Archive for November, 2006

Ten Signs That Your SEO Is a Quack

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Have you wondered how so many SEO companies could possibly exist on the web? Well, most of them are fly by night, opportunistic companies with little to no experience. Below is a helpful “top ten list” which can help you discern the honest SEO companies and those looking to take your money.

There are so many SEO/SEM firms cropping up that talk a good game but don’t deliver results. This is in part because there’s so much information that is freely available about search engine optimization. On the surface, SEO sounds easy — and it really is — once you’ve had a number of sites to experiment with. What’s even easier than SEO, however, is discussing SEO as if you know what you’re actually doing (when you don’t)!

Here are 10 signs to watch out for that may very well indicate that your potential SEO is a quack. Please note that one of these individually may not be bad, but if you notice more than 2 or 3 of these when speaking with any SEO company, you may just want to head for the hills!

1. Your SEO company talks about Meta tags and Google PageRank (PR) as if they are the magic bullet to high rankings.

For the most part, there’s no reason to even bring up the keyword Meta tag nor toolbar PR in a discussion about what needs to be done to get better search engine exposure for your site. Both of them are issues that quack SEO companies will talk about because they actually believe they are the key to SEO success. They are not. I’ve discussed in previous articles the Meta
keyword tag’s lack of importance, so I won’t go into that again here. In regards to PageRank, increasing the little green bar graph’s number should never be the ultimate goal of a professional SEO campaign. A good campaign will automatically increase your real and true PageRank (as measured by
Google) without your specifically setting out to increasing it on your own.
Since PR doesn’t bring you traffic and sales (nor rankings), increasing it should not ever be the main goal of your campaign. This fact is of course lost on SEO quacks.

2. Your SEO company’s site (or those of their clients) has the same Title tags on every page. Sounds crazy I know, but I’ve seen this more than once!

I once got a client who had previously used a very major SEO company that most people have heard of. They had been with this firm for a whole year, and yet the Title tags on every page of their site were all the same (the name of the company). Since Title tags are probably the most important (and
easiest) thing to change on a site, any SEO company that can’t do this one basic thing for their own site or their clients’ is most definitely a quack! (more…)

Error Pages – 404 Error Pages

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

The dreaded 404 page is something that almost everyone has encountered in their online journeys. The most common reasons for landing on a 404 page include:

  • a mis-typed URL
  • an out-of-date bookmark
  • a search engine link that is out-of-date
  • an internal broken link that the webmaster hasn’t noticed

Surveys suggest that approximately 40% of users who run into a 404 Page Not Found error will leave your site, never to return.

However, as a webmaster, these pages should be customized in order to help the user find their way back to your website. To create your own customized 404 page, keep the following guidelines in mind.

Provide an explanation of what went wrong. A nice way to apologize would be to offer them a free report. By using this technique, your visitors will not only be impressed by your creativity, but you can also collect their name and email adress at the same time.

Provide a link to the site map. By redirecting them to your sitemap, they should be able to quickly and easily find what they are looking for.

Provide a search box for users to target in on exactly what they originally came for.

Use minimal navigation. This is not the place to put your entire site navigation. You simply want to pull them back into your website so that you are not losing any of your potential customers.

Some helpful examples of 404 error pages can be found at:

http://www.lockergnome.com/404
http://www.fool.com/error

Here is a great article on what should be on your 404 Error page: http://www.plinko.net/404/howto.asp?article=2

About This Author
Kim Roach is a staff writer and editor for the SiteProNews & SEO-News newsletters.

Sitemap support from MSN, Yahoo and Google

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

google has really done a great job making sitemaps integral for any true SEO company and now it seems as if the other big two are following suit.

You can read more about it from Sitemaps.org, the homepage for this new initiative:

Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site.

Will this be widely employed? Check out the big 3 and see: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft

Meta Search Engine Provides SEO Tool

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

ZippyZippy was launched in September by the seasoned SEO Dave Naylor, and provides some valuable tools for site optimization.Zippy’s design is similar to Technorati’s new design, with a minimalist white background and lots of bright colors. The site is pretty easy to use, and has a slick feel with the help of some ajax. It took only a few minutes worth of playing around to really get a grasp on the functionality. However, a tutorial or features page, would be nice to help introduce the functionally to a new user.

The basic search functionality for Zippy queries Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Ask and mashes the results together. It then ranks the results among the four.

Zippy is a new meta search engine that queries other major engines and returns results in a format most suited for Webmasters and SEOs. Read more.

Google Blog Alerts

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

Post from TMCNET.com. Read the full article.
A coworker noticed that his Google Alerts now contained a new “Google Blogs Alert” within his email this morning. Sure enough, you can see the new Google Blogs Alert. My guess is they’re using their Google Blog Search, which already finds new blog posts and then sends the alerts.

Now the only question is “will Google add blogs to the main Google News”? And would you be for it or against it? After all, there are a lot of poorly written blogs out there and right now the Google News is a useful resource. Perhaps Google can take the Top 10000 blogs out there based on a combination of Google PageRank, Technorati Ranking, etc.

Google Alerts beta page now lists blogs, webs, groups, and comprehensive in the drop-down box.

Deep Linking and Hosted Marketing Pages

Friday, November 10th, 2006

What a great idea, and one that we have been trying out ourselves. Creating entire pages to swap links in and supplying content to other sites to link to you are wonderful ideas. As link marketing becomes more competitive we shall see how things change in the SEO world.

The problem with Search Engine Optimization is that every body does it. Whenever a new technique gets into the public domain, it soon becomes overused. As the SE industry is itself becomes more and more competitive, increasing the pressure to deliver relevant, quality results, the search engines quickly devalue it for their algorithms, in order to maintain the credibility and usability of their search results.

Linking is a case in point. A central factor to “relevancy”, inward/outward links contribute significant weight to page rank and overall search ranking. However, as linking is now both hackneyed and abused, the SE’s are damping or reducing the weighting attached to certain types of links. As they become more sophisticated, the SE’s are able to differentiate between links for their relevance both to the page they are on and the page they point to. (more…)

Good Design with Good SEO, is It Possible?

Friday, November 10th, 2006

At Big Oak SEO we come across the debate of Search Engine Optimization versus good design. We feel both can be achieved if the company working on your site understands both. At Big Oak SEO we do. We have trained graphic designers who work with trained SEO Consultants to create a site, both pleasing to the eye and high-ranking in the search engine Results. We can help your site or business. Visit our site today for more information.

Technology Column: Design vs. SEO: Can My Site Look Good and Rank Well?
Do you have to sacrifice all of the creative and artistic elements of your web site to rank in the search engines? Later in this article I’ll show you a real case scenario and the design and SEO approach used.

Thanks to the birth of professional search engine marketers the top ranks are saturated with the pages of companies that can pay for such insight. That said, it’s certainly possible to employ high ranking tactics in your own website. Actually, the most basic tactics can move you up from an 800 position to a 300. However, it’s the top of the scale where efforts seem almost inversely exponential or logarithmic, you put a ton in to see a tiny change in rank.

How do you meld the ambitious overhauls required to attain significant ranking and NOT compromise the design of your site?

Design Can’t Be Ignored
If you have an existing site, you’ve probably tied it into your existing promotional content. Even if you’ve allowed your website to cater to the more free form of the net, it should still be designed as a recognizable extension of your business.

The reasons for doing so are valid, and can’t simply be ignored for the sake of achieving a first age position, can they? If your research into search optimization leaves you shuffling around thoughts of content, keyword saturated copy and varying link text, you are correctly understanding some of the basic pillars of search engine optimization.

And, you aren’t alone if you have this disheartening thought–If I do all this SEO stuff and reach number one across the board, who would stay at my site because it’s so stale and boring I’m even embarrassed to send people there!

There are two ways to successfully combine design and SEO. The first is to be a blue chip and/or Fortune 500 company with multi million dollar advertising and branding budgets to deliver your website address via television, radio, billboards, PR parties and giveaways with your logo.

Since chances are that’s not you, and certainly not me, lets look at the second option. It begins with some research into your market, some thoughtful and creative planning, and a designer who is a search engine optimizer, and understands at least basic CSS and HTML programming techniques. Or a combination of people with these skills that can work very well together.

Design is for brochures, instant results are for the web
That’s not the whole truth, but it will help compare and contrast design and SEO. In reality, SEO needs the quantity and detail of supporting text that a brochure has, but good web design has to catch a viewer’s attention in 5 seconds. It’s pretty difficult to read and absorb the content of an entire brochure in less than 5 seconds.

Search engines need rich, related, appropriate, changing and poignant content. And for them to rank you, all of that must be on your pages. But if it’s not well organized and broken down into bite size chunks, no one is going to bother learning about what you’re offering.

Construction 101- Attractive Design and SEO
Sadly, it’s very difficult to optimize a site without completely overhauling it. You’ll soon understand why. Design and SEO must be strongly rooted into every aspect of each other, possessing a true, symbiotic relationship. Lets look at a simplified example of this. Lets say you are optimizing a page for the keyword phrase, “pumpkin bread recipe.”

From a design standpoint “Pumpkin Bread Recipe” would be the heading for the page, in a nice, readable font with the words perhaps an orange-brown color. And lets add a fine, green rule around it.

There are many ways to create that simple, colored heading. However, there is only one way that is best for both design and SEO. That is to use Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS. In addition, that line of code containing “Pumpkin Bread Recipe” needs to be as close to the top of the page as possible (which CSS also allows).

To a viewer, the recipe text might be read more if it were located to the right of a photo of a buttered piece of pumpkin bread on a small plate next to a lightly steaming cup of coffee.

SEO needs to read that ingredient list and baking instructions. Search engines now understand on a rudimentary level that the ingredients are indeed related to the optimized words- pumpkin bread recipe.

Additionally, it would take many extra lines of code to make a table in this example if you didn’t use CSS. Search engines don’t like extra code. In fact, given enough times, that “extra” code will make the keyword phrases seem less important and hurt rank.

Note: In the page code, a few thousand characters more than you need to get all of that content organized would normally just add to your page load time, and might be acceptable. But to a search engine, that time can really add up. It wont read through page after page, site after site, billionth after billionth character of unimportant code to find the relevant text. Therefore, the less code, the better your chances. Moral- Less code, more content.

SEO usually means REDO
In the previous pumpkin example, CSS will eliminate the need for almost any extra code at all, and provide the means to place the text to the right of the photo.

Now, imagine that someone had already created this page, but done so using other programming methods. The page could very well be W3C compliant, well programmed and got the job done. However, without designing and programming for optimization as in the above illustration, the end result would have no significant rank compared to others that do.

You can be sure that there exist at least 30 web sites built to rank for the keywords “pumpkin bread recipe”. Note- why did I use the number 30? It’s safe to assume if you’re not on the first three results pages of a search, you’re not being seen.

While this is a simple example, hopefully you understand that it would be impossible to optimize this simple page without redoing it. This isn’t always the case, but extrapolate this into detailed, multiple pages in an entire website and the issue is greatly magnified.

Aesthetic Importance vs. Traffic
Everyone has an idea of what they want their site to look like. The pretty factor- splash pages, cool flash and graphics must now be justified as to their importance to the bottom line. If you want/need to establish an online presence, you will have to make some compromises in these areas.

Understand exactly the role your site should play in your company marketing.

  • Ask- What is the goal of your website and who is its audience? Is it for existing clients to see? Is it to reach new clients? To venture into yet untapped market segments?
  • Ask- How strongly do your other marketing efforts promote your site?
  • Ask- Is your website an extension of your existing collateral that must reflect the same graphical look?
  • Ask- Is your website meant to assist to your sales force or is it your sales force?

Chances are you wont have any single answers. That’s ok. It will give you some meat for your designer/SEO to digest and develop a solution for you.

Real case of Design balanced with SEO and salability
If you sell jewelry solely online, you must have a catalog of exceptional photography and detailed, high-resolution close up images. But, you must be optimized and rank well if you want to sell any of that jewelry.

If such a company approached me with this project, my recommendation would be this: If you sell a product, people have to see that product. Lots of good images. The site should be slick and sheik and easy to navigate. The home page has to capture the buyer’s attention. If it’s very expensive jewelry, the site should have a lot of class and elegance. If it’s home made jewelry, the site shouldn’t look home made.

However, as you have no store front, if the online community can’t find you, you’re business will fail. So I’d have a very optimized home page with some discussion of the quality of your product, the history of your company, etc. This is also great sales copy. Ad a few special catalog pieces with descriptions below some smartly placed gifs, jpegs and readable type graphics built out of CSS and you’ve got a cool to look at, content rich, well optimized layout.

I’d make the link to your catalog very obvious and prominent. Note the catalog is not the homepage. I’d also include subsequent well written, in depth pages about the history of some specific pieces. Load them with targeted keywords and a few images. Again, make your catalog link very prominent. In doing so you’re creating relevant content for search engines AND providing additional pages that can rank.

The catalog can be database driven, simple and changeable, and you have the foundation to build your search rank.

Planning Your Site

If your designer is not a search engine optimizer, hire one to work with your designer from the initial development stage of your site. If you would like a visible presence that is not dependant on traditional marketing efforts to get your name around, then you will have to optimize.

However, with advances in html and css, text itself can be a very flexible and attractive design element with endless possibilities. Site optimization consists of some rigid, unbendable rules. It can be intertwined successfully with very creative and attractive design. If your Designer and SEO aren’t the same person or company, make sure they have the same, close working relationship.

About The Author

John Krycek is a creative director at theMouseworks.ca Toronto website design. Learn more about search engine optimization, internet marketing, web development and graphic design in easy, non-technical, up front English at http://www.themouseworks.ca.

Why Reciprocal Linking Works for SEO

Friday, November 10th, 2006

The first question you have to ask and answer about whether to embark on a reciprocal link exchange program for your website is “why”. After all, it’s work, time and money. It has to stand up to business analysis. I’ve been doing reciprocal linking for websites since 1996. In that time, I’ve seen this work evolve from one that was primarily a way for niche interest, hobbyist-oriented sites to reach out to each other, to one that is now a business function, often driven by the need for quality traffic exchange, and good search engine results.

Web Promotion Before Google

Before Google came along and put the focus on link popularity, only the savviest businesses were running link directories and pursuing links with other relevant sites. Most businesses ignored reciprocal linking.

The prevailing wisdom was that a business website should not link out to anyone else, if they could help it. The concept was that you should capture visitors, hold them hostage, and never, ever cooperate with anybody else. This has been proven wrong.

What’s interesting, though, is that the purpose and linking methods that worked well for those niche sites in the pre-Google days still work well today. It is important to keep this in focus, as there are now a lot of people out there who are trying to do this work using misguided methods, for misguided reasons.

Why Link?

First and foremost, linking should be pursued as a branding function of your business. If other websites that are relevant to your business are running link directories, and offering to list yours for free, then it makes sense to get your site listed. In as many of them as possible. That is just basic Common Sense 101.

In order to get these links, the accepted protocol is to first list the other site on your site, then make the request for a link, using the proper method of submission (via email or online form, if one is provided). This work is specifically termed “directory-to-directory reciprocal linking”.

“Linking should be pursued as a branding function of your business.”

Before people started playing games with PageRank and Alexa rankings, and other tangential matters related to linking, most linking took place between sites within relevant realms of interest. Asking for links outside of your realm was not only rude, but it was almost always a waste of time. Relevancy was the primary criteria, and as long as there was some sound reason for the exchange, and each webmaster approved of the other’s site, it was done. It’s a private exchange between two willing parties, and it should not be judged by others.

The Linking Challenge

The challenge here is that there is a lot of data management work involved in managing directory-to-directory reciprocal link exchanges. So when search engines started to reward sites that had links, the search engine optimization (SEO) crowd, which had largely ignored linking, suddenly needed them in order to succeed.

The SEO crowd began to devise all manner of strategies that were designed to allow them to get the results they wanted, but with as little linking work as possible. We’ve seen theories that only links from pages with PageRank (PR) 4 and higher were “worthwhile”. People claimed that un-reciprocated links were “hurting” your rankings through “PR-leakage”, a concept that has been proven to have no merit. There’s even more bizarre stuff out there, but you get the idea.

Over time, it is becoming clear that the websites that have ignored all of these complex theories and still treat linking as a branding function of the business, whereby they simply continue to pursue relevant links with quality sites, are still doing the best with the search engines. I see this all the time. Traditional linking with quality relevant sites works. Sites that link with quality sites relevant to the same industry get the double benefit of having their sites listed in as many relevant locations as possible, thus getting quality traffic directly from the links, while enjoying considerable search engine benefits.

The Long Term Commitment and Payoff

Treat this work as a branding function of your business. One that never ends. Commit to it, with tools, a budget, and dedicated human resources that will do it properly. Look at it as a long term necessity that really does pay dividends.

It may not be the easiest thing to manage, but many website owners consider reciprocal linking to be the single most cost-effective marketing investment that they have made in their sites. There are other ways to get links to your site, such as the outright purchase of links, or the pursuit of content citations back to your site. But on a cost per link basis, directory-to-directory reciprocal linking is a very favorable investment, when done properly.

Google has risen to the top of the search engine world, in a large part because their algorithm that takes linking into account. It is highly unlikely that they will turn their back on it, and recent indexing changes at Google have only further supported traditional, honest linking practices.

On a more fundamental level, linking is the very foundation of HTML. Which stands for Hypertext Markup Language. The term Hypertext specifically refers to text that is linked and “active”. That is, you can click on it in an HTML browser, and the browser will take you to that location on the World Wide Web. The attraction of text-based linking was the founding reason behind HTML and the World Wide Web. Prior to that, people using the Internet had to enter their destinations manually using arcane codes. HTML and browsers made it easy to navigate the Web.

“Traditional linking with quality relevant sites works.”

It’s very basic, really. The World Wide Web is a new and unique medium. It is a computer network, based entirely on links between pages. The more links you have, the more opportunities you have for people to visit your website. Links are literally the currency of the World Wide Web.

All of this comes down to choices. As it stands right now, those who make no effort to link their sites in some way will only continue to fall further behind their competitors. Since directory-to-directory reciprocal linking is the most cost effective way to get this done, then it should be very high on your list of necessary tasks, if you are serious about promoting a commercial website. It goes with the territory.

Dirk Johnson has been managing link campaigns since the mid-1990s, and writes for various sources on web promotion and linking. His advice and commentary is regarded as “expert through experience.” Dirk’s approach to linking has been more traditional in scope, treating it as a branding function, and not a search engine optimization function. He operates LinkStrategy.com www.linkstrategy.com.

Google Supplemental Results

Friday, November 10th, 2006

Nice article about the misunderstood supplemental results Google supplies. Also good advice on how to help your pages escape supplemental hades and find the Google promiseland. Better yet you can also read how to avoid being placed in the supplemental results altogether.

According to Google’s FAQ page, supplemental results are part of Google’s auxiliary index (main results are drawn from the main index) and pages, which appear on the supplemental listing, have "fewer restrictions" than those that appear on the main results page. They further say that the inclusion of sites on the main or supplemental index is purely automated and does not affect page rank at all.

In truth however, pages that appear on the main index will almost always show up first in a search. Supplemental search results will only show up if there are very few or no results at all in the main index. Plenty of older web sites also tend to populate the supplemental results page. Needless to say the supplemental results page is not where you want your site to end up. Ironically several people have emailed Google asking that their sites be included in the supplemental index!

So how does a site end up in the supplemental results page? And more importantly how does one get out or even avoid inclusion in the first place?

Several factors may affect your inclusion in supplemental results but keep in mind it is best to avoid these factors at the outset, as it is easier to stay out of supplemental results than to get out.

One of the most crucial factors to consider is the text content of your web page; whether it is in the title tag, description tag or actual web page content. (more…)

Big Oak SEO Blog

This SEO blog is provided by Big Oak SEO, a SEO Company. Most blog posts are related to search engine optimization, short reviews, SEO tips and increasing site conversions. Email us at contact@bigoakinc.com or give us a call 804-741-6776 to see how we can help your company. More

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