Posts Tagged ‘advanced seo

14
Sep
11

Rel = “author” = Whaaaaat?

William Shakespreare's Google Profile

Shakespeare's Google Profile--Will the rel="Author" tag help him with his keyword ranks?

Attention all content creators! Google has recently launched an initiative designed to give you “credit” for all the things you write. Which is cool enough, we suppose, not even counting the probability that the resulting “credit” may well be used by Google as a measure of “authority” which, of course, means “keyword ranks.”

With us so far? No? Okay, again only slower. The idea is this: people who write content for the web typically end up published all over—in articles, in blogs, in interviews, and reviews, and stories, and reports, and on ad infinitum. To a spider, all these bits of content have no connection. They are all just disparate bits of content. Yet, they may have all been written by somebody with some specialized knowledge, skill, or connections who might actually be more credible than other writers tackling the same subjects. Connecting all these pieces of writing under a single author could be used to determine that author’s authority, her publication history, her general appeal, and even her topics of expertise. Which could then be used to help Google determine the content’s value. Quality content (or so we have heard) is just what Google loves best.

Does that make sense? Good.

Here’s how it works, hands-on. Every time you write content for the web, you include a link somewhere (anywhere) on the page. It can be an image or a phrase, in the by-line or the body or the bio. This link points to your Google Profile page. (You do have Google Profile, don’t you?) Inside the link, you add this attribute: rel=”author”. Then, on your Profile page, you put a link pointing back to the page that contains your author tag.

And the content is now credited to you.

On the article’s published page, it would look like this:

A Content Writer’s Guide to Content

by <a href=”https://profiles.google.com/farley-mac&#8221; rel=”author”>Farley McFinklestien</a>

On the author’s Profile Page, under the About tab (note that the links point to the actual article page):

Farley’s published works include:

How to Fry a Rat (Gourmet Rodent Monthly)
A Scenic Guide to Payson, Utah (The Places to Avoid Blog)
A Content Writer’s Guide to Content (Unemployed Writer Wiki)

That’s all there is to it. Of course, this may well turn out to be another one of Google’s “Nice Try but No Cigar” initiatives. (Remember Google Wave?)

Then again, we think it’s about time the poor, under-appreciated content professionals got their props.

24
Aug
11

5 Ways SEO Can Be Used as a Weapon Against You

Be afraid! Be very afraid! The evil overlords of SEO have the power to destroy you! Well, maybe not destroy, exactly. But an unscrupulous competitor, disgruntled employee, unhappy customer, or personal enemy can use SEO techniques to cause you and your business a fair amount of grief. Some of these tactics can be defended against, some of the damages can be repaired, some of them you really may just have to live with. But you should definitely be aware that these things are out there, and happen.

  1. Google bombing. This one is a fun trick to play on Presidents and other public figures, but can also be used against businesses or non-public individuals. You may remember the “miserable failure” incident from a few years ago…  Here’s how it works. The Dark SEO Lord (DSL) marshals some substantial resource (social networks like DIGG and 4CHAN have been used this way) to generate massive quantities of links that point to your site using an unpleasant link text. If you get enough of these (and it takes fewer than you might imagine) you can end up becoming the very definition of, say, “greasy booger.” Or worse. Just ask Rick Santorum.
    SOLUTION: Maybe none. If it’s a significant attack (as was the case with the attack on George Bush) Google may be induced to step in and end it. They stopped the “miserable failure” attack after two years. The Santorum situation has been going for a while now with no signs of  changing.
  2. Bad neighborhooding. This one is devious, but not every site is vulnerable and it’s somewhat difficult to pull off.  The DSL first scans your site using a readily available link scanner looking for old links that now point to abandoned domains. (If your site is big and/or old, and you don’t do rigorous link maintenance, you probably have some.) Once the abandoned domains are identified, the DSL registers them under an assumed name. After that, it’s a simple matter of either publishing “bad” content, or 301 redirecting the site to porn, spam, phishing, or other icky places. Get a handful of these in place, and suddenly Google thinks you link to bad neighborhoods. And that can hurt.
    SOLUTION: Monitor your outbound links! Regularly! Get some link checking software, use it, and fix any broken links immediately.
  3. Link spamming. You gotta love the lengths some DSLs will go to.  This is where a whole bunch of crappy links are created (usually purchased from some spam broker) pointing to your site. They all will probably use some generic link text, just so they don’t accidentally do you very much good. This is designed to make it look like you were buying spammy links. They will then report you to Google anonymously. And your site might get penalized.
    SOLUTION: About all you can do is to file a complaint with Google. Tell them what you think happened, and supply a list of bad links. They will often just discount the links and restore your search posture. But it usually takes a while and a bunch of effort.
  4. Spoofed landing pages. Suppose your business is ACME Froo-Froo and your website is ACMEfroofroo.com. Then imagine some pissed-off DSL registers the domain acmefrofroo.com and then uses it to publish a fake homepage. Maybe it looks a lot like yours, maybe not, but it is sure to contain damaging content of some sort. Maybe “free” offers or illegal merchandise. Or maybe more subtly just full of misspellings and crappy images. Or less subtly, full of scantily clad orangutans. Whatever. Then just suppose that said DSL works his/her/its SEO magic to get their fake page to rank above your real page when somebody looks for your favorite search term. You see a possible problem?
    SOLUTION: This attack is probably illegal, particularly if it uses your branding anywhere on the page, but also if the spoof domain is similar enough to yours. Report this attack as soon as you notice it. Report it to Google, and report it to whoever is hosting the site. If you have lawyers, get them to send take-down notices. All this remedial effort will work. It will also take time and resources.
  5. Review spamming.  Some person with anger management issues starts spreading malicious information about your products or your business. This sort of thing is as old as business itself. (“Not buy mastodon meat from Og. He not wash hands after he use bushes.”) And it’s been used a lot on the internet, from the very first. Now, though, with Google’s emphasis on “visitor interaction” the importance of reviews and comments will only grow. And so will the art of review spamming. We’ve seen reviews-for-hire packages cropping up all over the web in the last few months since Panda. We are sure that negative-reviews-for-hire are out there also. Can your product or service withstand 50 one-star reviews? What if it’s worse than just PR? What if those one-star reviews also cost you search position?
    SOLUTION: Well, you can contest the reviews, one at a time, and hope the review venue takes pity and removes them. Could take a very long time. The other option is fight ire with fire: buy or otherwise launch your own review campaign hoping to dilute the effects. Twenty five-star ratings will bring twenty one-star ratings up to a three!

Sigh. The evil DSL usually wins—because it doesn’t matter whether their campaign works or how bad it hurts or how long it lasts. Their real victory is that it costs you either search position, reputation, or at best it costs you the time and effort it takes to monitor, remedy, and recover.

18
Aug
11

The SEO Value of Social Media

Doe you like me? Do you really, really like me?

Okay, then, where were we? Oh, yeah. We’re talking about SEO. Today, let’s devote a few pixels to the question at the front of every online marketeer’s overworked brain:

Does social media have an SEO value?

This question is important for two reasons: 1) The trendy popularity of social media means scarce marketing resources are being diverted from traditional SEO; and 2) The ROI for social media advertising has been very difficult to quantify. (Is there measurable ROI from social media campaigns? That, friends, is a posting for another day.)

The answer makes a difference. If a company’s social media efforts adds value to the SEO campaign as well as deliver at least some direct revenue generation, well, maybe that’s enough to justify transferring the budget.

So does it?

Meh. Depends on who you ask. Whenever something new-ish comes along to capture the hearts of MarCom execs everywhere, a circus-ful of promoters and cheerleaders quickly develops. Happened with banner advertising, happened with pay-for-placement, happened with rich media, and now it’s happening with social media. Google “SEO value of social media” and you’ll get a hella lot of “yes” votes, mostly from companies and consultants trying to get you to buy their social media package.

But there are also some “not-so-sure” votes and even some “noes.” What are the facts and what are the spins?

FACTS

  • All the major social media venues (re Facebook, Twitter, Digg, et al) only publish links with “no-follow” tags. Meaning links you post in FB, Twitter, etc, do not directly count as links for page authority.
  • At least two of the majors, FB and Twitter, suggest that they do count social popularity indicators when they figure page authority. (See this SEOMoz post for specifics.) Although whether or not these ranking elements count as high as, say, link authority is very much up for speculation.
  • Return on investment from social media advertising has been roughly on a par with banner advertising. Which is to say “decent for branding campaigns, but iffy for sales and leads generation.” Which is also why it is in social media titans’ interests to claim an SEO benefit to offset the underwhelming ad performance. (ClickZ take on it all.)
  • Social media titans desperately want your advertising dollars. Facebook, for instance, is flirting with an IPO early next year—and if they rake a billion dollars profit from advertising this year (Business Week), it will surely have an “upward influence” on their valuation. Meaning that they (and the other social media venues) have a serious vested interest in convincing folks that their products add value.

SPINS

  • Because the actual ranking value of tweets, retweets, twits, and twattle is complete speculation, declaring that “there is an SEO value to social media” at this point is a lot more like a mantra ( I do believe in ghosts, I do, I do, I do) than a solid reason to throw the weight of marketing budget into it.
  • Because advertising firms are competitive and always trying to come up with new ways to attract advertising dollars, they will always jump on any hype-wagon that rolls into town. Social media happens to be a big ‘un. So believe all the “well, even if there isn’t any measurable ROI, at least it’s good for SEO” chatter you want. Just make sure you’re carrying a very large hunk of salt.

So. The ultimate answer to our original question then is clear.

Yes, there is probably at least some SEO value to social media marketing.

And

No, it’s probably not enough value to justify short-changing your SEO budget.

08
Aug
11

5 Optimization Targets Most People Miss

Whenever somebody asks an SEO pro to tell them the most important page elements to optimize, they usually get something like “titles, <h1>, alt tags, body text.” Which isn’t wrong. Those are definitely worth paying attention to. When push comes to shove, if you’ve got your titles and <h1>s lined up, you’re doing better than many.

That doesn’t mean you can do those things and forget it though. Not if you want to succeed at search marketing. Today, competition for ecommerce business is hotter than ever. Any business website worth a nickle has done their basic optimization. That means the battle comes down to off-site tactics like backlinks and old-school promotion and maybe—just maybe—gaining any on-page edge you can. And that is where the devil’s details come to the fore.

Here are some page elements that by themselves won’t count for a hell of a lot. But taken together (and combined with all the other stuff you can come up with) they just might be the edge you need to go from Google #10 to #2.

  1. Image file names. Ah, and you thought it was good enough to put in a few alt tags.  Nope. Make sure every useful visual element uses a keyword variant in its file name. (By useful, we mean don’t worry about design graphics like lines, bullets, spacers and the like.) Don’t worry about hyphens—people don’t have to read these, just spiders. So instead of “image-00203032.jpg,” use “disposablerazor10pack.jpg.” This, along with the alt tags, will help Google’s Image Search find your pretty pictures. And at the same time, pump up your page rank.
  2. Image captions. Captions are an awesome way to improve your site’s accessibility. Most text readers look for alt tags when trying to describe an image—that’s what the alt is for, after all—but why not take an extra step and get another opportunity for related keywords? Just don’t make the alt tag and caption the same. Variation is the spice of life.
  3. Folder names. The best time to start your SEO is when you first start designing the website’s architecture. It always pays to think ahead, and here is no exception. If you know the keywords you want to target, you can name all of the folders (and database records) with them. This pays big dividends. It is, however, somewhat difficult to do in a retrofit. Not impossible. Just difficult. If you do try to retrofit your folder naming conventions, be very careful to check for broken links throughout the site when you’re done.
  4. Link title tags. Did you even know you could do these? Lots of folk don’t But you can, you can! Like so: <a href=”http://mysite.com&#8221; title=”disposal razors cheap”>Disposable Razors R Us</a>. Used on links to important internal pages, title tags can be a reinforcing element when the spider reads your link text. Again, no exact repeats.
  5. Menu heads. When you build a modern CSS pull-down-or-out menu system, you get to use whatever HTML elements you want to identify the menu’s properties. The right and proper way to do lists of links in a menu is the HTML list element, of course. You know, <ul><li></li></ul>. Works great and is easy for spiders to parse. But if your menu system has headers (see image) you can use an <h> tag to define them. <H2> would be a good choice. (Sure, you could define them all as <H1>, but there’s only supposed to be one of those per page.) This tactic gives them a little extra weight when the Googbot comes a’callin. As always, use good keywords.
Menu head illustration

See? The menu head is that one thing up there in a menu that may not even be a link.

04
Aug
11

SEO Success Metrics–Get Some

It's raining money!So yesterday we poked around the edges of success metric identification and came up with a few possibilities. Okay, says you, so I figured out which one is right for me, now what?

We’ll tell you what. The success metric you choose will be the goal for your SEO campaign.  And of course, that means you should design the campaign to maximize your potential in that direction. Here are some thoughts:

More sales. If you want people to buy stuff from your website, first you’ll need to choose keywords that used by people looking to buy. There are two very important aspects to consider. The first is the “Purchase Cycle.” These are the five steps most consumers follow through the process of buying stuff, whether online or at the store.

  1. Awareness. Consumer learns of a product, becomes interested.
  2. Research. Consumer investigates product type, variations, uses etc.
  3. Comparison. Consumer checks differences in brand, cost, availability.
  4. Decision. Consumer picks one and buys it.
  5. Relationship. Consumer builds post-purchase opinion of the process which will color any future potential interactions with the seller.

If your only concern is shopping cart completions, then you need to enter the cycle at #3, the point where consumers are comparing the product in order to decide whether or not to buy.

And what that means for SEO is choice of keywords. Keywords designed to attract comparison shoppers are different from ones designed to attract product researchers. “Best widget” is a better keyword for this end than say “About widgets” or “the use of widgets.” Choose keywords that appeal to consumers who already know what they want, they are now ready to buy and looking for the right specific product, the best price, free shipping, or the like.

The second thing you need to worry about is your “Purchase Path.” This is a linear representation of the steps required of a potential customer in order to

  1. Find the product they’re looking for
  2. Gather the information they need to make a decision
  3. Enter the shopping cart environment
  4. Navigate the shopping cart environment
  5. Successful conclude a purchase

A failure at any point in this path makes even the best SEO campaign irrelevant. You can drive 100,000 visits a day on the keyword “buy little black dress” but you won’t make a single sale if arriving visitors can’t find the dress, can’t figure out what sizes it comes in, can’t find the “add to cart” button, can’t figure out an eight page order process, and can’t get the form to accept their credit card.

Purchase paths absolutely need to be simple, transparent, and rigorously tested. That is, if you want your SEO to result in sales.

More sign-ups. If all you’re looking for is a list of people who might someday be interested in your products or services, you’ll need to start at an earlier place in the cycle,  at #1 or #2.  Here, you’re going to try to identify the keywords that might be used by people who don’t quite know what they’re looking for. Maybe they’re trying to solve a problem. Maybe they just found themselves interested in something new to them. Keywords like “what is a widget” and “how to fix fraggits” are more appropriate here. Once you’ve got those keywords, to succeed you need to do two things: 1) serve information that directly answers the keyword queries in an interesting and understandable way; and 2) make it so easy to sign up for a mailing list that even your 90 year-old grandma could do it stoned. Put another way, drive keyword requests for specific information right to that information, make it easy to digest, and even easier to sign up for more of the same.

Higher ranks for vanity keywords. Vanity keywords are defined as particular keywords that are chosen for rank improvement based on criteria other than successfully driving qualified visitors. Maybe somebody high in the food chain always wanted to be number 1 in Google for his mother’s maiden name. Or for something generic like “summer.” There may or may not be increases in  likely visits or sales or anything measurable except search results page rank. Sometimes, this is an impossible task. If the boss wants to win for the keyword “MP3” well, there ain’t enough money to make that happen, unless your name is Trump. Usually, though, vanity keywords are less competitive and can be reached by basic SEO tactics. Heard of Google bombing? That’s when you decide to force high rank from a keyword by placing a multitude of backlinks using that keyword as link text on a wide spread of sites. Ask Rick Santorum whether or not that works.

More magic pixie dust. ‘K. Maybe you’ve identified something else entirely that you need from your SEO campaign. Doesn’t matter what your chosen success metric, you just need to pay attention to these things:

  • Know whose searches you’re trying to capture
  • Learn to think like they do when they’re looking
  • Give them what they’re looking for
  • Make it easy for them to do what you want them to

Easy peasy.