Archive for the ‘SEO Mistakes’ Category

The Dangers of Buying Links Through a Service – SEO Tip Week 47

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007 |

SEO TipsShould you buy links through a link service? Ever since Google slapped (it no longer appears in the first 30 results for its own name), that is a question webmasters have had to wrangle with more than ever. Generally, Google regards buying links as a form of spam and as threat to their business model.

Google hasn’t been shy about punishing sites who engage in this behavior lately either. Many who bought and sold links with Text-Link-Ads have reported a significant drop in their PageRank since the last Google update. This is partly because escaping the eyes of Google is difficult. Doing a search for function tla_ads will uncover all the sites selling links using Text-Links-Ads who have not yet upgraded to the latest TLA plug-in, which hides this information. If Google can see who is selling links, they can logically conclude who is buying them as well.’s recent Google slap represents one of the more drastic punishments doled out to a webmaster. Chow had ranked number 1 in Google for the keyword “make money online” for over a year, but he also aggressively pushed link selling services. Now, he doesn’t even appear in the top 30 results for the keyword “John Chow.” (He clocks in at #57 from the datacenter I’m hitting). 

Analyzing Google’s behavior becomes confusing when one considers that Chow’s site still has a toolbar PR of 4. Likewise, Text-Link-Ads still boasts a PR of 7.

If one wants to remain in the good graces of Google, avoiding the use of link brokers such as TLA or would probably be judicious. But reading Google’s mind is not an easy task, as evidenced by the erratic nature of their penalties.

Avoid Blinding the Search Engine Spiders – SEO Tip Week 42

Monday, October 22nd, 2007 |

SEO TipsLast week I was asked to consult with a design firm. One of our new clients was using a design firm to build their new site. I was asked to provide some advice when designing for search engine optimization. At Big Oak we are not SEO Nazis who insist everything must be HTML text and the site must be visually lifeless. Far from it. I was a web designer not to many years ago so I am very sensitive to outside influences giving direction to your design, especially when your artistic integrity is being put at risk. After all, most design shops are trying to build a impressive portfolio and “search engine people” appear to be the enemy of design to some.

With this in mind I submitted some things to be wary of, but didn’t need to be avoided. I explained that the idea is to let the search engines know what your page is about and you have to have some text for the spiders to read in order to do that. So these items can be added, with moderation and strategically, but remember to think like a spider when you do.

Graphical text: Spiders can’t read graphic text and and I would prefer to use HTML text for all text, but headlines can be enhanced through graphics so using graphic text is okay, but be sure you are using the title and alt tags with these images. Wrap it in a H1 tag if that is warranted for a heading.

Read more about this on my previous post: Graphic Headlines Can Work for SEO.

Images: Obviously spiders can’t read images whether they are text images or otherwise. Our main concern is an all image page. All images means no text, which means no traffic. Images are okay, even for navigation as long as you are using a sitemap and text navigation in the footer. Of course all images should have alt tags and title tags as referenced above in an earlier post.

Flash Animation: This may be news to some of you, but the spiders don’t read Flash and although you can add some context to your Flash through programming, I would never rely on that entirely. Instead use Flash as an enhancer and let the site speak through body text on the page.

If you do decide to create an entirely Flash site (may the SEO gods be with you) then be sure to create an alternate HTML version for the spiders and for those of us who prefer good ol’ HTML sites.

Read more about this in my earlier post: SEO and Flash

What if Google had to design their interface for Google?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 |

This is the height of hilarity. It just goes to show the underlying hypocrisy of Google. Google can play the holy-than-thou card due to their popularity, but what they want from other sites would certainly change the look of their site if they followed their own advice.

Take a look at what Google would look like if they had to design their site based on their recommendations. See the Google madness.

Well done by the folks over at MeanGene.

How Google Determines Paid Links

Friday, October 5th, 2007 |

How Google Determines Paid Links

How to Use Keywords – SEO Tip 37

Monday, September 17th, 2007 |

SEO TipsI just returned from giving my latest SEO Presentation to a Virginia Portal/Newspaper. I spent the last week or two creating the presentation and in doing so had to put myself in the place of someone brand new to the world of SEO. Of course I do this all the time when talking to people looking for an SEO Company, but this was slightly different. This time I was having to teach someone how to do SEO and that meant going back to the basics for everything including keyword usage.

So many times, as an SEO expert, I think of much of my knowledge as general, public knowledge. For example, everyone must know what a keyword is, right? Wrong. And even if they know what a keyword is they usually don’t know how to use it to effectively to optimize their web pages. Showing how keywords could be best used was of particular interest to the group I presented to, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on my blog as well.

Here is my personal suggestions on where and how to use your keywords on your web page you want ranked for that keyword:

  • Use it at least once in your Page Title or <title> tag, twice if you can use it in another form, but don’t feel compelled to have it twice. Once is usually sufficient. Example: <title>How to Use Keywords</title>
  • Use it once in your Meta Description Tag. It can help convince users to click your search results. (See more about this at my meta description post.) Example:
    <meta name="description" content="Want to know how to best use keywords to optimize your webpage? Click here to leanr and read other SEO Tips." />
  • Use it at least once in your H1 <h1> Tag . This should be main heading or title of your web page. On this blog post the H1 title is “How to Use Keywords”. The H1 tag should different on each page, and not the web site name. Only use ONE H1 tag on any given page.
  • Use it in one of your subheads. Your subhead should be an H2 <h2> tag. H2 tags can also, and should, hold secondary keywords, but including the main keyword is effective. Most web pages would benefit from subheads from a user perspective as well as for optimization help.
  • Depending on the amount of body text on the page, you should try to include keywords within the text at least 4 times. This comes with a BIG CAVEAT though. Only do this if it makes sense and doesn’t appear spammy. Remember you are writing for human and search engines. Spammy content can ruin all the efforts you made to get the user to the page. Be sensible and read your content. If too many keywords are making it sound silly, take them out. Avoid keyword stuffing.
  • If you have images on the page, and it makes sense, you should add it to the alt <alt> tag.
  • If you have images on the page, and it makes sense, you should add your keyword to the image title. This isn’t something most people to but it is helpful, in my opinion and only takes a few seconds. So your image tags should look like this:
    <img src="image.jpg" alt="keyword phrase" title="keyword phrase" />.
  • Add your keyword to link in other pages of your site, pointing to the page you want ranked. Linking out from the page you want ranked is fine, but do not use the keyword you want that page ranked for in the anchor text.

I think this will cover your optimization efforts. Of course tweaking my suggestions is encouraged and even necessary most times, but this is as good a guideline as any to start with. After you have used your keywords don’t forget to begin link building using the same keywords. Your efforts will be rewarded.

Google’s Supplemental Results – SEO Tip Week 29

Friday, July 20th, 2007 |

52 SEO TipsGoogle is indexing more pages now then ever before, but that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes these pages get sent to the supplemental index instead of the main index. It’s perfectly normal for most sites to have some pages in the supplemental index, but if your main pages (and especially your home page) get sent to the supplemental index you’ll likely not see much traffic from Google any more.

My site’s listed in the supplemental results, what does that mean?
As Google states, “Supplemental sites are part of Google’s auxiliary index.” Google will always show results from their main index before showing results from the supplemental index. This means that supplemental pages will almost never show up for searches, and will only show up for super specialized searches if few or no results come from the main index. With so many blogs and tag pages out there, even crazy many-word searches will bring back at least a few non-supplemental results.

How did my site get in the supplemental index?
One way pages end up in the supplemental index instead of the main index is a lack of PageRank (PR). This could be because you orphaned the page (no links pointing to it), the page lies too many clicks away from your home page, or your home page itself has a very low PR. If this is the case, you should work on your link building to those important pages of your site and build up their PageRank.

The other way your pages end up in the supplemental index is by having duplicate content on your page. This could be because you used the same manufacturer written product description that dozens of other sites use, you copied content from another website, or your pages have very little content and too much template which is duplicated on all pages. If this is the case, try writing unique content or changing your template so it doesn’t have the same elements on every page.

I changed my pages, what’s next?
Now that you’ve fixed your pages, it can be a long and hard process for getting them out of the supplemental index because the supplemental spider doesn’t come along very often. You should create or edit your Google sitemap XML file and hope that will be enough. If that doesn’t work, try changing the name (URL) of those pages and delete the old file.

Feel free to add your own observations about supplemental results here, we’d love to hear your stories.

Flat Site Architecture is SEO-Friendly – SEO Tip 27

Friday, July 6th, 2007 |

Why you should use a flat site architecture rather than a deep, or nested, site architecture if SEO is important to your site?

52 SEO TipsIn my previous life as a website designer and HTML developer I loved to have a folder/directory for everything. While I’m not a organized person (ask my wife) I did like keeping my files structured in clearly labeled directories. So nesting directories 4 or 5 levels deep was common practice. When I transitioned to an SEO specialist my ideas on structuring files and site architecture began to change and here is why.

A flat site offers quick access to all the pages within the site. A minimal number of clicks are needed to find all the pages within your site, usually no more than three clicks is ideal. According to the views of the search engines (SEs), less clicks mean higher importance. The view of the SEs are that more important information will be easier to reach. Home page information is the most important, one click from the home page is secondary information and two clicks is tertiary information and so forth.

Think of it like bodies of water. Your home page is the ocean and off of the home page are large rivers and then smaller rivers, then streams, then creeks and brooks and finally the smallest trickle of water is all that is left. Don’t let you products, services or information be at the end of the trickle, drying up eventually. Closer to the ocean is always better and that is how the search engines will rank your pages too.

I’ve seen some site place everything in the root folder and this isn’t good practice either. Structure your sites as to what makes sense, but be aware that more clicks can mean less viewers, both for search engine traffic and visitors on your site.

Not Ready for Traffic? Google Comes Anyway.

Monday, July 2nd, 2007 |

Be careful when you are launching a new site. Remember the search engines will find you if they can find links pointing to the domain. We ran across a humorous example of a site in development while reserching the term “runaway teens” for a client.

The site came up during our research. While it has nothing to do with our subject matter search the term runaway was the connection. Our researcher, read the first paragraph and got a chuckle. I’m sure they will finish the site soon and this post will make no sense so I have attached a screen shot for future generations.

So if you are building on a live server, be sure to block the search engines until you are ready for them. Here are two methods to employ. Both work well.

A simple addition of a robots.txt file with the following command will do the trick:

User-agent: * Disallow: /

You can also add this meta tag to head of your the page you don’t want indexed:


Click Here For More Information – Bad Text Links – SEO Tip Week 26

Friday, June 29th, 2007 |

If you have been following this blog or looking into SEO you know how very important building links can be to your site’s success in the search engine rankings. Link building involves two types of links: Links pointing to your site (external linking), and links on your site pointing to other pages of your site (internal linking). While we don’t always have the ability to control external linking, a poorly worded internal link is inexcusable. The single, easiest and least low effort thing to remember is to make your links descriptive. If that is too much to remember, then just remember this, no links should be labeled “click here,” “more information,” “read more” or any other variation of these words.

I realize this might bring disagreement from the user experience community but I think we can all agree that your average user doesn’t need to be told to click a link and if it isn’t obviously a link (underlined) you have bigger problems on your site with usability.

Every time I see a “click here” link I shake my head at the wasted link opportunity that is being lost. You probably know how powerful link text can be in helping your rankings so it shouldn’t be a surprise to find that the site that ranks for the term “click here” doesn’t even have those words within the text of the page that is ranking for “click here”. Care to guess what company’s site is ranking for it?

I’ll give you a hint; you’ve most likely downloaded the application and probably more than once. The site, or page actually, ranked number one for the term “click here”is the Acrobat Reader download page. Make sense? This clue might help: Click here to download Acrobat Reader. This proves the power of the text in your link, so why waste it with a non-descriptive textual link?

I can provide thousands of examples, but let’s look at a few examples where a descriptive text link would be much better.

Early Detection Key to Preventing Vision Loss from Glaucoma More than 2 million Americans over the age of 40 have glaucoma, but many of those living with the disease don’t even know it. – Find out more HERE

Instead, remove the “Find out more HERE” and place the link on the headline text and best of all it doesn’t require any rewriting:

Early Detection Key to Preventing Vision Loss from Glaucoma
More than 2 million Americans over the age of 40 have glaucoma, but many of those living with the disease don’t even know it.

  • Apple’s iPhone Page
    Being the huge Apple fan that I am it pains me to point to them as a bad example, but the new iPhone page is just that, a bad example. On this page I count five “read more” links and one “learn more”. It can be argued that Apple doesn’t need SEO help for the iPhone, but the principal and lost opportunity still applies.
  • Joint Commission Home Page
    I count five “read more” links, incredibly listed below descriptive titles without a link. What better way to get listing for their top stories than linking to them with keywords in the story? Placing the link on the headline would solve this, much like we suggested for the Prevent Blindness site.
  • Burst Media Contact Page
    One of the more ridiculous offenders of the “click here” mistake.

Making simple changes would have helped all of these sites make better use of their internal linking as well as helped with their site’s ranking for the words in the link.

Of course, going beyond the decision to not use useless text links and thinking about the best keywords and phrases to use will help even more. A few seconds, or better yet, a few minutes applied to thinking about your internal, contextual linking can bring in great rewards. Take the time and…Think before you Link!

SEO Titles, Using the Title Tag – SEO Tip Week 25

Friday, June 22nd, 2007 |

52 SEO TipsPage titles are one of the most important parts of any web page, especially when performing search engine optimization. A page title is located at the very top of your browser’s window. It can bring traffic in abundance or completely isolate your site. Knowing how to properly word a page title is critical to your site’s SEO success. Let’s look at how page titles can be used to increase your site’s traffic.

Snowflakes and Titles
It is said no two snowflakes look exactly the same. Well, the same should be said for page titles on your site.

Every page on your site should have a different focus from the other pages on your site, or you are repeating yourself and duplicating content. So if all your pages are telling a different story, shouldn’t they all have a different title? And that title should effectively reflect the content of the page.

Missing an Opportunity
In my daily web searches, I see many missed opportunities with poorly titled web pages. Pages simply named “Untitled” or “Untitled Document” can be found in the millions (79 million were found in a Google search). Search engines depend on titles to gather information about your web pages. And a page title without a unique description does not help the search engines – in fact, a generic page title makes the page nearly impossible to find…

Putting Your Company Name in the Title Tag
I’m not against putting your company name in your page title – after all, it will help build brand awareness. But, I am against putting only your company name in the title and until you become a household name, I would suggest putting your company name at the end of your title. The focus of your web pages should be on what people would search for to find your company. In other words you want targeted keyword phrases in the title. Let me give an example:

If your company name is “Miller & Sons” and you sell fishing equipment near Whitefish, Montana you should not limit your title to “Miller & Sons”. Instead try “Fishing Rods & Reels in Whitefish, Montana – Miller & Sons“. With this you are netting traffic searching for your product, your location and your company name. Keeping the location in the name is very important if you are serving only a regional or local market.

Let Your Copy Be Your Guide
When deciding on your page titles, read the page first and let that guide your decision. If you can’t confine the theme of your page copy into a concise page title, you may need to break the copy into more than one page.

If you sell toys on your site, your page copy should have the keyword “toys” and so should your page title. Even better it should include what type of toys. Do you sell dog toys? Cat toys? Children’s toys? Your title should convey this. Adding in other possible search terms is also a good idea. An example of a toy site home page title could be “Children’s toys and games – toys for boys and girls of all ages” You have your most important keyword, “toys,” listed twice and have added some other important keywords such as “games,” “boy” and “girl.”

Suppose one of the sub pages of your toy site showcases Leap Frog’s Discovery Ball. What type of toy is this? It’s an educational toy and you should use that in your title along with the actual toy name. This gives you an opportunity to be found in the search results for the toy name, the popular toy company and the heavily searched key phrase “educational toy.” A title catering towards SEO for this example would be: “Leap Frog Discovery Ball – Educational Toys“. Since the more targeted term is the name of the toy you put that first. Educational Toys would be shown first on a category page.

Now that you have integrated your keyword phrases from your page copy into your title, you’ll find that getting found in the search engines is a much easier task.

SEO and Flash – SEO Tip Week 17

Friday, April 27th, 2007 |

Flash-based sites have problems with SEO or “Skip This Intro”

Update: I laughed out loud after reading this post View the Should I Make a Flash Site Flowchart?

Using Flash is a slippery slope, even Adobe’s Flash page is light on the Flash. I hesitate to bring up this topic as it can be very heated. Why, I myself used to be an avid Flash developer about 8 years ago. But back then not many people understood the concept of SEO or Internet Marketing and Google was just a twinkle in the Internet’s watchful eye.

Well, now SEO has become one of the fasting growing industries on the Internet and Flash has lost some of it’s…well, Flash. In other words, more often than not, we search frantically for the “Skip This Intro” button when we see animation start flying around the screen. If not the first time then definitely the second time. We don’t have time for Flash intros and tedious downloads in today’s world. We want information and we want it fast. Flash is contrary to this in many cases.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Flash, and think it can be helpful and entertaining of sites for entertainment, gaming and site’s that have inherit brand popularity such as Coca-Cola. Most of us running a business on the web need visitors, customers, users and clients coming to our sites. Truth is though, it is hard to find a Flash website vs. a non-Flash website. Yes, I know that Flash can be indexed, I also know that an HTML site will beat a Flash site every time when all things are equal.

Of course, using Flash in a traditional website can be fine and dandy. When used efficiently, Flash can enhance a website without damaging it’s search engine rankings. But Flash must be used with caution.

If all of your content and menus are in Flash, search engines will have a harder time following the links. If you feel strongly about using Flash, be sure to create an HTML version of the page as well. Your users will thank you as they will now be able to find your site with the help of the search engines. You may wish to block the Flash version of your pages from the crawlers with a robots.txt file, since you don’t want your pages indexed twice. If your website contains Flash, be sure put the navigation outside of the Flash content or the search engine spiders won’t be able to navigate your site. Your content should also reside outside of Flash’s influence.

Think of Flash as accent material for you site. Use it for graphical callouts, product images, interactive portions of your site and anywhere you can enhance the user experience without causing problems for the spiders or confusion for the user. Remember, never use Flash as your entire site if you want any search engine visibility. This is important because you can optimize the page title, meta tags and other content placed on invididual pages making sure each web page is unique.

Finally, give your users a Flash and a HTML version of your site. Watch the visitor stats and I’m betting you see a much higher number of visitors view the low-bandwidth verision of your website. In any case you will have given the spiders something to follow and the search engines something to index and searchers something find. It may seem like extra work, but the traffic you will acquire from it will be worth it.

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 or give us a call 804-741-6776 to see how we can help your company. More

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