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Google+ and the Potential Impact on SEO

Although you can only join by invitation at this point, you’ve no doubt heard of Google+, Google’s latest attempt to join (or, in time perhaps, completely overtake?) Facebook and Twitter as a must have social networking tool. In the months before Google+ was launched, Google also began implementing the “+1″ button as a usable option for users to signify that they enjoy a particular site or page in an attempt to gather as much raw data as possible about the popularity and social value of sites and content before Google+ was rolled out for the masses. Preceding the Google+ and +1 button was the introduction of real time search, which was able to incorporate search results from Twitter, blogs and Facebook. Google, it would appear, is realizing the immense value of social media and the impact of social media on web search.

Search will continue to have a social element infused into it as the addition of the +1 button will change search results, as will live feeds from Google+ pages, much like Facebook “likes” and Twitter “tweets” are currently affecting search results by influencing user decisions due to their value as endorsements of certain sites and content.

Google definitely wants websites to implement the +1 button in their pages so that they can track and measure changes in click through rates. The +1 button will also be included on all SERPs as well as all Google+ feeds. What this means is business owners and marketers must ensure that a positive customer experience is, perhaps more than ever before, their primary focus in the hope that as many users as possible will +1 their site, and in doing so, endorse their business (and by association, reputation).

While it is plain to see that the introduction of the +1 button was merely a precursor/trial balloon for Google+, the potential impact of the +1 button on search could be the bridge between all of the social oriented sites and tools and ways of doing things on the web and the subsequent influence on search results.

Recently, Rand Fishkin, head of SEO Moz, decided to test some theories on the subject of social sites influencing search results. He shared a number of un-indexed URLs via Twitter both before and after Google had unceremoniously aborted the real time search results feature. Fishkin repeated the process, only this time he used Google+. He then requested that his followers on Twitter and Google+ to share the post, with the only caveat being that they were not to share it outside of the originating site.

What this yielded in terms of hard data was that even though Google has dropped the real time search, re-tweeting and tweets are still assisting page indexation. As for Google+, Fishkin’s test page ended up ranking #1 on Google within a few hours. This illustrates the fact that Google+ can also help pages get indexed, if not quite as quickly as Twitter.

But perhaps the most interesting concept presented by Google+, and one that could potentially have a significant impact on SEO, is the “Google Circles” feature.

The “Circles” feature is interesting because it grants users the ability to share whatever they choose with specific groups, or Circles, of people. As Google+ users build their Circles, they will subsequently be able to see the sites that users in their circles have +1′d in Google’s SERPs. This has enormous potential – users will be far more likely to make a choice or purchase based on the recommendation of people they have invited to their Circles – people who they know and whose opinions they trust. Most users are going to be far more likely to trust the recommendation of someone they know rather than the recommendation or review from a stranger. Over time, Circles will become much more defined as more available user data is integrated into them – using that data to effectively market could be potentially powerful SEO strategy.

Basically, Google has taken the ideas behind some of their social media competitors more influential and successful features in an attempt to make search more about real people. Google+ and the +1 button are enabling users to influence online activity, and, as such, they will have an effect on search results. Many experts are already proclaiming Google+ to have no impact on SEO whatsoever, citing Google Wave and past attempts by Google to get in on the social side of the net as indicators that this new attempt will also fail. While it is far too early to make any kind of definitive statement as to the long term usefulness or impact of Google+ and the +1 button on SEO, citing past failures as the basis for an argument as to why Google+ is going to fail as well is short sighted at best. The fact of the matter is, social factors are already intertwined with search, and this is likely only going to become more prevalent as these sites are expanded and the way we interact on the internet continues to evolve also, not less so. Whether or not Google+ ends up revolutionizing or merely co-existing with established SEO methodology remains to be seen, but the enormous potential of these features and their long term impact is fairly clear – site ranking methods are changing thanks to the +1 button and this will likely end up creating an altogether new method of SEO in the future.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:02 pm on August 31, 2011


 

Google Instant & SEO

From the moment Google Instant was announced back on September 8 there have been forum chats, blog posts, articles and podcasts discussing the ramification of this new technology. Some have called it the “Death of SEO” which others (myself included) have proclaimed this a step forward and an opportunity for SEO’s, not a threat. And then of course there’s those who don’t even know there’s been a change at all, let’s call them “the vast majority”. In this article we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of Google Instant as it pertains to SEO’s and to website owners as well as cover some of the reasons that this new technology may not have as large an impact on search behavior as some may fear/predict.

But first, let’s cover the basic question …

What Is Google Instant?

Google instant is a technology that allows Google to predict what you are looking for as you type. They are referring to it as ‘search-before-you-type” technology (catchy). Essentially – as I type a phrase (let’s say “buy shoes online”) as soon as I get to “buy sh” I start seeing results for “buy shoes”. As soon as I’ve entered “buy shoes “ (with a space after shoes indicating I want more than just the 2 word phrase) I start seeing results for “buy shoes online”.

Technologically this is genius. Google is now serving likely billions of additional search results pages per day as each query has multiplied results that apply to it. Well … I suppose we all wondered what the Caffeine infrastructure update was all about didn’t we? But what does this do in the real world?

Why Google Instant Isn’t A Big Deal

Alright, obviously it is a significant technological enhancement in search but the way some react you’d think the whole universe was about to be turned on it’s head. There are two reasons why that’s not the case.

    1. I find it unlikely that many will notice right away that the change has occurred and further I find it even less likely that the majority will use the feature. You see – the major hindrance of this enhancement isn’t in the technology – it’s in the users. Only those who touch type and can do so without looking at their keyboard will be affected. If the user looks at their keyboard while typing then they wouldn’t even notice the results coming in ahead of their actual search.

 

  1. This will only affect users who are searching in instances where the shorter or predicted terms match the users end goals. For example, if I am searching for “buy shoes online” and get as far as “buy sh” the top results are sites which clearly suit the needs of a searcher for “buy shoes online” and thus – this may work to the detriment of sites who rank well for “buy shoes online” as they may well lose traffic. In the case of a site targeting, oh – I don’t know – “seo consulting” there will likely be little affect if any. The searcher, looking for an SEO consultant, will find once they’ve entered “seo” that they are presented with Wikipedia and Google – sites that, while informative, don’t offer the services (or results) desired and thus – the searcher would be less affected. Once they proceeded on to enter the “seo c” the searcher would be presented with the results for “seo company” but I’m prone to believe that if the searcher wanted those results – they would have searched for it. For this phrase I’m confident we’ll see little in the way of negative affect from Google Instant.

So we’ve discussed why Google Instant isn’t a big deal, now let’s discuss …

Why Google Instant Is A Big Deal

On the other side of the coin lies the reasons why Google Instant brings forth a revolution in search technology. Followers of the Beanstalk blog or my radio show on WebmasterRadio.fm (Webcology) will know I’m not one to love everything Google does but in this case the immediate affects and long terms affects may well be significant and at the very least – one has to appreciate the brilliance behind the effort. In this section of the article we’re going to cover the three important perspectives involved with the launch off this (or any) Google product. They are:

The Searcher – we’ll look at the pros and cons from a searcher perspective. It’s this aspect that will dictate whether the feature will matter at all.

Google – we’ll look at the positive affect on Google. Of course – this aspect is of paramount importance for this feature to be kept.

SEO’s – I’m of course incredibly interested and have spent much of my analysis time determining the pros and cons to SEO’s (admittedly – there’s more than a bit of self interest here).

So let’s begin …

Google Instant And The Searcher

This is sort of a win-win for Google from a searcher perspective. One of two things will happen for the searcher. Either they won’t notice the change or won’t be affected and thus – Google will be exactly where they are now OR they will notice the change and will select results quicker and find the feature helpful. As I noted – it’s a win-win. There isn’t much of scenario from a searcher perspective where the searcher will be negatively impacted and if they are – they’d simply revert back to past searching patterns. From the perspective of impact on the user – Google has it made with this feature. Their worst-case scenario is that they’re exactly where they are now.

Google Instant From Google’s Perspective

Any feature added to any corporate system must serve a single primary function – it must make it’s developer money. We’ve already seen that the feature itself can’t really negatively impact the searcher but can it make Google money? There are two ways that this can happen:

    1. Improved loyalty and marketshare, and

 

  1. Increased revenue directly from the initiative

Fortunately for Google – they’re going to win on both fronts here and when we see the Q3 earnings and moreso in the Q4 earning Google reports we’ll begin to see how significant an impact this change will have for them – mainly in the second of the two monetary reward methods noted above. And here’s why …

We’ve already covered the improved loyalty this can have on the searchers. Anything that makes my life easier and makes my quest for information faster will make me more loyal. At worst – Google will see my behavior stay the same but for many, the search experience will become faster and more effective – especially once the technology is improved by user behavior to a degree that people trust it more. Overall there will be a net gain in the experience – we’ve only to wait to see how large that net gain is and how it translates into marketshare. The big win is in the second point.

For anyone who’s every bid with AdWords you’ll know that for the most part – bids for generic terms are more expensive than bids for very specific terms. If I’m bidding on “shoes” I’m going to pay more than I would for “shoes online”. So let’s view the world where I start showing the results (and paid ads) for “shoes” while someone is searching for “shoes online”. And what if that person sees the ads that was written and bid on for “shoes” but relates to their query and they click on it. Google just made more from the paid ad click. Maybe only pennies but multiply that by billions of searches per day and you’ve got a significant increase in annual revenue.

The move is a huge win for Google but it does come with a theoretical downside and that is annoying the businesses that are paying for the ads. The argument I’ve heard is that if businesses find that the cost of their campaigns is increasing higher than the ROI that they might get annoyed. Fair enough BUT I would argue – what are they going to do about it? As long as Google maintains the first consideration (the searcher) then the advertisers have no choice. They can drop their bids but at worst – they’ll level off to what they were paying for the longtail phrases. Again – worst case scenario, Google will find themselves where they are today.

Google Instant From The SEO’s Perspective

So let’s assume for a moment that Google Instant is here to stay. Based on all the ways Google and the searchers can win and the limited situational permutations by which they could only come out even I’d say that’s a safe assumption. Given this, what’s happens to SEO’s and those optimizing their own websites?

For one thing – we can’t assume that research we did up to and before the 8th will be relevant down the road. I have already scheduled to redo keyword research in a couple months to see what industries and search types have been most (and least) affected by this change. The main reason for this is that I have a strong suspicion that specific industries will be more prone to being affected by the change based mainly on search types (such as the “buy shoes” vs “seo consulting” example above) and demographics. A Linux developer site is more likely to have a demographic off touch typers who can type without looking at the keyboard than say a life insurance site with a more scattered and thus less technically proficient overall demographic.

So in the short term – life is going to be very interesting for the SEO and website owner while we figure out which industries and phrase types are most affected. In a few months when we see the trends and which phrases are being affected and how we’ll likely have to make adjustments to many campaigns. The downside for may business owners will be that for those who’s campaigns focuses on searches for longtail phrases – they may find the search volumes for their phrases decrease and a shift to more generic (and generally more expensive to attain) phrases is necessary. Only time will tell what the best moves are there and we may not know what exactly will shift and how for a few months yet and even then – we’ll then know the trends, not where things will settle (if anything in online marketing can be referred to as “settling” anymore).

If there is a segment that should be concerned about the situation it is small business owners with limited organic or PPC budgets. Google Instant – because it puts preferences to more generic phrases – clearly favors businesses with larger budgets. How much so we’ll know after we’ve had a chance to see how the search volumes shift. For SEO’s this presents two opportunities and for business owners who do their own SEO – it offers one. And here’s the good news for those.

For SEO’s you’ll find two new opportunities, The first is that there will be a shift to more generic terms in search volumes. This means that there will be stiffer competition for more competitive phrases. If this sounds like a bad thing it’s not. If you’re a skilled SEO who knows how to get the job done it means you’ll have more access to larger volumes of traffic without the added efforts required to rank for a wide array or phrases. Rather than needing to rank for 10 or 20 phrases to get traffic you’ll be able to focus in more and reap the same rewards in the way of traffic. On top of that – SEO’s will be able to charge more for the rankings as fewer phrases have a higher value. A win-win for SEOs and a win for business owners who either do their own SEO or have talented SEO’s on staff.

The second opportunity will come in the form of improved clickthrough rates though I’ll admit – at this point that’s just a theory (noted with a hint sent to Gord Hotchkiss to run eyetracking tests on this theory). If I type while looking at my screen and I’m entering in “buy shoes online” and I rank organically or via PPC for both “buy shoes” and “buy shoes online” I would hypothesize that searchers who complete the phrase “buy shoes online” who had the site (or ad) for “buy shoes” appear and then the same site appear for the full query will have a tendency to click on the familiar. This same principle has been witnessed in sites appearing in both paid and organic results who have an increase in their organic clickthrough rates. This will present opportunities for both PPC and organic marketers to improve the traffic to sites by ranking for specific phrases meant to both attain traffic on their own but also to improve traffic for the other. I would suggest that down the road we’ll be hearing of this phenomenon when conducting and discussing keyword research.

Conclusion

There isn’t much to conclude that hasn’t been discussed above. Virtually every party wins or at worst, breaks even with the introduction of this technology. The only victim appears to be small businesses without the budgets to compete for the more generic phrases but even they may win with a shift away from these phrases by the larger companies. It may well occur that while the search volume shift heads in favor of large companies with larger budget – that the lower hanging fruit, while reduced in it’s search volume, may fall too in the competition levels making it more affordable. Larger business may focus like snipers on larger phrases and smaller business may well be presented with the opportunity to go after more, less search phrases that aren’t worth targeting for larger companies – at least organically.

But only time will tell and of course – we have much data to collect and many algorithmic updates to come between here and there.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:32 pm on September 21, 2010

Categories:SEO Articles

 

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

S
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

S
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

 

Keyword Research Basics For SEO

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … there is no more important step in the SEO process than keyword research. One could make a compelling argument for link building or for architecture or for copywriting but at the end of the day – ranking highly for keywords that either don’t convert or which you close up shop waiting to rank for isn’t going to help too terribly much so in my opinion – I’d put keyword research higher in importance. In fact, when I’m building affiliate sites first step is to look up keywords and competition levels – then I look into products and websites and this method has worked very well indeed. It insures that I choose keywords that with both convert and that I can rank for in a period of time and with an effort level that matches the return.

So – if you’re doing keyword research, where should you begin? Unless you’re an affiliate marketer you already have a product and since you’re the target audience of this article – I’m going to assume that’s the case. For the purpose of this article I’m going to pick a hobby of mine and also an area where I don’t have a client and imagine I’m doing keyword research for the imaginary online downhill mountain biking store DH Mountain Bikes.

So Where To Begin …

The first thing one needs to do is try to think up all the possible phrases that might apply. I call this my seed list … it’s the list of phrases that my research starts with and is generally based on brainstorming. In this case the list would be:

downhill mountain bike
dh mountain bike
mountain bike

The keyword tool I generally use first is Google’s keyword suggestion tool. There are other great tools which I’ll discuss below but I’ve found Google’s tool to be as accurate as any other, the price is definitely right (free), and they’re very good about providing the information required to know just how wrong the data is if you know where to look. So let’s do just that.

Before we begin you’ll need to head over to Google’s keyword tool at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. In the top left (for now) you’ll see a link to a beta version of the tool. Click on the link and you’ll be at the new version of the tool which will provide you easy access to much more information – as long as you know what to look for. So let’s begin with our three seed phrases.

When you see the list you’ll first have to know what the numbers are. This tool is a tool designed for AdWords and the default number is the Broad match which means it includes every phrase with the term. For example, the term “mountain bike” has a broad match total of 2,740,000 which will include “downhill mountain bike”, “mountain bike parts”, “kona mountain bike”, etc. etc. What we want to know is how many searches are for “mountain bike”. Down the left-hand side you’ll see a set of check boxes. Deselect “Broad” and select “Exact” and you’ll get the Exact match numbers – the number of searches for the exact phrase. You’ll quickly see that 2,740,000 drop to 450,000. This is how many people searches the GOOGLE SEARCH NETWORK for “mountain bike”. Why is this in caps – because it’s so commonly misunderstood that I definitely want your attention brought to it. This isn’t the number of searches on Google.com – it’s the number of searches on all sites who’s search is powered by Google. From YouTube to Beanstalk’s blog search – it’s all in there so the data starts to get skewed from the start. Then let’s add in all the automated queries from rank-checking tools and just manual searches from you and your competitors can further skew the data. This skewing will exist in all data – the thing I like about using Google is that at least we know more about what’s skewing the data.

OK – so from there we need to organize the data into a more useful set of information. To do this one needs to understand the columns of data. The first column is the keyword, the second you’ll see is a link to the term on Google Insights. We’ll get into this later. The next is Global Monthly Searches – this is the average number of searches/mth worldwide. This can be helpful in some industries but in ours – I’m only concerned with the US market which is where my imaginary store ships to so I’m more interested in the next column Local Monthly Searches which is the number of searches in the US (or whatever region I’ve specified when entering my keyword phrases). This is the data I’m interested in. The last column is the search trend. This is extremely important but often overlooked. It is a column that wasn’t visible by default in the old/current version.

OK – let’s organize our data by search volume. Click on the “Local Monthly Searches” and you’ll see the keywords order by descending search volume. With this data in front of me I then typically look over to the Trend data to see what I can find there. In our case we’re going to see an increase in search volume in the spring and summer. This make sense of course. Think of your industry and see if the trends reflect what makes sense.

I’m also looking for anomalies. Often I’ll see phrases that jump for a single month. One has to know that unless there was a news story or other event that would spark interest in a single term or brand – a tool or some other such incident is likely falsifying the data. You need to look at these trends and see if they make sense. If not – you need to either test the phrases with PPC or jus skip over them and select different phrases. There’s little worse as an SEO than focusing energies on a phrase only to find that the search volume is not what was expected based on the estimates delivered.

So now what?

So what do you do once you’ve filtered your data down to just what you’re interested in looking into competition levels on. Well – the first thing I do is to look to the trends to see if there are any phrases that obviously need to be filtered out. In this case there really aren’t any high in the search volume column. So the only thing left is to look at the competition levels to see what makes sense. For our purposes we’ll be dividing the list and research into two categories:

Major phrases – We need to decide what the long-term goals are going to be and the targets for the main pages. These will be the totally generic phrases such as “mountain bike” and “downhill mountain bike” as well as brand or type specific phrases such as “specialized mountain bike” and “full suspension mountain bike”.

Longtail phrases – We also need to look into the types of longtail phrases we’re going to want to target. In this case I know I’ll want to target specific parts which will require new research. I will spare you the details there but I’ll end up with specific models of components such as “hayes mx2”. You don’t need to know what that is – you need to know the makes and models in your industry (or other longatil opportunities such as “new york hotel with jacuzzi”, etc.)

I generally would gather together a list of 15 or 20 major phrases and 50 or 60 longtail phrases and would then head into the competition analysis to determine which phrases to move forward with.

And next week I’ll have that article for you …

SEO news blog post by @ 11:29 am on May 12, 2010

Categories:Articles,SEO Articles

 

Longtail SEO For Ecommerce

The significance of longtail keywords can be exemplified by thinking about the following two people:

Bill is a cafeteria worker who spends his spare time fishing and has heard that his favorite TV shows will look even better on on this new-fangled technology called “HDTV”. He might as well upgrade from his 20” to something a little larger while he’s at it his friends tell him (though they don’t know much more about it than he does). He sits at his computer and enters “hdtv” into the Google search box.

Steve also works in a cafeteria but is a bit more tech-savy. He has and uses a Facebook account, watches videos on YouTube and looks up information on Google when he’s looking for an answer to one of his questions. He too is interested in HDTV but decides to check out a few review sites first before making the leap. He reads a great review on CNET and likes the specs of the “Panasonic Viera TC-P50G10” and decides to look around for pricing. He heads back to Google and searches for “panasonic viera tc-p50g10” or perhaps even “buy panasonic viera tc-p50g10 online”.

The difference between these two? Other than the fact that one has a dismal likelihood of conversion and the other a high likelihood – the difficulty in attaining top rankings for the two phrases is very different as well. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a place for going after the generic, high-traffic phrases but ignoring the higher converting, less-work-per-conversion phrases that are easier to attain rankings for – well – that just doesn’t make good business sense does it?

So – how do you rank for the longtail?

We all understand that the factors of SEO are the factors of SEO. Just like any other phrases – your ability to rank is quite simply based on a combination of page strength and relevancy (yes there are tons of signals Google uses but they essentially break down to these two points). To affect these areas we use a combination of onsite optimization and link building. Sounds easy so far? Perfect. So let’s take a look first at onsite optimization.

Optimizing your site for the longtail

I can’t possibly cover the different technologies and how to make sure your site is crawlable. Let’s just say – the first step is to make sure that the crawlers can get to your internal pages and that strength passes down. If the crawlers can’t get through to the internal pages then you’ve got bigger problems than tweaking your content and building some links. Contact a developer immediately and get that sorted out first – then continue reading.

Once you know that the crawlers are getting through and strength is passing we move on to the actual optimization. The first thing one wants to look at it how to push the items with the highest ROI potential up in the hierarchy of your site. Let’s use Amazon as an example of how that should be done (they know a thing or two about ranking for products).

Amazon uses one of my personal favorite tactics in that they automate the process but it’s not necessary. You probably don’t have the same number of products so you can likely do manually what they have to automate but let’s look at what they’re doing and you can apply the strategy as you see fit.

If I was Amazon and I wanted to rank my site for longtail phrases I’d want to rank for the phrases that had the highest search volume and highest chances of conversions. I’d have to apply global rules to a massive site (you don’t have to – you can likely do things on a case-by-case basis but I’m sure we can all agree – Amazon cannot). So to keep the most profitable phrases high in the hierarchy but still not ignore the other longtail phrases they have created a hierarchy that puts the top product categories one hop from the homepage (Laptops & Netbooks For Example) and on that page they have links to all the major brands and uses but my favorite tactic is that they have the bestsellers. This information is easily created from their database and insures that the more popular products are two hops from the homepage and linked to with the brand and model number. At the time of this writing they have a link to the “ASUS Eee PC Seashell 1005PE-MU17-BK 10.1-Inch…”. If I search “asus eee pc 1005pe-m” who do you think shows up first? Amazon.

So step one – make sure you’re linking to the product pages with the brand and model number of the item and also put the more important items higher in the hierarchy of your site. Now this doesn’t mean cram all your products on the page. You have to apply the same principles to links with onsite as you do with offsite optimization. A page has a vote. It you have a page with 10 products listed on it – each product gets 1/10 of the weight passed to it. If the page has 500 products listed on it – well, you get my point. Figure out what matters and focus there.

Of course – you don’t want to ignore the other potential phrases. You’ll notice that as well as linking to the top products in each category they link to sub pages with brands, specs, etc. This is why they rank so well for so many phrases. Well – that’s part one.

Once you’ve got the internal linking sorted out you need to follow that up with some onsite relevancy. Here we’re referring to optimized titles, descriptions, H1 tags, content, etc. I’m going to have to leave a full breakdown of onsite optimization for another article but I can discuss some of the differences you’ll encounter with longtail optimization with ecommerce sites.

With “traditional” optimization we visit a page and adjust the relevant aspects (titles, content, etc.) manually. With large ecommerce sites we need to come up with rules that apply site wide. Developing titles, descriptions and content for each and every page one-by-one is likely not an option. If you look at Amazon again you’ll see that they automate the process by using the brand, model and categories in the title, description, keywords and H1 tag. Easily automated. Through their use of automated elements (“Customers bought with …”, specs, descriptions, reviews, etc.) they are also able to insure that that the brand and model number appear on the page.

Now that works well for Amazon. They have millions of links and huge site strength. But what if you don’t have that behind you. They can build a page, put it on their site and rank. You may need to invest some of your time in link building.

Link building for longtail optimization

There are two primary aspects of link building that one needs to address when we’re looking at longtail optimization. The first is to the homepage for site strength and the other is to specific internal pages. The reason that we’ll want to link to specific internal pages is that like it or not, you’re not as strong as Amazon and so you need to build links to compete where they do not.

I’ll leave the discussion of how to build links to other articles (you know – one of the 800,000 written on the subject) however we will discuss the purpose of the links and thus you’ll understand the pattern of the link building.

The homepage links are in place to simply build overall site strength and should be geared to your generic, homepage phrases – it’s the internal links that are specifically geared to brands and models. So we’ll focus on those links in this article.

How to build links to internal pages

Building links to internal pages is virtually identical to homepage. True you can’t use directories but that’s about the only link building tactic that doesn’t apply. There are two points that you’re going to want to direct links to:

1 – the category/brand main page.

The first point you’re going to want to direct links at is the main category page and the main sub-category points of the ecommerce site. You’ll want to direct these links in with anchor text that suits the brand and/or category subject. Let’s use Amazon as an example again.

For the purpose of longtail optimization – the links we’d direct to http://www.amazon.com/Netbooks-Computers/b?ie=UTF8&node=679517011 would primarily be geared to strengthening the page. Oh I’d use anchor text geared at “netbooks” and the link but the main point is to make that page stronger and in turn – the pages it links to. These links will also get the page spidered more.

What this will do is make the links to the brands stronger but most important – the links to the top sellers stronger and more quickly picked up. This is why they rank for new products in a matter of hours.

The individual brand and usage pages are the same from this perspective./ You’ll want to optimize the pages and you’ll want to focus the links for long term gain but the short term purpose is to pass strength to the product pages.

2 – the product pages.

On top of building links to pages one level up (as we’ve just discussed) you’ll also want to build links to the individual product pages. Amazon can build a page, link to it and have it rank – you probably cannot. For products and models you know will stand the test of time – building links can be a long term strategy but not my favorite (due mainly to the fact that it’s not exciting). Personally I like building links to “Coming soon” product pages and getting them spidered before there’s any competition and then adding in the product the day it launches giving you a one-up over your competitors in both timing and strength. Heck, you might even win out over Amazon for a while. :)

Don’t overdo it in the link building. You’ve got a lot of products. Unless you know a specific product is going to be HUGE you’ll want to just build a few links and move on. You’ve got a lot of products to cover.

Moving forward

Obviously I can’t cover all the various aspects of ranking for the longtail in a single1800 word article and in fact, if I turned this into a 180 page book I’d still not be able to cover all the variables but my hope is that I’ve given you food for thought in the tactics and timing you’ll find helpful in moving forward and ranking your website for the longtail phrases that convert so well and for which you can rank so quickly if you do it right.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:40 am on February 25, 2010

Categories:Articles,SEO Articles

 

How to Write Engaging Blogs People Want to Read 

Thomas Edison famously remarked that genius was “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” For bloggers this means that if you put your effort into it, you can create a blog that gathers a following. If you look at a group of bloggers, one with a worldwide following and the rest with small audiences, the former will not necessarily be the best writer, the funniest, the smartest or even the one with the most inside info or useful tips. The great bloggers you follow yourself could have varying amounts of these characteristics.

So what separates the good bloggers from the ones with larger followings? Many call it the “x factor.” Since this is a bit amorphous we’ll touch on it later. You can take your first steps toward creating an engaging blog that builds a loyal following by following some simple guidelines. There are definitely tips, techniques and tools that will get you there and equip you to compete in the blogging big leagues. We’ll return to the “x factor” after getting you to that starting line.

Audience as foundation

Know your audience. Marshall McLuhan observed almost 50 years ago that the world was transforming into a “global village” through mass communication. The global village is here. People don’t log on to the Internet to be lectured. They log on for information, but also for intelligent dialogue – for exchange, for discussion, for sharing – with people like themselves. Know your audience and the information and conversation they are looking for. You need to engage your readers and speak directly to them with a personal touch, a sense of inclusion, and even a hint of intimacy. Blogs are about relationships, and relationships are about discussions and dialogues of all kinds. The “Monologue Era” is over. Your blog will succeed to the extent that you connect with your audience.

In our Dialogue Era, if you offer people something useful you can become a resource. People bookmark resources and return to them repeatedly, expecting more of the same. Once you have defined your audience you must set about adding value to their visits. Provide information helpful to your audience. Write clearly and don’t try too hard – be natural but concise, instructive but conversational. Produce useful, supportive and brief pieces that people can apply – today, tomorrow, whenever. That will show they can return for more information without wasting their time. Blogs are not articles, so keep them to the point, but do not enforce an arbitrary word limit. Your length will depend on your topic and your audience – make every word count.

Draw them in, move them along

To engage an audience in the first place, craft interesting headlines that invite readers in and use subheads to move them along and allow them to scan for the specific information they are looking for. The flow is enhanced if you keep sentences shorter rather than longer, and active rather than passive. Don’t posture, pretend, boast or brag, and always maintain a healthy skepticism and sense of humor. You are not writing great literature, your helping your neighbor. Finally, always review your output and rewrite where necessary. During this process, make words “pay their rent” by weeding out unnecessary ones.

You have many things to consider, a number of bottom lines – plural. Bottom line: You need to read about writing, learn how to edit and refine your technique over time. Bottom line: You need to learn the particular writing techniques that have evolved around blogs, like how to craft good bullet points, when to use them, how to use the page layout to your advantage and so forth. Bottom line: You have to continue reading your competition and your colleagues, often one and the same, and analyze what works and what doesn’t. Bottom line: There are a lot of bottom lines in blogging.

Go forth and blog

Coming full circle, then, let’s consider that “x factor” again. Although it’s not possible to define it quite precisely, we know where it is located. It is in you. It is your personality, your spark, your unique outlook. Be yourself, not what you think they want you to be. In that jigsaw puzzle that is “you” there are many traits and abilities, opinions and truisms, dreams and fears, and the sum total of them all is what adds up to “you” – and no one else – and your own real personality coming off the page is often what engages people. How can you inject “you” into your writing? There’s only one way to draw it out, of course, and that is to write.

Since you are forming relationships, do what Dale Carnegie advised about 80 years ago and ask small favors of your readers. Invite their comments. Ask for their opinion. Encourage them to express their point of view. This tells them you value what they think. More importantly, it engages them and makes them a valuable active participant (instead of a passive visitor), a member of your community, and part of an ongoing and growing dialog. This is what will lead many of them to make the all-important cognitive leap that will have them bookmark your blog, link to your posts, tell all their friends about it and continue the dialog. The leap occurs when readers stop thinking of themselves as readers, and start thinking of themselves as “stakeholders” – readers that interact with you.

If you can convert readers into stakeholders, you’re on your way.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:20 pm on January 25, 2010


 

The SEO’s Toolkit Part Three of Three: Resources

Welcome to part three of this three part series on SEO tools and resources. In the last two articles we discussed the variety of Firefox extensions used for SEO as well as an assortment of other free or affordable SEO tools. In this article we’ll discuss some of the resources you’ll want to access on a regular basis to keep up to date and informed on the goings-on in the search engine and SEO realm.

We’re doing to cover a few different types of resources below and I’m going to try to keep this article to a reasonable length so let’s begin …

Media

when there’s a breaking story or you want an expert opinion on a subject, a good first place to hit is the media sources in that industry. The SEO industry is no different and there are some amazing albeit often unconventional media sources. Some of my favorite are:

Webmaster Radio

Webmaster Radio is an Internet-based radio station with some great programing ranging from affiliate marketing to PPC to organic optimization and much more. With shows hosted by experts in their fields from Danny Sullivan (Search news) to Dave Szetela (PPC) you’ll solid information that is well-sounded. I’d list my favorite shows however what I like may be different than you and what I need to know may be different than what you need to know so look through their programming and either listen through your work day as I often do or download the podcasts for later listening.

WebProNews

WebProNews offers up-to-the-minute information on virtually every event. They have reporters writing constantly and have other scoring SEO blogs and other news sources, compiling the information in one place for easy access. They also have great articles by third-party writers and a very active readership that is proactive in their commenting. Definitely near the top of my go-to list when I’m looking for news and current feedback.

Addme

This site is difficult to classify as it fits into a couple categories but I decided to include under media as that’s my primary use. They include tools, resources, a directory and much more on their site. My primary use of this site is for the articles and newsletter.

Search Engine Watch

No list of SEO resources would be complete without including Search Engine Watch. This site is the one that started it all. Search Engine Watch provides everything from fantastic articles to breaking news to search engine stats and an awesome forum. A definite bookmark.

Blogs

As with many industries – blogs are a great way to keep informed on the latest goings-on in the SEO realm. The trick, however, is figuring out which blogs are worth reading and which authors are truly knowledgeable. Over the years I’ve read many blogs and to be honest – I still do. Below are some of the key blogs I reference on a regular basis.

SEO Book Blog

Aaron Wall over at SEO Book has an excellent blog worth reading on a regular basis. I have yet to visit his blog and not find some tid-bit of information that was worth reading either because of the information itself or because often he’s just entertaining. Another to add to your weekly reading list.

Matt Cutts Blog

It’s nice to get it from the horse’s mouth. For those who don’t know – Matt Cutts is the head of Google’s Webspam team. He blogs about Google, technology and occasionally his cat. One has to read what he writes knowing that he’s a Google employee and as such can’t really give away the farm BUT he gives tons of great advice, insight and tips. The perk being – this time you don’t have to ask if following his advice will get you banned. :)

SEO By The Sea

Bill Slawski (the author) focuses his attentions on the more technical side of things with tales of patents, algorithmic possibilities, statistics and functionalities. For many, his would be one of the more dry blogs if not for his gift with words and ability to make even the most bland of subject, palatable. You don’t need to visit his blog daily but adding it to your weekly journey through the web is recommended.

SEOmoz Blog

What blog list would be complete without the inclusion of the SEOmoz blog. Rand Fishkin and crew keep their visitors up-to-date of some great research, news and SEO tips. From opinion pieces to months-long whitepapers you’ll find useful information. Again – not necessary to visit every day but a weekly pass is always worthwhile.

Forums

Forums are a great place to gather information, especially on current events such as ranking updates. That said, reading forums can be a risky thing. Almost anyone can join a forum and post their thoughts. While this format allows us to capture a wide range of information and knowledge – it also results in less qualified people giving advice as well. So while I recommend reading forums – I also recommend taking things with a grain of salt – at least until you figure out who’s who.

SEO Chat Forums

The SEO chat forums are easily one of the largest and most popular of the SEO forums. They cover a HUGE array of issues from Google to social media to Alexa rankings to (hold your hats) Ask Jeeves (that’s right – the forum’s been around for THAT long). Users worth noting are rustybrick, fathom, and randfish.

DigitalPoint Forums

DigitalPoint also is an ancient forum (2000 – ancient by web standards at least). They cover a wide range of topics from SEO to PPC to affiliate programs. Some users worth noting there are shoemoney, daven, and of course digitalpoint. A great place to ask your questions. Heavily visited and they have a ranking system for their users so you can get a decent feel as to whether they’re reliable.

SitePoint Forums

There are a variety of reasons I like SitePoint and I own a number of their books. Their forums focus on design and development (not SEO) but every SEO needs resources on the design and development side.

Newsletters & Other Resources

Of course there are other resources that every SEO or webmaster needs to be able to get their hands on. Here they are:

Google Webmaster Guidelines

These are the guidelines set out by Google telling you what you can and can’t do and what tactics to look out for. Worth a look over periodically as the do change from time-to-time. If you’re heading into the forums for advice you’ll definitely want to gander at the guidelines first to make sure that if you get lead astray – at least you’ll know what can get you banned or penalized first.

Sphinn

A social media site for SEO. Here you’ll find user-submitted stories on a wide array of Internet Marketing topics. Obviously the quality and relevancy of the stories ranges from brilliant to utter crud but the cream usually rises to the top with good stories hitting page one. That said – an occasional peek at specific threads often reveals some hidden gems.

Search Engine Land Newsletter

Perhaps I should have included this in the media section above as it’s a fine site unto itself but it was the newsletter component that I find most helpful and so I have decided to place it here. Sign up for their newsletter and you’ll get daily notification as to when some of the major search engine events happen and some solid advice as to what it means for you.

High Rankings Newsletter

Jill over at High Rankings puts out a solid newsletter where she provides tips and advice including replies to visitor questions. While I may disagree with some of her points from time to time (the same can likely be said for more of the resources noted and I’m sure others can say the same about my writings and opinions) I’ve never seen her provide bad advice – my advice just might be different from time-to-time.

Conclusion

Obviously there are a ton more tools and resources available. In this series of articles I’ve tried to include those that apply to the broadest spectrum of people and that are the most helpful. I highly recommend hunting for your own – especially if you’ve got issues that you can’t find help for here.

Good luck to all the DIYers out there.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:24 pm on January 11, 2010

Categories:SEO Articles

 

The SEO’s Toolkit Part One of Three: Firefox

Every SEO uses different tools and resources. Some tools are paid, some are free and some are internally developed tools that we use for ourselves and our clients – but we all use them. Very often I get asked what tools people should use if they’re looking to optimize their own sites and what resources they should use to keep up with the latest going’s on. While telling people how to optimize their own sites and what the tools we use isn’t generally the best of business practices – I just can’t help myself. If your budget doesn’t allow for the hiring of a professional SEO company – trying it yourself may be the only option. I also try to remember that once-upon-a-time I was optimizing my own sites and was new to SEO and without the open advice of others already involved in the community – I wouldn’t be running a successful SEO company today. To this end, it only seems right to provide a list of some of the main tools we use on virtually every site.

When I initially started writing this article I was going to cram a slough of various tools and resources into one article but the article was going to end up running WAY too long to hold your attention (or mine) so I’ve cut it into three EZ parts (as opposed to three EZ payments which you’ll be familiar with if you too watch late night TV with a laptop in front of you writing things like SEO articles). But let’s get to the meat of this article shall we? The series will be divide into three parts:

So let’s begin with Firefox. Let me first say, I don’t know if Firefox is officially the browser of SEO’s but if not – it should be. You can download it here.

And now the extensions that make this browser invaluable to SEO’s …

SEO Quake

If I had to lose all but one of my SEO tools – this would be the one I’d keep which is why it gets listed first. This little tool allows me to quickly look at the top 10 results in the SERPs and within seconds see all the PageRank, indexed page numbers, backlinks to that page, domain backlinks, the age of the site and much much more.

This tool doesn’t provide any revolutionary information in that it’s all data that can be accessed directly however it reduces tasks that would take many minutes down to a few second. It then provides easy links to more detailed information. A fantastic tool.

Oh, and it also adds a line through all nofollowed links. Very handy when link building.

SEO for Firefox

Aaron Wall over at SEO Book has added a great tool to the mix that duplicates a lot of functions of SEO Quake but which has enough additional features to be very useful. Basically – neither is a replacement for the other.

Like most tools – it provides information that can be accessed without HOWEVER with this Tool Aaron allows users to find tons of relevant site and keyword information quickly and painlessly. From keyword traffic to keyword trends, from backlink counts to social media mentions – this tools gives quick access to tons of information.

Admittedly I prefer the layout of SEO Quake and some of the easier functionality BUT

SEO Link Analysis

A HUGE tumbs way up (two of them in fact) to Joost de Valk who made all our lives simpler when this tool launched. What this tool does is displays the PageRank and anchor test of every link when you perform a backlink check on one of the major engines. I suppose you could visit every single site and get this information yourself and there’s value in that to be sure but when you need a quick analysis of a site’s backlinks – this tool is invaluable.

As a note – works VERY well with SEO Quake.

Web Developer

With this tool we’re getting a bit more advanced. For those of you who understand coding or are learning (and you should be) this tool is incredible. It allows for quick testing and viewing of a site for it’s structure including inage info, table and cell information, W3C compliance, CSS details and MUCH MUCH more.

I can’t possibly list off all the functions this tool offers and admittedly – I don’t use them all but I use enough of them regularly for this tool to make my top 10 list.

IE Tab

This is an odd tool to add and it’s purely a convenience tool but like adding a second monitor to your system – once you have it and realize that it saves you just a few seconds but it saves you that dozens of times per day you quickly realize that your productivity relies on it.

With a simple click of a button this tool loads Internet Explorer into your Firefox tab so you don’t have to go back-and-forth between browsers when testing. I could survive without it but since you have Firefox anyways …

Search Status

This is another tools with many uses. On the surface it simply displays PageRank, Alexa and Compete rank and mozRank data but with a right-click of the icon you get access to a whole sleugh of additional information including fast links to whois, the robots and sitemap files, keyword density information, Archive.org info and it’ll even highlight nofollow links.

A lot of thes features overlap other tools noted above but I will say – I have it installed and so should you.

Now this is the main sleugh of extensions I have installed for Firefox (read: the ones I use virtually every day). This isn’t to say taht’s all there are and I can’t stress enough the benefits of visiting https://addons.mozilla.org/ and looking for more useful extensions specific to your needs (RSS, Twitter, coding, etc.) I have about a dozen more installed than are listed here but those above are the main Firefox SEO tools I use daily.

Next Week

In the next article we’ll be taking a look at free and affordable tools that you can use to help improve your website rankings. Be sure to keep your eyes open as there will be many invaluable tools listed there too.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:00 pm on

Categories:SEO Articles

 

The SEO’s Toolkit Part Two of Three: Tools

Welcome to part two of this three part series on SEO tools and resources. In the last article we discussed the variety of Firefox extensions used for SEO. In this article we’ll discuss some of the free and affordable tools you can use to better your organic optimization efforts. To make sure that when I say affordable I mean for virtually everyone I’m going to set the bar at $100/yr or ownership. Admittedly, we use tools that cost more than this but many of those tools will be out of some people’s price range.

Here are some of the key tools you need to use to help insure the successful optimization of your website.

Google Keyword Tool

Many of you are likely familiar with Google’s keyword tool but it needs to be noted. This is a great resources to researching keywords. As with all keyword tools, it has it’s limitations and most would agree that it seems to overestimate search volume but nonetheless – it is probably the best of the keywords tools out there, especially at the price.

Keyword Discovery

No individual set of data is perfect and no stage of the SEO process is more important than keyword research and selection. Keyword Discovery is a great tool to compare with the Google keyword data. Where you find commonalities you know that 2 independent sets of data agree. With a free trial that may itself work for many – it’s certainly worth looking into.

Keyword Spy

While the paid version of this tool is more than the $100/yr max I noted previously – the free version provides some great data. Simply enter a competitor URL and you’ll find out some valuable data about the keywords they rank for both organically and AdWords. This is great for competitor analysis as well and finding keywords you might not have thought of.

Xenu Link Sleuth

A fantastic free tool that crawls websites, reporting back all the broken links. Over time almost all sites get broken links – running this tool periodically will help you find them so you can fix them.

Google Webmaster Tools

Arguably one of the most important of the SEO tools. Google Webmaster Tools allows webmasters (and SEO’s of course) to see their website the way Google does. With this tool you’ll get to see what your site is appearing for in the results, what pages on your site are linked to but don’t exist, and a wide array of errors and statistics.

With this information you can repair a number of issues. If your site is appearing for phrases that you’re not getting traffic from you can review your titles and descriptions to see if you can improve your clickthrough rate. Xenu won’t show you the links from other sites that are pointing to pages that don’t exist – Google Webmaster Tools will. You’ll also find good backlink information for your site as well as a lot more.

Page Prowler

Page Prowler is a backlink research tool that allows the user to collect large amounts of potential backlink information, sort that data by site strength, and then proceed to pursue these backlinks. The use of this tool is primarily in the way of saved time. There is no function of it that cannot be done manually however it can compile data that would take a person hours or days to collect quickly and easily.

Full disclosure – Shawn (the developer) asked me to advise on the development of this link building tool and I’m also assisting in it’s marketing. I was extremely impressed with Shawn’s first version (PR Prowler) and this new software includes additional functions and information. I felt the need to note this but I’ll also note that we at Beanstalk use this tool regularly. I would not include it here if it didn’t deserve to be and I’d include it here if I had nothing to do with it other than my using it.

Advanced Web Ranking

Advanced Web Ranking is probably the most affordable of the better rank checking software programs. It has a ton of great features including scheduling and auto-report generation. You can set the searches to take place slowly to reduce the impact on the search engines. I still recommend to run it in the evening to further minimize your impact during high-volume search periods.

Multiple Keyword Rack-Checking Tool

This is probably one of the most popular tools on the Beanstalk site. One of the pet peeves I always had with online rank checking tools was checking rankings one-at-a-time. This tool allows you to check your rankings on Google ten at a time. Apparently other agree as it’s the most used tool of our set.

136 SEO Tools

While in this list we’re tried to include a solid set of very affordable tools, you might mind value in tools we don’t use. This list is regularly updated and includes some very interesting (though not part of my daily arsenal) tools. Highly recommended to visit at least once. I have it in my bookmarks and check back every couple months to see what new tools have launched.

Next Week

In part three we’ll be taking a look at a slough of invaluable SEO resources that you need to visit regularly to keep up-to-date on this ever-changing industry. While there are more than can be listed in a single article, I’ll be covering my first points of access when I’m looking for news or others’ opinions on SEO and search engine events.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:04 pm on January 4, 2010

Categories:SEO Articles

 

The Google Shuffle? Has your website recently sunk to “Davy Google Jones Jr’s Locker”?

Webmasters and SEO gurus have been scratching our heads for a few weeks now trying to figure out what has been happening to Google’s SERP rankings. After scouring blogs and forums for the last few days, it would seem that there is no real consensus. In fact, it seems that no one is willing to even speculate much as to what is happening. To date there has not been any official word from Google. We all know that Google does not announce their algorithm updates, much to the chagrin of webmasters everywhere.

The buzz recently on several blogs and from our own data demonstrates significant changes in PageRank and wild fluctuations in websites SERP. The last big news we did hear from Google was the June 16th 2009 announcement from Matt Cutts blog on PageRank sculpting where he discussed changes to how Google treats link juice when there are nofollow links. But that’s another blog topic altogether so if you like you can read the full post here: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/pagerank-sculpting/ so it may be that the nofollow·attribute has been rendered useless for sculpting PageRank. But then, PR sculpting was never really the intended function behind nofollow; it was merely convenient side effect.

All that Google employee, John Mu cared to say when answering a customer’s inquiry as to why his site had suddenly dropped in PR with no apparent cause was:

“Hi Radoslav

You have a nice-looking site :). As far as I can tell, it looks like the change in Toolbar PageRank for your site is only due to some technical quirk and not something that you need to worry about.

Cheers

John”

Barry Schwartz (AKA “Rustybrick”) then pointedly asks:

“John, is the PR ‘Technical Quirk’ somewhat widespread?”

There was no further reply from Google. The post is available here:

http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread?tid=0fb59587d973cc8a&hl=en

Unfortunately, when person’s website goes south in rankings for no apparent reason, people do notice and do worry about it. So unless Google opens up a bit we are left scratching our heads as usual, trying to figure out what is going on.

The following thread gives another vote to the possibility that Google is replacing PageRank value with site trust and/or domain authority: http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/020335.html. This is also one of many threads where users are expressing frustration and beginning to consider trying the new alternative to Google, Bing. Watch your back Google.

There have been some major experiments this year form Google that were relatively short lived and those are fine. We all expect to see the occasional wild results for a weekend every few months along with quarterly PageRank updates. The June PR update was enough of a surprise coming so close on the heels of an update late in May: http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/020273.html. The update itself is not too shocking. What is interesting is that this is happening so soon after Google’s last update and the fact that garbage results and rapid ranking changes have been coming steadily for weeks now. It’s about time Google lets things settle down before more people get the bright idea to give Bing a try.

Here are some direct comments from the forum members at webmasterworld.com:

http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3943981-4-30.htm

“It has been my observation “followgreg” (a username) when the SERP’s get like what you describe above this is what [Google] wants to happen so the Review team and Matt’s team can put the necessary data in place that will deal with what your describing. It is easier to review a site when they are on page 1 verses page 200 and [Google] knows what filters were relaxed that would allow for the “New” 1st page ranking to pop up. I myself don’t see the polluted SERP’s as your describing but then again I am not in every sector and can only look at the nitches I am working under.”

http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3943981-2-30.htm

“and right now it looks like all sets of the results include some trivial and penalized and junk .edu pages rising into the top 50, along with some long-neglected good ones. This used to happen all the time with updates — shuffle things up, the poop rises, then it gets flushed, and things settle down. we haven’t had an update in that format in a long time, but it seems clear we are in the middle of whatever is changing and not the end.”

We can analyze the SERP’s, collect all the data we can find, and listen to all of the “buzz” we like, but at the end of the day we are still at the mercy of the “Big G”. It is not unusual for Google to conduct their more aggressive algorithm changes at this time of year but it is unusual to see so much experimentation so close together taking so long. With there being no official word coming from Google it’s hard to do more than speculate on the changes that we can observe. We all certainly hope that things stabilize soon and we’ll continue monitoring changes in the rankings.

But until Google decides to straighten things out can anyone say “Pay-per-click”? I knew you could…

So how does the widely varied public opinion on the matter line up with search results?

I am willing to make an educated guess that Google is experimenting with website trust and authority in their algorithm (and perhaps plenty more) however as complaints from the forums echo Googles search results seem to be rather bi-polar these last few weeks.

We have well established sites being outranked by new sites, and by sites with very few backlinks. Also by sites using black hat techniques and unfortunately we see some established and often very trustworthy white hat websites simply dissappearing from the rankings altogether. At the same time we have literally day old Craigslist posts ranking in the top results. Some .edu and .gov sites have flown to the top while others have plummetted.

How often do you see day old pages rank near the top for competitive search terms? If “trust” has that much of an affect on a new pages rankings it’s likely that “trusted” sites will dominate the rankings with every new page of content flooding out the competition and reducing their ability to gain trust. I hope the minds at Google have their sober thinking caps on and not their beer hats. But so far there seems to be little consistent rhyme or reason since we have some trusted sites disappearing and others dominating in the SERP’s.

Luckily we had some old SERP analysis notes from June where we had a close look at one of our clients top 5 competitors for their targeted search term on Google. We decided to compare each against the current search results since Google’s latest “technical quirk”. Here’s the rundown according to Yahoo’s api and our analysis:

Former #1 website – PR 4 landing page, PR 5 root domain.

1700+ external inbound links, 800+ internal backlinks.

Almost one thousand of these backlinks are from a handful of what appear to be partner sites. A significant amount are from various blogs.

Strong root domain with almost 5k external inbound links.

Now ranking at #2

Former #2 website – PR 6 landing page, PR 7 root domain.

Less than 100 external inbound links, over 15k internal backlinks.

Root domain has 140k+ external inbound links and 16k+ internal backlinks.

Very strong root domain and what should be a high trust name. Much of the pages ranking comes from the internal backlinks from the root domain and other pages on the site.

Now ranking at #5

Former #3 website – PR 4 landing page, PR 7 root domain.

5k+ external inbound links, less than 100 internal backlinks.

Root domain has 130k+ external inbound links and 16k+ internal backlinks.

Not only is this an extremely strong domain its brand is a household name across North America and not only would I trust this site based on its name and reputation but I would say the incoming links are as organic as they come.

Strangely this website no longer ranks anywhere in the top 300 results.

Former #4 website – PR 4 root domain

1k+ external inbound links, 500+ internal backlinks.

Most external links are from articles, blogs, and directories.

Now ranking at #6

Former #5 website – PR 4 root domain

6k+ external inbound links, 400+ internal backlinks.

Many backlinks are from PR7 and PR8 blogs, hundreds from one PR5 blog in particular. The website is referenced and backlinked on some government websites as well.

No longer ranks anywhere in the top 300 results.

New #1 website – PR 6 landing page, PR 9 root domain, .gov site

700+ external inbound links, only several internal backlinks.

Root domain has 430k+ external inbound links and almost 630k internal backlinks.

New #3 website – PR 4 landing page, PR 5 root domain

Less than 100 external inbound links, 40 internal backlinks.

Root domain has less than 300 external inbound links and less than 150 internal backlinks

Despite the small number of links this site has come from nowhere. While it is a widely known brand name and should have some trust attached to that, it is strange to see it taking the place of an even larger household name which had approximately 1300 times more external inbound links.

New #4 website – PR 5 landing page, PR 8 root domain.

Less than 200 external inbound links, 200+ internal backlinks.

Root domain 3.7+ million external inbound links, 3k+ internal backlinks

It’s a wiki page and therefore is a highly trusted authority most likely according to Google. I believe it was ranking at #10 in our previous analysis.

The results show a polarized contradiction of trusted sites being brought to the top and others being shot to the bottom while sites with minimal links and reputation seem to be beating out well established competitors for their rankings. Black hat sites are seeing the same polarized change as the trusted sites with some jumping to the top and others being sent to Google’s version of Davy Jones locker.

And on that note I have to ask the same question I asked during Pirates of the Carribean III At Worlds End… “When will this end?” And when will our plunder be kindly returned from “Davy Google Jones Jr’s Locker”?

SEO news blog post by @ 11:01 am on July 19, 2009

Categories:SEO Articles

 

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