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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 10, 2005

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Ten: The Extras

Welcome to part ten in this search engine positioning series. Over the past nine weeks we have covered the nine fundamental steps to a proper search engine positioning campaign. From choosing keywords and writing content to optimizing your pages and building quality links we have covered the required steps to attaining solid rankings that will last. In part ten we will cover the extras.

The extras consist of tips, tools and resources that you will want to use to keep you on the cutting edge of who’s who and what’s what in the search engine positioning arena.

Over this series we have covered the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Ten – The Extras

The first nine steps in this series cover the true nuts-and-bolts of a solid SEO campaign. These are the crucial steps you need to take to attain top rankings that will stick. That said ” there are “the extras”, the icing on the SEO-cake so-to-speak. Those little things that will bump you up from number 4 to number 2, or help you hold your positioning through an algorithm change.

Some of these things have been touched on in previous articles while others are completely new. Either way, these are the things that will give you that little one-up over other ethical SEO’s who know their stuff.

Tools

One of the most important advantages you can gain over your competition comes from the tools you use and more importantly, how you use them. Some people blindly follow the advice given to them from so-called “SEO-software”. This is never the right decision. Taking the information these good tools can provide, and knowing how to turn that information into advantage is the key.

Here are the tools that many successful SEOs use to build solid rankings for their clients and why:

Total Optimizer Pro

I’ve noted this one in the article on link building and it’s definitely worth mentioning again. Never before have I found a tool that can tear apart your competition so thoroughly, for such an affordable price and in such an easy-to-understand manner.

This tool with take a look at the top 10 for a search phrase, and give you:

  • their position
  • their PageRank
  • their Alexa rank
  • the total number of backlinks to their site as seen by Google
  • the number of their site pages indexed by Google
  • their keyword density for the targeted phrase
  • their title
  • their H1 tag

This is the overview it gives you. You can then select one of the sites and view more detail including:

  • the backlink URL
  • the backlink domain
  • the IP address of the backlink
  • the PageRank of the backlink from that page
  • the specific anchor text use for that backlink (or a note whether it was an image)
  • the title of the page linking back
  • the Alexa rating of the page linking back
  • the top three keyword focus’ of the page linking back
  • the number of links pointing to that page
  • the number of outbound links from that page

Right below that there is access to a breakdown of the sites backlink’s that gives a summary of:

  • the specific anchor text, the number of times that anchor text was used, and the percentage this represents of the total backlinks counted
  • where these links come from. This will give you great information as to how many of these links are coming from the same domain, which is generally accepted in the SEO community as holding less weight than the same number of links from different domains
  • a PageRank breakdown of all the links

At $247 from TopNet Solutions it’s a bit pricey but worth every penny if you only use it on one campaign. Click here for more details.

PR Prowler

A necessity for any search engine positioning campaign that requires link building. This tool, also developed by TopNet Solutions, doesn’t do all the fancy things that Total Optimizer Pro does however it does do one thing VERY well – it’s seeks out quality relevant link partners with high PageRanks.

If you’re not in a competitive industry and you just want to save time on link building (and I do mean a LOT of time) this tool will do it for you. You simply set it to find links based on specified search phrase(s) and with a minimum PageRank. You can search for up to 1000 links at a time. Simply start the tool and continue on with other work or go to bed while it’s working for you. Come back and you’ve got some great leads and the best part is, it’s weeded out all the duds so your efforts are focused only on the links that will most benefit your site.

This tool has taken campaigns that would have required many hundreds of links to a point where the same effect can often be realized with 50 and in a fraction of the time spent. Click here for more information on PR Prowler.

FireFox

While this isn’t exactly an SEO tool per-se it makes researching and optimizing much faster and more convenient. FireFox is a browser (read: Internet Explorer replacement) that has MANY features that make it more convenient.

I like the tabbed browsing (moving between multiple pages through the use of tabs on one browser screen), the username and password ability is far better and more advanced than Internet Explorer’s and it’s far more secure than the more popular Microsoft product. It blocks popups, and spyware just isn’t written for it.

I will admit that for the first few hours I was trying it out I found it a bit more difficult to use but once you realize how much more powerful it can be and that the difficulty arises from the instinct to make the task more difficult by doing it the way you would have with IE, you’ll never want to switch back. The next time you’ve got 5 IE windows open to various search engines, another for WordTracker and a couple more to various other pages think of FireFox and you’re world will be made easier. It’s a free download.

You can read more on the advantages of the FireFox browser in a search engine positioning article written by ISEDB Editor Jim Hedger at http://www.isedb.com/news/article/1062.

Search Status

A tool developed for FireFox users giving them access to the Google Toolbar and Alexa Rankings. It can be downloaded and installed at no cost.

A big thanks to developer Craig Raw for a great tool, free of charge, for those of us who want to use something that isn’t powered by Microsoft and that has all the advantages of the FireFox browser.

WebAlerts

You’re doing your link-building, you’re writing articles, or you just want to see what others’ are saying about you. Do you really want to run searches for yourself and for your articles every few days?

Set up a Google WebAlert for a phrase from an article you’ve written, for your company name, for your competitors and/or for a phrase from the description you’re using in your link exchanges and let the most powerful servers in the world do the work for you.

Beanstalk On Tools …

There are definitely some very useful tools out there as noted above. What must be understood is that these tools alone won’t get you the top rankings any more than a map will guarantee you a good vacation if you don’t know how to read it and you don’t know where you want to go.

The single most important thing anyone hoping to attain (and maintain) top positioning on the search engines can do is to keep himself or herself educated. While we noted a few great resources in the last article on monitoring here are some of the key resources I uses to keep up-to-date on what’s going on the in SEO world.

Search Engines

This is definitely the most obvious. Run periodic if not daily searches on your keyword phrases and a few others. Don’t just look for your rankings but look at who’s in the top positions and look at their sites and who’s linking to them. Watch for changes and look for what’s different in the sites that are now on top.

Don’t kill yourself trying to figure out every single engine. Google, Yahoo! and MSN are the three biggest and just following these three is more than enough work. Generally I’ve found that meeting the requirements of these three will generally result in solid rankings on most of the other “secondary” engines.

Forums

I can’t speak highly enough about forums. When you’re looking for up-to-date information this is where to go. The challenge on forums however is in deciding who knows what they’re talking about and who doesn’t. Further, you’ll need to be able to figure out which members follow your code of ethics when it comes to SEO. Business owners seeking long-term rankings with minimal maintenance should not be taking advice from Black-hat SEOs.

I mentioned a few forums on the last article. A few additional forums worth watching are:

Search Engine Watch Forums – There’s not much to say about this one except that it’s a must-see. Tons of great information, many members so a wide variety of opinions to draw from.

IHelpYou Forums – (formerly linked to: http://www.ihelpyouservices.com/forums/) – Managed by SEO Doug Heil this is an interesting one. While I can’t say I agree with everything Doug has to say I will give him credit for ethics. If you want to make sure your tactics are squeaky-clean then here’s where to get advice. My recommendation: take the info with a grain of salt. Doug tends to occasionally make blanket rulings on tactics that have their place but if you go in knowing this he can be a great source of some solid information.

High Rankings Forums – Managed by SEO Jill Whalen, this one has some great discussions. Sticking with my belief in giving credit where it’s due I have to advise to pay attention to what Jill says. She knows her stuff and while she definitely falls into the category of white-hat SEOs, she’s willing to discuss a variety of tactics, their merits, and judge them based on their use and worth. Open and honest discussion – that’s what forums are about. Mentioned last week but worth mentioning twice.

The other forums mentioned last week and which are worthy of note are:

Conclusion

So here we are, the end of it all. 17,000 words read (thank you) and, if you’ve been following the program, many MANY hours spent optimizing your website.

Will it be worth it? If you have followed these steps, keep yourself updated on changes, and keep working on building your links, creating quality content, and insuring that you’re always putting in 10% more than your competitors then it certainly should be.

I would like to take a moment to thank those of you who have worked through these past ten articles and to wish you the very best of luck in your online promotions. As always, you are welcome to contact me with any questions you might have. Our goal in this series has been to provide you with the information and the resources to do it. I hope we have done just that.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:51 pm

Categories:SEO Articles

 

 

January 2, 2005

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Nine: Monitoring

Welcome to part nine in this search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed the important topic of link building. In part nine we will be covering the monitoring and the various areas you should consider and tools you may want to use.

While this area isn’t directly related to attaining higher rankings it is definitely equally important. Once you’ve got good rankings your competitors are going to work to beat you out. You have to keep on top of it to insure you maintain your top positions.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Nine – Monitoring

After days, weeks, or perhaps even months of researching, optimizing, proofing and link building you’ve got your website into the top positions. First thing’s first: congratulations! It’s no easy task to get your site where you got it and you deserve a break. Take a week off and don’t look at your site, at the very least this’ll let you come back at it again with fresher eyes – at best it’ll give you time to spend with those who missed you during your obsession with your site and rankings. But don’t take too long … your competition is right on your heals.

As important as the first eight steps were to getting you the rankings, so to is this step that will help you keep those rankings. There are three basic yet critical steps to the monitoring process. They are:

  1. Monitoring your rankings
  2. Monitoring links
  3. Monitoring changes in the search engine environment

Monitoring Your Rankings

There are a number of ways that you can monitor your rankings. You can run the searches manually, you can use software to check your rankings or you can use online services to check your rankings. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Checking Manually

Advantage – You will be able to visually confirm the results and also you will remain in full compliance with the search engine’s rules governing use of their systems including the use of automated rank-checking software.

Disadvantage – This method for checking rankings can be extremely time consuming is checking for multiple phrases across multiple engines. If you are targeting 20 phrases and want to check your rankings across the top ten engines and know where you’re places as far down as position 50 you will have to check up to 1000 different pages for your site.

Rank-checking Software

Advantage – This method for checking your rankings is extremely efficient. With software such as WebPosition Gold you simply enter the keywords you are targeting, the engines you want to check for results on, and how deep you want it to go. After that it’s a matter of running the program and doing some other work or grabbing a coffee while you await the results.

Disadvantage – This software often violates the search engines rules regarding the use of their systems by running a large number of searches. If you are going to use this type of software please set the software to run courteously (a setting you will find in the options) and register for Google’s Web API which will allow you to legitimately run 1000 automated queries per day.

Online Services

Advantage – It is much faster than checking manually and doesn’t have the cost associated with it that software does. An example of an online rank checking tool can be found at http://www.mikes-marketing-tools.com/ranking-reports/.

Disadvantage – It is still far more time consuming than automated software and over a few months you will have made up the money spent on the software in time saved by using it. Also, I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to entering detailed info regarding my SEO sites and targeted keywords. I’m not a fan of anything that requires me to give my targeted phrases and URL to another marketing site. But maybe that’s just me.

Monitoring Links

Monitoring your links is equally important to attaining them. When you were first starting your SEO and link-building you probably checked to see how many links your main competitors had and built more. So what makes you think they haven’t been building more links since then.

It’s a good practice to schedule weekly checks of how many backlinks you have detected by the major search engines and also check to see how many your main competitors have. If you document the results on an ongoing basis you will be able to note whether theirs are growing or not.

While you should always be generating more inbound links for your site whether you see your competitors doing so or not, knowing when they are and where they are can give you a solid advantage in reacting to this new threat. Remember, as hard as you worked for your positioning, so too with others.

There are software and online services to check for links however the only one I would recommend has nothing to do with its link number abilities. As noted in previous articles, Top Optimizer Pro is the link-building tool I would most highly recommend. On top of giving you the number of links your competitors have it will tell you what the anchor text is, what the PageRank is of those links, and more. It will even help you find link partners.

Monitoring Changes In The Search Environment

The last thing you will have to monitor is for changes with the search engines themselves. First of all, with changes such as MSN’s upcoming shift from providing results based on Inktomi to providing their own results, you will want to know when this happens and what to expect when it does. Additionally, you will want to know when changes are occurring in the search engine algorithms, when major ones take place, and what those changes are.

This is why there are full-time SEOs. To monitor all of these things can be very time-consuming however assuming that you have the time and inclination here are some resources to help you keep on top if it all:

Newsletters

SEO newsletters can definitely help keep you on top of what’s going on however you have to know who to listen to. Here are a few people/organizations I have found worthy of my respect (not to say these are the only ones but I can’t list everyone here so I’m listing the three top SEO newsletters).

Climbing The Beanstalk – Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization’s own bi-weekly newsletter. Of course we have to include it and if you’re enjoying this article and the ones before it you’re likely enjoy the newsletter as well. You can find the subscription box in the right-hand navigation.

ISEDB Newsletter – a weekly newsletter with links to a variety of articles. Gives a very balanced look at search engines, what’s going on, and SEO tactics. Subscription can be found at the bottom of the homepage.

High Rankings Advisor – a newsletter put out by Jill Whalen. I may not agree with everything she writes but she knows what she’s taking about and is definitely worth reading. She gives a balanced look at SEO in easy-to-understand terminology.

Forums

Forums are perhaps one of the best places to find up-to-date information on the search engines. Because they are updated constantly and by numerous individuals you will have the benefit of many opinions and perspectives. The downfall is you have to know whom you can trust and who’s knowledgeable. Some quality forums can be found at:

There are of course tons of other resources out there and you’ll just have to keep hunting until you find them all (or subscribe to some newsletters and ask in some forums where you might find additional information).

Next Week

Next week in part ten of our “Ten Steps To An Optimized Website” series we will be covering the extras not mentioned in earlier parts. This isn’t simply checking the rankings of your primary phrase every now and then but a scheduled check of all the key components on your optimization and search engine positioning efforts.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:46 pm

Categories:SEO Articles

 

 

December 20, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Eight: Link Building

Welcome to part eight in this search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed website submissions. In part eight we will be covering the importance of link building and developing inbound links to your website.

This is arguably on of the most important aspect of the SEO process and can mean the difference between first page rankings and 100th. It has to be done right and it has to be done on an ongoing basis.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Eight – Link Building

Link building: it’s pretty much understood that this is a critical component when you’re trying to attain top search engine positioning, however the confusion enters when it’s time to decide exactly what you should do.

From talk about reciprocal link building one might come to believe that this is the golden egg of SEO. While reciprocal link building can definitely be beneficial to your rankings, it is far from the only or even the best method. In this article we will cover the following link-building tactics:

  • Reciprocal link building
  • Directory listings
  • Non-reciprocal link building tactics
  • Tools to maximize your efforts

And so, without further ado …

Reciprocal Link Building

Reciprocal link building is the trading of links between two websites. Essentially it’s an “I’ll post yours if you’ll post mine” sort of arrangement. There are many sites out there that will essentially link to any-and-all sites willing to link to them. This is not a good practice.

While purely speculation at this point, there is significant debate in the SEO community regarding how search engines might be altering their algorithms to take into account a Webmaster or SEO’s ability to manipulate their rankings with reciprocal links. Whether or not these speculations are true currently, they are most certainly being integrated if they have not be already.

Essentially, the search engines need to protect themselves and provide relevant results to their users. While inbound links as part of search engine algorithms is certainly here to stay, the way these links are calculated changes constantly and in reaction to the current environment and also in prediction of future developments, the way we build them too must evolve.

There are some basic rules to follow when exchanging links:

  • Relevancy is more important than PageRank
  • Check and make sure the recips aren’t being blocked
  • Link pages with more than 50 links aren’t worth exchanging with
  • Prepare for the future

Relevancy

Many Webmasters focus only on the PageRank of a website when deciding whether to exchange links with it. Without a doubt PageRank is important however more important is whether or not that website’s content is related to yours. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The algorithms are changing to take into consideration the relevancy of links. A link from a relevant PageRank 3 page will be considered more valuable than a PageRank 5 link from a totally unrelated site. Some predict that unrelated links will soon be given little or no weight whatsoever.
  2. Believe it or not, Google is not the only search engine. PageRank is Google’s ranking of the value of a site. What Google gives a 3 out of 10, Yahoo! may give more weight to.

Basically, after a series of tests we have determined that links to related sites will never hinder your rankings. With this in mind feel free to link to any site you think your visitors would naturally be interested in if they are at your site.

Blocked Recips

Unethical website owners (or their SEOs) will sometimes block the links backs from search engine spiders. Be this in an effort to attain what appear to be one-way links as opposed to reciprocal, or simply to make their website appear to have fewer outbound links, this is not ethical and it certainly won’t help you.

When you’re looking at a potential link exchange page, check the source code for the robots tag. If it’s set to “noindex,nofollow” then the page is being blocked and the link won’t help at all.

Some wiser webmasters will use the robots.txt file to block search engine spiders. If you look for robots.txt at the root of the domain (i.e. at http://www.domaininquestion.com/robots.txt) you will see the files/folders that are being blocked. Look for the links pages and/or the directory these pages are in, in this list. If you find it, then don’t exchange links with them.

A new one I’ve recently found along this tangent is to draw the links from a script and to block the script and database folders from the search engines. The files won’t show up in the excluded list but the links won’t be counted. To detect this the easiest thing to do is to view the cache of the page. If the page is cached but none of the links appear and the script directory is listed in the robots.txt file then this tactic is being used. Again, don’t bother exchanging links.

If you find Webmasters employing any of these tactics they are unethical. Unethical Webmasters shouldn’t be rewarded with high PageRanks or good results. If you have the time and inclination you may want to email those websites listed on the page (heck, they may be good recip link partners anyway) and let them know what’s going on. You’ll be doing them a favor and they’ll probably be happy to exchange links with you as well.

Link Pages With More than 50 Links

Webmasters who are trying to actually do their link partners a favor will limit their links pages to 50 links (the lower the better). The reason for this is that every page gets one vote. A link to another website counts as a vote for that site. This is why it can help improve rankings. As each page only gets one vote a link from a page with 10 links counts at 0.1 of a vote, whereas a link from a page with 100 links counts as 0.01 of a vote. Anything past about 100 links is not counted at all.

Additionally, the higher up on a page your link appears the more weight it is given. If the page lists sites alphabetically try to insure that your title begins with a number or a letter early in the alphabet (which works well for companies like “Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization”).

Prepare For The Future

Just because a rule applies today does not mean that it will tomorrow. This is true in on-site SEO as well as link building. If generic recip links work today, consider whether you believe it’s in the best interest of your targeted engine to keep it this way. As the answer will undoubtedly be “no” it’s in your best interest to insure that you take the extra time to build links that will still be valuable months and even a year from now to save yourself a drop in the rankings and additional work later.

Directory Listings

Having your website listed in quality directories is perhaps one of the most valuable things you can do for it in regards to inbound links. Directories link DMOZ and Yahoo! hold significant weight. Google draws it’s directory results from DMOZ and Yahoo! draws it’s directory results from, well, Yahoo!. These links are given a lot of weight.

Make sure that you submit your website to both of these directories and if they’re not listed a couple months down the road, try again (and you may want to try a slightly different category if a relevant one exists, as you may have hit one of the many overworked editors who’s getting behind).

Aside from these two there are literally thousand of other directories our there. Look for others and submit your site. Some may charge a fee. If this is the case, take a look at the page your site would be listed on, take a look at the PageRank, the number of outbound links on the page and determine whether it’s worth the price. I’ve seen directories charging $10 for a permanent PageRank 5 link on a page with 3 other outbound links (though this number is certain to grow over time). Well worth the $10 investment.

You can find may great directories using search engines and, of course, the major directories. For example, were I looking for topical directories a great place to start would be http://directory.google.com/Top/Reference/Directories/ in the Google directory.

Non-Reciprocal Link Building Tactics

There are a number of other tactics for building non-reciprocal links. Here we will outline three of the most popular:

  1. Articles
  2. Press Releases
  3. Paid Links

Articles

Writing articles is a great way of getting inbound links and generating quality traffic. Articles give you the opportunity to control the content on the linking page meaning that you can guarantee that it is totally relevant, it’s a one-way link, and it’s a link that you’ll actually get traffic from.

Let’s assume that you run a small computer shop. Why not write an article about how to troubleshoot a common Windows problem (no no, it’s true … Windows can be a bit buggy every now and then). The next step is to simply find places to submit your article to and do just that. From experience I would highly recommend keeping a list in your favorites of the sites you submit to. If you decide to publish another article you probably don’t want to have to find them all from scratch again.

If you were looking for places to submit to you would run searches on the major search engines for “my topic articles” (in this case a search for “windows errors articles” and “computer troubleshooting articles” would be great places to start). If you find a lot of results only post their own articles you may want to add the word “submit” to the string.

Press Releases

Press releases are another great way to attain one-way inbound links. If you have news that you feel worth telling, submit a press release about it. While you’ll probably want to manually submit your site to the key online publishers, services such as PRWeb exist to submit your press release to a large audience at a very reasonable price.

Like articles, if the news is good you’re likely to get quality traffic from a press release and on top of that, you are likely to get some good, related links to your website.

Paid Links

Paid links are links from other websites purchased solely for the value of the link rather than for direct clicks. Paid links have become so popular that auction sites have sprouted up for just this purpose and they can even be bought on eBay.

There is no particular problem with paid links per-se however I would recommend applying the same criteria that you would to reciprocal links. If you are going to purchase links, only purchase them from related sites and try to make sure the link is not buried down at the bottom of the page.

Run-of-site links (links that appear on every page) are not significantly more valuable than single links on the homepage other than for the traffic. If you’ve purchased a link in a good location and on a good site you’re likely to get some good traffic from it. In fact, this is the general rule I go into any paid link arrangement with – purchase the link for the traffic. If the link increases my PageRank it’s a great bonus but if I’ve bought the link for the traffic and I’m getting it, then the link value becomes secondary.

Link Building Tools

Because link building has become so important to improve search engine positioning, a number of great tools have been developed to help in the process. While I couldn’t possible list them all here there have been two developments by a company named TopNet Solutions than have truly impressed me and which are the only tools that I use in every link building campaign.

PR Prowler
PR Prowler from TopNet Solutions searches the web based on your specific criteria providing results with a minimum PageRank that you determine. A very handy tool for your link-building efforts.

Total Optimizer Pro
When we first purchased PR Prowler we thought we’d found the ultimate link building tool. That was, until we found Total Optimizer Pro. Made by the same folks who put out PR Prowler this tool rips apart and tells you everything there is to know about your competitor’s backlinks, the anchor text used to link to them, the PageRank distribution of their incoming links and much more.

If you have any questions about these tools or how they are used feel free to contact us. I’m happy to answer any questions that you might have.

Next Week

Next week in part nine of our “Ten Steps To an Optimized Website” series we will be covering the importance of monitoring. This isn’t simply checking the rankings of your primary phrase every now and then but a scheduled check of all the key components on your optimization and search engine positioning efforts.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:35 pm


 

 

December 9, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Seven: Website Submissions

Welcome to part seven in this ten-part search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed the importance of human testing. In part seven we will cover the best practices of website submissions, where to submit your website to, and how to do so.

With services offering to help you get more traffic and higher search engine positioning by submitting your website to “18 Bazillion Search Engines For Just $19.95 Per Month!” and other such claims, there has grown much confusion around website submissions. In this article we will clear up many of the misconceptions around submitting your website and may even save you “Just $19.95 Per Month!” in the process.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Seven – Website Submissions

While there are definitely more critical areas of the website optimization process there is perhaps no area subject to as much misinformation and to such a vast audience. Here are some common misconceptions that are often believed about search engine submissions:

  1. You need to submit your website often to keep it indexed by the search engines
  2. You need to submit your website to thousands and thousands of search engines to get decent traffic
  3. Submitting your website often will keep you at the top of the search engine rankings

These beliefs are all incorrect and those who can make a quick buck selling this disservice perpetrate them. If you have not recently received an email offering to “Submit Your Website To More Search Engines Than There Are Websites On The Internet For Just $19.95 Per Month!” then I can pretty much guarantee that you will in the not-too-distant future if your email can be found somewhere on your website.

An irony of this can be found in Google’s webmaster area where they note:

Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

“Dear google.com,

I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

Good advice as I’m sure Google has their website submissions taken care of. Just because you receive such an email, doesn’t mean that you’re missing out on anything. Let’s first look at a breakdown of which engines are responsible for which traffic.

According to research the major search engines are responsible for the following percentages of traffic as of June 2004:

Google – 41.6%

Yahoo! – 31.5%

MSN – 27.4% (MSN draws their results from Yahoo!/Overture)

AOL – 13.6% (AOL draws their results from Google)

Ask Jeeves – 7.0%

Lycos – 3.7%

Netscape – 3.0% (Netscape draws their results from Google)

AltaVista – 2.7% (AltaVista draws the Yahoo!/Overture)

Source: Neilson/Netratings

Note: These numbers total over 100% as people may use multiple search engines if they don’t find the information they are looking for at the first one they try.

So what does this tell us? This tells us that the very vast majority of search engine traffic does not come from many thousands of search engines but rather, relatively few. This would lead to the obvious questions, “Is it worth paying to be submitted to thousands of search engines?” The real answer, “No.”

Then How Do I Submit My Own Website?

Automated search engine submission systems simply access the existing and readily accessible “Add URL” pages of the search engines and automatically submit your site. You can do this yourself simply by visiting the search engines and submitting through these same pages.

To simplify this process you can visit the “search engines” page of the Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization website where we link directly to the submissions pages of the major engines.

But What About The Other Engines? Surely They Provide Some Traffic?

Quite honestly, they may. You may get a visitor or two. Is it worth $19.95/mth or some such amount? No. You can get a better dollar/visitor ratio on any of the many PPC engines out there.

An additional point to note is that you may want to actually visit some of the lists of engines on the sites offering these services to you. You will discover a couple of important facts:

  • Many of these so-called “search engines” are not engines at all but rather FFA (Free-For-All) pages and classified ads sites. They will not help your rankings, you will not see traffic from them and your listing will probably last about as long as spam in your Inbox.
  • Many of the actual search engines and directories are topical. What this means is that they are focused on a single area and unless your site coincidentally is about space exploration, topographical mapping, etc. you won’t get listed. Submitting should not be confused with “guaranteed listing”. Submitting your site to thousands of engines is not the same as getting your website indexed on thousands of engines.

The Submission Myth

The truth of that matter is, submitting your website at all can realistically be considered a waste of time. Aside from a few key general directories (DMOZ, Yahoo!, etc.) and a number of SEO directories, we did not submit the website www.beanstalk-inc.com to any of the major search engines. It’s true, not a single submission.

Are we indexed? Yes we are.

How did we get indexed without submitting our site? If you take the time that you would be spending submitting your site and spend it instead finding quality inbound links (which we will write about next week) your site will be indexed and much quicker than you think.

You’ve probably heard the term “search engine spider”. Search engines crawl websites. This means that they visit a page, follow all the links on that page and so on. If you have a link on a website that is already known to the search engines it is only a matter of time before your website will be found by default. In fact, when the Beanstalk site went live and the first link was established to it, it did not take the weeks that are estimated through the use of the submissions pages for our site to be found. The homepage of beanstalk-inc.com was index by Google three days after the site went live and the other major engines followed within a week or so.

Final Notes

If there are any points that I hope you take away from this article they are the following:

  1. Automated search engine submissions services are not worth the money they charge.
  2. You do not need to be submitted to thousands of “search engines”. The vast majority of traffic comes from the top few.
  3. You will want to consider whether it is even worth the time to submit to search engines or whether that time could be better spent building quality, relevant links to your site and submitting your site to the major and topical directories.

An additional failing to the automated submissions systems not covered above is their inability to take into consideration the exact characteristics of your website for their directory submissions. When you’re submitting your website to directories you will have to choose the exact category your site falls into. Most directories have slightly different category hierarchies and the more exact you are in your submission, the higher the chance you will be listed. Automated systems can never be as exact across multiple directories as a human can.

Submitting your website, even correctly, will not guarantee you top rankings however it will leave you with money in your pocket to spend on other promotional endeavors that may actually produce a solid ROI. And THAT’S what it’s all about.

The rankings? You’ll have to read the other nine steps of the series to find out how to attain those.

Next Week

In part eight of this search engine positioning series we will cover the importance of link building, how to attain high quality, relevant links to your website, and the tools to reduce the time it takes to do so significantly. With the importance of inbound links to your overall rankings you won’t want to miss this very important step in the website optimization process.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:26 pm


 

 

November 30, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Six: Human Testing

Welcome to part six in this search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed the importance of internal linking. In part six we will cover the obvious and yet often overlooked importance of its appeal to a real-live human being.

While not directly related to SEO it is so often overlooked in the quest for higher search engine positioning that it has become a fundamental step in our ten step series.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Six – Human Testing

The most important part of your website is to reach the visitor. You have taken all the steps to create a great design and added SEO elements to your site, you have created the perfect online presence. Now to see if all that hard work has attained the main goal, to reach the visitor and steer them in the direction most desirable.

First things first, now’s the time to check for the careless errors that happen along the way, things like spelling mistakes, paragraph breaks, incorrect wording etc. Once you have given your new beauty a once over pass it around and get others to do the same, preferably people who have never read the content before. The problem with relying on yourself to proof read is that you already expect what you are going to see and do not read it in its entirety the way someone would at first glance.

Once the text is out of the way have some fresh eyes again take a look at the site. Are there images that they find appealing, unappealing, distracting? Is there anything in the layout of the content that is too busy or confusing? Once you’ve done a check of the visual appeal of the site you will move onto navigation.

When having someone test your site navigation it is again very important to use fresh eyes, make sure these people have no idea what to expect or where to find anything – this way they will be free to follow your beautifully laid out website or fumble and stumble into some dark hole of your site, lost screaming for help. Okay, perhaps I may have given the worst-case scenario however, how many of us can say we have never been in that horrid place? These human testers will be sure to let you know just how your site navigation works for them. They are the average visitor and if they find what they are looking for easily then you can congratulate yourself on having such great intuition and move on to the rest of the tests to come. If there are problems in the navigation I cannot stress enough how very important it is that you address these immediately. You must get the desired information across as easily and quickly as possible.

While on the topic of navigation let’s discuss the different possibilities of the placement of your main navigation. The majority of sites out there either have their main nav on the left or the top of the page. Is there one that is better? Well, they both have their perks, either is good, anything else is bad. The majority of visitors look in these two places to navigate because that is where it always is. There will be other navigation elements throughout your site that will not be listed in your main navigation area, these internal text and image links should be well placed and easily followed IN BOTH DIRECTIONS. It’s great to give the visitor the option to check out information further into your site but you really want to be sure they can get back to where they came from, especially if you are sending them off to information and away from the product pages. Ways to achieve this are to have the information open in a new window, add a “back to previous page” link or add breadcrumb navigation. What you choose will depend on the overall structure of your site as well as the size of your site. If the main nav includes all of your pages (as in some small sites) then there is no need to add these nav elements however in larger sites it is easy for a visitor to get lost if the navigation has not been tried and tested and designed specifically for ease of use. All in all, play with the navigation and test and retest it until there are no problems. The site navigation is so very important – your visitors MUST be able to browse through your site easily and without frustration.

The placement of your content is equally important. If you are selling something obviously you want it offered as easily as possible, and you don’t just want it to be available – you want to sell it. There are many ideas to consider when deciding on the placement of certain content. A great read that really shows the way a visitor looks through your site can be found at http://www.poynterextra.org/eyetrack2004/main.htm. Taking a look through this information can give you lots of tips to work with in deciding on product and special offer placement etc. In the above-mentioned article you will be able to see the way an average visitor views a website, the pattern in which their eyes follow the information, the advertising positions that are most effective, etc. This is a great resource for you and your company.

Quite possibly one of the most useful tools available is Clicktracks. This tool will show you all the very specific details of how visitors are navigating your site. This tool is many steps above your typical web stats, it will show you details so specific that you can not only see the search term a visitor used to find you but what search engine they came from and the path they followed through your site right down to which search term is selling the most. This highly detailed information can be an incredibly valuable tool for you. With access to such info you can, over time, adjust your content, navigation, and SEO based on these reports – watching the changes happen and see the effects not just make good guesses.

The value of having an average visitor test your site and getting real feedback is huge. You have no choice but to be a little biased when viewing your own site and this outsider information can give you tips that you may have only wished you had. Don’t put your site out there and wonder what all the visitors are thinking and doing, just ask! You may even go as far as having a poll included on your website, so long as it’s not popping up every time they click a link. A simple “we welcome your feedback” email form on your contact or profile page would be a professional simple way to keep up with what the visitors are liking or disliking on a continuous basis.

Next Week

Now that your site has been designed, had SEO elements added, tested and edited, you are ready to submit it to the search engines and get those visitors coming. Stay tuned for the next article in this 10 part series “Submissions”.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:38 pm

Categories:SEO Articles

 

 

November 22, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Five: Internal Linking

Welcome to part five in this search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed the importance of content optimization. In part five we will cover your website’s internal linking structure and the role that it plays in ranking highly, and in ranking for multiple phrases.

While this aspect is not necessarily the single most important of the ten steps it can be the difference between first page and second page rankings, and can make all the difference in the world when you are trying to rank your website for multiple phrases.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Five – Internal Linking

With all the talk out there about linking, one might be under the impression that the only links that count are those from other websites. While these links certainly play an important role (as will be discussed in part eight of this series) these are certainly not the only important links.

When you’re about to launch into your link work why not stop and consider the ones that are easiest to attain and maximize first. That would be, the ones right there on your own site and those which you have total and complete control of. Properly used internal links can be a useful weapon in your SEO arsenal.

The internal linking structure can:

  1. Insure that your website gets properly spidered and that all pages are found by the search engines
  2. Build the relevancy of a page to a keyword phrase
  3. Increase the PageRank of an internal page

Here is how the internal linking structure can affect these areas and how to maximize the effectiveness of the internal linking on your own website.

Getting Your Website Spidered

Insuring that every page of your website gets found by the search engine spiders is probably the simplest thing you can do for your rankings. Not only will this increase the number of pages that a search engine credits your site with, but it also increases the number of phrases that your website has the potential to rank for.

I have seen websites that, once the search engines find all of their pages, find that they are ranking on the first page and seeing traffic from phrases they never thought to even research or target.

This may not necessarily be the case for you however having a larger site with more pages related to your content will boost the value of your site overall. You are offering this content to your visitors, so why hide it from the search engines.

Pages can be hidden from search engines if the linking is done in a way that they cannot read. This is the case in many navigation scripts. If your site uses a script-based navigation system then you will want to consider the implementation of one of the internal linking structures noted further in the article.

Additionally, image-based navigation is spiderable however the search engines can’t see what an image is and thus, cannot assign any relevancy from an image to the page it links to other than assigning it a place in your website hierarchy.

Building The Relevancy Of A Page To A Keyword Phrase

Anyone who wants to get their website into the top positions on the search engines for multiple phrases must start out with a clearly defined objective, including which pages should rank for which phrases. Generally speaking it will be your homepage that you will use to target your most competitive phrase and move on to targeting less competitive phrases on your internal pages.

To help build the relevancy of a page to a keyword phrase you will want to use the keyword phrase in the anchor text of the links to that page. Let’s assume that you have a website hosting company. Rather than linking to your homepage with the anchor text “home” link to it with the text “web hosting main”. This will attach the words “web” and “hosting” and “main” to your homepage. You can obviously leave the word “main” out if desirable however in many cases it does work for the visitor (you know, those people you’re actually building the site for).

This doesn’t stop at the homepage. If you are linking to internal pages either through your navigation, footers, or inline text links – try to use the phrases that you would want to target on those pages as the linking text. For example, if that hosting company offered and wanted to target “dedicated hosting”, rather than leaving the link at solely the beautiful graphic in the middle of the homepage they would want to include a text link with the anchor text “dedicated hosting” and link to this internal page. This will tie the keywords “dedicated hosting” to the page.

In a field as competitive as hosting this alone won’t launch the site to the top ten however it’ll give it a boost and in SEO, especially for competitive phrases, every advantage you can give your site counts.

Increasing The PageRank Of Internal Pages

While we will be discussing PageRank (a Google-based term) here the same rules generally apply for the other engines. The closer a page is in clicks from your homepage, the higher the value (or PageRank) the page is assigned. Basically, if I have a page linked to from my homepage it will be given more weight that a page that is four or five levels deep in my site.

This does not mean that you should link to all of your pages from your homepage. Not only does this diffuse the weight of each individual link but it will look incredibly unattractive if your site is significantly large.

Figure out what your main phrases are and which pages will be used to rank for them and be sure to include text links to these internal pages on your homepage. It’s important to pick solid pages to target keyword phrases on as you don’t want human visitors going to your “terms and conditions” page before they’ve even seen the products.

If that hosting company noted above has a PageRank 6 homepage, the pages linked from its homepage will generally be a PageRank 5 (sometimes 4, sometimes 6 depending on the weight of the 6 for the homepage). Regardless, it will be significantly higher that if that page was linked to from a PageRank 3 internal page.

How To Improve Your Internal Linking Structure

There are many methods you can use to improve your internal linking structure. The three main ones are:

  1. Text link navigation
  2. Footers
  3. Inline text links

Text Link Navigation

Most websites include some form of navigation on the left hand side. This makes it one of the first things read by a search engine spider (read “Table Structures For Top Search Engine Positioning” by Mary Davies for methods on getting your content read before your left hand navigation). If it is one of the first things the search engine spiders sees when it goes through your site it will have a strong weight added to it so it must be optimized with care.

If you are using text link navigation be sure to include the targeted keywords in the links. Thankfully this cannot be taken as meaning “cram your keywords into each and every link” because this is your navigation and that would look ridiculous. I’ve seen sites that try to get the main phrase in virtually every link. Not only does this look horrible but it may get your site penalized for spam (especially if the links are one after another).

You don’t have to get your keywords in every link but if workable, every second or third link works well. Also consider what you are targeting on internal pages. If your homepage target is “web hosting” and you’ve linked to your homepage in the navigation with “web hosting main” which is followed by your contact page so you’ve used “contact us”, it would be a good idea to use the anchor text “dedicated hosting” for the third link. It reinforces the “hosting” relevancy and also attaches relevancy to the dedicated hosting page of the site to the phrase “dedicated hosting” in the anchor text.

Footers

Footers are the often overused and abused area of websites. While they are useful for getting spiders through your site and the other points noted above, they should not be used as spam tools. I’ve seen in my travels, footers that are longer than the content areas of pages from websites linking to every single page in their site from them. Not only does this look bad but it reduces that value of each individual link (which then become 1 out of 200 links rather than 1 out of 10 or 20).

Keep your footers clean, use the anchor text well, and link to the key internal pages of your website and you will have a well optimized footer. You will also want to include in your footer a link to a sitemap. On this sitemap, link to every page in your site. Here is where you can simply insure that every page gets found. Well worded anchor text is a good rule on your sitemap as well. You may also want to consider a limited description of the page on your sitemap. This will give you added verbiage to solidify the relevancy of the sitemap page to the page you are linking to.

Internal Text Links

Internal text links are links placed within the content of your work. They were covered in last week’s article on content optimization, which gives me a great opportunity to use one as an example.

While debatable, inline text links do appear to be given extra weight as their very nature implies that the link is entirely relevant to the content of the site.

You can read more on this in last week’s article.

Final Notes

As noted above, simply changing your internal navigation will not launch your site to the top of the rankings however it’s important to use each and every advantage available to create a solid top ten ranking for your site that will hold it’s position.

They will get your pages doing better, they will help get your entire site spidered, they will help increase the value of internal pages and they will build the relevancy of internal pages to specific keyword phrases.

Even if that’s all they do, aren’t they worth taking the time to do right?

Next Week

Next week in part six of our “Ten Steps To an Optimized Website” series we will be covering the importance of human testing. Having a well-ranked website will mean nothing if people can’t find their way through it or if it is visually unappealing.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:28 pm


 

 

November 16, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Four: Content Optimization

Welcome to part four in this search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed the importance of the structure of your website and the best practices for creating an easily spidered and easily read site. In part four we will discuss content optimization.

This is perhaps the single most important aspect of ranking your website highly on the search engines. While all of the factors covered in this series will help get your website into the top positions, it is your content that will sell your product or service and it is your content that the search engines will be reading when they take their “snapshot” of your site and determine where it should be placed in relation to the other billions of pages on the Internet.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Four – Content Optimization

There are aspects of the optimization process that gain and lose importance. Content optimization is no exception to this. Through the many algorithm changes that take place each year, the weight given to the content on your pages rises and falls. Currently incoming links appear to supply greater advantage than well-written and optimized content. So why are we taking an entire article in this series to focus on the content optimization?

The goal for anyone following this series is to build and optimize a website that will rank well on the major search engines and, more difficult and far more important, hold those rankings through changes in the search engine algorithms. While currently having a bunch of incoming links from high PageRank sites will do well for you on Google you must consider what will happen to your rankings when the weight given to incoming links drops, or how your website fares on search engines other than Google that don’t place the same emphasis on incoming links.

While there are many characteristics of your content that are in the algorithmic calculations, there are a few that consistently hold relatively high priority and thus will be the focus of this article. These are:

  1. Heading Tags
  2. Special Text (bold, colored, etc.)
  3. Inline Text Links
  4. Keyword Density

Heading Tags

The heading tag (for those who don’t already know) is code used to specify to the visitor and to the search engines what the topic is of your page and/or subsections of it. You have 6 predefined heading tags to work with ranging from <H1> to <H6>.

By default these tags appear larger than standard text in a browser and are bold. These aspects can be adjusted using the font tags or by using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

Due to their abuse by unethical webmasters and SEO’s, the weight given to heading tags is not what it could be however the content between these tags is given increased weight over standard text. There are rules to follow with the use of heading tags that must be adhered to. If you use heading tags irresponsibly you run the risk of having your website penalized for spam even though the abuse may be unintentional.

When using your heading tags try to follow these rules:

  • Never use the same tag twice on a single page
  • Try to be concise with your wording
  • Use heading tags only when appropriate. If bold text will do then go that route
  • Don’t use CSS to mask heading tags

Never use the same tag twice on a single page. While the <H1> tags holds the greatest weight of the entire heading tags, its purpose is to act as the primary heading of the page. If you use it twice you are obviously not using it to define the main topic of the page. If you need to use another heading tag use the <H2> tag. After that the <H3> tag and so on. Generally I try never to use more than 2 heading tags on a page.

Try to be concise with your wording. If you have a 2 keyword phrase that you are trying to target and you make a heading that is 10 words long then your keyword phrase only makes up about 20% of the total verbiage. If you have a 4-word heading on the other hand you would then have a 50% density and increased priority given to the keyword phrase you are targeting.

Use heading tags only when appropriate. If bold text will do then go that route. I have seen sites with heading tags all over the place. If overused the weight of the tags themselves are reduced with decreasing content and “priority” being given to different phrases at various points in the content. If you have so much great content that you feel you need to use many heading tags you should consider dividing the content up into multiple pages, each with its own tag and keyword target possibilities. For the most part, rather than using additional heading tags, bolding the content will suffice. The sizing will be kept the same as your usual text and it will stand out to the reader as part of the text but with added importance.

Don’t use CSS to mask heading tags. This one just drives me nuts and is unnecessary. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) serve many great functions. They can be used to define how a site functions, looks and feels however they can also be used to mislead search engines and visitors alike. Each tags has a default look and feel. It is fine to use CSS to adjust this somewhat to fit how you want your site to look. What is not alright is to adjust the look and feel to mislead search engines. It is a simple enough task to define in CSS that your heading should appear as regular text. Some unethical SEO’s will also then place their style sheet in a folder that is hidden from the search engine spiders. This is secure enough until your competitors look at the cached copy of your page (and they undoubtedly will at some point) see that you have hidden heading tags and report you to the search engines as spamming. It’s an unnecessary risk that you don’t need to take. Use your headings properly and you’ll do just fine.

Special Text

“Special text” (as it is used here) special is any content on your page that is set to stand out from the rest. This includes bold, underlined, colored, highlighted, sizing and italic. This text is given weight higher than standard content and rightfully so. Bold text, for example, is generally used to define sub-headings (see above), or to pull content out on a page to insure the visitor reads it. The same can be said for the other “special text” definitions.

Search engines have thus been programmed to read this as more important than the rest of the content and will give it increased weight. For example, on our homepage we begin the content with “Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization …” and have chosen to bold this text. This serves two purposes. The first is to draw the eye to these words and further reinforce the “brand”. The second purpose (and it should always be the second) is to add weight to the “Search Engine Positioning” portion of the name. It effectively does both.

Reread your content and, if appropriate for BOTH visitors and search engines, use special text when it will help draw the eye to important information and also add weight to your keywords. This does not mean that you should bold every instance of your targeted keywords nor does it mean that you should avoid using special text when it does not involve your keywords. Common sense and a reasonable grasp of sales and marketing techniques should be your guide in establishing what should and should not be drawn out with “special text”.

Inline Text Links

Inline text links are links added right into text in the verbiage of your content. For example, in this article series I may make reference to past articles in the series. Were I to refer to the article on keyword selection, rather than simply making a reference to it as I just have it might be better to write it as, “Were I to refer to the article on keyword selection rather …”

Like special text this serves two purposes. The first is to give the reader a quick and easy way to find the information you are referring to. The second purpose of this technique is to give added weight to this phrase for the page on which the link is located and also to give weight to the target page.

While this point is debatable, there is a relatively commonly held belief that inline text links are given more weight that a text link which stands alone. If we were to think like a search engine this makes sense. If the link occurs within the content area then chances are it is highly relevant to the content itself and the link should be counted with more strength than a link placed in a footer simply to get a spider through the site.

Like “special text” this should only be employed if it helps the visitor navigate your site. An additional benefit to inline text links is that you can help direct your visitors to the pages you want them on. Rather than simply relying on visitors to use your navigation bar as you are hoping they will, with inline text links you can link to the internal pages you are hoping they will get to such as your services page, or product details.

Keyword Density

For those of you who have never heard the term “keyword density” before, it is the percentage of your total content that is made up of your targeted keywords. There is much debate in forums, SEO chat rooms and the like as to what the “optimal” keyword density might be. Estimates seem to range from 3% to 10%.

While I would be the first to admit that logic dictates that indeed there is an optimal keyword density. Knowing that search engines operate on mathematical formulas implies that this aspect of your website must have some magic number associated with it that will give your content the greatest chance of success.

With this in mind there are three points that you should consider:

  1. You do not work for Google or Yahoo! or any of the other major search engines (and if you do you’re not the target audience of this article). You will never know 100% what this “magic number” is.
  2. Even if you did know what the optimal keyword density was today, would you still know it after the next update? Like other aspects of the search engine algorithm, optimal keyword densities change. You will be chasing smoke if you try to constantly have the optimal density and chances are you will hinder your efforts more than help by constantly changing the densities of your site.
  3. The optimal keyword density for one search engine is not the same as it is for another. Chasing the density of one may very well ruin your efforts on another.

So what can you do? Your best bet is to simply place your targeted keyword phrase in your content as often as possible while keeping the content easily readable by a live visitor. Your goal here is not to sell to search engines, it is to sell to people. I have seen sites that have gone so overboard in increasing their keyword density that the content itself reads horribly. If you are simply aware of the phrase that you are targeting while you write your content then chances are you will attain a keyword density somewhere between 3 and 5%. Stay in this range and, provided that the other aspects of the optimization process are in place, you will rank well across many of the search engines.

Also remember when you’re looking over your page that when you’re reading it the targeted phrase may seem to stand out as it’s used more than any other phrase on the page and may even seem like it’s a bit too much. Unless you’ve obviously overdone it (approached the 10% rather than 5% end of the spectrum) it’s alright for this phrase to stand out. This is the phrase that the searcher was searching for. When they see it on the page it will be a reminder to them what they are looking for and seeing it a few times will reinforce that you can help them find the information they need to make the right decision.

Final Notes

In an effort to increase keyword densities, unethical webmasters will often use tactics such as hidden text, extremely small font sizes, and other tactics that basically hide text from a live visitor that they are providing to a search engines. Take this advice, write quality content, word it well and pay close attention to your phrasing and you will do well. Use unethical tactics and your website may rank well in the short term but once one of your competitors realizes what you’re doing you will be reported and your website may very well get penalized. Additionally, if a visitor realizes that you’re simply “tricking” the search engines they may very well decide that you are not the type of company they want to deal with; one that isn’t concerned with integrity but rather one that will use any trick to try to get at their money. Is this the message you want to send?

Next Week

Next week in part five of our “Ten Steps To an Optimized Website” series we will be covering internal linking strategies and best practices. This will cover everything from image links and scripts to inline and basic text links.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:12 pm


 

 

November 7, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step Three: Site Structure

Welcome to part three in this search engine positioning series. Last week we discussed the importance and considerations that much be made while creating the content that will provide the highest ROI for your optimization efforts. In part three we will discuss the importance of site structure.

While there are numerous factors involved with the search engine algorithms, site structure is certainly of constant importance. Cleaner structures that remove lines of code between your key content and the search engine spiders can mean the difference between second page and first page rankings.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Three – Site Structure

Developing the structure of your website is a very important step in its overall optimization. The site structure will dictate how the spiders read your site, what information they gather, what content holds the most weight, how much useless code they must weed through and more. You must structure your website to appeal to the visitor and the spiders.

When developing your website you want to be sure not to create useless code that can confuse spiders and take away from the content of your site. When developing your site I recommend hand coding as the best option however not everyone has the time or the skill to do this so I would suggest Dreamweaver as a great option. (Though the code will not be as clean as hand coding it does not create an over the top amount of extra code like programs such as Front Page do.) The object here is to keep the code as clean as possible! Remember the more code you have the more the spiders must weed through to get to your content, where you want them to be.

A great way to cut down on extra code as well is to use style sheets. You can use style sheets in ways as simple as defining fonts or as advanced as creating tableless designs. There are many ways to use style sheets and the biggest perk to using them is to cut back on the code on any given individual page.

When you are setting up the initial structure of your site you want to be sure that the table structure is laid out in such a way that the spiders can easily and as quickly as possible get to the most important content. A great way to attain this is to create your website using the table structure outlined in my article “Table Structures For Top Search Engine Positioning“. When the spiders visit your site they read through it top to bottom, left to right following the rows and columns. The key to the table structure outlined above is the little empty row. Were this row not there the spiders would read through that first column hitting nothing but images and Alt tags, your navigation, until it would then move onto the next column, your content area. Placing this empty cell in the first row of the main table guides the spiders directly to your content, they hit the empty row and with nothing to read move onto the next column to the right, where you want them. After they have read your content they will then move back to the left in row 2 and read your navigation images and Alt tags, finally they will end the page at your footer, a great place for keyword rich text links. (Internal linking structures will be covered in part 5 of this 10 part series.)

Once you have created the site structure and inserted all of your content you will then begin the basic optimization of your site. In your code you will want to create Meta tags that fit your keyword choice. The two most important Meta tags are the Description tag and the Keyword tag. Your description should highlight your keyword phrase, keeping it focused, to the point and readable. Your keyword tags should also be focused using each keyword a maximum of 3 times in any set. These tags should be customized on each page to fit the specific phrase targeted.

After the Meta tags have been inserted appropriately to fit each page it is important to title each page appropriately. The main targeted phrase should be the focus of the title, keep it simple, focused, to the point, do not bog it down with extra descriptive text, this is not your description, it is your title.

Next move onto Alt tags. Though it is good practice to add Alt tags to all your images the spiders only put weight on those that are contained within links. An example of this:

<a href=”http://www.beanstalk-inc.com”><img src=”/Images/webhead.jpg” alt=”Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization” width=”461″ height=”145″ border=”0″></a>

These Alt tags allow you to make your images matter. Most main navigation is image based so be sure to add appropriate Alt tags targeting your keywords to this very prominent area of your site. Another great place to add a link along with its Alt tag is in your header image. Linking this image to your URL adds the ability to make the first thing the spiders hit within your tables to at least hold some content that “matters” rather than simply a static image.

H1 tags are also great way to add weight to your content however, use them wisely. You can use any of the H1,2,3,4 tags, the idea being H1 has the most weight, H2 a little less and so on. Do not over use these tags or they will lose their value all together. The correct way to use these is to use them where they actually belong, for example the first line of text on a page, the title. Also, if you are defining your fonts in a style sheet, which you should be, be sure not to abuse these tags. An H1 tag should be defined bigger than an H2, etc.

Utilizing the above tips will create a site structure that is the perfect environment for the spiders, it is clean, focused and easily read. Your site structure is now optimized and ready for the more advanced content optimization elements to come.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:19 pm


 

 

November 1, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step 2: Content Creation

Welcome to part two in this search engine positioning series. In part one we covered the importance and tactics for choosing the keywords and keyword phrases that will provide the highest ROI for your optimization efforts. In part two we will discuss how to properly write content for high search engine positioning.

Content is the key to search engine rankings. While there are numerous factors involved with the search engine algorithms, content remains a constant in stable rankings for a number of important reasons.

Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine positioning campaign.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step Two – The Importance Of Content

There are many aspects of your content that are of key importance to your search engine rankings and for a variety of reasons. That said, they can be broken down into their three main benefits. The three main things you should be targeting with your content are:

  1. Unique and well-written. The search engine spiders are looking for unique content and your visitors are looking for well-written content.
  2. With articles come links.
  3. With quality content comes even more links.

As long as you keep these three main purposes in mind while you are deciding what you want on your website and how it should be worded, you will fill this area nicely.

Unique & Well-Written Content

The importance of unique and well written content cannot be overstated. This is the backbone and purpose of your website’s existence and it deserves the time it will take to create. When you are considering what content you want on your site (or what content should be on your site if this is part of SEO or a redesign) you will want to make a few considerations.

  1. What does your audience want to find?
  2. Will you have to do additional research?
  3. Are you an expert writer or do you have one on staff?

What Does Your Audience Want To Find?

Assessing your potential visitors wants does not require a crystal ball. If you have completed and spent quality hours on Step One of this series, fully researching your keywords, you are already well on your way. Delving into those keywords you will often find hints that will push you in the right direction.

If you have an acne site and you have found a number of people searching for “acne treatment” and “natural acne treatment” and have thus chosen these as your targeted keyword phrases you already understand your visitors current situation and more importantly, their desire. Similarly, if you are a real estate agent and have chosen “los angeles real estate” as your phrase you know more than simply characters strung together and dropped into a search box. You know that you are dealing with people wishing to purchase or sell a home in Los Angeles. In both scenarios you know what your visitors want and, assuming you are already successful in your industry, you know what you have to do to convert that desire into a client.

Now what has to be done is to create solid, compelling content that will both grab your visitor’s attention and at the same time, make them want what you have to offer. This is not the same as selling to them when you have the opportunity to speak to them face-to-face. You are working without the benefit of watching their expressions, speaking to them about their objections, or even understanding whether they are looking for information for a friend or if it is they themselves who require your services.

This leaves you with a lot of room for content. In the online environment you have to deal with every question before they ask it, and make every person feel that you can help them even though you’ve never met.

What does your audience want to find? They want to find a solution to their problem. How do you provide that? By supplying them answers to the questions that they don’t have the opportunity to ask and may not want to give you their email address to find out. FAQ pages are good but often used as sales pages, which is fine so long as you are still providing good content that your visitor isn’t reading as “sales” but rather “solutions”. Perhaps create pages of replies to emails you have received. Perhaps place a related “fact of the day” on your homepage with a link to an archive of facts related to your industry, product and/or business. You might even want to add a blog to your site. Regardless, give your visitor the answers they’re looking for and keep this information updated as you get new information and you will stand a much better chance of keeping that person surfing through your website. The longer you can keep them on your site, the greater the chance that you will build trust and once you’ve got that, you can help them with the solution to their problem.

Will you have to do additional research?

For many business owners the gut instinct to this question is “no”. Of course not, you are an expert right? Well you may be, and so is Professor Stephen Hawking, however my bet would be he still does his research.

No matter how much you know there is always more out there and your visitors are probably well aware of that. If you fail to address all their questions, your visitors may very well leave your site in search of the answer. Once they’ve left your site it becomes other webmasters who now have the opportunity to present the benefits of their products or services.

Find all the information that you can and make sure that you include as much as possible on your site. The additional benefit in doing this is that constant new information on your website will not only keep visitors coming back to find new information but the search engines spiders too. If your site changes often the spiders will pick up on this and will visit you more often. While this by itself will not improve your rankings it does give you an advantage. The more often search engine spiders visit your website the faster changes you make will be picked up. The faster these changes are picked up the quicker you will be able to react to drops in rankings. If you know the spiders visit your site every second day and you drop from #8 to #12 you know that with proper tweaking to your content you may be able to recover that loss in as little as two days.

Are you an expert writer or do you have one on staff?

When you need a doctor do you read a book entitled “Heart Surgery For Dummies” and buy yourself a very sharp knife. Of course you don’t and while your website may not be quite as important as your heart, it is how your company is being perceived online. This perception can be the make-or-break of all your online marketing efforts.

If you are committed to attaining high rankings, to making money online and/or promoting your business through your website, shouldn’t you also be committed to insuring that your conversions are maximized. High search engine positioning is important but so too is converting those visitors once they get to your site. You may be an expert in your field but if that field isn’t writing, and you don’t have a writer on staff, be certain to at least consider hiring one to make sure that your website is conveying the message you want in verbiage that your visitors will understand. Assuming you choose your writer well you will not only have a well-written site but you will also gain the advantage of having an outsider, who is more likely to write for people who aren’t experts, creating your content.

If you feel that you are qualified to write your own content (which you may very well be) be sure to have it proofread by someone from the outside. Find someone (ideally plural) from within your target market and demographic, and have them go through your content giving suggestions and criticism. Don’t take it personally, every change they recommend is earning you extra money. Whether you implement the changes or not you are learning something new about what people will want and expect to see on your site.

With Articles Come Links

Writing content is not just an exercise for your own website. We all know that inbound links to your site help rankings. Additionally, if those links can be ones that provide genuine targeted traffic you’re doing very well.

There are a number of methods for driving traffic to your site with paid advertising, PPC, etc. however one of the most cost-effective methods is to publish articles. Article writing is no simple task however the rewards can be enormous. Articles serve two great purposes:

  1. Increased Link Popularity – When you write an article and submit it to other websites to post, they will generally link to your website from the page the article is on. Here’s a completely legitimate, relevant, and quality link to your site.
  2. Exposure & Credibility – The added credibility that article writing lends to your business coupled with the added benefit of the visitors who come to your site directly from your article are invaluable.

When it comes to article writing there is little in the way of more effective advertising. You will have to find sources to publish those articles on, but once you’ve done this time-consuming task you can reuse the same list for future articles.

Get those articles on a number of quality resource sites and enjoy watching your stats and your rankings improve.

With Quality Content Comes Even More Links

Yet another benefit that derives from having a website with great content and writing articles is that, with time, your website itself will become a resource. If you provide great information that other people will find useful people will link to it naturally.

With so much emphasis in recent times on reciprocal linking some might think this is the only way to get links at all. Believe it or not there are still webmasters out there who will link to sites for no other reason than they feel their visitors will be interested in it’s content.

Build a good site with quality content, keep it easily navigated and create sections for specific areas (articles for example) and you will find that people will link to your site and may even link to specific articles or your articles index. Perhaps then your articles index is a good page to target an additional keyword phrase.

Next Week

Next week in part three we will be covering site structure and the importance it plays in your rankings and in visitor experience. This will cover getting a spider through your site while also giving your visitors an easy path to the pages you want them on.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:03 pm


 

 

October 25, 2004

Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website – Step1: Choosing The Right Keywords

This is part one of ten in this search engine positioning series. In part one we will outline how to choose the keyword phrases most likely to produce a high ROI for your search engine positioning efforts. Over this ten part series we will go through ten essential elements and steps to optimizing a site. Some steps take a few hours, some may take months depending on the competition, but in the end and if done correctly you will have a well optimized site that will place well and hold it’s positioning.

Of course all website’s fluctuate up and down however well optimized sites will spend more time on the upper end of the rankings than poorly optimized or spammy sites which may see high rankings but which will lose those rankings over time.

The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:

  1. Keyword Selection – October 24, 2004
  2. Content – October 31, 2004
  3. Site Structure – November 7, 2004
  4. Optimization – November 14, 2004
  5. Internal Linking – November 21, 2004
  6. Human Testing – November 29, 2004
  7. Submissions – December 5, 2004
  8. Link Building – December 12, 2004
  9. Monitoring – December 19, 2004
  10. The Extras – December 28, 2004

Step One – Keyword Selection

Arguably, keyword selection is the single most important stage in the entire optimization process. If you do not choose the correct keyword phrases you will not maximize your ROI on this campaign. I mention ROI and use it as a reminder that keyword selection is not necessarily about looking for the most searched phrases. A profitable optimization is one which produces the greatest return on investment for the time and money that are available to put towards it.

Bigger Is Not Always Better

If you are a web designer in Seattle who has just started your own business, you could make “web design” the targeted keyword phrase for your site as it certainly has the highest number of searches with 707,962 in September 2004 according to the “Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool”. If you have thousands of dollars and many months to dedicate just to attaining those rankings it could be done however, would that be the best use of your time? Alternatively you could target “seattle web site design” with 5,070 searches in September. A Google link check shows the number of links for the top three competitors for the Seattle search had 132, 21, and 47 respectively whereas for “web design” the top three had 18,700, 5,420, and 1,310 incoming links each.

With a good site you would get more work than you could handle with 5,070 searches on Overture alone if you were ranking well on the major search engines. This would clearly provide the highest return on investment for the small business owner who most certainly does not have the time and money available to target “web design” and who wouldn’t have the manpower to take advantage of the rankings even if they were attained.

This is an extreme example however it clearly illustrates that sometimes the phrase with the highest number of searches is not necessarily the best target for your business.

Phrases That Sell

Another consideration you will want to make when choosing your keyword phrases is whether or not they are “buy phrases”. Phrases with a high number of searches that are not “buy phrases” will tend to bring a lot of traffic, however the conversion ratio will be far lower. Should you choose to target “buy phrases” you may not get the same number of visitors however your ratio of visitors to sales will be much higher.

In this example let’s assume you are the marketing director for a well-known accounting company. There will be many choices you can make for your targeted keyword phrase. The top searched phrases in September 2004 that were accounting-related are:

  • “accounting” with 156,095 searches
  • “accounting software” with 54,621 searches
  • “accounting job” with 32,015 searches
  • “accounting services” with 19,260 searches
  • “accounting firm” with 13,089 searches

Many might go with their gut instinct and attempt to target “accounting”. The problem with this phrase (other than the competition for it) is that the people doing that search are not necessarily even looking for an accounting firm. They may be accounting students, small business owners not interested in hiring an accountant but just looking for tax information, etc. “Accounting software” and “accounting job” are irrelevant, which leaves us with “accounting services” and “accounting firm” as the two main options.

From this point an evaluation of competition should be performed and the pros and cons of making each the primary target should be weighed based on the amount of work it will take to attain the phrase vs. how many searches there are for that phrase.

Often promotions that target multiple “buy phrases” will end up far more successful that those targeting phrases based solely on the number of searches due to the increased conversions and generally decreased competition.

Tools To Use

Armed now with knowledge on how to recognize and choose between different phrases there remains only one question, how do you know which phrases are even searched? Fortunately there are a couple great resources out there to help you find out how many searches are performed for specific phrases. They Are:

The Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool

A decent tool for researching keyword phrases. It indicates which phrases had the highest numbers of searches on Overture during the previous month. The biggest weakness it has, as far as applying it to the natural search engines, is that Overture counts singular and plural as the same and also corrects misspelling so the totals are all lumped together in this tool whereas on the natural engines they are considered differently.

WordTracker

WordTracker is very similar to Overture’s Search Term Suggestion Tool except that this tool differentiates between plural and singular searches, does not correct spelling (i.e. it gives the number of searches for misspellings rather than correcting them and giving a total for correct and misspelled words) and gives the results in predicted numbers of searches over all the engines per day rather than just one engine over a month.

They have a great free trial that doesn’t give you as many results but which can be very useful.

When using these tools I recommend beginning with the Overture Search term Suggestion Tool and once you’ve narrowed down your choices, switch to WordTracker to insure that you’re getting the right information in regards to tense (singular vs. plural) and also that the numbers match. Sometimes you will find that the numbers are completely different from each tool. In this event you will have to use your best judgment.

Don’t forget to check misspellings when using WordTracker!

Tips & Tricks

There are no real “tricks” to uncovering the keywords you should target however there are a few tips. A few pointers that will help you maximize your keyword selection:

  • Think like a layman. Just because you know your industry terms doesn’t mean that everyone does. Don’t just think of the words you use to describe your products/services, think of the words you would use if you knew nothing about it other than the fact that you needed it. You may want to recruit a friend and have them run some searches for you.
  • Think like an expert. On the other side of the coin, there may be phrases used specifically in your industry that people “in the know” would use to search for your products and/or services. Be sure to look into these phrases. You just may find some hidden gems that no one else has thought to target.
  • Don’t target too many phrases. Some SEOs and webmasters target dozens and sometimes even hundreds of phrases. The end result, they often miss the ones they most wanted to attain. Keeping yourself and your keyword list focused will keep your site focused. If your site is focused you’ll rank higher for the phrases that will produce the highest return on investment.

Testing

Test your phrases. If there is any debate about whether a search phrase is worth targeting it’s often a good idea to test the conversions through pay-per-click engines. Set up an account with a PPC engine and bid on the phrases that you would like to target.

You have to remember that the PPC engines do not provide for the same amount of traffic as the natural engines. Test the initial phrases, test alternative phrases, and see which produce the best results. Something else to keep in mind is that PPC are not natural engines. If your ROI is not as high on more costly phrases that doesn’t mean they won’t produce the higher return on the natural engines where a top ranking does not cost money per click.

In the end you will have confirmed a solid list of keyword phrases and if the PPC campaign is providing a good return on investment you might as well keep it running and enjoy the “bonus” traffic that it provides.

Next Week

Next week in part two of our “Ten Steps To an Optimized Website” series we will be covering content. This will cover everything from the optimization of existing content to the creation of new content for your website.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:54 pm

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