child’s-friend-from seventh grade science class who drives a dump trunk and is taking classes online knows shit about SEO. That person does not.

Matt Foster is the CEO of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Internet marketing firm, who has been active in the industry since 1995. Mr. Foster can be found on Twitter @ArteWorks_SEO. ArteWorks SEO can be found at www.arteworks.biz.

6 Signs of SEO Snake Oil, Watch Out!

Colleagues in the search engine optimization industry are often given a bad rap from consumers. We are known as “gaming the system” or figuring out what Google’s algorithm is. This is true; we do have to figure out on our own, with a little help from the search engines, how to rank on them. Which strategies work? What shows results? What is the most ethical strategy we can develop? Unfortunately snake oil companies can ruin the reputation of highly reputable firms, steal money from their clients, and never produce results either ethically or not. Here are 6 signs that an SEO company may be a snake oil firm.

Prices so low they seem too good to be true
This is a tell all sign you may be hiring a snake oil SEO firm. “I can get you number one on Google for only $50 a month!” If something seems too good to be true, it likely is. It seems taboo to say it, but you have to invest to rank well on the search engines. It is not cheap. If a company wants to make a million dollars off the Internet in the travel industry for example, they should be willing to spend a minimum of $1,000 a month. And that is on the low end.

Promises to be number one on the search engines
We all know that firms in the industry do not work with the search engines, nor do they work with us. How can a reputable firm speak on behalf of Google and promise a client they will be ranked number one on that search engine? We never know how the search engines will rank our clients, but we have enough understanding of what the search engines want to obtain a page or position one listing. If you are guaranteed a position, you should know that you may be hiring a snake oil SEO.

Secret strategies without monthly reporting
SEO firms should open, honest, and most of all transparent. A reputable firm will inform the client of the custom developed strategy. Often an SEO firm will present all content to the client before it is uploaded to a blog or website. Snake oil firms are usually very secretive and do not offer any type of monthly reporting. The only way to track and show your clients progress is to accurately report your strategy, site traffic, and web position movement.

No third party references available
References are important, especially when you are charging thousands of dollars each month to your clients. A lot of SEO firms have virtual offices and conduct all work via the Internet. References will vouch for the honesty and successes of your firm. Third party references are invaluable. Client references mean nothing to me. SEO firms often have NDAs with their clients because they respect the privacy and protection of their clients, especially reputation management clients. An SEO firm can have made up clients and references, but if they come from third party sites they cannot be denied. Topseos.com, promotionworld.com, and seomoz provide accurate and nonbiased references. I read an article recently that said if a company doesn’t have client references you shouldn’t waste your time. This outraged me. We receive a high number of leads per day and cannot expect our clients to interrupt their busy day to screen calls from our prospective clients. A lot of companies do not want their competition to know they are doing SEO or reputation management and demand an NDA at the start of a project.

Strategies strictly based on number of links and/or directory submissions
This strategy for SEO is so outdated. I hardly think anyone wants to relive the 90s. Snake oil firms usually rely on pretty graphs and numbers to woo their clients. There is more to SEO and we cannot deny the power of social media among other things. An SEO strategy should be well rounded and focus on more than one of the more than 250 factors the search engines evaluate when ranking a website.

Lack of regularly updated content
We often receive calls from second chance clients that have been burned by snake oil SEO. The first thing I look for after hearing they’ve done SEO is whether or not there is a blog. Usually there is not a blog and the client can’t figure out why the snake oil company didn’t build links or improve their position on the search engines. Chances are if there isn’t a blog, there hasn’t been regularly updated content and the strategy relied heavily on directory submissions or link exchanges which is another sign of a snake oil SEO.

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Part 2 of 2: Google SEO Starter Guide Recap

Google recently released an updated version of their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Part 1 of this 2 part series discussed important on page elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, and url structure. Below you will find more important information from Google’s SEO starter guide.

Quality content and services
While keyphrase density is a myth, there should be rich, unique text content present on the home page, and the text should be relevant to and contain at least one of your desired keyphrases. It tells the search engines what your site is about. People will be more likely to link to you if you provide interesting or informative content. As Google puts it, “organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.”

The trusted “alt” attribute
Do not miss out on opportunities to optimize images. Search engines do not read images so it is your job to tell them what they are looking at when your site is being crawled. The “alt” attribute is also useful if an image doesn’t appear on a user’s browser because the user can read what the missing image is supposed to be. The Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide shares a helpful tip: store images in a single directory and use the most common supported filetypes. This becomes especially important if you use images as links. Image “alt” attributes help you get found in blended search results and should relate to the theme of your page. They are also a good way of helping the search engines ascertain the content of your site, and relevancy to particular keyphrase searches.

Heading Tags
Heading tags, or tags, should be used to highlight keyphrases, they will catch the users’ eyes and should only be used when/where appropriate. They should be used to highlight major themes/keyphrases of each page and should be included at least once on each page.

The importance of a nofollow
Using a rel=nofollow will not bleed any of your site’s page rank. This is very useful for sites or blogs that allow user comments. Linking to bad neighborhoods or having them link to you will hurt your ranking (another reason not to be involved with link exchanges).

Keep in mind that having a fully optimized site is not enough to get you ranked on the first page of Google or other search engines. There is more to it than that. Off page work and leveraging social media is just as important for your SEO strategy. I like how Google puts it, “While most of the links to your site will be gained gradually, as people discover your content through search or other ways and link to it, Google understands that you’d like to let other know about the hard work you’ve put into your content.”

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.