Jan 152008

When a client comes to me complaining of low rankings, one of the first items I check is to see if their homepage or any other page is optimized for too many keyword phrases. The client may have tried to optimize the page themselves, had a friend do it, had an SEO do it that was working under outdated rules, or had an SEO do it who thought they could make it work through sheer force of will.

But, optimizing a web page for too many keyword phrases such as the website’s homepage is an exercise in dilution. For instance, if you try to optimize a web page for the keyword phrases green apples, yellow lemons, red cherries and purple grapes you could, at one time, rank well for all of these phrases. But, as time marches on, competition encroaches and more web pages are optimized for each of these singular keyword phrases, your fruit basket of a page will also drop in the rankings.

The solution is to set up a separate page for green apples, another for yellow lemons, etc. so that each page is well-defined and only optimized for one keyword phrase apiece. This will also making it easier to gain targeted back links to these pages with the appropriate keyword text.

Some clients think that because their homepage is optimized for several variations of the same keyword phrase that this dilution does not occur. But, this is a mistaken assumption. A page needs to a have a certain keyword density, otherwise it is diluted. It also needs to have back links with that same specific keyword phrase in it, otherwise it, too is diluted.

The trick is to be as targeted as possible on a page with the same keyword phrase emphasized on that page and on the links pointing to this page. When these elements are in alignment then the rankings most often fall into place.

Jan 122008

On the Sponsored Results part of their Finance pages, Yahoo is now testing images with their PPC ads. According to Search Engine Journal, these images are being supplied by ImageAdvantage. By putting these test ads inside the Yahoo Directory, they will be able to run live tests before rolling this feature out to the entire network.

At this point it is unclear whether or not this is part of the Yahoo Publisher program, which is still in beta or part of Panama, which is available to advertisers. Yahoo acquired an ad serving company called Blue Lithium in the Fall.

Blue Lithium serves image-oriented graphical and Flash banner ads. As of the beginning of this year, Blue Lithium has been offline due to their integration with the Yahoo system, which leads one to speculate, whether the Yahoo image PPC ads are part of this integration?

No matter, as perhaps Yahoo has learned from Widgetbucks, Chitika and a few others who have proven that having product images next to text ads generate clicks. And, clicks mean revenue for publishers and sales for advertisers and that’s what this lucrative game is all about.

Jan 102008

Every day I get a dozen or so email offers for reciprocal link trades, which mostly offer me the short end of the stick. These emails are quickly deleted. But, there generally are a couple during the week that will pass the test of being truly reciprocal. So, I’m letting you know what I look for in a quality reciprocal link trade by telling you what to look out for first.

Let me say, upfront, that I have never been offered a quality 3-way link trade. I’m sure some people have and they are out there, but I’ve only been offered a link in some third rate directory in exchange for a link from my site to someone’s prime homepage. These I delete quickly.

Second, a link page doesn’t have to have PR in order for my site’s link to be upon it, but it has to have the potential for Page Rank. Some webmasters will do all they can to hide this page from the search engines.

Some of the things to look out for are orphaned link pages, links with a nofollow tag upon them or links (or pages) with redirects upon them that mean that PR will never be passed from their web page to mine.

There are some webmasters who will conduct a linking campaign and a month later orphan the links page, put on nofollow or redirects or use other methods to taint the reciprocal link. So, it’s important to check on these links on a regular schedule to see that they are still intact.

Some software will check to see that links are still on the links page, but may miss orphaned pages. This is true if the software only checks to see if the link is at the specific URL.

Now, since I’ve just stated what to look out for in link exchanges, here’s what I look for when trading links. Is the web page relevant to my site? I only trade links with relevant sites. Does the page have PR or the potential for PR? Is the site itself well indexed and will it bring in direct traffic? If the search engines did not exist, would this be a good trade?

Be picky about whom you link to and who links to you. Remember, your link is a vote for another site. If you trade links with a few relevant sites, you have the potential to trade targeted traffic for years. And, this is a good situation to be in.

Jan 072008

SEO has always been composed of four simple steps, so simple that anyone can do it. Over the past 10 or so years, many SEO techniques have come and gone. Some white hat techniques have changed into gray or black hat over time because of the changes in direction of the search engine algorithms.

But, the basics of search engine optimization have not changed. The four tried and true methods of any SEO campaign include:

1. Keyword phrase research
2. On-page Optimization
3. Link building
4. Results tracking

Picking the correct keyword phrase for a web page is the heart and soul of SEO. If one picks the incorrect phrase, then no visitor or the wrong visitors will come to the site. If a too competitive keyword phrase is picked, then the page will be buried in the search engine rankings in favor of older, more authority pages.

On-page optimization simply means writing a web page around a certain keyword phrase and making sure that phrase is in the body text, headline, title, keyword and description meta tags and even image names and tags.

Link building involves getting links placed on other websites pointing to your website. The link also needs to have the correct keyword phrase in the title of the link. In addition, the link needs to be free of the nofollow tag or redirects that obscure Page Rank from being passed from one site to the next.

Results tracking basically means just what it says. Once the SEO has been completed, it is important to use software to track new visitors coming to the website so the effectiveness of the SEO campaign can be determined and adjusted if necessary.

Of course, although SEO is simple, it is not always easy. What I’ve just listed is a primer in search engine optimization. Anyone can do it. Not everyone can do it well, however, or has the time to devote to it and that is why SEO professionals are most often enlisted.

Jan 062008

Customers often ask their search engine optimization professionals for guarantees before signing up. This is understandable since the customer is spending a considerable amount of money in order to improve their rankings and bring more targeted traffic to their website.

What customers who are new to SEO, don’t often understand, though is that SEO professionals don’t have any control over the search engine rankings as a person might have when they sign up for a Google Adwords or Yahoo PPC account. Customers, in fact, have more control with Google or Yahoo PPC, but they end up paying a lot of money for that control, compared to SEO in the long run.

This myth of SEO control is perpetuated by companies seemingly offering SEO in their ads that say, “Get your site to the top of the search engines in 48 hours.” What these companies fail to say upfront is that they are not talking about SEO but rather sponsored listings from pay-per-click (PPC) programs.

Some customers are also confused as to how the search engine results pages (SERPs) are divided one area for the organic listings and other areas for the PPC sponsored results. It is the duty of the SEO to educate the customer on the differences.

Now, what guarantees can an SEO give? Search engine optimizers run the gamut from giving no guarantees whatsoever to guaranteeing the number one result on all search engines. Neither of these extremes is realistic. Why would a customer pay money to an SEO when a guarantee of no results is offered?

On the other hand, some fly-by-night SEOs will try to lure customers in with guaranteed number one results that no SEO can deliver. The most logical guarantee that an SEO can give a customer is something along the lines of letting the customer know that their results will be better off than before the SEO was hired and that the SEO and customer can track the results and make adjustments if necessary somewhere down the line.

Though customers who start with a PPC program may find this SEO guarantee vague as this does not give the same control that paying Google or Yahoo for sponsored results does, this will satisfy most people. SEOs have to contend with proprietary algorithms, competition from other websites and other SEOs and even their own customers unknowing hurting the SEO of their own sites.

When working under these conditions, the organic listings are just as the name implies: a growing, changing and moving target that can fluctuate in unexpected ways. The most any SEO can guarantee is giving the customer better results than the customer can achieve by themselves and that SEO is indeed cheaper than paying for PPC over the long haul.

Jan 052008

The Google www versus non-www versions of the same domain names issue has plagued many websites much to the chagrin of the webmasters and Internet business owners. In a nutshell, this means that Google sees www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com as two different websites with different pages that don’t perfectly match and penalizes the site for having duplicate content.

If you are familiar with the duplicate content penalty in regard to unrelated websites, this www versus non-www issue is a duplicate content penalty within the same website. So, how do you tell if this is happening to your website?

The first indication is usually that a website is fully indexed by the search engines but is buried in the rankings and fails to be unburied within a reasonable amount of time. If you have a website that has been around long enough to escape the Google Sandbox, but still languishes at the depths of the rankings wormhole, then it is worth checking to see if your website may have this problem.

The easiest way to check is to go to Google and type in site:www.yoursite.com and check the number of results listed. Next, type in site:yoursite.com (and of course substitute the name of your actual site for “yoursite”) and see if the number of results match.

If the number of results do not match, you site most likely has this www issue going on. If the results match, you may or may not have the www issue as well. Conventional SEO wisdom has stated that if the numbers match, then you do not have the www problem. But, through my own experience, I have tested a number of sites and found that some will have the number of results match, but the pages in the results are not identical, and thus the www issue is present.

So, if you do have the www issue, how do you fix this problem? Typically, you can fix this issue through the htaccess file, which works most of the time. The simplest fix is a 301 redirect from yourdomain.com to www.yourdomain.com and that may work fine for you. This simple fix, however, does not work in all cases.

Another fix to use in the htaccess file is to use a mod rewrite that interacts with your webhost’s server.

Here are three versions that I’ve used with success of different occasions.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www.yourdomain.com$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourdomain.com/$1 [R=301]

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^(.*).yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

Experiment to see which one will work for you. If you page won’t load after using one of these, simply remove the htaccess file and try another one. If none of these works, and interferes with the functioning of your website, remove the new htaccess file and reinstall the old one if you were using one.

Some people have gone to the extreme of moving their website to a new domain name and doing a site wide 301 redirect from one domain to the next. This should be done only as a last resort. If this is the route you choose, then put a moratorium on changes for several weeks while making this transition.

The best case scenario is moving one identical website that the search engines have already indexed to a new domain, do the 301 redirects and give the search engines a couple of weeks to fully index this identical website sitting upon the new domain name.

If you make changes during this time, it may affect your search engine results and Page Rank. If you do everything right, however, your site still may suffer in the rankings so patience will be needed.

These are the basics of the Google www versus non-www issue. Whether you are working with your own sites or client sites, this is one issue that will need to be checked especially for sites that are fully indexed but not ranking well.