Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Top 5 On-Page Search Engine Optimization Tips

Recently, I met with a prospective client to evaluate PR and marketing strategies for his business, which has been around for at least over a decade. I did a thorough evaluation of his website and realized that none of the web pages had any on-page SEO applied to it. Think of all the business lost because the site never came up when his potential customers tried to look for his services online. I’m quite certain it was because the website designer thought his job was only to design the website and not to do the SEO.

Though this is is the subject of another blog post all together but to achieve success in the online world, a lot of seemingly disparate functions such as web design, graphic design, content writing, SEO, marketing and public relations, must work together. They are all so intertwined now, that it’s almost impossible to separate them from one another.

I’ve mentioned this in another blog post, but all assets or content created for the Web should follow a simple rule of thumb: It should be easily accessible when someone looks for it online. There is little point in having a website if people won’t be able to find it when they type important keywords relating to your product or service. And that’s where Search Engine Optimization comes into play.

Here are five basic but important on-page SEO tips that must be applied to your website:

1) Website copy
Keywords are at the very heart of SEO. Before writing your copy or registering your domain name, make a list of all the keywords that your clients or customers may use to search for you online. Include all the possible alternative phrases and words you think may be important. When working on the website copy, try to ensure that you’re using as many of these keywords as possible while keeping the content relevant and not stuffing too many keywords at the same time.

2) URL
The URL of your website or blog plays an important role in helping others find you. Include relevant keywords in the sub-directory of your domain name. For example, an internal page on your website should not contain random alphabets or numbers, such as:

http://www.prismmedia.com/Page1

A good example of a keyword-rich and relevant URL would be:

http://www.prismmedia.com/Search-Engine-Optimization/On-Page-SEO-Tips

3) Page Title
The page title is probably the most important on-page SEO component. The page title is what shows up on top of your web page when you view it in a browser and it is what search engines display prominently in blue when you type in a search term. Each web page should have a distinct title tag that includes important keywords, separated by pipes. It’s more important to include your keywords in the page title than your company name though that can be added right at the end. The ideal length of a title tag should not be more than 70 characters because it will appear truncated in search results.

4) Meta Description
The meta description is the black text below that appears below the title page in search results. Meta descriptions describe what the page is all about and help users decide whether the website or web page has the relevant information they are looking for. Though they won’t directly affect your site’s SEO, they help increase its relevance to a user, thus attracting more traffic. The meta description should not be the same as the page title and should not be more than 150 characters.

An example of the title tag and meta description I've given to one of the pages on my website.
 
5) Sitemap
A sitemap is an index or list of all your web pages and its hierarchy. A number of free websites will generate a sitemap for you, which should be submitted to search engines (as a text file or RSS/Atom feed) such as Google and Bing. This will help search engines index all pages on your site more efficiently and will help your site’s SEO, especially if your site has many pages and sub-folders.

Do you have any other on-page SEO tips? Share them in the comments section below!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cracking The QR Code

When I was young, I wanted to be a detective for the longest time ever. This vocational pursuit sprung mostly from my voracious reading of any mystery book I could get my hands on at the small local or school library. As a wannabe Sherlock Holmes, I was naturally fascinated by codes, their cryptic vocabulary and stealthy ways of passing secret messages. I read up a great deal on secret code languages and even attempted to develop one of my own that I could share with a select group of close friends.

Perhaps that explains why I was so fascinated to learn about QR codes, which have been all the rage over the last year. Quick Response Codes, as they are called, are those little black and white squares that resemble patterns of tetris game. QR codes were invented in Japan in the 1980s and have been popular in Asia for a while. They can be scanned by a QR code reader on your mobile phone and linked to a Web page, text, phone numbers or SMS. QR codes can be generated for free by a number of websites such as Kaywa or QRStuff.

Lady Gaga posted this QR code on her Facebook page so fans could download her latest 'Born This Way' ringtone.
The best feature of QR codes is that they act as a bridge between the online and offline world. One of the biggest disadvantages of print or outdoor advertising has been the inability to measure results. QR codes, to some extent, help solve that problem because they make it easier to measure how many people not only saw the ad but also acted on it.

What’s cool about QR codes is that while you need a website to generate a unique code for you, they can be made out of anything. In the past year, I’ve seen some pretty wacky examples of QR codes made out of sand, Frisk mints, M&Ms, Lego bricks and even cake icing (talk about making your own code and eating it too!)

You can put QR-codes on flyers, business cards, billboards, window displays and even merchandise (such as this QR-code pendant by Blend Creations that allows you to encode your own custom message or URL.)


Picture credit: Blend Creations
One of the most promising examples of QR code campaigns I’ve seen recently is to use it as a channel for some clever story-telling that creates better engagement and connects the end consumers with the makers of a product and the product's story. The IOU Project by a Madrid-based designer named Kavita Parmar, allows buyers to scan QR codes and see (through videos and pictures) the entire story of how their unique hand-crafted product was made -- from the artisans in India who wove the fabric to the designers in Europe who created the garment. Buyers also have the option of uploading a picture of themselves using or wearing the garment, allowing them to connect with the designers and craftsmen who created their product.

John Fluevog Shoes is another great example. Each of their handcrafted shoes from the Ask Clogs collection has a unique QR code that links to a video of that item being made from start to finish.

 
Picture Credit: John Fluevog Shoes

I think these are both fantastic examples of the use of QR codes. Isn't this the very essence of what we try to achieve through social media tools -- greater engagement, deeper consumer connections with the brand and a more interactive experience that allows people to really relate to the brand and become passionate advocates?

Of course, QR codes are still new and not a lot of consumers outside the social media world know much about them yet but from a measurement standpoint, they certainly have great potential to combine online and offline interactions and make them more meaningful. Besides, they are also somewhat fun to scan -- it always makes me curious to see where a code may lead me to. (Also why they've been so popular in organizing games and scavenger hunts such as the recent Starbucks and Lady Gaga campaign.)

Have you seen any great social media campaigns executed through QR codes? Share them in the comments section below.
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