Pulling Back the Curtain On Search Ranking

Search Engine Optimization can sometimes seem to be as much of a mystery as algorithms and formulas devised by wizards to deliver quality content in web searches. Knowing the power of organic search ranking to deliver quality traffic and customers is one thing - understanding what happens behind that Search Engine screen is yet another. This SEO Bootstrap blog seeks to expose some of the intricacies of search engine ranking methods of determining why your site is on the 1st page of results, or very far back. In the process, we'll keep you abreast of obstacles or changes in the search marketing landscape as they develop on your road to better search engine positioning. Our suggestions help you avoid the illusion of quick fixes and ensure you will build steady traffic without getting banned by search engines or maligned by visitors.

Managing Your Reputation Online Through SEO

Everyone Googles everything these days. If you have a negative article about you near the top of the search results for your name, what are some options you can take?

  • You should also make sure that you are registered for all the popular social media networks and that your posts are as public as they can be. If your posts and information is made publicly available, Google and other search engines are able to pick up more pages and text about you that gets indexed in their search engines. Especially with Google pushing Google+ down our throats, you want to make sure that you are registered for their own social network if possible.
  • One of the first things you can do, if you haven’t already, is to create websites on domain names that match your name. For example, Stephen Stapinski, registered a domain for a personal site and for his Stephen Stapinski Blog. Use these domains to link to more positive things on the internet about you to help raise their search engine rankings.
  • Link Building: Not only should you set up links on your own site, but you should look to acquire links from third party sites back to your site, and also to other pages about you.

Marketing Costs vs. Results

There has long been a debate over which internet marketing tactic provides better results- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Pay-per-Click (PPC). Although SEO delivers quality traffic at a lower cost per customer than PPC in the long term, sometimes it is beneficial to go against what seems instinctual, that is, choosing SEO for its low cost. In the recent recession, it has become increasingly important to ensure that sales continue to flow through the pipeline. Any honest practitioner of SEO knows that it is not possible to do that given the lack of control that makes search engine results wax and wane. Fortunately, delivering consistent results is possible by combining SEO with a well planned PPC campaign.

While SEO is known for delivering traffic at a lower cost, the use of PPC gives a campaign more control over what visitors see. With PPC you can create targeted ads paired with a specific page custom designed based on keywords, so visitors are more likely to be interested in your offer. Because of this, PPC usually has a higher conversion rate. The higher rate may not always offset the cost of traffic, but when the flow of leads becomes the primary concern, consistent lead flow can be worth the cost.

To see actual data regarding and more details about functional strategies for PPC, please visit Polar Design’s case study.

The case study will start you on the path to implementing a comprehensive campaign that uses both SEO and PPC to help your company optimize long term costs and ROI.

Tags: • ppcseoSEO vs. PPC
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Why bit.ly and other link shorteners don’t help SEO

Anecdotal evidence and experiences of search engine optimizers, as well as hints in the typically cryptic comments of search engine’s staff indicates that real time indexing is increasingly important.  This means that the number and quality of links is not enough – the frequency and freshness of content associated with links to your site have an impact as well.

What better method to post fresh content quickly and easily than via social media such as Twitter and Facebook?

One limitation of Twitter is its 160 character message size.  This causes many twitterers, and even Facebook marketers (without that limitation) to use link shortening services like bit.ly.  Those services “encrypt” longer links (e.g., http://www.polardesign.com/news/newsen/SearchBostonPolarDesignJV.newsitem.shtml ) to deep linked pages into shorter links that often look like this: http://bit.ly/cvegVL .

While a very cool service, link shorteners create a link that does not go directly to the target web site, but rather to the bit.ly web site where it is then redirected to the actual link.  This means that search engine spiders follow these bit.ly and other shortened links will not associate the final page destination,

Remember one of the cardinal rules about SEO – NO redirects!  Why?  Because the team at Google long ago determined that less scrupulous marketers were building up pages’ pagerank and then later redirecting them (as part of paid commercial relationships) to a web page whose owners wanted a high ranking, quickly.  For example, someone might create a web site called autoinsurance.com, attract links, amass traffic and pagerank, and then redirect it (for a fee) to an insurer’s web site.

This is a well known practice for moved pages.  Some evidence suggests that Google doesn’t penalize redirects in all cases.  Nevertheless, and this is the most important insight of this post: we have never seen bit.ly links appearing in Twitter tweets or Facebook status updates or wall posts registered as a link to a page in Google Webmaster Tools – only full, long links appear indexed and counted!

Therefore, tweet and post away bit.ly links freely for the purpose of driving traffic – but if your aim is to improve pagerank, be sure to use full, un-”encrypted” long links.

How to (not) waste SEO efforts with design

Getting the internet marketing formula right – producing a web site that actively generates sales leads or builds relationships with customers – involves a lot of variables and skillsets.  Many SEO professionals or firms focus so much on traffic generation that they can overlook the importance of copy, design, and layout in ensuring that visitors attracted to a site stay there and check out the offerings. 

While the latter are not strictly “SEO” functions, the fact is that like the proverbial weak link in a chain, SEO is only as good as its results — if targeter traffic is wasted on landing pages or sites with poor calls to action, then any investment on SEO was for naught.

A few general rules of thumb follow, in order of importance:

1. Make sure that the message on your site matches what people would expect when searching for the SEO terms you are optimizing a site for.  For example, if you sell digital cameras but optimize your site for “digital camera reviews” because your KEI analysis shows it drives solid traffic and is attainable, be sure that the page does provide users with access to some reviews – don’t make the mistake of exclusively advertising cameras for sale on that page.

2. Make sure that you have clear calls to action.  Large buttons and text that guide users to the “next step” are crucial.

3. Don’t overload your landing page or home page with text and copy, however advantageous that may seem for SEO.  Publish resources and articles in 3rd and 4th level page.

If you’d like to try a fun experiment to see whether your site design communicates the message you intend and matches the SEO keywords you are contemplating, try Five Second Test – this web site allows you to upload a screen shot of your web site and have anonymous viewers “review” how effectively it communicates by asking viewers to specify memorable aspects of a site after a limited five second viewing sessions.

Server Hardware, Googlebot and SEO

As the prevalance of more and more web pages strewn about the Internet as well as increasingly larger web sites becomes commonplace, the level of investment you make in web site hardware can actually have implications on your search engine optimization

Operators of very large sites have often assumed that powerful servers or multi-server solutions, along with excessive bandwidth, are necessary to ensure performance during spikes in visitor traffic and activity.  E-commerce web site operators have long known that each additional second that a customer waits for a shopping cart page to load can lead to a 5% – 10% loss in conversion at that step.

The above are well known facts that impact web site hardware and bandwidth selection.   

But SEO?

As it turns out, Googlebot, the Google search engine spider, is a prime culprit of server and bandwidth resource theft.  The more external links to your web site, or internal links between pages, the more likely you are to receive a visit from Googlebot or a host of other search engine spiders.  As the number of pages on your site increases, and assuming that you have interlinked your pages using SEO best practices, the number of potential paths that a spider can take through your site increases exponentially.  The larger the site and the more complex the linking between pages, the more hits that spiders will make on your site and the more bandwidth, memory and CPU resources will be consumed.  We have witnessed sites with over 10,000 pages exceed bandwidth limitation due solely to a combination of good SEO and limited hardware resoures.

There are ways to reduce Googlebot and other spiders’ visits in order to accommodate hardware and bandwidth limitations, but from an SEO perspective, living with IT constraints is not a good option since webmasters should desire that spiders to visit their websites as often as possible.

How to Solve / Anticipate Spiders’ Impact on your Servers

  1. Host a site with a lot of pages (+10,000) and complex interlinking of pages (average of 20 internal links per page or more with a non-heirarchical linking strategy) on a dedicated server to ensure the best performance and handle many spider visits.
  2. Install Google Webmaster Tools on your websites; you can control the rate at which the Googlebot visits your site.
Tags: • googlebotseoweb hosting
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Nimble Solutions to Sneaky “No Follow” Classifieds Directories

We don’t usually share information of this nature, but given the summer doldrums, we hope our readers appreciate a little spice to light their SEO efforts. 

Recently we discovered that a major online classified directory that allows free classifieds automatically adds the ‘rel no follow’ attribute to any hyperlinks?  It does this unbeknownst to posters, despite labeling itself as an open resource.  What is even less known is that there is an easy work around to this that allows you to conver the no follow to a do follow link.  

We won’t divulge the name of the resource here since the operators of the site might “fix” this oversight.  The resource in question allows postings (e.g., for services, selling homes, etc.) to remain online for a period of time, after which the postings are taken down but stored.  Users have the option to “repost” those listings for an additional period of time.  During the reposting process, you will see a screen where raw HTML code of the original posting is included.  In that screen, you can edit the code (unlike when you are creating a posting.  Notice that the hyperlinks have the rel no follow attribute included within them?

Simply delete the rel no follow attribute and proceed with the posting.  The new hyperlinks will be do follow links! 

Since we are not posting the actual identity of the site, be sure that you check the terms of service of any site to see if this is a violation.  Good luck!

Guarding against SEO / SEM Scams

Every now and then, the team at SEO Bootstrap gets to toss aside our Clark Kent frames and don a superman outfit.  Typically this happens after we discover some method that can risk our clients’ and followers an intriguing SEO angle pitched to us by a consultant, colleague, or indirectly by a twitter follower.  Here are a few common ones:

Scam #1: Millions of FREE PPC Clicks from Google!

There are a multitude of web sites and twitterers promoting $40 or $300 packages to uncover how to get millions of visitors.  In the past this involved signing up with Google for pay per click and taking advantage of the free $50 PPC budget for first time Google advertising customers.  Nowdays, these packages describes methods of generating leads for free by creating web sites that simply generate ad revenue through Google AdSense, which the site owner can then plow back into Google pay per click.  The latter is a legitmate, but hardly revolutionary method.

Scam #2: Get Your Site Listed or Linked from Hundreds of Websites!

These services generally involve placing a link to your site on hundreds of web sites, as advertised.  However, those sites will generally have very low pagerank, little meaningful content, and hundreds of other links which means that the traffic and link popularity benefit will be minimal.  Additionally, Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines frown upon this tactic, considering it “spam” – a link from many such pages that are tracked as “spammy” can result in a reduction, not an increase, in your ranking.

Scam #3: Blogging for Bucks

It is a “well known” secret that bloggers often take a fee to promote a product.  Its only natural for bloggers to want to make a living – they won’t be able to spend hours of time researching and discussing topics without some backing.  However, unlike traditional media like newspapers that have developed quite extensive ethical codes to help them navigate the quandries of covering topics related to the companies that advertise, bloggers have not yet developed accepted standards of disclosure.  The risk with paying bloggers is less about SEO and more about the strong potential for discover by the hundreds of other bloggers policing ethics in the blogosphere.  If you are caught obtaining extensive promotion that masquarades as a spontaneous review, you may be called out in someone’s blog, leading to bad press and damage to your brand.  Proceed with care!

Tags: • blog marketingppcseoseo scams
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Some “Do Follow” Forums

Following is a list of forums with high pagerank that do not publish “rel no follow” tags (Visit our SEO Glossary to learn what rel no follow means).  Use with care – many have anti-spam policies regardless, so don’t go bananas and start posting millions of links.  Use best practices with link building via forums: post threads or replies that are truly helpful and contribute to the community. 

List courtesy of Arthemia.

  • forums cnet PageRank: 7 Alexa Rank: 157
  • forums digitalpoint PageRank: 7 Alexa Rank: 3,343
  • forums sitepoint PageRank: 7 Alexa Rank:4,642
  • forums mysql PageRank: 7 Alexa Rank: 5,100
  • webhostingtalkPageRank: 7 Alexa Rank: 24,373
  • submitexpress PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 48,324
  • forums v7n.com PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 69,299
  • namePros PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 45,855
  • forums comic book resources PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 7,329
  • startups PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 47,830
  • dnforum PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 28,874
  • forums acapella.harmony-central PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 4,576
  • acorndomains PageRank: 6666 Alexa Rank: 63,720
  • webmaster-forums PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 69,988
  • forums ukwebmasterworld PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 33,734
  • paymentprocessing PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 197,309
  • smallbusiness forums PageRank: 5 Alexa Rank: 154,437
  • affiliateseeking forums PageRank: 4 Alexa Rank: 57,252
  • bzimage PageRank: 4 Alexa Rank: 56,054
  • webdigity PageRank: 4 Alexa Rank: 74,910
  • clicks PageRank: 4 Alexa Rank: 99,054
  • forums seo PageRank: 4 Alexa Rank: 227,076
  • geekpoint PageRank: 4 Alexa Rank: 76,724
  • forum experience advertising PageRank: 4 Alexa Rank: 166,386
  • webtalkforums PageRank: 4 Alexa Rank: 31,714
  • webmaster-talk PageRank: 3 Alexa Rank: 57,128
  • forums seroundtable PageRank: 3 Alexa Rank:108,085
  • davidcastle PageRank: 3 Alexa Rank: 129,100
  • forums iq69 PageRank: 3 Alexa Rank: 190,425
  • site owners forums PageRank: 3 Alexa Rank: 103,999
  • 9mb PageRank: 3 Alexa Rank: 128,502
  • forums online book club PageRank: 3 Alexa Rank: 284,256
  • forums online make money online PageRank: 2 Alexa Rank: 46,285
  • May192009
    Blog submission isn’t like web site submission.

    Like web sites, blogs also can benefit from submission.  Certainly one can submit a blog, like any website, to major search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN submission forms.  In that case, the blog will be treated like a web site with content indexed every month or so.

    Blogs, however, are animals that demand immediate attention.  Fortunately, there are hundreds of specialty blog search engines, lists, and RSS feed redistributors in existence a well. 

    Our favorite, Technorati, requires creation of an account and proceeding with a verfication procecure.  Another site, Buzzfeed, features an engaging interface that actively tracks the hotest blogs.  For a list of many other sites that accept blog submissions and syndicate the content through the Internet, give RSS Submissions a try.

    SEO in a (Future) Era of Saturation

    Many practitioners of SEO as well as more and more marketers are aware of the importance of linked content in increasing web site’s search ranking and thus a company’s visibility or sales.  Fewer people are aware of the subtleties of link building and content creation that make SEO effective, such as matching meta titles with site content or the importance of carefully choose anchor text.  There will alway be experts and amateurs in any field, however as more and more marketers become aware of SEO, that greater awareness of SEO is changing the dynamics of SEO itself by reducing its effectiveness (as measured by results like ranking or traffic). 

    More and more sites are adopting mini site strategies, blogging, and more and more webmasters or marketers are twittering and creating Facebook fan pages.  When the social media and search marketing space was virgin territory, even a quickly devised effort could have major impact.  Today, however, more effort must be made, which translates into more content, more links, more PR, more, more, more!

    I’m not suggesting that SEO is saturated now, but I’m postulating that it will be within 12 months.  This doesn’t mean that it will be return the same or less investment per dollar than other advertising, either, but it will definitely return less than it has.  The results one obtains through a certan amount of effort today will be less in a year and even less in 3 years.  Preparing for that day should be on everyone’s mind.  A few key principals are worth mentioning:

    1. Efficiency - One component of successful SEO, link building, involves identifying relevant sites with high pagerank.  Years ago, this was done manually by scanning each page.  Today’s technology includes tools like SEO for Firefox that can automate that process to some extent.  Google’s Webmaster Tools are a quick and easy way to analyze inbound links to every page on even the largest sites.  Marketers should continue to look for ways to make their link building more efficient by cutting down time needed to identify potential link partners.
    2. Content is still king, but for different reasons in different eras – in the pre-Google era, content mattered for search positioning based on the keywords used.  Google increased the importance of the quality of content – webmasters are more likely to link to your content if they like it.  Additionally, some SEO consultants report positive effects on search engine’s spidering activity. In the increasingly frenetic world of online marketing accelerated by social networking, content that is merely good does not win – it must also be relevant, timely and entertaining.  Welcome to the age of ”ADD”vertising!
    3. Golden Rule – the classic “golden rule” - “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” - applies in the search marketing space as well.  Highly annoying behavior like massive e-mail blasts to webmasters or massive spamming of the Internet with duplicative content are not only annoying but counter productive.  Individual targeting of particular web sites or bloggers by humans seeking out relevant content are generally considered acceptable.  
    4. Research.  Search engines are evolving systems whose formulas are being updated and refined from time to time.  Despite the Google founders publicly available thesis that formed the basis of their search engine, the search engine continues to evolve over time with new rules being instituted to ensure the integrity of results.  Understanding these rules as they are released is a key part of ensuring successful placement — even better is understanding the fundamental reason that search engines exist : helping searchers find relevant content. To the extent that an SEO campaign has this at the root of its strategy, it will produce campaigns that result in quality content which in turn will cushion it from changes in search engine algorithms over time since all such changes ultimately are meant to improve the location of relevant content.

    In short, SEO practicioners must become more than experts in their field, but must continuously ask the underlying question – why do search engines exist in the first place and how can produce content that helps, not hinders, their activity, while also benefitting my client.  This approach will protect any SEO practicioner in the coming age of saturation.

    Tags: • link buildingsemseoseo strategy
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