Posts Tagged ‘seo

28
Oct
11

This just in…

Google Says SEO Is Not Spam

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04
Oct
11

Content for the Sake of Content… or?

Content, content, content. Blah, blah, blah. That’s all you hear in SEO circles these days. Content content content content.

Well, then, let’s all just get us some of that! Lots and lots of it.

Um, okay, what if we wrote every damn thing we could think of when we launched the site two years ago? Now what? Just make some stuff up? But that’s not likely to lead to quality content, which is the where the trouble starts.

Say I’m an entertainment news site. No problem! Content just sort of oozes up out of the ground around us. How about a site selling seasonal stuff? Great! Just pick a holiday and roll with it. But just imagine for moment that your site is more like a yellow pages ad, three pages and a contact form. Maybe you’re a roofing company in an area with lots of competition. You want to—you really need to—show up at the top of the local search for “roofers.”

Is content the right tactic?

And if it is, just what the hell are you supposed to write about?

Let’s break it down.

Sites that absolutely need to worry about a continuous stream of high-quality content:

  • Wide-market websites in competitive topic spaces (non-geographical retailers, b-to-b businesses, or sites that are advertising-supported like recipe sites, magazines, or comparison shopping)
  • Sites in rapidly evolving topic spaces (news sites, product review sites, entertainment sites)
  • Sites in high-energy topic spaces (culture sites, fashion sites, music sites, porn sites)

Sites that maybe could benefit from a regular injection of quality content:

  • Informational sites (how-to sites, encyclopedic sites, data collections, historical sites, public domain arts & literature sites)
  • Non-profit membership-supported sites (clubs and organizations, large extended family groups, cause-related sites, political sites)
  • Sites based on repeat consumers of the same content (online games sites)

Sites that probably don’t need to worry about content once they’re up (although adding quality content can never hurt)

  • Local-only sites (restaurants, shops, professional service providers, health & medical services providers, legal service providers, personal services providers)
  • Single topic sites (individual person in-memorium sites, single-issue awareness sites, sites dedicated to permanent locations like historic architecture or unique geographic areas, specific item enthusiast sites like for a single model of classic automobile)
  • Sites not particularly concerned about search traffic (small family sites, advertising landing page sites, intranet-type sites)

If you are one of the last group, but you still want to add content, and you need help thinking of ideas, here ya go. You’re welcome.

  • Solicit reviews and recommendations from your clients and customers. Use attractive images to fill space and try to make as many pages as is reasonable.
  • Post articles on different ways to use your products or services.
  • Keep a blog related to your topic space. Don’t stress about daily posting, just try to put something up 3 or 4 times a month.
  • Post videos of people using your products or talking about your services. Definitely post video of any television presence such as commercial spots, or news program mentions.
  • Post HTML versions of any print product materials or brochures.
  • Post any and all press releases.
  • Put up a “Something of the month” section.
  • Publish a “Related resources” section and add a resource or two every month.
  • Watch for any news related to your product or service and post a brief synopsis along with your personal reaction.

And one last note: Always make sure you maintain a clear and usable organization when you start regularly adding content. If spiders can’t find and sort it, it helps you not.

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.

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.

08
Sep
11

The Long Tail of Search Optimization

A few years ago, SEOs were introduced to a new concept that shook a lot of trees. Wired magazine published an article by Chris Anderson in October 2004 that popularized the idea that instead of targeting high-traffic, high-competition keywords, there was money to be made by targeting a host of keywords that have little traffic potential. There is a lovely graphic everyone shows to prove the theory.

Long tail keyword graphic

Pretty compelling, huh?

SEOs loved the idea. Mostly because long tail keywords are doable. We might never be able to break page 1 for “mp3 player,” but we sure as hell can get you on top for “big frickin pink sony walkman mp3 player loaded with stolen music.” Number 1, baby. And if we promise to do that for, like, 8 million similarly impressive long tail terms, you’ll do really really well!

No, really!

Actually, no, and we mean “no.”

Yes, lower competition keywords are desirable. Yes, 100 one-visit a day keywords are equal to one 100 visits a day keyword. But no, because the vast majority of long tail keywords are zero visits per day keywords. So what we’re really looking for is the “green zone” keyword.

Let’s talk about that mythical beast. The “green zone” keyword is the one in the sweet spot. It is far enough inside the tail that you might be able to get some traction, but yet, still is capable of driving some traffic.

So the next somebody tries to tell you that the long tail is where it’s at, you can ask ’em “which vertebrae?”

06
Sep
11

The Perfect Search Engine

Oh Great Oracle! Who has the cheapest airfare?

Do you feel lucky? Well do you, punk?

Over the years, we’ve definitely done our share of bitching about the quality of results returned by search engines. Anybody get teary-eyed reminiscing about the usefulness of Infoseek, Lycos, or Looksmart? Seriously, there was a time when AltaVista created a gigantic buzz by returning a few relevant links to any given query. Still buried in tons of poop, of course. Yet comparatively awesome! Yahoo, Overture, and Inktomi were all  kings, once, even though they deliberately polluted their results with paid-for results. Until Google came along, almost everybody was pretty happy to be disgruntled by web search as a practical way to find stuff on the internet.  (Ask Jeeves? Are you kidding?)

In fact, until Google came along in 1998, the surging size of the web was making the job of indexing and identifying its parts almost comical. Google’s algorithm was so much better that it conquered the search space like Genghis took China, rising from nothing to 80%+ in just a handful of years. Yet even as the best available search engine—the best ever search engine—Google’s search results are somewhat lacking. Full of spam, fake content, and artificially boosted inferior sites. Oops. Our bad.

As SEOs, it seems a bit weird for us to complain about search result quality. After all, we’re part of the reason they suck. We spend a lot of time, money, and resources trying our damnedest to push inferior content into superior positions, crowding out whatever might actually be useful to any given web searcher. It’s a living.

You’re aware, no doubt, that beggars can’t be choosers and parts of the problem aren’t parts of the solution and whiners shouldn’t throw glass stones. Meh. Worst sentence ever.

Anyway, in an attempt to add something useful to the dialogue, here are some attributes that we think would make up an ideal search engine.

  • Ability to rank content by usefulness.
  • Ability to determine contents’ original point of publication.
  • Ability to parse phrases for meaning, instead of treating them as clumps of words.
  • Sophisticated filters and sorts allowing users to choose results by recency, geographic location, commercialty, price, size of site, type of media, and whatever else.
  • Unobtrusive and clearly marked paid placements (if any).
  • Fast.
  • Comprehensive.
  • Current.
  • and SEO proof.

Ouch. That last one hurt. But we think it’s true. Search results would be better—more accurate, more relevant, more reliable—if only the search optimization industry were obsolete.

‘Course, SEO isn’t obsolete, and probably won’t be for some time to come. Until then, we’ll be here, gaming the systems, skewing search results, and helping websites prosper. Whether they deserve to or not.