Dec 14 2009

Hello Google Powered URL Shortener, Goodbye Every Other URL shortener

by admin

url-shortener

(An SEO friendly URL shortener may not be far off)
Twitter really is making an impact on the Internet more and more, like it or not. URL shorteners have popped up all over the place to accommodate long links in the strict 140 character or less twitter world. Of course, the biggest drawback to these links is they are not SEO friendly. This is a big drawback. Since all url shortners do is act as a redirect translation system all short urls point to the url service. So if you are using bit.ly or tinyurl or aything else all you are  adding backlinks to the domain of that services. Sure those services claim to use 301 redirects but lets face it, it’s likely done via programming code which basically equates to a javascript window.location url. You might get something out of it but not much. Anyways, you don’t use URL shortners as an SEO tactic in the first place.

However, in the near future, using an shortened url service may may actually work with your SEO efforts. Google has just announced today the Google URL shortener. For the time being, it is only available for their internal use but they will likely open it for general use soon. The service is named http://goo.gl/ . Not too shabby. The domain name is only 6 character total with the .gl included. They even managed to brand it  by calling it googl. Not too shabby at all.

The benefit of this service, once it hopefully goes live to the public, is that you would be registering your short URL redirect with google. So Google would not have to index a service like tinyurl or bit.ly to understand what these redirects are. They will already know and could possibly fold this index into their other mystical algorithms.. This is very timely considering the rush to create a more relevant “real time social search”. Imagine trying to index every url shortening service out there fast enough to keep up with twitter. This could eliminate that challenge altogether.

So the question is… If and when this service goes live to the public, will you still use any of the other services? If so, why?



Dec 14 2009

Perfect Example of SEO Snake Oil

by admin

snake-oil-seo

This morning a client of mine received an email from a supposed Internet marketing specialist. This email is such a great example of a company misrepresenting the search engine marketing industry and SEO techniques.  How many false statement can you identify in this letter.

Hello, my name is————–and I am an internet marketing specialist. I was looking at websites under the keyword don swanson racing school and came across your website http://www.domainname.org. I see that you’re not ranked on the first page of Google for a don swanson racing school search.
I’m not sure if you’re aware of why you’re ranked this low but more importantly how easily correctable this is.
There’s no reason you can’t have a top three ranking for the keyword don swanson racing school based on your site structure and content. You have a very nice site.
You need significantly more one way anchor text backlinks. If you’re interested I can help you with this…
I’m talking about getting you ranked for ALL your keywords. Adding new backlinks on a steady and consistent basis from high PR quality websites is what produces the rankings you are looking for http://www.domainname.org.
The right kind of links are very critical in getting top ranking….and I can hand deliver these quality links to you.
My partners and I own 1000′s websites and offer private linking to hundreds of website owners just like yourself.
I didn’t send this email out to very many people but I am currently reaching out to a list of your ‘keyword competitors’ as well. But I do favor your website because I can see your website monetizing the targeted website traffic the keyword don swanson racing school can deliver.
I have your contact information and phone number. Is it ok if I give you a call?
I have a very simple way to prove that what I do works and it’s risk free for you to try. Nothing beats seeing the results with your own eyes
Is it ok if I give you a call? I would love to pursue this further over the phone with you or should I go somewhere else?

Sincerely,

———
(xxx) xxx-xxxx
www.linkstiger.com

P.S – If the tables were turned and somebody I didn’t know came to me with a proposition, even one that was appealing, I would be hesitant because I would be wondering – what’s the catch? What does this guy know that I don’t.

But then I would think he does know something that I don’t know. He does have thousands of high PR websites, he does have hundreds of thousands of pages indexed and ranking in Google Yahoo and MSN. Sites that can deliver the quality anchor text backlinks. I would also think that I need to get my website in the top rankings. And he is offering to turn key top rankings for me…on all my keywords including don swanson racing school. Even keywords I’m not currently competing for. Keywords that produce traffic that’s potentially worth tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars.

I emailed you because It’s a win -win for both of us. Think of it this way – Who wouldn’t be interested in buying money at a discount? Because that’s what I’ll be able to do offer you…Money at a discount.

Is it Ok to give you a call? Or you can can call me anytime at the number above?


It really is amazing… in one message this sake oil sales man has:

  • misrepresented the SEO / SEM realities
  • Insulted current SEO efforts ( while using an irrelevant key-term, no less)
  • Guaranteed top placement for “All of your keywords”
  • discussed his link selling scam
  • Threatened to help out a competitor if we did not sign up with him  and his unnamed “partner” who manage thousands of websites……….
  • Finally, this person actually says he can offer “Buying money at a discount” , if that ‘s not a red flag, I don’t know what is

Do business owners actually fall for this kind of marketing? Doing a quick search for this company on Google the first result is from  ”RIPOFF REPORT”. Clearly Google knows this guy is a fraud.

Is Google taking any steps to really deter this kind of activity. Can it? I don’t expect Google to play police man but is there anything else they can beyond giving them low page ranks? I mean these SEO snake oil folks almost never produce worthwhile results but they do damage the industry through misrepresentation and confusing business owners. Google has really built this industry, now what can it do to help protect the legitimate SEO companies and business owners?



Feb 16 2009

Canonical… Don’t make any changes yet.

by admin

Google Yahoo and MSN are coming together again to enforce a new standard in search engine optimization.  People have been talking about canonical links and the importance of addressing them through cleaning up site architecture, navigation and permanent redirects.

Definition:

Canonical is quite simply the the duplication of URLs that link top the same page. Here is an example. All of the links below link to the same page of content. The Search engines could index each one of these links. So the question for the search engines have to “guess” which one is important and which one isn’t.

http://www.mckyton.com
http://mckyyon.com
http://www.mckyton.com/index.php
http://mckyton.com/index.php
http://mckyton.com/index.php?content=home

Up until it has been the responsibility of the search marketers to be aware of this issue and address it through careful crafting of website architecture and 301 redirects. Well it still is the responsibility of the Search engine marketer but now there is real unified guidance on how to address this issue through a new tag attribute  rel=”canonical”

 Here are the announcements from the search engines:

http://ysearchblog.com/2009/02/12/fighting-duplication-adding-more-arrows-to-your-quiver/
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/02/specify-your-canonical.html
 http://blogs.msdn.com/webmaster/archive/2009/02/12/partnering-to-help-solve-duplicate-content-issues.aspx

So What?

Well the simple answer is that this will better organize your website information in the search engines. Whether this will actually improve your SEO/SEM efforts is the real question.

It has been my experience in the past that you are not always rewarded when playing by new rules right away. For example implementing clean URLs on an established site and seeing traffic decrease in the short term. When clean URLs and xml sitemaps were in their infancy you could actually damage money making search engine positions. This would occur because, quite frankly, no one really knows exactly how the search engines will  react to drastic/newly supported changes on your site. When your are very indexed in the search engines and playing the long-tail key-term game you don’t even know everywhere you show up in the search engines. In other words if you make important changes to the structure or architecture to your site you can inadvertently negatively affect your site positions. No matter how knowledgeable or experienced you are until the search engines publish the exact method of ranking, indexing, algorithm changes, etc… All of this is a crap-shoot. Their are general rules you stand by but the rest of SEO/SEM is a constant game of Plan Do Check Act  .  In other words lots of  elbow grease.

Ignorance is Bliss

It has been my experience that sloppy url architecture can actually be a blessing in disguise for small static websites. Essentially, accidental traffic from search engines. If you start following this new recommendation right now you may be negatively effected.

What you should do?

Wait. Organized links are good for search engines but not necessarily you…yet.Don’t make any drastic changes to your site or linking methods yet.  Just sit tight and wait until the benefits are proven. Wait until it is proven that organized, canonical URLs offer more benefit than your acciental traffic. Eventually it will happen. That sweet spot will open up where you can move to this method with out inadvertantly breaking anyhting and you won’t be too far behind the curve that you lose out from inaction


Jan 21 2009

Search Engine Optimization: A Modern Day Alchemy

by admin

seo-alchemy
I attended my first search engine strategies conference in 2003 and I really took to it. I enjoyed modifying sites and seeing the results in search engines. You really feel and see a positive impact being made in the company.

The most unfortunate thing that I see in SEO today is the wild goose chases that are discrediting the entire industry. What’s worse is that for the most part the SEO industry is doing this to its self. 

Let me state it load and clear, your super secret ultimate google hack is not real and you have not found the path to SEO GOLD.

Here’s why

  • First off it is a hack.
  • Second it’s not supported by any search engine
  • Third. Search engines make changes constantly without any warning. So even if your trick/hack does work it likely won’t work for long.
  • Fourth: Even if you are an avid tester of your techniques it doesn’t matter because your technique could be destroyed with one  algorithm change
  • Fifth: Even if your hack does work, by the time you actually get it in place it will no loger work and you are going to look like a fool contradicting your self to a client in a month when your super hack doesn’t actually work
  • Sixth: Your making your self look like you don’t know what you are doing.
  • Seventh: You are lying. you are selling something that does not exist. Another word for this is fraud.  In three months your client will see through you and you will lose the work. Try this, set realistic expectations, embrace a testing method and include the client in the testing process.
  • You are hurting your self and tarnishing the industry
     

I am not saying that you should stop trying to innovate and find a way to get ahead but I am saying you should stop selling it. Many of these theories likely came to be through some sort of observation and good intentions but since we, the mareketers, are at the mercy of the search engines, we can not establish any of these threroies as laws.

REAL SEO experts, enthusiasts etc… know better. For long term strategy success follow the basics and don’t fall for wild goose chase hacks or you will spend all your time cleaning up the mistakes from your 

Here are some great posts covering SEO Goose Chases. I’ll admit that I ave fallen for a few of these myself. Some I still do just out of habit.

The real question now is how do we reeducate the average business on white hat SEO that establishes a long term strategy and follows the basics supported by the major search engines.


Jan 20 2009

Whitehouse.gov Search Engine Optimized – The Feature Rich First Website

by admin

whitehouse

Looking at the new whitehouse.gov I have to say I really like the site.  While clicking through the site I noticed it was architected in a fairly sophisticated manner. Very clean URLs (http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/georgewashington/), no enormous query strings, key-terms and description set up. Very clean code with minimal in line Javascript and css based navigation and more.

So here’s the question: Does whitehouse.gov really need to be optimized for search engine indexing?

More surprising things on the site.

  • The design / layout and navigation  is contemporary, sophisticated and well thought out
  • Categorized Syndication of headlines
    • RSS feeds for Agenda, Press, News, Blog, Gallery and Video Media RSS!
    • This ties in to my recent post on the importance of relevance (relevant) to the individual. I can follow the RSS how I want to.
  • There’s a robots.txt file but it really isn’t blocking anything
  • No xml sitemaps? I was betting there would be one given the other seo efforts
  • Looking at the source code there is a good use of jquery (my favorite library) and Thickbox! Codey Lindley should be proud.
  • And what are they using to measure website traffic? Webtrends. I wish Icould get a look at those reports. Especially today.
  • According to W3c the site passes as valid xhtml 1.0  transitional

All In all this is pretty much exactly how I would strive to build a website for the whitehouse.

If I had any recommendation off the top of my head,  it would be to offer the user the option to increase the font size via css/javascript.


Jan 16 2009

If Content is King then Relevance is Queen

by admin

And as the bumper sticker clearly states, “If momma ain’t happy… Ain’t nobody happy.”

bumberp-sticker-content

I have spent the last 7 years  optimizing sites for search engines and content aggregators. Making sure that every piece of content is syndicated and notifying systems to generate non paid traffic. Over this time I have heard, and repeated, over and over that “Content is King”.  This is true, the more content you generate the more content will likely be indexed by search engines and and the more traffic you are likely to get from long-tail keyterms. This simple idea created a a tsunami of content. Write write write and post post post. Have you noticed how everything has a blog now. Every TV show has a blog and every character on the show has a blog (a hint of relevance).  For a brand new site this is not a bad strategy to get traffic moving. But then what. If you keep posting content without purpose  you will begin to see your bounce rates sky rocket. So people are stumbling on to your site through long-tail keyterms only to leave immediately. What a waste.

This is where relevance comes in.
I should really say relevance and timeliness.  Relevance in content goes beyond simply writing good copy that will explain what the majority of visitors are asking. Relevance is purposeful content plus the ability to segment that content into specific categories and extend that content into other systems. Most importantly, relevant content in this meaning is content that can be grouped so that it is relevant to the individual. WordPress and other Web 2.0 platforms have really beaten the path when it comes to making content relevant. By creating categories and automatically tag pages and automatically syndicating through RSS and automatic emailing of particular content and on and on and on. Content is sliced and diced so easily with Web 2.0 systems such as blogs and forums. However, relevance means elbow grease if you are maintaining an enterprise or a corporate website, with content that needs to change and or grow over time. OK that is pretty much common sense. What I am trying to say here is update your content while maintaining the URL and make sure that content aggregates and search engines are aware of the changes you are making.

Now add timeliness.
Timeliness for online marketing means “Today”. It means timely, relevant content for today, and if possible within the last few hours.

Here’s a scenario. You are interested in creating content for a blog or community for your company. You have prepared a few posts and while they are generally interesting they are unlikely to really spike traffic. You need a tie into current events. Some topic that the masses are currently interested in. So as an example I will take a look at Google Trends and I see the top ten items people are searching on today. Perhaps I can tie one of these items into my post. For example item #6 is “safety reliability methods” (just yesterday Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III safely landed flight US Airways Flight 1549 safely in the Hudson) so it is likely that people are searching on safety and reliability information today. So here is a timely reference that can help place a timely spin on your post or even inspire a new post. Your probably thinking OK that is pretty short lived and in this case you are correct. The interest of the masses changes quickly and while this did spike traffic this week, what about next week. Well this technique is better for blogs and next week you will have a new relevant post.

The point here is that content alone will not bring qualified traffic to your site.  Sure content is King but without relevance the King will be a peasant in no time.
Writing timely unique content plus the ability to group, syndicate and notify content aggregators will establish a strong long term strategy.


Dec 13 2008

The End of SEO – Chicago SES 2008 Key Take Away

by admin

Interesting post from Website Magazine on how SEO is changing from a from universal SEO techniques to more targeted techniques as local and personalized search continue to emerge.

The End of SEO – Chicago SES 2008 Key Take Away – Website Magazine – Website Magazine


Nov 24 2008

Google Analytics and Flash now working together. Is a search engine friendly flash on the way?

by admin

It looks like the newly formed cooperation between Google and Adobe is showing some results already. I mentioned the commitment Google, Adobe and Yahoo were makingto enhance the state of SEO & Flash a couple months ago.  Well, last week Google announced a way to track flash interactivity in Google Analytics. There are some steps you need to take in the development of  your flash to enable the Google Analytics tracking but it doesn’t look too complicated. See the video below for an example of the implementation.

Is this solid proof that an SEO friendly flash is on the way or possibly already here? If we are able to tell google of Flash “pages” visited and click actions performed, are we also telling Google what to index?

I am willing to bet there will be a Google supported Flash site architecture template released in the next year.


Oct 4 2008

Online marketing in a Recession part 2 Organic Linking Strategies through social websites – The “Social Marketing channel”

by admin

 

As a follow up to my previous post on online Marketing in a Recession part 1 this is a discussion on how to use social networking websites to build a linking strategy.

Social Networking websites are now the most visited websites on the net, surpassing pornographic websites according to (http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1678586,00.html)

So how do you take advantage of this for your business?

It is simple, …participate… just be social…. online. Be warned,  It is very time consuming to set up because there are so many social sites to be on. It takes a little less time to maintain and there are no guarantees but if you nurture the social marketing channel the payoff can be huge.

Startups are creating “social media” everywhere and about everything all you have to do is invest the time to participate. Does this mean that companies needing a director of social marketing position in the future? Possibly, stranger things have happened. Imagine if ten years ago someone told you they just took a job as a search engine marketing manager… Well. Perhaps that will be a followup to this post. The Social marketing channel manager position

Social Video Sharing ________________________________________________

Have a video of you speaking at a conference, a video of your product, a viral video about your industry? Post it on social video sharing websites.

Start with YouTube. When you upload your video you can add a description, title, link back to your site, etc… If you have multiple videos create a branded YouTube channel for your videos. By the way YouTube is owned by Google. When you add the description and title you are adding indexible content to your video making it possible to show up in relevant searches.

Here are some video sharing sites.

 

 

Social Photo Sharing ________________________________________________

Same idea as sharing your videos on video sharing sites. Add your pictures of your products, pictures of you at a conference or tradeshow anything that has to do with your company that is real.You will also be able to add titles descrtiptions and more to these as well as create photostreams/ galleries and so on with links back to your site.

 

 

Social Bookmarking ________________________________________________

This is a great social media channel. Easy to participate, hard to penetrate. One of my first posts on this blog was about Stumble Upon and how it spiked traffic 600% over night and increased sales.

Social bookmarkingis basically saving a list of favorites and easily sharing those favorites with your friends. Now, imagine you sell motorcycle parts for a antique bikes. Your not sure how to reach your niche audience other than bike shows and trade mags. Now suppose an antique biker comes across your site and bookmarks your site through a bookmarkign service. Now that potential customer has just shared your site with all of their friends on that services. You have just penetrated a “social pool” of niche customers.This is what happened to a former client of mine that boosted their sales and spiked traffic 600%.

Here are some social bookmarking services.

Make it easy for users to book mark your site by using addthis or  sharethis

 

 

The List goes on ________________________________________________

Wikipedia – Create a page on Wikipedia about your company –
Ever notice how often Wikipedia shows up in search results and often in the top 5. If your site does not appear on the first page, perhaps the Wikipedia page about your company will

Twitter – Start using twitter so people can follow your company updates ( you will be surprised how many companies are delivering timely info this way)

 

Business – as personal as the local chamber of commerce with a national reach

  • LinkedIn – Participate, create aprofile, joind industry groups and create a company profiles
  • Xing – similar to  Linked in
  • ZoomInfo – Create a company and personal profile

 

Depending on your product and company the “social” social networks may be appropriate as well.

 

Look for a post on discover Vertical Social networks reach more of your niche.


Sep 8 2008

Is the traffic to your website real? Linking Strategies and Reporting.

by admin

Is Your website traffic real?

Recently I was asked to look over a friend’s company web traffic for “fun”. I was happy to do it out of curiosity and to be helpful. They asked me to review the traffic because they were unsure of what they were seeing and after reviewing it myself I am not sure what I am looking at either.

While poking through the stats I noticed that 75% of their traffic was direct. As in 3 out of 4 of their website visitors landed on the site by punching in the domain perfectly. This seemed odd so I compared it to some other sites I have managed that are similar in size and industry and marketing efforts. What I saw was that typically each site has a more distributed source list of referral sources. Typically 40-45% percent of referral traffic coming from Search Engines, 25-35 % direct traffic and the remainder from other websites.

Digging deeper I noticed that the bounce rate for the site was quite high. (On average 75% or greater)
Hmm, 75% of the traffic is direct and 75% or more of the visitors leave immediately regardless of the page they entered the site on. Something is not right here.

To gather more information I looked at what sites out there were referring traffic. I found one or two paid referrals / purchased a banner advertisement which was expected, but beyond that I found hundreds of random websites driving traffic to this website. So I wanted to see what these sites were.  They were clearly spam sites, porn sites and sites displaying nothing but Google ad sense.

So here is the questionable data:

  •  75% of all traffic is direct (this is not a big internet brand but a small local business with basic SEO in place)
  • 75% or greater bounce rate on every page
  • The slim search engine traffic it does receive is only coming from MSN (This is strange considering the small market share of MSN compared to Google or Yahoo.)
  • Overall Traffic, in terms of visit session is up about 60% this year.
    Of course the client is happy to see the higher traffic numbers but based on what we are seeing is this traffic real?

My initial thoughts are that one of the following is happening:

  1.  This is a poor linking strategy / scam – meant to boost website traffic figures but without regard for traffic quality.
  2. The reporting is set up incorrectly- This is possible and it would explain the high numbers for direct traffic and the high bounce rate. However, it does not explain the odd referring websites
  3. This is site is a true anomaly – receiving a lot of direct traffic from people that did not want to visit the site and leave immediately.

Based on what I have seen in the reporting and what I know of the company managing this site, I believe this is a paid linking strategy boosting traffic number but harming the clients brand and understanding of their own efforts.

If anyone has any similar experiences let me know. Have you seen website traffic referral distributions like this before? Are these stats telling tale signs of paid linking? Can anyone explain how a site indexed in all major search engines only receives traffic from MSN?