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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Top Posts on Tips

Here are the top posts on “Tips” from the old StepForth SEO Blog.

The Ten Minute Optimization REDUX – A SEO Tips White Paper

‘A 10 minute process to optimize a web page for top search engine rankings.’

How to Troubleshoot Dropped Search Engine Rankings – A StepForth SEO Tutorial

‘Discover why your search engine rankings have dropped and what to do about it.’ Read more…

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Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Top Posts on Links

Today is the launch of our new website. Unfortunately the majority of our blog content still resides on news.stepforth.com while we deal with transition issues so here are the top posts on Links from the old SEO blog.


Link Building Tips with Loren Baker – from SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM

‘The ins & outs of Link Building’

3 Methods to Build Links with a Blog – An Interview with Ross Dunn

‘Advantages of blogging for building valuable links and reputation online.’

Building Links with Directory Submissions

‘Some things to consider before using online directories to build links to your site’ Read more…

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Friday, January 23rd, 2009

SEO Results Take Time

SEO Results Take TimeThere is one important factor to remember whenever you are involved in improving the organic rankings of a website, and that factor is time. One of the most common questions I receive as an SEO is “How long till I start to see results?” This article is dedicated to anyone who has ever asked that question.

It doesn’t matter what industry you are involved in, or what techniques you follow, in all cases you will be a prisoner of time. In the vast majority of cases search engine rankings don’t come over night. Read more…

In Part 1 and Part 2 of How to Optimize for Google I discussed general website optimization, links, and Google webmaster tools. In Part 3 we will look at a number of other considerations which play a role in successful rankings in Google, and also touch on some tactics which are best avoided. Read more…

In today’s online world search engine rankings can make your business succeed, and while rankings in Yahoo and MSN are very valuable, their combined market value is still less than that of Google. This makes achieving top rankings in Google that much more important.

In this three-part series on How to Optimize for Google we will touch on a number of important aspects for top Google rankings including website optimization, links, Google Webmaster tools, and a number of other considerations.

The focus of Part 1 will be with on page website optimization. If you have already read this, check out Part 2 and Part 3 of How to Optimize for Google Read more…

In this article I am going to explain logfiles and their importance in website analytics from my perspective as a ClickTracks user. Before I begin, however, I want you to know that although I offer essential analytic consulting, I am a certified ClickTracks Analytics Professional and have dabbled in books on analytics, I don’t consider myself to be an analytics expert. In fact, I constantly find myself humbled by how much more there is to know. That said, I do know more than the average site owner and I hope that this article can shine a little light on this often confusing subject and save you some future headaches.

As many of you may know I am a huge fan of the logfile version of ClickTracks Professional, a website analytics package that I find indispensable for myself and my clientele. ClickTracks can do a lot to determine what is or is not working on a website; much more than expected in most cases. The one thing, however, that ClickTracks or any other logfile-based analytics tool cannot do is interpret information in your logfiles if it is not recorded. Unfortunately this is a common occurrence and many site owners have no idea that their hosting company is not saving information that could help them now or later when they find they need it.

The reality is that over ninety percent of the hosting companies I have dealt with have not been saving the vital data that a higher level analytics program needs; to work at peak performance if at all. In this posting I will provide an overview on this issue so you have enough information to approach your hosting company about making the required updates to their systems. If you are unsure you can even refer them to this article and/or the set of questions and details I provided below.

What is a Logfile?
First, let me explain the very basic idea of what a logfile is and how one is created.

Whenever you visit a website your browser requests information from the server hosting the website. This request is passed onto the server and in turn the server delivers the information requested by your browser. Whenever this exchange takes place your server saves the request along with a host of information about the requesting browser such as:

  • the internet address (loosely connected to location) known as the IP
  • browser type (Internet Explorer or Firefox or..)
  • the screen resolution of the browser used
  • time and date of the request
  • the page requested for viewing
  • the website the visitor came from (known as a Referrer)
  • if applicable, the keyword(s) that were used to find your website on a search engine
  • etc.

Once this data is collected it is saved on the server in a logfile for later use and over time it is often overwritten with new data so the files do not get too large; they bulk up very quickly especially on high-traffic websites.

How Can Logfiles Help Improve Your Website?
Now that you know what data is collected it is time to explain, in general terms, how this data can be used to help your website. There is a wide variety of information that can be gleaned from a complete logfile such as:

  • How long visitors stay at your website or on a particular page.
  • What pages they visited.
  • Where visitors are viewing your website from geographically.
  • What keywords were used to visit your website and which search engines were driving the highest volume and/or quality traffic.
  • Which pages had the highest or least traffic.
  • The average time a visitor stays at your website: often a great indication of the ‘stickiness’ of your website.
  • You can determine the effectiveness of your pay-per-click campaign by tracking visitors specifically delivered from the campaign.
  • Identify potential pay-per-click fraud using tools like ClickTracks Professional that has a click fraud reporting tool.
  • and much more…

So What’s the Issue?
Many hosting company’s are smart enough to include a basic web analytics program with every account. These programs are decent for anyone who wants to simply find out the traffic to their website and a myriad of other basic stats. However, there is often a pitfall to these basic programs. You see in order to save on computer performance the hosting company usually sets their servers to collect only the minimal data these basic systems require. As a result, more complex logfile-based analytics programs may find themselves starved of the data they need to operate fully. This is where my clients have found themselves before; they have sub-par logfiles and are forced to try and convince their hosting company to change their data collection methods to meet more advanced standards.

If you have no interest in website analytics you may find this whole scenario to be a non-issue. I completely understand, however, put yourself a year or even a month down the road when your website is taking off and you need to know more about the visitors to your website. You just might find yourself in this same frustrating scenario and it will seem absolutely insane how hard you have to push to get this data properly collected. Unfortunately, unless you are leasing your own private (dedicated) server from the hosting company they tend to set up their shared servers with only the basic needs of the majority in mind. As a result, the only way to force change is if more customers consider it a basic need – thus the reason for this article. Help me affect change so that you save yourself a headache in the future!

How to Be Sure Your Server is Collecting the Right Information
Most of you cannot check your logfiles for completeness with an analytics program so you will have to trust your server administrators to do their due diligence based on the following question.

Note: If you like you can just copy and paste the following question (noted in red) and send it to your hosting company support staff:

Hello,

I would like to make sure my website’s logfiles have the necessary information to run a higher end web analytics program. Is your server set up to collect the data on my website? I need this data to properly analyze the traffic on my website.

  • Date and Time
  • Client IP Address
  • HTTP Method
  • Requested file and Query string
  • User Agent
  • Referrer
  • Status code
  • Cookie (preferable, but not required)

If you are unsure of the answer or you need to set this up then please review the settings that need to be enabled on Apache servers or Microsoft Internet Information Servers; these pages include instructions if you need them.

Sincerely,
<>


My Hosting Company Disregarded This as Nonsense

I fully expect some will and that is because many website owners still care little or nothing about web site statistics so they have not even used the basic data to its fullest yet – and hosting company’s are aware of this. In fact, a good friend who owns a hosting company himself guessed around 95% of his website clients never even look at their stats. This is all true, however, does that mean that important data should not be collected for those who do want to delve deeper into analytics? I don’t believe so and the changes you are requesting will only increase the size of the logfiles for your website a small amount. Unless of course you don’t even have logfiles which is enough for me to recommend you take your services elsewhere.

Why Not Use Google Analytics Instead?
Google Analytics is an awesome solution for many small businesses. It does not require logfiles and it takes a marginal amount of work to begin acquiring proper data. In fact, I think it is a great tool for the majority of businesses that want to wade into a mid range analytics solution providing you are comfortable with Google having access to your stats. That said, there is one MAJOR flaw in using Google Analytics… it does not have reliable click fraud reporting. You see many of my clients use ClickTracks to monitor their pay per click campaign for click fraud which is not something I would ever trust Google to police itself on. That does not mean I do not use Google Analytics. In fact, whenever possible I use both ClickTracks and Google Analytics in tandem for redundancy especially when certain capabilities such as cookie tracking are not available from a hosting provider – Google includes cookies by default.

In Summary
Many website owners have no idea what they will or will not need in the future to properly administrate their online marketing campaigns. This article discusses a simple adjustment to the accumulation of website logfiles that I strongly believe all competent hosting companies should implement in order to provide scalability for their clientele. The adjustment will provide the additional information that a competent analytics solution will need to provide accurate statistics.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.
Celebrating 10 Years of Web Marketing Excellence

I am often reminded how important it is to develop a well thought out business plan. I speak with numerous clients each day, each having a passion to promote their service, information or product and yet although they may be experts in their field, they do not have the expertise or foresight on how to market the site. Often times the website is destined to stay in the closet and never get the online exposure they need and are hoping for. And often times the client lacks an objective perspective, sort of being amongst trees in a forest and not being able to see to whole picture.

The internet audience has matured and become more sophisticated in its expectations and delivery of information. No longer can one just throw up a site and expect to immediately generate business. Website readiness for online marketing can take many forms. In this and the articles that follow in the next few weeks, we will examine the building blocks to successful web marketing. Read more…

Picture of a dictionaryA large part of my time at StepForth as a search engine optimization consultant is spent conducting competitor research on behalf of our clientele. This service is focused on deconstructing the marketing campaigns of each competitor while identifying the tactics that appear to have fundamentally contributed to their search engine success. As you might imagine I come across many intriguing techniques that work and many that don’t. In this article I will account for a couple of techniques that appear to be overlooked by many but have proven time and time again to work; the creation of an on-site glossary and frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.

Read more…

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Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

PPC Success in Five Steps

There are a number factors involved in having a successful PPC campaign. These include everything from keyword selection, bid management, and campaign setup to your destination website. This article will discuss five of the most important areas: Keywords, Ad Copy, Destination URL’s, Organization, and Analysis.

1. Keywords
Having a successful PPC campaign starts off with keywords. While your keyword list will likely change and evolve over time, it is important to start with something that makes sense.

Base Keywords
First you will want to start off with your base keywords. These are any words you feel are relevant to your site. You may not end up using all of these in your PPC campaign but they will act as a stepping stone to finding other related phrases. Let’s say you own a camera shop. A few relevant keywords may include “digital camera” or “digital SLR”. Read more…

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Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

How to Optimize for Ask

Ask’s portion of the search market is a mere 4.3% (src. Hitwise) so it is understandable that optimizing for Ask is a low priority in the eyes of many webmasters. That said, despite the company’s rather infamous advertising campaigns Ask has some incredible and unique features that I believe will slowly but surely steal search share from its more popular brethren. Consequently, it seems appropriate to provide some tips on how to optimize for Ask without sacrificing rankings on the other search engines. To that end the following instructions are supplementary to the recommendations provided in my “How to Optimize for Yahoo” article. Read more…

Google Adwords Certified Partner Member of SEO Consultants Directory EMarketing Association