The Benefit of Google Maps

mapIf you’re just starting an SEO campaign, there are a few basic things you should do: fix META info, internal linking, content, etc.  Often overlooked, however, is the rather simple task of registering your website with Google Maps, which can provide free advertising, high rankings, and bring traffic to your site.  Especially useful for brick-and-mortar businesses, a listing on Google maps allows you to register your site for local searches.

Recently, I began optimizing a website for a local yoga studio, essentially starting from scratch.  While my client is aware that SEO can take time, one of the first items on my list of things to do was to add his site to Google maps, and after a few days of being listed on Google maps he’s already brought in some clients.

A simple task and a beneficial one, all websites should be listed with Google Maps as soon as possible.

Geoff Hoesch is owner of Dragonfly SEO, a Baltimore SEO company.

How to Properly 301 Redirect

redirectRecently I’ve had to deal with redirecting a single website into two separate websites (a company providing two services wanted to create a website for each service).  The intial website was set up on a CPanel webhosting service, which supposedly makes 301 redirects easy.  As you can see in the above picture, a redirect is as simple as clicking on ‘redirects’ then, as seen in the below picture, simply filling in the 301 redirect information.


I filled in the new URLs and was finished…

After about a month I became concerned because my sites were not ranking as highly as they should (the search engines didn’t appear to be picking up the old links).  Realizing that the problem may lie in my manner of redirect, I decided to perform a .htaccess redirect, which is the time-tested way to 301 redirect.

After a few weeks, my sites jumped in the rankings and soon I was back where I used to be.   The lesson:  always do a .htaccess redirect.

To do an htaccess redirect, create a new notepad file and enter the following information:

For homepage redirect:

redirect 301 /

For subpage redirect:

redirect 301 /subpage.htm

Save the file as .htaccess and upload it into the main directory of your website, check to make sure it works, and you’re done.

Geoff Hoesch is the owner of Dragonfly SEO, a Maryland SEO Company.

SEO Target Marketing

bullseyeMarketing isn’t about letting as many people as possible know about your business, it’s about letting the right people know about your business.  How you market and to whom you market make all the difference in the world.

If you were trying to sell skateboards you probably wouldn’t run advertisements during an episode of Golden Girls, which is a show primarily watched by older audiences. In this case, your marketing would be much better targeted if you were to air advertisements during cartoons, because children and teenagers are generally the ones interested in learning to skateboard.  Target marketing increases efficiency and decreases advertising costs.

Target marketing for SEO is similar in that it attempts to concentrate of specific segments of the marketplace, mainly those who are interested in your product or services.  And, while SEO is a unique type of target marketing, it provides similar opportunities.

1.  Know that not everyone is interested in purchasing your product or service, and that’s okay.

2.  Know that people purchase products for three reasons: To satisfy basic needs, to solve problems, and to make themselves feel good.  Figure out what your product or service provides before beginning your SEO target marketing campaign.

3.  Find the right keyword phrases.  SEO target marketing allows you to hone in on very specific keyword searches, and finding the right phrases is extremely important.  If you run a paint supply store in Dallas, Texas, you should target your keyword search to your local area, because that’s where your target market is going to be coming from.  SEO copy optimized for ‘paint supply store’ will turn up far fewer customers than copy targeted for the phrase ‘paint supply store Dallas’.  You may get fewer visitors to your site with a locally, but this is a good SEO strategy that will attract more of the right kind of visitors (local ones, in this case).

4.  Don’t get caught up in trying to attract the most visitors to your site…SEO target marketing is concerned with attracting the right visitors to your site, even if there are less of them.

5.  Write copy targeted for your intended audience.  If your selling skateboards, don’t write in language that only a college professor will understand.

6.  Many misled search engine optimizers spend hours obtaining as many links as possible in order to increase inbound links.  While inbound links are important to SEO, you should be concerned only with obtaining relevant inbound links from sources your target market will visit.

7.  Know your audience.  Conduct research if you have to.  How much does your audience make per year?  Where do they hang out on the internet (Facebook, Myspace, Forums, Youtube)?  Spend some time doing the things your target market does in order to understand how they think and what interests them.

8.  An intelligent search engine placement service varies its marketing methods, placing some resources in Pay Per Click, others in Social Media Marketing, and others in standard search engine optimization techniques such as link building and SEO copy writing.

9.  Research your competition.  SEO target marketing is also concerned with figuring out what the other guy is up to.  Utilize Yahoo’s Site Explorer to determine where your competition is getting their links, and determine whether or not you too should target these locations.

10.  Check the effectiveness of your SEO target marketing.  Utilizing an analytics program (such as the free tool provided by Google) monitor your visitors and your conversions.  An effectively targeted campaign should have less than a 55% bounce rate for visitor traffic.

**Please contact us with any questions regarding SEO target marketing.  We specialize in Maryland SEO services.

The SEO Void

black-holeRecently, I noticed an alarming anomaly on Google: sites occassionally drop off the face of the keyword phrase planet, disappearing into what I refer to as the ‘SEO void’, which is somewhere between the SEO sandbox and a bottomless pit.  This doesn’t happen for a single keyword phrase, but for all keyword phrases.

At first I thought I had been penalized for overoptimizing my site and, after furiously searching for remedies to this problem, I accepted the fact that I would have to tell my client that I had somehow destroyed their presence on the internet.  As I was not looking forward to this conversation, I procrastinated several days, telling myself that there was a glitch in Google’s system and the site would return to its previous rank.  I waited several days and, lo and behold, on the third day the site returned to the SERPs at a higher position than previously listed.

This happened yet again with another client with similar results.  Somewhat more composed this time, I waited several days and once again found that my site returned to the SERPs with higher rankings.

I don’t know why this happens, as it occured in both instances between crawls.  I do know, however, that the only solution is to wait it out.

Geoff Hoesch is the owner of Dragonfly SEO, a Maryland SEO company.

Donations, the Sort-of Paid for Links

So you’ve grinded out a few one way links, run out of reciprocal link partners, and found yourself still outside the first position.  What’s left?  You’ve updated the structure of the website and optimized META information, internal links, etc. and you have no place else to go.

It’s time to start buying your links.

Now, I realize that Google, as well as others, frown on paid links and consider them ‘illegitimate’, and if you wear the whitest of white hats, you probably won’t consider purchasing your links; however, there is an often overlooked solution: donations.

A donation is NOT (technically) a paid link, it is a link resulting from a generous contribution to a service or cause.  Some may argue that donating money just to get a link is selfish, not generous.  Maybe so, but in the end, no matter how you look at it, you’re still donating to a good cause.

I ran a 5k race last weekend for a very good cause and, for my entry fee, I received a t-shirt depicting the names of major donars on the back.  When I looked at those names I did not think, “those selfish bastards just wanted their name listed on a t-shirt,” I thought, “that’s very generous of them to contribute.”  And that’s what people will think when they see your link.   It’s understood that you receive something from a contribution, whether it’s a link, a sponsor logo, or just self-gratification.

Try searching for the phrase ‘donations’, ‘donors’, or ‘donate’ in Google and see what you come up with.

Geoffrey Hoesch is the owner of Dragonfly SEO, a Baltimore SEO company.

Keyword Research: Which tool is best?

Keyword research is the foundation of any SEO campaign, and it is the most important factor of SEO.  Without the right keywords, you can waste your time optimizing for keyword phrases that a) are too difficult to rank for or b) are rarely searched for.  With keyword research, we determine which phrases are best for our site; but what keyword research tool is best?

The way I see it, there are three main keyword phrase research tools: Wordtracker, Trellian, and the Google Adwords tool.  Wordtracker and Trellian have a free trial version, but to use their in-depth tool you must pay approximately $70 per month.  The Google Adwords tool is free.

After researching the accuracy of each keyword research tool by comparing actual hits to predicted hits, I’ve made a few discoveries.

Trellian:  At no time was Trellian remotely near the actual hit value.

Wordtracker:  Wordtracker was spotty with its results, sometimes being fairly accurate and sometimes dramatically underestimating the number of daily searches for a keyword phrase.

Google Adwords tool:  To determine daily hits, the monthly results were divided by 31.  This was perhaps the most accurate of the tools, but, like Wordtracker, it was spotty, sometimes providing inaccurate data and sometimes being right on.

I always recommend cross-referencing all keyword phrase research, and it’s probably a good idea to utilize all three programs during your research.  If you have to choose two tools, I’d recommend Adwords and Wordtracker, and if you have to choose one tool, go with the Google Adwords tool (because it’s free and just as effective as Wordtracker).  If you don’t want to pay for your keyword research, all three programs provide free versions.  I’d recommend using the results of each program relatively.  If, for instance, keyword phrase A recieves 100 daily hits and another keyword phrase B receives 25 daily hits, on any of the research tools, you can assume keyword phrase A receives four times as many daily searches.

Geoff Hoesch is owner of Dragonfly SEO, a Baltimore SEO company.

Link Request Emails: Short and Sweet

Once you’ve found good web pages from which to get links, you’ll need to contact the webmaster and request the link. This can be a tiresome process, and you’ll find that many webmasters will outright ignore your email. Being a webmaster myself, I understand the decision to ignore link requests; I receive dozens of requests per week, and most of these requests look exactly the same. Although I am a bit more savvy than the average webmaster when it comes to exchanging links (I check the links quality to determine whether an exchange is worthwhile), I get tired of hearing the same requests over and over. Nearly every link requester seems to be working from the same template, which is something like the following:

Dear Webmaster,

I was browsing the internet and came upon your site. I was impressed with the professional quality of it and thought that a link to my site would be appropriate.

As you may know, links are beneficial to your website…blah blah blah

If you’re like me, you receive plenty of spam email per week, and you’re a bit leery when it comes to emails that flatter you in order to get on your good side. From my experience, the tactic does not work, and once webmasters see flattery, they’re quick to send your email straight to junk mail.

I’ve read plenty of articles regarding link request letters, and many of them suggest ‘coaxing’ webmasters into exchanging links with you. Many SEOs recommend that your first build a relationship with a webmaster before requesting a link. Besides being a little underhanded, it seems to me that this tactic is probably not worth the effort. From my experience, the most successful emails are to the point and honest.

Most of us don’t have time to read a long email and are not interested in cookie cutter requests. Therefore, I recommend the direct approach, which many webmasters, many of whom are familiar with the importance of link building, appreciate and reward. Webmasters who are going to give you a link are going to give you a link, so don’t waste time with the fluff.

Here’s a sample email that has worked for me.

Dear Webmaster,

I was wondering if you’d consider posting my related link (explain how it is related) on your site, here: (URL).

Please consider this code:

<a href=””>Your Site</a>

Thanks for your consideration.



That’s it.

Geoffrey Hoesch is owner of Dragonfly Professional SEO Services.

Links: Not Just about the Anchor Text

There’s no doubt about it, link building is one of the foundations of any SEO campaign, and many would argue that it is THE most important aspect of SEO.  It’s so important that some SEO companies focus entirely on finding links.  However, before you start grinding out your links, you’ll want to read this article.

Recently, I was conducting a link building campaign and utilizing Link Diagnosis (one of my favorite tools) to analyze some competitor’s sites.  While going through the list of competitors, checking their links for potential contacts, I came upon a site ranking highly for a fairly competitive keyword phrase.  The site’s links were weak and carried relatively little weight; however, the site was outranking competitors for this particular keyword phrase.   After further analysis, I discovered that two of its links came from a site with the keyword phrase directly in the URL.  Which leads me to this conclusion…

As ranking advantages seem to be given to URLs containing a specific keyword phrase, so too are advantages given to links containing a particular phrase in the URL.  For instance:

For the keyword phrase ‘blue widgets’ a link from is less valuable than a link from, assuming both sites have the same page rank (Yes, I think page rank still has value and can be used as a relative barometer for a site’s importance).

How does this help you and how can you implement this knowledge?

When conducting your link campaign, don’t overlook the value of ‘in URL’ keyword phrase links.  Try typing ‘inurl:keyword phrase’ into Google and, from there, searching for potential links.

Geoffrey Hoesch is the owner of Dragonfly SEO, a Baltimore SEO Company.  (Please excuse the gratuitous link)

Finding Links

Okay, so you understand that links are important, but how do you find them?

The first step to finding links is posting to relevant directories. Note the term ‘relevant’. This does not mean posting to every directory you can find, but posting to directories that a) potential customers may actually visit and b) have decent page ranks. Without a decent page rank, your link will be essentially useless.

One of the best ways to find relevant directories is to visit DMOZ, click on Reference, then click on Directories. From here, you can review the list of directories and determine which are relevant to your site.

When searching for relevant sites its easiest to ask for link exchanges. One way link building is far more difficult than two way, and if you have a resources page I recommend using it to gain link exchanges. Links posted on your resources page should not only help with link exchanges, but they should also be potentially useful to your customers.

One of the best ways to find link partners is to type ‘add url (keyword phrase)’ into a search engine. Results will list directories and potential partners. Also, just typing the keyword phrase into a search engine will list relevant sites. Visit the sites, determine if they have a resources page, and request a one way link. If they request an exchange, provide it for them. Remember, you should only be interested in having your link placed on a page with PR 3 or more (not the home page).

Link building can be an extensive process that takes tens if not hundreds of hours, and you may want to consider hiring professional SEO services to complete this task for you. Many SEO companies specialize in link building; however, before hiring any company you should ask these questions:

1) Do you submit to Search engines (a ‘yes’ is a clear sign of an incompetent SEO)

2) How many directories do you submit to (Anything above 50 is outrageous. Some would argue that anything above 5 is unnecessary.)

3) What type of sites will you get links from (you’re looking for relevant sites)

4) What page rank will these sites have (you’re looking for PR 3 or more, although I sometimes go down to PR 2)

Link Building and Why it’s important


So now you’ve got your site ready to go: you’ve developed META information, created an excellent internal linking web, and written compelling and optimized SEO copy; however, you’re still missing a key component to Search Engine Optimization – External Links.

External links differ from internal links because they originate outside of your site.  Search engines view external links as a ‘vote’ for your site, meaning another website trusts yours enough to post a link to your site on theirs.  That means a lot to search engines, and the higher ranked the sites that link to you, the more credibility your site will have.

You hear a lot of SEO’s talking about the fabled .edu link, which allegedly performs SEO magic to your site.  It’s true that .edu links are highly regarded as link gold because .edu sites are considered the ‘most reliable’ of all sites on the internet, unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to obtain the SEO links, as your site must generally benefit college students in some way, and few do.  So don’t spend too many hours searching for that link – chances are, unless you have a relevant site, you won’t find it.  .Org links come next in the heirarchy, followed by everything else (.com, .net, etc.). 

Essentially, there are two types of external links: one way links and reciprocal links.  A one-way link is a link comes from a site you do not link to, a reciprocal link comes from a site you do link to.  Reciprocal links are often part of an exchange, in which you promise to post a link in exchange for the posting of your own link on another site.  

While building links to your site you want to keep in mind that higher ranked pages are viewed as more credible in the eyes of search engines, and unindexed pages (pages that carry no page rank) are rarely viewed by search engines and carry little or no value.

I’ll discuss the process of obtaining links in the next post.

Geoffrey Hoesch is the owner of Dragonfly Professional SEO services, a Baltimore based Search Engine Optimization Company.