So you want to get noticed online for all the right reasons? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the set of tools and strategies for getting people to discover your website based on its content. Most articles you read about SEO stop there after describing the technical stuff. But good SEO is tied to your online marketing strategy. It is really important for you to be able to attract people to your website who will benefit from being there and likewise create some benefit for you as well.
So we are starting a series of step-by-step SEO blogs that will provide you a plan for novices (and others) to understand, evaluate and think strategically about SEO. If you’ve been wondering how to implement an SEO strategy, just check in every Monday for the next step in our SEO series.
Today’s blog provides a plain English definition of terms important to SEO. Future blogs will take you through each of these areas and explain why they are important, and how to incorporate them into your SEO strategy.
- Analytics program: This is a tool that provide statistical information about activity on your website. It is provided free by your hosting company or by another online service such as Google.
- Hits: This was a term used early on in the web world to indicate how many visitors came to a site. Hits are actually NOT a visitor count. Hits are the number of files downloaded from a server when a page is called for. So if you have an HTML page that has 10 photos on it, when somebody types in that page URL, there will be 11 hits to the server (1 HTML page + 10 photo images).
- Visitor count: This is the number of distinct visitors who have visited at least one page on your site. It is measured by the IP address (Internet connection point) assigned to one computer. So practically speaking, two people could share a computer and it would only count for one visitor. But generally speaking, this is a good indicator of how many people view your site.
- Unique visitors: If a person visits your site on different days during the same period, this is counted twice in the visitor count. To measure unique visitors, your analytic program adjusts for this and counts each IP address once.
- New visitors: This is the number of new IP addresses that view a page on a site during a particular period. This means that since the inception of your analytics software, this IP address has not visited up until this point.
- Page views per visit: This is the average number of pages that a visitor views before leaving a website. Depending on your analytic program, you may see this as an average of all visitors or you may be able to get data distinguished by some other criteria e.g. new visitors.
- Bounce rate: If a visitor views your site and leaves immediately, you will have a high bounce rate. There is no set standard about how fast this must happened before a visitor has “bounced.” However most experts agree that visitors typically will leave after 15 seconds if they don’t believe a website is interesting to them. It is said that a high bounce rate is an indication that your site does not pertain to the information the individual is seeking. A high bounce rate could be an indication of a poorly designed site, insufficient content, or poor SEO bringing in people from keywords that are not relevant.
- Time on the site: This is just what it sounds like and your analytics program may have a way to view additional variables in combination with this e.g. unique visitors.
- Top Content: This is information about the most popular pages on a website. Typically an analytics program will sort the pages and display how many people visited the page in numbers and percentage of all visitors.
- Page views: This is the official term for number of pages viewed on the site.
- Referring site: If a viewer does not type your URL directly into their browser to arrive at your site, they must have found a link on another site or used a search engine to discover your website. The site that provides the link to your website is called the referring site.
- Traffic source: This indicates whether the person came from a link on another site, from a search engine, social media site, etc. The traffic source tells you the types of sites that are referring your readers, while the referring site gives the actual URL of the source.
- Landing pages: This is information about the first page that visitors arrive at when they come to your site. In other words, they may not come to your site through the home page, but the link they followed may lead directly to a page within your site.
- Exit pages: This tells you the page visitors were looking at right before they left your site. This information ties into the bounce rate. If you have a high bounce rate, look at your exit pages and see where people are leaving.
- Organic search: This is a term used to describe a search that is based only on keywords. This means that the results are not influenced by paid advertising or other factors.
You hear about social media all the time in the news, but what exactly does it mean when you are into it? We scoured the web and found some definitions that are interesting as well as informative.
Wikipedia had the most intellectual definition: “Social media uses Internet and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from online content consumers into online content producers.”
Nicki Laycoax had the funniest definition: “Infectious excitement inducing product/service evangelism leading to the best form of marketing — Word of Mouth… a.k.a. Social Marketing.”
Brian Boland had the simplest definition: “Social Media is the identity that’s online enabling people to share, create and drive connections across media.”
Our Simple Web Toolbox definition: “Social media is the interaction of individuals using online tools. This includes community tools to invoke a live conversation, such as Twitter or Skype, or one-on-one tools to distribute information in hopes of a response, such as email or blogs. It is the new way to do online marketing and to strengthen your online presence. It is not a fad, it’s a new way of communicating that is here to stay.”
Internet tools generally considered part of social media:
- Business Networking sites (LinkedIn, Plaxo, etc)
- Community sites (Facebook, Myspace, etc)
- Mini-blogging sites (Twitter, Tumblr, etc)
- Message Boards
- Bookmarking sites (Delicious, Stumbleupon, etc)
- Social News sites (Digg, Reddit, etc)
- Commenting on your site or other sites
- Media sharing (YouTube, Flickr, etc)
- Q&A Sites (Yahoo Answers, WikiAnswer, etc)
- Information Aggregators (Wikipedia, etc.)
What is your definition?
We’d love to hear what your definition is and how you use it. In the comments, we’d love to hear your answers to these questions:
- How you define social media?
- Are you a player or a watcher?
- Do you use it to increase your online presence, or is it a focal point of your online marketing campaign?
- If you aren’t using it, why not?
Creating a website is a big project, and it can feel really daunting if you don’t really understand what the developer is talking about. The following acronyms are commonly used when developing a project. Hopefully this information will help you understand what your developer discusses with you.
HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol)
This is the method that your web browser uses to talk to a web server. When you type a URL into your web browser, it sends a message to a web server in order to retrieve the elements for the site you want to view. The message to the server and the information sent back to your web browser are relayed using HTTP.
HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer)
HTTPS is a secure method your web browser uses to talk to a web server. When you arrive at a page where the URL begins with HTTPS, it means the information from your web browser that is being sent to the web server is encrypted before it is sent. In this way the information is secure. Any time you make an online purchase, before entering your credit card information look at the URL to make sure it has the HTTPS.
URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
This is the address for a website (i.e. resource) on the Internet. It tells your web browser how to find the information you are seeking from a specific set of files on a specific server. For example, www.LandauDesign.com is the URL for Landau Design.
IP Address (Internet Protocol Address)
Every server connected to the internet has an IP address assigned to it. It’s usually broken up into 4 segments separated by periods (22.101.112.01). It’s like the servers’ phone number which the entire Internet calls up every time they are trying to reach that server.
DNS (Domain Name Server)
Layman’s definition: When you type in a URL, what happens in your web browser is a message is sent to a domain name server. When the message arrives at the server, it says to the server “Here is the URL I am looking for. Please give me the IP address of the server it is on.” The domain name server is like a giant phone book that cross references URLs with the IP addresses of the servers they live on.
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
This is the original language of the Internet. It is not a true programming language in the sense that it does not include logic statements (i.e. if this happens, then do that). Instead it is a language that literally tells the web browser how to display the contents of a page. So things like paragraph breaks, bolding a headline, colors, images, etc. are specified in a HTML file so the browser knows how to arrange the contents of a page. Not all browsers read HTML the same, which is why sites do not always look the same across different browser types.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
CSS is a way to deliver information about layout and appearance that is more specific than regular HTML. For example, with CSS you can specify that your menu bar be 20 pixels from the top of the browser window. In this way you can accurately compile your website layout based on specific parameters without having to rely on the web browsers interpretation of HTML.
CMS (Content Management System)
A CMS is a program used for creating and managing website content. A CMS utilizes a database to store the site’s content, and it provides built-in functionality for displaying that information. Generally a CMS allows the site owner to update their site using a WYSIWYG editor. It also allows for integration of more complex functionality since most CMS’s on the market have plugins that can be integrated without custom development. At Landau Design we build sites using Joomla, which is one of the most popular CMS’s available.
FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
This is the method used to transfer files on and off a server. Putting files on a server is like copying files from a CD onto your computer’s hard drive. When files are transferred onto a server, as they are transferred the software used needs to know what type of file it is because different types (i.e. text vs. image) require different types of coding when uploaded. The coding for different file types is handled by the FTP program you use.
RFP (Request For Proposal)
The document the client puts together to define the project and assist the developer in compiling an estimate. Read Save Time By Writing an RFP for an outline of how to create this document.
WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
This is what they call a content editor that displays your site’s content in the same manner it would appear on your web page. WYSIWYG got their name because before WYSIWYG, editing of sites was only done by looking at the code. So the person working on the code had to load the page into a web browser in order to see what it looked like. Dreamweaver is an example of a WYSIWYG editor.
When talking to clients I will often mention working on their information architecture. Their face kind of scrunches up and I know they’re thinking, “She is talking about website construction, not building construction, right?” Information architecture (also called IA) is how the information on your site is categorized and organized. I find the best way to explain IA is by example:
You come to a website and sit staring at the page wondering what link you must click to find the information you seek. You might even click one, find it wasn’t accurate, and try another link. This site has very poor information architecture because the information cannot be accessed intuitively.
Conversely, you come to another site, click away and within seconds find what you were looking for. You didn’t give much thought to your navigation journey as it was a cinch to follow the trail of links right to the answer. This site has very good information architecture since it was so intuitive you didn’t even think about it.
An effective information architect will always strive for the second scenario, but also accept that there is no perfection when it comes to information architecture. A site is a fluid entity which is always changing, which means the information architecture needs to be revisited on a regular basis. At least once a year a site review for IA revisions should be formally completed to make certain your site retains the best possible organization for user navigation.
So how do you know when you get it right? A formal usability study is really the best way to make certain you’ve created a successful IA for your site. But if a formal study isn’t in the cards, do an informal study by asking some regular users if they will surf your site and provide feedback to specific questions. In the end it’s the users who will know if the IA is optimum, so it’s important to go outside your company to confirm that your IA is a success.