In this video, Matt Cutts explains how website popularity differs from authority, and how the Google Algorithm separates them.
More uses = more value-addedness!
As you already know, I have a service called the Website SEO Review, where I conduct an audit into the SEO of your website, and provide you with various reports about the health of the site. Using these reports, I come up with an SEO strategy, and detailed action plans for you to follow.
The best thing about these reports is that you get to keep them, make use of them, and create new strategies YOURSELF. The Overall Report is limited to the TOP 3 strategies, but with this guide, you can think of another 6 more incredibly smart ways to use the individual reports.
1. Capture more varied keyword traffic with the Ranking Report.
I’ve noticed a number of websites in Singapore that use their homepage to target multiple keywords. Their homepage Titles tags usually have a combination of multiple keyword variations of their main keywords.
These websites are trying to cramp as many keywords as they can onto their homepage titles, because they want their homepage to show up for those searches. In a way, they are ‘diluting’ the keyword strength of the page. For best SEO practices, you should aim to target one main keyword per page – and that includes your homepage. (see also Keyword Cannibalization)
When I create the Ranking Report for you, it will generate a long list of related keywords based on the initial keywords that you give me. That way, you can see what are the other keyword combinations that you are or are NOT ranking for.
Instead of making your homepage target all the possible keywords, you can create new pages to target less competitive keyword variations. Either this, or do a keyword re-targeting on some existing pages, so they target different keyword combinations.
So if I were to use an (imaginary) Ranking Report to help a Web Design company (XYZ), an example would be:
- Homepage : Web Design Agency in Singapore | XYZ
- Services page: XYZ Website Designing Services
- About Us page: Our Singapore Web Designers | XYZ
Of course, this is just an example. You will have to refer to your own report to see which keywords are best suited for you. You can attract more traffic to different pages of your site this way.
2. Take advantage of competitor weaknesses with the Competition Ranking Report
The best way to steal traffic away from your competitors is to rank higher than them for their targeted keywords. That’s usually easier said than done. However, your competitors can’t dominate ALL keywords. There are bound to be some weaknesses you can exploit.
The competitor Ranking Report pits the keyword ranking between you and your top 3 strongest competitors. What you want to find are the keywords where your competitors are placed around the 10-30 mark. That means they have pages that are targeting those keywords, but are not strong enough to break into the first page of results.
Head to Google, search for those keyword terms, and try to locate your competitors around the results page. When you find your competitor’s site, click to view. Look at the content of the page, and see if you can do better.
Now, go create a new page that targets those keywords, and make sure the page is filled with great content. Build some internal links and external backlinks to that page, and hopefully you can rank higher than your competitor.
Personally, I like to target these ‘easier’ keyword terms. You are more likely to outrank your competitor’s ‘weak’ pages, compared to pages where your competitor ranks on the first page.
3. Brainstorm for new content ideas with Keyword Research Report
When I need to generate relevant content for a website, one of my greatest fears is to hit a writer’s block. Either that, or hitting a brick wall. That hurts.
With the Keyword Research Report, I can provide you with a large list of keywords that are closely related to the search terms used in your niche. The difference between the Keyword Research Report and the Ranking Report, is
- the Ranking Report gives you keyword rankings of your main business terms,
- whereas Keyword Research Report gives you the other keywords that people also search for that is related to your niche on a whole
In the example keyword research report above, you can see the other terms that people also searched for when they are looking for wedding planners. With these keywords, you can brainstorm a lot of additional content that would be of value to wedding couples.
4. Use broken external links for link building with Website Structure Audit Report
This one is confusing, but the pay off can be huge.
The Website Structure Audit Report points out broken internal and external links. Broken links may arise due to a change of URL, or maybe an external page that has moved.
Broken links results in a lot of 404 errors for your visitors – a sign of bad user experience. Worse, you lose the link benefits when other sites link to 404 pages on your site. When you link to a broken external page, you do not offer a good experience for them.
The Website Structure Audit tells you which pages on your site return a 404 error, and which external links are broken.
Solving the broken links and 404 errors on your own site is important. But one smart way to use the Report is to use those broken external links to build links to yourself. This is known as broken link building, and this is how you do it.
(if you didn’t read that extensive guide, here is the basic outline)
- find out who else links to that external page
- create an even better page than the one that you originally linked to
- convince the others who linked to that broken page to link to your new (and improved) page
- get links!
That’s definitely one link building strategy that has been successful for plenty of marketers.
5. Spy on your link building team by using the Backlink Analysis Report
Do you have an in-house team that is in charge of building links? Or did you hire an external SEO consultant to do the job?
Ideally, your link builders have shown you a list of links they built. But chances are, they wouldn’t tell you the whole story of how they got those links, and you probably wouldn’t know how to tell if these links are good or harmful.
So why not spy on your team by reviewing the links they have built? The Backlink Analysis Report will show you several tell-tale signs of whether the links built are harmful or not.
- Where are your links coming from? Are they preferably from local sources, or are they from other unrelated countries?
- Are you getting a significant number of links from Top Level Domains like .info, .in, .cn, .tv? Many spammy links are known to originate from there.
- Where are those incoming links pointing at? Are 95% of them pointing at your homepage? That’s a sign of a suspicious link profile.
- What anchor text are being used? If more than 20% of anchor text is made up of a single non-branded keyword, that should spell trouble.
There are many more signs that will be shown in the full report. If you see anything suspicious, you can use it to confront your team and ask for explanations. More importantly, you should get them to stop before a Google manual penalty kicks in.
6. Find new link opportunities with the Backlink Analysis Report
One of the best ways to build more links is to find people who already linked to you. Since they already linked to you, it means they’ve had a positive impression of your site or content. That’s half the battle won!
With the Backlink Analysis Report, you get a list of sites that linked to you. Now do yourself a favour by contacting these sites to thank them. Either send them a thank-you email for their mention, or leave a blog comment on the article that they mentioned you.
Doing this plants a seed of friendship, and internet relationships like this can pay off in the future. How?
- If the other site accepts guest posts, you have an advantage of getting accepted.
- If the other site has a ‘Favourite Links’, or ‘Resources’ page, you can ask to be included.
- If the other site has a blog content similar to one of yours, you can request to share your link on their page as further reading.
The possibilities are quite frankly, endless. But it needs to start with you making the connection.
More to come
Did you like what you just read? I’m sure I can think of even more ways to use those reports in the future.
With a bit of creativity, you can also think of more uses yourself. Pass the reports to your developers, content writers, or public relations person. I’m sure it will give them many ideas to help improve the SEO of your website.
Be sure to write in the comments below if you thought of anything interesting to share. We can all benefit from it 🙂
UPDATE: I no longer offer this service. Sorry!
Your answers to these 7 questions can help you save money in the long run.
So business has been slow and you are wondering whether it’s because there is no traffic to your website. Maybe you’ve talked to an SEO consultant who convinced you that the solution to your problem is to invest in SEO services.
You should already know that quality SEO services can bring more search engine traffic to your site; but you should also know that SEO is a long term process. Being the ever prudent businessperson, you want to make sure money is well spent.
Remember: saving money doesn’t mean spending on cheap, low quality SEO services. These are 7 questions you should ask yourself first if you want to save money on SEO in the long run.
1. Which types of SEO services do I really need?
If you’ve ever asked why SEO is so expensive, you should be glad to know that you can save money by only getting critical SEO solutions. (Note that this applies to businesses who have a very limited budget. In the best case scenario, you definitely want to cover all aspects of SEO and online marketing. )
- Do you need on-site optimization to solve technical side problems, and to ensure search robots can crawl your site efficiently?
- Or do you need to improve the content on your site?
- Perhaps you need more quality links pointing at your site?
- Maybe you need to get out of a manual penalty first?
Finding out the answers to questions like this will help you decide what services you really need. It also helps you avoid sellers who lump things you don’t need into an expensive package.
2. Are there any tasks I can easily do myself?
Why spend money when there are some fixes you can easily do yourself? Some marketers charge an admin fee for setting up accounts, tweaking certain settings, or other minor tasks – rightfully so, because it does take up their time. You can save some money by doing these yourself first:
- If you run a blog, there are a few minor tweaks you can make yourself to improve the SEO on your site.
- Are you connected to your Google Webmaster Tools account? Verify your website on it, and use the tool to locate Crawl errors, HTML improvements, or to know whether you are under any manual penalties.
- Use an On-Page SEO Optimization Analysis Tool to check for basic on-page SEO problems on your page.
- Can you work on low-effort/high-yield pages yourself?
3. Is investing in SEO services cost effective for my niche?
There are certain niches that have such little market demand, that it doesn’t make sense to spend too much on marketing to drive traffic. You might be selling something highly customized, like “custom design toothpicks”, or you provide a highly specialized service, like “space shuttle repairs”. Of course, those are exaggerations, but it always pays to look at the search volume for your product before deciding whether it is worthwhile to allocate a huge SEO budget.
Use Google’s keyword planner to find the search volume for the different ways people might search for your product/service. Make the best case scenario assumption that you will get 75% of the traffic from those keywords, and see if your potential revenue makes sense for you to spend a whole lot on monthly SEO services.
If your market does not make sense to invest in long term SEO, perhaps Pay-Per-Click advertising is better for you.
4. Can I use my unique selling point to stand out from the competition?
Striving to be the best in an industry can be a very expensive process. Instead, try to be the most different. Some businesses hire top SEO companies and run expensive campaigns to rank for the most competitive keywords. To compete with them is a money wasting proposition.
Identify your greatest strengths, and make them obvious to your customers. That way, you can carve out a niche in competitive markets, and target search terms that aren’t targeted by your competitors. You can easily save money by not fruitlessly trying to chase the most competitive keywords.
gShift is one such company that knows its unique selling point well, and has used that to become a rising threat in the field of SEO software solutions dominated by mainstays like Moz and Raven Tools.
5. Is the design of my website preventing me from getting the traffic I could have gotten?
I have worked with clients who hired me to improve their SEO, but the first advice I gave them was to do a complete website revamp. Why? Because I felt their previous design was holding them back. I felt they would get a higher ROI if they invested in a website redesign first. An example below.
On top of the website redesign, I just did some very basic SEO to make sure the website was properly structured and keywords were properly targeted. The result was quite impressive.
The problem is that there are many Web designers who aren’t very well versed in SEO. When they design a website for you, they make search robot ‘crawlability’ and internal link structure an afterthought (since making the site ‘nice’ is their main priority).
A redesign might help you get more click-throughs, and help search engines index your content better. Getting the advice of an SEO when you do a redesign would help tremendously.
6. Are my current visitors converting enough?
This can be an extension of the problem in point 5 – bad website design.
Sometimes, it seems like you are getting the traffic, but no one is buying anything! Spending a lot of money on SEO services to drive more traffic to a site where people aren’t interested in buying just leads to lower profits.
Factors other than bad web design such as unclear instructions for visitors, low trust signals, overly complicated forms, or being un-optimized for mobile devices; they can all hurt conversion.
Conversion is not only about buying something online. It could be account sign ups, subscribing to a mailing list, or downloading something. If your website converts well, it will have a positive spillover effect when a successful SEO campaign brings in more traffic.
Before you invest in SEO services, first make sure you are not making landing page mistakes that will negate the benefits of more traffic.
7. Am I currently penalized by Google?
A sudden HUGE drop in search traffic might be a sign of a Google Penalty; especially if you have been hiring low quality cheap SEOs to do your link building.
If you see the following in your Google Webmaster’s Tools account for your site:
or if you get the following email from Google:
Getting out of penalty is a long and painful process – but it is something that HAS to be done if you want to continue using the same website.
Knowing that you are penalized, you should concentrate efforts on getting out of penalties first. If your current SEO is the one that got you into this mess, the worst thing you can do now is to heed his advice to build more links. Save money by first prioritizing your funds into removing the manual penalty. This can be in the form of hiring someone to remove spammy links, or check for duplicate content on your site.
Any other questions to add?
The reason I came up with the Website SEO Review was because I wanted to help small businesses identify the areas where they can better allocate their resources, and save money on SEO in the long run. It helps to answer those questions that will determine your SEO expenses.
What else do you think you should consider before getting SEO services? Do share in the comments below.
I get that question a lot. So how much does SEO Cost?
If you have ever shopped around for SEO services, you might have asked yourself one of these questions:
- Why is SEO so expensive?
- Why are the prices so different?
- Why doesn’t this company list their prices?
If you have ever asked any of these questions, you are not alone. SEO pricing is confusing if you do not know how SEO services work. Some SEO companies have a fix-priced package, while other companies can take days, sometimes weeks to give a final quotation. This is not surprising, given that different SEO services have different pricing models. The most common types are:
- Fixed-priced monthly packages
- Per project basis
- Hourly rates for consultation
- Monthly retainer fees
“Wait, aren’t those monthly packages really cheap?”
In a way, you are right. Typical lower range SEO packages sold by Singapore companies can vary from $40 to $200. These are obscenely cheap if you compare it to SEO work done by professionals who charge by the hour or per project. WHY these packages are so cheap is a long story I may cover in another article. But before you consider buying these packages, I want to tackle the issue of SEO packages before anything else. Let me start with an analogy.
The doctor analogy.
When you fall sick, you see a doctor.
You get to the doctor’s clinic, and before you even get to see the doctor, the dispensary counter calls your name. They hand over a bag of medicine containing the following:
Painkillers, cough syrup, flu pills, diarrhea medicine, vitamin C, high blood pressure medicine, insulin for diabetes, and some sleeping pills.
“That’ll be $20.”
You think to yourself: that’s really cheap, considering the amount of medicine you are getting. But then you notice every single one in the clinic is getting the same bag, for the same price, without consulting the doctor.
That’s the problem with SEO packages.
I think we all know that no one would ever go to that clinic again. Why?
- No one got to see the doctor to know exactly what’s wrong. (no diagnosis into the real issues plaguing the website)
- Everyone got the same exact medicine, even though everyone has different problems. (Clients given the same solution despite being in different industries, with different goals, and having different competition)
- The wrong medicine could be potentially life damaging. (most SEO packages still use ancient link building tactics which Google now actively penalize)
This is quite an accurate reality for most SEO companies that sell cheap SEO packages. As they are quite similar to the services found in SEO Email spam, you can learn more about the potential damage of these cookie-cutter packages in another article I’ve written. Even though these packages are cheap, you run a high risk of getting penalized, which will mean greater damage to your brand and resources in the long run.
“So what makes the other SEO services so expensive?”
Check out this article from MOZ.com about the range of costs that SEO agencies charge. If you run a small operation like me, some of those figures might give you a heart attack. Though SEO might have become more popular in recent years, it doesn’t mean businesses understand the value behind it. To understand why SEO costs so much, you need to first know what goes behind most SEO campaigns.
What are included in ‘modern’ SEO campaigns
Let’s try to break down the activities behind a search optimization campaign. Many of the following activities may leave you scratching your head because they don’t look like anything related to SEO, but actually they do!
Website Redesign for better User Interface (UI) / User Experience (UX)
Poor design can also affect whether people are willing to link to you, or whether visitors are likely to share your posts.
Cost for redesign: Varies, but can cost as much as thousands of dollars for a major revamp.
Improve website structure for accessibility
Some sites have very poor website structures. Whether it’s poor navigation, inefficient internal linking, or ugly URLs, these can very easily affect your SEO authority. No matter how good your content is, if your site is impeded by a bad structure, you would not get the full benefits of link authority and search robot accessibility.
Cost for hiring a web developer: Depends on the scale of your website, estimated to be around $100 and up
Content strategy or Content marketing
Take a look at the 2014 Industry Survey by Moz. Of note: Notice how most SEO marketers in 2014 are focusing on Content Creation. There are many different ways to do content marketing; from relative easy ones like gathering testimonials and case studies, to more thoughtful and complicated ones, like videos or online tools.
Cost for content marketing: SINGLE pieces of content can range from $50 (simple articles), upwards to thousands (videos, tools, infographics).
Public relations / Press releases
An often missed opportunity for SEO is the PR strategy. I noticed that many cheap Singapore SEO companies offered press releases as part of their packages. These low quality press releases are sent to press release syndication sites. They rarely (if ever) get picked up by major news sites, and Google also discounts such links. Those shouldn’t be how press releases are used. Good public relation campaigns can net you a lot of buzz, traffic, and as a bonus, many quality links.
Cost for PR: Approximately USD150 and up (for one press release), to around a thousand dollars for specialized and localized press distribution.
Of course, it wouldn’t be SEO if the ‘basic SEO activities’ aren’t implemented. Keyword research; analytics; on-site optimization; link building; tracking; – these are examples of what a typical SEO might do. A proper SEO consultant would thoroughly look at what your website lacks, and recommends what you need (they play the role of the doctor in the analogy at the start).
Cost for basic SEO: Depends. No good answer exists until you know exactly what your website needs. SEO consultants can charge between $100~$300 an hour. Project based pricing can vary between $1000~$30,000. Monthly retainer fees can range from $500 a month to $5000 a month. (For more information on global SEO pricing, read this excellent article by searchenginewatch.com.)
“Sure, I understand the costs but I still don’t have the budget to afford them. Am I doomed?”
Absolutely not! It certainly is plausible to increase traffic to your site without spending a single cent on SEO activities. Furthermore, many of the activities above can be done yourself (or by your in-house team) with little or no cost.
The important thing when facing a severely limited budget, is to prioritize your solutions and see which activity you can do without external help. Either hire a consultant to review the best options, or make sure an SEO agency’s proposal consists of the breakdown of your SEO situation, and rationales for their proposed changes.
No doubt, SEO can be quite expensive. You should not waste the money on unneeded, or poor quality services. (Further reading: Should you stop doing SEO?)
I can also easily write a whole article about the opportunity cost of NOT investing in SEO, or the unforeseen cost of being penalized by Google due to low quality SEO tactics.
I think the doctor analogy sums up quite well about how much you should spend on SEO. First, get an accurate diagnosis, and pay for the medicine you truly need. Going for the cheapest solution isn’t always the best idea.
When you hire us for SEO consulting services, we will give you a report on what SEO strategy suits you best, and a prioritized action plan with cost estimates. We tell you how best to spend on SEO, so that your budget is well utilized in the long run. After all, we also fully know how expensive SEO can be, and if you do not have the budget for the best SEO campaign, we make sure to bring out the best of what available resource you have,
After all, SEO is a long term process.
If you have an email account, chances are you’ve gotten your fair share of spam mail. It’s also not surprising that in this day and age, having multiple email accounts is normal (I think I manage 10 accounts), so you can just imagine how much spam we have to sift through each day.
Not another SEO Email spam!
There’s personal email spam, and then there is business email spam. For the rest of us who own websites, we have it much worse. We get tonnes of random emails from people selling their services. Unsolicited email spam comes in the form of random people pitching SEO services, web design/development services, and recently, even mobile app development.
Never hire a SEO company via unsolicited emails.
This holds true 99% of the time. This is why such SEO Emails should always go straight to spam.
Here is an example of a typical SEO pitch email that you should always ignore.
The following was sent to me about a month ago, and has not been altered in any shape of form, whether it’s the grammar, spelling, or even format.
I left the name there because I’m not even sure that is a real person. In fact, I’ve received another 3 EXACT emails, with 3 other different Gmail addresses, with different names.
I am Rekha Singh,Marketing Manager….
SEO Special Discount Offer Get Google Top Ranking!
We have a SEO discount offer going for the following package –
Off-Page work activities “Monthly Task and responsibilities”.
(Higher Traffic = Higher Sales)
1. 150 Directory submissions
2. 60 Social Book marking Submissions
3. 20 Article Submissions (1 article x 20 article websites)
4. 10 Press Release Submissions (1 press release x 10 press release websites)
5. 10 Blog Comments
6. 1 unique, 400 word article written
7. 1 unique, 400 word press releases
8. 10 Search Engine Submissions
9. 20+ One Way Directory Link On-Page work activities “Follow only first month”
10. Meta tags/Title tag changes
11. Keyword research/Analysis
12. Competitor Analysis
13. Heading tag changes
14. Alt tag changes
15. Interlinking wherever required.
16. Keyword density in site content.
17. HTML Site Map
18. XML site map and Submission in webmaster tool
19. Ror.XML File creation
20. Robots.Txt File creation Extra work activities
21. Google Webmaster tool
22. Google Analytics
Please let us know in case you are interested.
Online marketing executive
PS: This email is not spam, it was manually sent by us, our sole purpose being to introduce ourselves to you with no obligation on your part. Your email address was found to be publicly available on your website and it has not been added to any list. We consider this to be a polite way to contact you and apologize sincerely if you have been inconvenienced in any way. We are obliged to offer you an ‘OPT-OUT’ from future mailings from us; should you wish to exercise this right, please reply with” OPT-OUT” in the subject field.
First signs of trouble
1. If the mailer was serious about pitching to me, she would have found my name on the About Us page. Either she’s lazy, unprofessional, or a robot – all of which are reasons I would not consider replying.
2. Look at the English!
I am Rekha Singh,Marketing Manager….
Please do not tell me they expect me to take them seriously if this is how they start the pitch. It even sounds like a cyborg!
Please let us know in case you are interested.
No. Just no.
3. They contacted me with a Gmail account, and no mention of the company name anywhere. There is just no way I will trust these guys!
You run the risk of being penalized by these outdated link building tactics.
It is no surprise that a company that would use Email spamming to get leads, would also use spammy link building methods. A disclaimer: these methods by themselves aren’t actually black hat, or spammy. It’s just the way a company attempts to excessively rely on these methods, that they become link schemes.
150 Directory submissions
60 Social Book marking Submissions
20 Article Submissions (1 article x 20 article websites)
10 Press Release Submissions (1 press release x 10 press release websites)
10 Blog Comments
Here are some evidence direct from the mouth of Matt Cutts (Head of Google web spam team) implicating these potentially harmful methods.
On directory submissions.
As far back as 2011, Matt had stated that directories have to be subjected to ‘substantial editorial discretion’ in order for links to be qualified as a non-spammy. Do not expect any ‘editorial discretions’ when it comes to those 150 directory submissions. Only submit your website to the highest authority and relevant directories.
On social bookmarkings.
Quite similar to directory submission, once you overdo these, it becomes what Google describes as “unnatural links that may violate their guidelines“.
On their Link Schemes page, comes this paragraph:
“Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines. Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that may violate our guidelines:
- Low-quality directory or bookmark site links”
On Article Submissions.
Matt personally recommended not to upload to article directories. Over the years, article directories have become websites with spammy, low quality content. He also mentioned that in recent Google algorithms, links from article directories will be ‘less successful’ than before.
On Press Release submissions.
Press releases are actually still relevant in getting high quality editorial links, provided you have really newsworthy releases that industry sites want to report. As you might have guessed, not every business has that kind of newsworthy story. It is also very costly to write and release high quality press releases to major media outlets (think hundreds to thousands of dollars).
What SEO companies like our friend over here do is they write a low quality press release, and submit them to press release submission sites. These sites have very little link value. according to a comment made on a Google Webmaster thread.
On blog comments
Matt Cutts: “if your primary link building strategy is to leave comments all over the web, to the degree that you’ve got a huge fraction of your link portfolio in comments, and no real people linking to you, at some point, that can be considered a link scheme.”
I also have a minor problem with these.
8. 10 Search Engine Submissions
Google dominates the search in Singapore, with over 80% market share. There really isn’t an incentive to submit to other search engines. Anyway, Google will automatically crawl your site and index it as long as it’s been live for about a week. No one should charge you for submitting to search engines if search engines do it themselves automatically.
9. 20+ One Way Directory Link On-Page work activities “Follow only first month”
Frankly, I have no idea what that means. I hope I’m not missing out on any cutting edge SEO techniques.
21. Google Webmaster tool
22. Google Analytics
Again, I hope these guys aren’t charging a whole lot to set up a Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools account for you. I wouldn’t argue against the usefulness of these tools. However, it’s absolutely free to sign up for these 2 accounts, and setting up is relatively easy!
Now you know.
These are just some reasons why you should ignore 99% of SEO pitches through email. Such companies usually use SEO strategies that *might* work for a few websites in the short term, but will do major damage in the long run. Their low cost just isn’t worth the price.
Great SEO companies need not rely on Email spamming to get their leads. They either do well on search engines themselves, or they have people singing their praises and giving them leads through word of mouth.
For Part 2, I will expose the 2nd kind of SEO related emails that you should avoid. Stay tuned!