Archive for September, 2011

29
Sep
11

Off-site Content–good, bad, or ugly?

Seriously. It's right under the picture of Lady Ga-Ga chihuahua.

Publishing off-site content is one of the most frequently mentioned SEO tricks.  Of all the ways to gather topical, relevant backlinks, off-site content has a lot going for it—you can have control of substance, link text, and to some degree, placement.

Or not. Depending on the content publisher.

Still, it’s totally worth it, right?

Right?

We’ve mentioned the strategy a few times before (here’s one in case you’ve forgotten 10 Step SEO # 6: External links (part b).

Let’s review, shall we?

A quick list of some possible off-site publication tactics:

  • press releases
  • articles
  • guest posts in blogs
  • customized content in aggregators (like Squidoo)
  • online community participation
  • forums
  • wikis
  • news groups
  • blog comments
  • social networking

All-in-all, we’d have to say that off-site content can be a very useful tool, particularly in long-term SEO campaigns. Still, there’s some things you should consider.

  1. Are links in the published content “no-follow”?
  2. How long will the content stay up?
  3. Does the content publisher allow other sites to duplicate their content?
  4. Does the publisher allow contextual links? Or just a link or two in the bio/attribution blurb?
  5. Do they publish other articles or content on the same general topic as yours?
  6. How long has the publication site been active?
  7. Do their internal pages have any PageRank?
  8. If it’s a blog or forum, do they archive?

And perhaps the biggest question we always ask our clients and ourselves:

Is off-site publication the best use of this content?

Because if you’re writing 300 word articles just to gain a link or two on a no-PR page, that stuff might do more for you as a new page of content on your own site. Think about it.

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28
Sep
11

5 Things to Ask a Content Freelancer

Wil rite 4 bambu

You know you need content. Lots and lots of content. And it must be good content, quality content. Current content, fresh content, unique content. Thus hast the Panda spoken.

Okay, so you write a few pieces for the blog and maybe an article or two. You con your co-workers into contributing a paragraph or two. You get your teenage relatives to write about stuff they could not possible care any less about. And that works for about a month, but then you’ve reached the limits.

Out of ideas. Out of time. Out of patience.

What’s a webmeister to do? Outsource it, of course! Which can be great. Particularly in these tough economic times where unemployed English majors outnumber the working ones (unless you count part-time Burger King jobs). Writers are a dime a dozen and they will fight each other in the streets for one $40 assignment.

Good choice, now what? Well, you can rely on your contacts to get word-of-mouth recommendations (probably the best way to get quality writers), or advertise on Craigslist or similar, or go to the web where freelance “dating” sites flourish. Elance is perhaps the oldest, but trust us, there are many.

If you decide to go with an unknown writing resource, some care should be taken to be sure you’re getting that quality content you crave and at the same time getting a decent return on your money. Here are five things you should check.

  1. Online writing samples. Look for writing samples that are actually published online somewhere. Web writing is different from any other, for one thing, for another, online samples are easier to test for originality and freshness.
  2. Originality. Verify that the work you are getting is original to you. Use a plagiarism checker. Here’s a free one: plagiarism checker.
  3. Ratings or reviews. But don’t just trust the ones posted on the freelancing sites. Look deeper into who’s reviewing them and what the writer wrote for them.
  4. Topic qualifications. True, many professional writers can do a great job on virtually any topic. Still—especially if your topic is technical or highly specialized—you will get better content if the writer has some topic familiarity, either through education, avocation, or experience.
  5. Experience at freelancing. Sure, everybody has to start somewhere. But you probably will have a better experience if you hire someone who knows about deadlines, grammar, research, and etcetera.
27
Sep
11

What Page Deserves #1 Ranking?

One of these things is not like the others

One of these things is not like the others

This has been one of our hobby horses for a long, long time. Does a page deserve to rank number 1 in a search engine for a particular keyword search because it has more links pointing to it? Or because it uses the exact keyword phrase in the title and <h1> tags? Or because the site it belongs to is big and old? Or because a horde of pixies has conspired together to deluge the page with +1s? (We’ll avoid the obvious conclusion that the most deserving page is the one we did the SEO on.)

Or does a page deserve to rank #1 for any given keyword phrase because it is a better answer to the query?

That’s the answer we desperately want to believe. That’s the answer that promotes quality content over all else. And makes the internet (and thus, the world) a better, happier, more useful, and more interesting place.

So, then, what happens when someone searches for some very specific topic—let’s say a product called WOMENS HARLEY DAVIDSON JERRI STILETTO SANDALS—and every one of 50 pages in the search result is the exact same catalog page: product photo, manufacturer’s description, price & shipping info, and a big fat glowing “buy now” button? Which one of those do you rank #1? What if every one of them has the same number of ++++++ (zero) and the same number of links (zero) and the same number of Facebook friends (zero)?

To the searcher, it probably doesn’t matter who’s on first. If they’re looking to buy WOMENS HARLEY DAVIDSON JERRI STILETTO SANDALS and they don’t look at a whole bunch of those pages, they’re very poor internet shoppers. And if they’re just doing research, well, it doesn’t matter which page they hit if the content is all the same.

To the merchant, though, it does matter—matters a lot. Because whoever’s on top gets more visits, first impressions, and better opportunity to close a sale.

What’s a search engine to do?

If you’re Google, you’ll rely heavily on domain size, domain age, and number of inbound links, +1s, likes, and whatever that  point to the domain as a whole, even if none point to the page in question. If you’re Yahoo, you look to domain links and maybe Alexis traffic data. If you’re Bing, you pull out your 20-sided fuzzy dice.

If you’re us, you’d treat merchant sites differently from all the other kinds of sites. You’d use a less-focused algorithm that says “On merchant sites, if the content is virtually the same, the page ranks are equal, despite any other of the usual ranking criteria.” And then we’d let all the identical product-description pages rotate through the ranks, randomly, evenly, equally.

And let the consumers sort ’em out.

26
Sep
11

Anatomy of a Local SEO Campaign

A local services business goes online. After a couple of months with no traffic of any sort, they start a Google AdWords campaign and this  brings in a little business right away.  So they increase the budget and their keywords and test drive all of the Adwords vehicles. Another month goes by. Still some AdWords traffic, but nothing whatever from natural search.

They’ve gotten off to a pretty good start, they feel, and are serious about making it work.

They tweak the AdWords and tweak it some more but it’s beginning to feel like they’re leaking money.

Surely there’s a better way.

So they hire an SEO. Here’s what happens next.

  1. SEO analyzes web presence and notes:
    • Site design and content is okay for this stage and market
    • On-page optimization is virtually non-existent
    • Domain is not indexed by Google
    • Client’s AdWords campaign is reasonably well-developed
    • Client has existing Google Places account
  2. SEO analyzes traffic from paid campaign
  3. SEO submits domain by hand to Google through Webmaster Central
  4. SEO places a handful of links to site’s home page from pages known to be regularly spidered
  5. SEO begins keyword research
  6. SEO optimizes Google Places account with images, keywords, other content
  7. SEO delivers keyword recommendations to client for review and/or approval
  8. Client returns keyword list with additions/changes and approval
  9. SEO begins on-page optimization with:
    • Title tags
    • Semantic indexing tags (H1, H2, bold, ital, etc)
    • Renaming images and adding appropriate alt, title
    • Reworked text content
    • Recommended content additions
  10. SEO begins off-page campaign, develops link strategy
  11. SEO develops +!, Likes, Reviews, and other social network strategies
  12. SEO supplies client with long-term strategic plan document
  13. SEO suggests an “optimized for handhelds” project and offers to assist

The results are expected to go something like this:

  • Site gets indexed by Google, natural search traffic increases 10%
  • Places account gains traction, search traffic up another 7%
  • Google indexing matures, site traffic increasing 3-5% per month over 3 months
  • Off-page campaign effects take hold, traffic rate increases to 8-10% per month
  • Social networking takes off, rate of increase now 10-12%
  • Traffic levels off at +300% of original AdWords-only
  • Business increases at about half the rate of web traffic—increased profit pays for SEO campaign at month 8
  • Everyone lives happily ever after

This scenario describes our newest client, a pet sitting services company in our area. At the moment, they are at Step 2.  We’ll keep you posted on their progress.

23
Sep
11

Friday’s SEO Site of the Week

Today’s site of the week is a little different. When we looked at our RSS aggregated news feed (SEO News) this morning, we were struck by a rather odd meta-conversation that seemed to be emerging. Out of 20 headlines, 5 were about that most wondrous of search engines, Bing. Fully one-quarter of the search engine-related news is about Bing! Wow! Bing must be on the rise, emerging, climbing, winning!

Erm, well, maybe not. Here’s four of them:

Bing Makes Bid To Become Top Deals Destination

Bing Adds Video Home Page To Welcome Fall Season

Bing Introduces Action Buttons to Search Results

Microsoft’s Plan to Stop Losing Money on Bing

Well, they may not be making up much market-share, but they definitely got the old Press Release/Marketing/Promotions-share cornered.

In that vein, here’s the article we chose for Site of the Week:

Bing Bleeding Billions from Microsoft

We give this whole freaking thread a gigantic bonfire of the vanities.

22
Sep
11

Netflix, Facebook, and Change for the Sake of Change

Okay, this really isn’t all that much about SEO. But it does have a lot to do with online (or any other kind of) marketing.

Is Change Always Good?

Judging from the recent observed behaviors of a number of commerce giants, you’d have to draw the conclusions that

  1. Commerce giants think “YES!”
  2. Commerce consumers think “NO!”

Why the disconnect (bordering on cognitive dissonance)?

First, let’s review.

  • Microsoft Windows. We count 14 updates so far this month, not counting Office, or Security Essentials definitions, or Explorer. Hmmm. Really?
  • Adobe. An avalanche of updates virtually every time we connect.
  • Facebook. Unfathomable update to the news feed. As well as countless “privacy” updates, most of which have been detrimental to the user’s privacy.
  • Netflix. “I messed up” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Not just a bad idea, but a bad idea handled badly.

Why do they do these things?

Well, same reason a shark has to swim to breathe. In today’s corporate environment, nobody’s job is safe—not CEO, CFO, or eeny-meeny-minee-mo—unless they can show something to the board every quarter. “Here’s what me and my team are doing!” they exclaim, to the accompaniment of a PowerPoint chorus. “Look! We changed this and that and updated this and next month, we’ll upgrade that!” Doesn’t matter if it all means a gigantic loss of credibility, or loyalty, or even subscribers. Doesn’t matter if the changes improve anything. Doesn’t matter if they were necessary. Doesn’t matter if they were wise or in any way a good idea.

Just gotta put something up there on the damn agenda, don’t you know?

Well, to us, it all comes out to be one helluva argument for open-source, cloud-based EVERYTHING. Updates and upgrades can be done without impacting the users’ experience. Updates and upgrades that prove unpopular can be rolled back without loss of face (or job). Nobody feels compelled to change just because they can.

16
Sep
11

Friday’s SEO Site of the Week

Don’t know why, exactly, but this strikes us as really sorta funny. Funny enough to make site of the week, anyway.

Who is Google’s Number One Result for “Search Engine”?

You guessed it……

Dogpile

Coming in at #2, Bing. Followed by #3, Yahoo. Today, at any rate, Google came in at #11 in their own engine on a search for the name of their very own  game. They did have a second-position AdWord, though. Wonder what they pay per click?

We gonna give this a whole bunch of lols.