Archive for April, 2008
Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
Even though Wikipedia added nofollow tags in early 2007, backlinks you manage to snag there will still help you from an SEO standpoint. Why? One simple reason: content scrapers. Wikipedia is believed to be the most heavily scraped site in the history of the Internet.
Let’s take this example. Say you were able to secure an external link on the Wikipedia page about cats, here. Congratulations. You just snagged a dofollow link on a PR 4 page, here. Answers.com is one of the many legitimate sites that scrapes content from Wikipedia, and it’s an authority one at that. They were nice enough to keep the content they scrape from Wikipedia dofollow. So how many backlinks will you pick up in the future from that one Wikipedia link? Too many to list, provided your link stays on Wikipedia for any length of time.
If you’re paranoid that having your link appear on a black hat scraper site will hurt you from an SEO standpoint, don’t be. The odds are against that happening in this situation. Google should be able to figure out that the only reason your link was involved with a bad neighborhood was because it appeared in content scraped from Wikipedia.
The other common opinion is that if you manage to pickup an external link on a popular or semi-popular Wikipedia page, many people will see your link and naturally create backlinks to it. Wikipedia pages do tend to get loads of Google traffic. This isn’t April 2007, so Wikipedia doesn’t rank number 1 for everything anymore, but I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s still fairly popular in the Google SERPS. And by “fairly” I mean “extraordinarily.” I’m digressing, but Wikipedia is the classic example of a site who’s success was truly driven off the back of Google. In fact, I would venture to say that if it wasn’t for Google, Wikipedia never would have entered into the mainstream.
Back on topic, finding sites that scrape Wikipedia is easy. Infinitely harder is getting external links to stick on Wikipedia. Here are two methods:
- Fill in missing citation gaps. Wikipedia will occasionally have sentences with a “citation needed” link after them. Create content on your site that revolves around that missing citation. If its quality is high enough, Wikipedia may let that pass as the citation.
- Manufacture a Wikipedia page that has high relevancy to an existing page. Link to that new page from an existing Wikipedia page. Add an external link to the new page as a reference. This has a higher probability of sticking since the page is fresh and needs sources.
Don’t let the fact that Wikipedia added nofollow tags stop you from using it in your link building endeavors.
Friday, April 25th, 2008
Anyone think Google isn’t the most powerful company on the planet? Well, you are wrong. And besides that they know how to keep their employees happy. Feed them. And they did to the tune of $72 million dollars.
Wrap your head around that number. Wow. Some small companies hope to bring in 1 million sales a year. Here’s a tip for you, start a food catering business and cater to Google!
Get your fill and read the full story on Softpedia.
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
When it comes to SEO, many small to medium players can get discouraged by the bigger players. They have more resources, so why should the smaller businesses even put forth the effort with SEO? Simple – because they can actually compete with the larger companies. Here’s why.
One thing to remember is that the big guys have resources, but because of that they often focus on the more traditional avenues for gaining traffic to their sites and stores. Take the diamond engagement ring business for instance. While any number of us can probably name a dozen national chains off the top of our heads (DeBeers, Zales, Kay Jewelers, and Jared to name a few), not a single one of them shows up in the top 50 for the term “diamond engagement rings”. In fact, only Kay is in the top 100 and Jared isn’t in the top 500. Why? Because they don’t have to be thanks to brand recognition. How does this help you?
Because they rely so much on brand recognition, most of your larger companies never bother to engage in SEO. For example, the #5 result for “diamond engagement rings” is Danforth Diamond, who’s home page title has the words “diamond engagement rings” in it, where as Jared and Zales both have only their company name in the title. Probably why Danforth Diamond is ranked #5 and Jared and Zales are both outside the top 50.
When it comes to writing copy for your website, you usually have one, maybe two writers, and yourself to answer to. When a big corporation decides to write copy for their website, they have to have one of their writers come up with copy that is SEO friendly, then that copy has to be worked over by the marketing people to make sure it works with the brand message, then it has to go to the legal department to make sure that they aren’t making any claims that can’t be substantiated, then it can go back to the writers for more edits, then back to…well I think you get the picture.
Smaller companies have the advantage of not having to deal with the same red tape that larger corporations do when deciding to make changes to their website. While you only answer to yourself, larger companies have to answer to their CEO’s, board of advisors, stockholders, and anybody else that has a corner office with a view.
SEO takes work, especially on your website. Between changing titles, adding products, adding content, installing a shopping cart, there’s a lot going on with your website. While smaller companies can handle having systems that are SEO friendly and perhaps take a little longer to make changes on, larger companies need changes made over night, and that typically means a content management system (CMS) that is less than SEO friendly.
Because the larger companies use CMS that aren’t SEO friendly, many of them don’t bother engaging in SEO and instead rely on brand awareness (which I mentioned earlier) to help drive traffic to their sites. Going hand in hand with this is the fact that since the larger companies don’t engage in SEO, when you do find them you’ll find their home page and have to search through their site for what you’re looking for, whereas with smaller sites you can have focus on internal pages to take customer to exactly what they’re looking for. This helps conversion rates, which ultimately means more profits for the little guy.
Reporting to Everybody
As I mentioned when talking about red tape, larger companies aren’t just answering to themselves. Zales might do a lot of business, but they have to report to their shareholders, board of trustees, and everybody else. When the little jewelry store down the street has a good quarter, the only person they’re answering to is themselves.
Because of having to answer to shareholders, larger companies need to be able to quantify their numbers into something that is easily understood, and that usually means time, energy, and resources channeled into producing these reports, as well as a system in place on the website that can easily produce the numbers needed. Those systems are often not SEO friendly. So while Zales might be able to tell their shareholders how much money they sold in the 3rd quarter of 2005, the small jewelry store down the street can figure out how much money they made, how many of each product they sold, and still rank in the top 10 for their big keywords.
Keep on Fighting
Sure, it can be discouraging to look at big companies and the money they can spend, but in this digital age with more and more people finding the products and services they want online through search engines, smaller companies can compete with larger ones through quality SEO and user-friendly websites. With a little work your company can get more internet exposure than those that spend millions of dollars on commercials, radio spots, and billboards. That’s the beauty of quality SEO.
Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
In 2007 I wrote a SEO tip every week. Okay, sometimes I was a little late but at the end of the year I had compiled 52 pretty good search engine optimization tips. A few are out of date, but I have listed which ones and given some information to explain why. Of course you can see all the tips in the 52 SEO tips category on this SEO blog, but to make things easier and to fulfill a few requests I have placed them all in a PDF.
Finding software that would build the PDF easily was not an easy task. In the end, the software did a credible job, but it isn’t exactly like I wanted it. But rather than tweak it endlessly I have decided to release it as is. The good news is it is free and I think most of those in the SEO industry can learn from it. I certainly learned something while putting it together.
So please visit the download page: 52 SEO Tips Download. Give a link back to us if you find it helpful.
Thursday, April 17th, 2008
While doing a check for backlinks to our wildly popular SEO Comic, I found this blog post (http://filehostfactory.com/site/8/?p=7268). What intrigued me the most was the overwhelming number of link ads (contextual ads) being placed in the post. If you look at the screen shot below you can see what I mean.
I counted 171 words starting with Filehostfactory and ending with “your own site.” Out of those words, 34 are being sold as Chitika ads. That is 20% of your content being sold to advertisers. Wow! And it doesn’t make reading it any easier either.
According to Chitika big money by top bloggers is a certainty so this type of in-your-face link advertising may be more prevalent as small-time bloggers seek a bigger piece of the blog advertising pie.
Has anyone had monetary success with this type of advertising? It would seem to drive viewers away in my opinion.
I do appreciate the link to our comic.
Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
For the past few days, many people who create new Squidoo lenses have been met with an unpleasant surprise. All the links on the lenses have been turned to nofollow, as demonstrated in the screen shot on the right. Apparently, this is a bug that popped up after Squidoo changed servers. The lenses are jammed in WIP mode, and in this mode, all links (including internal Squidoo links) are nofollow. It normally only takes the daily lensrank update to break free from this mode and, in turn, have all the links transformed to dofollow. The bug can be traced all the way back to April 9th, so it seems a bit funny that it still hasn’t been resolved.
Hopefully, this bug isn’t a preview of things to come. Most people would flip if Squidoo actually added nofollow tags. Although, Jason Calacanis might be pleased since he views Squidoo as nothing more than an outlet for spammers.
We’ll have to keep an eye on this one. It seems like a long time for a bug to still be acting up.
Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
A very resourceful gentleman by the name of Andrew Baron put his Twitter account on ebay. This account has 1,400 followers who have also been put on the auction block whether they like it or not. You can see the auction on eBay. It was up to $1,550 when I took this screen shot, with 7 days to go. Amazing!
Why is he sellng his account? From his own words:
I really love my Twitter account but I feel like I haven’t been using it the way I want to. Quite honestly, I feel sorry for all of my followers because they wind up with my tweets in their timelines and I haven’t been able to utilize the medium the way I want to. I also participate in another Twitter account over on Rocketboom so I’m thinking I’ll post more over there and start up a new account to do what I want to do next.
So I guess Twitter does have monetary value and you can throw your “twits” under than bus when you sell it. I would personally be a little upset if I was following him, but you have to appreciate the genius of this auction. What is your Twitter account worth?
If anyone has a twitter account they think I might like to follow please submit it in a comment. I’m still not sold on its value.
Tuesday, April 8th, 2008
Update: 4/20/08, Of course as soon as I post on my blog about Alexa’s inaccurate ranking system they decide to update their system. Time will tell if it is an better.
SEO companies are at the front lines when it comes to educating customers and potential customers about what is important when looking at web statistics. I guess I’ve hit my breaking point, which is usually when I start blogging, about Alexa rankings. We have clients that ask why there Alexa ranking is so high (which is bad) and even though they are ranking in the top 5 for their most treasured keyword phrases. They have high traffic that is converting above their industry standards, but still they Alexa ranking rears its ugly head too often.
So I want to put this issue to pasture and definitively state that we do not care about Alexa ranking and do not monitor Alexa rankings, other to see estimated trends for pure entertainment value. They are of little importance an not worth the time to view them. Not only are the extremely inaccurate, but they can also give a false sense of security when they inflate your importance. You must remember that unless you have the Alexa toolbar on your site, your web visits won’t be counted in the Alexa stats. What does this mean for the numbers that Alexa shows you? Well, think about who would have the Alexa toolbar installed: mostly people involved with Internet marketing such as SEO people, webmasters, consultants and other people whose job it is to track statistics. These aren’t your normal site surfers and they skew the traffic numbers higher for Internet-related sites. If you have been reading this blog long enough you know I’m a big believer in actual case studies and real data to prove a point. To that end I have done some research to show the Alexa Ranking Myth and break its spell.
The first chart shows stats from Alexa for this site (BigOakInc.com, a Internet marketing site) and a smoothie recipe site (Smoothieweb.com, a non-Internet related site) and you can see that Alexa shows the Big Oak site with more than double the traffic of Smoothie Web. If you were to view or stats on Alexa it reports our site as being in the top 100,000 sites on the web, specifically we are ranked at 94,204. My, aren’t we so important! Now,don’t get me wrong, we have a nice number of visitors, but to think we are in the top 100,000 sites is a bit much. While SmoothieWeb.com, a highly trafficked site is only ranked at 310,192.
Now that we know what Alexa is reporting, let us look at actual site statistics as reported by Google Analytics. If you look at the graphs below you can see the dramatic difference from Alexa’s reported rankings in traffic over the same 3-month period. BigOakInc.com has 20,311 visitors which is a very respectable number for a B2B site. But when compared to SmoothieWeb.com’s 210,190 visitors you can easily see that Alexa rankings are highly skewed towards technical and Internet-related websites. SmoothieWeb.com had 10x the visitor traffic according to Google Analytics but less than half according to Alexa’s estimates.
The BigOakInc.com site obviously pulls traffic from our competitors, webmasters in charge of finding a honest SEO company and research types for our informative SEO blog. And these users are more likely to have the Alexa toolbar installed, if only to inflate their own Alexa ranking by visiting their own sites daily. And before you ask, no, I do not have the Alexa toolbar installed and neither does any of the staff at Big Oak.
To sum up, do not look at Alexa rankings with any more than an passing curiosity, for that is all it is. Instead look at your site’s analytics and try to see where you are getting traffic and what traffic is converting. Look at the keywords your site is ranking for and how the visitors from those terms are using your site. In short, look at all the data you can around your actual visitors and leave the estimated numbers based on a toolbar installation to those who need the ego stroking of a high Alexa ranking. And if anyone asks you about your Alexa ranking, please refer them to this post.
Thursday, April 3rd, 2008
SearchMe.com, the new visual search engine backed by Sequoia, has taken what seems like an obvious concept and built a search engine around it. Words take on totally different meanings depending on the context. If you type the keyword “comic” into a search engine, you could be intending to search for a comic book or a stand-up comic. So why doesn’t Yahoo or Google ask the end user for context clues? Seems like an obvious prompt, doesn’t it? SearchMe thought so. And now we have a search engine based on the idea.
Do a search for “comic” on SearchMe, and you’ll be able to pick amongst a slew of categories to narrow your search. As SearchMe increases in popularity and expands, so will its categories. The end goal is to have such a comprehensive list of categories that the user will be able to pigeonhole any conceivably confusing search term into the right category. This can certainly save the user heaps of time. The problem is that if the algorithm is worse than Google’s, the user won’t care.
But I’ve been fiddling around with SearchMe, and the algorithm seems pretty solid. I’ve not yet come across any search results that I felt were way off. Their algorithm appears to do a good job of categorizing sites properly. When you tell it to only show sites relating to comic books, instead of comics in general, the results are relevant. Must be a lot of latent semantic indexing at play.
Ironically, the worst feature of SearchMe is its visualization element. The website preview screen is too large and distracting. If they wanted to give the user a glimpse of what a site in the SERPS looks like, they should have just copied ASK’s binocular feature. Hovering over a result to see what a site looks like is more pleasing than a bulky window. If you could actually read the content of the website inside that bulky preview window, then SearchMe would have a hit a goldmine in terms of innovation, but you can’t because the text is too small. Frankly, it’s probably better that you can’t because publishers who sell ads on their site wouldn’t be particularly ecstatic about that feature.
SearchMe is relying on user feedback to improve their search results. This seems wise since a single person has the ability to catch mistakes that could affect millions of search queries down the line. I noticed a few flaws with certain keywords. A search for the keyword “bug” brings up ten appropriate categories, including insects, web development, and computer programming. But it doesn’t bring up a car company category, so people searching for the Volkswagen Bug are left out to dry. A search for the keyword “rover” correctly brings up the car company category, which will please Range Rover fans, but it doesn’t bring up the aeronautics category. If you were hoping to dig deeper into information about the Mars Rover, you’d have to do it without the special category tool.
These mistakes speak volumes about the impact of human intervention since it’s unlikely that SearchMe’s own algorithm would have ever caught them. If SearchMe’s popularity ever explodes, they can thank the beta testers. Making the feedback feature so prominent was a smart maneuver.
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008
April’s installment of the SEO Comic Ranked Hard has been published. Read “Beware the Dark Side” which deals with the duality every search engine optimizer must sometimes face.
Thanks to our friends at Internet Marketing Sucks for the April Fool’s Joke using the Ranked Hard comic strip.
Tuesday, April 1st, 2008
I’m not going to write a review of twitter, mainly because I have only started using it recently and I’m undecided about its practical uses. If you would like to see what others think of twitter you can read a review here or here. I did include two videos in this post so you can get a quick idea of what it is and how it works.
What is Twitter? Twitter is a social messaging tool for staying connected in real-time.
I do find it very cool that I have access to other SEO Experts and even cooler some of them have been kind enough to read what I’m twittering about. If you are interested in what I am doing you follow me at http://twitter.com/ShellHarris. Is anyone else twittering. Please pass along any thoughts on this social media tool.
Update: I was amazed to find the Google pulled an alert for me from a Twitter comment I made. I had made a comment about our newest SEO Comic and my alert pulls any mention of “SEO Comic”. So Google is caching my twitter page. The link are all nofollow, but we know Google follows nofollow they just don’t apply an link popularity from them.
The following videos can demonstrate the genius or madness of Twitter. I am yet undecided.