Five ways to improve your search results.

googleSearch engine optimization (SEO) continues to be one of the most critical methods of generating traffic and increasing your websites popularity. Sadly, SEO isn’t something you can just pick up and master overnight — it’s probably best to leave it up to the search engine pros. However, there are a few quick and easy ways to improve your search ranking from dead last to the forefront.

Getting your website listed in Google, Yahoo and MSN isn’t a mystical process that should be left to geeks, techies or the pimple-faced kid down the street. For most small business owners, getting ranked simply comes down to ensuring you’ve done the basics. While this isn’t intended to be the end all, be all of Search Engine Optimization, we find that you’ll get the most for you efforts by sticking to these 5 tried and true methods:

1. Make sure your ‘Title’ tags are related to the content of the site. Excuse me, title tag? What’s that? Well basically, your title tag is a line of HTML code that specifies the title of an individual web page. If you look in the upper left hand corner of your browser and in the first line of a search result, you’ll see the results of a title tag. Specifically, a title tag in HTML looks like this:

<title> San Jose Plumbing | Clean Plumbers, Inc </title>

Most search experts agree that having correct title tags is one of the top three factors that determine where a search engine will rank you. Where many people fail with their title tags is they use the same text for every page on their and they fail to properly describe the page with their title tags.

Imagine going to a book store and picking a book up off the shelf with the title “True Spy Stories of the Cold War”. Then you get home open that book and, to your surprise, it turns out to be a steamy romance. You would probably want your money back. So spend a minute and look at the title tags of every page on your site and see if you have accurately described the page with your title tags. A good title tag will include the keyword(s) you are trying to rank that page for, and don’t forget to add your name or your company’s name as I’ve done in the example above. Be aware — brevity is a blessing; Google and the rest will truncate your title tags after 65 characters including spaces.

2. Your Meta Description Tags Count Too! If your title tags are the cover of your book, your meta description tags are the back cover telling your reader what’s inside. If you were to look at the search results of any query, the text underneath the link but above the URL of a search result comes from what is in your meta description. (If you don’t have anything in the meta description, the search engines will typically pull a couple lines of text from the page and place it in the results.) To find your meta description tag pop open your site’s code and search for the following:

<META NAME=”Description” CONTENT=”Describe your site with Keyword Rich Text Here.”>

As I indicated in the example above, you should write a couple sentences that describe your site and/or your page. In your meta description, you get a bit more room to talk but you should use no more than 200 characters. Just like with your title tags, every page should have a unique meta description.

3. URL and File Names Matter. Now what looks better?

a) http://www.yourwebsite.com/catalog/index.ognc?CategoryID=7497

OR

b) http://www.yourwebsite.com/myproduct

You might have noticed I keep talking about keywords. Your URLs and page names matter for the purposes of generating a click to your site as well as improved search rankings. Several studies, such as a MarketingSherpa’s 2008 Search Marketing Benchmark Guide, clearly demonstrate that short, descriptive URLs like example B increase the likelihood of a searcher to click on your search result. After all its not just about ranking well, you have to get clicks too. Google search engineer Matt Cutts also says that having short, descriptive URLs is a factor in better rankings. Specifically, this means having a URL that has no more than 5 words after the .com/url extension. One of the best places to look for an example besides what I’ve put above is at Amazon.com. Do a search from their homepage for anything and you will see a solidly formed URL.

4. Let People Know About Your Site. Many business owners miss the opportunity to brag about their online home, especially after they’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars to have a site created. Google is the ultimate democracy and works by looking at the number of people who link to you. While there are some caveats to this, you can prime the pump a bit. If I were a business owner, I’d take a couple minutes to create profiles on social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Merchant Circle, InLocal, and Google Maps. These will give you a handful of strong links to your site and let the search engines know you exist and start the process of getting your site listed.

5. Check the Text of Your Site. One of the things I run into frequently is websites with relatively little text, content that says nothing about the business and/or fails to use keywords related to the business. When the search engines visit your site, they download a page and look at the text trying to make a determination of what the website as a whole is about and where it belongs. If you are trying to get ranked for “San Jose Plumber”, you should have at least a page with that keyword in it a couple times. It’s also important that the copy appear natural and be understandable because after all, a website that captures the interest of the search engines but fails to capture the interest of your customers can hardly be justifiable.

These five methods are a great start for getting your website on the search engine map, but folks, this is just the beginning. Since the SEO game is constantly evolving (some go so far as to call it an arms race), it can be difficult to stay on top. Hire a Search Engine Optimization expert, and you’ll be pulling in new traffic while leaving the competition in the dust.

The Florida Aquarium – A Tweetup

fl_aquariumLet me start out by saying thanks to Josh Carrico (@sigpejedi) and Julia Gorzka (@juliagorzka)  for organizing another awesome event. You guys make it happen! To The Florida Aquarium, they deserve a hap tip for letting us twitterers have free run of the facility.

If you’re wondering what a tweetup is, well in its simplest form its a meeting of people.  People that have adopted to twitter as a way of connecting to others in the social web.  In case you haven’t heard, and you live under a rock. The web we once looked to for information has evolved into this amazing social space.

Our local channel, Fox 13 ran a story on the local tweetup scene the night before the event. A special segment was aired during the 10 o’clock news. A record crowd of over 250 people gathered at 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon

If you have not been to the Aquarium yet. Make plans now. There is lots to see and do, as soon as you walk in there is a sting ray petting area. A variety of rays and small leopard type sharks? that will swim right up to you. On this Saturday afternoon, it was a welcomed break from the development work of jobshouts.

From the start, this event promised some excitement as a couple of  tweetup resulars would get to swim with the fishes. Another brave soul could even dive with the sharks. Yes real live blacktips, whitetips, and I even think I spotted a blue shark. Blue sharks are not known to be social creatures.

Sharks!

dscn2779I would have to say that @dandye is a rather brave lass. Swimming in the coral reef shark tank takes a bravado not found in many men. Even with the ‘body guards’ hovering over his position; there were a few times when a shark came a little too close for my comfort.

Even though there were about 10-12 sharks in the tank, they seemed slightly disinterested in the divers and pretty much swam about at their leisure. The sea turtle seemed to take a rather sporting interest in @dandye and was prodded away from him on a couple of occasions.

All in all it was a great turn-out that spoke volumes about the effect social media and twitter is having on communities across the nation. Next up I hear that the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, has requested to schedule a tweetup at their facilities. I have been to the Dali before it moved from the Bayfront location. Promises to be a fun time. Indeed!

dscn2725One thing I think about is this. If these tweetup’s keep attracting so many people, at this pace we may need to find a larger venue to accomodate everyone. At some point there may be 500 people. Can you imagine that? I can, it is called social media for a reason.

So don’t delay, jump on board the twitter train. Come out to the next tweetup. Stop by and say Hello to myself or one of our many twitter friends. You won’t be sorry you did, Scouts Honor!

Finding Gems on Youtube

youtube1I have long been an avid ‘tuber’, frequently spending hours clicking away on whatever caught my eye or imagination while sitting at the helm of star ship Internet.

YouTube is addictive to me, more so than any other social networking site. Facebook? zzzzzzzzzzz. MySpace? bleh I talk to my teen age daughter on occasion, watching her grow up from hundreds of miles away.

I can surf the ‘tube’ for hours, finding amusing clips of people being themselves, people acting the fool, or music clips from just about every band in existence.

Myspace and facebook bore me to tears. This probably has something to do with the fact that I know nearly no-one from HS or college years that are on FB. A few family members and the current people in my life are there. I have 30 something friends on FB and I think I know almost all of them personally.

Part of me thinks that the appeal of YouTube comes from the variety it presents the surfer. Literally there is something for just about anyone. Internet marketing? check. Hilarious skits? check. Jimmy Hendrix at Woodstock? check.

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Yeah Jimmy! Whatever your tastes my be; there is sure to be something there that brings a smile to your face. Maybe even a little inspiration to create something yourself. Maybe you would like to pay tribute to something that inspires you. Maybe secretly you want to be like Eddie Vedder and play Jeremy on the acoustic guitar like this girl did.

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I tried to offer her a job singing for our band, but have yet to hear back. Think she might move from Brazil to Tampa? Probably not but you never know. I think that is one of the most interesting features you can find about youtube. Connecting with people that are there, sharing vids, ideas, music, laughs.

Sometimes the comments are absolutely better than the actual video. I have spent a lot of time, in tears laughing so hard at the comments. Some of the normal people out there can write better material than Dane Cook.

As of lately though there has been a rash of copy/paste comments about completely useless and boring topics. You’ll see these mostly on popular videos. Something to the effect of….

If you copy and paste this worthless hunk of text into five more videos, while you stand on your face, bark at the moon, and recite the alphabet backwards, your best friends sisters fiance will come over and stick an ice pick in your eye on the third Tuesday of next October.

Moving along it’s fairly safe to say that this is a peek into the future. A time when entertainment is a touch away, no matter what it is. Even extreme  slingshot bungie from the back of an ATV humor…youtube has is it all.

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