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Learning SEO: the Beginners Guide to SEO

Last week I talked about “gleaning” information from a variety of news blogs and websites. Of the sites that I mentioned, SEOmoz is by far at the top of my favorites. They have well written and informative blog posts, a slew of great (and free!) seo tools and a lot of great resources that any new or experienced seo tech would be remiss in neglecting.

If you are not already, it is only a matter of time before you hear the name of “Rand Fishkin” from SEOmoz. Rand’s name is synonymous with SEO and I would again like to send out props to him and the peeps at SEOmoz for putting together the latest version of their “Beginners Guide to SEO

Even those of us who consider ourselves to be adept at SEO would do well to give this guide a once over. It’s like watching an epic movie like Star Wars…you always see something that you didn’t catch before. For the seo “padowan” learner, I have found this small (51 page) guide an absolutely indispensable trainer. Fortunately for all of us, Rand is on the light side of the seo “force” and has not been corrupted by the “dark side”. More on the Dark side later ;-)

SEO news blog post by @ 11:29 pm on July 15, 2010

Categories:SEO Tips,SEO Tools


An Intro And A Gift

Well first let me welcome Kyle to Beanstalk’s blogging realm.  Kyle has been with us for quite some time and has moved from a Link Builder to Link Department Manager to his current position as an SEO Technician.  We hope you will enjoy reading Kyle’s blogs where he will be writing about his take on current SEO happenings and where he’ll be sharing some of the SEO tips and resources he’s learned and used in developing his SEO chops.  Welcome Kyle. :)

And for our avid readers I’ve got a first-come-first-served AdWords credit for you. Sign up for a new account and the following code will start you off with $100 (though you’ll have to deposit $10 to get the account started).  Caution – I did this with one of my affiliate accounts and it proved so profitable that now Google’s made thousands off me (of course – I’ve made more so … :)

The code for your $100 is:  4QD3-7WET-9SAC-74Y9-DVM2.

Once it’s used it’s gone so good luck !

SEO news blog post by @ 11:56 pm on July 12, 2010



Learning SEO: Gleaning Knowledge

As an aspiring SEO Technician, I have inevitably been asking a lot of questions over the last year. It occurred to me that this would be a great thing to blog about. I will be discussing the different techniques that I am using to learn the SEO trade and will talk about the different resources or hurdles I have come across (and hopefully overcome) in doing so. This is my first installment of Learning SEO: Gleaning Knowledge.

When I first got in to SEO, the one question I seemed to find myself asking repeatedly is: “How do I keep up to date with changing SEO practices, trends and news?”.

After speaking with my coworkers as to what sites they used to stay updated, it occurred to me that others were probably wondering the same thing I was. I came to the conclusion that a list of noteworthy SEO blog/news sites might make for a helpful resource for others.

Some of these sites may seem obvious to any of those that have been in the industry for any length of time. To the aspiring SEO tech, these links should prove to be a valuable resource as well as introducing you to a few of the leading players in the SEO industry.

Here is my “SSSS” (Super-Seven-Seo-Sites):

Good general internet/seo information site. A great resource for article distribution (more on articles in another post).

Home to SEO Guru Rand Fishkin. This site has proven invaluable for their high quality blogs, learning resources and seo tools. Whiteboard Fridays ( ) are always a favourite.

Search Engine Roundtable
They report on the most interesting threads taking place at the SEM (Search Engine Marketing) forums.

Search Brains
Pulls in news from many sources. They also have an RSS feed to really get seo news updates in realtime.

Search Engine Journal
Established in 2003, SEJ specializes in a community approach to the reporting of search engine news & the sharing of Search Engine Marketing knowledge & tactics.

Search Engine Watch
A popular site with great tips on Internet Searches & SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), seo analysis and optimization.

Graywolf’s SEO
Home to the legendary one-man wolf-pack, Michael Gray. He has been involved in web development and website management in 1998 and his site is an incredible wealth of information for anyone in any internet related industry.

My suggestion is to start with just a few blog/news sites. It is easy to get “blogged” down by the mass of available information, articles and news topics being discussed. As I found out, reading any one post invariably leads you down many posts. I found that by spending about 15 minutes every morning perusing the headlines is a good way to stay in the loop. In no time you will become well versed in the trends, news and players associated with SEO.

Remember to talk to your coworkers too. They have been in the industry longer and will assuredly have some gained some good wisdom. My mantra? – “Be like a sponge”. Be open to any useful information colleges have to share and glean everything you can from them.

SEO news blog post by @ 6:09 pm on


Reciprocal Links … again

As they mentioned over on SE Round Table – the discussion regarding reciprocal links has been had hundreds – and maybe even thousands of times.  At least once per week I get asked about them either whether they’re part of what we do or if te person on the phone should do them, etc. etc.

I won’t pretend to have the hard-and-fast answer that is true 100% of the time ind in fact – my belief is that there is no answer that is right 100% of the time.  It’s one of those pesky times where one has to use their common sense.  Rather than trying to find a hard-and-fast “recip links work” or “recip links don’t work” one should rather look at each link and ask, “should this link work?”  If you’re getting a link on a page with 143 links ranging from real estate to blue widgets then it doesn’t matter whether it’s recip or not – it shouldn’t be counted.  On the other hand, Beanstalk has a link on the WebProNews site where they’re references our blog posts, etc.  Similarly – I’ve also linked to them as a great resource.  Should these links be ignored because we happen to link to each other?  Are they recip links?

Here’s the long-and-short of it:

  • Recip links are not in-and-of-themselves horrible if it’s an exchange of references with sites you’d actually recommend.
  • Recip links can be a royal pain to try to manage.  You might find one-way links easier in the long run
  • Recip links should NEVER be the only link strategy of a campaign.  Of course, the same can be said for any link building strategy.  A site that stands on one leg will soon fall.

The debate continues over at Webmaster World at

Good luck to you. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 7:44 pm on June 16, 2010

Categories:Recip Links


Competition Analysis Basics for SEO

In my last article titled, “Keyword Research Basics for SEO” I discussed keyword research and the basics of keyword selection. Of course – you can’t solidify your targets until you understand what you’re up against. All the keyword research in the world won’t help you rank for the keyword phrase “windows” in 6 months with a brand new site. So understanding how to analyze your competitors and get a feel for who you can compete with in a reasonable period of time is paramount to creating a solid strategy. I’ll also be flashing back a bit on keyword strategy.

In the last article we closed with a list of potential keyword phrases, the idea that we needed to divide our phrases into major phrases and longtail phrases and also a new domain (just to keep things realistic). So where do we go from there?

Generally I start at the top. From the highest searched phrases to the lowest – I do a quick analysis of the major phrases to determine the long term goals and the short term. I also like to look for what I call “holes”. These are phrases that have competition levels lower than one would expect when looking at the search volume. So let’s use the example I was using in the last article and imagine a US-based downhill mountain bike company. And let’s begin with the major targets.

The phrases we’ll examine for the purposes of this article are the top 10 phrases as ordered by search volume. They are:

  • mountain bike
  • mountain bikes
  • specialized mountain bike
  • trek mountain bike
  • mountain bike frame
  • full suspension mountain bike
  • cannondale mountain bike
  • giant mountain bike
  • mountain bike parts
  • mountain bike reviews

So what are we looking for? It’s obviously not feasible to do incredibly thorough competition analysis at this stage. I’ve listed 10 phrases here but in reality there are hundreds to consider and so we need a quick(ish) way to determine the competition levels of phrases. First, let’s install a couple tools to help you make some quick decisions. You’ll need to install the Firefox browser and the SEO Quake add on. Now when you run a search you’ll be able to quickly pull the competitor stats. I like to look at the PageRank, links to the ranking page and sitelinks. Remember now – this is the basic competitor analysis here.

Here are the stats for the top 10 ranking sites across the 10 top phrases (I’ll leave out the URLs so there’s no promotion):

Phrase: mountain bike

Site 1 – PR6, 70,268 page links, 71,177 domain links

Site 2 – PR6, 262,609 page links, 290,281 domain links

Site 3 – PR5, 0 page links, 604 domain links

Site 4 – PR6, 101,136 page links, 206,397 domain links

Site 5 – PR5, 741 page links, 118,791,902 domain links

Phrase: mountain bikes

Site 1 – PR5, 33,097 page links, 40,747 domain links

Site 2 – PR6, 42,010 page links, 91,385 domain links

Site 3 – PR6, 262,609 page links, 290,281 domain links

Site 4 – PR6, 101,136 page links, 206,397 domain links

Site 5 – PR5, 25,059 page links, 38,132 domain links

Phrase: specialized mountain bikes

Site 1 – PR6, 101,136 page links, 206,397 domain links

Site 2 – PR1, 1 page links, 206,397 domain links

Site 3 – PR4, 2,001 page links, 2,095 domain links

Site 4 – PR5, 734 page links, 738 domain links

Site 5 – PR2, 4 page links, 230 domain links

Phrase: trek mountain bikes

Site 1 – PR6, 65,464 page links, 178,712 domain links

Site 2 – PR4, 108 page links, 178,712 domain links

Site 3 – PR4, 127 page links, 523 domain links

Site 4 – PR4, 2,001 page links, 2,095 domain links

Site 5 – PR0, 0 page links, 3,854,233 domain links

Phrase: mountain bike frame

Site 1 – PR4, 6,348 page links, 44,535 domain links

Site 2 – PR2, 6 page links, 4,303 domain links

Site 3 – PR4, 196 page links, 523 domain links

Site 4 – PR0, 28 page links, 35 domain links

Site 5 – PR1, 0 page links, 294,361,703 domain links

Phrase: full suspension mountain bike

Site 1 – PR4, 58 page links, 178,712 domain links

Site 2 – PR4, 20 page links, 1,729 domain links

Site 3 – PR3, 7 page links, 9,959,894 domain links

Site 4 – PR5, 240 page links, 290,281 domain links

Site 5 – PR3, 0 page links, 294,362,703 domain links

Phrase: cannondale mountain bikes

Site 1 – PR6, 62,614 page links, 91,301 domain links

Site 2 – PR6, 410 page links, 91,301 domain links

Site 3 – PR4, 0 page links, 2,056 domain links

ite 4 – PR3, 3 page links, 80,580 domain links

Site 5 – PR2, 3 page links, 9,959,894 domain links

Phrase: giant mountain bikes

Site 1 – PR3, 7 page links, 136,232 domain links

Site 2 – PR4, 2,001 page links, 2,095 domain links

Site 3 – PR0, 6 page links, 6 domain links

Site 4 – PR4, 2,262 page links, 2,392 domain links

Site 5 – PR2, 1 page links, 60,131 domain links

Phrase: mountain bike parts

Site 1 – PR4, 610 page links, 2,366 domain links

Site 2 – PR4, 851 page links, 4,303 domain links

ite 3 – PR4, 6,348 page links, 44,535 domain links

Site 4 – PR5, 4,612 page links, 20,931 domain links

Site 5 – PR6, 4,612 page links, 20,931 domain links

Phrase: mountain bike reviews

Site 1 – PR6, 262,609 page links, 290,281 domain links

Site 2 – PR5, 240 page links, 290,281 domain links

Site 3 – PR6, 560 page links, 361,873 domain links

Site 4 – PR5, 0 page links, 604 domain links

Site 5 – PR4, 22 page links, 90,123 domain links

Now, I’d definitely look further down my keyword list than this but for the purposes of this article let’s assume this is all we have. If that’s the case – what do you suppose would be the primary choice(s)? Were it to me I’d go with:

mountain bike frame – we have a range of PageRank, a range of links and a range of sites. Basically – we’re not up against a wall of high competition and the search volume is solid.

full suspension mountain bike – a full range of sites. Higher competition than “mountain bike frame” but we’re looking at a phrase that would sell a whole bike which needs to be considered and a slightly higher competition is thus acceptable.

So of these two phrases what would I do? Well – if this was all we had to work with I’d select “full suspension mountain bike” as the main phrase and follow that up with “mountain bike frame” as a major secondary phrase and thus a prime target for proactive internal page link building and optimization.

So now let’s look at whether there are any good longtail phrases. In this industry we’ll be looking for specific parts. Since going through all the different types of parts would be a nightmare in an article I’ll focus on a couple parts I just ordered recently and that was a new handlebar and and a new rim. To keep things simple I’m going to focus on just a couple brands in the research BUT in reality we’d take the extra time and look into all the part types and all the brands that we’d be able to sell on our site.

So for handlebars, here’s the long and short of the numbers and competition:

Brands researched – origin and easton

“easton handlebars” with 1,000 estimated searches/mth with low competition outside of the manufacturer is a great start. Further, when we look up the manufacturer we further see that the ea70 and ea90 Easton models are both sought after as well.

When we build our site we obviously want to build a structure and heirarchy that are conducive to longtail rankings overall but what we’re looking for here are ideas as to where to put our energies when it comes to content creation and link building. Handlebars looks good by search volume. The average sale per item would be around $25.

And now to rims:

Brands researched – mavic and sun

“mavic rims” and “sun rims” both come in at 1,900 estimated searches but the comeptition for “sun rims” is significantly lower with lower link counts and lower PageRank sites ranking. The average sale here is also going be in the $40 to $45 range.

Based on this my first efforts for the whole site wold be “full suspension mountain bike” for the homeapge, mountain bike frame” as a major internal page and I’d focus my first efforts on “rims” (“sun rim” specifically).

Now – we’d of course look further than this but what we can see is the direction that we’d go if all we had to go on was the above data. As noted – were we launching this site we’d look into every brand and every part type and research further than the top 10 phrases but that would have made for a book, not and article and let’s be honest – it would have been a very boring book unless you were planning on launching a mountain bike site.

So now you’ve done enough competition analysis (remember – it’s basic research we’re talking about) to figure out what direction to head in. In my next article I’m going to cover more advanced competition analysis. We’ll go in knowing what we want to accomplish in the way of keywords and be working to map out how to take the top spots.

Until then – get your campaigns sorted out for potential keywords and keep reading … this is where it gets really interesting.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:35 pm on June 8, 2010

Categories:SEO Articles


Mayday Mayday

Google’s latest update is known among SEO’s lovingly as the “Mayday update”.   The update ended about a week ago and as with any update, there are winners and there are losers.  We known that the update was algorithmic and not index-based.  Basically, it has to do with the rankings of your site not the pages Google cares about.  Reportedly this update went through vigorous testing (we did see some back-and-forths for quite some time prior to the stabilization that occurred last week)  and Google likes what they see.  There is apparently no need for a “corrective update” to repair what went wrong as (according to Google’s Matt Cutts) the results are better for the update.

The focus in the update was longtail phrases.  Rather than try to explain it all I’ll let the horse speak. (this is a reference to “from the horses mouth – not Matt :)

You can read more from ex-Googler Vanessa Fox at

And good luck !

SEO news blog post by @ 5:16 pm on June 2, 2010



Beanstalk’s New Twitter Page

Well I’ve finally joined the 21st century.  As many of my friend’s have mocked me for – I didn’t get involved with social media until only recently.  I have been a heavy user of Facebook for a while but I only have friends on my friends list (what a novel concept) and I’ve only been using Twitter for a few months.  I’ll admit that after many months of basically exclaiming that Twitter was nothing more than another time-sucking waste I’ve been partly converted.  It is a time-sucking waste but a useful one. :)

I’ve had a Beanstalk page up on twitter for a few months.  We have 390 followers due in large part to the fact that I’m only following 330 people.  Why?  Well, because I still hang on to the belief that if I’m going to use Twitter I should keep it useful and to keep it useful I can’t have 8000 people all screaming their ads at me, cluttering up the comments from people I’m interested in.  I have many friends that I don’t follow simply because I’m not interested in their Twitter topic (not a “cat person” for example) and because I’m not overly concerned about increasing my follower numbers just for a sake of it.  If I want my information getting out there then it makes sense to follow people who are interested in my topic (SEO) that way the people who follow me are more likely to Retweet, etc.  Basically – I use it more as a communications tool so if I don’t follow you – don’t feel bad, you should only follow me if you’re actually interested in my Tweets too.

So that’s been going on for a few months with over 1000 Tweets to my name – so why talk about his now?  Well, my good friend Kristine has just designed for us a fantastic Twitter background.  This replaces the tiles of pics of my kids that the page used to contain.  Need to express my sincere thanks to Kristine and highly recommend her if you need a new and professional Twitter background or some hand-coded site design work (note: highly talented there as well and that’s actually more how I know her).

And of course – you’re welcome to follow us on Twitter (or just view our awesome new background at

SEO news blog post by @ 9:20 pm on May 25, 2010



SEO Guarantees Should Not Exist … Really?

An SEO I generally respect recently published a post on their blog titled, “SEO Guarantees Should Not Exist”.  Of course I felt the need to reply to this statement and the rational behind it.  First – let’s read the original post.  You can do so at  OK – now that you’re done reading, here is my reply to Nick. :)

Hey Nick.

Got your post sent to me in your newsletter and of course had to respond (Note to Beanstalk’s blog readers: incidentally the newsletter is worth subscribing to as generally I find Nick’s comments to be worthwhile and while I may disagree with him from time-to-time; he’s a solid SEO with some great advice).  Not to argue the point on guarantees (as that could be done ad nauseam and neither side is going to agree with the other) I do have to point out two fundamental flaws with your post.

You quote Google with the following Q&A:

Q – “Should I believe SEO agencies that promise to make my site rank first in Google in a few months and with a precise number of links?”
A – Official Google Answer: No one can make that promise; therefore the short answer is no, you should not.”

Stating that one cannot guarantee #1 is very different that guaranteeing top 10 or 20.  This logic is flawed as it uses one statement to prove a completely different argument.  I’m sure there are many companies offering guarantees that would agree that they cannot guarantee #1 and thus – they too would agree with Google but not with your post.

Inherently I also have to disagree with the following statement:

“Rankings in general as a measurement for SEO is an old flawed metric”

Everyone is going to agree that there are other metrics BUT when it comes to SEO (and I’m talking pure SEO as defined by as “The process of choosing targeted keywords and keyword phrases related to a Web site so the site will rank high when those terms are part of a Web search”) rankings are the measurement.

Now – once you have the rankings (i.e. once your site is in front of people’s eyeballs) then yes – we need to look at ways to increase clickthrough rates of the site when it does appear and yes, we need to look at traffic and look for ways to improve conversions BUT this is not SEO.  SEO is the ranking of the site in the organic results and to not make measuring those rankings the core metric is just downright silly.  This is like saying, ” The purpose of the Olympics is to rank athletes but heck, isn’t their personal health the real measure?  Let’s just judge them by how long they live.”  I think we can all agreement that that would be a very unpopular decision and rightfully so – it’s measuring the wrong thing.

Since pure SEO is the determining of appropriate keywords and then the ranking of them – rankings aren’t just a metric – they’re the metric.  Once attained we get into the myriad of other metric and let’s be clear – the real purpose of website promotion is the business that it generates and SEO is a piece of that.  It’s important to followup the SEO process with clickthrough rate optimization and analytics and testing when applicable but SEO, pure SEO, is about rankings.  It’s step one and rankings are the measurements.  To not use them is a disservice to the client and distorts what SEO really is.

Past his however let’s be clear, guarantees can be misleading and rankings aren’t the whole story – I’ve seen sites rank well and perform poorly and vice-versa and I hold not ill-will to Nick – there’s a reason that I’m subscribed to his newsletter and obviously read it but if you’re ever told not to take ranking or that they’re irrelevant – you’re being mislead.  It’s not field of dreams, first you need to get in front of the visitor with rankings – then tweak that content to maximize the effectiveness of them.

As an aside, you may rank for phrases you weren’t targeting, this is part of the SEO process as well when done correctly but rankings fo phrases you’re not tracking isn’t the same as not needing to track the phrases you’re targeting. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 5:49 pm on May 19, 2010

Categories:SEO Firms


Webcology Privacy Debate

Today on Webcology Jim Hedger and I discussed privacy.  I should note that when it comes to privacy I have a fairly right-wing approach to most aspects of it (though not all).  Jim on the other hand tends to be a little more left-wing on the subject (reminding me of the Net Neutrality debate we’ve had numerous times). :)

The discussion spanned Facebook and Google (with a little general issues in there) and started with the fact that Facebook has come under attack lately for selling information to third parties to advertising and has this included in their privacy policy.  Jim of course understands the desire to capitalize on the data but has issue with the practice of violating people’s privacy like this.  I don’t quite see it that way and here’s why …

When you enter any information into an online source you are giving it to the world.  That’s about that.

People seem to believe (falsely) that when they enter their information into Facebook (or any other online source for that matter) that the information is somehow only called on by their closes and dearest friends.  That somehow Facebook is the benevolent entity that is allowing developers to build tools around their system for the good of mankind and somehow shouldn’t profit.  And magically – there will never arise a situation where Facebook (or similar entity) has their data taken by hackers.  This belief by people that they can enter copious amount of personal data into Facebook assumign that Facebook is somehow collecting it for the good of all mankind actually annoys me.

So the onus lies on …


Who has hold of all the information that could be abused?  You do.  Facebook didn’t launch one day with all the information about everybody on the planet.  No – they just asked and you told them.  If we stop and ask ourselves, “Do I want the world to know this?” about the information we give away then the privacy issues won’t exist.  I’m OK with the world knowing I’m an SEO, I went to Cairine Wilson Secondary School, I watch Arrested Development and I play Bioshock 2.  Information that I wouldn’t want the whole world to know – never makes it into Facebook or any other social medium.

I was lucky to have a father who was a political adviser and who is now a lawyer.  He would say, “Never write anything down you don’t want the wold to know.”  At the time he was referring to print but the same can be said for the digital world.  Don’t give your information to a  third party if you don’t want the world to know.  The onus lies with you – not them.  They have to protect their interests (profit) and you have to protect yours (privacy).

Let’s also remember that capitalism has an uncanny way of self-regulating.  If your information is used for purposes you don’t approve of enough times – you will stop using the service.  So if Facebook violates your trust you will stop using Facebook and the slow and steady decline will begin.

The exception to my rule …

For the companies out there who think I’m given them an all-clear the are some exceptions.  I only put the onus on the individual when there is reasonable reason to believe you are giving the information away.  When I search on Google I know my behavior is being tracked (heck – they’re personalizing my results based on it) and then I enter my favorite shows into Facebook I know it’s being stored.  But what about pre-installed widgets and toolbars that come with your fancy new computer.  They can track your behavior but in my humble opinion – I believe this is where the scrutiny should lie.  If my new PC by default is monitoring my behavior, preferences and web patterns then this is private information and the consumer likely isn’t aware this is going on.  If they search int eh toolbar (for example) then it is the individuals responsibility but if it is data gathered when the individual likely didn’t know and and shouldn’t reasonably have known that data was being collected – herein lies the potential violation of implied privacy.

But of course this is just my opinion.  The rule of the day though: Don’t write anything down you don’t want the world to know.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:27 pm on May 13, 2010



Keyword Research Article

The latest article published by Beanstalk SEO has just been added to our archives.  The article is titled, “Keyword Research Basics for SEO” and is exactly that.  For the experienced there will be little to glean from the article bu it gives a good outline of how to use keyword tools (specifically Google’s) to help assess what your possible targets are.  A followup article will be coming out in the next few days on competition analysis to help our readers turn that keyword research data into a useful SEO strategy.  To read the article just click the link above or visit our SEO articles archive for this and other useful publications.

I’ll post here the second the new article is available and be sure to stay “tuned” – we’ve got some new writers who will be adding their voices to the Beanstalk blog in the next week with a  focus on bringing you more and up-to-date news and analysis.

SEO news blog post by @ 7:49 pm on May 12, 2010

Categories:keyword research


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