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The Sandbox, A Humerous Video & Webmaster Radio

Well today we’ll be looking at three things, the infamous Google sandbox, a funny video from Google Videos and Webmaster Radio.

The Sandbox
I ran across a great article by veteran SEO Jim Hedger on the sandbox. The article (on the ISEDB website) discussed some great points and provides great links to other articles/opinions on the topic. He brings up the debate as to whether the sandbox exists (anyone familiar with my opinions knows the position I have – it does and is backed up by a patent application by Google from back in 2004). For any who wonder, the patent was files in March 2004 and the first instance of the sandbox being noted was from April of 2004. Coincidence? End of debate. ;)

Rather than get into the entire article here I’ll just add it to my “recommended reading” list and advise you to read it on the ISEDB website here.

A Humerous Video
I received a link to a video (found through Google Video by a friend of mine) that I couldn’t help but chuckle at. Now perhaps it’s that the video is genuinely funny or perhaps it’s only funny to those of us that are:

  • white
  • kinda nerdy
  • have read Stephen Hawking
  • used to collect comic books
  • have seen Monty Python’s Holy Grail numerous times
  • have a side as to whether Captain Kirk or Picard is better

You can be the judge. :)


Webmaster Radio
And just a reminder that on Thursday’s at 5Pm EST I will be speaking on Webmaster Radio. Tomorrow I will be going toe-to-toe with Jim Hedger on the YouTube deal, Wikipedia in China, useful SEO tools and other topics of interest to those in the SEO realm.

Set your reminders and visit the Webmaster Radio site tomorrow.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:06 pm on October 18, 2006



While Searching For Commercial Sites

I was doing some research for a client and while looking into commercial websites I ran across the Mac site which ranked #1 for “commercial”. The ranking page was an accumulation of their new ads comparing, in a very humorous and human way, the differences between Macs and PCs. Even as a PC user I like the ads.

Watching them brought me to two very interesting thoughts:

  1. They are a “must watch” when you have a few minutes to kill and are in need of a chuckle, and
  2. A lot of what Mike Margolin had to say in San Jose on the Honda campaign applies to Mac and is reinforce with my activities on their site.

Mike discussed a campaign in which they targeted a wide array of phrases (some completely unrelated but very cheap to bid on) and landed the searchers at a game. They found that through interaction with this game the searchers spent many minutes on the site and became aware of the brand and it’s advantages. He asserted that this resulted in increased sales.

While I was convinced that he was correct in this (he had his client (Honda) there so they were certainly happy with the results) it wasn’t until I was watching these ads that it really hit home. They made me want to buy a Mac, they made me want to be the young and fun guy and not the stuffy old workhorse and they got across that Macs can now run Windows and Windows applications.

So starting from a search for a client they got me interested in looking into Macs, and from a phrase totally unrelated to their product. How? By entertaining me. What does this tell us? There is a lot to be taken from this however one of the key points is this: if you’re targeting generic phrases, make sure that landing page will grab the searchers attention and keep it through entertainment, interaction or some other similar means.

I may not be switching to a Mac today but they definitely got their message across and into my consciousness. So beware, only watch the Mac ads here if you’re willing to risk wanting a new computer. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 3:08 pm on October 16, 2006



First Contact

Well today was the first day I had the opportunity to speak on Webmaster Radio. The topics we covered today included the importance of the alternative engines (to watch upcoming technologies and for traffic), the YouTube/Google deal, and Yahoo! announcing they’re now respecting the noodp meta tag.

You can listen to the piece by clicking here. (note: you will only be getting the 8 minutes and 29 seconds I was speaking. If you want the “full meal deal” you’ll just have to listen to the show which airs on Webmaster Radio Thursdays at 5PM EST.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:14 pm on October 12, 2006



“The Alternatives” on Webmaster Radio

Today I received a phone call from veteran SEO and search engine expert Jim Hedger with a very interesting question:

“Would I be interested in co-hosting a show on Webmaster Radio?”

Hey Jim, why not just ask me if I’d like a chance to sit down and have a one-on-one chat with Matt Cutts over a beer? ;)

The show will be aired on Webmaster Radio every Thursday (beginning tomorrow!!!) at 5PM EST. The topic of the show, alternative search engines. You know, those engines that focus on specific technologies or niches. Those engines that are generally ignored by SEO’s and website owners unless they’re bought by one of the “Big Three”.

Jim put it well when he wrote in the SiteProNews blog

“I suspect there is a treasure trove of opportunity to be found looking into and past the enormous shadows cast by the major search entities. There are a lot of interesting people who are not associated with Google, Yahoo! or Microsoft working on search applications that are rarely heard from. I’ll bet most webmasters and online entrepreneurs are leaving money on the table by ignoring alternative search tools.

It is obviously time to go exploring and earlier today I was offered the use of a perfect vehicle for this sort of long and difficult expedition.”

As I’m sure you can gather, I accepted and look forward to going toe-to-toe with Jim weekly on Webmaster Radio. Listen in to keep updated on interesting developments, acquisitions and news on this increasingly important area.

SEO news blog post by @ 6:09 pm on October 11, 2006



How To Win Links And Influence Engines

The title of this article is designed to prove (in an SEO kind of way) the very point that Dale Carnegie was making when he wrote one of the most influential business books of all times, “How To Win Friends And Influence People” (arguably one of the best business books ever written as well). In the titling of his book Mr. Carnegie was trying to do two things:

  1. Write a title that captures everything that people want in order to sell more books, and
  2. Tie two important things together that are related but often viewed as different. In the case of the book it was winning friends and influencing people which he points out are essentially based on the same core traits and actions. Similarly, in our title here we are capturing two of the key areas people interested in SEO are looking to read about and thus we will show the essential tie between winning links and the influence it will have on your search engine rankings. We will also discuss methods for actually winning them as opposed to settling for second-rate links rather like winning friends as opposed to settling for tolerable acquaintances.

How To Win Links

As with virtually every aspect in SEO, there are multiple areas of this single field. If there were one hard-and-fast answer to link building we would all be ranking highly on Google and the top 10 would be a VERY crowded place. Fortunately this isn’t the case and the rankings are becoming more and more a Darwinist exercise in “survival of the fittest” (which is how it should be). Proper link building will help you be the fittest and, over time, influence engines.

If you have a site in any competition level above “low” you will want to use at least two different methods for building links. Aside from speeding up the link building process this will help insure your site withstands changes in the way link values are calculated. While there are far too many methods for building links than can be listed here (and there are some that launch so far into the black hat tactics that I wouldn’t want to), here are some of the main link building methods you should consider using:

Reciprocal Link Building:

There are many who would write that reciprocal link building is dead. While it is undeniable that the “rules” around reciprocal link building have changed it is far from dead. That said, there are specific guidelines that must be followed to make a recip link building campaign a success. Some of the more important are:

  1. Relevancy is arguably the single most important factor to consider when building recip links. For every link exchange you are considering you must ask yourself, “Is this a site that my visitors would be interested in?” If you can honestly answer that your site visitors would be genuinely interested in a site you are linking to then it’s a good link.
  2. PageRank is not the end-all-be-all that is once was however it is still a decent measure of the relative value of a website. While not as important as relevancy, it is a factor and obtaining higher PageRank links will require less links to be built.
  3. Does the site you are considering linking to have a solid link building strategy in place? Just because you’re following the best practices of link building doesn’t mean that everyone in your industry is. A good site may be following misguided link building practices (real estate sites should not link to poker sites) and if they are then their overall value is or may well be reduced in the eyes of the search engines. If they have an active and ethical link building program in place then their overall value is likely to increase making them more valuable down the road than they are today.
  4. How many links appear on each page and where will your be positioned? If your link will appear at the bottom of a page with 87 links it is far less valuable than a link near the top of a page with 25 links. This fits into the “ethical” category of point 3 above but worth mentioning again.
  5. Links that exist within content are weighted as more natural than directory-style links. Thus, when possible send HTML code that places your link within the descriptive text rather than in the title. For example, we may use the following HTML for a link to the Beanstalk site:

<strong>Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization</strong><br>

Beanstalk offers ethical and effective <a href=””>search engine positioning services</a> that will get your site to the top of the rankings. Whether you operate a small business and need regional results or if you are the VP of a Fortune 500 company needing consulting on new site changes and internal page ranking strategies, we have a search engine positioning solution to fit your needs.

These links are won as opposed to gained by default. Finding people to exchange links with on the net is easy, it’s finding quality partners that will help influence the rankings (in a positive direction at least) that requires a clear understanding of what the engines want and how to give it to them.

Non-Reciprocal Link Building:

The area of non-reciprocal link building is a slippery one. There are many methods that can be used with varying degrees of success. Due to the sheer number of methods we won’t be able to get into them all here (and there are some that shouldn’t be used anywhere) we will focus below on some of the most significant and more widely applicable:

Directory Submissions:

This is perhaps the easiest and fastest of all link building methods though it can also be one of the more costly depending on the directories you submit your site to. Yahoo! for example, charges $299 for a commercial site to be submitted into the directory. DMOZ is free however, and is certainly the most important given that Google uses the DMOZ directory to provide the listings for the Google Directory. Note though: it can sometimes take months to get a listing there and sometimes even that’s not enough.

That said, there are MANY topical directories and smaller business directories that will accept free submissions and these should definitely be considered. While they may have a relatively low PageRank they will provide reasonably relevant non-reciprocal links and help build your anchor text relevancy.


Writing articles like the one you’re reading righ now is an excellent link building strategy. By providing valuable and useful content to other webmasters you are providing them a service, which will generally translate into a link to your site “in payment”. One of the great features of articles is that the payment isn’t only in link value but in the actual traffic you get from the link itself. But we’re not talking about traffic, we’re talking about rankings; so how do articles influence engines?

There are three main benefits of articles as a link building tactic:

  1. The link to your site will be on a page that is entirely related to your topic. If you have a site about search engine positioning for example, including that phrase in the title and content gives you the opportunity to build the relevancy between the linking page and the page it links to.

    (note: I know I have not used “search engine positioning” in the title – sometimes one has to consider the value of the title from a visitor standpoint and the fact that you came to this page and are reading this article indicates to me that the right decision was made not to change it just for a bit of added relevancy.)

  2. The link will be non-reciprocal. While we indicated above that reciprocal linking is not dead (and it’s not) there is a solid belief among SEO’s (myself included) that non-reciprocal links are weighted more heavily. Having more non-reciprocal links will also help safeguard your site against future changes in the algorithm that may reduce the value of recip links.
  3. You will likely have the ability to determine how the link to your site is worded and you may have the opportunity to link to more than one page on your site. Many people settle for a directory-style author bio. Myself, I prefer to submit my bio in a couple formats (text and html) both of which place the links inside the content. The text format will simply include links such as whereas an html link will contain code very similar to that displayed above. As far as multiple links; if the site you are submitting to will allow you to reference a couple pages you may want to link to your homepage as well as one or two internal pages that you would like to see rankings attained for. Make sure these pages are related to your core article topic or a service the reader would be interested in (see the bio for this article as an example).

Quality Content:

This next part might be a bit shocking. There are actually people out there who will link to your site simply based on the fact that they have found content there they believe will interest their readers. That’s right, people actually link to sites they find of value. On the Beanstalk site and specifically in our blog we often link to other web pages that we have found useful. Other articles, tools, blog posts, etc.often receive non-recip links from us due to the value of the content they contain and we’re definitely not the only ones doing this.

Providing quality content, useful tools, or other helpful services can be a great way to attract non-reciprocal links. After all, this is the entire reason links received any value in the first place, that they are perceived as a vote for the other site.

How To Influence Engines

With proper onsite optimization in place that includes attention to such things as site structure, site size, cohesion of the content across the site, internal linking structure, keyword density and those other onsite factors you’ve likely read much about, all that is left to do is to continue to grow your site (hopefully with quality content people will want to link to) while winning strong links to it.

If what you want to do is influence engines you will need to have strong onsite and offsite factors but don’t stop there. Influencing engines isn’t just about rankings today. You will need to continue building links down the road to insure that the search engines continue to be influenced by how people have linked to you in the past and kept those links in place and also how new people are finding your site helpful and relevant. If the engines see a sudden spurt in link growth and then see that growth stop you are not likely to have a strong ranking indefinitely in any but the lowest competition sectors.

And remember; don’t focus on just one link building method. To insure a solid and secure influence you’re going to need to win links in at least two of the methods discussed above or other ethical methods you may be considering.

Additional Notes

While we couldn’t possibly cover all the methods for link building here in an article I’ve tried to cover the main ones. A couple of methods that receive much attention but which we didn’t have room for above are press release distribution and paid links.

Press releases are an excellent way to get exposure but I have not found them as good as articles for links which is why they weren’t covered above. They are good for traffic however and you will get some links out of them if the release is good so it was worth a short mention here.

Paid links are a dangerous area to discuss as there are so many factors and so many ways it can go wrong. The only advice I will give to those looking to purchase links is this, ask yourself, “Am I expecting to get traffic from this link?” What this will weed out at the very least is small footer links and links on irrelevant sites. Basically, if the link is worth it without the boost in rankings then continue to pay for it and consider any ranking increases a bonus. If you aren’t getting any traffic from the link then it’s likely not worth paying for. If you’re not getting traffic then the site likely isn’t relevant or the link is in a poor location. The engines will likely pick either of these up and you’ll end up paying for a link that isn’t passing on any weight anyways.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:06 pm on October 10, 2006


Article Title Oops

For those of you who visit our blog regularly you’ll recall that back on October 5th I announced the latest article publication by Beanstalk, titled “How To Win Links & Influence Engines“. A few days have passed since then and I decided to do a quick check and see where it might be published (knowing full well that the list would be pretty limited as a weekend doesn’t result in a lot of posts). It was then that I realized an “oops”.

In searching for “how to win links” on Google I discovered an article series published by’s Jennifer Laycock titled, “How To Win Links And Influence People”. Oops. Both Jennifer and I obviously have the same respect for Dale Carnegie and appear to have a fairly similar train of thought regarding titling articles but nonetheless I can’t help but feel a bit bad given the significant respect I have for Jennifer who’s articles I’ve reference in past blog posts including her analysis of MSN’s paid search service and an absurd lawsuit against Google.

I will be sending Jennifer an email shortly apologizing for not looking into this title earlier. An unfortunately coincidence but then, great minds think alike. You can read her article on the website here. As I’ve now discovered, it’s a very good read.

SEO news blog post by @ 8:09 pm on October 9, 2006



SEO Update Blog

Today I received a recip link request from a gentleman who has recently started an SEO blog. While I have no problems with reciprocal links per-se we’ve never used them on the Beanstalk site as we’ve focused our link building efforts on other areas (such as articles which are great for traffic AND links). When we link out to another site it is purely for the reason that we believe our visitors will find the content we’re linking to either useful or, in some cases, entertaining.

I decided to take a look at the blog I was sent however and I discovered something, it’s actually pretty good. :) Run by Dutch blogger Bas van Westrenen it doesn’t just cover SEO but also seems to be covering other search engine news. And so rather than trading links with him I’ll do what I always do, link to a resource I believe might be of interest to you, my valuable readers. The blog is new so there aren’t that many back posts but if he keeps up the way he’s started this may be one to add to your bookmarks. The blog can be found at

Happy reading and have a great weekend !!!

SEO news blog post by @ 5:02 pm on October 7, 2006



Matt Cutts On The PageRank Update

As any SEO will tell you, reading Matt Cutts’ blog is a great way to spend the time you’d otherwise waste just eating. Well I spent my lunch “break” today doing just that and am certainly glad I did. The post I found most useful from the past couple days was on the PageRank update that’s currently underway. I was a bit surprised to realize that the datacenters I’m seeing were a bit behind and the update was first detected back on the second.

At any rate, on his blog Matt discusses this update and PageRank in general. While there’s not a lot of new info there (he does work for Google after all, exactly how much do we expect him to give away ;) there are some great answers to many of the most commonly asked questions, and all in one place. :)

And as one commenter noted: a post like this one is a great example of link baiting (as read about in our previous post on Andy Hagans article on the subject. And like that example, Matt’s efforts here too will be rewarded with a link as this is highly recommended reading for the novice and a good reminder and clarification for the experts out there. You can read what Matt Cutts has to say about PageRank here.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:34 pm on October 5, 2006



How To Win Links & Influence Engines

Beanstalk’s Dave Davies published an article titled, “How To Win Links & Influence Engines”. The article covers various methods for link building (both reciprocal and non-reciprocal) that will help insure that the links you’re establishing are quality links and will help increase your rankings on the search engines.

The article covers recip link building, articles, press releases, paid links, directory submissions and more. You can read the article in it’s full glory here.

As an aside, this blog post will push down an important post from earlier today on the recent Google PageRank update. Be sure to scroll down and read that post too.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:59 pm on



How To Win Links & Influence Engines

Beanstalk’s Dave Davies published an article titled, “How To Win Links & Influence Engines”. The article covers various methods for link building (both reciprocal and non-reciprocal) that will help insure that the links you’re establishing are quality links and will help increase your rankings on the search engines.

The article covers recip link building, articles, press releases, paid links, directory submissions and more. You can read the article in it’s full glory here.

As an aside, this blog post will push down an important post from earlier today on the recent Google PageRank update. Be sure to scroll down and read that post too.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:59 pm on



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