Archive for the ‘SEO Tools’ Category

The Alexa Ranking Myth

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 |

alexa-logo.gifUpdate: 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 (, a Internet marketing site) and a smoothie recipe site (, 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, a highly trafficked site is only ranked at 310,192.

Alexa Graph

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. has 20,311 visitors which is a very respectable number for a B2B site. But when compared to’s 210,190 visitors you can easily see that Alexa rankings are highly skewed towards technical and Internet-related websites. had 10x the visitor traffic according to Google Analytics but less than half according to Alexa’s estimates.



The 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.

Google Advanced Search

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 |

Google has updated its advanced search page. While most people probably don’t look at the advanced search page very often, it has some nice features, especially for an SEO Expert. One of the best features is the ability to see 100 results at a time rather than the usual 10. Add the CustomizeGoogle Addon for the Firefox browser and you can view numbers beside your listing-now you don’t have to count to find you are at position 67, there will be numbers beside each listing to show you.

Also, selecting the Language as English will more realistic results. (You can also select the English language in the preferences.)

For example searching for ‘big oak seo’ returns 77,900 English pages with results when English is selected language. If you search with Any Language selected the results return 88,100 pages. Not a huge difference, right? It gets worse with more generic phrases. Searching for ‘search engine optimization’ with English shows 1,900,000 and without shows 36,900,000. These number will fluctuate, but using English as the language will get you more accurate resutls, especially when you are trying to factor the level of competition for a key phrase you may be targeting.

Of course you can filter your searches through the Advance Search form in a variety of ways and that’s for the for the power user as well as the Mom looking for the best place to groom her pet. Getting familiar with the advanced features can help you do research for keywords as well as finding information about how to grow an avocado plant or a video on growing an avocado seed.

For the SEO enthusiast or the small Internet business owner you can search by date, usage rights and even where the keywords show up on the page. All helpful information when trying to create your SEO plan. Google provides a wealth of information you just have to know where to start digging. The Advanced Search page by Google is a great place to start.

What is RSS – RSS in Plain English

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008 |

Before you begin watching this video on RSS, I have to give a HUGE recommendation to the company that produced this remarkable piece of work, Common Craft. They have created some very creative and helpful videos to help people understand a variety of technologies and ideas, such as RSS. They say it best themselves:

We use a simple format and real-world stories to make sense of complex ideas.

We’re interpreters. We present your products and services in plain English using short, unique and understandable videos in a format we call Paperworks.

They have many more videos for you to see and I wish them the best and hope they succeed. The idea is wonderful and the delivery is even better. The Internet needs more companies like them.

WordPress Plugins Help Google Index Your Blog – SEO Tip 48

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007 |

Having the best blog in the world, won’t do any good if no one knows it exists. Make sure Google visits and indexes all your posts with a few simple plugins. These are for WordPress only, but why would you be using anything else? The following WordPress plugins will help provide numerous links to older posts on your blog that might otherwise be buried. The added benefit is your blog readers will also be inclined to read more posts when using these plugins.

Similar Posts
This plugin will search the text of all posts and display other posts which are similar or related. This will help provide links to older posts making them more accessible to the reader and to the search engines.

All in one SEO Pack
This plugin is a must have SEO plugin and combines all many SEO features in one plugin, where beforehand you needed two or three. You can control the following options with this plugin:

  • Define your home page title, description and keywords
  • Define your post, page, category, archive, tag and search title formats
  • Use categories for META keywords
  • Avoid indexing of duplicate content (prevents indexing of category, archive and tag archive pages)
  • Autogenerate descriptions

This particularly replaces the SEO Title Tag many blogs use.

Top Posts
This plugin will post your most read blog posts automatically a blog page, providing a good starting point for new readers. While giving new readers some direction if you have an overwhelming number amount of posts, this will also provide the search engines with a direct link from a top level page to deep posts in your blog. Think of it as a super sitemap.

You can also create a smaller top post list that can be shown on every post of you blog in the right column.

Making sure your blog is well read by readers and well known by search engines is a critical step towards increasing your blog’s popularity.

Search Marketing Standard Subscription Discount

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007 |

I have been a subscriber to Search Marketing Standard for a while now, and I am pleased with the information and topics discussed. Now is a great time to try it and get a 67% discount, so a 1 year U.S. subscription would be $4.95 (International – $6.60).

The coupon is: HOLIDAY67 and here is the link to the subscription page.

This promotion is for new subscribers and will remain active until Dec. 10th. At that time, they will also send a donation check to Toys for Tots – $1 for every subscriber that used the coupon code during registration.

Great information and a great cause.

Akismet Really Stops Comment Spam

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007 |

How well does Akismet stop comment spam? The Big Oak SEO Blog has been running since October 2006 and as of today, November 28, 2007 it has protected this blog site from 10,608 spam comments

Nicely done, Akismet. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Of course it does say a lot about the pervasiveness of comment spam today and how active it still remains, sadly. But it is also a confidence builder for using the DoFollow WordPress plugin without the fear of comment spam overrunning your site. Akismet can protect you from comment spam 99% of the time even with 10,000 spam attacks.

Find Competitor Backlinks with MSN Live – SEO Tip Week 46

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007 |

Update 1/15/08: This feature is no longer working with MSN Live.

Check on the backlinks from your competitors is part of the competitive analysis of any good SEO consultant or “expert”. Up until recently using Yahoo to research competitor backlinks was the only search engine you could do this in effectively. Well, now is also back in the game and showing you backlinks to websites. But they also have a nice trick for using keywords to narrow your search.

If you visit and search for the following: “seo tips” you will be show search results that have links pointing to and also have the phrase ‘seo tips’ on that page that links to Be sure to include the plus sign (+) at the front or else you won’t get any results. You can click this link to see the search results for yourself: “seo tips”.

This can be an extremely useful research tool and adding the keyword phrase to the search makes it a even more valuable tool in your SEO toolbox.

Images Provide SEO Trafficseo

Sunday, November 11th, 2007 |

SEO TipsAny good SEO campaign will put the emphasis on ranking your website for based on the content of the site. But overlooking images on the site can be a big mistake, especially if your site is selling products which use imagery as part of the sales pitch. So why not use those image to draw visitors through organic image search?

Your first step should be to set up a Google Account where you can use Webmaster Tools. In Webmaster tools you will find an option under Tools named “Enable enhanced image search”. When this option is enabled Google will cataloging your images for placement in the search results which can increase traffic, especially if you can show in the search results that show images above the organic search results. (See example of Google search with images above organic results for the search term ‘oak tree’)

After you have instructed Google to look for your images, you want to be sure your images are telling Google and the other search engines exactly what the images are showing. How do you do this? Here are some things to pay attention to and think about when using images. I’ve listed them in order of “my importance”.

  1. Image Size Does Matter – Larger images tend to rank better. Most image results that are ranked are over 280 pixels in both directions. Bigger images make sense to show first, all other things being equal. I would shoot for 300 x 300 to be safe. If you can’t display your images that large, a link to a larger version of the image will help. In some cases, scaling your image in the HTML code through the height and width tags can work to show a large image in a smaller area. Just be sure the image quality isn’t degraded through this method. Resizing images with HTML can cause ugly pixelation.
  2. Image Close to Relevant Text – Keywords should be above or below the image in the same DIV tag -or- keywords should be in the same paragraph as the image. Remember you want the keywords and image close. The keyword should be in the same <td> (table cell) as the image if you are using tables.
  3. Page Title & Page Theme - The title, content and image should all be connected.
  4. File Name – It can be difficult to add the name of the image to the file name, especially if the shopping cart software doesn’t allow it, but when you can, be descriptive.
  5. Alt Tags – Alt tags are designed to provide alternative text when the images cannot be displayed. They should be descriptive of the image. Example: <img src=”oak-tree.jpg” width=”200″ height=”350″ alt=”Oak Tree”>
  6. Image Title Tags – This text shows up when you rollover the image in a popup window. It should describe image. Example: <img src=”oak-tree.jpg” width=”200″ height=”350″ alt=”Oak Tree” title=”Oak Tree”>
  7. Image Sitemap – Okay, this is an idea which may or may not be of any help, but it certainly can’t hurt and if you feel your images are important enough to help your rankings then creating a sitemap with descriptive links to your important images might be the extra boost to get your images to the top of the search engine results.

If we put it all together your HTML code should look something like this. I added teh <h5> tag for a little boost but it isn’t crucial, you can use a DIV tag instead. Notice the link (titled) to the larger image. We’ll stay with the oak tree theme.

<h5><a href="/images/oak-tree-large.jpg" title="Oak Tree"><img src="/images/2007/08/oak-tree.jpg" alt="Oak Tree" title="Oak Tree" /></a><br />A beautiful oak tree in a meadow.</h5>

Please share any successes you may have had with image search or ideas you have tried. I’m especially interested in anyone who has tried an image sitemap or what you think of this idea.

SEO Toolkit: Everyday SEO Tools – SEO Tip Week 36

Sunday, September 9th, 2007 |

SEO TipsSEO consultants always have their favorite tools and a few months ago we hired a new employee which necessitated showing what SEO tools I like to use. That led me to come up with this list of my favorite tools for SEO. I wanted to list the tools I use most frequetly rather than a list of sites with large collections of SEO tools. Maybe that will be a future post.

My SEO Toolkit:

I use this dozens of times everyday for client and competitor sites. Provides some basic tools to help with search engine optimization. Including google backlinks, yahoo backlinks, PageRank check, http header viewer, and more. All features are available by right-clicking on an open area of a web page, or by using the included toolbar. I wouldn’t leave home without it. You will need Firefox, but that shouldn’t be a problem. I can’t imagine an SEO consultant or SEO company not recommending Firefox over every other browser.

Keyword Discovery
KeywordDiscovery compiles keyword search statistics from over 180 search engines world wide, to create a very powerful research tool. It has a free trial, but it is well worth the money to get full access.

WebPosition Gold
Web Position Gold offers a nice set of tools that we use for monitoring search results. I know it does much more than this, but we do most things manually around here. I like the way it displays the search results online for our clients to see anytime they like.

WordPress Blogging Software
All of our clients, and this blog, run WordPress. It is the BEST software for blogging in my opinion. The ablibity to add funtionality through plugins will always be the deciding factor, especially with so many plugins being created to support our SEO efforts.

SEO for Firefox
Want to know why Google or Yahoo! ranks pages? SEO for Firefox pulls in many useful marketing data points to make it easy get a more holistic view of the competitive landscape of a market right from the search results. You can turn it off and on easily.

Google Toolbar for Firefox
Do I really need to explain this one? Google search in your browser with lots of helpful toos, especially for on-page optimization.

Add-on for Firefox that displays the Google PageRank, Alexa rank and Compete ranking anywhere in your browser, along with fast keyword density analyzer, keyword/nofollow highlighting, backward/related links, Alexa info and other SEO tools.

Google Webmaster Central
Be sure you have signed up all the sites you manage SEO for. This is very helpful for understanding how Google sees your website.

Yahoo! Site Explorer
I mentioned Site Explorer in an earlier post, Research Your Competition with Yahoo Site Explorer but it bears repeating, this tool is indispensable in my daily routine. Fortunately, SEOpen (see above) access most of the features for Site Explorer from its menu.

If you have any tools you use, please take time to comment and let me know.

Reviews Can Improve Your Local Search Rankings – SEO Tip Week 34

Saturday, August 25th, 2007 |

A search engine optimization company can sometimes forget about the little guy. Sometimes working for web sites who need search results for terms that have national competition can overwhelm you and blind you to the company who is competing for search terms in a local geographic area. I wrote a post on improving local search results a few weeks ago and in doing so discovered a new tip: Add Reviews. Or better yet ask your customers to add reviews.

Creative Energy Search ResultsFor example I have done a search for Home Improvement in Richmond, Virginia. Click on the screenshot to the right and you can see the #1 search result is a client of ours, Creative Energy. You can also see they have 2 reviews listed. Local reviews can help boost your search engine rankings and if they are positive reviews they can boost your sales. imagine if you were looking at the results listed, wouldn’t you read the reviews? If they were positive you might visit their site or give them call. Every advantage helps.

So how do you add reviews? Visit Google Maps and do a search for you business by name and your city and state. When you find your business click the more information link. (Or you may see a review link to click from here, it depends on your search results). From there you will see a link to write a review. You can provide this link to customers and if they have a Google account, as many people do, they can add a review. You can also add reviews through other sites, Google will find them, such as Yelp and your local, but they customers will need accounts to use these as well.

So am I telling you to manufacture or make up reviews? No, of course not. But if you have clients who have given you a written letter or verbal review it might be worth it to ask them to post a review online. Give them a coupon for future work or send them a gift of Virginia peanuts. Don’t think of it as bribery, think of it as good customer relations.

Squidoo for Traffic – Link Building

Sunday, August 12th, 2007 |

SEO TipsUpdate October 29, 2007: Well, after a brief few months my first Squidoo pages have achieved PR values of 5 and 4. My Jean Grey Squidoo Lens is a PR5. So as a high PR link building service Squidoo works quite well.

As an search engine optimization consultant I sometimes have a hard time deciding what is the best use of my time. Research, link building, writing or what have you. Well, this week I did more research than usual and found a site that I had heard about, but had yet to fully explore: Squidoo. What is Squidoo? Well, to put it simply, it is a collection of web pages that users can build on any topic, and I mean any topic that you can imagine. And if you can’t find it, you can create a new page on Squidoo yourself. Squidoo says you can do it in under 5 minutes, but you’ll want to take longer to build a respectable page, or “lens” as they call it.Squidoo LogoOnce you do you can add modules that let you make money from affiliate sales to online stores such as Amazon and Overstock. I don’t know how much of a money making opportunity it is and I would dare say you can’t make a lot of money with Squidoo, but it did give me some ideas on how to use it for SEO purposes. As a business owner and website owner, you can use Squidoo for two important tasks to help your website: link building and visitor traffic.Testing SquidooI decided to test this out and I built two lenses for fun. I like smoothies, so I tried my hand at creating a smoothie drink lens to support my personal blog. It was simple to build and I followed the advice for getting the word out and then spent the next 4 days investing a few spare moments here and there, adding new content and pulling information from my smoothie recipe blog and now I have a fairly large lens, compared to most. As of today (8/12/2007) there were over 213,000 lenses on Squidoo. My smoothie lens was ranked #132 and at times has been as high as 128 with less than 8 hours of work total over one week. The second lens is for a favorite comic book character, Jean Grey (Phoenix) from the X-men and has done for pure entertainment and even that has achieved a rank as high as #376. The lenses were fun to build and I enjoyed both immensely.

Getting Traffic from Squidoo

Okay, big deal on my “success” within Squidoo, it hasn’t earned a single cent yet and might not ever. I have many links on my smoothie lens pointing to my smoothie blog and the good news is that these links have driven more traffic to my smoothie blog in the last week than all other incoming site traffic combined. The reason it has been successful is the fact that the Squidoo lens I created is already showing up in the search results, after less than a week, for terms related to smoothie recipes. (See results.) So it is driving traffic to my smoothie blog and could be doing the same for your business. If you sell toys you may want to create a Squidoo lens one of your products like yo-yos. The idea is to create a lens about something specific so your lens can rank for it and then link to your site. Which brings me to my other reason for creating a lens. My SEO heart practically skips a beat.

Link Building with Squidoo

As any SEO company can tell you, link building is the most time-consuming and hardest part of our jobs. Everything come down to link building. That is what increases your rankings, helps people find you and so forth. If you have an SEO company working for you now and they aren’t putting forth a majority of their time finding and placing links for you, it is time to move on. With Squidoo you get an awesome link building resource where you control the anchor text in the link, where the link points to, where it lives on the page and what is written around it. It also comes from a high PR site. It is almost the exact definition of my idea of the perfect link. If you look at my smoothie lens you can see dozens of links pointing to my smoothie blog. And not links just to the homepage, but deep linking to internal pages which are important links very difficult to get usually. Well, with Squidoo you can make many deep links which will help your site’s search engine visibility and increase rankings to those deep pages. One-way, keyword-rich, high-quality links are all made easy with Squidoo. If you spend a little time with your lens you may soon see it increase to a PR 4 or PR 5 webpage on its own and we know how hard PR 4 and 5 links can be to get on our own.

Google & Squidoo

Of course, with all good things there come people who look to ruin it by misuse. Well, the same can be said of Squidoo. Many spammers have tried and are trying to create a glut of spammy pages on Squidoo for the purposes of SEO. Google saw this and minimized the importance of Squidoo but in return Squidoo has made spamming harder and set the bar higher for a Squidoo lens in hopes of getting more quality lenses. It looks as though Squidoo may have weathered the fury of Google and for the time I would recommend highly creating a quality Squidoo lens to help your own site. Heck, create more than one if you need it, but be good stewards if you do and create lenses that have weight of their own and are not a pure marketing ploy. Those lenses will be the most effective in the long run and help Squidoo remain a useful tool in your marketing tool belt.

Final Thoughts on Squidoo

Give it a try, it will only take an hour or so, despite the 5 minute promise from Squidoo, and then see what you think. We will be including it as part of our work for our clients, as we do with all new strategies that can help. Of course, Google could decide they don’t appreciate the work being done by Squidoo members, Squidoo could decide to make all links not SEO-friendly (nofollow or redirects) or any number of SEO killing decisions, but until then I personally think it is a good use of a few hours.

YouTube Video about Squidoo Marketing

You can find many videos on how to use Squidoo and here is one of the better ones I watched. If the video isn’t playing, you can go right to and watch the video:

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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