Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Take Baby Steps

I have to admit this post is slightly different from the context of this blog. I guess I will just change the name of the blog ;-).

I was working on an improved version of a software just like a firefox or chrome is, over IE. It was much more equipped, had all applications required but I just could not adopt it. The amount of change the software had gone through was too much in one go, it was difficult to digest.
I would probably have appreciated a more ‘phased out’ approach.

There are so many products that seem like a clear and much better option but still do not pick up; so many amazing products die soon (and it goes for all categories- software or FMCG).

Most of us who work on making these world class products are working so close to the board that they miss the larger picture.

The latest Microsoft excel is a classic example. It has everything on one click but I spent all my time just locating those clicks. I am so used to the older version that I automatically look for the previous tools. However good it might be, it got dumped within the first 10 minutes!

So next time if you get this burning desire to change everything because it sucks, try baby steps!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How to select the right KEYphrases for your wesite

In my previous post, I emphasised on the use of keyphrases and not just keywords. While most of us are aware as to how to select the keywords, selecting keyphrases is not that different either!

First step: Make a list of all the keywords the Google adwords tool. What words people use to search for your business (trust me you'll be surprised!).

Second Step: Go back and put in writing the USP of the company. Is it providing affordable solutions, or world class solutions, or something that is convenient and easy to use?

Third Step: Using your brains and brainstorming. Using the keywords and the USP, ask yourself, if I were looking for XXX product that was affordable, what would I type in the Google toolbar?? Do the same with people around you and arrive at a laundary list which you trim to the best possible and use!

Simple isn't it?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Key'phrase' and not Key'words'

While keywords are the essence of any SEO exercise, they make more sense in context of phrases, primarily because:

Most people search by phrases and not single words making their search more specific. This helps them find what they want faster! Focus on phrases makes your website more specific filtering out the irrelevant competition, thus giving you a better chance to rank high for the relevant search text.

Lets take an example of an ERP solution. If I am an SME looking for an ERP solution, I would not search for 'ERP' as it would give me loads of meaningless information. I would rather search for 'ERP solution for SMEs' and if I need an Indian vendor, i would probably search for 'ERP for SMEs India'. The websites that have this exact phrase in their titles get ranked quite high.

End Result: The searcher gets what he wanted and the supplier got the customer suitable for his business.

Hence, the focus of SEO activities should be looking for the right phrases and not just the keywords. Other phrases could also be used as a part of the content.

The next post would focus on how to select the phrases! Till then..happy SEOing!! :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Online Marketing: Challenges faced by Indian SMEs

Most of the Indian SMEs have not even considered it. 90% of those who have, don't think its for them and they don't see any use in it. A very small proportion have overcome their mental barriers, adopted it and are reaping the benefits. Its online marketing that I am talking of.

Just like many others, sitting in my ivory towers, i thought 'Online Marketing-What a boon for SMEs; its bound to click. How can they ignore its power'. Especially for SMEs, it is extremely useful tool giving them the power to reach a wide audience fast and cheap. It was enough to get them going and once they start making substantial profits, they could move to other form of media as deemed useful then.

So what are the barriers to the use of online marketing by the Indian SMEs?

  • The very first is Inertia. Inertia to accept anything new, however useful it might be. The reason for this could primarily be the fact that online marketing takes time give results and is a long term decision which the SMEs are not able to accomodate being used to short term decision making.
  • The fact that online marketing does not start giving retuns the day you start doing it makes SMEs quite anxious about the time spent on it coz most of the times it their own time.
Online Marketing just like any other initiative takes time and no one can do anything about it. There are short cuts you can apply but they won't take you anywhere and are definitely not sustaining. Another advice is to please reconsider your strategy if the first one does not reap well. Also, do try to get some expert opinion on why what you do just doesnt work.
In most cases, the problem is something else and is quite trivial which when solved makes your online marketing initiative profitable.
  • Cost involved which would include either the direct costs of the vendor or indirect cost in terms of their own time spent is pervievably higher than the returns. Especially because the TG might or might not notice them first time and hence, doing the same thing 10 times to get attention is both time as well as money consuming.
Costs involved in online marketing are comparatively very less compared to any other traditional form of marketing. Especially considering the fact that once something is put on the web, stays there whether you add on to it or not and hence, for a long term keeps giving you traffic and ROI. Thus making the cost trivial. Just look at it this way: if you are spending time on it, you are basically investing time to know your TG if nothing else. And if you are paying a vendor, you are getting the marketing doen on the web quite cheap.
  • Online marketing is still new and not really tried and tested in India especially for the SMEs which makes it an unsure activity to put resources in.
Being an early adopter would make you comfortably positioned when everyone else is trying to get in and make a place for themselves. That is when you can reap the benefits of the efforts put in now.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thinking of outsourcing Online Marketing?

Before outsourcing online marketing for your company, I would strongly recommend getting your hands dirty once. Getting on to some of the social media like blogging, facebook, twitter etc. It's always better to have an idea of what you are outsourcing. It becomes easier to understand and measure.

Some of the things you need to know before outsourcing online marketing are:

1) Even if you outsource the job to someone, be in complete control. while this is true for all kinds of outsourcing, it specially holds importance when in this case. The company you have outsourced to, would be responsible for content writing and creating your presence on different forums etc. What goes out on the internet about your company/product or what forums you are present at, are important.

2) Higher amount of communication: No one knows your business better than you do. You would know the knowledge gaps that exist in the market, the relevant information that needs sharing and the topics that would generate interest. You have to express your business, how it works, important websites (if at all) etc. Communicate your intentions and knowledge to the partner and ensure there are no gaps.

3) Choose a consultant carefully: IT is ever changing. Your consultant needs to keep up with what's new at all times. Online Marketing requires much more involvement from the vendor compared to any other field. If the choice of partner is good, he would provide you with a great launchpad and visibility on the internet.

4) Before finalizing upon the consultant, define your objectives and how would they be measured along with the timelines. Be as specific as possible as online marketing can tend to get unmeasurable easily.

Once all these things are ensured, you can expect great results from your vendor!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Can SMEs in India afford to ignore Online Marketing?

I have gone through quite a few examples about companies using online marketing to connect with the consumers directly. The ball game is quite different for companies outside India where almost all their consumers are on the internet, use it in their day to day routine versus in India. However, I still feel SMEs cannot afford to ignore online marketing for reasons cited below.

1) Expansion to foreign markets easier: Lots of SMEs make products that have demand in the markets abroad. However, no exposure makes them lose out on these opportunities. So as I see it, there are lots of consumers out there waiting to be explored and there is nothing like online media to do it!

2) Be the first to enjoy benefits later: While online penetration in India is quite low, its increasing at a rapid rate. Hence, your consumers would be on this media sooner or later. Its better to enter it right now, learn the tricks of the trade to be able to enjoy the benefits of being first entrant later.

3) Not too expensive: Online marketing is not a very expensive proposition. With a little consulting anyone can start exploring the different media options available, try his own hands at it and get going!!

What's important is that it requires time and patience to see results, tweaking strategy and waiting for results again. Just like any other initiative that you undertake!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Online Marketing for SMEs: How to start?

I was recently involved in a discussion on how useful are online marketing tools for SMEs. While there were many opinions being bounced, the SME representatives themselves did not feel much use for it. While some were trying to understand the usage benefits, others we opinionated against it (but open to any argument in favor of it).

What made me feel great was that SMEs had at least started thinking about it which is more than enough for people like me :). Now let's explore how SMEs should get started.

Let's assume the owner of an SME hears about something like Online Marketing and that it can do wonders for the businesses. He plans to try all out himself. Creats a Twitter and Facebook accounts, a Blog and everything else. Tries sending 2-3 tweets a day, a blog entry per month, tries all this for about 3-4 months, does not get any response or feels no one reads tweets or gets no visits on the website - basically ends up feeling that online marketing is all $@!#!!!!

If this has happened to you, don't worry. This definitely does not mean that Online Marketing is not for you. Using Online Marketing is just like starting a new business. At first you have not clue how to go about it, you try out everything and then when you start understanding how things work, you are far more confident in your moves. But all this requires time! Time to spend on the job, time to see results and analyse and time to understand. Understanding how each media works, what each media is capable of doing and hence, which one is important for your business.

My suggestion is, definitely try your hands at it but only to get an idea of what you might be getting into and preparing for a consultant. But then, hire a consultant who can clarify your doubts, tell you what media would be the most effective for you and why, conducting it for you for sometime and when you get a hang of it and see results big enough to build an in house team, go for it!

Go back to doing what you are best at doing i.e. your business and leave this to consultants for sometime. They have used different media time and again for various kinds of businesses, understand what each media takes and can give in return and hence, should be able to do it faster and with a lot more efficiency. Once you are caught on, its yours!!!

My next post will focus on what steps to take when outsourcing your online marketing.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Its all about Conversation(S)

My entire experience of Internet Marketing somehow always tends to revolve around conversations. Conversations about life, about products, about companies, about economy, about family, about.....
Ever wonder how important a role these conversations play? As it turns out, A LOT TODAY!

People have so many platforms to interact, to pass on their experiences, to share their knowledge that it has become like a complete marketing tool - The Conversation!

But do companies involve in these conversations or are they still passing one-way information?

If you are a company and feel the need to explore the online space, 2 questions that would tell you if you have started off right:

1) Do you know which platforms is you company being discussed and are you present there?
2) Are you starting off conversations about your industry, your company and your products?

If you are doing both, you are heading in the right direction!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Tribe Theory by Seth Godin

I was recently viewing a video by Seth Godin http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/seth_godin_on_the_tribes_we_lead.html wherein he argues that the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes.
I could not agree more.

As an SEO specialist, I lay a lot of emphasis on Online marketing and PR. I feel in the near future, SEO techniques would be of no use at all without Online marketing and PR working for you simultaneously full time. While link formation, article posting etc is a part of off page SEO, it still does not build a brand for you on the web!
What does a twitter or facebook or blog give you?

Not an opportunity to just connect....nope!

But an immense opportunity to connect with the RIGHTand RELEVANT people!! And it's so easy. Isn't that amazing? Imagine how powerful it is? I have an ERP system which I want the world to know. I log on to twitter. Create an account and add all the ERP, CRM related audience or manufacturing units - my prospective clients! I add them, they follow me. I send them updates and information that would be extremely relevant to them. In some time I would have a TOM recall when they are looking for a vendor!

Bam!!! I am part of a successful tribe! Isn't that just amazing? Isn't that an opportunity waiting to be explored.

You become a part of a tribe and there are others who would carry your idea and brand name forward. You connect and connect and connect.
Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes DO give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change! MAKE IT!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Where's YOUR edge in SEO?

My previous blog entries have pointed out to the fact that if traditional SEO techniques are used alone, they would not be of much use. SEO needs to be supplemented by much more.

While working for a client on a website for a generic product and by generic I mean there would be tones and tones of websites for the same product, I realized that the traditional methods were quite weak! Just by putting in keywords, changing the text and HTML code etc did not quite give the desired results.

Primarily because there were other websites that have been there for a while and are already on top and already have all these techniques incorporated! Tough … really tough…

All the competition websites I checked had the same keywords (maybe because all of them use the same tools at the end of the day).

So where is YOUR edge??

While working with this client I realized I need to go much beyond. Much beyond just keywords, text, HTML code and links.

The answer is ONLINE PR. Voila!!! There’s my edge.

Online PR on the website would give you some initial boost and if you have been successful in targeting the right people and provided them with a relevant and capturing website.

Online PR. Free of cost, very effective and reaches the right audience… While SEO goes on parellely, you work on your PR, make people aware of the company and its products. Use twitter, facebook, blogs etc to create awareness. Just be careful to select the right forums and the right audience!

This boost should be good enough to get you on the first page of any search engine!

Which means those not aware of you would also come and visit you.

From hereon, PR and Marketing reduce and Analytics catches on!

That’s what I did. I first created awareness of the product and its uses on a daily basis. Once that was done, marketing the company and its website was the next step.

Result….lots of people visited the website to explore the different products available and some of them placed orders too! It did not take the website more than 4 months to be in the top 3!

Once that was done, it was just a matter of maintaining that position. WEB ANALYTICS...

SEO is not dead and would not die but is now weak to move on its own. It needs the support of Online PR and Web Analytics to help you get YOUR edge!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Higher Ranking to Higher ROI

Let’s start from scratch. Once a new website is in place, you strive to get a high rank on Google and other search engines. Involves a lot of work…but does it end at that? Or goes some steps further…

From Higher ranking to a Higher ROI…

Below is the logical sequence to be followed to get that ROI you had mentioned in your plan to the bosses!!

First - Get a higher rank - more visits
Next - Ensure the visits are ‘relevant’
Next - Get those people to like/stay on the website
And finally – Give them a slight push into the final step! (sign up, buy, register etc etc)

Most of the websites forget to go below the first step. What’s the whole point of having more visits to the website if they do not translate into a higher ROI?

So how do you ensure that the visits are relevant: ‘Britney Spears’ as a keyword on an ERP website would definitely not give you any relevant audience even though it might give you a momentary higher rank!
Hence, this step basically translates into having the right keywords for your website.

Use google analytics to find out the keywords being used to reach your website. Are these keywords relevant to my website or are these visitors coming to something they did not expect or ask for? If that’s the case, it won’t be long before the visits would start seeing a steep fall!! Keep doing this analysis on a constant basis to ensure you have all the right keywords as I also mentioned in my previous article SEO and Analytics-An infinite loop

Now you have the right people who have come to the right website. What if they land on a cluttered page which they are not able to make head or tail of or something that completely puts them off?

You lost the audience…

Have an appealing page-something that the visitor would want to explore.

Achieved step 3!! Very close to capturing the prey..

Finally, make the registering, purchasing, placing an order, signing up etc..extremely user friendly. Remember, people have very low patience and why not..there are 7645362 websites offering exactly what you do!!
Google analytics can help you figure out where exactly and at what point in the entire process you lose the visitor. Use it. Chew on it. Suck it completely before putting it back onto action for the next month’s analysis :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Analytics and SEO – A must infinite loop!

For sometime I have been stressing on how SEO and Web Analytics complement each other. It’s like a never ending loop! The loop could differ for a fairly new website v/s an old/known one.

Google analytics can help you figure out your SEO exercise and also evaluate the existing SEO with the way forward.

  • The visitors report can help you figure out where exactly are you getting traffic from. Is it search engines, direct traffic or referring sites. The referring sites data can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the ‘linkages’ you made as a part of the SEO plan.
  • Apart from this, it also tells you what keywords were used for the visitors to reach your website. An analysis of the same would tell you what keywords are working and which ones need to be worked upon.
  • Content tells you which pages are viewed the most and which are not viewed at all. A need to work on the keywords or content??
  • An in depth analysis would also give you the keywords for a particular page viewed. In case the bounce rate is high, it’s an indication that the keywords for that page need a relook!

    These and many such analysis would tell you clearly whether your SEO is working or not.
    However, its not a one time exercise. Keep evaluating. Again and Again!

    Are the changes I made last time working? If not, what do I need to work upon and what other things I can take note of.

Would love to hear what you think of this post and suggestions.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Is Search Engine Optimization dying?

I have been hearing a lot about SEO going to die soon and have been involved in a few conversations myself.

“With google countering the black hat techniques, it would anyday come out with an algorithm that would lay much more importance on indicators like avg. time on site, number of page views and bounce rate than keywords, placement, formatting etc.”

Which means, if you are up there, you just go higher and if you are somewhere low, lower you go. Rich become richer and poor become poorer.


I have my doubts. Would Google actually come up with something like this? Won't this be against their endeavor to provide 'relevant' information to the audience? A new but extremely 'relevant' website would not get featured as it would not have as many page views or as much time on site. But that does'nt make it irrelevant.

Search engines are an important contributor to a new website's traffic but since it would not feature on google, it would not get that traffic which means it would always remain traffic poor and not feature on google.

Like a chicken and egg situation!

However, I do agree that the rules of the game would definitely change but the playfield remains the same.

While, page views, time on site etc. could gain importance, it would be basis the recency of the website i.e. Specifically for websites who have been around for sometime. In case the website is fairly recent, the emphasis on other factors would increase. These could include:

  • Presence of keyword synonyms in the content

  • Presence of related terms and concepts

  • Proper selection of the words to be used

  • How well are the keywords, synonyms and related terms placed and tied up in the content

As I see it, Content Writing would gain a lot of importance. Google has already come up with concepts like Latent Semantic Indexing – helps pick up more relevant websites. The overall content and how well its written would become extremely important.

A more relevant content and shrewd placement of keywords and their synonyms along with content that ties up well would be able to get a high ranking. So, making a site popular on search would still be in our hands. But not by stuffing it with keywords or hidden pages but by a sharper content writing.

So, this way or that, SEO stays and is here to stay! Its just that the focus would shift from one aspect to another.

What other things you feel would gain importance in the future? Please do share...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Selection of Keywords – The second step

Once you know the purpose of the website well, selection of keywords becomes much easier and accurate.

By accuracy I do not mean just the most obvious/generic words, but also, the words accurate enough to get traffic to your website.

Let me first familiarize you with the concept of ‘Long Tail Keywords’:

If you plot the keywords that visitors have used to land on your website (which the analytics tool from google can provide) against the number of searches, you will get something like the graph below:

As you would notice, the ‘traffic per keyword’ in the head is around 7-8 times (or maybe more) of the tail e.g. 10 Head keywords would give as much traffic as probably 100 Tail keywords.

Across all websites, there would be a long tail which would primarily consist of much focused or specific searches.

Depending upon the popularity of the website, the length of the head and tail would vary.

If your company is well known and brands are popular, there are chances that the head would consist of the brand name or company name with most visitors having a popular/generic search.

But if you are a fairly new kid on the block, there are chances the searches would not be directed to your website in particular in which case, there would be a very long tail of specifics!!

Selection of keywords would depend a lot on the popularity of the website and the type of business you are in.

New Kid

If you are a new company, it would require a lot of brainstorming to prepare a list of keywords that a visitor could search for. Once a list is prepared, a re-look and re-re-look would help to finalize it.

Mostly, the popular words would have a lot of competition and hence, it would make more sense to pick up slightly lesser used keywords or should I say ‘more specific keywords’ (the tail!!).

  • The brown colored box gives the choice of columns you would want displayed:

    o Advertiser Competition: Tells you how competitive is the ad placement for that keyword.
    o Approx. search volume (for the most recent month): The number of search queries for that particular keyword for the most recent month
    o Approx. avg search volume: Average monthly number of search queries matching the keyword specified.
    o Search Vol trends: Graphic representation of search trends over 12 month pd.
    o Highest vol occurred in: Gives the month in which the searches for that particular keyword were the max.
    o Estimated avg. CPC: Gives the avg. cost each time a user clicks on the particular keyword
The pink box above gives the keywords that have been selected by the software and the numbers next to each keyword are the number of keyword ‘ideas’ that have been provided for that keyword group (shown below):

  • Once a list is prepared, brainstorm with colleagues and friends as to the different keywords that have a chance of being used by visitors. The list grows bigger.
  • Next is an important task of narrowing these down to the relevant ones:

    A look at the data would tell you that ‘search engine optimization’ as a keyword has 5,50,000 searches for the period of march alone. While this keyword seems like the most popular one, it is also very generic and would end up generating lots of results. It would not be possible for a relatively newer company to counter this kind of competition.

    Another look would give you keywords/phrases like search engine optimization service, search engine optimization software, search engine optimization for dummies, affordable search engine optimization…

    These words/phrases are more specific and towards the ‘tail’ of the search!

    So, it makes more sense for the younger/newer companies and those with a niche category to go for the ‘tail’ keywords/phrases.

    Now lets look at the oldies!!

The Oldies

Well…as they say. OLD IS GOLD!! These companies would be more popular ones with their brand names and company name in the ‘Head’ keywords.

Once you subscribe your website to http://www.google.com/analytics/, you would be able to view the source of visitors to your website. There are other tools available as well like omniture and webtrends.

In the example here, 75% of the traffic to the website comes through the search engines while 13% is direct and 12% through other referring sites.

A deep dig into this data would give us the following:

The brown box shows the keywords that were searched before being directed to the website.

Mostly, these would have their company name or brand names in the ‘head’ i.e. giving them the most traffic per keyword. While these keywords are important, a strong brand should be able to capture the unbranded search traffic as well too.

Ideally, the traffic drawn by the head vs the tail should be 40:60. However, as per researches conducted, most of the companies have this ratio close to 90:10!!

For each visitor that is a part of the head, there are 40 visitors in the tail. That’s the amount of traffic you are missing by not giving importance to the tail.
Also, having a long tail can result in a higher number of pages of website viewed by the visitors.

Let’s get slightly deeper into this…

The keywords that feature in the ‘Head’ are primarily the brand names or product names which goes to show that the visitors who use these keywords to locate you, know you…know that you exit and know what you do!

However, the ones who lie it the tail, know what they want but do not know that you exit and you can provide them what they need and hence, this part of the world called prospects are difficult to obtain and need more of your sweat and money to become your customers!! After all they are the ones who would grow your business.

So how do you tap into these?

Google offers a tool called Search Based Keyword Tool (SbKT). A snapshot of the same is given below:

Once you do that, what you get is:

(This is just some random website in picked up)

This page gives you the recommended keywords (blue box) and the number of searches that happened for the keyword in the last month we have data for (red box).
Next, it also gives the competition for that word (green Box) which can be categorized as high, medium and low and the suggested bid (the plum box).

Again, if you are an adwords member, ad/search share would provide you how many times your website appeared in the first page.

The last column (yellow) gives the webpage of the website that is most relevant to that keyword i.e. which page should be your landing page for that keyword.

Finally, you have a long list of keywords (especially if you have an adwords account). Select the long tail keywords and bid on them basis the budget you have.

There are many additional features on SbKT that would help you refine your search basis the amount you have to place a bid, the required level of competition for a keyword, ad share, search share etc…(Explore the tool!!!)

Hence, a well designed SEO would take care of the Head keywords and any visitor aware of you or searching for your brand name would land on your page automatically!! You don’t need to pay for that!! After all you have spent enough building a good brand name…

The Tail keywords can be bid upon … don’t miss them. They are important and would get you new traffic and prospects that would help you expand your business.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The purpose of the website...Integral to an SEO plan

Purpose of the Website…The first step to any well laid out SEO exercise…
I have read quite a few books on Search Engine Optimization but I have yet to come across one that mentions this as the first and foremost step.
How can you fiddle with something as important as the FACE of the company without knowing what it’s there for and what it is required to do!!
As mentioned in my previous post, knowing the purpose of the website in the beginning ensures a long term search engine friendliness because doing what the VISITORS LOVE would eventually give you SEARCH ENGINE’S LOVE and for knowing who the visitors are and what they want, you have to know the purpose of the website.
Imagine the different ‘tricks’ to search engine optimization as spices that would enhance the taste of a dish (in this case the website) for your visitor. Knowing ‘WHO’ is going to visit you, would tell you what kind of a dish would he like and hence, the combination of the different spices would vary accordingly. Therefore, while in some websites, you would like to optimize through the bulky content, in others it would be navigational ease and linkages or maybe just the right placement of keywords.

Just like you would not add sugar in the dish for a Diabetic, similarly, a lot of navigation, information and “6,54,321” step process is not good for someone who has just a minute to make an online payment. In this case, you would like to play with other spices like, placement of keywords, inbound links etc and not make it content heavy.

Fiddling with the wrong set of ‘tricks’ would give a momentary increase in page value but not sustainable as the unhappy visitors would not revisit and hence, a decline in popularity leading to a decline in page value eventually.
There could be multiple purposes why a website is there:
  1. Making sales: Measured by the number and amount of sales, time taken, bounce rate etc.
  2. Providing information or data: Measured by checking if a particular task got completed or information got viewed.
  3. Lead generation: Measured by number of leads generated, percentage of total visitors etc.
  4. Social networking: KPIs like number of people accessing these sites, revisiting them and frequency of visits.

A good SEO plan should help meet the purposes cited above and not compromise them in order to achieve a short term higher rank on the search.

So, how do you get to the purpose of a Website?

MEETING THE RELEVANT PEOPLE and unfortunately these are the ones missing the most.In a lot of cases, the relevant people are the marketing people. These are the ones who have answers to all the questions below and get affected by the KPIs above.

Having answers to the questions below would give a good enough idea of why exactly is the website there? (Please feel free to append this list!)

  1. What is the product or service the company is providing?
  2. Who is the target audience?
  3. What is the website/ webpage supposed to do?
  4. Who is the primary audience for the website/webpage?
  5. Who is the secondary audience for the website/webpage?
  6. Profile of the primary and secondary audience?

Since any SEO plan would encompass changing content of the website in terms of changing information, replacing some words with keywords, their placement, internal as well as external links, doing this without knowing what the page is for could be disastrous.

Apart from the marketing team, another team which could prove to be quite helpful is the web analytics team.They could help you with the recent data on what the website was primarily visited for? This in turn can be mapped with the ‘Actual’ requirements from the website.

Let me explain with the help of an example: This is a website of a company that manufactures a variety of RTE products. In order to gain popularity, they have made certain recipes using their products. While this is not the purpose of the website, some traffic is desired for it as well. However, the web analytics shows that the website is primarily visited for location search or job search or ‘about the company’ information.
SEO can use this information to popularize the website for recipes as an additional task!!
Way to go!!
Please do provide me your feedback on what you think of this post and if something can be added to it :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How to plan a powerful Search Engine Optimization exercise?

This post is not to get into the tricks of featuring in the top searches. Most people know them. The same hammered again and again with few changes here and there.
Rather, these are hammered so loudly, that the main purpose of a website’s existence is almost forgotten leave alone what the visitor wants from that website.

While the tricks of trade still apply, it is very important not to lose focus of the visitor’s point of view when chasing the search engine’s.

  • So, the first step is to know WHY THE WEBSITE EXISTS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
    Know the purpose of the website very well

    This could involve meeting different divisions of a company to understand their requirement from the website. Unfortunately in most cases, the website is completely handled by the IT division with little or no idea as to how the website is supposed to benefit the company.

    While it was fine till sometime back, things are changing fast with increasing internet penetration in India. Company website is slowly becoming the face of the company for most people.

    An understanding of the purpose would help in higher visitor satisfaction along with meaningful SEO.

    e.g. It could be an e-commerce website that primarily exists to make a sale which could translate into very easy navigation, extensive product information (a big reason why Amazon is such a big hit while others are not), ease of payment, security etc etc.

    Or an online payment website for some telecom company which would mean the visitor would want to make a fast payment and not get involved in a lot of literature about the company. Hence it has to be extremely easy navigation for him and to- the- point, clear 3 step payment process.

    Creating a verbose website just because search engines love information, is not going to help. Meeting visitor expectation is important.

    Right set of words placed right within right intervals would be far more helpful than a lot of non required data.

  • Next step is to form a laundary list of keywords
    First Cut of Keywords:

    An understanding of the website would help to select the most powerful keywords and content.

    Make a list of all the possible searches there can be for that website.

    Brainstorm with colleagues, the marketing team and all other possible sources.
    Try not to miss out on any possible keywords.

  • A Relook at the keywords:

    Using some freely available or paid keyword suggestion tools would provide the similar keywords searched and the number of times searched. This would help in selection of keywords more relevant to the website and with comparatively less competition (higher chances of featuring in the top few searches).

    e.g. if a boot company selects its keyword as shoe, just because most people use this word to search, there would be two problems to it. First, it would not rank them well as the competition would be high and secondly, even if it does give them some traffic, it would not convert into sales as the visitor was looking for shoes and not boots!!

    So, selecting a meaningless keyword would give you meaningless traffic.

    Repeated iterations would provide a set of very powerful keywords.

  • Content formation:

    Once the keywords have been finalized, the content needs to be formed or relooked at.

    A relook at the filename, directory structure, keyword placement in tags, filenames, linkages, keyword density, tags like title and description tags etc would help.
    Search Engines uses latent semantic indexing (LSI) to analyze relationships between a set of documents and the terms they contain. Hence, if keywords are used at the relevant places within the right context, it helps.

    Usage of synonyms helps to refrain from clogging the website with keywords and also provides a relevant context for LSI.

    Make navigation very easy within the website – it helps the search engines to find the required data easily and index it.
    Links can be used within the website for ease.

  • Formatting:

    Layout: Avoid “flashy” stuff, frames, multimedia and graphics as the search engines do not read them.

    These 5 steps were pertaining to the website. Hence, once the purpose of website existence is known, ensure that all the above like keyword selection, content formation, formatting etc should be in line with that. This is important for long term gain.

    Finally there is a need for some external push as well.

  • PR and other activities

    Finally once your website is ready and is search engine as well as visitor friendly, you need to do some PR like link building, blogs, forums, discussion groups, newsletters etc.

    Link building has a direct effect on the page rank. Getting good websites to recommend you would again be a factor of both persuasion and visitor satisfaction. Contact websites with high page ranks and request them to have a link pointing to your website. If all the above has been followed properly, chances are that the website would recommend you.
    The more your visitors are satisfied with your website, the more they would visit it again and again. And hence, it would be a natural way to get the other websites to point to you.

    Apart from all this, blogs, presence on discussion forums or social networking sites like twitter definitely gives a lot of recognition.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

State of Search Engine Optimization in India

It all started with a belief. A belief that Search Engine Optimization is still in a very nascent stage in India.

What surprised me was that there are five thousand six hundred and seven companies offering their SEO services in India along with two hundred and three active forums and what not. Nascent....hah!!

However, a shock on these surprises was that even though SEO has taken off in India and even though there are n number of people offering x number of services, most people have not heard of this term leave alone the thought of employing it in their companies.

Now why is that? Makes me wonder if this field has just got restricted to forums and blogs shared by likeminded people but not the ones who have to actually make use of it?? am not sure..but maybe.

A little statistics...as of 2008, there is 4% internet penetration in India which means a good 45 million people. 80% of these use online searches i.e. 36 million people (much more than the population of most countries!!). Imagine so many people looking for you and you are no where...not to mention that 60% people dont even go beyond the first 10 searches.

Where does that leave you??

So opportunity galore...