A new site for Farhoumand Dental presents an SEO challenge

A new website for Farhoumand Dental presents an interesting SEO challenge

Two friends of mine, my dentist Foad Farhoumand, DDS and his sister Farah Farhoumand, DDS, hired TNT Dental to design a new website for their  Farhoumand Dental Practice and to rewrite the content for it. They asked me to assist them with implementing a coherent social media strategy and search engine optimization in order to address an interesting SEO challenge made apparent with the launch of their new website.

Farhoumand Dental launches a new website, and a new SEO challenge
Farhoumand Dental launches a new website, and a new SEO challenge

Google’s Hummingbird update presents an SEO challenge for small business

With the recent Hummingbird update of the Google Search Engine algorithm, the challenges for any small business are very real. In the case of Farhoumand Dental, the new changes translate into actual business loss.

Farhoumand Dental local search listing
Farhoumand Dental local search listing

Google generates the information in the right hand box automatically, pulling it from all over the web —  in this case the dental practice’s old website and its old Google + page. The problem is that the phone number listed is old, currently incorrect, and is in fact the phone for the newly minted competitor, Avanti Dentistry, which until recently was part of the original Farhoumand Dental Practice. This presents a real business problem because old and new customers are mislead to call the competitor, leading to actual loss of business. Herewith comes the value of search engine optimization!

SEO experts willingly share their knowledge and expertise

As always, the web is a wonderful source of knowledge. Just as during my early web development days back in the ancient 1995, nowadays there are still generous professionals  willing to share their knowledge and expertise. Among many others on Search Engine Land’s LinkedIn forum and Moz Community, several SEO experts shared practical suggestions, among which I am quoting Randy Tallman‘s:

I believe you are dealing with an issue of identity changes. This can be complex, but can be dealt with by integrating SEO strategy to enable the new site being found. The following are some things to consider. There are more, and hopefully other help will come forward with other strategies.

1. Purchase the alternate domains that are like the original domain, such as .net or others. Point the .net domain over to the new site. (In the future build a landing page for the .net site though.)

2. Be sure to use the original name in the Title, Description and Content on the page (near the top of content). This will enable you to obtain positioning organically.

3. If you can, blog about the transformation — as search engines love Blogs. If you add the appropriate content which your clients are searching for on a consistent basis, you may be able to move your position to the top in time.

4. Reach out to your prior clients, and ask them to get the message out to others.

5. Connect with Social Media where your clients most likely hang out.

6. You may want to have similar page names to the old site which are optimized as much as possible to bring them to the new site.

I wish you the best in your transformations.


I will be tracking on this blog the adventure of optimizing the new Farhoumand Dental website for the search engine as well as user experience.

Website Optimization When Business Is Closed

Google pulled an ironic prank today by featuring the Yosemite National Park on its Google Doodle the exact day, 123 years after its creation, when the National Park Service is shutting down because of the government’s inability to come to an agreement and keep its basic services running.

Google's irony: As government shuts down, Google marks anniversary of national park you suddenly cannot see
Google’s irony: As government shuts down, Google marks anniversary of national park you suddenly cannot see
[heading]Search Engine Optimization and Web Site Optimization[/heading]

Having your website featured on Google’s front page with a creative Google Doodle is, of course, the ultimate search engine optimization accomplishment. But a website rarely exists as an abstract entity not related to business, organization or a person. When that business is closed but its website is open to the biggest web traffic imaginable, the user-friendly thing is to update the website and clearly indicate of the closing or the limited working hours.

When online does not reflect offline reality

The National Park Service, no doubt hoping for the best, has no indication on its website of the possible closing.

National Park Service - Yosemite

A better alternative

YosemitePark.com run by DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service, has put a simple warning indicating the possibility of the park closing.


The value of Website Optimization when business is closed

Thinking holistically about how a website is used improves its usability and solves a number of potential problems particularly when the website represents a physical place of such enormous beauty as Yosemite National Park. I had wonderful time when hiking Yosemite with my cousin’s family 4 years ago and would not want to be among those who have just arrived at the park to only be told they need to leave. Of course, the closings are not the fault of the National Park Service, but whoever operates the websites should have been prepared enough to use the web as communication medium and clearly indicate that, sadly, the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite, will not be celebrated.

Tools for reporting on search engine rankings

Recently I have been working with a couple of small local business and the question of reporting on their search engine rankings came up. I had started my foray into the web design and development back when Netscape was in beta, into web site optimization back when Google was in alpha and then — a decade ago — would participate in search engine optimization knowledge sharing on forums like HighRankings. Today, I see no better place for finding professional advice than LinkedIn. Not unlike during my early days as a web master, I found endearing the openness and willingness by those who were much more experienced than me to share knowledge and experience. I wanted to summarize the responses I got in the hope that others might benefit from them!

Tools for reporting on search engine rankings and other SEO-related activities

Search Engine Ranking, graph courtesy of WrenSoft.
Search Engine Ranking, graph courtesy of WrenSoft.

I asked the experts on the Search Engine Land LinkedIn discussion group: “What tools do you use and recommend for reporting on search engine rankings and other SEO-related activities?” Here is what the participants in this LinkedIn discussion suggested, in alphabetical order:

It is quite interesting to compare this list to a similar one I had put together more than 10 years ago!

Valuable SEO Advise

Tool suggestion aside, I found most intriguing the opinions of a couple of experts: Andrea Berberich shared her whole methodology of ensuring high search engine rankings:

“For keyword discovery and competitive analysis here is what I do:

  1. Use within Keyword Planner “Display Planner” to get a variety of keywords combination
  2. Use Chrome SEO SERP Bench to figure out my competitors rank on the keyword variation
  3. Go back to Keyword Planner and see the search volume of all the keywords that are high on the list with my competitors (best rank)
  4. Work with the SEO Content Strategist and recommend to create the content.
  5. Once content is create with recommended keywords (2 non-branded; 1 branded per page) I get them submitted into BrightEdge for continual monitoring and tracking
  6. I also review the “untracked keywords” that BrightEdge provides
  7. Ones keyword and PLPs (preferred landing pages) are in BrightEdge Web Manager can monitor the page ranking.”

Scott Stouffer blankly stated that “Rank Trackers are dead — they are based on the query stack of a search engine, which has become incredibly noisy from the personalization (filters like social,local,etc…).” Lastly, Geoffrey Hoesch confirmed “… you’re better off focusing on organic traffic and conversions than keyword rankings, as few keyword rank tools track keyword rankings based on location, which makes regional/local tracking very difficult. In the end, Moz linked up with Google Analytics can help you create the best reports.”

A photographic narrative of the life of Baha’u’llah

Baha'u'llahThe Baha’i World Center has launched a new website dedicated to the life of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith. I am grateful for having had the honor of playing a tiny role in this project — mainly by assisting the very capable web team of the Baha’i International Community with the website’s search engine optimization — and humbled by the beautiful work the whole team has put together.

Photo of Baha’u’llah

What is unique about this site is that it presents in a very artistic yet search engine friendly way a rich photographic journey through the life of the most current messenger of God, and offers to the viewers a wealth of images of artifacts and writings of Baha’u’llah.

Great job to Brian Kurzius and the whole team, and my deep gratitude for having been allowed to play a small part in this exciting project.

Building a comprehensive social media strategy

Last week I attended a wonderfully informative meeting of the Web Managers Roundtable organized by Julie Perlmutter and hosted by the World Bank. The two presenters were:

  • Pierre Guillaume Wielezynski, Communications Officer at the External Affairs office of the World Bank
  • John H. Bell, Managing Director and Executive Creative Director at the 360° Digital Influence division of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Here are several of the ideas on developing a social media strategy, adopted from the Ogilvy presentation by John Bell (who also blogs about the World Bank’s take on social media):

Ideas for using online visibility and search

  • Search Visibility – Increase the probability that people who research your company or related issues find what you want them to find, including helping your target audience to make the connection between risk factors/symptoms and your company’s public health campaign.
  • Multimedia Visibility – Use existing visual or audio assets to promote word of mouth, mobilize allies and improve search engine results
  • Content Syndication – Distribute your content via trusted web sites to improve search engine results

Ideas on information sharing

  • Internal Blog – Share information between offices for to allow for a quick response when a crisis arises. Share information and materials among and between stakeholders.
  • Wiki – Engage a coalition or a community to work toward a common goal.

Ideas for building an Engagement Toolbox

  • How to monitor cgm
  • How to create an influencer audit
  • How to do an online visibility audit
  • How to create an engagement plan
  • How to create commenting guidelines
  • How to create corporate blogging guidelines
  • How to reach out to bloggers
  • How to manage a crisis
  • How to launch a blog
  • How to use del.icio.us
  • How to publish & publicize multimedia

Online marketing: what works and what doesn’t

eMarketer posted results from a survey conducted by MarketingSherpa among attendees of the ad:tech asking them what online marketing approaches worked for them the best and the worst. The top three among the most successful online marketing tools were:

  • Pay-per-click marketing
  • Email lists compiled by the web site
  • Search engine optimization

Studio Lotus SEO traffic growthThis is consistent with the results of a client of mine, Studio Lotus, who saw their organic search engine traffic increase 68% from September 2006 to January 2007, based on a successful, well-planned web redesign. A small but very targeted Google AdWords campaign seems to be producing good results for them, and where I see a lot of untapped potential is fully utilizing the contact list accumulated through the web site’s contact form. It is heartening to see that best practices indeed produce good results.

Balancing Organic and Sponsored Search Results Essential for Successful Search Engine Marketing

A survey conducted by Enquiro Search Solutions and MarketingSherpa reveals the important role search plays in business-to-business buying decisions (PDF).

Among the findings of the research are:

  • Search plays a dominant role in decision-making about business-to-business purchases.
  • Google is overwhelmingly the search engine of choice in researching business-to-business purchases.
  • Search is most likely to be used during the early or mid research phase of the buying cycle.
  • Search engines will likely be used in conjunction with other sites primarily manufacturer’s sites. Budget for the purchase is a factor in the likelihood of this occurring.
  • Research (and search engine usage) generally happens at least a month or two in advance of the actual purchase decision.
  • Budget plays a part in this as well, with the gap between research and purchase decisions increasing with the amount of the budget.
  • Effective balancing of organic and sponsored strategies is essential: organic search results, depending on the search engine, draw anywhere from 70 to 80% of the click-throughs.
  • Position whether on the organic or sponsored side, is also essential: Over 60% of the click-throughs happen on the first 3 listings.
  • The way the users eye moves across the search engine page is a strong determinant in which listing will be eventually chosen.
  • Over 60% of all users make their decisions about which listing they will click on in a few seconds, after a quick scan of the page. This reinforces the importance and the significant advantage top sponsored locations provide.

Search Engine Marketing Effectiveness

Paying more for keywords on pay-per-click search engines does not necessarily get the most value for their dollars, according to a report published by DoubleClick, “Search Engine Marketing Considerations,” and based on data from DoubleClick search and affiliate marketing unit Performics.

According to the report, more than 60 percent of “active” keywords resulting in at least one click during the last month, cost 20 cents or less. In contrast, keywords that cost more than $1 account for only 6 percent of those clicked on at least once a month.

Higher position doesn’t necessarily mean greater click volume. The report concludes that high click-volume keywords perform equally well both above and below the top three. In fact, lower-positioned keywords drive 10 percent of total conversions. Moreover, conversion rates tend to fall as cost-per-click prices exceed 50 cents.

The report concludes that search engine marketing requires a combination of human expertise, robust technology, and constant attention–three qualities that are not always readily available to the average interactive shop or in-house marketing department.

Are you able to handle the technological requirements to manage an active ongoing search engine campaign? If not, contact WebSage for a free estimate on your search engine marketing needs.

Questions & Answers from a recent SEM 2.0 Google Group Thread

A recent question posted on the SEM2 Google group had me provide brief answers which are nevertheless universal and are shared here:

1. What can be done to guarantee that Google index’s your site often.

Have new content. Google as well as other search engines love fresh content. Whether you do that through blog, press releases, articles, etc, it is up to you, but try to have something new published regularly and over time this will send a signal to the spiders to come and visit more often.

2. Second, what is the average time to be placed in DMOZ?

Six weeks seems to be the average but can vary. Keep in mind that the DMOZ editors are all volunteers, which implies they are busy with their full time job. You can courtiously inquire about a submission through the DMOZ forum. I have found that submitting on a geographical basis (i.e. B2B company based in XX state) first accelerates acceptance.

3. How this (DMOZ listing) works in regards to pagerank?

DMOZ listings tend to carry higher value in Google’s algorithm because they have been edited by a human and the Open Directory has consistently shown good quality of newly submitted content. Because of that, Google visits DMOZ often, thus the importance of having your site listed with DMOZ.

I would have you ask yourself the question about conversion very seriously. If you are in the AdSense business then you need a lot of content and eyeballs. If you are in any business dependant on conversion, you should make sure your content, action items, copy, information architecture, any aspect of your web presence should work towards improving your conversion rates. To do that you need to implement some web metrics and regularly track their success.

Fortune 100 Companies Slow on SEO Use

A white paper (PDF, 254 KB) published by OneUpWeb, a search engine marketing company, reveals that the big brand companies of the Fortune 100 list are still slow to tap the power of search engine marketing. Comparing with its findings from 2002, OneUpWeb concludes that while there has been some growth of search engine optimization among the web sites of Fortune 100 companies, it does not correspond to the growth of the search engine marketing industry. Such lack of apparent interest in implementing organic search engine optimization might risk the web brand marketshare of the companies, in addition to the loss of potential sales.

Among the findings of the survey are:

  • 44% of all Fortune 100 companies in 2004 do not use any SEO best practices; 55% of the 2002 list of Fortune 100 companies were not using SEO
  • 47%, 3% more than in 2002, have been utilizing some form of search engine optimization but often have deployed practices that might backfire and are not sustainable
  • Just 9% of the Fortune 100 companies use best search engine optimization practices, effectivelly triple the number of such companies in 2002
  • Finally the survey concludes that the global leaders are at risk of losing marketshare unless implementing rigorous search engine marketing campaigns.