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The search landscape is changing. That’s nothing new. In fact, it changes all the time, for reasons you may not expect or even think about in your daily online work.
Your competitors are changing, the search engines are updating their algorithms and finding new ways of providing the best opportunity for relevancy (and sales). And – you (hopefully) are also adapting; adding content and tuning your sites for optimial organic results placement. Talk about a moving target!
On top of that, spammers and black hat seo artists are constantly trying to beat the search engines – creating a volatile place for any sense of normalcy.
Example: I was doing some research using geo-targeted keywords. I noticed that a previously #1 page listing on Google was pushed to page #2, and it seemed so sudden.
What the heck happened?
Answer: Universal Search – a new search engine results format, a new way of presenting data – capturing video, maps and more from the emerging “social” aspects of the web.
How do you fix your ranking problem in this diversified way of looking at data?
(disclaimer: just adding these tactics will move you in the right direction. However, there is ongoing work needed in this area, and it’s a long term committment). Don’t exclude this emerging and important new wave – and make sure to optimize for the social media.
A good example of how to see multiple entry points in Google results, is the famous Darth Vader example. (scroll up/down the page to see entries from images, news, products, video and more).
If you are only applying the old SEO strategies – you will be left behind in 2008 and the competition will race past you.
In the field of SEO (search engine optimization), there are a myriad of things you can do to affect rankings in search engines.
While its basic premise is simple (content + links), you cannot pick up strategy and tactics in a weekend or two. A long term committment is needed, and you need a combination of technical, entrepreneurial, design and marketing skills and certainly – copywriting skills.
But, with those writing skills, you can get started today!
Last week, I was introduced to a company and their current website. Like most serious businesses, they wanted top rankings for some related keyterms (which is good). When I did a more in-depth keyword research (this is where you must start) – it revealed none of their selected terms were used online (not good). You should still consider those related terms and test them via PPC & SEO. Monitor trends in your server and anlytics logs for performing keywords, and continue keyword research.
Keywords with search counts with at least 100-200 searches per month (try the Overture Suggestions Tool) could form a good starter strategy.
Try first to lift your rankings in MSN & Yahoo. However, do the competitive research and get metrics out of those comparisons, since every marketplace is different. Y & M favor content and care less about links – whereas Google cares about both.
This post is a reminder to look at quality content – always. That means your on-page factors need to be applied correctly.
Here is an onpage SEO list to (re)consider:
This is an example of an on-page optimized page, related to “corporate blogs”.
Content on your page with keywords and links can get you ranked higher in search engines.
The only way a search engine can know what your page is about, is via keywords.
Make sure you apply these techniques, and continue to build external link profiles as well using the same link strategy.
In my recent article, the 6 SEO blogging tips, I speak of the awesome opportunities that exist for you to combine a WordPress blog with some common sense business strategies and tools to get into a positive place for search engine inclusion and ranking.
This is only the beginning. There are more tips you can apply that will help you further. (A recent video from Matt Cutts, Google – is posted at the end).
Directories & filenames with underscores?
We know that directory and filenames are important to search engines. The ongoing discussion around hyphens and underscores was recently discussed at a conference where the below video was taped. Google is looking into how to best deal with underscores, but having an underscore in your URL like this: /sony_digital_camera is normally read by Google as ‘sonydigitalcamera’, whereas /sony-digital-camera (hyphens) is correctly interpreted as ‘sony digital camera’. This last example make it easy for the search engines to read it.
Worrying about this too much may cause headaches for an already established site (possibly losing established rankings) – but if you are building new pages, use the hyphen approach and with keywords in URL and domain, where you can. The (+) plus sign and dots (.) can also be used, but stay away from underlines.
Dynamic pages are good?
If you are dealing with dynamic pages (sometimes called spider-traps) that contain long URLs separated by many ‘&’ characters, you will not be considered optimized for Google. In fact, if you have more than two parameters, you are losing indexing and ranking opportunities. Stay within 1-2 parameters max, something like this: http://www.yourdomain.com?z=parm1&y=parm2 – and you will be treated like a static URL. Dynamic pages are not good for SE’s.
In that recent blog article, I speak of the directory levels that can be set within the WordPress system. I used the date driven structure. The structure creates a deeper level tree, but you can also test using the category page only, and applying a POST Slug (WordPress) to name your directory specifically. (The post slug option is down/right side of the page, when you are in ‘Write’ mode on WordPress). Either way, recent tests show that spiders will drill down and find your page.
Check out the (long) video and see how you can apply further techniques – as instructed from the top (Google)…
Last week, I spent time at the SES (Search Engine Strategies) show in San Jose, CA. Personally, I found the show to be even more energizing than the years before. Not only because of my increased involvement and knowledge of the field of Search, but also because of new friends made, like Bruce Clay, Michael McDonald (WebproNews), Vanessa Fox (ex-googler, now Zillow). Listening to some very engaged search marketing speakers, vendors and customers only added to this feeling, shared by many, I thought.
Outside of the developing areas of mobile search, local search, PPA=”Pay Per Action” (in Beta at Google) video and social search, the paid links session became the biggest, read more
In the community of SEO there is always discussion around who is the best individual or team to craft content and apply website changes for optimum SEO compliancy.
Answers vary, but we never hear much success from the Information Technology or Developer Groups to handle SEO directly.
Reason: They are not good at it, and it’s not their job. Many SEO horror stories come from poor execution and judgement in applying SEO on-page and off-page (linking) strategies and these groups do not understand the 360 view you must have into the SEO world and the search engines themselves.
Is it possible that a lone Microsoft dot NET developer can do a quality SEO job of a specialized marketing person or outside SEM vendor?
Introducing the SEO informer for .NET product, recently announced.
It is a cool and very useful tool for Microsoft ASP.NET developers to apply high quality SEO tactics, right inside the .NET IDE (integrated development environment). Now developers can publish SEO compliant code and websites directly to marketing – SEO done right.
I recently sat down with the creators (Levi Page & Brian Mishler) of this new product. (No affiliation with Larry Page/Google). Here’s what they said:
Q: Who are you, tell me a little bit about yourself and the company?
A: Brian: “I have an aerospace engineering degree from and I’m a self taught software developer. Started with dBASE II, Clipper (Ed Note: I was #4 on the Clipper development team myself) and have a passion for writing commercial software.” Levi: “I have degree in Computer Information Systems, and have been doing software for 15 years. I am really involved in SEO, software & graphics design. I started my software trek with a Tandy TRS-80 and QuickBasic. We have worked together for many years, and are partners in this new business. We both have strong roots in technology, and are very passionate about search engine optimizaton and bringing it out to people.”
Q: How did the idea for this product come about?
A: “We had been thinking about this for a while, and thought that Visual Studio add-ins might be a really useful thing for developers and how important it could be for a tight SEO tool integration with their IDE. You wouldn’t have to leave the environment you love, and work within the ASPX pages directly. Also, we wanted something with instant feedback, no wait time. The controls would tell you what to do next, and you would not need to be an SEO expert. We also looked at other products, like IBP, TrendMX, SEO Elite, and saw no integration anywhere, only stand-alone products. Also, when Visual Studio launched with new concepts of ‘master pages’, and a whole new way of interacting with web pages and sites, we moved away from DreamWeaver (Still a dominating web development product).”
Q: How does the product work?
A: “It uses meta data management among other things. An XML file is updated at the core, and the easy accessible panels allow you to edit directly, without worrying about the underlying data structures. Each node in the file represents a webpage, and at runtime, an ASP.NET control or http handler is used to merge data into a page header. Many developers are familiar and comfortable with XML sitemaps, but here you don’t have to worry about it. On the other hand, you could open the file, and email configuration and meta data to another party, and using the Internet Explorer for example, you could view all the nodes/properties of the pages in the site. Or, just use it directly in the environment itself.”
Q: Who should use this product?
A: “The huge community of non-SEO informed ASP.NET developers, they are finally able use an integrated tool that helps them write pages that is optimized for the web day one. It shows you what to type next, how to layout the page and much more. Plus, it’s only $99.00, and there’s a free download.”
Q: What is the future of this product?
A: “We are always listening to our customers, and we internally brainstorm ideas every week, and collect these – to prioritize tasks/projects for development. The customers tell us what they want, and we typically act on it quickly. We are excited to be part of this industry, but are baffled about by how much money is wasted, and how little people know about SEO and online marketing in general. It’s the cheapest form of advertising, and the old media (traditional magazine advertising, etc) – is not the way to go anymore.”
“You need search engine marketing, and organic listings is your best bet over time. Everybody online needs more traffic, and if done right, it will pay off – everybody needs quality traffic. We are working on a desktop version next, more analysis tools, instant pagerank into pages, inbound link analysis, duplicate content checks, everything rapid response via threading models.”
Thanks guys, I personally installed this product, and found it to be very intuitive, and recommend that my readers take a look, especially if you are a web developer using Microsoft Visual Studio & ASP.NET to build websites and want “instant SEO”…
Search engines love links. In 1998, when Larry and Sergey founded Google, they not only wanted to create a new-new search engine, but a highly relevant, reliable and trusted one. But how?
Altavista Search was all the rage at the time, but the young founders decided that a key metric for their search engine would be based on something new: a core algorithm using links as a measurement of relevancy and ranking among the key formulas. The basis for their emergent PageRank system was that a link to a certain page would yield a particular vote or value from a web page to that linked-to page.
There were, and still are several additional factors that include this value-type system, including anchor text, matching of theme/topic from that incoming link, and semantic attributes of the on-page text surrounding the link, and checks for spammy-looking links, or paid links (a heated topic).
Having said that, you can easily rank for the long tail keywords by making sure that you have TITLE, DESCRIPTION and body text that matches your keywords (1-2) to that page. I ranked my own site, SEO Videos Secrets to the top of Google in 2 days using “seo video secrets” in a link from an external site, no search engine submission (a big no-no!). Long tail keywords are typically not highly searched terms (my example has none), but as an aggregate, can bring relevant (converting) traffic to your site. Try a free tool like http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword/ to make sure they have search counts, and to find these obscure, but strategic search terms across multiple engines. Then, watch your analytics and make sure they convert.
If you are trying to elevate your listings, build traffic and create a trust network for yourself (you should be!), you can do a lot with your SEO by using linking strategies in combination with the above, creating a better competitive edge for yourself, and a sustaining search engine presence.
Some past examples of highly first page ranked pages *without* content that matches link text are “click here” (adobe acrobat: to download ‘click here’), “miserable failure” (the whitehouse google bomb) and “robot” (the irobot movie with Will Smith, which only had Flash as content).
Your link strategy for relevancy, ranking and traffic should include adding links from the Top Directories, not just partner sites or social networks. You must apply the link from within related categories, as well as ensuring a “clean link”, something like this: ‘<a href=”http://www.your-website.com/” mce_href=”http://www.your-website.com/”>Your Preferred Keyword Here</a>’.
You should also verify that the directory is being indexed by Google. You can do this by the site: command – example - site: http://www.botw.org. (Check the cached data for the latest update, should be very current!)
Additional tips to begin or enhance your link building is found at the Top 101 link building tips website.
Top 10 Directories For Link Love:
Dmoz.org – free – can take weeks, months and years
Dir.Yahoo.com – $299/year – listed quickly and internationally also
GoGuides.org – $39.99 per URL – included right away
JoeAnt.com – $39.00 onetime – about a week to be listed
Gimpsy.com – $40.00 reviewed – if turned down, has a $20.00 fee, commercial
Botw.org – $69.95 per year or $199.95 one time fee – should include
Uncoverthenet.com - $49 or $199 – depending on feature
site-sift.com – $29.95 annual recurring, other program – high pagerank inner values
lii.org - free – high valued, but hard to get, should have lots of hight quality content
wowdirectory.com – typically free, $59 top placement – large directory
There are several others, including article directories (ezinearticles.com, isnare.com) and specific B2B directories like Business.com you may want to check out as well.
You heard it here: “Linking can be fun”. Happy Friday!
Traditional search uses algos & objective properties to provide results – via links from other pages. The next generation search experience – sometimes dubbed the Google killer - is social search – human assisted search results.
There is little doubt that the human powered search engines have their place, and that the user-content driven interaction with websites, and specifically search is important and it is expanding in popularity.
Nothing new though. In fact, Ask.com started out this way, but it had problems scaling up. Yahoo started in 1994 with their now infamous directory and it was all about human interaction & validation. Microsoft also had human editing of results, but once Google took the world over with their link based system, and it worked so well – other engines were left in the dust.
Today, Google, considered by many as only an algorithmic search engine, has been, and still is using humans to stay close to search results, and looking to add more. They know the combination of both are key to the success of the “Web 2.0″ phenomenon.
Whether the short list below will provide a v1.0 testbed for the “next big search engine model” – beating Google at its own game, still remains to be seen. We all know that Google didn’t get to #1 by slacking off.
Brin & Page, the founders of Google are fiercely competitive, and their top priority has always been to provide the ultimate in search relevancy and user experience, and I don’t see them taken over any time soon.
A brand new human powered search launched by the founder of Wikipedia, was just launched. (http://search.wikia.com/wiki/Search_Wikia). It’s getting lots of press and since it’s based on open source crawling and has a large existing and growing user base, it will be an interesting development to watch.
It’s all about the user community, and unlike the ridiculous editing experience of directories like DMOZ, it’s refreshing to see this open dialogue and debate. The Wikia crawler can be seen at Grub.org, where you can download it for your own use.
Other social search tools that you should check out are:
There is an area of the Google backoffice support system that is unknown to many learning about SEO. And, as recently as last week, Google launched an update to this system, and they want to talk to you.
It’s also the easiest and fastest way you can get your site synch’ed with Google, and where you can get statistics and feedback directly from the Google search engine — from crawling and indexing updates, error and verification issues, sitemap submissions.
Furthermore, it provides a detailed reporting system and expanded lists for your backlinks (link popularity), which normally is not shown via the Google searchbox. (That is the ’link:http://www.yourdomain.com’ command)
Go read at: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/ & https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/docs/en/about.html and click the “Go to webmaster tools” link on the right of that page to sign up.
Understand that you must have access (FTP or otherwise) to your site to make it “verify” (a process that lets Google know its your site).
Sitemaps, both on your site (HTML) and via the Google Webmaster Console (XML) is an easy and important way to manage your site with Google.
This is true for existing sites, new sites and it is an awesome tool for dealing with moving domains and updating Google correctly in the process.
You need to build your XML sitemap to submit.
A great tool is http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ for starters, and you should read more about the initiative from the giants at http://www.sitemaps.org/ (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo).
Reading the webmaster guidelines on all the search engines is important if not vital to ethical SEO success, and they keep updating the information.
How do you keep track of webmaster changes?
A cool tool to keep yourself updated when things change is: www.google.com/alerts — just input keyword/phrases you are watching out for, and you’ll receive an email message weekly, daily or as-it-happens. (Try adding your own name too!)
Did you know that Google is competing for your business with a broader set of user services? You probably already know about Google Apps (video), but don’t stop there. Get Google’s newly released search technology for small business!
Let’s rewind briefly. Google has been in the marketplace with the Google Mini, a powerful search appliance/server with their onboard search technology. But, the price tag is too high for most smaller companies and has additional hardware and infrastructure overhead.
Good news: This week Google announced the “Custom Search Business Edition” of their search technology, with a price tag of only 100 bucks for up to 5,000 pages (other pricing models exist). You can be up and running within the hour, and with no hosting nightmares or additional, hidden costs. The Google Co-Op program requires a Google account, but it’s easy to sign up and you probably already have an email account with them.
“Millions of businesses have a web presence but offer users no ability to search their site,” said Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager, Google Enterprise.
Dave and his team are listening to the marketplace, and now – instead of complex hardware setup and server config troubles, you only apply a simple HTML code structure to your website and tell the system to run the searchbox on your site, and include partner sites if you want to.
Features - Benefits
To see a quick introductory overview, check this video.
See http://www.google.com/enterprise/csbe/ for more information, and to sign up.
These days, it seems not a day goes by without somebody asking me if Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be used online, and why one may be better than the other.
Search Engine Optimization is the applied practice of moving your website to elevated positions in the search engines. PPC is an advertising medium you pay for and another way you can get a premier, top page listing in less than 10 minutes. Yes, you could potentially present your product or services millions of people, depending on your budget and targeting options – that quickly.
Where do you start?
Ideally, you should use both. Think about the power and business opportunity of ‘owning’ the search engine display, where you are listed not only in the top natural results, but on the paid search side as well. Great for brand recognition too!
Let’s step back for a moment. As seen in a previous post, users of search tend to click more on natural search results than the paid listings. The acute awareness of what paid search is, exist among the user communities now, especially on Google.
The trust factor is higher in the SERPs and some users even find that paid ads are a nuisance. And, with Pay Per Click costs rising, and becoming very competitive and especially high priced during holiday seasons, no wonder many look to SEO as their online traffic solution. Some even feel that relevancy is higher in the natural listings, swaying decisions to choose SEO as their starter option.
Business owners who focus on organic/natural results also know that, if done right, they are building a real business asset, by creating free traffic, and providing a more long term effect. Of course, search engine algorithms change often, and business owners need to stay on top of them.
The immediacy of paid search is a fantastic “results-driven” opportunity. You can create a brand new account, add some keywords, set the targeting, relevant ad text and landing pages and be up and running in 10 minutes. You can use tracking software to see results very quickly, even that same day. For example, if you have an event you are pushing, you can run it for a limited time, and tell the system start and end dates, including what times during the day, if you wanted to.
Paid search helps you control your spending, so for small business it may be a good option. You may not have a professional SEO individual in-house, and it can get expensive to hire an outsider (if they are any good).
Recently, I set up a Google account for a business owner in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space. We did it over the phone in 10 minutes, and after credit card and verification emails were sent, the account was ready. This particular business wanted to learn how to run a campaign in-house using PPC. To most, it’s a much more approachable option than SEO. I help with keyword research, and they write the ads, and they could launch within 5-10 days. Then, with analytics scripts and good landing page designs and conversion tactics, they can have a “web leads engine” developed rather quickly. It worked for them, but they are/will be looking into SEO as well.
But, PPC has issues with click fraud, and it can get expensive if you don’t do the upfront keyword research correctly, and proper bid analysis and management, as well as applying known tactics for optimal quality scoring.
If you use PPC and SEO wisely, they both can make sense for your business. It depends on your industry, budget, timelines and your own dedication.
Oh, and the data you can capture from PPC campaigns, may help you to optimize your SEO programs, by watching keyword impressions, popularity and more. Always test!