Natural search engine ranks are important, but traffic is what you want.

So many clients get caught up in where they are ranked on the search engines. They type in their most coveted keyword and look to see where they are ranked. Honestly, I do that too. But, the most important thing in Search Eninge Optimization (SEO) is driving traffic for to your web site. Below is a great video discussing the topic.

SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday – When to Track Rankings from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.

Does your website take forever to load?

website design, load time
Well say good bye then…to your costumers.

Let’s start by doing a search for your product or service on the search engine of your choice. How many results show? Probably hundreds of thousands of pages listed. That’s how many pages are competing for your customers visit.

It is hard enough to get a customer to visit your site, but what happens when they get there. Does there browser sit and spin? Chances are that customer is GONE. Hitting the back button and heading to the next website in the search results (your competition).

This tragedy can be avoided by following some best practices.

Page Size
As a general rule your default page (the first page a visitor sees) should be no more the 50-60k. That means the physical size of the html (ASP, PHP) should be rather small. The smaller the page, the faster it loads.

Image Size
All websites need images to enhance the aesthetics, but don’t over do it. If you site is all images it will significantly increase your load time, not to mention the SEO (search engine optimization) issues that presents. All images on a website should be optimized for the web, compressed as much as possible without losing resolution or pixilation.

Flash and Animation
OK, everyone loves web animation and it has grown leaps and bounds over the last years, but don’t over do it. That fact is not everyone has the latest version of Flash. Believe it or not, not very one want to see how clever you animation is. Most people want to find what they are looking for as fast as possible and most animation gets in the way of that.

Disclaimer
I know that more and more people have faster broadband connections. I know that the browsers are getting better about “forcing” users to upgrading and therefore stay compatible. Even with all that, in my opinion, you should target the development of your website for the “lowest level” of compatibility. Concern yourself with the users that don’t have a 10MB pipe and the latest version of Firefox and you’ll make more of your customer base happy.

Let me know what you think.

Selecting a SEO Company: Step 1

Choosing a SEO Company, step 1
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most important things you can do in promoting your website. Nothing can bring in traffic and ROI better then good SEO. Choosing the right SEO company can be difficult, there are as many companies as there are service options to choose from. I have a several suggestions on choosing the right company, which I will layout over the next few weeks. My first suggestion…

Don’t trust any firm that will “Guarantee” top placement on the search engines.
I understand this is a very broad statement, but it applies whether you spend $30/month or $30,000/month for SEO. No one can guarantee placement in the natural search engine results. If someone claims they can, you should probably walk way (or delete their SPAM). A company who practices Ethical SEO or “White Hat” SEO will not promise top rankings (and probably not SPAM you). This doesn’t mean top rankings are unobtainable, it just means that with all the variables that are out there, guarantees are almost impossible to attain. Competitive keywords can take years of hard work to get a first page ranking, and there are never any guarantees.

There are techniques that “Black Hat” SEO companies can use to get you to the top of the rankings, but good luck staying there more then a month. Search engines are smart, REALLY smart. They can figure out quickly if you are trying to trick them into ranking your site high. I have seen these many times. Out of no where a site will jump ahead for a phrase that I have worked on for years. Doing some quick analysis I can easily determine whether they are going to stay or be gone. By the way, if the search engines don’t catch black hat or spamming techniques, you can bet the competition will, and they’ll turn you in too. Black hat techniques WILL get you banned from the search engines, which is essentially a death sentence for your sites traffic.

P.S. How ironic can you get? As I am finishing this post, I just got the email pictured above. Priceless! I covered up the domain name to protect the innocent (YOU!).

google, google, google and google

Are Yahoo and MSN irrelevant?

google I look at my Google Analytics (GA) every day for my sites and many of my client sites and Google continues to send exponentially more traffic to our sites than all others combined. I am not making a profound discovery, I know. Google has dominated the search industry for a long time. The interesting thing is even when client sites have superior keyword rankings on Yahoo or MSN (I am not even getting into AOL), Google still sends more traffic. Does any one out there use Yahoo or MSN?

BTW, I typed this on Google Docs and posted it using Google Chrome.