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Beanstalk's Internet Marketing Blog

At Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization we know that knowledge is power. That's the reason we started this Internet marketing blog back in 2005. We know that the better informed our visitors are, the better the decisions they will make for their websites and their online businesses. We hope you enjoy your stay and find the news, tips and ideas contained within this blog useful.


January 24, 2013

Free Ranking Reports on Google!

I keep seeing people ask for their rank, asking what the best free ranking tools are, etc., like it’s so darn hard to ask Google where your website is in terms of it’s keywords.

First of all, Google Analytics has an ‘Average Position’ column for popular search queries that tells you a lot of great info about your site’s keywords.

Google WMT Search Queries chart
This is an example of Search Queries sorted by Average Position

 
The link to this area is:
https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/top-search-queries?hl=en&siteUrl=
+ your URL.

Our website link would look like this:
…earch-queries?hl=en&siteUrl=http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/

You can also click at the top of the position column to sort it, or tack this onto the end of the URL:
&grid.sortBy=8&grid.currentOrder=2d

If you aren’t getting enough data from this, first try out the download options, and load them up in a spreadsheet so you can sort/filter the data.

Most folks are surprised what a little bit of filtering and grouping can accomplish to provide you with a fresh perspective on data.

Still not enough? Well there’s a zillion free tools that will gladly trade your URL and keyword targets for a limited ranking report.

This is valuable data, so why not trade something free for it? Google does!

Indeed there’s enough free tools, that I won’t even bother mentioning one. Why don’t we just make one?

It’s not ‘hard’ to get your rank really, lets break it down:

  • Make a list of phrases you are trying to rank for
  • Do a Google search for your first phrase
  • Keep searching until you find your site
  • Take note of the position
  • Repeat

So how does the average person do this? It’s gets pretty technical, but all the resources are out there, and free!

To break that down in simple terms:

  • Setup a server or install XAMPP
  • Setup a database/table to store your rankings by date
  • Make a page that CURLs for your keywords
  • Setup a schedule to execute the php page regularly

Bingo, you now have your own ranking reports tool, and nobody is the wiser, besides Google, and they are usually too busy to care that you’re extra curious about your rankings.

Nerd reading a book

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of fine details to explain and not everyone is comfortable installing programs like this or scripting, but I am going to look at getting permission to make this a step-by-step how-to guide with full downloads so even novices can give this a try.

A final point to make is that excessive/automated queries on Google is a breach of their TOS, and could result in annoying blocks/complaints from Google if you were to attempt to use this method for a large set of keyword phrases, or wanted the reports updated constantly.

If you are a ‘power user’ who needs a lot of data, you’ll end up paying someone, and either you pay to use someone’s API key at a premium, or you get your own API key from Google and only pay for what you use.

Seems like an easy decision to me!

SEO news blog post by @ 1:03 pm


 

 

October 10, 2012

New Webmaster Guidelines Part 1 – Design and Content

Google recently updated their webmaster guidelines following the latest algorithm update. It is easy to feel inundated with the amount of information regarding web design dos & don’ts and the best practices for the internet. As an SEO I am frequently asked, “How can I get my site to rank?” The fact of the matter is that we follow the Google’s Webmaster Guidelines which establishes the best practices for websites to follow. Many are concerned about the Panda/Penguin updates and are worried that there site will be hit; or they have a site that has been hit. Our advice remains consistent: "Drink the Google Kool-Aid".

magician_rabbit_hat

At one time, it was exceedingly difficult to get a straight answer from Google in regards to what was considered best practice. This led to a wild-west frontier attitude and many designers and SEOs adopted many bad practices. This is lead to an inundation of webspam in the Google SERPs and made it very difficult to get quality search results.

The Panda and Penguin algorithm and subsequent updates was a very concerted effort to rid the SERPs of webspam. In the wake of these substantial updates, my advice to customers remains consistent; follow the Google established guidelines. The mantra I repeat to my customers is: "Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?"

For many of us this is old news, but I still find myself learning new things to try and better practices to adopt. Much of the messaging from Google has been very consistent regarding what makes good content. This post will looks specifically at Google’s recommended Design and Content Guidelines to help Google find, crawl and index your site.

Site Hierarchy

  • Give your site a clear hierarchical structure and make it as easy to navigate as possible. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
  • Think of your website as a book with logical sections and headings; each with their own unique and relevant content.
    • The Title of you is your domain URL (eg. www.booktitle.com)
    • Your title tag <title> can be your topic for the page. It defines what content will be on this page (eg. <title>Book Characters</title>).
    • Your heading tag is your chapter title eg. <h1>Book Characters</h1>. Typically this is the same or very close to the page title and must be directly relevant.
    • Have only one topic per page and only one H1 tag on any page.
    • Use subsequent heading tags (h2, h3, h4) to define further related divisions of the chapter.

Site Map

  • Offer a sitemap for your visitors. Not only does this provide a valuable service to your customers, but it can help improve the indexing of your site by bots.
  • If you have an extensive number of links on your site, you may need to break your sitemap into multiple pages.
  • Remember that a website sitemap is different than the sitemap.xml that you should submit to Google’s Webmaster Tools.

Internal Linking

  • Keep the number of links on any page to the bare minimum. The guidelines used to state ‘around 100’ but this is one area where less is more.
  • In the most recent iteration of the Webmaster Guidelines, Google has only stated to ‘keep it to a reasonable amount’. Too many links leading to other internal pages or offsite is distracting to the visitor. It lowers conversion rates due to people getting lost and creates frustration.

Textual Content

  • Google has always stated that ‘content is king’. It is absolutely imperative that you create rich, useful and dynamic content that engages your audience. All textual content needs to be well written and grammatically correct. It should clearly and accurately describe your content and it must be relevant to the page that it is found on.
  • Do not write for what you think Google wants to see. Think about what searchers would type into a search engine to find your page and ensure that your content actually includes those terms.
  • Do not concern yourself with keyword densities. Inevitably the content comes across as spammy and does not read well. Google may regard this as keyword stuffing and see broken/confused grammar as potential spam or scrapped content…exactly what the Panda/Penguin updates are designed to target, and penalize for.

Page Coding

  • Use a crawler on your site such as XENU’s Link Sleuth, or Google’s Webmaster Tools to check you site for broken links.
  • Check your site with the W3C to ensure that your site has valid HTML.
  • Avoid the use of dynamic pages with cryptic URLs (e.g., the URL contains a "?" character). Try to use keyword focused URLs that reflect the page you are building. If you must use a dynamic URL structure, keep them few and the parameters short.

Images

  • You can give Google additional details about your images, and provide the URL of images we might not otherwise discover, by adding information to a web sitemap.
  • Do not embed important content into images; always use text links instead of images for links, important names etc, where possible. Google crawlers cannot determine the text displayed in an image. If you must use an image for textual content, ensure that you make use of the image ALT tag to describe the image with a few words.
  • Ensure that all image <title< and ALT attributes are descriptive (but not spammy) and accurate. Follow these guidelines for creating great ALT text for your images.
  • Give your images detailed and informative filenames.

The following areas (video and rich snippets and their usage are best described by Google themselves:

Video

View the full post here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=156442

Rich Snippets

View the full post here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1093493

Coming next time, I will review the newly updated Technical Guidelines and then conclude with Google’s Quality Guidelines.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:15 pm


 

 

October 2, 2012

You may need an EMT after the EMD Update!

Last Friday Matt Cutts tweeted about Google’s latest update, which focuses on penalties for ‘low-quality’ Exact Match Domain names, hence the EMD TLA.

Twitter posts from Matt Cutts on the latest EMD Update

While Google is never big on giving us the details lets digest this together!

Using a relevant keyword in a domain has been a very long-standing ranking signal.
ie: A consulting site for financial companies using ‘financial-consulting.com’ as a domain would be seen as relevant

Over the years this has lead to people grabbing up domains with keywords in them for SEO purposes.

JACOBS BY MARC JACOBS FOR MARC BY MARC JACOBS ETC..

Having your keywords in your domain name didn’t mean overnight dominance of the web, thankfully. Indeed, there was usually some trade-off between desirable keywords and a reasonably short domain name.

In fact, no organic/white-hat SEO would suggest you use something like:

‘best-value-online-financial-consulting-company-with-proven-results.com’

Why? Because the gains in SEO wouldn’t match the losses in user trust/conversions.

Would a good organic SEO/White Hat tell you NOT to purchase those types of domains for 301s to your main site?

I’d like to think so, but this was clearly a strategy for a lot of sites competing for top rankings.

Regardless of your SEO ethics, the practice of domain parking/selling because of search ranking signals is clearly an unnecessary burden on the internet.

While the ‘domains for sale’ issue would still exist without search engines, search engines honestly should be making your choice of domain name MUCH less relevant.

Ideally fresh internet traffic should occur as match between the searchers needs and the services/information that your site provides.

And with this latest update it’d appear that Google agrees with the idea that book should found by more than what’s on the cover.

As of this last update you can expect sites with nothing but some keyword dense 301′d domains to now face a penalty instead of a positive ranking signal.

We didn’t see this coming!

EMD Update Results

I’m already seeing people post sad tales of the deep impact this update is having on certain sites, and I’ve had a laugh at a few ‘professionals’ claiming they never felt this day would come.

Personally, while I’ve watched some very good presentations on SEO and web ranking strategies, the one thing that helps me most as an SEO is Matt Cutts’ breakdown of the real philosophy behind ‘good SEO’ which boils down to:

Never do something for the sake of search engine rankings alone.

If you like ‘Lord of the Rings’ then look at this as:

‘One Rule to Lead them all, one Rule to be found by…’

..and you should never have to fear a Google update!

In fact you should look at each Google update as a chance for your rankings to improve as other sites are punished for their ‘clever’ attempts to game the system.

Another Google Easter Egg?

And finally, to end the post with a chuckle, here’s a Google search phrase for you to test out:

I was hoping this was more than just an ‘Easter Egg‘ in Google’s search, but alas Google hasn’t yet licked mathematical artificial intelligence. :p

SEO news blog post by @ 12:01 pm


 

 

December 20, 2011

Panda’s take on Popular vs. Productive

I’ve seen a few SEO blog posts recently on post-panda content concerns that unsurprisingly contradict each other.

The “popular” camp seem to feel the following is true:

- Don’t post anything off topic
- Don’t post anything that won’t be a hit
- If you post something that fails, pull it
- If you can’t pull a post, fake the popularity

So what that means is pulling your punches until you have a post that’s really going to draw attention to your blog.
The SEO logic is that while regular content creates a positive metric, anyone can produce regular content and in fact loads of unpopular content could become a negative ranking factor.

The “productive” camp follow these golden rules:

- Don’t post content that isn’t unique
- Don’t spin content to create unique content
- Keep keyword densities high
- Keep a low ratio of links in proportion to images/text

This group spend all their time creating content and don’t spend time worried about how popular every post will be.

The SEO logic with “producers” is that the Panda update wants to see regular fresh content publications without duplication of existing content, only ‘really bad’ content can harm this ranking factor.

Well I hate to be a pacifist, but both sides are correct! A great strategy would be to listen to BOTH sides.

  • If every post on your blog gets 300+ links on the day it’s posted, that’s not going to look organic
  • If your blog gets one post, every single day, and nobody links to them, that’s not organic either

So post regularly, but don’t sweat it if you miss one day. If you are having a slow day for topics, you should try to go find some discussions where you can generate interest/back-links to your existing posts. At worst you’ll find some topics that are far more interesting that what you’ve been blogging about and you’ll get something fresh to discuss.

A post in draft, waiting for perfection, won’t do you much good if it never gets published. :)

Those of you shocked to see us on SEO blog topics right now can rest assured we’re struggling to stay on topic.

Oh the SOPA debate is frightful,
But MAFIAAFire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no position to SEO,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn’t show signs of shoop’ing,
I’ve got a report showing keywords are ranking,
And the competition’s phrases are way down low,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally reach page one,
How I’ll hate going on the phone!
But if you’ll order via email,
It will make it to your home without fail.

The lyric is slowly ending,
And, my dear, we’re badly rhym-ing,
But as long as you let me SEO,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

SEO news blog post by @ 12:05 pm


 

 

November 15, 2011

10 new changes to Google algorithms

New features from GoogleYesterday, over on the Google Inside Search blog, Matt Cutts shared 10 recent changes to the Google search algorithms from the last few weeks.

As always these posts can get a bit technical, and anyone subscribed to the feed can just get it from the horses’ mouth. The goal of this post is to put the changes into clearer terms from a SEO perspective:

Translated search titles:
When searching with languages where limited web content is available, Google can translate the English-only results and display the translated titles directly below the English titles in the search results. This also translates the result automatically, thereby increasing the available web content for non-English searchers. If you were selling products that appealed to a global market, but hadn’t yet invested in translations/global site structure, this could drive fresh traffic to your sites/products.

Better Snippets:
Google’s mantra is always ‘content, content, + more content’, and now the snippet code is focusing on the page content vs. header/menu areas. Because of the way sites use keywords in the headers/menus, coding the snippets to seek out body content will result in more relevant text in search snippets.

Improved Google generated page titles:
When a page is lacking a title, Google has code in place to assign a title to the page using various signals. A key signal used is back-link anchor text pointing to the page. If a site has a ton of duplicate anchor text in the back-links, Google has found that putting less emphasis on those links creates a far more relevant title than previously. In this way the titles in the search results should be much less misleading.

Improved Russian auto-complete:
Languages are a constant headache for search engines, and new features like auto-complete can take a very long time to mature in languages outside of English. Recently the prediction system for auto-completed queries was improved to avoid overly long comparisons to the partial query to make auto-complete function much better in Russian, and closer to how well it works for English queries.

More information in application snippets:
Last week Google announced a new method of improved snippets for applications. The feature’s pretty technical and looks like an entire blog post is coming on just this topic. Here’s an example image that hopefully gives you a gist of how the snippets are giving details, like prices, ratings, and user reviews.

Example of application snippet from Google search results.

The feature has been very popular and Google recently added even more options that will elicit a full blog post soon here.

Less document relevance in Image searches:
If you look up search engine optimization in Wikipedia and look at the entry for Image search optimization you will note that there’s really nothing to say about SEO tactics towards images. This hasn’t been true, there are signals that Google has to look for when deciding what image to show for a particular keyword.
Previously, an image referenced in PDF or other searchable documents multiple times would get higher placement in the results. Google has done away with this signal as it wasn’t giving improved results and could easily be abused. *Innocent whistling*

Higher ranking signals on fresh content:
Consider if you will, how Google would look if they never gave new sites/fresh content a shot at the top, or a moment in the limelight? By default most ratings systems will show you the ‘best of the most recent’ by default just to avoid older content dominating the results. As a person on the phones taking SEO leads I can tell you there’s always been a ’10 mins of fame’ situation on Google where the explainable happens in the search results with fresh sites/content, only to return to normal later on when the dust settles. Google claims the recent change impacts roughly 35% of total search traffic which could be a significant boost for sites that take the time to publish fresh content, or for new sites looking for a chance to be seen.

Improved official page detection:
We’ve blogged recently about the importance of the rel=author attributes, tying your content to a G+ profile, and completing the circle with a back-link from the profile to your site. Google’s added even more methods to establish ‘offical’ pages and is continuing to give ‘official’ pages higher rankings on searches where authority is important. If you missed our article on this topic from last week, here’s the link.

Better date specific results:
The date a page is discovered may not always be the date the information is published. Google has the difficult task of sorting out the ‘date’ relevance for search results, and they keep improving on this where possible. A good example would be using duplicate matches to avoid showing you a 3 year old article that was posted two days ago if you specify that you only want results from say ‘last week’.

Enhanced prediction for non-Latin characters:
You’d think it’s hard enough to get a predictive query straight when the character set is limited to Latin, and you’d be right. When it takes several keystrokes to complete a single character in non-Latin, a service like Google’s auto-complete would be hard pressed to know when to start guessing. Previous to this update predictions in Russian, Arabic, and Hebrew were giving gibberish results as the user was forming characters.

These are 10 changes out of 500+ made so far this year. We try to document the most important changes for you but there’s lots of times where Google can’t release info because of exploits/cheating. When that happens you’ll see us chime in with experiments and our personal experience when we can. So while I’d normally suggest folks interested in this topic subscribe to the inside search blog, we know that you’ll only be getting part of the story by doing so. ;)

SEO news blog post by @ 1:16 pm


 

 

October 11, 2011

What word to use for anchor text?

As a well connected SEO I digest a lot of publications from the web and I try to limit my opinion to factual results either from real world feedback or by controlled tests. Google is constantly evolving and improving itself to render the best search results possible, or at least better search results than the competition.

Considering where Google was with regards to just hardware in 1999, things certainly keep changing:

Evolution of Google - First server

On Monday SEO Moz published a small test they did to gauge the importance of keywords in the anchor text of links. The test is discussed in detail over on SEO Moz but the result was rather straight forward.

In a nutshell they took 3 new sites, randomly equivalent, and tried to build some controlled links to the sites using three different approaches:

  1. Build links with just ‘click here’ text
  2. Build links with the same main keyword phrase
  3. Build links with random components of the main keyword phrase

Obviously the test is a bit broken, because if you don’t have existing keyword relevance for a phrase, you should build relevance with keywords in the anchors. When Google is sorting out who will be ranked #1 for a site dealing with candies, the site linked to with relevant keywords should always rank higher than a site with links like “click here” or “this site” which aren’t relevant. The only exception would be in a situation where the links seem excessive or ‘spammy’ and may result in Google not considering any of the similar links for relevance.

Outside of a clean test environment we know the best results would be a blend of all three types, with a bit of brand linking mixed in to avoid losing focus on brand keywords. A well established site with a healthy user base will constantly be establishing brand due to all the time on site and click-through traffic for that brand.

ie. If I search for “Sears” and click on the first link only to find it’s a competitor, I’d hit back and find the right link to click. In most cases Google’s watching/learning from the process, so brand links aren’t going to be a necessity after a site is quite popular, and the % of brand links wouldn’t need to be much at all.

Kudos to SEOMoz for publishing some of their SEO test info regardless of how experimental it was. We’re constantly putting Google’s updates to the test and it’s often very hard to publish the results in such a clinical fashion for all to see. We will always make an attempt to blog on the topics we’re testing but it’s still on the to-do list to publish more of the data.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:56 am


 

 

October 4, 2011

Early October SEO Shakeups at Google

New panda updates that target tag clouds and forum links? New paid adwords seems to be diminishing the quality of the free service? Landing page quality score improvements to be had with latest AdWords updates? What’s not changed over at Google this month?

Seeking change

Tag Clouds and Forum Links?

For some time now it’s been easy to add tag clouds to blogs and websites, most of them are even dynamically built so they reflect the ongoing topics of your pages, and the really clever ones make each keyword a link.

The result of all that effort leaves a typical tag cloud looks something like this:

.. and that’s a LOT of keywords + links for a crawler to ignore! Word from some of the worst hit sites seems to place a common factor on keyword clouds as the likely component that is now the target of this most recent Panda update over at Google. We’re a really aggressive source of content with a high level of trust, so I doubt one instance of using a tag cloud will tank our blog, but I did debate making the above example an image only.

Forum Links are Worth-Less?

One site that’s been taking a beating from Panda over and over again (eh! rocko!) is DaniWeb. They have been acting as a lightning rod during the storm of over 500 changes Google’s made this year alone to ranking algorithms. In a recent video post from the CEO and Founder of DaniWeb on WebProNews the topic of diminished return of value from forum posts begs for testing:

New AdWords Pro and Language improvements?

This is a topic we can’t just lump into a big multi-post and we know needs in-depth discussion. Many SEOs are discussing how the professional offerings from AdWords coincide with ‘improvements’ to the free service that have actually been viewed as setbacks by the users.

Right now we’re still working with the free version that all our clients are using, but I’d bet we’ll give the pro-service a trial by the years end and will have some input on how valuable we think the upgrade is. I doubt we’ll extract enough value to cover the monthly fees Google is currently asking for, but we would have to try it and see to be sure.

The recently improved AdWords language support means that targeted ads are improving the quality score of landing pages. This could be a bit of a change depending on where your competition is based. If you are a local US market you probably won’t see much if any competition change, but if you’re an international your customers for other countries could be looking at a fresh set of SERPs. As a result, SEOs, and people watching their stats closely would do well to note this factor.

Expect to hear more about these changes, and really any changes that effect SEO in a way that matters. It’s one thing to mention things as they happen it’s another situation entirely to have tested these things first hand and have intimate experience to share. Soon!

SEO news blog post by @ 12:41 pm


 

 

March 19, 2011

Organic SEO Warlock

Charlie Sheen has been ‘winning’ a lot lately, even if you’re having a hard time figuring out what exactly has been going through his mind. The message hasn’t been very clear, but the results are phenomenal.

Charlies recent “Winning Recipes” video on FoD begins with a few notable quotes:

“I am living the life of a rock-star Vatican assassin” and “..if you hadn’t noticed I’m ‘winning’ television right now..”

Followed by his desire to be the “first person to make an appearance on every television network”!

To cement the intro Charlie reveals that he was the first to “build my own rocket-ship to Cassiopeia using only my mind-tools” and “first person to get one million twitter followers in 24hrs!”.

The last quote is backed by the Guinness Book of World Records, and is no small achievement to be very honest.

How does a person step ‘out’ of the limelight and leverage web-casts and short interviews to double their star power? Magic? Tiger blood? Who knows; The tests for narcotics are coming up false, so we’re all scratching our heads on this one.

It’s almost like Charlie sat down, read a marketing handbook for SEOs, and said, “I just need to be honest, reach out, make some accessible videos, and stop taking everything so seriously.”.. Is Charlie Sheen some comical messiah marking the flop of TV and the dominance of the Internet?

Speaking of which, how much do you think an SEO would charge, and what sort of time line would they place, on a campaign for a keyword like “winning”? Charlie is linked to first page results on Google for “winning”, half the video results link to him, and if you leave the general search and hit News, Discussions, etc.., you have to be a recently successful pro sports team to rank for “winning” along side Charlie.

One thing is clear, he’s having a great time, and any man who closes with the warning, “the taste of Charlie Sheen has the potential to cause your soul to weep”, clearly isn’t taking himself too seriously. Which would be hard to do when his “body is a Lockbox of Diamonds, Uranium and Assassin Nobility”.

Remember what Charlie says, if you’re not in the Korner(sic) winning, you’re a troll; “Sizzle. Losing. Bye.”

SEO news blog post by @ 12:02 am


 

 

May 12, 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

Categories:keyword research

 

 

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