Archive for February, 2008

Top 10 2007 SEO Changes as Published by Visibility Magazine

February 21st, 2008 by Joe Griffin

Originally Authored by Joe Griffin

2007 has drawn to a close and so the time has come to take a look back at the seminal moments in the SEO industry. These are my thoughts on the developments I feel most impacted our business and our clients rankings.

# 10: Wikipedia and Yellow Page Directories Infiltrate the Natural SERP’s

Yellow Page directories like Magic Yellow, City Search and Super Pages have dominated natural search results for years. These directories possessed the majority of the highly coveted, top ten natural search results for many local professional and trade service key words in 2007 (example: “Washington DC plumber”). This relegated local businesses to lower SERP’s when they would typically enjoy higher rankings. It drastically affected websites and businesses across the country.

Wikipedia also had a significant impact. It is now a major industry player after maintaining a strong presence for the past few years. Currently, Wikipedia is the best ranking website on the Internet. It continues to not only preserve, but accrue number one positions for extremely competitive keywords.

#9: Matt Cutts’ Communication

Google’s Matt Cutts has become increasingly vocal over the years. He maintains a popular blog, participates at most major conferences and has begun posting videos on YouTube (find them on YouTube or Google video). He addresses hot button issues such as paid linking, alt tags and on page SEO. His engagement validates SEO and allows the industry to hear from the horse’s mouth.

#8: Google Backlinks Displayed in Webmaster Tools

For as long as I can remember, Google has displayed a partial snapshot of a website’s full backlink portfolio. This applies to every website on the Internet. Several months ago Google allowed unfettered access to backlinks in the Google Webmaster Tools. Anyone possessing these tools can see every backlink Google gives them credit for. This is a boon for SEO and is still underutilized within the industry.

#7: Google – DoubleClick Merger

The FTC has given Google the green light to buy Double Click. DoubleClick is arguably the largest ad serving company in the world. It also owns Preformics, a full service SEM/SEO company. Translation? Google has officially purchased an SEO company. This merger has significant implications for the industry down the road. Even though the jury is still out regarding the precise consequences, I consider it a banner move worthy of ranking in the 2007 Top 10.

#6: Google and Yahoo! Filters Get Public

Search engines have instituted spam protection since 1995. This protection became increasingly sophisticated around the late nineties and into early 2000. Filters represent one aspect of this progression and they are more public in 2007 than ever before. For example, Yahoo! will assess 50,100 and 500 point penalties. Google will assess everything from 5 or 6 point penalties to 20, 30 or 100 point penalties. There is also the famous 950 filter, a 950 point penalty. The visibility of these filters, what they mean and how to avoid them are popular topics for discussion amongst industry insiders.

#5: SMO not Always Great for SEO (except when you’re in the SEO business)

A year or two ago social media’s popularity was rapidly building. It reached its pinnacle in 2007 when the industry latched onto the medium, and its marketing potential, with strategies like link bait. As tempting as it is, not every business will benefit from these endeavors. Speaking on behalf of an agency that manages over 250 customers, in various industries, we have found that Social Media Marketing definitely has its place. Many businesses do not fit the mold and that puts a kink in the link bait idea. Link bait applies to less than 50% of businesses and potentially less than 25%. Major social sites (including Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, del.icio.us and Digg ) have assigned the “no-follow” to all outbound links. The “no-follow” is an attribute on hyperlinks ensuring links get no credit when search engines rank websites in their search results. It is essentially a non-vote so spammers will not take advantage of public areas. In essence, these social networks do not pass link juice. It is critical to note the lack of impact these popular sites have on most marketing efforts. That said, in many circumstances these networks can be used to positively impact search results, but only through third party notice originating from these networks, but not directly from the networks.

#4: Paid Directories get Squashed

Paid directories have always been an ace in the hole for SEOs as they are a useful resource for acquiring paid links. We maintained a list of approximately 110 paid directories we considered valuable. Google recently took action and filtered around 50 paid directories leaving only 60 valid options available. This is a significant percentage and eliminated 50 guaranteed links. It affected rankings and strategies across the industry for individual search engine optimizers and companies alike.

#3: BlogReviews Hits it Big in 2007

Blogging has been popular for several years, but 2007 was its banner year. Blogging as well as paid reviews (what we call BlogReviews) took off and are strong contenders for relevant link acquisition. The industry embraced this trend. Consequently, it meaningfully impacted rankings.

#2: Universal Search Jumps into the Scene

This year Google rolled out universal search. The service includes Google Local, Google Maps, Google Video, Google News plus more. Google has conducted extensive experiments with the application as well as the industry. They tested the click through rates for video, local etc. by positioning them in different locations in the SERP’s i.e. top, middle, bottom. They even tried displaying 3 local results and 7 natural results. Thankfully, they are back to 3 local results and 10 natural results. All SEO companies have had to address universal search and assess the entire search mix. This includes video and news which also entail press releases. Universal search’s impact and implications rank it number 2 in the Top 10.

#1: Text Link Advertising gets Dinged

Google takes a fierce stance against text link advertising. Many major Google webmaster blogs discuss this subject and naturally Matt Cutts is the main spokesperson. Google has trained a magnifying glass on paid links. They are manually filtering out websites and will pass penalties to sites that buy links, when it is done in a non-favorable way. If sites buy too many links, use too much of the same anchor text, buy on non-relevant sites or buy on sites that are known links sellers, they are in the danger zone. In essence, links must be purchased with the utmost care and consideration. That being said, text link advertising is still a healthy industry, but the model has entirely changed in 2007. Information on this issue saturates the Internet and the industry has yet to see its ultimate effect.

This wraps up the Top 10 SEO changes in 2007. The industry has its gaze fixed on the horizon and the dawning of a new year filled with an array of possibilities, advances and modifications.

Keyword Generation and Research

February 6th, 2008 by Adrienne Embery-Good

Keyword Research Theory

Keyword research serves as the foundation for any SEO campaign. The Keywords and keyword phrases found in that research are used to target highly specific visitors who will be interested in your website. If the research is conducted incorrectly, or does not have the global objective in mind, the outcome of the SEO campaign can be affected negatively due to poorly qualified traffic that is not interested in what the site has to offer.

What Are Keywords?

Generally speaking, a keyword is any term or phrase that can be associated with your website. However, there are often terms that relate to your website but may not be valuable because the user searching for such a keyword does not find your site of value to him or her.

For example, a custom motorcycle builder has a website that advertises “Custom Choppers”, an obvious keyword such as “choppers” would not be as highly valued as a more specific keyword phrase. The term “choppers” can be associated with many sectors other than motorcycles. For instance, a website about helicopters, wood chippers, salad choppers, etc. can also be associated with that term.

This idea introduces the long-tail and short-tail theories of keyword research.

Short-Tail vs. Long-Tail

A short-tail keyword is a term that gives a broad and general sense of what the website is about but is also loosely related. In the example above, “motorcycles” or “choppers” would be considered a short-tail keyword. These two keywords can have hundreds of uses that don’t always relate to the targeted audience.

A long-tail keyword is a term that gives a specific description of what will be found on the website and is directly related to the sites content. Using the same example, “handmade custom V-twin choppers” would be a long-tail keyword. This term is very specific as to what the site is oriented towards and therefore when the “Custom Choppers” website is returned as a search engine result to the user, the subject matter is more likely to be of interest to them.

Now that we know the different types of keywords, how do we know what combinations of either are most valued?

Researching & Selecting Keywords

Submitawebsite uses a number of online tools in generating and selecting valuable keywords. With keyword generating programs we are able to scour the Google database for the most searched and relevant keywords to any given industry. The data returned by the keyword program displays several valuable metrics used in deciding what keywords will send qualified traffic to the website.

The two most important metrics used in the selection of keywords are search volume and advertiser competition.

Search volume relates to the number of searches that a given keyword receives on average. A higher search volume indicates that the term is popular amongst search engine users and is therefore a valuable term. However, in selecting terms with high search volume, the logic of relevance must be used to sort out ambiguous keywords such as the aforementioned “choppers”.

Advertiser competition relates to the popularity of a term in the paid search category. A keyword that returns a high advertiser competition indicates that this keyword is heavily bid upon in the paid search network. By this we can deduct that this keyword is a valuable and tested term by competitors that returns quality traffic interested in the sites content.

Conclusion

Keyword research and generation is a process in which search engine trends and user tendencies are observed to capture the largest audience. However, a large audience is not valuable unless they are interested in what the website has to offer. In conjunction with Submitawebsite’s years of top SEO experience, we use a process of reason and logic to ensure the selection of relevant and valuable keywords for your SEO campaign.

SEO Marketing and Advertising: Quips from a Convert

February 1st, 2008 by Adrienne Embery-Good

I am new to SEO.

I hail from the brick and mortar homebuilding industry where “brick and mortar” not only applied to the business, but to its advertising. 25k newspaper ads were a regular occurrence and chopping down a forest to send flyers was the status quo.

After two years in this economically foundational industry, I left with a solid understanding of off-line advertising and marketing.

Enter Submitawebsite.

I am two months in and the experience has been illuminating. While I knew about pay-per-click campaigns, organic rankings and analytics, my comprehension was rudimentary at best. I was used to making investments in one-time ad placements and short-lived marketing campaigns, not investing in evolving strategies.

Now don’t get me wrong…

Off-line marketing and advertising is important, but without the support of online tactics it is as useless as “trying to pick a lock with a wet herring*” (*reference Shakespeare in Love).

Think “peas and carrots,” “peanut butter and jelly”, “rum and coke….” I think you catch my drift.

I was inspired by a blog post written by SEOmoz’s Jane Copland (click here for more). Copland discusses an entertaining ad she saw on a city bus. When she reached her office she could not remember the url and instead searched for the ad content on the web. Her efforts were in vain. There was no marriage between off-line and online marketing. Therefore, she found no results until she rode the bus again and memorized the url.

This allegory relates an important truth. People tend to search online for products or services they see advertised in more traditional arenas i.e. television, print or billboard. The key to these offline mediums lies in their online application. There is no doubt a business will see the effects in their bottom line if a person reaches a dead-end when searching for their merchandise on the web. I concede there are exceptions to the rules, but keeping your offline ad’s keywords and phrases prominent on your website is a must.

It is also essential to consider price. I am not saying SEO is not expensive, but if you are going to spend 25k on one-time ad placement why would you hesitate to invest 25k in an SEO strategy? Similarly, if you are going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a product launch or grand opening, why not include SEO in that budget?

I hate to say it “brick and mortar” advertisers; there is a new reality. I used to be one of you, but I have been converted. Harness the Internet’s untapped potential (or at least tug at it). Don’t tack-on online strategies as an after thought. Incorporate them from the beginning. Let them feed and nurture your glossy magazine ads, entertaining bus wraps and witty commercials. I promise you will sleep better and enjoy your work more as you see the traffic and conversions start rolling in.