SEO Strategies – The Truth About Search Engine Optimization

The Importance of Being Online

Did You Know? Right now, over 81% of people first search online before making a purchase vs using yellow pages, newspapers, traditional "offline" methods.

Did You Also Know? – 60% of traffic that comes to the websites is from searches-From people typing in what they are looking for in Google, Yahoo & MSN / Bing. Now, if your website is not on the first page of the search engine results, then unfortunately you are now. So knowing that, I am sure you would like to know how to achieve first page search results … and it begins with proper SEO strategies.

Let's get started!

First things first!

"A little bit of information is a dangerous thing"

Well the same holds true for too much information when it comes to SEO or Search Engine Optimization. When you are taught how to drive, was it necessary for you to have an understanding of the combustion engine, correct valve timing or be able to rebuild a transmission?

Of course not!

You simply needed the facts of getting your car going safely and smoothly down the road to your destination. Otherwise you will never get out of the driveway or be too overwhelmed and never learn to drive … never achieving your desired results.

Marketing Lesson # 1 "You can not steer a parked car!"

Unfortunately there is a lot of miss information that seems to be right in line with what people are trying to sell you online today. Imagine that?
The three reasons for this are simple:

1. SEO Companies, Gurus and Consultants want you to believe that only their big brains, experience and magic wands can make your site optimized and that little old you has NO chance, so do not bother and pay us lots of money.

2. Pretend Gurus and Consultants learn a few tricks and sell their wares unscrupulously all over the web for cheap leaving you with a crappy e-book and no results.

3. Lastly, there are the true webmasters out there who take on-Page optimization well beyond where it needs to go. (in my humble & profitable opinion) If you do not believe me, go ahead and buy one of those 200 page e-books that expect you to have degree from MIT and a full working knowledge of website coding. I would rather eat glass … I know this because I have read one of these, but dozens before seeing the light.

In other words, they tend to try and paint the Mona Lisa within every site but forget to invite anyone to the museum. IE All tech and no marketing. Remember, we did talk about the importance of getting the car moving did not we?

Dispelling the Myths of Search Engine Optimization

  • PPC or paid advertising is much cheaper and faster. WRONG. Paid advertising is only as good as long as you are paying for it, where On-Page optimization is a onetime set up. Natural Search Traffic is still 60% of all traffic & you will pay more per click in advertising if your site is NOT optimized.
  • SEO results take months, if not years, to achieve. WRONG. In fact, you can expect immediate results within a few days. Nobody has the time or patience to wait these days …
  • Optimal SEO results can only be achieved by an SEO expert. WRONG. No technical knowledge or SEO expertise is needed to achieve major success when you use the right SEO Strategies.
  • Hundreds of links are needed before I can start to see significant results. WRONG. Have you ever heard the saying, "Work smarter, not harder"? You can maximize your results with very little linking.
  • The Google algorithm is complicated and takes over 100 factors into consideration. It's impossible to achieve maximum SEO results without targeting them all. WRONG. There are key areas that have the greatest bearing and weighting over search engine results. In fact, these key areas make up the majority of the search algorithm.
  • SEO software yields the best results. WRONG. Simply put, if you know the key areas to target, you'll outperform any SEO program EVERY time. It's not a complicated process if you know what you're doing. (famous last words)

What is SEO All About Then?

All right, you've been patient. Here are the essentials of what you need to know about WHAT Search Engine Optimization is all about and then I'll get to the "HOW TO's" in just a minute. Let's walk before sprinting into uncharted territory.

OK so here's you first curve ball … there are two kinds of Search Engine Optimization! What? Who knew? Well I did and now so do you.

There is "ON PAGE" SEO and "OFF PAGE" SEO.

On-Page SEO is the method of configuring your website's size, layout, text, photos and videos so that they are easy to find by the search engines when someone is searching for them online.

Off-Page SEO happens outside of the website. It is the method of distributing valuable and relevant content about your products and services onto the internet in the form of blog posts, videos, articles, forums, podcasts, etc. that all point back to your website to help raise its rank in the search engines as well as drive traffic.

Now there is a middle man (more like a Judge) in the process and that is the search engines themselves like Google, Yahoo & Bing / MSN. They go around creeping and crawling around the internet and index or rank your website based on their own formulas known as algorithms.

No one knows the exact formulas (except those web geeks at Google, but they're not talking) but we have established some definite Do's & Don'ts when it comes to optimizing your website. The other thing to understand is that the Google's & Yahoo's use both On-Page & Off-Page optimization when ranking your website. For now, we'll concentrate on the on-site SEO which is the foundation for all other web marketing anyway.

Even paid web traffic from ads will cost you less with an optimized website because the search engines will reward you for playing by their rules … And simply the one theme that governs the rules of the search engines is to protect the consumer.

The Search Engines primary job is to bring the most RELEVANT results (websites, videos, articles, etc.) to the consumer or person doing the search based on the search term they type in. For example: If you were to search for "Snake Poison Antidote" on Google, you would be less than pleased and understandably angry if it folded up websites on snakeskin handbags and boots. You get the idea.

Getting Started with SEO Strategies

1. KEYWORDS : Prior to the SEO (or the process of correctly placing the right search engine friendly elements on your site) Optimization really begins with understanding the search terms people are using to look for products and services in the first place. These search terms are commonly known as "Keywords". Proper Keyword research is where most people (even seasoned marketers) fail before they even get started. Fortunately there are plenty of free and paid tools you can be using in no time to pick out the best terms to optimize your site with.

2. PLACEMENT : After you have thoroughly done your keyword research, it is time to strategically place them in all the elements * of your site (Header, Title, Description, Meta Tags, Navigation Links, Images, H1, H2, H3 tags, Alt Tags, Body etc.) to effectively have Google and the others to index or take account of all of them to be able to rank your site's relevancy for those keywords.

* Note: All of these "elements" are simply fields easily accessible to fill in on most commonly used website platforms.

Ok, that's it!

It can not be.

Yes it can! Sort of …

Like I said there are many geekier aspects of on-page optimization which includes things like which type of site structures to use, frames, types of scripts, etc. However, with the advancement of template driven and WYSIWYG * sites, many of these aspects are already pre-coded for optimization or ease of readability for those Search Engines out there doing their creeping and crawling thing … also known as indexing.

* WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) – An interface that provides the user with the ability to point and click to insert objects, images & text into most sites today.

So with Keyword Research and proper Placement in your site are the broad strokes of On-Page Search Engine Optimization. However, "How" to do the right and profitable Keyword Research for your niche and "How" to place them properly in all the elements of your sites is where you earn your stripes.

Your SEO Strategies Next Step

Fortunately I have put together a step by step guide that will not only walk you through on-page optimization but also how to drive FREE traffic through off page optimization as well.

Remember that Search Engine Optimization is an Investment, not an Expense. Unlike paid ads, the efforts you put in to really optimize your site today will continue to pay off well into the future.

With a proper search engine optimization guide, you can easily dominate search-engines like Yahoo, Google and MSN. Ranking high on search-engines is easy and can be very profitable for your website.

Think Credit Scores Do Not Apply To Young Adults? Think Again

By the time you turn 28, you will probably have a career and possibly a family. When you want to make big purchases like buying the car of your dreams or buying a house to raise a family, your credit score becomes more important than ever. Your credit score is also referred to as a FICO score and is typically a number between 300 and 850. Bank lenders who will loan you money for a house or a car will look at this score very carefully before lending you the money and deciding your interest rate. According to the article Starting Out by Kelly K. Spors in The Wall Street Journal, FICO scores above 760 qualify you for the best loan terms, while scores below 600 can mean unappealing terms and higher interest rates – or bar you from getting a loan all together. The breakdown of the FICO score includes a 35% weighting for payment history; 30% for the amount owed, especially as compared to your credit limits; and 15% for the length of your credit history. Also, having too many credit inquiries and loan applications by you or too many accounts opened in a short time can hurt your score.

So I made a mistake, how do I improve my credit score?

1. The first thing to do is to start paying your bills on time. If you have Internet access, it may be a good idea to set up an automatic bill pay (either through your bank's website or the actual credit card or loan company's website). This way, the bill will be deducted out of your checking account at the same time every month and will reduce your chances of your payment being lost in the mail. Paying your bills on time every month for about a year will dramatically improve your score.

2. The second thing to do is to check your credit report from all three major credit bureaus once a year. If you check it more than once a year, this may hurt your score. You can access your report for free at http://www.annualcreditreport.com . Be careful, many sites say they provide free credit reports but there is often a catch. Identify inaccurate information in your credit report and write a letter to the addresses listed below explaining your situation.

Equifax PO Box 740241 Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian PO Box 2104 Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion PO Box 2000 Chester, PA 19022

3. The third thing to do is to be smart with your credit. This means avoiding mall shopping sprees or playing online poker. Use your credit cards wisely. It is also smart to keep your credit card balances at 30% or less of your limit. This keeps your score up and leaves room on your credit card for emergencies like auto repairs and house repairs.

Copyright 2006 Debt Management Credit Counseling Corp.

What You Need to Know about Vacation Rentals before You Go

That time of the year is finally here. You know what I'm talking about, the one or two weeks you get every year to escape from "real life" and just be you. Relax, eat and drink well, enjoy your family, catch up on some much needed sleep. But, before you pack up and head out, rethink the all-too-normal hotel stay. Believe it or not, you have options, one of which is the vacation rental.

Would not it be nice to leave your own home, arrive in your destination city and settle into a "home away from home" for your next vacation? That's what vacation rentals are all about. These are homes waiting to be rented out by people on vacation. Each vacation rental owner will have different criteria in what type of renter they are looking for, each vacation rental house will vary in amenities, and each price will be dependent on the time of year and the length of stay. So, it sounds like a great idea, but how do you figure out how to make it all happen? Not a problem. Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions regarding vacation rentals. Read on, my friend, your next "home away from home" vacation rental is right around the corner.

Frequently Asked Questions on Vacation Rentals

What are the advantages of a vacation rental?

Do you ever wish your hotel room had just a little more personality? Yeah, I thought so. Well, renting someone else's home for your vacation might just be the thing you're looking for. Usually offering larger living spaces than hotel rooms, these vacation rentals are all about living like you were in your own home. They offer greater privacy than hotel rooms and most rentals have a kitchen area for cooking, which in the end will save you money if you prepare some of your own meals.

You'll enjoy several rooms, and maybe even different levels, instead of one big room where the whole family sleeps. Many owners will leave information on things to do and see in the local area. Vacation rental homes are clean, friendly, comfortable and inviting. This is because many of them are not just rental homes, but also function as the owner's own residence for part of the year.

A majority of vacation rentals tend to be cheaper on a per night basis than their hotel. By renting directly from the owner you will avoid taxes, tips and other external charges. However, there is a wide variation among others based on a number of factors (see How Much Should I Expect to Pay below)

What are the drawbacks of a vacation rental?

Of course, there's always the other side of the coin. As vacation rentals are not usually monitored by a central managing company, you'll only know what you're getting yourself into when you actually arrive to your rental. Many owners require pre-payment, or at least a large deposit fee, before arriving. Therefore, if things are not the way you anticipated after arriving, or if you find your dwelling unacceptable and decide to head to a local hotel, you may lose any money you prepaid. This is also true for last minute cancellations. There is not usually a refund. You always run the risk of getting less than you expected, but, it's rare.

Most times, vacation rentals tend to be cheaper than an average hotel room per night. But, not always, so make sure you are comfortable with the price you will be asked to pay.

Another disadvantage to vacation rentals is the lack of a managing member on site to deal with any problems that you may encounter with the home or during your stay in general. Most owners get around this by having a list of emergency numbers, utility companies and other such items available to the renter should they need anything.

What amenities are included in a vacation rental?

Since every rental is owned by a different owner, each will include different amenities. Some come with swimming pools, hot tubs, others with golf packages, and horse stable privileges. In cities with tourist attractions, some owners include tickets to local attractions.

Most vacation rentals come with the essentials: TV, equipped kitchen, towels, linen, and everyday appliances, but it never hurts to ask these questions when searching for the perfect place. Be sure to understand exactly what you are paying for before sending in the payment.

What types of rentals are available?

Pretty much any type of dwelling that you would want to live in during your vacation is available somewhere. From studios in downtown Manhattan to a villa in the south of Spain, you'll be able to find what you're looking for. The range of available options is mind boggling. Additionally, each week, month and year there are new possibilities as owners put their homes up for only certain weeks or months of the year, the choices are constantly changing.

Are vacation rentals only available in the US?

Vacation rentals are available worldwide. They can be found in every state of the US and almost every country in the world. Do not be fooled by their different names, though. Vacation rentals are also known as holiday cottages, tourist rentals and holiday rentals. If you are looking for one in Europe, the Italians call them agriturismi, while the French say gites. If you are in Germany you will be looking for ferienwohnungen (yep, try to say that three times fast with a bratwurst in your mouth!)

Regardless of what you call it, though, a vacation rental is a great option for those getting ready to take a few weeks off from reality and enjoy the good life a bit.

How do I find a property?

There are several ways to go about finding the perfect vacation rental for your next trip. Check with your local travel agent to find someone in your area that specializes in finding owners and renters and getting them together. Another option is the yellow pages. Finally, there is a wealth of information on the Internet. Type in a search for "vacation rentals" and over 13,300,000 websites can be found just on http://www.google.com alone. Some websites only list vacation rentals in the United States while others specialize in vacation rentals worldwide. There are some sites that will allow the potential renter to look for a residence by specific search criteria such as a particular destination, certain number of bedrooms and types of amenities that are included in the property.

Most of the vacation rental services on the internet are only the "go-between" or the "classified" section of the newspaper. They take no responsibility for the truth or correctness of the ads that are listed on their sites. So, do your homework by making phone calls, speaking with the owner and asking specific questions. Make sure you feel comfortable with the answers, if not, move on to the next rental, there are plenty.

If you're not comfortable with the whole renter / owner thing, there is another way to rent a vacation home. Some companies exist that strictly buy and rent out homes to vacationers. They offer a bit more security so that you feel you are really getting what you bargained for (although nothing is ever 100% fool proof). Additionally, sometimes these agencies will give you cancellation insurance. In other words, if you cancel before arriving, they may be able to refund a portion of your deposit or payment instead of keeping it as most owners do if a cancellation occurs. With some agencies you'll find that you pay a higher price than going directly to an owner. This is how the agencies make their profits. There are always pros and cons to each scenario. Ensure you know which one works best for you.

How much should I expect to pay?

This is a tough question to answer. The amount you pay will depend on what country or state you are visiting, number of days you are staying, and type of house you are renting. Some owners offer package deals including tickets or sightseeing events along with the rental, others include bonus days if you stay for a certain length of time. There are other owners who may offer free or add-on house cleaning service with your stay while some go to great efforts to ensure you have everything you need, even additional items such as a crib, highchair or wheelchair. Each vacation rental will be entirely different from the next. Your best bet after deciding on your destination is to review multiple rentals to determine which is better suited to your needs and overall budget.

Are there any hidden fees?

Hidden fees usually only emerge after you have arrived. These may include extra for phone calls, house cleaning service, extra person fees, excess heat and air-conditioning bills, pet deposit, computer access … etc. Again, be extremely thorough when interviewing the owner of your prospect vacation rental. Ask about any "extra" fees, or if the house is "all-inclusive". Do you have free access to all the pantry and food items? How about the laundry supplies? All utilities? It never hurts to ask!

Vacation Rentals

In summary, cover all bases by asking lots of questions. Getting your agreement in writing is also a very smart idea. After these basics are out of the way you will be ready to take off for your home-away-from-home vacation rental. Try one this year and see for yourself that vacation rentals can be a fantastic means to really getting the full enjoyment out of your next vacation.

Do Alt and Title Attributes Help With SEO?

A highly talked about topic is the SEO world is, “Do Alt and Title Attributes Help with SEO?” Well to help shed a little light on this topic, I did some research and came up with a few good conclusions. I’m not suggesting these are 100% accurate but from my initial research they seem to be right on target. I welcome all other SEO experts to share their opinions on this topic by posting their comments – because as we all know, every little bit of information can help us all.

Well to start, I want to provide a brief introduction of each attribute to help you understand their “intended” purpose.

The alt attribute is, popularly and incorrectly referred to as an alt tag and is commonly misunderstood to provide a tool-tip for an image. Both of these are incorrect. First of all, the alt attribute is an attribute and not a tag. The alt attribute was always intended to provide alternative information about an element and is generally required for image and image maps and is not meant to be used to display a tool-tip. The alt attribute, can be used for the img, area, and input elements to help provide alternative information to users who cannot display that element in their browser. As an example, here is how you would define an alt attribute for an image: <img src=”imagepath.gif” alt=”this is our company logo”>. If the image is not displayed the text, “this is our company logo” will be displayed in the place of the image.

The title attribute, on the other hand, is meant to provide additional information about an element, which is displayed as a tool-tip by most graphical browsers. The title attribute can be used to describe any HTML element except for base, basefont, head, html, meta, param, script, and title.

An excellent use for the title attribute is to provide descriptive text within an anchor tag to let the users know where the link will direct them if they click on it. When the user places their mouse over the link, it will display a small tool-tip displaying the title text that you’ve provided. An example would be

So as you can see the alt and title attributes have different purposes but how do they affect SEO? This is the true question we all want to know and understand. Do they help with SEO or are they simply ignored by the search engines? I tested several different scenarios, all in Google, and after my research I’ve come to the following conclusions.

Alt attributes seem to be picked up by Google, whether or not there was a link within that element. Some SEO experts have mentioned that if there is no link, then the alt attribute would not be indexed… from my research I’ve found this to be false.

Going further, I noticed in one testing scenario, if there was an image with an alt attribute and a link to a completely other site, that other site was also indexed by Google when searching for the text within the alt attribute. It was difficult for me to verify this multiple times but I definitely verified it in one testing scenario.

I also took this one step further and analyzed my results with what Google Images was displaying. I immediately noticed that Google sometimes takes the alt attribute text and provides this text as the description for the image in Google Images, something that is very valuable to know and understand when doing SEO for your website.

In all of my testing scenarios, the title attribute do not seem to be picked up by Google and adding a link to that element did not seem to affect this result at all. If you really think about it, this makes complete sense. Since you can place title attributes in almost every element of a website, it would be very easy for a user to affect the search engines by keyword stuffing throughout their web pages, something that Google and the other major players do not want, hence why title attributes do not help with SEO.

In my opinion, you should use the title attribute to help with your user’s experience and not with SEO. Since tool-tips provide more useful information to the user about images, links, fields and much more, you will help your users to understand what is happening around the web page.

So from my testing I’ve determined that a title attribute is meant to provide tool-tips to the user for user experience, whereas the alt attribute is helpful in terms of providing alternative information to the user when their browser cannot display an image or input element and helping to increase the SEO of a website. My recommendation is to pay close attention to when, where and how you are using your alt attributes. If they help with SEO, then you should pay close attention to what you are adding.

When adding images always be sure to add an alt attribute to the code of each image. If you do not have one, then just specify a blank one, such as alt=”". Also, be sure to add alternative text that is relevant to that image, the content on that page and be sure not to specify an alt attribute greater than 100 characters in length, as this may be perceived as spamming.

I hope you find my brief overview on the topic of, “Do Alt and Title Attributes Help with SEO?” to be beneficial for you and your business. I’m sure one could dive deep into this topic, spending weeks determining the differences between how Google, Yahoo! and the other major search engines handle title and alt attributes with regards to SEO for a website.

I welcome all comments and/or feedback.