3 Best Practices to Make Your Internal Links Your SEO Secret Weapon

Think of “SEO” for a second.

What comes to mind?

Keywords. Backlinks. Content…

Those are all extremely important. But the humble internal link, one from your own site to another page on your site, often gets overlooked.

Why?

Honestly, I don’t know.

But internal links undoubtedly have a huge effect on your search rankings too. Once they get juice from external links, their owner power is amplified to a massive degree.

How do you get the most from your internal links? That I do have the answers to. And they go like this: 

(1) Internal Links Always Focus on User Experience (UX) First

The best SEO gets your visitors to what they want fast. They want to learn more about a topic, or research your product or service for potential purchase.

Whatever your search listing’s title happens to be, the resource visitors arrive at must deliver on what your title promises.

Internal links can be used to answer further questions users have. They can also drive users to product or service pages that try to sell (if users originally land on a blog post or report, for example).

When users have good experiences on your website, they stay longer, come back, and link to you.

Internal links indirectly drive SEO value this way.

Compare that to an internal link that’s just present for SEO purposes. It shows up in the first paragraph of a blog post where users aren’t yet ready to buy or learn more.

They’re confused. Or annoyed. They don’t click on it.

Yeah, you get SEO value. But not as much as you would if you waited until the end of the post to promote your service.

(2) Use Internal Links to Drive SEO Value to Pages You Want to Rank Most

While user experience is your first concern, you can more directly drive SEO value by linking to pages you want to rank most.

You can do this easily, and naturally, from your blog.

Focus on that word “naturally.”

Why?

Because, say you link to your service page from every single blog post. That looks “unnatural” to your users and search engines.

You won’t get as many clicks or as much love from the search engines. But, link to your service pages from a few posts, where it makes sense, and you have a natural fit.

Users don’t notice anything unusual. And neither do search engines.

By controlling the SEO value flow in this way, you give exact website pages greater opportunity to rank high.

(3) Optimize Internal Links for Your Keywords

With external links, you should only optimize the anchor text on 1 in 100 links. And it’s fine if you do it 0 times.

Google just does not like it much at all.

But with internal links, Google doesn’t mind you doing this. So go ahead and do it to get a little more out of your internal links.

Internal links may not get the attention they deserve. But that’s no problem for you.

And now that you have this information…you’re a big problem for your competitors.

How to Turn Your 404 Page Into a Marketing Secret Weapon

 

You know what a 404 page is, right?

Just in case you need a refresher: it’s the error page your visitor reaches when they look for a page on your website that no longer exists.

Most businesses leave these as the standard template included with their host.

Big mistake.

Because, you can transform your 404 page from one that only reinforces a disappointing experience into an opportunity that builds a strong relationship with someone who could become a customer in the future.

How you ultimately do that is up to you. But here’s a simple process, with some examples, on what you might do:

  1. First, Acknowledge Your Mistake with a Unique Message

The standard 404 page says something like “404 Page Not Found.” That’s a tad cryptic. It’s computer speak to people who may not be tech geeks.

So, change that message into something else. It works doubly better if you can be humorous. Here’s some ideas:

  • “Whoops! Our Bad. We Don’t Have that Page.”
  • “Shit. We Lost It.”
  • “Uh-oh. Big Mistake On Our Part. We Kinda Sorta Don’t Have The Page You Want.”

Anyway, you get the idea. Some fancier websites will even take you through an animation that allows you to punish their web developer. No need to install that functionality on your website, but it shows you what’s possible.

The important thing is you clearly admit your own mistake. You may also want to include a sentence or two below clarifying the message a tad further.

  1. Give Your Visitors Options for What to Do Instead

If you have the standard 404 page template, it doesn’t give your visitors any recommendation on what action to take next. Sure, they could go up to your main navigation and choose something. But they’re much more likely to take action if you suggest a few ideas on what to do next.

One idea is to go to your analytics, find your top 3 visited pages or product categories, and offer these links. You could also give them the option to do an on-site search to find what they were looking for.

There’s not necessarily a “right” strategy. Anything you do to keep your visitor engaged is a win. You’ve done the hard work attracting them to your site in the first place, so keep the relationship going.

  1. Offer a 10% Discount in Exchange for Their Email Address

This may be a better fit for e-commerce sites that sell many products. But if you’re a service provider, you might include it too.

A 10% discount to make up for your mistake would go over quite well, and especially so because your visitor didn’t expect to get it.

Make sure to get something from them in return…like their email address. Then, you can turn them into a long-term customer through email marketing. Your best customers who buy the most stay on your email list. So, you can transform a minor mistake into thousands in revenue for years to come with this strategy!

Now, Your 404 Page is a Great Marketing Asset

See how something simple, like a 404 page, changes from just another event into a marketing machine?

Think creatively online. Think win-win. And you’ll get more customers and stay ahead of your competition.

4 Business Essentials You Should Outsource

As a small or medium business owner, you’re aware of the value of outsourcing to vendors. Without your vendors, growth is nearly impossible. That’s okay if you want to stay small and keep your business manageable.

But if you want to grow, you need a lot of help from people you can trust. That allows you to focus on creating the strategies and implementing the processes that lead to rapid growth.

Today, outsourcing can work much differently than it used to. Are you aware you can find an independent contractor, with ease, who does the grunt work for you so you don’t have to?

It’s simple, if you’re willing to work remotely. Here are some of the essential processes to strongly consider outsourcing in 2017:

  1. Cybersecurity

You hear about big corporations who get nailed all the time, and the millions of customers who lose their data as a result. Those stories make headlines and grab people’s attention.

But you don’t hear about the SMBs cybercrooks love to attack. Why? Because they know SMBs aren’t nearly as sophisticated as corporations are with cybersecurity. So, it takes much less effort to take control of your PCs or entire network, demand a ransom, and make a clean getaway.

Cybersecurity changes so fast it makes sense to outsource to a company who keeps up with it.

  1. Web Design

Since your website is your new storefront, you need to pay constant attention to it. You can’t do what businesses used to do: make a new website, forget about it for 3-5 years, and then make a new one.

Web design changes constantly. Google’s algorithm rewards websites whose designs allow for the best user experience.

Today, it makes good business sense to have an experienced web design firm (or independent professional) on retainer.

  1. The Creative Aspects of Marketing

This can mean messaging, visual design, and more. Marketing is a huge trend now because of how difficult it is to stand out online. And, the discipline’s not old, so it takes time and effort to understand how to differentiate.

The analytical work, however, can be kept in-house. This allows you to focus on strategy.

  1. Marketing for Recruits

Today’s job search process has changed a lot also. Job seekers can research your company online and learn a lot about you before even applying. At sites like Glassdoor, for example, they can learn what your own employees think it’s like to work at your company.

So, marketing during the job search process works both ways. Your market has to put their best foot forward for you, and you have to do the same. Outsourcing recruiting allows you to make hires that fit your company better and last longer.

In 2017 and beyond, you can easily outsource these business essentials so you can focus on core activities and accelerate growth.

Why The SEO Data You See is Wrong

Data-driven?

Everyone is.

…But what data are you looking at?

That determines how well you do going forward.

And unfortunately, another problem is that even when you have a super-smart SEO on your side, they’re still working from flawed, imprecise data. Because, it’s impossible to pull accurate data in many cases.

For example, Google used to show you the exact keywords that referred traffic to your website. Today, over 90% of that data gets hidden behind a phrase called “(not provided).”

Smart SEOs know how to get around this. But only to a degree. You simply can’t get all the data that Google formerly provided for free.

Groupon Conducted a Test to See What “Direct Traffic” Means

Google has a traffic source in Google Analytics called “Direct” traffic. Theoretically, this was supposed to mean people who typed your URL into their browser and hit “enter.”

However, Groupon wasn’t convinced by this explanation from Google. So they did something rather shocking and de-indexed themselves from Google.

Of course, traffic sank. But surprisingly, they also noticed a big dip in traffic going to their Deal pages.

Why is that such a big deal?

Those pages had long URLs…the kind you wouldn’t remember off the top of your head and type in. They found up to 60% of “Direct” traffic actually originated from organic optimized search.

And for example, email open rates are difficult to figure out too. Yes, every email service provider gives you open rate data.

But it’s far from precise. Because, it relies on a small tracking image, called a “pixel.” If you send plain-text emails, which many marketers do to give a personal feel, you can’t insert a pixel to track opens. Or, if an email app blocks images by default, which many do, the pixel isn’t shown, and the open isn’t tracked.

So what in the heck is your email open rate anyway?

With Google Adwords, say one campaign drives twice the leads of the next. Is that the better campaign?

…Maybe not.

How many purchases did you get from each campaign? Which customers led to the highest lifetime value?

Have you tracked either?

Don’t Fret – Your SEO Has the Answers

The point with data is you must have experience in knowing what it really means. What you get on the surface, even from leading companies like Google, doesn’t necessarily give you the full picture.

So, when your SEO presents you data, ask them why they trust what their delivering to you.

Why one metric…and not another?

At the end of the day, go with the SEO you trust most. The one who has your best interests. Because even the best SEOs have a difficult time getting you the most accurate data.

Google Analytics Now Allows You to Ask a Question to Get Data

Ever stare at Google Analytics helplessly…wondering how you’re going to get the data you need? Or, do you see the data you want, but aren’t really sure how to understand it?

Google’s revamped Analytics a little to help out people who aren’t complete data nerds.

Google’s addressed this concern by allowing you to ask a simple, plain-English question in Google Analytics. And Google Analytics will return to you with the right data.

The idea is that this helps you get the information you need faster. It also frees up those in charge of your data to focus more on strategy, and use less time tracking down information.

Now, you simply type in,”How many organic users did I have in search last week?” Google returns with (hopefully) the correct answer. They use the exact same technology that’s used in search.

If you don’t have the feature available now, you should have it soon because Google’s rolling it out in a few weeks.

How Do You Use It?

It’s quite easy. Just look for the circle icon with dots in the upper right corner of the app. For now, you can ask questions that begin with “what” and “how many.” You can also ask about this data for various market segments.

And yes, when you try it, you’ll notice the speed with which it returns results. You’ll also have the ability to ask follow-up questions based on your initial question, and Google Analytics will suggest questions you may also want to ask.

Google doesn’t support “why” questions at the moment. As you might expect, those are much more complex. However, since the system is based on artificial intelligence, it will learn to answer “why” questions and will be able to answer them in the near future.

What if you ask a question Google Analytics can’t answer? Google Analytics captures your question and works on learning how to answer it.

You will also soon have the ability to save and export the results you get from the questions you ask.

Neat, isn’t it? Not only that, but extremely useful too. Who knows what artificial intelligence will enable Google to do for you next?

What Your URL Structure Needs to Be For the Best Search Rankings

SEO can be an awfully detailed and nit-picky science from time-to-time. If you have an anal-retentive SEO, hold onto them with all your might. Because, just a few letters can sometimes be the difference between ranking highly…or somewhere on the second page.

With your URLs, they have a specific science to follow. It’s not like you can do everything else with SEO wrong, have a strong URL, and rank anyway. But when you have a URL appropriately structured for SEO, it can be just the edge you need to move up a position or two…and snag a flood of traffic (versus just a drip).

So here’s what your SEO should make sure your URLs do:

  • Gotta Have Your Keywords

You can’t argue this one at all. No, you don’t need to spam the crap out of 3-7 different keyword phrases. In fact, you shouldn’t do that.

But the most important keywords to you for that page must appear in the URL somewhere. Besides sending a signal to Google, having the keywords in your URL also gives searchers another clue that your web page is in fact about the topic they just Googled. The URLs for each page show up in green just below the big blue title in search.

  • Your URLs Must Have a Logical Structure

Again, this one makes both Google and your users happy. Say you run an e-commerce site, with several product categories, and thousands of products.

Your structure should be something like http://www.example.com/category/sub-category/product/

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? What happens is that if you have multiple employees and several teams, sometimes this gets confused and out of order.

Or, if you’ve had multiple SEOs work on your website over the years, and their work gets combined with some of your own.

  • Make Your URL as Short as Possible

Shorter URLs are easier for Google and your users to understand. Leading blogs may have a URL like http://www.example.com/article-topic

Yep…just 2 words after the domain name.

You may or may not be able to do that at your site. But you should do it wherever possible.

You don’t have to be grammatically correct. Your URL just has to be simple for your users to understand. Because if they can get it, so can Google.

  • Avoid Dynamically Generated URLs

When was the last time you saw a URL like this:
http://www.example.com/products/?cid=7078ckuenkeulknn

Google has no problem evaluating this. But no user would ever search on that in Google. They might find that link through your site’s own internal search engine.

So, you need to create clean and optimized URLs to make them more commonly found in search…and to keep your searchers happy.

This can be quite a project if your website has thousands of such pages.

You can get tools that help you create sensible, optimized URLs.

So, that’s URL structure 101. If you don’t have URLs like these, you’re missing out on a strong opportunity to rank higher in search, get more organic traffic, and increase your sales.