SEO, search engine optimization

Google: Do you need an SEO?

SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization” or “search engine optimizer.” Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site. Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners, including:

  • Review of your site content or structure
  • Technical advice on website development: for example, hosting, redirects, error pages, use of JavaScript
  • Content development
  • Management of online business development campaigns
  • Keyword research
  • SEO training
  • Expertise in specific markets and geographies.

SEO Word Cloud for SEO in Mobile, AlabamaKeep in mind that the Google search results page includes organic search results and often paid advertisement (denoted as “Ads” or “Sponsored”) as well. Advertising with Google won’t have any effect on your site’s presence in our search results. Google never accepts money to include or rank sites in our search results, and it costs nothing to appear in our organic search results. Free resources such as Search Console, the official Webmaster Central blog, and our discussion forum can provide you with a great deal of information about how to optimize your site for organic search.

Before beginning your search for an SEO, it’s a great idea to become an educated consumer and get familiar with how search engines work. We recommend starting here:

If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you’re considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.

Some useful questions to ask an SEO include:

  • Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?
  • Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines?
  • Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?
  • What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? How do you measure your success?
  • What’s your experience in my industry?
  • What’s your experience in my country/city?
  • What’s your experience developing international sites?
  • What are your most important SEO techniques?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • How can I expect to communicate with you? Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?

While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index. Here are some things to consider:

One common scam is the creation of “shadow” domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client’s behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor’s domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

Another illicit practice is to place “doorway” pages loaded with keywords on the client’s site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO’s other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content.

If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way, you may want to report it.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit: http://www.ftc.gov/ and click on “File a Complaint Online,” call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to:

Federal Trade Commission
CRC-240
Washington, D.C. 20580

If your complaint is against a company in a country other than the United States, please file it at http://www.econsumer.gov/.

  • Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

    “Dear google.com,
    I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

    Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
  • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.
  • You should never have to link to an SEO.Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.
  • Choose wisely.While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may want to do some research on the industry. Google is one way to do that, of course. You might also seek out a few of the cautionary tales that have appeared in the press, including this article on one particularly aggressive SEO: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2002002970_nwbizbriefs12.html. While Google doesn’t comment on specific companies, we’ve encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business behavior. Be careful.
  • Be sure to understand where the money goes.While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn’t work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
  • What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?
  • What are some other things to look out for?There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. It’s far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO:
    • owns shadow domains
    • puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
    • offers to sell keywords in the address bar
    • doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear on search results pages
    • guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
    • operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
    • gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
    • has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google

Originally found at “Do you need an SEO” on Google Webmaster Center and is so incredibly helpful that we felt like sharing.

Local SEO

Step By Step Guide to Local SEO

SEO Infographic

Click here for one of the best Local SEO Infographics available.

If you run a local business then you don’t need us to tell you how competitive it is out there these days.

You’ve been running a local business for years. You work really hard and your customers love you. You love what you do and you’re a proud member of your local business community.

But there’s one thing that’s really bugging you. You’ve noticed that some newer competitors have sprung up and they seem to be getting the top rankings in the search engines.

How are they doing that? You’ve been around for years – surely you should be getting the top ranking.

But you’re really busy and the online marketing side of things isn’t really your thing.

But what if I told you that there is a predictable formula for getting top ranking that you can use.

Now I know you might be skeptical about this. You might be thinking that this is either going to be too complicated, too time consuming or too expensive.

But bear with us. I’ve prepared a step by step process that anyone can do. You can do it in your own time and at your own pace and it will give you amazing results.

So, are you ready to claim the top ranking in your area? Well read on because it’s all here in our Definitive Guide to Local SEO – print it off, stick it on the wall where you’ll see it and just tick off each step as you do it.

 

Set up And Optimize Local Listings

Here we’re talking Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and Yahoo Local.

But don’t just create your listing and think it’s done. You need to optimize it fully. That means adding all the information possible. As well as the obvious like name, address, hours of business and a map you need to add all the extras like keywords, photos and videos.

Get Reviews

Do a search on your industry and town in Google. Notice something that the top ranked sites have in common? You got it – reviews. The websites with the top listings generally have more reviews.

Just get into the habit of asking for reviews. Start with your best clients. You know who they are and the chances are they’d jump at the chance to give you five stars.

Don’t go crazy in the first week and get fifty reviews though or Google might think you’re trying to game the system. Just commit to picking up reviews steadily over time.

Get NAP Citations

NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone. Citations are just mentions of your business in local business listings that Google trusts.

Most of these are free but some will charge a fee. You need to make sure that your listings are correct and up to date so if you change your address or phone, be sure to update these.

There are dozens, even hundreds of NAP sites to choose from. Again, no need to go crazy, just choose the ones you want to go for each month and get listed there. Easy!

Industry/Niche Directories

Is there a specific industry directory that you can get listed in? Run a search in Google for them. Also check where your competitors are getting listed.

Getting listed in these directories sends strong signals to Google that you are in that industry or sector.

Maybe you have a professional or industry accreditation. Again, check these because they will usually offer you a free listing as part of your accreditation.

Or are you a member of a trade association. Again, double check these as they are quick easy wins for getting a valuable trusted link back to your site.

Create Separate Service Specific Pages

Check that you have a separate page for EVERY service that you offer. Don’t bunch them together on one generic ‘Services’ page.

The reason is that you mustn’t spread your content to thinly. If you have a particular page for each service then that sends a strong signal to Google to present that page when someone is searching for that service.

For example, if you are an printer and you offer lithographic printing, digital printing, poster printing, business card printing, t-shirt printing, etc., create individual pages for each rather than one page listing them all.

Add Content To Your Pages

Now that you have individual pages you need to add more content to them. A minimum of 500 words, but ideally 1000 words. Yes, you read that correctly.

Why? Google loves long pages with loads of relevant content.

Where do you get all that content? It’s probably on your hard drive, in your outbox, or up in your head.

Look at presentations you’ve done or think of frequently asked questions. Or just have an imaginary conversation with a prospective new client and write out the answers to the questions. This type of content is perfect for your service pages.

Optimize All Pages

Don’t let the jargon worry you. Optimization is just the process of presenting your website’s pages so that Google understands them.

Use the following list to guide you:

  • Identify a keyword for each page (printer in TOWN)
  • Create Metatags for each page (these just tell Google what that page is about)
  • Add the keyword to the URL of each page (e.g. www.yourdomain.com/digital-printing-TOWN)
  • Create an H1 Heading with the keyword for that page (Headings are like the ones you use in Microsoft Word or Google Docs to give structure to the page)
  • Add your keywords to the text in a natural way and around 2 to 3% of the total text
  • Link to the other pages from the text

Get Some Backlinks

Backlinks are when other websites link to your website. Google notices this and good links are a major factor in your ranking. Start with easy backlink wins. Things like:

  • Your social media profiles allow you to link to your website
  • Give testimonials to local suppliers and say they can link back to you to demonstrate it’s a genuine testimonial
  • Consider high authority paid directories like Business.com

Get Fast, Secure Hosting

These days Google prefers faster, more secure websites. In fact both speed and security are Google ranking factors.

For faster hosting look no further than SSD Hosting. SSD stands for Solid State Drive and these are the future of data storage and are hundreds of times faster than traditional hard drives.

For security consider switching to HTTPS by setting up an SSL Certificate.

Go Mobile

The web is going mobile. Mobile is clearly the direction of travel and your customers and prospective customers are no longer just sitting at a desk browsing. They are out and about with their mobiles, tablets and other mobile devices.

Again, Google favors mobile friendly website design, so the sooner you get this sorted out the better.

You can either switch to Responsive Design or if budget is an issue then get a side by side mobile version of your website.

Get Blogging

Google prefers websites with more content. A blog is the best way to achieve this.

WordPress is free and is usually available as a one click install with most hosting companies.

Think of your service pages as being the sales pages of your website but your blog is an ongoing conversation with your customers and prospective customers.

Use your blog to post content of interest such as answering ‘How to’ type questions and use proven types of popular content such as:

  • List based content
  • Expert RoundUps
  • Buyers Guides
  • Product Reviews
  • Local Guides / What’s On Guides
  • Seasonal Content
  • Product / Service comparisons
  • ‘Best Of’ Content
  • Best Practice
  • Case Studies

The important thing is to create content consistently and regularly.

When you create content, make sure you optimize it in the same way you optimize your service pages using the checklist above.

Use Video

Video is very underused by local businesses. But there is a huge opportunity for those local businesses who take the time to create videos.

The reason is that there is much less competition. These days most mobile phones have excellent quality digital cameras so it could be as easy as videoing a quick repair or showing how to do a particular task or a short video where you explain a tip.

Keep them short – one to two minutes is fine. Once you’ve got them upload them to YouTube and then get the embed code from YouTube and add them to a blog post and transcribe the audio into text so that you have more written content.

Conclusion

Getting a high ranking in Google is achievable for any local business. You just need to approach it methodically and patiently.

Start with the local listings and make sure you optimize them. Start to pick up reviews and get them consistently. You’ll need NAP Citations and links from other websites. Start with industry websites and local suppliers.

Make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thinly – create service specific pages and make them long – minimum 500 words. Optimize all of your pages too so that Google can understand the content of each page.

Google like fast, secure websites. Switching to SSD hosting and get HTTPS hosting with TurkReno will give you a tick in each of these boxes.

Google rewards websites that create useful and engaging content on a regular basis. Adding a WordPress Blog section to your site will allow you to do this. Finally, start using video on your blog and include in your blog for extra content.

These are all realistic targets for any small business and over time you will definitely start to see positive results.

If you’d like for us to help you out, take a look at our Local SEO page on our site and grab a free site analysis.

Website Hosting Server

Website Hosting – What Does It All Mean?

We understand the terms and products relating to running your own website may be new to many of you. In this section, we will attempt to explain what all of this means in order to assist you in determining which products you need. If, after reading the information contained here you still aren’t sure, you may email us and we will offer recommendations.

Domains
A domain represents the unique name assigned to an organization or individual on the Internet. For instance, we are all familiar with names such as google.com, microsoft.com, and so on. A particular name (domain) may only be owned by one person or company. To use an analogy, a domain represents your “street address” where you live on the Internet.  A domain is the “home” address where a particular website resides.

The domain name is comprised of several parts. The last part of the domain (.com for instance), is referred to as the top-level domain (TLD). In theory, the TLD represents a type of entity: for instance, .com stands for “commercial”. It was originally meant to be for commercial enterprises (business), but has become something of a misnomer as even people with personal websites use the .com TLD.

Other popular TLDs include:

  • .net – originally meant to signify Network orgainzations such as Internet Service Providers (ISP)
  • .edu – Education establishments (colleges/universities)
  • .mil – Military
  • .org – Non-profit organizations
  • .gov – Government organizations
  • .biz – a business
  • .name – individual/person
  • .info – information service There are others as well such as .aero, .pro, .coop, and so on. In addition, there are TLDs assigned to countries (e.g., .ca for Canada).

If you plan to have a website on the Internet, you will need a domain name for that site. If the name you want is already taken, you will have to find a different one. For example, if you wanted the domain CandlesForSale.com, that is already taken. However, the name CandlesForSale.biz is (currently) available. You could select the .biz name, or try to find an alternate such as Candles4sale.com (which is also currently taken).

There are literally millions of domains already taken so you may have to be creative in finding the name you want. But if you plan to put your own site on the web, you will need to identify an available domain. Once you do so, you should register that name immediately as it may not be available the next day.

When you go to our Domain Name purchase page, you will find a feature that lets you look up a name to determine whether or not it is available. It can be frustrating so be patient.

Hosting Plans
In order to make your website available it must be located on a “hosting server”. The type of hosting service you need depends on a number of factors:

  • the number of pages you plan to have
  • if you will have large files such as databases or numerous graphics or pictures
  • the number of visitors you expect each month
  • whether you plan to use your site to sell products
  • whether you plan to design the site yourself, or have someone do it for you
  • whether you plan to use scripting languages such as PHP or ASP
  • what type of database support you require (if any)
  • whether you have a preference for a Windows or Linux server

All of the plans offered by TurkReno include a significant amount of Hard Drive space, more than most people will ever need. This is the space on the hosting server reserved for your content (HTML, graphics, pictures, databases, etc.). Even the lowest priced plan provides for significant storage space. In most cases, this is more than enough for a personal website, even if you plan to include a large number of pictures. For instance, if you plan to post photographs with an average size of 100k, 5GB of space would allow you to store nearly 500,000 photos!

Database files (MS-Access, MySQL, etc) are typically very large. However, even if you plan to offer several applications using MS-Access or MySql databases, 5GB would ordinarily provide more than enough space. Also keep in mind, if you find that you require more space than you anticipated, you can also upgrade your hosting plan at a later date.

The amount of “bandwidth” you may require on a monthly basis is also a factor in deciding which hosting plan you need. You can think of bandwidth (or information sent out from the server) as a water pipe. The more water you need to put through that pipe during a given timeframe, the larger the pipe you need.

For instance, let’s say the total size of your site content (text and graphics) is 1 Megabyte (1 Mb). If you expect 1,000 visitors to your site each month, and assumming each visitor viewed every single page on your site (a BIG if), your bandwidth requirement would be 1 Gb per month. On the other hand, if the total size of your site was 10Mb, you would require 10Gb bandwidth for those same 1,000 visitors. In short, your bandwidth requirements will be determined by the total size of your site, along with the total number of monthly visitors.

If you plan to develop applications that run on your site (e.g., database access, games, etc.) you will need a hosting plan that supports the particular programming language those applications are written in. These would include PHP, ASP, and others. It doesn’t matter if you code these applications yourself, have someone else code them for you, or purchase/download the application from another site (and there are quite a few free applications available for download), the hosting service will need to support the language the application was written in for it to work on your site.

All of the hosting plans offered by TurkReno Incorporated already provide free forums, blogs, and other common applications so you may not need to add any additional ones. If you do, we offer plans that include PHP, Perl, ASP, ASP.Net, and Java. We can also provide other prepackaged applications such as shopping carts.

If you plan to run one or more applications on your site that require database access, you will need to make sure the hosting service you use supports that database. Depending on the hosting plan, we offer support for MS Access, MySQL and SQL Server 2012.

If you plan to sell products from your website, or if you will be taking personal information, you need a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate. The SSL has two major functions. First, it let’s the people who visit your site know that you are in fact who you say you are (by verifying your certificate). Second, it encrypts (or scrambles) any personal or sensitive information (such as credit card numbers) before that information is transmitted over the Internet. If you have ever shopped at eBay, Amazon or other such sites, you have probably noticed the “key” or “lock” that shows up in your taskbar. This tells you that you are on a secure connection. That secure connection is a result of your SSL Certificate.

Another consideration when trying to decide what hosting plan you need is the number of email accounts you require. For a personal site, you may require very few email accounts, if any. The 500 accounts that come with the smaller plan should be more than enough for your family and friends.

If you plan to use your website to run a business, you may require more email accounts. If that is the case you can either purchase one of the other plans, or you can simply purchase additional email accounts for a small annual fee. In any case, your email accounts will allow you to have an email address with your domain name (e.g., turkreno@mydomain.com). The email accounts we provide are web-based so you can access them anywhere you have Internet access. As with the other items, you need to think through how you plan to use your site.

We also offer both Virtual Dedicated Servers and Dedicated Servers. Both of these give you full control of the server (as if it were located in your home or business site). Dedicated Servers are usually required by larger business or those wanting to provide hosting to other people. If you need additional information on our Dedicated Server plans, you can check out the plans in our “product store”, or email us at the link below.

Shopping Cart and Merchant Account
For those of you who plan to use your site to sell products, you will need both a shopping cart and a merchant account (if you don’t have one already).

The shopping cart allows you to build an online “store front” and product catalog similar to what you see at Amazon.com and other sites. We offer an inexpensive application called QuickCart that should fit your needs.

The Merchant Account gives you the ability to accept credit card payments online (through a shopping cart or other means). If you are already running your own “bricks and mortar” business you probably already have a merchant account. If that is the case, you will need to check with them regarding the ability to take online payments. If you don’t currently have an account, or you are just starting your business, you may want to check the Merchant Account we offer.

Search Engine Optimization
There are literally millions of businesses online. In order to compete with these, you will most likely want to ensure that you are placed in “Search Engine” results with the highest ranking possible. One of our products, Search Engine Visibility, will do that for you. It will evaluate your site and make suggestions to give you the best search engine rankings possible. You can also use Search Engine Visibility to submit your site to Google, Yahoo and dozens of other search engines, as well as web directories. One of the really great features in Traffic Blazer is an Search Engine Visibility tool that will tell you if there is a problem with your site that would prevent it from being listed in the search engines. For instance, many of the search engines will not list sites that have internal “broken links”. Search Engine Visibility will notify you regarding issues such as that.

Google AdWords
AdWords is a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising feature that will allow your site to be listed in the Google “Sponsored Sites” area of their search engine results pages. If you aren’t sure what this is, just go to google and search for “candles” or some other item. You will see the sponsored ads on the right. These can be highly effective depending on your type of business.

Placement of AdWords links are based on how much you “bid” for each click. That is, if you bid 35 cents for each click you will get a higher placement than if you bid 25 cents. The amount for each bid is deducted from your total credits only when someone clicks on the link to go to your site.

Closing
If you still aren’t sure what you need for your particular site, please feel free to contact our support staff.

SEO Word Cloud for SEO in Mobile, Alabama

What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

One of the hottest topics on the Internet is that of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There is no question that optimizing your site to the extent possible is an important function. The operative phrase here, however, is “to the extent possible”. You can burn a whole lot of time and energy trying to follow every last “tip” you get for SEO (nevermind the fact that some of these tips turn out to be contradictory). In this article we will explain some of the fundamentals of SEO.

The actual programs that go out and look at all the sites built by Google, Yahoo! and Bing on the web to collect, classify, and rank them for the search engines are called “spiders”. They are also know as “bot”, “crawlers”, and a number of other names. Basically speaking, the spiders look through your site to see what you have.

Content
First and foremost, it’s all about content. We are talking about text content here; relevant content. Search engines love content rich sites. Flash intro screens may be all the rage, but they tend to be a problem for search engines and also are being discontinued. They can’t pick up any discernible content from Flash intro screens. Same thing applies to sites that have more graphics than content. Pleasing to look at, but they don’t do anything to help your page ranking. As it relates to SEO, you can actually wind up shooting yourself in the foot by making your site too flashy.

So when you design your site, make sure it includes lots of text-based information. You also want to make sure that the keywords you believe people will search for are used within that text. If at all possible, you also want to have more than just a few pages. A minimum of 20 pages would be our recommendation. Spiders just love to crawl around interconnected pages.

A number of years ago, many webmasters used a little trick of embedding and repeating “hidden” keywords on their pages. This is done by having text the same color as the background. For instance, if someone ran a dog grooming site, they would place “dogs” and “grooming” on the page in all the available areas not used by visible text. Don’t use this technique. The spiders see it for what it is and will actually penalize a site for “keyword spamming” as a result.

Spiders also love “fresh” or new content. Sites that don’t change much tend to lose page ranking. No one is interested in seeing the same information over and over again. So try to add new content as often as possible. Two great techniques for this are discussion forums and blogs. If you can get other people to participate in your forums and blogs, they in effect, provide content for you.

Meta Tags
Most spiders don’t really pay that much attention to meta tags, but even so, you want to use them. Your Title tag should be short and concise; no more than 60 characters or so. Same thing for the description tag: short, concise, and containing some of your keywords. Maximum length shouldn’t be more than around 160 characters.

We all put our keywords in the keyword meta tag, even though we know that most modern spiders don’t care. But there are things you can do that will hurt more than help. Spiders really don’t like seeing the same keyword over and over. No word should be used as a keyword more than three times. Using the dog grooming analogy again, having your keyword list contain dog, dogs, dog grooming, grooming dogs, dog salon, and so forth is NOT a good idea. This is more keyword spamming. If you can’t think of a more varied list of words or phrases, then just keep it to a few relevant words. You also want to keep the total character count for keywords to no more than 120 or so.

Links
The number of “referral” links you have (links to your site from other sites) is one of the factors considered when determining page ranking. Of course, link quality matters. Having people come to your site from cnn.com or msn.com carries alot more weight than having them come from one-eyed-llamas.com.

Try to get as many other sites to link to you as possible (many sites offer a reciprocal link feature). You have to work at this. It may cost you a little money, but putting ads on sites such as classifiedads.com or others like that certainly won’t hurt. For a small fee, classifiedads.com will “blast” your add to thousands of other ad sites. This serves two purposes. First, if your site is for business, it may get you sales or leads. Second, your site link will be distributed to other potential “referrer sites”. Even if you have to pay to get your ads or banners on larger sites, it may be worth it.

Site Map
A site map is nothing more than a page that provides a “road map” to all the other pages on your site. The spiders seem to like this (there is some debate) because if provides an easy means for them to access all the other pages you have. This can be particularly effective if you have a content-rich site.

Closing
At TurkReno, we live, eat, breath, sleep and work SEO, SEM and SEV. We’d love to help you and your business be found online, no matter how complex or simple the project is. Give us a call today, (251) 279-0278, or contact us.

Is It Time To Shut Down Your Website?

This was a very interesting article we picked up on from Twitter. Worth the read considering who it’s referring to and how Social Media continues to shape the Internet landscape.

Just last month, the U.S. State Department announced that it was shutting down www.America.gov, the website launched to provide cultural and policy content to the world. Instead, the State Department will focus on using social media to get out its message. The aim is to communicate in a more interactive way with today’s networked audiences around the world—like those blogging Egypt’s revolution from Tahrir Square or documenting Syrian unrest on YouTube.

Shutting down your website to communicate solely through social media channels might seem like a crazy idea for any large organization. But then again, there is some logic to it. The Wall Street Journal reported that Starbucks receives over ten times as much traffic to its Facebook page (19.4 million unique visitors each month) as to its corporate website (1.8 million). For Coca-Cola, the divergence is even starker: 22.5 million visitors on Facebook vs. just 270,000 to its website—over 80 times as much traffic.

A decade ago, the corporate website had become the new “must-have” communication tool. But now, as web users spend increasing amounts of time on social media, traffic to static corporate websites appears to be on the decline.

Facebook vs Website Traffic for 2 Brands

Facebook vs Website Traffic for 2 Brands

But before you rush out to pull the plug on your own web site, it’s worth considering the benefits of each approach.

Benefits of Social Media

1. Inherently interactive. That’s where the term “social” comes from. Unlike a static HTML website, designed to read and click, social media like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are designed around sharing, responding, and interacting.
2. Where people are spending time. With over 500 million active users on Facebook, most Web audiences are spending more time there than browsing company sites. Just be sure that’s true for your own demographic (e.g. Facebook is a nonstarter in Japan) and your own industry (most users still do not use Facebook for learning about b2b topics).
3. Easy to acquire. Clicking a “like” button on Facebook or “follow” button on Twitter is a lot easier than filling in the sign up form on a web page. So it’s no surprise that many companies find it easier to build a large following on social media platforms.
4. Virality. When your audience interacts with you on social media platforms, it is instantly visible to their own friends and contacts. This digital “word-of-mouth” can be one of the most powerful tools for reaching new audiences.

Benefits of Your Own Website

1. Control the design. Have you ever tried designing a page on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube? The experience is like trying to swim with one hand tied behind your back. Having your own website allows you complete control, which may be essential if you have a lot of content or options that you need to organize for different audiences.
2. Own the data. Social media platforms are owned by the companies that run them, and, as such, they are the only ones holding all the data on your customers and your interactions with them. On your own website, you own all the data.
3. Targeting and personalization. Owning data and controlling design allow for much more targeted interaction with your customers than is possible on social media platforms. If you know which emails a customer in your database is clicking on, you can ensure her follow up emails, Web landing pages, and ecommerce experiences are much more suited to her particular interests.
4. Reach all your audience. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, or other services which might reach large segments of your customers, your own website is available to 100% of them. (That is, as long as your website has been optimized to work on a mobile phone.)

So, unless you are so small (e.g. a one-person enterprise) that you lack the resources to maintain both a Facebook page and a website, you almost certainly need both. (Even the State Department still kept its main website after shutting down America.gov.)

Fresh Approach Needed

But as you hold on to your familiar company website that’s grown a little musty over the last decade, be sure to give it a fresh look. Are you using the unique design capabilities of a stand-alone site? Are you capturing and leveraging data? Are you interacting and building a database with your most loyal customers who care enough to do more than press a “like” button for you? If not, your website needs a revamp to be worth keeping it alive for next year.

David Rogers examines the five core strategies of successful networked businesses in his newest book, “The Network Is Your Customer: Five Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age.” He teaches Digital Marketing Strategy at Columbia Business School, where he is Executive Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership. Rogers has advised and developed marketing and digital strategies for numerous companies such as SAP, Eli Lilly, and Visa. Find him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/david_rogers.

Now our own thoughts on this are mixed. Not every client needs a website. Some clients need a boost in their Social Media strategy, some need a website and some need both. We’re here and happy to give you a free analysis on your online presence. In any case, we’re about to publish this article and it syndicates to Social Media. Why the U.S. State Department isn’t using this exact same strategy to balance out their numbers and create a stronger presence is a bit baffling. Please feel free to share your thoughts!

PlayStation Network Down

Sony PlayStation Network Outage; Amazon Brings Countless Millions Offline

Sony has released a Questions list that can be found here: http://us.playstation.com/support/answer/index.htm?a_id=2356

  • April 19th – Amazon:

Dear Amazon Web Services Customer,

We’re excited to announce the launch of live HTTP streaming for Amazon CloudFront, AWS’s easy-to-use content delivery network.

Using Amazon CloudFront with Amazon EC2 running Adobe’s Flash Media Server and Amazon Route 53 (AWS’s DNS service), you can now easily and cost-effectively deliver your live video via AWS. And, we’ve made it simple to get started by creating an AWS CloudFormation template that handles all of the provisioning and sequencing for all the AWS resources you need for this live streaming stack.

Portal 2 on Steam, XB360 and PS3, SOCOM 4 Launches.

  • April 20th – GigaOm:

The first graph gives an idea of normal Amazon EC2 response times over the last 30 days, but notice the US-EAST region start to spike at April 20.

The outage that affected a hundreds of applications running in the provider’s US-EAST region is almost resolved, more than 24 hours after a “networking event” took down a number of popular services, including EC2, Elastic Block Storage and Relational Database Service.

We continue to see progress in recovering volumes, and have heard many additional customers confirm that they’re recovering. Our current estimate is that the majority of volumes will be recovered over the next 5 to 6 hours.

First 24 hours of outage (worldwide)

EC2 Outage

Foursquare, Quora, Amazon, Sony, Apple, Reddit, Hootsuite, Wattpad – All went down.

  • April 21st – Sony:

While we are investigating the cause of the Network outage, we wanted to alert you that it may be a full day or two before we’re able to get the service completely back up and running.

  • April 22nd – Sony:

An external intrusion on our system has affected our PlayStation Network and Qriocity services.

  • April 22nd – ZDNet:

Amazon’s Web Services outage: End of cloud innocence?

  • April 24th – 1:42 AM Amazon:

Service disruption: Database instance connectivity and latency issues

In line with the most recent Amazon EC2 update, we wanted to let you know that the team continues to be all-hands on deck working on the remaining database instances in the single affected Availability Zone. It’s taking us longer than we anticipated. When we have an updated ETA or meaningful new update, we will make sure to post it here. But, we can assure you that the team is working this hard and will do so as long as it takes to get this resolved.

At the time, Amazon’s AWS Service Health Dashboard was at red.

  • April 24 – 2:08 PM Amazon:

The number of Database Instances without access continues to reduce steadily. As the access to these remaining database instances is restored, they will become usable without additional action on your end. If your Database Instance is not yet available, you also have the option to initiate a Point-in-time-Restore operation using the steps outlined in our previous post at 10:08 AM PDT. We are in the process of contacting this small set of customers who still do not have access to their Database Instances.

  • April 25 – 8:20AM Sony:

I know you are waiting for additional information on when PlayStation Network and Qriocity services will be online. Unfortunately, I don’t have an update or timeframe to share at this point in time.

As we previously noted, this is a time intensive process and we’re working to get them back online quickly. We’ll keep you updated with information as it becomes available. We once again thank you for your patience.

  • April 25 – 7:39PM Amazon:

We are digging deeply into the root causes of this event and will post a detailed post-mortem.

Amazon and Sony appear to be taking a very similar approach. So was the attack on the PlayStation Network, on Amazon Web Services, or are they one in the same? The answer is: No, they are not.

Others blame Anonymous who had taken credit for a separate hacking attempt earlier in the month towards SCEA. Some believe that this is also partially motivated by Geohot’s impending court rulings. First IANAL, but it would seem there’s a certain level of legality that has been crossed. Clearly he’s not getting hired right now by Sony at the moment because he’s probably being prosecuted by the US DOJ because he’s IN FEDERAL COURT. When a Corporation files a complaint of that caliber, especially one with a DMCA, Copyright Infringement and allegations of Computer Fraud and other crimes, that could be the act of a number of different things including faking the identify of Sony, misuse of the Sony logo or other things that we’ll never hear about. “Geohot” may deserve what’s coming to him just like any one who has walked across a line that fine. He alone will decide what he does with his life at that point.

Consistent Business Branding for Internet Marketing

Branding for Internet MarketingNo matter what form of business you are branding online, it is important that your online presence is represented with a consistent brand and marketing message that clearly describes your business. To determine your “Online Brand” you must first evaluate your Niche Market. It is important to have a marketing statement that reaches multiple groups of people but also do not forget to target a smaller focused group called a Niche Market. Reaching millions of people may not mean that your sales will increase. Targeting a Niche Market, an audience that is truly interested in your services, may increase your conversion dramatically. You must always think of your audience and place yourself in their shoes. First, think about the overall design of your website. Is your website professional or suitable enough for the clients that will be interested in your services? Is the message clear in your content about your products and services? There is a lot of hard work that goes into Branding your business online; however once you evaluate every factor and thoroughly research your market, you can then begin to truly reach your audience.

First, start by defining your business in as few sentences as possible. If you are creating profiles on the top social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, you want to have a consistent description of your business on each site. Evaluate what categories or industries you most likely fall under. This is the beginning of developing your personal online brand. Develop a list of 10 descriptive keywords that you can consistently use to describe your business and that match up with your websites content. You have to think of yourself as a client who is searching for your service information online. If you were the customer what keywords would you type in a search engine to find your products and services? If you offer more than one service it is important to develop a list of keywords relevant to each service.

This may seem simple however it takes a lot of planning and developing to determine what keywords are most beneficial to use. You have to consider what keywords your competitors are using, what the monthly search rate is for your keywords (Are the words to broad? Do you have a chance to rank well for these words?), if you keywords not searched often enough, and so on. It is important to find the appropriate keywords most suitable for your business that you have a chance of ranking high for and optimizing those words throughout you’re online marketing campaign.

Thorough descriptions, professional web design, relevant content, optimized keywords and content, targeted niche audience, these are all important factors to evaluate for your online brand and must always remain consistent across the board. If you are in the beginning of developing your Business Website then TurkReno can help you focus on Website Development, Website Design, and Online Marketing, such as Search Engine Optimization or Pay-Per-Click Management. Choosing one business to help develop all three categories will be best for your online branding to stay consistent. Luckily, there are companies, such as TurkReno, that focus in great depth on Online Branding and can truly bring success to your website through online marketing.

Google Webmaster Central DNS Verification Method WHM Walkthrough

A lot of people have been rooting for Google to bring a new method of verification to Google Webmaster Central and today, we have it: DNS Verification. We’ll explain how to properly set this record for WHM in just a moment (as a server or VPS admin), but the technique should be all the same. Here’s what Google had to say, read on after the blog to find out how to do it yourself.

DNS Verification FTW Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 1:16 PM Webmaster Level: Advanced

A few weeks ago, we introduced a new way of verifying site ownership, making it easy to share verified ownership of a site with another person. This week, we bring you another new way to verify. Verification by DNS record allows you to become a verified owner of an entire domain (and all of the sites within that domain) at once. It also provides an alternative way to verify for folks who struggle with the existing HTML file or meta tag methods.

I like to explain things by walking through an example, so let’s try using the new verification method right now. For the sake of this example, we’ll say I own the domain example.com. I have several websites under example.com, including http://www.example.com/, http://blog.example.com/ and http://beta.example.com/. I could individually verify ownership of each of those sites using the meta tag or HTML file method. But that means I’d need to go through the verification process three times, and if I wanted to add http://customers.example.com/, I’d need to do it a fourth time. DNS record verification gives me a better way!

First I’ll add example.com to my account, either in Webmaster Tools or directly on the Verification Home page.


On the verification page, I select the “Add a DNS record” verification method, and follow the instructions to add the specified TXT record to my domain’s DNS configuration.



When I click “Verify,” Google will check for the TXT record, and if it’s present, I’ll be a verified owner of example.com and any associated websites and subdomains. Now I can use any of those sites in Webmaster Tools and other verification-enabled Google products without having to verify ownership of them individually.

If you try DNS record verification and it doesn’t work right away, don’t despair!


Sometimes DNS records take a while to make their way across the Internet, so Google may not see them immediately. Make sure you’ve added the record exactly as it’s shown on the verification page. We’ll periodically check, and when we find the record we’ll make you a verified owner without any further action from you.

DNS record verification isn’t for everyone—if you don’t understand DNS configuration, we recommend you continue to use the HTML file and meta tag methods. But for advanced users, this is a powerful new option for verifying ownership of your sites.

As always, please visit the Webmaster Help Forum if you have any questions.

Posted by Sean Harding, Software Engineer

So! Now, you may be onboard or you may be very confused. No worries. Let’s explain the anatomy of a TXT, or text, record.

name  ttl  class   TXT     text

With this in mind, you can easily SSH and dig txt domain.com, or go to http://www.kloth.net and do a DIG for TXT, to the domain of your choice. We originally speculated that you can have multiple TXT records, and you can. The trick, however, is in the name of the TXT record. Your TXT record name much match the CNAME of the domain that you are trying to create the record for or else it will not show up in the answer section of a DNS lookup. Therefore, let’s use turkreno.com as an example:

turkreno.com.  14400  IN  TXT  “google-site-verification: asdfasdlkfaslkjas2f2f2f2kfkjf2jkfkj2fkj2f”

Just make sure that you have a matching CNAME to the name of your TXT record and put your Google Site Verification in quotation marks, and you should be good to go! Post us some feedback if you have other ways on other DNS systems that this should be done and we’ll approve your comment!

Review: How to Measure Return on Investment in Social Media

One of the absolute best SEO/SMO articles we’ve read in a very long time:

http://www.briansolis.com/2010/02/roi-how-to-measure-return-on-investment-in-social-media/

Consider how much you are aware of your presence online once you see the graphs.  We were amazed at the figures, but not shockingly surprised. We tweeted about this very topic last week in an online discussion and are proud to share it with you here. Great job Brian Solis on a very powerful and well needed article!

ROI: How to Measure Return on Investment in Social Media

What follows is the entire version of my recent post on Mashable, “The Maturation of Social Media ROI

Over the years, Social Media experts attempted to redefine ROI for a new era of influence. While some introduced alternative philosophies for measuring the nuances tied to social media, others wondered aloud whether ROI simply wasn’t necessary as the tools and methodologies for analyzing yields didn’t yet exist. And furthermore, by focusing on justification and metrics, we were distracted from the primary objective of building relationships and cultivating dialogue.

The debate over ROI inspired certain brands to cannonball into popular social networks to join the proverbial conversation without a plan or strategic objectives defined. At the same time, the lack of ROI standards and established authorities unnerved many executives, preventing any form of experimentation until their questions and concerns were addressed.

But that was then and this is now.

In 2010, we enter into a new era of social media marketing, one based on information, rationalization, and resolve.

Business leaders simply need clarity in a time of abundant options and scarcity of experience and answers. As many of us can attest, we report to executives who have no desire to measure intangible credos rooted in transparency and authenticity. In the end, they simply want to calculate the return on investment and associate Social Media programs with real world business performance metrics.

Over the years, we explored ideas, driven by a passionate desire to find new meaning and vindication in uncharted domains. These discussions and the innovation they sparked, redefined the framework for traditional metrics, creating hybrids that would and will prove critical to modernizing business practices, improving products and services, and effectively competing for the future.

ROI: The Return on Ignorance

Where the “I” in ROI represents return on investment, marketers have also explored ancillary elements to address the socialization of media, marketing, and the resulting dynamics of engagement.

Adaptations included:

Return on engagement – the duration of time spent either in conversation or interacting with social objects, and in turn, what transpired that’s worthy of measurement.

Return on participation – the metric tied to measuring and valuing the time spent participating in social media through conversations or the creation of, social objects.

Return on involvement – similar to participation, marketers explored touchpoints for documenting states of interaction and tying metrics and potential return of each.

Return on attention – In the attention economy, we assess the means to seize attention, hold it and as such measure the responses activities that we engender.

Return on trust – A variant on measuring customer loyalty and the likelihood for referrals, a trust barometer establishes the state of trust earned in social media engagement and the prospect of generating advocacy and how it impacts future business.

But as we learn through experience, our views and techniques mature into more sophisticated strategies as we progress through the Ten Stages of Social Media Evolution.

For many businesses, the case for new metrics cannot arise until we have an intrinsic understanding of how social media engagement affects us at every level. To be quite honest, it is not as simple as counting an increase of subscribers, followers, fans, conversation volume, reach, and traffic. While the size of the corporate social graph is a reflection of our participation behavior, it is not symbolic of brand stature, resonance, loyalty, advocacy, nor is it an indicator for business performance.

ROI: Return on Investment

Sometimes we simply need ROI to signify a meaningful return on investment.

In 2010, Social Media endeavors are still funded as pilot programs to steer the brand towards perceived relevance in the hopes that they demonstrate momentum and as such, rewards materialize. Budgets are for the most part, borrowed from other divisions to fund the teams and programs lead by the internal champions who effectively make the case for experimentation. Where that money goes and from where it’s borrowed varies by department and by company usually tied to where champions reside internally today.

In many cases however, new programs are introduced without an integrated strategy. Money is allocated from existing programs, and if we’re going to take it away from something, we should therefore determine whether or not we’re justified in doing so.

According to a 2009 study performed by Mzinga and Babson Executive Education, 84 percent of professionals representing a variety of industries reported that they do not measure ROI.

In 2010, executives are demanding scrutiny, evaluation, and interpretation. Even though new media is transforming organizations from the inside out, what is constant nevertheless, is the need to apply performance indicators to our work.

The Business of Social Media

The CFO, CEO, and CMO of any organization would be remiss if they did not account for spending and resource allocation, regardless of the allure and seduction of social media.

MarketingProfs recently published a study performed by Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club that revealed the true expectation of chief marketing officers. Bottom line, they want measurable results from social media.

Elusiveness continues to prevail however. The study found that the exact impact of social media tactics evade the grasp of CMOs.

– 53% are unsure about their return on Twitter

-50% are unable to assess the value of LinkedIn or industry blogs

More specifically however, roughly 15% believe there is no ROI associated with Twitter and just over 10% cannot glean ROI from LinkedIn or Facebook.

I believe this is the direct result of not tying activity to an end game, the ability to know what it is we want to measure before we engage. Doing so, allows us to define a strategy and a tactical plan to support activity that helps us reach our goals and objectives.

We first answer,

What is it we want to change, improve, accomplish, incite, etc.?

Doing so will allow us to establish goals and objectives that specifically tie activity to:

– Sales

– Registrations

– Referrals

– Links (the currency of the social web)

– Votes

– Reduction in costs and processes

– Decrease in customer issues

– Lead generation

– Conversion

– Reduced sale cycles

– Inbound activity

Customer Insight

Among the responses received from CMOs, customer ratings and reviews rose to the top of marketing activities that deliver tangible ROI insight. In 2009, 80% of respondents reported that customer stories and product suggestions shape products and services. As a result, brands earn the trust and loyalty of their customers for listening and responding – as long as they are made aware of their role and rewarded for it.

In 2010, CMOs will review opportunities for user-generated content sources to involve customers and advocates with many reporting…

– a 400% increase in use of Twitter comments to inform decisions about products and services

– a 59% increase in the use of customer ratings and reviews

– a 24% increase in use of social media for pre-sales Q&A

The Socialization of Monetization

Social media metrics will increasingly tie to revenue in 2010. To what extent seems to vary according to CMOs.

– 80% predict upwards of 5%

– 15% optimistically hope for 5-10%

In 2009, those companies that aligned social media investments with revenue estimate:

– 5% or less revenue tied to social in 2009 foresee an increase of an additional 5% in 2010

– 6-10% of revenue stemming from social is expected to increase more than 10%

– Those with greater revenues resulting from social engagement expect an escalation of revenue derived from social at 20%

Companies such as Dell are not only tracking the impact of Social Media on revenue, but expanding lessons learned across the entire organization. According to Dell’s Lionel Menchaca:

Our @DellOutlet is now close to 1.5 million followers on Twitter, and back in June we indicated that @DellOutlet earned $3 million in revenue from Twitter. Today it’s not just Dell Outlet having success connecting with customers on Twitter. In total, Dell’s global reach on Twitter has resulted in more than $6.5 million in revenue. In fact our Brazilian and Canadian accounts are growing rapidly too – and it was Canadian tweeters who asked to make sure Dell Canada came online to Twitter. Dell Canada responded because the team heard our customers. In less than a year, @DellnoBrasil has already generated nearly $800,000 in product revenues. Similarly, @DellHomeSalesCA has surpassed $150,000 and is increasing at notable pace.

The Forecast for Metrics in 2010

Earlier we mentioned generic forms of Social Media metrics. The survey revealed that indeed, many CMOs, 89%, tracked the impact of social media by traffic, pageviews, and the size of their social graph or communities. However, 2010 is the year that social media graduates from experimentation to strategic implementation with direct ties to specific measurable performance indicators.

In 2010, CMOs will seek to establish a connection between social media and P&L business goals. The study documents the adoption of three metrics:

– 333% surge in tracking revenue

– 174% escalation in monitoring conversion

– 150% increase in measuring average order value

A Call To Action

Among the most effective forms of any marketing initiative is the integration of a call to action. It is how I define influence as it gives us the ability to inspire activity and measure it – as designed. As stated earlier, revenue is only one form of metrics we can introduce, but defining the “R” in ROI is where we need to focus as it relates to our business goals and performance indicators specifically. Even though much of social media is free, we do know the cost of engagement as it relates to employees, time, equipment, and opportunity cost (what they’re not focusing on or accomplishing while engaging in social media). Tying those costs to the results will reveal a formula for assessing the “I” as investment.

When we truly grasp the ability to define action and measure it, we can expand the impact of new media beyond the P&L. We can adapt business processes, inspire ingenuity, and more effectively compete for the future.

Connect with Brian Solis: Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Pre-order the next book, Engage!

The PlayStation Recap; Final Fantasy XIII Launches in the US

Really, the biggest news of tonight is the launch of Final Fantasy XIII in the United States. It’s launched in the EST, but we’re still waiting on our copy in the CST.  Very excited to say the least.  In our own due diligence, we wanted to share with you at least an update of the PSN.  The ONLY thing we’ve seen from Sony for why the systems and PlayStation Network would not work is below.  We can’t but help to think it was a media stunt to gain more Twitter followers at this point:

The PlayStation Recap

Posted by Chris Morell // Senior Specialist, Social Media

Sony PlayStation

MAG Logo

Courtesy of Jeremy Dunham

UNCHARTED 2: Among Thieves banner

Courtesy of Arne Meyer

  • UNCHARTED 2 Title Update 1.06 and Multiplayer Updates – We released an update to the multiplayer modes of UNCHARTED 2 earlier this week. The Title Update and live updates we pushed performed some additional balancing to player hitboxes, some weapons and one Booster that we felt was warranted after Title Update 1.05 was released. As part of these updates, we also pushed some geometry updates to prevent intentional glitching.
  • “Unleashed: The Art of Naughty Dog” art show opens this weekend – Twenty Naughty Dog (and UNCHARTED 2) artists are doing a group show of their art work at the Gnomon Gallery in Hollywood, California. The opening reception for the show is on the evening of Saturday, March 6, and will run for at least a month.