Archive for SEO

There is a line from the movie He’s Just Not That Into You (don’t ask, I was forced to watch it against my will, I felt so dirty that I had to watch the Dirty Dozen and 300 afterwards), that goes something like this; “You are the rule, not the exception.”

When it comes to content, unless you already have healthy traffic, if you write it, people won’t come out of thin air. The content you write must be accessible. It must be available through search engines, it must be a part of the community, and it needs to be in areas where it must be found. When it comes to your content, you need to plan as if you are the rule (cause you are) not the exception.

The worst thing you can do is to rely on the fact that if you write it, people will all of a sudden flock to you. So how do you go about getting the word out?

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Apr
08

10 Practices for Achieving SEO Success

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Search Engine Optimization covers a broad range of topics and is one of the essential parts of getting traffic to your web site. For business and e-commerce sites this can be the crucial step between making a profit and having to close down your doors.

Although there are a variety practices, far more than what I list here, these are the ten that have helped me and, though mileage may vary, I’m fairly confident they will help you.

  1. Be Mentally Prepared
  2. There are NO Magic Wands
  3. Never Stop Searching for Keywords
  4. Never Stop Searching for Negative Keywords
  5. Never be Satisfied
  6. Always Group Like Terms Together
  7. Take the Time to Learn the Material
  8. Search Your Log Files and Stat Data to Find Keywords
  9. Learn the Keywords of your Competitors
  10. Prioritize Key Terms by How Well They Help YOUR Site

Normally I explain each of these step by step but I think today I am just going to lump it all together.

SEO is not so difficult an activity that only a few people can manage. The concepts are fairly straight forward. However, you must be mentally prepared, just because they are not difficult does not mean it is not challenging. For instance we all know we need to find key terms that suit our sites, that concept is easy and fairly common sense. But how do you do that? I start with the focus of my site. I then take some time developing how I would want to get my site from a search engine. After that I go through my log files and see how others got to my site. Lastly, I go through my marketing information and look at my competitors and see what search terms they are doing well in. That is a start.

SEO tools are not magic wands. They are all there to pick up a basic function of SEO work and reduce the amount of time you spend on them. For instance, some tedious things are expanding your keywords. Some tools allow you to type in (or import) your keywords and then it will make suggestions. Some are pretty good, others are really horrid. It will take time to train the tools to your site such that they will constantly give you decent suggestions.

If you are running any sort of PPC campaign then you will need negative keywords, you will need to group like terms together, and you will need to learn which key terms work best for your site. Negative key terms allow you to remove those searches that are not relevant to your site and normally only come into play when doing PPC ad campaigns. Their use gives you highly targeted traffic and therefore spending time to come up with two thousand, five thousand, etc, is a good idea. By grouping like key terms together we can use similar PPC ads to target multiple areas.

Always remember that you can never be satisfied in this and your job is never done when it comes to SEO. You might be number one on various search terms today but other sites are also improving their own rankings. Therefore you must continue finding ways to optimize your site.

Lastly, to be a success at SEO you have to be mentally prepared. It takes a lot of time and effort and since you work is never done you will have to be willing to work at it over and over again. Even on those days where it makes you sick to your stomach you still need to plug away at it. Also if a term is doing poorly or you find you are spending a huge amount of time for very small gains, knowing when to quit is another part of mental preparedness.

Good luck in your own SEO endeavors.

Categories : Marketing
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Apr
02

The NoFollow Tag Conspiracy

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Do no-follow tags actually help or hinder your search engine efforts?

Last year, SEOMoz surveyed SEO professionals and one of those questions mirrored the one above. And the findings were interesting.

50% of respondents stated that no-follow tags help a web site, 40% said no and 10% where undecided. Although this stat doesn’t seem too surprising, the no-follow tag has been one of the most questions SEO techniques.

What is the nofollow tag?

The html for a link is something like the following:

<a href=”http://www.webhostmagazine.com”> Web Host Magazine!</a>

The nofollow tag looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.webhostmagazine.com” rel=”nofollow”>Web Host Magazine!</a>

The nofollow tag on the surface means that any search engine spiders who see this URL should not follow it to the page its on. However, this is not the case with most search engines.

Google

Yahoo!

MSN

Follow Link?

Yes and No

Yes

Yes

Index the linked page?

No

Yes

No

Shows the link exists?

Not from the no follow link

Yes

Yes

Link adds to the page’s rank?

No

No

No

The above graph shows the general rules for the nofollow tag.  Google has stated that they do not follow the nofollow link but many SEOs have show that they do. Yahoo and MSN follow the links , show that the link exists and Yahoo! will even index pages that can only be found via a nofollow page. However, all three major search engines will not include the nofollow links in their page ranking algorithms. So it is generally agreed upon (at least amongst the top search engines) that nofollow links will not give points to pages.

Seems easy enough, why the debate?

It is more of a ideological debate for the most part. Sites have a form of currency and that currency is the direction of traffic and more importantly search engine ranking to other sites via links. Well if a site is not good enough to get that ranking from the link you are giving them why post the link at all?  Some say the nofollow tags when used in linking sites is a dastardly horrible thing to do. Not just for the other sites, but for your readership as well. The use of nofollow shows a lack of trust between yourself and the other site and if you do not trust them why should your audience?

Those in favor of nofollows for external sites call this downright nonsensical. Maybe the site is good, but you would rather push ranking to others. Personally I am not going to argue either viewpoint. Either you think its fine or you don’t, that is up to you to decide. What I am more interested in is….

Are there any good uses for nofollow?

I’m glad you asked because there is one extremely good use for nofollow. Links within a site also pass ranking. This internal ranking moves from page to page and helps to tell Google which pages are important and which aren’t. Those that are important (via the link system) receive higher Page Rank then the lower to non-important ones. In order to maximize the Page Rank on your important pages you need to use the nofollow tag.

“Use nofollow tags to reinforce important pages on
your site to the search engines.”

Say you have a page than links to five other pages. One of those pages is important, one is not important but you want it indexed and the other three are completely unimportant. Add nofollow to the unimportant ones. Now you have ranking going to just two pages concentrating the the rank juice as it were. Since you still want the one page indexed then you would look at other pages that point to it. You see that it has one other link so you make the first link nofollow and leave the second link as it. The unimportant page only receives one link for scoring, but that link allows it to be indexed by all search engines.

Heck its possible to sculpt your site by having a site map with normal tags linked to all of your nonimportant, but want to be indexed pages. Have on normal link to that site map then set all other links tht nonimportant pages to nofollow.

So nofollow may or may not be bad for external links, but it is definitely good for internal ones.

Categories : Commentary
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Feb
26

RankSense: SEO for the Rest of Us

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In January 2009, there were more than 13.5 billion search engine searches in the United States alone. Web sites who want to tap into this incredible amount of traffic must have a site that performs well on search engines. Getting quality search engine ranks for a Web site can take a lot of time and money and although many Web developers understand the importance of paying for quality when it comes to finding an SEO consultant, the money simply isn’t there.

The very real truth is that many small business owners who require search engine traffic do not have the funds available to secure an SEO/SEM service. Likewise, they do not have the time to learn how to do better in search engine rankings. What small business owners and Web developers need in general is a way of getting their site’s search engine rankings up without costing a lot or taking too much time, but be flexible enough so they can use any information garnered from the search engine side to aid in content and marketing.

The objective of RankSense is fairly clear, to perform the above task for Web developers. It does this by guiding them systematically through a process that will optimize the entire site. Briefly, RankSense analyzes what keywords are currently bringing users to the site; detect pages with errors, compiles competitors and their rankings on your targeted keywords, page optimizations, link structure analysis, and Web site analytics.

What RankSense is

Users navigate four task groups in order to complete the process. The computer handles most of this process with the user adding things such as site information, logfile location, and what sort of keywords the site should pursue. On RankSense’s homepage, the user can easily navigate to each task group and to the subtasks within those groups. The right side of the homepage also contains a quick look at Task Progress.

Each subtask is its own page where the user selects what is needed then presses the start button. When RankSense is finished, either it will ask for more input or the user will move unto the next page. This progresses until each subtask is finished. That is RankSense in a nutshell; easy to use, wizard style tasks, and it can be done within any amount of time frame. Essentially, it is the answer to the problem that small business owners face when it comes to search engine optimization.

I have been doing SEO and SEM for a few years now and although I am not a master at it, I would like to think I am very good. Considering this RankSense is not the type of software that I need. However, even though RankSense is for novices and Web developers who do not have the time to learn a new skill set, it does have a few features that I have found to be indispensible even for SEO experts.

One feature in particular that RankSense has that I am amazed at is its Competitive Intelligence subtask. This subtask looks at keywords you select and then finds the main competitors you have for those keywords. It then gives you information such as their traffic, popularity, authority, etc. This not only allows you to keep track of competitors, but you can use this tool to find sites that you can build possible link relationships. Prior to using RankSense, I did a lot of this process by hand. Sure I would use various tools from places that I have subscriptions to, but it still requires a lot of time on my part (especially when I am looking at 200-300 keyword placements).

Emails and Support

RankSense is automated software. However, after purchasing RankSense I was sent several emails that provided helpful information, tips, and places to go to in case I had problems. This I found to be quite refreshing. The emails were well written and they contained some good information with screenshots. One email I received was a letter of encouragement and this too was impressive. Form letter or no, this is the type of thing I wish more companies did. It adds a personal touch and shows that the software vendor is going the extra mile to make sure their customer is taken care of.

Overall, RankSense is a very good product. It fills in void in the marketplace for those who need to get started on tapping into the large amount of search engine traffic out there. It won’t replace an experienced SEO technician, but it can help increase your search engine rankings and it is easy to use. RankSense has the motto, “Quality Search Traffic for the Rest of Us!” and in my opinion, they live up to it.

Categories : Marketing
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Jan
21

Great Website Title Tags

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As we greet the beginning of the New Year, it is an opportune time to review and if necessary revise and update your website’s title tags. First things first, so what exactly is a title tag? The title tag for a web page is displayed in a visitor’s web browser to identify the page, but it originates in the underlying code used to design the website. By right clicking on a website with your mouse you can find the ‘View Source’ command. Selecting view source will permit you to view the underlying code for that web page. You can read an in-depth description of title tags here.

The title tag for any particular page is proceeded by the <title> tag and ends with the </title> tag – the text that appears between these two tags is what will appear in the browser in the main display bar at the top. More importantly for most webmasters is the fact that the title tag indicates to search engines what the page is about, and ultimately where to position that page in the search index. The title tag is often also displayed in the search engine results as the first line in a website’s listing. That means it can either attract or disuade clicks from a web search. It is critical that the title tag be well designed and relevant to the page content in order to rank well at search engines for your chosen terms.

Let’s take a look at a few real-world examples of sites with well constructed title tags.

Our first example is this page: http://webdesignfinders.net/massachusetts-web-designers.html:

The title seems a touch long to me – ”Massachusetts web design: find professional web design firm, web design company, web design services and web designers in Massachusetts”. However, the company has done a few things right. The very first phrase in the title – Massachusetts web design – is the search phrase that I typed into a search engine to find them. This is an important concept in title tags: the most important search phrase for that page should be positioned at the beginning of the tag.

Our second example is from Web Host Magazine:

This title is a great example of addressing multiple audiences via a single title tag. Note the various niches covered: ”Web Host Magazine: Web Hosting Reviews, News, Resources, Articles, & Information”. If a searcher is looking for any one of the target areas, be it ‘web hosting articles’ or ‘web hosting information’ the title tag will catch their eye in a web search. One note on this tag – although not directly listed, the ‘&’ symbol may be considered a ‘stop word’ by Google. What is a stop word? It is a word that will not count when conducting a search. So if you search “keyword” you will get the exact same results as “and keyword” – Google and other engines generally ignore the stop word. Here is a list of stop words that you may want to avoid in your title tag – stop words.

Our final example comes from UK hosting company, 34SP.com.

This company’s title was recently changed and now reads – ”Website Hosting, Cheap Web Hosting, Hosting, UK Hosting”. Why the change? The company was using a title tag that focused on the company name and not the page content of that particular page. This is a common title tag oversight. It is likely that your company will rank well in search engines for its own name without any real additional title tag focus. The title tag should be used to further inform search engines about the exact page content and not just the company name. That doesn’t mean you can’t consciously select to have your company name be an important search phrase, you should just make an informed choice.

One last note on title tags – create a title tag that is unique and describes that page content for every single page of your website. This is a good practice that will benefit your search rankings in the long run. Also be sure to check back on your title tags from time to time, as content of pages may change or your focus for search may change as well.

If you are a more advanced webmaster, you can use Google’s Webmaster Central to determine if you have duplicate title tags and other valuable title tag information. here is a link to the Official Google Blog for Webmaster Central that talks about how to use the tool to examine title tags: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/12/new-content-analysis-and-sitemap.html.

Good luck getting your title tags in shape. The work will pay off so be sure to put some thought into those tags.

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