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The Minimum Effective Dose for Improved SEO

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SEO PrescriptionSearch engine optimization, for many, can be an extremely daunting and intimidating task. Many of our own clients struggle with the very basics when we are building their sites, which is why we help them out in the beginning.  In an effort to help SEO newbies and first-time website owners, I am prescribing the minimum effective dose for SEO.  For anyone not familiar, the minimum effective dose can essentially be defined as the minimum amount of dosage or activity (i.e. change) needed to produce the desired effect. This term is often used in the world of exercise science or pharmacology, but I think that it applies to the world of search engine optimization as well.  Here are three "easier-to-accomplish", but very important tasks that will help the foundations of SEO for any site.

Create an XML Sitemap

This is the easiest task that I can suggest.  Simply put, a sitemap is a list of all the pages on your website that allows users and search engine robots alike to see the “map of your site”.  An XML sitemap is preferred by Google and actually allows you to assign importance for specific pages within your website.  Here is a hint, the homepage should be a 1.0 (the most important).  If you are utilizing an open-source content management system, you can probably find a widget that will create an XML sitemap for you…just beware of what you’re installing (like any widget).  Other content management systems, like Marketpath CMS, automatically create a sitemap for you, so chances are, you’ve already accomplished this step.  Nice Work!

Optimizing the Homepage Title Tag

Arguably the most important piece of on-site architecture, other than great content to support it, your site’s homepage title tag is your first chance to tell users, and Google, the topic of your website.  Implementing your keyword strategy here should be priority number one.  Do some keyword research and make sure that the first words in your homepage’s title tag are the most important for your business, not your company’s name.  Also, don’t exceed 65-69 characters (spaces included), as Google will begin to truncate the listing at this point.  For more information on creating a great title tag, download our free SEO guidebook

Content Creation

So you’ve just put in a bunch of hours designing and launching a website…congratulations! Now, it’s time to get to work.  You may be thinking “wait, what?  The company that built our site promised us 1st page rankings!”  Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s probably not going to happen without a lot more work on your part (especially if you have a brand new domain).  Why is this part of the minimum effective dose SEO prescription?  Because this is one of the least technical SEO strategies that exists.  While it’s not necessarily easy to create good content, you are the expert in your business, so share some of that knowledge and post it via your blog.  Commit to a content creation strategy and you’ll begin to see the desired results.

Tip of the SEO Iceberg

SEO is not easy, nor should it be.  Search engines like Google are designed to keep out the lower quality sites and provide the best user experience for their customers.  These three tips cover just the very tip of the ever-changing iceberg.  If you have any other basic, or easy to accomplish SEO tasks, feel free to leave them in the comments section.
 

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Online Tutoring Service Selects Marketpath for Web Content Management

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Mr. T's Online Math & SAT Tutoring
Mr. T's Online Tutoring recently launched their first website, selecting Marketpath for web content management, website design, and search engine optimization (SEO) services.  According to Chris Travers, Mr. T's founder, he selected Marketpath based on Marketpath's expertise with small business websites and the ease of use of Marketpath CMS, their web content management solution.  "Marketpath made it simple for us to launch our first website, providing the service and guidance needed to intoduce our brand to students in both North and South America," said Mr. Travers.

Mr. T's Online Tutoring provides personalized, convenient and and affordable math, SAT, and Spanish tutoring, all online for high school and junior high school students.

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How Easy Is Marketpath CMS? Add a Video to Your Site in Minutes!

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This is our second post in our “How Easy is Marketpath CMS” series.  Last week, our video showed you how simple it is to add SEO friendly images to your website using our easy CMS.  This week we’ll demonstrate how effortless it is to add a video to your website using our web content management system for small businesses.  

 
The best way to enhance your organization’s online marketing is to give your team a solution that makes managing and marketing your website easy.  With Marketpath, you don’t need technical experts adding unnecessary time and cost to your website updates.  Instead, your marketing team will be able to proactively add content to improve your site’s SEO results, enhance customer engagement, and increase leads.

Stayed tuned for our next installment to see how you can add an entire new page to your website in just minutes!  Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.
 

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CMS ProTip #2 - Accessible On-Page SEO Elements

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On-Page SEOWhile this is a common feature of the majority of content management systems these days, if your current CMS doesn’t allow you to modify certain on-page elements, it may be time to start shopping around.  Each page within your site should be crafted and optimized with the overall goal of higher rankings and increased traffic in mind.  Here are a few elements to check:

Title Tags

Title tags are probably the easiest, yet most important, element of any page to modify with most Content Management Systems.  Each page within your site should have a well-crafted title tag that you (or your web developer) have written.  Alternatively, in the case of larger sites, or e-commerce sites with lots of products, the content management system should be able to help generate very-friendly tags based upon the page or product name and the overall brand of the website. 

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions help increase the click-through rate for search engine listings.  Any given CMS should allow you to modify each page’s meta description within your site.  These are great places for a few quick sentences involving key phrases you’re targeting and a call to action to entice the user to click.

H1 Tags

A good CMS will allow you to simply highlight and style any text within your site with an H, or heading, tag.  An H1 tag should be thought of as the headline of the page and should directly relate to the content on that particular page.  Styling this text should happen automatically, making the job of the content creator much easier.

File Names and Alt Tags

Within your CMS, you’re going to be uploading content.  This content should retain the original file name once upload (assuming that you named your images and videos with applicable key phrases).  Also, when inserting an image onto a page, the option to add Alt Image Text should be presented.  This text will help your odds of being relevant for Google Image searches.

Automated Elements

The elements that should be automated within your CMS for on-page SEO purposes are things like the URL structure, XML Sitemap, and robots.txt file.  The URL that is generated for any given page should be friendly, without creating session IDs, or other unnecessary snippets.  The XML Sitemap and robots.txt file are pretty much strictly for search engines and automatically generated by your CMS.

There are other elements of on-page SEO that are important (content creation, internal linking structure, etc.), but those are at the heart of every CMS.  The elements listed above are extremely important and shouldn’t be a daunting task if you’ve chosen the right CMS for the job.  If you're a bit new to SEO, feel free to download our SEO Whitepaper free of charge.

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User generated marketing

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There is a certain level of pleasure that comes from making new connections about our history and the social web. Most people think this whole socialization thing on the Internet is new and sometimes it takes a short post by a well known Author to say otherwise. The only part that's new is the Internet. The socialization piece has always been around.

Seth Godin's post today is titled "The most important page on the web is the page you build yourself." It's about user generated content and the demise of mainstream mass media. Read it. It's short.

I recently had a meeting with an auto dealership and they discussed putting together a series of videos that would talk about the great features and conveniences of the cars they sell. After much debate and discussion about how much it would cost (tens of thousands) to produce and edit the videos, I stood up and suggested they have their customers produce the videos for them. First, it's free. Second, it's more honest and believable if someone other than the dealer tells the story. 

We're seeing this more and more in marketing where customers produce their own content. Whether it be interactions with others by commenting on a blog, guest blogging, writing product reviews, or producing videos, the job of the marketer is changing. No longer is their sole responsibility to write, design, and produce every bit of content to be puked out to prospects and customers. Marketers now have to build the playground where their constituents can voice themselves and then coordinate those interactions without intruding upon their freedom to contribute.

It's not simple, yet. It's a lot more work while we still hold on to the reigns of the past. The biggest challenge is designing and building the infrastructure that allows your customers and prospects to contribute and then making sure it gets used to its fullest. Once it is built, though, that job takes on a different shape. Customers interact, customers promote (if what you're selling is any good), and customers provide you a much deeper insight into your products and services than you would have ever had before.

Just don't expect that telling your customers what you want them to hear will hold water much longer. As soon as one of your competitors begins letting them into their social community, your legitimacy will begin to fade.

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How Easy Is Marketpath CMS? Add an Image to Your Site in less than Two Minutes!

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Marketpath CMS was built on the foundation of simplicity.  Everything we do is geared towards helping small businesses and organizations to be both more effective and efficient running their website marketing.  In our opinion, the best way to do that is to make things easy!

That’s why anyone can manage and market their website using Marketpath CMS, our easy to use web content management solution. With Marketpath, you don’t need any technical expertise or knowledge of HTML.  Anyone can successfully market their website, adding new pages, blogging, inserting images and videos, managing event and calendars, creating web forms, surveys, and landing pages.  You can even manage meta data to drive enhanced SEO rankings!  And the best part is that all the above tasks can be done in literally minutes. 

Starting today, and over the next few months, we'll show you just how easy it is to market your website using Marketpath CMS.  Watch our quick video and see how you can add search friendly images to your website in minutes!  


Stayed tuned for our next installment to see how you can easy manage videos using Marketpath CMS.
 
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CMS Protip #1 - Automate Homepage Content

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Over the next few weeks, I will be quickly covering what we are calling "CMS Protips".  This series will feature, in no particular order, a list of tips and tricks to get the most out of your content management system and your website.  Let's get this started! 

Protip #1 - Automate your Homepage's Content

Since your homepage is most likely the most important page on your website, automating a much of the content as possible makes a lot of sense.  This automated content can consist of blog feeds, upcoming events, news, social media content, or any other type of data that may be useful to your visitors.

RSS Feed
What Data can you Automate?

Your homepage should reflect the most current message from your company, not the same "Company Overview" paragraph that hasn't changed in years.  This up-to-date content should drive traffic to inner pages of your site where the user is given the opportunity to convert to a customer.  

Automating your homepage's content gives three distinct benefits:

1. Cleaner Overall Look and Feel After Each Update

Pulling in data and formatting it with the already existing content will ensure that the look and feel of your website is kept intact each time your homepage is updated.  Manually editing this content can lead to errors, extra line spaces, and other minor issues that can decrease the effectiveness of your site.

2. Easier Content Management

Managing your content in one place in your CMS and having that propagate throughout your site is the optimal setup for any content manager.  Changing one piece of content will be reflected in each part of the site that uses that data. 

3. More Consistent Usability

Your website visitors will appreciate your website staying consistent throughout their visit.  This is especially helpful if your website has a large ratio of return visitors as they know what information to expect and where to find it quickly.

Obviously there may be some pieces of your homepage that cannot be automated (image galleries, for example).  When you're dealing with one of these, just make sure you're paying special attention when you are updating them.

Stay tuned for Protip #2!
 

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Avoiding Comment Spam in your Blog

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If you keep up a blog then you are probably well acquainted with comment spam. This is an inevitable fact of life if you allow comments on your blog (which you should in most cases). At Marketpath, we reached a point with our blogging platform where we were receiving a great deal of comment spam for our own blogs and many of our customers' blogs. Here's an example:

Example of comment spam

Notice how well-written this comment is? Notice its perfect grammar and its amazingly descriptive word choices? That's sarcasm, of course. 

The good news is that if you are using Marketpath CMS, you don't have to worry about this type of comment rearing its ugly head on your blog. Every comment must be reviewed and approved before others can see it and it's very easy to do so. You'll receive a notification about the comment and can quickly jump into CMS to approve it.

Most other CMS platforms provide some sort of comment moderation as well and may even run comments through an detection engine to determine how likely they are spam. The best tool for this, however, is using good ol' fashioned eyeballs. Not everyone who comments writes well so you'll want to be careful not to ignore legitimate comments.

Why do people spam your blog? The biggest reason is that they are trying to improve their own website's search engine position by creating backlinks to their site. They will embed keywords and utilize the URL field to create the link.

Marketpath helps eliminate spam not only by requiring approval of comments but also by using a REL="NOFOLLOW" tag in the links. This tag tells search engines to ignore the link and alerts most spammers (those with a decent understanding of SEO) to avoid it because they know they won't get any credit for the link. Marketpath also strips HTML tags from the actual comment. If a spammer tries to embed a link into the comment, it will be stripped and removed completely. And the final tactic we employ is requiring visitors to enter a number verification (captcha) so automated spamming systems won't get through.

All in all, comment spam is a fact of life and will continue to be for quite some time. Simple measures, like I discussed above, whether you're using Marketpath CMS or some other evil CMS platform, should be a standard part of the technology to keep these comments from ever seeing the light of day.

Here are a couple more posts about comment spam that may interest you:

Hard facts about comment spam (Google Webmaster Central Blog)
Spam in blogs (Wikipedia)
 

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Getting Started with Content Creation in 3 Easy Steps

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For small-to-medium sized B2B companies without dedicated marketing departments, content creation can be a daunting task. You’ve been hearing that content is king for years when it comes to search engine optimization, but you just can’t quite put together a process for creating engaging content.  You may feel like your product or service is self-explanatory enough and doesn’t need to be discussed.  You may feel that your product or service isn’t sexy enough to have a blog post written about it.  Whatever the reason (or excuse), content creation  just isn’t being done…which is hurting your bottom line.  Here are a few easy-to-follow steps that we use at Marketpath to help add to our blog:   

Thinking Man
Look Familiar to your Current Process?

Step 1:  Commit to a content creation schedule

Without a schedule, the blog becomes a backseat passenger again to everything else that your day-to-day requires.  Start small – 1 blog post a week for the first 6 weeks and stick to it.  Block out time on your calendar for it.  Commit to it.  Once you have proven to yourself that you’re capable of putting together a blog post, it will become easier…I promise.

Step 2:  Utilize questions from sales meetings as blog post topics

Here is a little secret – if your prospective client has asked you a question in a sales meeting, there is a good chance that he/she has also Googled that same question.  What if you had written a blog that addressed that concern or topic and that customer finds your site?  You’re one step closer to a sale.  There is no secret that people a searching for answers to their questions long before they are ever picking up the phone to find a solution provider – they may not even know your company exists to solve their problem.  Sales questions always make great blog topics.

Step 3:  Write your ideas down as they happen

What a novel idea, right?  But how many times have you had a great idea (for anything, not just a blog post), but don’t record it somehow…pen, paper, voice recording on your iPhone, email, etc?  Once blogging becomes a part of your weekly schedule (because you’re sticking to Step 1, right?), blog topics will begin to pop in your head at random times during the day.  You can never predict when this will happen…Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative, has a great perspective on the idea that you can’t force yourself to come up with ideas…it just doesn’t work that way…So when it happens, write it down.

Now, these three steps won’t necessarily make you the next best-selling author, or a top 50 blogger, but they will help you get started into the world of content creation.  Keep in mind that each post should be engaging, and provide value to the reader.  If you’re struggling with this sort of thing, it might be time to reach out to a professional new media agency for some help.

 

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Being Everything to Everybody

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As a Software-as-a-Service website content management system (CMS) provider, we have to be cautious of trying to be everything to everyone.  The fact is that no CMS is the perfect fit for every website.  We have our niche, WordPress has its niche, and there can even be a place for Microsoft’s SharePoint (if you have the budget and technical staff, of course). 

We have realized that there is a point at which sites grow out of the WordPress niche and graduate into our niche.  We have been pretty successful migrating these sites into our content management system, training users on how to use our CMS, and then supporting them along the way at no extra cost.  This seems to be a perfect fit for small-to-medium sized businesses across the country that need a little more than WordPress can offer.  We are more than happy to play in this space, and our customers seem happy to have found us

More Features...MORE!And while we are continually adding features to Marketpath CMS, either because of new trends on the Internet, new technologies, or customer requests, we realize that, at some point, our customers may grow out of our system – and this is a good thing.  It means that our software probably played a small part in their successful growth, and we’re happy to have been a part of it.

This lesson can most likely be applied to more than just our business.  Have you ever had the problem of trying to add too many features/services/products to meet the demands of a potentially large account instead of sticking to what has made you successful?  Remember, jack of all trades, master of none - right?             

 

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