Archive for August, 2009
August 31st, 2009 by Patrick Hare
For a brief time, getting a good search engine ranking was as easy as publishing an online press release. The anchor text from a few selected phrases in the release would find itself on multiple outlets, including RSS feeds, and your release would show up everywhere from Yahoo news to various other outlets, many of which made their money from aggregating content and running contextual ads. In every sense of the word, the press release was used for link building, and even with no human readers, the release would create fast link popularity for the price of a few hundred dollars.
Today, press releases are still used in the search engine optimization process, but as part of a broader SEO and link building package. They can still be used very effectively, but it takes a savvier operator than the press release writers of days past, who could literally turn any topic into a news item. Search engines tightened up their scrutiny of online PR outlets, and as a result many of them decided to ensure that the release was “newsworthy” enough to warrant publication. Therefore, an advanced level of press release writing and distribution is necessary to make sure that you get the full value from a press release.
In some ways, writing a good press release goes back to the days before the internet. You need to have an attention getting headline, but now you need one that better incorporates your primary keyword phrase. This may not pass SEO value directly to your site, but recently Google and Yahoo have been placing press releases among their search results, so if your keyword is in the headline, your article may get some traffic. Naturally this means that the first paragraph of the release should have a concise value proposition along with whatever “news” you are delivering about your company.
When it comes to topics, your list of press release topics is limited only by your imagination, and (most importantly) the truth. People actually read online releases, and many companies use services like Google Alerts to look for certain words or phrases in online news. Therefore, your news should be accurate, but if your release is written well you can turn the most mundane events into stories. For instance any new hire, acquisition, purchase, recognition, or award can become a press release topic. If you’ve adopted a highway, bought a new vehicle, upgraded your order processing system, then you have a topic.
From an SEO standpoint, the essential thing about getting a press release involves getting links back to your website. Most studies of multiple links back to the same site indicate that the first link found is going to be the one that passes authority, so you should make sure that the anchor text in your first link is the most important. If you have a shop that rents dune buggies in San Diego, make sure that the link text for the first link back to your website contains something along the lines of “San Diego Dune Buggy Rental.” In subsequent parts of the release, you can have other links, and you are likely to have your site’s domain name in the “about” section that is usually the same no matter how many releases you publish.
When it comes to doing press releases for search engine optimization, one of the key takeaways is that online press release distribution should not be your only linking channel. Instead, it should be a periodic element in an expanded and diversified link building portfolio. Even if you send out press releases every two weeks, you will only be filling out a certain link profile, and the search engines may not recognize your site as the kind of resource that gets a variety of links. Most major websites get links from directories, forums, blogs, and other websites which reference information found on the target site. Therefore, in addition to going after many different kinds of links, you should also consider adding pages to your site where you cover a certain topic that would be of interest to someone hitting your site. Even if you paint houses in Fresno, you could have a page about popular paint colors or techniques. Every time you add a page, you could put out a release like “Fresno Painting Company Reveals 10 Popular House Colors” with a link to the new page on the site. You could then follow up with a few links to that page from blogs and other sites. Given enough time and pages, you will likely become the resource for your topic, especially if your competitors aren’t doing anything similar.
Web.com Search Agency has been writing and distributing online press releases for several years, and the benefits have gone beyond traditional SEO. The releases themselves get picked up by the occasional news outlet, and may get fairly good search engine rankings in their own right. This kind of online public relations is great for newer companies, who are likely to be experiencing the “sandbox effect” in Google or Yahoo. By having press release pages on several established websites and news outlets, your company can enjoy an online presence in advance of the site’s eventual search position. Our press release writers also have experience in matching up your products and services with keywords that have a high search volume in major search engines. In addition to creating a “well rounded” link profile that is preferred by search algorithms, you also get to enjoy a press release’s traditional benefit, which is the improvement in publicity and general good will that are craved by growing and established businesses of all kinds.
August 28th, 2009 by Patrick Hare
Recently, an article on CNN.com profiled painters who turn your social media photographs into portraits. When it comes to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, it is important to remember that you can shape your own online image as well, whether you’re a corporation or a motivated individual. As many of us know, social networking sites are like a newspaper that can be read by the whole world, but the good news is that you can be the editor of your own section. By shaping the right online image, you and your businesses can use social media for advancement in a connected world.
The first rule of social media exposure, as many of us have seen in the news, is to present an image that you wouldn’t mind showing to your family, your friends, and your boss. Executives and low-level employees alike have lost their jobs due to postings on their own, and other people’s, social media sites. Even worse, the fallout for the associated company can ruin years of careful positioning and public relations work, to the extent that the company becomes synonymous with the activity of a few former employees.
The second rule for social media, even if you choose to stay out of it, is to understand that other people are making postings to their sites, and if they mention your name you should hope it is a positive reference. The rise of the digital camera over the last decade means that photography is now ubiquitous, and any given party can have produce several hundred digital images. In the past, people did crazy things at parties that became part of water-cooler gossip, but today the same parties become online sensations. Once again, if you’re representing a company, or enjoy your income, you may want to avoid the amateur paparazzi.
Finally, social media can do your bidding if you use it correctly. If your business is doing something good, make sure you talk about in on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to public relations channels like press releases and blogging. If your vendors and customers are using social media, ask to be followed, profiled, or mentioned more often if this is feasible. Share your success stories, or show how you’ve recently turned a problem into an opportunity. If potential clients are doing detective work about you on Google or social networking sites, a series of positive stories can drown out a few negative mentions, which are standard for any company with more than a handful of customers.
If you’ve run afoul of social media, or feel that you have been painted in a negative light on the world wide web, there still solutions. Agencies like Web.com Search Agency are able to use advanced reputation management strategies to eliminate or push down negative publicity and online defamation. Generally speaking, reputation management works just as well for companies as it does for individuals. In a manner of speaking, we can “paint over” a bad portrait and help you show the good side of yourself or your company. With the right combination of positive postings, good works, and well crafted publicity, your new image can be steered in the positive direction that is rewarded on a personal and professional level.
August 25th, 2009 by Patrick Hare
One of the most common problems for practitioners of do-it-yourself search engine optimization involves link building, or the lack of backlinks to a site. Google’s PageRank algorithm was among the first to give high prominence to the value of links pointing at a site, and all major search engines use it to a certain extent. Links from external websites are vital to any new site, or even to an older one, because search engines use them to discover a site and assess its relative value.
People who are new to SEO and link building face challenges that experienced link builders have already overcome. There are a variety of services, usually quite spammy, that offer reciprocal links, low value directories, and very bad text link placement on sites with no relevance. Choosing the wrong link building strategy can get your site penalized or banned before it even gets off the ground. Even higher-level, more expensive text link ad services can be questionable because search engines have found ways to determine if a link appears to have been purchased, and sites that are selling links can lose SEO value. Even in the best case scenario, you are paying for a backlink that gets you nothing in return.
For the purposes of this discussion, we are going to assume that your site is not substantially different from most of your competitors. If you have a special tool on your site that people like using, then your link building could potentially take care of itself. However, you still need to get the word out through a third-party form of marketing. Sites like Youtube, Facebook, and MySpace didn’t necessarily need optimization because they had features that people enjoyed, and recommended to their friends. If you can offer something on your site that your competitors are charging money for, then you may have an advantage when it comes to getting links. Otherwise, you will want to follow the lead of 95% of successfully optimized sites which rely on one form of link building or another.
Normally the best way to get links for your website involves hard work. You need to get other sites to link to yours, and that involves research. The first stop should be Google. If you look at the top 30 results on Google for one of your top keyword phrases, you might find similar sites that are willing to link to you, but this involves asking them nicely. Still, this kind of link building gets results because Google already considers these sites to be relevant. Naturally, search engines prefer to see links that aren’t obviously purchased, but some sites will ask for payment in exchange for link placement.
One place where buying a paid link is tolerated is in trusted directories like Yahoo or Business.com. This is because these directories are charging for the expense of looking at your website and placing it in the proper category. The Yahoo directory is highly recommended because it conveys a certain level of search engine value, and the Business.com directory will actually send traffic to your site when people look through its categories for B2B services and products. Note that not every paid directory is considered to be “good” in the eyes of search engines.
Submission to “free” directories is another method of getting backlinks. By getting your site listed among multiple online directories around the world, you are creating an aggregate of low-value links pointing at your site, which at least can put you on the map in the world of search engines. If you’re going after any seriously contested keywords, a “free” directory submission should not be your last stop in the world of link building. Similarly, blog submission (also known as sponsored review placement) will create a “buzz” for your site in the search engines, but it should be done carefully since a large number of blog entries with the same anchor text may cause a search engine to take notice of your activities.
Any backlink building strategy should employ responsible anchor text linking. Anchor text is defined as the words that are being linked to a particular web page. For one thing, anchor text should be varied, similar to the way people would link to your site naturally. Sometimes people link to your URL, sometimes they link to “click here,” and sometimes they link to your top keyword phrase, or a variation of that phrase. When choosing anchor text, try to land it on the most relevant page to the keyword, and don’t land all your anchors on the homepage. Multiple identical anchor texts from diverse websites make for an easy red flag in the world of a search engine robot. Most of the time you can build your keyword into 2 or more phrases that include it, which will also help you achieve rankings for higher converting “long tail” terms relevant to your site.
Finally, the field of backlink building should be one place where you consider the use of an experienced SEO Agency. Obviously, you should ask about the type of links that will be bought, the time it will take to put the links in place (it should not be all at once) and the cost. The best SEO agencies will diversify your link placement portfolio, which protects you against search engine updates as well as penalties for a particular type of link building. Furthermore, an agency should be able to tell you why a particular strategy is valuable, and their assertion should stand up if it is presented to another reputable agency. An SEO agency can also keep you up-to-date about new trends in improving link popularity, or potential pitfalls of an existing strategy. You should be able to follow the progress of a link building program with a backlink checker like Google Webmaster Tools or Yahoo Site Explorer. Eventually, a properly executed backlink program will create a critical mass in rankings that produces natural links from actual site visitors, which will allow you to concentrate on your business as opposed to your website.
August 24th, 2009 by Patrick Hare
Under most circumstances, a search engine is a terrible place to build a brand. This is because search engine visitors generally know what they are looking for by the time they’ve gotten to Google, Bing, or Yahoo. If your brand is already built, search engines can be highly lucrative because your official site is likely to appear near the top of the search results, and you can strengthen your brand presence by buying ads for specific phrases that match your service offerings. For up-and-coming branding initiatives, search engines can deliver your message to millions of eyes every day, and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
This kind of delivery is known as “content match,” which is a way of showing your search ads among relevant content on websites that are talking about your product or service. If you have a pay-per-click account, you may already be running content ads without knowing it, since it is a default setting on platforms like Google Adwords. As a recent CNN article shows, Yahoo has almost the same market penetration as Google, but makes less money, because Yahoo delivers a greater percentage of content match results. The other form of delivery, known as “search match” shows ads near actual consumer search queries, and gets the bulk of search dollars because advertisers can more immediately turn those searchers into buyers. The price that search advertisers are willing to pay for a single click can range from one cent to fifty dollars, and the average search advertiser should expect to pay around $2.50 per click.
Meanwhile, content match advertising can be configured so the cost per click is fifty cents or less. Additionally, content match can be more “impression” based, which is great for branding because it is similar to having billboards on busy streets in every town. Any time your ad shows up on a page is considered an impression, but with most platforms you only pay when someone clicks on the ad. You can create ads which are image and video based, which allows you to create a theme based on your current advertising initiatives. PPC platforms also allow you target specific demographics and “channels” which are actual websites where you want to be found. For instance, if you want to be found on certain parts of Myspace, but not others, you can choose the areas where you want your ad to run. Anyone targeting a gender, age, or income-based demographic will understand the value of placing ads in front of a highly targeted audience.
As a final disclaimer, search engine click costs can vary wildly depending on the item and the level of competition. PPC for legal and attorney sites can cost $30 per click, while specialized contractors can get similar ads for a few cents. If your content and search click prices are the same (not recommended) then you can find your budget exhausted very quickly. Whether you are building a brand or just trying to get leads, it is usually best to find a search agency with experience in all major PPC platforms, because there are any number of settings in a pay-per-click interface that can cost money or deliver your content to unnecessary sources. In the space of a few years, search engine marketing has gone from a DIY field to a complex operation covering various disciplines, so getting the right agency to help you in your branding project can make a big difference in achieving your desired results.
August 21st, 2009 by Patrick Hare
From a marketing perspective, a blog can be a great way of getting the word out about yourself, your business, or anything you care about. A blog can get your message seen by interested viewers and people who come in from search engines, and most of the time more blogging equals more visitors. Our own blog represents a sizable amount of the traffic we get from Google, Yahoo, and Bing, since we are covering relevant and timely topics that web searchers want to see.
However, there are some important guidelines for bloggers, whether they are in a business or personal environment. If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself shunned by your friends, fired by your company, or even facing a lawsuit.
Here are a few tips for safe blogging in a changing online world.
- Use good spelling and grammar. If you’re representing a business, poor grammar in your blog is going to work against you. People who read your blog are going to assume that if your spelling is bad, you may not be accurate in other areas.
- Keep it positive, or at least newsworthy. If you’ve got a product to sell, then you can expound on all the features and benefits of the item. If you’re selling a service, talk about what’s good about your customer service, on-time delivery, expanded service area, or extended hours.
- Avoid anonymous postings. Anonymous blogs may be important for people who could face real retribution, but they can backfire for people who are libeling others in print, or slandering them in online videos (AKA “Vlogs”). The right lawyers can get a blog owner to uncover your identity, as a New York Blogger has recently learned.
- Don’t Defame Others. It may be tempting, but saying bad things about someone else online usually makes you look like the bad guy. If you’re blogging for your company, then you should consider your long-term employment prospects if they’re contacted by someone else’s attorney.
- Don’t reveal inside information. Normally this is only a problem for company executives, but anything that might raise or lower the stock price of your company should be left for the quarterly report. For example, you shouldn’t reveal news about layoffs or acquisitions in a personal or business blog. If you aren’t sure about revealing a company news item, get written permission from someone in charge. From a personal blogging standpoint, the same general rule applies if you’re privy to news about other people and they haven’t told anyone else. Sometimes a new baby, job promotion, or engagement is being kept quiet until the appropriate time, and you shouldn’t forget that a popular blog is going to be read by “friends of friends.”
Most of the time, you don’t have to obsess over your blog postings or your online identity. There are a few “famous anonymous” bloggers out there with a following, but the average blog is going to serve an audience of friends or people looking for specific information. The great thing about blogging software and websites is that they allow for an easy exchange of information between people around the world. Ordinary people can share knowledge and find others with a similar mindset, set of hobbies, or common opinions. Companies can provide customers and prospects with useful product or service knowledge that can present solutions to common problems. A good blog can be rewarding on both a personal and professional level, but only if it doesn’t create more problems than it solves.
August 20th, 2009 by Patrick Hare
Inexpensive “Netbook” computers are becoming very trendy, and are being bundled with wireless internet plans. As this CNN.com article shows, the distinction between a Netbook and a laptop is blurring, but a website designer should be very aware of some big differences:
- Netbooks have smaller screens. This means that important content for your site should fit into a Netbook’s viewing area. Previously, the trend has been moving toward large-screen functionality, but you may want to invest in your own Netbook to see how your site looks on a 10 inch screen.
- Netbooks have less memory and processing power. If your site is feature-rich, and uses a lot of interactive elements, it may perform differently on a Netbook. Obviously, you should configure your site for just about any user, but heavily interactive sites may perform poorly on Netbooks.
- Netbooks may offer an advantage to Software As A Service (SAAS) sites. If you can offer spreadsheets, collaborative content creation, or mail services through your own site, people with Netbooks are going to prefer sites like these because they don’t require software to be installed.
Depending on your website configuration, you may either be able to use CSS to present your site differently to Netbook users, or offer a .mobi version of your site (or a subdomain like Netbooksite.example.com) to users who come from mobile devices. Usability is a big consideration with any website, so ensuring viewership on desktops, laptops, and Netbooks may offer you an advantage that larger competitors have not considered. Given the inexpensive, compact nature of the Netbooks compared to laptop computers, it pays to be able to reach your customers no matter where they’re doing their web surfing.
August 17th, 2009 by Patrick Hare
One of the ways to keep track of how Google is viewing your site is to use some of the more esoteric commands available to searchers. These commands make it possible to filter information in the Google index, and get a picture of how Google considers the relationship between your backlinks, metatags, and on-page content. One of the best ways to improve your search engine rankings is to use these universally-available commands to diagnose common problems.
Here are some commands and ways we use them to check site issues:
- Site: This command shows all the pages that Google has found for your site. It should always be followed by your website in the format of site:example.com. If you have a lot of subdomains and only want to see the main site, you might try site:www.example.com. This command can be combined with other keywords, which lets you find specific pages, so the format “site:www.example.com dry dog food” would show you all pages on example.com about dry dog food. This tool is especially useful if you are trying to discover keyword blurring (or cannibalization) issues, because you can check to see if a single site is referencing the same topic on multiple pages.
- Allinanchor: Ostensibly, the function of this command is to tell you which sites are getting specific anchor texts (which are linked keywords) from other sites and web pages. For instance, if you search on “allinanchor:running shoes” you should be seeing a Google’s preferred order of sites that are getting links for that term. In the world of Google, rankings are heavily weighted on link popularity, and in most cases your site’s result for a given keyword should appear in the vicinity of the allinanchor ranking. If you are significantly below your allinanchor, your site’s architecture or content may not be matching up with its links. If you are significantly ahead of your allinanchor score, then you may be up against competitors who don’t do a good job with SEO.
- Allintitle: This command tells you how many pages online have a particular set of words in their titles. This can be useful for seeing how other site titles are configured. Since the title of a webpage is the primary way of defining page content, you can find relevant topics more easily with allintitle. A great way to combine two functions, and sniff out keyword blurring, is to use this in conjunction with the site: command so you would type in “allintitle:dog food bowls site:example.com” so you can see how many pages on the site have titles about the same topic. Excessive title repetition can drag down search engine rankings, so this is one way to get a quick list of the pages you should modify.
- Allintext: Want to find pages which mention a topic in their body text? This command ignores other considerations like anchors and titles and goes to the on-page content. Once again, too many similar pages can water down the focus on an important page. When in doubt, focus your energies on the page that gets the best allinanchor score, or has the most topical links pointing at it.
- Allinurl: This command searches out URLs (or domain names) which contain a certain word or phrase. Search engines give some preference to domain names that contain keyword matches. You could use this command to find sites that you may want to buy. You can also see if other sites are adding descriptive phrases to their own URL structures, so you might see example.com/dog-food-bowls/red.html. Once again, this is a good way to check your own site structure for duplicates, especially if you have a site with thousands of pages.
- Cache: If you don’t know whether or not your site is cached, and you don’t have the Google toolbar, you can simply type in cache: followed by your website. You can even do this for specific pages. The advantage of this command is that Google will tell you the last time it cached your page, assuming that it has been cached. To see what Google has read on the page, click the link that says “Cached Text” and you can see what words on your site that Google has found. As always, it may take a few days for Google to apply cached text to its index, so your result in the Google index may show an older title or description.
- Related: The related command is important because it can tell you which sites Google thinks are related to your own. In some cases, you may find that your site is listed among sites that are not relevant to yours in any way. This can happen if you’ve gotten links from questionable sources. This condition is known to some as bad co-citation, which means that you are associated with low quality sites by means of their links to you. Ideally, you want your list of related sites to contain your top competitors, or sites which are similar to your own. The solution? Get quality links from relevant sites, become a better a topic leader in your field, and make sure the content on your site is more relevant. You can even link out to your competitors in a way that does not directly pass high-value anchor text for a term you want to be found on.
- Linkdomain: This command only works in Yahoo, and shows how many links that a site has. Google (through the link: command) only shows a few links, so Yahoo has a clear advantage on this front. A command like this is very useful if you want to see how many links your competitors are getting, and you can download the first 1000 links to a spreadsheet. You can also use the link: command in Yahoo, but it only shows links to a specific page. If you exclude the domain itself (by way of the format “linkdomain:example.com –example.com) then you can see links pointing at the site, but not on the site itself. There are also dropdowns in Yahoo Site Explorer that will do this for you.
Several other Google commands not mentioned here can be found at Googleguide.com. There are many commands which make it easier for searchers to find what they are looking for, including weather forecasts, movie showtimes, phone book listings, and stock prices. In the world of search engine optimization, the above commands can help you get competitive intelligence about your online rivals, see if there are weak ranking factors on your own site, and let you know how many of your pages are visible to the search engines. If you’re still in need of better rankings, a professional organization like Web.com Search Agency can assist you in improving your site, obtaining high quality links, and applying proven marketing strategies that improve visitor traffic and sales.
August 17th, 2009 by Patrick Hare
An article on CNN profiles a video site aimed at younger internet viewers. For owners of websites which are suitable for all ages, it is important to ensure that websites do not have any content that may trip up search engine filters or specialized software that parents use to keep their kids safe online. Additionally, it is almost always a good idea to keep your site clean for search engines like Google, which owe part of their success to keeping adult results out of their general index.
In the early days of search engines, there were quite a few ethically challenged individuals who would get adult, gambling, or pharmaceutical results to show up for just about any search term, so “relevant” results from sites like Google had a value that people may not be aware of today. The search engines are still on the lookout for sites that may be suspicious, so savvy webmasters should make sure that they don’t accidentally get caught up in various content filtering systems.
Here are a few tips for keeping your site in the “family friendly” category.
- Avoid explicit content for General Audience type sites. This can include language, violence, and descriptions of adult themes.
- Make sure forum content and blog posts are moderated prior to publication.
- Avoid the depiction of gambling, drugs, and alcohol.
- Don’t link out to sites with adult themes, gambling, or online pharmacies.
- For sites that cater to younger viewers, the ICRA offers a rating system, which is voluntary and free.
Sites that cater to children and youth oriented messaging are naturally tougher to manage than most other websites on the internet. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo generally keep adult content away from users unless they “opt in” to showing unfiltered results. For webmasters looking to attract an “all ages” audience,
Before Submitawebsite.com was purchased by Web.com, our founder developed an all-ages search engine called Stopdog.com, which is still believed to be the largest filtered search engine in the US. The development of this site gave us an inside view into how search engine placement is achieved through submission, spidering, and content classification. Even though the larger search engines use very complex algorithms, sites are still spidered and classified with the same tools, so makers of kid-friendly sites should definitely take the time to closely examine content. For anyone selling products or services that fall into the PG-rated category, it is also a good idea to avoid questionable links and explicit themes, given that most people (and businesses) default to search results which fall into the “safe for work” category.