How to Give Your Website a Checkup

Welcome to the depths of winter, iCopyInsiders. We hope everyone is staying healthy with flu season raging (don’t forget to wash your hands, folks). And of course, America’s own version of seasonal affective disorder is swiftly approaching with the end of football in two weeks.

As the weather gets dreary and frigid temperatures set in this week, it’s as good a time as any to stay indoors, heat up some soup and give your business website a checkup, as well.

And when we say checkup, we mean checking in on some of the key indicators of a healthy, vibrant website – one that potential customers will actually find on Google and other search engines.

Now, as we’ve written in the past, a successful content strategy takes a dedicated investment of patience, commitment and resources to see serious return on investment. But you don’t need to hire an expensive firm to get a basic idea of whether your site is doing well or poorly. There a number of free search engine optimization diagnostic tools that can give you a broad idea of how to improve your site’s SEO efforts.

Here are some of our favorite free diagnostic tools.

Google and Bing Webmaster Tools

Both Google and Bing offer a ridiculously useful set of free tools for diagnosing the health of your website. Both of these should be a starting point for any site checkup, because they can be used to quickly see how the two search engines view your site, including the search terms customers are using to find it. They can also be used to figure out malware and website glitches such as crawl errors.

Copyscape

Google punishes duplicate content in its search rankings. And it’s no secret that plagiarism, whether you are aware that your content producers were committing it or not, is a guaranteed fast way to tank a reputation. That makes Copyscape – which scans the web for duplicate content – one of our go-to tools here at iCopywriter. We run everything that our writers produce through the service, but even if you’re an iCopy client, it’s worth checking out if you’re posting material on your own or from other bloggers.

Google Page Speed

Website load speed is an underrated factor in your search rankings. You don’t want to waste users’ time with a clunky, hard-to-load website. Also, they’re more likely to click away from a site that doesn’t load quickly. Luckily, Google has a set of Page Speed Tools that can be used to assess how quickly your website loads.

Site Grading Tools

There are a number of sites that can give you a quick, letter grade assessment of how your website is performing. We like HubSpot’s Marketing Grader. It’s a great resource for figuring out a few jumping off points for improving your website.

Social Mention

One of the big trends for 2013 will be social media’s increasing importance in search rankings. Bing is incorporating more Facebook chatter into its search results and Google Authorship is going to give more weight to socially influential content creators. Use search engines like Social Mention to get a quick feel for how and where your brand is registering on social media.

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Photo Credit: FindYourSearch

Monday Must-Reads

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Happy Monday, iCopyInsiders. I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend. Of course, if you find yourself behind a laptop, tablet, smartphone or other glowing rectangle today, we’ve got you covered with our weekly reading list.

If you’re attending an Inaugural Ball tonight, you may even think about asking your social media butler to retweet a few of them.

Without further adieu, check out these SEO and copywriting links.

1. We harp on it a lot, but if you want further evidence that social content is becoming more and more relevant to search, HubSpot has a good article about how Bing is adding more Facebook content to its search results.

In other words, it’s a good time to clean up that company Facebook page.

2. Maybe I’m in a social media mood today, but I also liked this piece from Entrepreneur about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile for search. You’ve got expertise, but can the people who need it find you online?

3. I initially chuckled at this new series from Copyblogger called The Writer Files, which will feature regular interviews with some of the Web’s foremost content producers. I mean, we’re not exactly The Lives of the Poets. But it’s actually an interesting window into what kind of workflow some of the Web’s best bloggers use.

4. I guess we have to give a nod to mighty Google because this is an SEO blog. Here’s an interesting piece from Slate about how the company keeps its employees happy with the world’s most sophisticated HR department.

5. Finally, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than a lazy Monday. I recommend reading (or rereading) Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail or the text of his immortal I Have a Dream speech. His words remain powerful, inspiring and even revolutionary.

 

Monday Must-Reads: Christmas Edition

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Happy holidays from iCopywriter this glorious Christmas Eve – which, as it happens, falls on a Monday this year, so you know what that means …

That’s right, a special Christmas Edition of Monday Must-Reads. It looks like you’ve all been very good copywriters and SEO managers this year, because your humble blogger Santa Alex has some very special links for you.

To get you in the spirit, here are some good holiday reads.

1. The Los Angeles Times reports on efforts by scientists to build a better Christmas tree. As in, one that won’t shed needles on your floor. Because nothing says Christmas like mutant trees.

2. The Washington Post wants to help you pick a last-minute holiday gift.

3. And ABC News has Christmas Eve store hours. 

4. Newser wants you to know that your holiday tree has 25,000 bugs. Yuck.

5. The Queen of England filmed her annual holiday message in 3D.

6. From The Patriot-News in central Pennsylvania, a brief history of your favorite Christmas songs.

7. And, for old times’ sake, one of the first viral reads in American media history. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. It’s still a fine piece of writing. Read it with your kids.

Merry Christmas!

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – It’s the iCopywriter End of the World Roundup – and We Feel Fine

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

In case you’ve been living under a rock – or maybe an ancient stone tablet – it’s the end of the world as we know it. Do you feel fine? Yes, the ballyhooed Mayan Apocalypse is finally here. Or, as a Facebook friend of mine put it, the most annoying day on social media. Ever.

We initially held off on writing this week’s Freaky Friday, you know, just in case. But the world hasn’t ended in Australia or New Zealand, so let’s do this. Um, what are the SEO or copywriting lessons here? Well, my professional takeaway is that, because it looks like reality is going to continue as scheduled, both those things will continue to be important to any Web presence!

You can still cash in on the last drops of viral goodness here – #EndoftheWorldConfession is trending on Twitter – but it’s probably too late for any apocalypse-themed sales. And all the good parties were last night. But hey, it’s not the end of the world, right?

So let’s just cut to the chase here with iCopywriter’s ultimate guide to our favorite end-of-the-world links.

1. The Onion suggests that the apocalypse is already here. So funny it hurts. A lot.

2. Slate has been a reliable source of end-of-the-world coverage. Here’s the effect on the markets, a report on past apocalypse scares and the ultimate end-of-the-world mashup. And yes, a few are even using the old last night on Earth line.

3. Still not convinced? Here’s a good debunking of apocalypse myths from National Geographic. Plus, what the Mayans actually meant with that whole calendar thing.

Photo Credit: Kim-bodia

 

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – When Obamadon Ruled the Earth…

By: iCopy Head Paleontologist Research Blogger Alex Dalenberg

It’s a bit too late to win over the crucial paleontologist vote, but scientists at Yale and Harvard have named a newly discovered prehistoric lizard after our newly re-elected 44th president.

Enter the Obamadon, which, according to the Yale news service, was a slender, toothy lizard roughly one foot long. Unlike the president – who has shown a predilection for Spam, of both the email and canned variety – Obamadon probably ate insects.

The scientists said no one should impart any political significance to the name. Paleontologist Nicholas R. Longrich told Yale News, “We’re just having fun with taxonomy.”

If only we all had such fun with taxonomy.

Actually, whether intentional or not, the buzzy name was a rather clever coup for these scientists, if for no other reason then the fact that their upcoming journal findings received nationwide press thanks to the Obamadon. Of course, they’re not the first scientists to name their findings after notable politicos. Reuters reports that ancient sloths and slime mold beetles have also been named after presidents and various cabinet members.

In general, it’s best to tread carefully when it comes to politics, but I’d categorize this is as being a win on both sides of the aisle. For example, conservatives can snicker that the Obamadon was a cold-blooded bug-eater with fangs. As for the liberals, well, the chances of there ever being a Romneydon are, shall we say, extinct.

Photo credit: shvmoz

 

 

Big News- Google’s Author Rank is on its Way

By iCopy blogger Alex Dalenberg

So … this is happening:Google authorship.

If you haven’t yet heard the rumblings coming out of SEO world, heads up. If you create, post or access content on the Web, Google’s new author-ranking scheme is going to affect you, one way or another.

Here’s the gist of it. Google has been quietly rolling out its new author rank program – which has more or less been in the works for years. The idea is that content creators are now able to link the stories and posts they create to their Google Plus identity.

This is a big deal because the conventional wisdom says that someday soon, authorship is going to play a major part in Google’s page rankings.

You can find a few good primers at Forbes as well as the SEOmoz blog, but the main takeaway here is that it isn’t just going to matter how well a page or domain performs; it’s going to matter who writes it, as well.

The idea is that more reputable authors – judged by things like social sharing in the form of likes and plus ones, comments, links and more – produce better, more reputable content. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect that Google is going to give posts by those authors much more weight in search listing results.

This isn’t out of the blue. As the Web becomes more social-oriented, so should the way we search – at least in theory. But for now, here is the least you need to know, as far as we see it here at iCopywriter.

1. Your Google Plus account matters now.

Love it or hate it, Google is pushing hard to make its own social network much more relevant. And, as far as it can affect search rankings, they have a lot of leverage here. If you’ve been neglecting your profile, it’s time to get it up to date and start posting your content.

And, if you post your own content, it’s time to make sure that Google can find you. They have a comprehensive set of instructions here.

2. The rules are still the same. Quality content will win.

The fundamentals of this game are unchanged. Quality authors will provide quality, relevant content. However, more than ever, it’s time to think about how to create content that readers are likely to share and discuss. In my mind, this means useful content.

3. Do you know who is writing your stuff?

You will need to soon. With Google Authorship, the focus is shifting to individuals and personalities. For those who are willing to embrace the different voices that make up their company, rewards await.

iCopywriter is keeping up with the news and happenings of Author Rank (and all-things-SEO). Don’t you want us on your team?

Photo credit: followtheseinstructions

 

SEO Guru Blog – Part II: SEO-Cubed: Three Suggestions from Three Search Engine Gurus

Last week at iCopyInsider we featured the first part of an interview we did with some of the fantastic project managers we work with.

We grilled them about all-things-copywriting and SEO to get their take on how businesses should approach the sometimes-daunting task of staying found on the Internet. They dropped a lot of knowledge, far more than we could fit into one post; so today we bring you the second installment.

To refresh, here is your expert panel of SEO gurus:

Fumi Matsubara, Director of Account Services at Geary LSF Group

http://LSFinteractive.com

http://Gearyi.com

http://GearyLSF.com

Miguel Salcido, CEO of Organic Media Group

http://organicseoconsultant.com/

http://organicmediagroup.org/

Jenna Allison, Account Services Manager at Geary LSF Group

http://LSFinteractive.com

http://Gearyi.com

http://GearyLSF.com

And here is each of our guru’s answers to the following question:

“What are the top three suggestions you can give clients who want to improve their ranking?

Fumi Matsubara

1. Develop strong, sound site architecture. Improve title tags that are not just keyword rich, but also with call to action to help with your click through rate.

2. Make sure your website is mobile compatible. This way you can broaden customer base and provide a quality user experience.

3. Invest time and resources in a good content marketing strategy.

Miguel Salcido

1. Be dedicated. Put aside enough budget for at least 6 to 12 months and let it ride. Basically, you need commit to SEO and see it through without getting antsy.

2. Create great content and continuously create new content. The more content that you have, the more traffic. It’s pretty simple.

3. Promote your content. Your content is the gift that keeps on giving. You should be proud to promote it.

Jenna Allison

1. Make it easy for Google to read and understand your site. Make sure that any content on your site pages is organic and natural, and update any title/meta tag descriptions for those pages.

2. Don’t over optimize. Several years ago, it was common practice to “stuff” keywords into your content. This is no good now. The way you should look at doing any content on your pages or for link building is to create conversational content. Don’t write something that wouldn’t make sense if you were having a conversation with somebody in front of you. Google is smart enough to understand what you are doing if you use too many keywords in one space.

3. Think quality over quantity when it comes to link building. This is one of the keys to creating authority for your site as well as boosting search rankings. Make sure that you aren’t overdoing it though. A few years ago it was OK to syndicate content over thousands of different blog farms. Now, Google is actually devaluing and penalizing those sites because it isn’t natural. You want to create content with links that are going to be beneficial to the reader/user: this is Google’s main objective when it feeds you a search results page.

Check out iCopywriter for YOUR online content needs

 

 

Black Hat Vs. White Hat

Guest Post by: Long-time iCopywriter Blogger, Jessica Towne

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), can be a powerful tool when it comes to getting attention on the web. This is because Google, Yahoo and other search tools use your keywords to determine where in the list of search results your particular site will land.

Using the right keywords for your site is the most imperative when it comes to online business marketing. This is because the more relevant phrases you plug in, the better the chance that search engines, and thus, consumers will find you.

Knowing which magic words to use – and how often, in combination with rich, pertinent content – is the key to creating effective copy. This is a balance I’m always striving to achieve for iCopywriter clients.

Understanding “Black Hat” and “White Hat” SEO practices is also helpful. If you’ve never heard of these terms, here’s a little primer to get you in the know.

Black Hat SEO

  • Black Hat SEO is basically trying to fool search engines into ranking your site high on results page by using practices that searching sites frown upon.
  • Typically this involves irrelevant content that doesn’t really help information seekers. It can be found in the form of one or two keywords being used excessively, or posting lots of links meant to redirect users.
  • It can also take the form of repetitive tags, or “hidden” text (characters the same color as the background, which make them fade from view).

Why should you care? It’s possible to be banned from certain search bars as a result of using Black Hat practices.

White Hat SEO

  • White Hat tactics direct attention to your site in an ethical, organic way. They involve taking the time to research and write content applicable to one theme and using related keywords to naturally direct readers/consumers to that content.
  • You can use synonyms to make multiple tags, headlines and titles that are associated with your topic, and include links to other useful information on the same idea.
  • This is an ongoing process, because it involves coming up with fresh news/stories all the time and properly using HTML code to link all of your work together.

Why should you care? With practice, time and a willingness to learn, White Hat SEO tactics can really work. Keeping this information in the back of your mind when you set out to create a winning webpage is key to making something that search engines – and customers – will trust and flock to.

For more information, check out this helpful (and user-friendly) site:

http://www.webhostingtalk.com/wiki/White_hat,_black_hat,_and_gray_hat_SEO

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Photo Credit: V&A Steamworks

What Do You Know About the Latest Google Update?

Have you heard of DMCA?

If you have just caught your breath after your website survived the Panda and Penguin Google updates, brace yourself for yet another update soon to be coming your way. The unnamed, but not so affectionately referred to ‘Emanuel Update’ will once again wreak internet havoc, and this time the results could potentially be more damaging.

The Emanuel update, named after Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor, comes after a comment regarding copyright infringement. It seems that Hollywood and others are convinced that if Google wanted to stop copyright infringement on websites, it could. This would mean that any website that pulled content from another site would be punished. After all, stealing is stealing and website copy is no different than other items.

But Google has come back saying it is not quite that easy. Their claim is that it’s not possible to know which websites own the copyright on specific pieces of content, and therefore they have difficulty knowing exactly who the culprits are to punish them. Instead, they have opened up a place where a site owner can report another website they feel has stolen copy and duplicated it elsewhere online. Now, through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), websites can request that copy is taken down. Still, this does not prove copyright infringement, as anybody can process the request, and involves an investigation on the part of Google.

How do you know if this will affect your website? You actually don’t – not yet anyway – but there are a few things you can do to help avoid falling victim to yet another alteration of the Google algorithm:

  • Keep your content original – Whenever you make a change to your website, use only original content. Duplicate content will be harshly punished and can effectively wipe your site out from the search engines seemingly all together by pushing you to the far depths of the search results.
  • Update your website consistently – Frequent updates show search engines that your website is active. With frequent updates via blogs and articles, combined with original content, you have a stronger chance at avoiding an entire site shut down and can prove your case better if you’re ever faced with any DMCA take down requests filed against your site.
  • Link instead of pull from other sites – Never use content from another website, especially without their permission. This is the best way to avoid punishment, and really the only way to truly protect your business. Instead, if you want to share something, simply link to it. You will be benefiting the other business and yourself at the same time.

What are your thoughts on yet another Google update that could affect your website? Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net