Archive for January, 2009

Maine SEO Project: Penmor Lithographers

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

penmor lithographersWe just wrapped another SEO project at flyte, for Penmor Lithographers up in Lewiston, Maine.  Penmor specializes in offset sheet-fed printing, and as the Average Joe like me who doesn’t know what that means, just know this – they create gorgeous collateral, posters, cards, catalogs, and annual reports for their clients.  Clients who include such big names as Bates College and L.L. Bean.

Like many local businesses, one of the big keys for Penmor will be competing with local search.  But with an already expanding list of customer testimonials, they’re off to a great start!  More and more, leveraging local reviews seems to be a trend that will make or break small businesses.

So, for your next composition, binding, color separating, finishing, or mailing and fulfillment project, give Penmor Lithographers a call!

Nicki Hicks
Maine SEO

One Stop Shop for Local Search:

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Last week, Search Engine Roundtable posted an article about, a site that is incredibly helpful for local businesses.  Get Listed truly is a one stop shop, as it pulls your local listings from Google Maps, Yahoo! Local, Best of the Web, and Live.

Here is flyte’s snapshot of listings:

To break things down a little further, Get Listed shows a “To Do” list for you website: showing on which sites your business is claimed, where you have photos, and even citations.

What a great tool for consolidating all of my local listings!

Nicki Hicks
Location, location, location

You Never Know What People Will Search For

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Two days ago was arguably one of the most important days of the 21st century.  Many of us watched “history being made”.  Interestingly enough though, even with the inauguration of President Obama taking place, the popular searches for that day weren’t entirely in his favor.

I pulled this list from SEOmoz’s Popular Searches tool:

Nicki Hicks
Guess we’d rather watch people who can’t sing..

My 5 Favorite Ways to Keep Up on Search News

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

There are tons of great blogs, forums, and sites that offer the latest and greatest SEO news.  But even if you were to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week reading, you couldn’t keep up with all of them.  So, I offer my list: of those I believe offer the widest range of information to keep you in the know.

“News” Sites

  1. Search Engine Roundtable – my all time favorite SEO news source.  Not only do they live blog for major conferences and seminars, as well as just about every major happening in the Search world, but all of the articles are remarkably short, sweet, and concise!
  2. Search Engine Land – with longer articles than SE Roundtable; also the company behind SMX conferences.


  1. Matt Cutts’ blog – a must for some more in depth tips and tricks from a Google insider.
  2. SEOBook blog – all things SEO by guru Aaron Wall.


  1. High Rankings forum – generally speaking, I’m not a forum user; simply because of the time it takes to get caught up on threads.  However, High Rankings is the one I like the most – and forums are great for when you need a technical question answered fast!

What are your favorite sites/blogs/forums?

Nicki Hicks
“These are a few of my favorite things”

The Power of Twitter, For Better or Worse

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

This afternoon around 3:30pm EST, US Airways Flight 1529 from NYC to Charlotte made an emergency landing in the Hudson River after the plane hit a flock of birds.  Thankfully, everyone is safe.

But that’s not the story I’d like to cover.  (For like @streko points out, we’re all tweeting reporters.)

I saw, just seconds after the crash landing, my TweetDeck light up with plane crash tweets faster than I could possibly read.  One of the links posted was to MSNBC streaming their live broadcast which, as I watched, showed a photo (which ended up being a twitpic) and the photographer and now famous Tweeter being interviewed (@jkrums).

Even though bad news typically spreads faster than good, the implication is huge for driving traffic to your website.  For the question “What are you doing?” often turns into “What are you reading?”  While Twitter links pass no link juice, you can see from this instance alone, that posting links for the buzz alone is well worth the effort.

Nicki Hicks
I find things out faster from Twitter than from CNN

Why Can’t I Just Post Good Local Reviews For My Website?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

With local search and reviews becoming so important, I pressure my clients who differentiate based on location to take it seriously.  Recently, as I was having this conversation with one such client, he asked me: “Well, if this local search stuff is so important, then why am I not running out and posting great reviews for my site; and bad ones for my competition?”  Great question.  And it quite honestly caught me off guard.  My response is multi-faceted:

It can come back to bite you in the butt…

…if you’re dishonest about it.  Search engines (or review sites) aren’t stupid, and neither are your customers for that matter.  Every review site I’ve seen requires you to create an account in order to post a comment.  Each user’s profile displays the amount of time they’ve been a member.  When a person has only been apart of one of these sites for a few days and suddenly begins posting reviews (maybe rave ones for their own site and negative reviews for competition), it serves as a red flag for both other users and the site itself.

A Yelp forum thread from a few months ago discusses this topic as it applies to Yelp, but can relate to any local review site.  Participants seemed to go back and forth about the morality of posting reviews for your own company, both with good points.  I think the consensus is…

Honesty is the best policy.

Posting your own review doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if you’re trying to get your name out there.  As long are you are up front and honest with both your connection to the company (owner, employee, consultant, etc.) and your true feelings about the company, other consumers can take or leave what you have to say.  The person reading it can take your biases (positive or negative) into account and form their own opinions.

Case in point, a review of flyte by Rich:

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Remember Mom telling you that?  I suggest staying away from negatively reviewing competitors altogether.  No one likes to see one company slam another; if I remember correctly, competitor review commercials (think of most cleaning product ads) have among the lowest response rate from customers of all the possible marketing tactics.  Plus, there’s no need to give others negative reviews – especially if they don’t deserve them.  Worry about keeping your own reviews positive instead.

Nicki Hicks
Why not? Give yourself a pat on the back.

How to Put a Keyword Analysis to Good Use

Monday, January 12th, 2009

In its simplest terms, keyword research is done to find out what people are searching for in your industry.  In addition, a keyword analysis may do one of two things:

  1. Verify that your customers use the same language you do, and are already searching for the terms you’ve optimized for; or
  2. Identify keyword opportunities you are missing out on (and in certain cases, to the point of making you rethink the industry jargon you use with clients on an everyday basis).

Finding Keywords

There’s a whole process SEOs use to find out what people are ‘Googling’, and every SEO is going to give their client something different in terms of a keyword analysis.  The results we get at flyte can vary anywhere from 300 – 10,000 quality, applicable keywords.  Finding these keywords is half the battle; the other half is implementing them.

Give each web page a focus

I think the best place to start putting a keyword analysis to work is by understanding that each page should have a purpose; and thereby a focused, unique set of targeted keywords.  Top tier pages have a more generalized group, and as you get deeper into the site – to secondary and tertiary pages – the keywords should get more and more specific.  Each page on your website is a different possibility to rank at search engines.

Page titles should include your richest keywords (being careful, of course, not to stuff) – describing the page effectively and including your geographic location (if you differentiate with it).

Body copy is the main destination for your keywords.  I generally suggest a specific keyword phrase is not used more than 3-4 times for content of about 250 words in length.  This is where copywriting becomes an artform: balancing incorporating target keywords and writing naturally.

What if what people are searching for doesn’t align with my target customers?

To expand on the second point from above (identifying new keyword opportunities): I will often include keywords in analyses for clients that may not necessarily align with their business model, but do relate well to their industry.

For example, I may find people may be searching for “cheap vacuums” (this is purely an assumption), when a client only sells high-end vacuums.  So what do I suggest?  They use it to their advantage; by writing a blog post or article: “Buying a Cheap Vacuum Will Save You Money Now, But Buying a [Our Company] Vacuum Will Save in the Long Term” or “5 Reasons Not To Buy A Cheap Vacuum” for a little less “sales-y” approach. For almost every case, there’s an opportunity to incorporate hot keywords in a way that will apply to your audience.

Remember who you’re writing for

It’s not all about keywords.  That may seem counter intuitive to my craft, but it’s crucial to remember that you’re writing for people first and foremost, not search engines.  So, never stuff your keywords anywhere (in the code or otherwise), or to try any other black hat methods.

Optimizing for keywords is much more an artform than a science: it takes remembering all of these things (plus some) and a fair amount of experimentation.  But in the end, it’s about writing natural, enticing copy for your target audience.

Nicki Hicks
Keyword Analyses for Dummies

Google, Stick To What You’re Good At

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Last year, Google released Chrome.  It was highly anticipated and, yes, has a lot of great features.  It’s also gotten a general “so-so” reaction.  But after four months, has anyone said “Wow. That really turned out to be the best browser!”?  Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate for Google.  This just makes me ask: Google, why not stick to what you’re good at?  Remember that little monopolistic situation you’ve got going on in Search?

Isn’t it a basic rule of good business and the inevitable death of so many in niche industries: don’t try to do a bunch of things mediocre, just do one thing really, really good? (Disclaimer: I’m in no way saying Google is mediocre.)

I still have two major issues:

  1. There is still no Mac version. (I may or may not be edging bitter with that one…)
  2. My FireFox extensions are still near and dear.

But don’t take my word for it.  Take a look at the numbers….

Graph from Wikipedia.

I think these numbers will speak more highly than my rant – just over 1% of people use Chrome.  But I have to wonder…what would browser usage look like had Chrome been released before Firefox 3?

Nicki Hicks
Who could resist a cute, cuddly fox for a mascot?

5 Links That Have No SEO Value, But You’ll Want Them Anyway!

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I want to discuss some of the links a little further that Eric Ward brought up in the MarketingProfs Link Building Webinar I attended a few weeks ago.  He said something very important: there are a select group of links that you should pursue that, while they have no PageRank or SEO value, are overwhelmingly valuable simply by the conversions you recieve.

  1. Email links – Would you consider sending out an email newsletter without a link to your site?  I hope not.  For while you get no SEO value for that link, you will most certainly get the clicks…and conversions.
  2. Temporary Buzz links – from sites like Digg and Sphinn.  While these links do get “followed”, the temporary buzz created will get you a boost in traffic while they’re up.
  3. Social media links - Links from Twitter and Facebook are nofollowed, but can create buzz and traffic just the same. (Linkedin links are followed.)
  4. Blog comment links - Generally, when you leave a comment on a blog or article, your website is nofollowed.  But that doesn’t mean people can’t click on it.  Leaving an insightful comment just might get more traffic to your site.
  5. Collateral/Marketing materials – Technically not a link, but still necessary.  These include every physical marketing flyer, handout, newspaper/magazine print your company puts out to radio and tv advertisements.  Give people a call-to-action: go to our website.

So while these links may not yield in more search engine traffic or (in most cases) backlinks, they will certainly give you more direct traffic and conversions.

Nicki Hicks
Linking for Traffic’s Sake

A New Year’s Gift: PageRank Update

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Happy 2009!  My how the year flies by!!

As a present for entering the New Year, the great Google guru Matt Cutts has confirmed it: Google’s Toolbar PageRank has officially been updated for the first time since September.

The Maine SEO blog has gone from a PR 2 to a PR 4!

Toolbar PageRank is basically inaccurate after a few days, as it’s updated only about every 3 months.  So if yours is up, enjoy and Happy New Year!

Nicki Hicks
What’s your New Year’s PR?

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