Create continuity for an easy SEO win

About a year ago (when I intended to post on this topic) a Moz blog post asked several well-known search engine optimisation experts to nominate an easy-win that clients could implement right away to improve their SEO.

Rand Fishkin’s response was one I’ve also found myself consistently suggesting time and time again when people want SEO advice for their sites: create continuity by updating existing pages instead of turning URLs over.

Let’s have a look at how this works.

SEO is still about getting links from other pages (whether they be social media or other sites), which signal to search engines whether your page is popular, and what it’s about.

One great way to maximise your inbound links is time. Links gradually build up. If you simply do everything you can to not change URLs and to instead re-use existing ones, you’ll find inbound links tend to compound like interest in a bank.

One of the best, easy wins you can implement is to simply stop throwing away old pages and try to re-use and recycle.

Recurring events

The most common example I see of this is when a site promotes something recurring. Let’s say it’s an annual fun run.

Now each year the event changes: the copy will change, sponsors will change. People often make the mistake of putting up a new page and removing the old one. Typically a page will be given a url such as YourSite.com/fun-run-2013.

Campaigns are then run – media releases, emails, ads, social media, etc. – to promote this event, and invariably some inbound links are going to be pointed to the page.

Then, following the event, the page is often removed until the next year, when a brand new one replaces it – YourSite.com/fun-run-2014.

Refresh, re-use, recycle

A small change to this approach can make a big difference over time. Put simply, you want a single page that doesn’t change from year to year, and is always live, so that this year’s inbound links are added to the foundation of those from last year and the year before.

Make your URL YourSite/fun-run. When the copy needs to change for a new year, archive last year’s page by adding the year to the URL, but make sure the address of the current event page is never altered.

Retail applications

The same principle applies to things like retail sites. Let’s say you have a product line of men’s blue t-shirts. Come the end of summer you may be out of stock and may even be thinking of changing supplier. Products like these are often removed from a site, leaving search engines that have indexed them with a 404 (Page not found), which is a signal to drop the page from the index.

In another 6 months or so a new page with a new URL goes up, for a new blue t-shirt, perhaps from a new supplier. It then has to start collecting links from scratch.

Far better to instead list the product as out of stock and remove any links to it from menus and searches, but leave the page live. Later when the new line is ready to be listed you post it in the same place (same URL) so incoming links are added to an existing foundation and not starting from scratch.

Tours that have closed

Perhaps you run tours or regular events that are seasonal. In the off season, don’t unpublish the page. As well as sending a message to search engines to drop the page, if there are good, well-managed sites linking to you, they’ll find their link is broken and remove it.

Simply update your page to state that your events are seasonal and currently closed. If you like, remove visible links to the page from your site and menus, but ensure it continues to be live and return a http 200 status.

It all adds up

Again, over time, this simple habit or change to your processes can deliver real gains.

What other easy wins have you been able to implement in your online marketing? I’d love to hear ideas from others.

SEO & your book’s Amazon page

An editing colleague recently asked me whether I had any advice for authors asking how to get more traffic to their book’s Amazon page.

I’m not going to delve too far into basic search engine optimisation here (see my post on Google’s SEO Starter Guide for that). But what’s different about trying to optimise a page you have limited control over on a third-party site?

  1. The Amazon domain is a huge advantage. It will have an alarming number of inbound links. All things being equal it will outrank a page about your book on your own website.
  2. Amazon is a search engine in itself. So you’re trying to achieve traffic from organic search (like Google) & from the onsite search at Amazon.
  3. In addition to standard SEO stuff, you’ll have categories & tags within Amazon to consider.
  4. Most significantly: your page title is still the most important field on your page & it’s going to be your book’s title.

Your title

Let’s explore that last idea a bit further. The page title tag is a key indicator of what your page is about for search engines. Ideally it needs to be full of keywords that have search volume if you want significant impressions in search results pages.

And on Amazon, that’s your book title. For novels that have obtuse titles bearing little relation to the book’s topic, this is an issue. A subtitle is worth considering. For non-fiction it’s a little easier to use a title that’s descriptive.

Choosing a good title comes back to keyword research. What are people searching for? Importantly, if an author is asking this question & considering keyword research after the book’s written, it’s too late to address the title. Sure some keywords can be used in the description, categories & tags but a useful, descriptive title/subtitle will produce the best results.

On page SEO

Take care to use relevant keywords, phrases & variations in the description on your page. (Note: You can’t name drop other authors or best selling titles in here to capitalise on their search volume).

Off page SEO

Authors generally spruik their work in various newsletters, social media pages, to libraries, community groups, local press & in talks to anyone who’ll listen. Include links to your book’s Amazon page when supplying your bio or press release. Try to vary the anchor text a little so your get a spread of relevant words around your title.

Ads

The on-site search on Amazon seems to favour sales & popularity. So to get even more traffic from here you need to win the war on Google first & demonstrate some traffic & revenue.

It’s worth experimenting with Adwords &, depending on your topic, Facebook ads might be useful (especially for hobby-based books that could be targeted to people displaying an interest).

What do you think?

If you’re an author I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s worked & what hasn’t worked for you. You might also be interested in the video below where some indie authors discuss what they think works on Amazon.

Good luck!

DIY, until you need some help

Today’s post is about how I managed to turn a simple computer upgrade into a week’s lost work and the equivalent cost of a brand new machine. And though I may have also ground another layer of enamel off my teeth in frustration, it got me thinking.

As a small business owner or sole trader you’re often expected to juggle all sorts of skills that would be the responsibility of specialists in a larger workforce. You’ll often manage your own books, market and promote your own services, manage your tax – the list is long and if you’re a sole trader it may be unwritten and endless – everything’s your responsibility.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t outsource. For some things it’s a necessity. Knowing where to draw the line is the art and science of running a business.

Whether you decide to throw time or your money, at your problems, neither approach is wrong. It depends on the stage of your business and which you have more of.

It also depends on your skill set. BUT how well can we judge our own skills in areas we’re not familiar?

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing

Here’s the rub – not being a subject expert, it’s the things you don’t know that you don’t know, that’ll hurt you in the end.

I like to think I understand how to put PCs together. But the reality is that I do to a point. (After laborious investigations, it seems my hard-drives don’t like my new motherboard – thanks to Geeks 2 U for eventually coming to the rescue).

Knowing when you’re beaten

We all have our specialities and we all live in a world of incredible complexity, that’s mostly hidden from us.

IT folk probably know this better than most, but as someone who works in the publishing industry, I see it too. Publishing information on the web or in print is a process and you get better at it the more you do it. If it’s your job and you do it for many years, you can expect to learn a thing or two.

At face value it looks like the sort of thing everyone could do for themselves. And it is. But if your specialty is somewhere else, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Google’s SEO starter guide

Google first published it’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) starter guide 2 years ago, but a new update has just been released on its Webmaster Tools site.

Download: Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

The beauty of the guide is, like everything Google produces, it’s simple and useful.

For those new to SEO it summarises everything you need to know, and for more experienced site owners there are some reminders – straight from the horse’s mouth – as to best practice for making your site Google-friendly.

The basics haven’t changed much since my SEO basics post in 2007. But this is a great document for bringing SEO to life, replete with cute little Googlebot cartoons and links to a wealth of resources. For example, below, Google engineer Matt Cutts explains the anatomy of a search result.

Some of the useful insights I took away for managing a large site:

  • A reminder of Webmaster tools’ handy content analysis section that points out if any of your meta tags are too short, long or duplicated
  • Some useful help on the importance of Google-friendly URLs
  • An explanation of 301 redirects and the rel=”cannonical” link element, which ensure duplicate URLs don’t confuse poor Googlebot
  • An introduction to the open source Sitemap Generator Script Google has helped produce (in beta testing phase) and image sitemaps
  • Google’s 404 widget for presenting useful and friendly ‘Page not found’ messages
  • A whole new section dedicated to Google’s separate mobile search functionality.