New Year, New Challenges, New Goals, New Design!!

OK lets address the first issue, SEO wizz grew up! Yes I was up until 4 am this morning with David from Quixotic Media cleaning up the last few bits of the design. I know many of my readers use the thesis theme and if you want a top notch design for a reasonable fee you should head on over there and see what they can do for you.

The new design is all part of my strategy for 2010, 2009 has been a good building year for SEO wizz but it is now time to take things to the next level and make a challenge on the SEO big shots in the UK and anywhere else for that matter. I think the design incorporates commercial and social interests quite nicely and will be perfect for the marketing push I plan on rolling out in 2010.

So I guess now is as good a time as any to take a peek at what 2010 may have in store for us and how we should be approaching our online strategy.

Nothing Changes

Throughout all the years I have been working in the SEO industry the basics never really change;

1) Create a quality resource, product or piece of content

2) Ensure Google can access the site and deal with any broken link issues

3) Keep you site architecture as flat as possible, linking to your most important pages from the home page

4) Keywords need to be in all the major areas title tags, body, images and I would still utilise the h1 and 2 as good practice

5) Generate links through content distribution, link partnerships, viral content and blog entries

6) Do it over and over again until you win :)

These are the bones of SEO, sure there are a number of technicalities hidden within each area but don’t be led astray by the ‘just write great content crowd’ – you need links and you need to emphasise the relevance your site has to key phrases.

Define What You Really Want To Accomplish

This is particularly a problem for bloggers, I have lost count of the amount of people that have emailed saying “I am blogging about making money online and need loads of traffic, how do I get it?”.

First off I think how original, secondly I think well what is your business plan??? To publish low quality or regurgitated content and hope the links and traffic are going to come flooding in??

You need to be smarter than that if your plan is to build a business out of your site.

It’s not just bloggers though, how many derelict ecommerce sites are there out there floating about?? Tons!

So if the online business world is for you then I would start by asking myself the following questions;

How much do I want to make?

If you answer is ‘as much as possible’ then stop. You need a target, a goal, something to aim at or else the chances are you will fall apart in the first year when you’re barely making $10 a month with adsesne.

Set a goal of income, a reasonable amount, then if you make more you have over achieved.

How are you going to make it?

It is no good thinking content will win all, I’ll paste ads everywhere and be a ‘click’ millionaire!! Time for a reality check.

Search traffic takes time to build and social traffic will not click your ads or buy your affiliate products, it’s a fact unfortunately.

So decide what products you are going to promote, how you’re going to build an opt in list, are you going to promote services? If you’re going to use affiliate links don’t just simply paste them on, sell them in a few articles beforehand.

One word of warning on affiliate products, do not sell them if you haven’t used them and found them to be of good quality. Your readers will never forgive you for selling a scam.

Test the product, illustrate how you benefited from it, and show the results… your conversion rates will be far higher.

How are you going to get traffic?

Erm SEO??

Yes you are going to continually optimise your pages; however you may have a product to sell right away, why wait?

You could use banner advertising on relevant blogs, google adwords or even free ads, depending on the nature of your product.

Don’t sit back and wait for pure search engine traffic, go out and get it if you believe you have a product that converts.

Are you going to use social media?

This is a tough one for purely commercial sites, will it really do them any good? My opinion is no, unless they have something to offer the social scene, which in my opinion they should.

Social media is not going to drive home sales or even give you tons of links, however what it does is give you an ideal opportunity for users, clients and industry experts to interact with your brand. It allows you to answer concerns quickly and sell the benefits of your service or product easily.

Social traffic will not turn into sales, but if your brand is out there, this means there is a good chance your company will get mentioned within context and this could lead to a word of mouth referrals.

Many of you may think I am anti social media, I am not as you can clearly tell from some of the widgets on this site, I simply believe in using social time sparingly. Many webmasters indulge in the hope it will lead them to riches, this is not the case, social media is exactly what it implies, the opportunity for you to socialise with others in your industry and with those who share similar interests.

No Investment, No Reward

Something that I learned quickly all those years ago is that if you’re not willing to invest you have lost already. The investment doesn’t have to be huge but you have to be willing to take it.

So many webmasters don’t want to pay for a nice design, for tools that cost more than a dollar or for recurring membership fees; some even think it is a waste of time paying hosting and for a domain. Granted there are scammers out there that will sell you big piles of rubbish, this is one of the online learning curves I try and prevent people from feeling when I write this blog, it can be really harsh.

My advice here is to find a reliable resource, and then use reliable resources that the initial resource recommends. Also don’t just buy, look for reviews before hand and any reviews that simply sell the product are probably scams. It’s a tough world but you have to be willing to push through it to succeed.

Plan your budget before hand, how much can you spend per month on;

1) Hosting and domain name
2) Advertising
3) Link Building
4) Design and functionality

Once you have this sorted the only other investment is your time. Don’t try and cut corners, software cannot write you a viral piece of content. Put your all in this is your business now and the rewards are real.

Believe You Can

If you are thinking “I’ll give this online thing a try” you’re going to lose.

If you are thinking “If I can make some money free, then I’ll invest” you’re going to lose.

If you are thinking “I’ll just build it and they will come” you’re going to lose.

If you actually believe in your business model and are willing to invest your time, money and talents into making your online dream a reality then you will more than likely win, even if not at first your attitude will drive you there.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have had sites that have flopped and I have felt like jacking it all in, but every time I learned something new, I developed a new skill set and still am learning and developing monthly if not weekly. You have to be willing to keep betting on yourself, that’s the difference between those who do and those who don’t.

Making a living from your online business is not guaranteed however the possibility is a reality, in 2010 bset a goal to take your site to the next level, double your investment whether that investment be your time or your hard earned money.

Keep reading SEOwizz and have a fantastic new years eve.

All the best to everyone for 2010!!! See you at the top of Google!!

p.s. Sorry for the post length I got carried away.

5 Reasons Social Media Is Overrated

I don’t know if any of my long standing readers have noticed lately but I have been posting a lot less and my interaction on sites such as stumble, twitter and other social networks has been almost none existent.

Now besides being extremely busy there are other reasons for this, the truth is social networking and spending time on these sites building profiles has never been my strong point, the time it takes to become involved and interact, in my opinion, cannot be justified. I have found so much more reward in developing other areas of my blog and general online portfolio.

Before I go deep into this post I want to assure anyone who I meet or who have met via social media, or those who found my site via social links, that I am not disregarding them as ‘not worth the effort’, if you found me via social media that is great, I love interacting with others who are interested in SEO and other internet marketing strategies, however the ROI of time spent on social sites is simply overrated in my opinion. WOW that was a long (probably badly written) sentence!

You see originally I am from an internet marketing background, ranking sites and making money via affiliate products and ad clicks, I soon found myself in the Google Adwords game but quickly abandoned ship when it became too expensive to use for affiliate marketing. I only really decided to test social networks when I started marketing SEO wizz back in March this year, it was a test, it was time consuming and unfortunately the stats show I have wasted my time somewhat.

Any without any further waiting, here are my 5 reasons I have found social media to be an unprofitable strategy.

The Time

If you really want to build a network via sites like digg, stumble and twitter then you are going to need to put the hours in, I found at one point I was spending more time on these sites than I was spending on my own site! That can’t be right can it? Tweeting, stumbling, answering questions etc….

I met people yes, I got to help a lot of nice people and I also got help from a lot of nice people, but that rarely turned into leads, sales or links and on that note I’ll continue.

Low Conversion Rates

When I talk about conversion rates I am referring to SEO enquiries, ad clicks, affiliate clicks and subscribers. Social media simply does not convert compared to search traffic, that’s why I spend my time building my own site and its link portfolio.

Adsense: I have messed around with adsense on the site and trust me it converts nowhere near in the same league as it does on my other niche blogs but I haven’t really optimised the site for adsense. Still I found that search traffic has around a 2.45% click through rate and social traffic has about 0.13%. That is a huge, huge, huge difference. If I wanted to advertise on a site why would I ever pay to have my banner or link on a site that receives 90% social traffic?? That’s a bad investment.

Just to clarify at this point, for the exercise of establishing click through rates I have classed all referral and Direct traffic as “social traffic”

Affiliate Links: I did a 3 month test of having affiliate links in the right column of SEO wizz and yes I got quite a few commissions from it; however the same was true as was with the adsense. I made around 56 sales and only 1 came from social traffic, yes that’s right 1!! The rest came from Google with a few coming from Bing!!! So if you are in this game to make money social traffic is probably not the best route.

Subscribers: This is a figure I was quite surprised about, as I expected social traffic to do a lot better than it did. Search traffic has around a 0.6% subscriber rate whilst social traffic is a little better at 0.8%, now yes social traffic is ever so slightly better when it comes to developing a readership but only just and those readers aren’t going to buy from you, they’re simply going to read, which is fine but don’t be under the illusion that readers = profits.

SEO Enquiries: I won’t even go into this, just believe when I say the percentages are that low for social media that it’s not worth bothering with.

Social Visitors Are Not Looking For Solutions

I think this is the main factor to consider for any new online business and that is “social visitors generally aren’t looking to a solution to a problem”, they want interesting content and funny articles (the majority do anyway). Visitors that come to your site via search are inputting keyword after keyword into Google to try and find help to a problem or a need they are looking to satisfy. I get loads of long tail search traffic on terms like “how to rank higher in search engines”, “Where have all my links gone”, “Why is my site not ranking” and “how do I get more traffic”. These people are looking for answers, for products and for services.

Social traffic fulfils a purpose but does not provide profit.

Link Acquisition

When I was spending hours on twitter and stumble I kept telling myself, hey it’s a great way to build links. The truth is 90% of my links have come from my own link building efforts like, article marketing, directory submissions, blog carnivals and press releases. Yes I have links from some viral posts not from social media sites but from other websites that have found my content. Saying all this one of my biggest link building strategies has been through keyword targeting. I published a post on Bing SEO back in the summer, I did and still do get search traffic to that post, over 500 a month and it is still continuing to pull in links for me, around 350 as it stands. The long tail targeted posts on my site get search traffic and convert into sales, clicks, readers and links better than any other form of traffic.

High Bounce Rates

Now this is only a minor factor but still social media traffic involves huge bounce rates, I think stumble averages around 85% with Twitter not far behind. Now I know there is no concrete evidence to show this effects search engine rankings, however no matter how you look at it high bounce rates on a content rich site never looks particularly good. In comparison bounce rates on search traffic is around 50%, again which would you prefer???

Right I have battered social media enough, let me offer a little consolation and make a few points about what social media can actually do;

– Help you brand your site
– Help you rank for your company/site name (first page domination)
– Build friendships
– Help you find advice on topics
– It can be fun :)

Despite these facts, in my opinion, social media should be kept in its rightful place and that is to assist in connecting with people and not as a business building tool, because the truth is that it is a highly unprofitable way to spend your time online.

Just so I don’t get scorned, Yes I do use twitter a little and every now and then I login to my stumble account, however I am sick to death of the spam!!! Stumble my “diamond shop” home page and review it??? Come on guys, even if I stumble it it’s not going to make your site profitable!!! Spend your time doing something more worthwhile, like ranking for “buy diamond rings” (hmm I wonder how much search traffic it gets?).

Also just to clear something up, I mentioned at the beginning of the post I have not been posting as often as I once did and there are a number of reasons for this;

a) I decided to post once a week, this allows me to put together a better quality post.

b) I have been so busy with client work

c) Link building does more for my traffic than posting 3 times a week for the sake of it ever could

Has my traffic levels dropped? Nope they have increased.

Have I lost subscribers? Nope they have increased.

Have I lost anything? Yes!! The pain in my hands from typing 3 or 4 times a week :)

Seriously everyone the advice you read on most social blogs, in my opinion is false;

– You don’t need to post every day

– You don’t need to create endless pointless lists

– You don’t have to spend all your time on digg, stumble and twitter

Don’t let huge subscriber lists fool you, it does not equal success or profit (unless your goal is to get as many subscribers as possible, then it equals success).

Remember it’s easy for the high profile bloggers to say “just create great content and submit it to social sites” the fact is they have a load of loyal readers who hang on everything they say and go out and push their content all over the web, meanwhile 98% of start up bloggers do the same thing and realise it doesn’t quite work the same.

Don’t bother submitting your posts to these sites, if someone really likes your content they will submit it and pass it around their network. This is where social media comes into play, not by spamming social sites but by allowing networks of friends to share content easily.

I hope I haven’t offended anyone with this post; I value all the friendships I have built up via multiple means. I enjoy writing and interacting with those who read and interact with my content, all I am saying is that none of this = money, profits or anything like that.

If you want to read another excellent post with a great take on social media head over to Jason’s business blog (sorry Jason I pinched your image).

Also if you want to read some more posts on the value of social traffic head over to Allyn’s Blogger Illustrated post on Social Traffic (very funny guy) and Griz’s take on social media traffic. Both are a no holds barred assault on social traffic, so if you think you might get offended; best not click the links :)

Until next time!