Category Archives for Search Engine Optimization

Sharing the Google Webmasters Tools love

Google LogoMany people are familiar with Google Analytics, a free service from Google that provides traffic statistics. Fewer are familiar with Google Webmasters Tools which is packed with all sorts of useful information about your site. Google Webmasters Tools gives you a number of hints on what to change or fix on your site to help it rank better, you can register XML sitemaps, see information on crawl information, and get SEO optimization suggestions.

However up to now, it’s been a pain to help clients, especially the less technically knowledgeable ones, set up verified Google Webmasters Tools access to their site. For every Google account, you had to upload a file to the root directory or add a meta tag to the home page.

Now, as long as you have one user is verified with Webmasters Tools, that user can easily add additional verified users.

In a blog post, sharing the verification love, the webmaster central blog outlines how it is done. The one caveat is that the access is binary (either you have it or you don’t). Unlike Google Analytics you can’t just give “read only” access.

If you need to set up both Google Analytics and Webmasters Tools for a WordPress site, this post will walk you through it.

Firefox SEO plug-ins – two to choose from

Do you know what Alexa rank and Google PR (page rank) your website has? How about your competitors? And what is an Alexa rank anyway?

An Alexa rank is a calculated measure of unique visitors and pageviews on a given web site. This may be counter intuitive but the lower your Alexa rank the better. Currently google.com has an Alexa rank of 1,and Facebook 4. Now you will find all sorts of debate online on how accurate the rank is, but everyone agrees it is useful as a rough measure of a website’s traffic. If you haven’t already you should compare your Alexa rank to your competitor’s website. Is yours higher? Then you have some work to do.

Google page rank, which ranges from 1 – 10, 10 being the highest measure, indicates how important and relevant Google thinks your site is. yahoo.com is a PR 9. cnn.com has a PR 10.

There are a number of ways to find out Alexa and Google page ranks. For Alexa, you can go directly to alexa.com and look a particular site up. There are also a number of plugins you can install directly into your Firefox browser (if you needed a reason to switch from using Internet Explorer, these tools might just convince you). If you like simple and unobtrusive check out searchstatus. For a more full featured tool you’ll want to download the SEO toolbar from seobook.com.

Check out searchstatus’s icon for options next to the PageRank and Alexa measures. It will, among other things, give you a list of meta tags for a site. SeoBook’s tool bar installs underneath your toolbar bookmarks and presents backlink information at a glance.

Google is a Popularity Contest

Remember voting for the prom queen? The candidates campaigned for your vote and if she got the most votes, she wore the crown at the dance. The google SERPs (search engine results, the listings that appear when you search on a particular keyword phrase) work in the same way. Google organizes it’s search listings on a number of factors, but one very important one is based on the number of “votes” for your site. But what are these votes? And how does google count them? Votes in the google world are links to your site.

Called “backlinks” in SEO (search engine optimization) terminology, these links occur whenever another site has a link back to yours. While I am oversimplifying matters, you could do worse than encourage other sites to link to your website.

Part of a chamber of commerce? Have you spoken at an event? Make sure that any online presence these events have identify you and your business and most importantly: have a link to your web site. You will be on your way to participating in one of the largest popularity contests there is in the business world.

Do you participate in social networking? Do you comment on other blogs? Participate in online groups such as google groups? In all these activities, make sure that your signature in your post includes a link to your website.

Of course you do not want to just post your business name and website without adding some value. While yes any backlink helps, you also want your link to invite people to click on it. That can be even more valuable than just improving your position in the SERPs, especially if you are in a competitive niche. Also many bloggers moderate (review) comments to their blog and will not post your comment unless it provides some value to the conversation.

Many blogging sites tag backlinks as “no follow”. This tells google not to “follow” the link and not count it. However there is some debate on whether google truly ignores it. Yes, it is not as valuable as a “followed” link but some SEOs believe that it still counts in google’s algorithms. And if you want to find blogs that allow “follows” just search in google for “dofollow blogs”.

How do you find out how many backlinks your site has?  In a post I will showcase some tools you install into your Firefox browser (sorry IE users) that will give you this and other SEO information, but for now you can follow the below:  Ready?

  1. Go to http://search.yahoo.com
  2. Type in the following, replacing “yoursite.com” with your website URL: linkdomain:http://www.yoursite.com -site:www.yoursite.com
  3. On the page that appears, look at the upper right for the number of results this query returns
  4. This is the number of backlinks your site has … take some time and see who has linked to you. Can you encourage more of them?

The reason for the “-site:www.yoursite.com” part of the query is to remove all internal linking (pages within your site that link to other pages).

As an SEO practitioner I have looked at a number of backlink profiles, some of very large companies. Backlinks can come from interesting places. Google looks very kindly on backlinks that come from educational institutions (.edu) and to a lesser extent the .orgs. I’ve seen very good quality backlinks that come from sponsoring charitable events. One company got quite a bit of mileage from a “cartoon character” shown on TV that the animation industry created many variants of. Viral food for thought.

Here’s another tip. The “anchor text” (the text comprises the clickable link) is important too. Help the folks linking to your site avoid the dreaded “click here” and ask them to use descriptive language (such as “wellness doctor focusing on back injuries”) in the anchor text.

Finally, if your site has no backlinks and no traffic, consider adding a listing in one of the directories. This is a topic worthy of an article on it’s own, but it might be worth paying for a listing in yahoo business directory or best of web. Some directories are free. Look for topical directories that are related to your business. Just keep in mind the tip about focusing on websites that are well regarded by google and stay away from the many “spammy” directories that google ignores. You may also consider approaching a complementary business and asking them to link to you. If you have an interesting blog or articles that might be of interest to their audience, this often occurs naturally, however sometimes it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Link building can be a time consuming activity and many business outsource this work, however it is just another tool in an business’s tool belt and if you keep your eyes open you can opportunistically capitalize on a “backlinking” opportunity as they arise.

Title Tag is top SEO ranking factor

According to a seomoz.org article, page title, or the title tag, is one of the top five SEO ranking factors. After experiencing several phone conversations having to explain what a page title was, and more importantly, helping them locate it (… no higher, above the URL box … at the very top … see it?). I thought I would upload a hastily thrown together image as a reference for future conversations.

Location of Title Tag encircled in red

Title Tag encircled in red above

But before I did that, I realized I should eat my own dogfood and install the All in One SEO Pack in this wordpress blog. This allows the title tag to be set to something other than the blog post title as well as setting the meta keyword and description tags, eliminating the conflict over choosing a catchy blog post title that is devoid of keywords in favor of a well optimized one.  An action long overdue, especially given that I had installed it on quite a few other blogs already.

However to be honest I have spent very little time on SEO of this blog, the subject matter is frightfully competitive and my SEO efforts are better spent elsewhere.  But it’s just one of those wordpress plug-ins you should just install.

web site speed does matter

If you are into SEO (search engine optimization), you probably know who Matt Cutts is. Matt Cutts is a top software engineer at Google, and has a well followed blog. Recently he commented that google may start taking into account site load time in its rankings.

While likely not a factor in the rankings until 2010, and the impact maybe small, it’s something to start thinking about. After all if your site is slow, page rank might be the least of your problems. Owing to the notorious fickleness of users, if you don’t grab their attention in 2 or 3 seconds, they are on to the next thing.

Google webmaster tools has a new feature for you to quickly assess your site’s performance. Under the labs section you will find a “site performance” link that will tell you the average page load time and how you rank against all the other web sites on the internet. If you are slower than 85% of the other web sites on the web, you have some work to do.

Check out the google webmaster central blog post on the topic.

Google Local Business Center

I am always amazed at the number of small businesses centers that do not know about Google Local Business Center. The word is getting out there but slowly.

If you search on a keyword phrase that includes a geographic term, especially a city name, you will likely get a list of several results (often 10) that click into a map results. These are local businesses that have a physical presence and relevance for the term you typed in.

The idea was to give local brick and mortar businesses visibility in the SERPS. Usually these businesses have no or an inadequate web presence and can certainly use the help.

Registering with Google Local Business Center is free. You can add pictures and video to your entry. Make sure you have your physical address on your web site and participate in the verification that google will do when you add a listing into the LBC. Check out the below video for more:

When search engine traffic is not wanted

Everyone wants their site to be found by google, right? Who wouldn’t want more free traffic delivered to their site? The goal of getting onto page 1 of the SERPs (search engine result pages) is such a holy grail, that a whole service industry called search engine optimization has come into it’s own.

But traffic doesn’t always come from the search engines. And some online businesses are not at all interested in marketing to just anyone, but rather just to a targeted clientele that comes to them virally rather via search.

Meet invitation only sites such as Rue La La a luxury e-tailer that seeks to promote an air of exclusivity. To become a member, you have to be invited, and only then can you have access to its discounted designer goods.

Putting your site behind an authentication prompt, which Rue La La has done, is one way to hide your pages from the search engines. Another is through directives in a file, robots.txt, you place on your site. Sites such as Gilt Groupe, another invite only site have excluded many of their site’s directories from the spiders.

So if you are searching for a killer deal on that Gucci bag online, be aware there are certain sites that are completely hidden from you unless you are “in the know”.

Toolbars for SEO, alexa and Google PR

Alexa and Google PR ranks are a quick measure how strong a site is in traffic and from the search engine perspective.  They measure very different things but are both important.

An Alexa rank is a calculated measure of unique visitors and pageviews on a given web site.  This may be counter intuitive but the lower your Alex rank the better.  Now you will find all sorts of debate online on how accurate the rank is, but everyone agrees it is useful as a rough measure of a website’s traffic.  And if you are in the top 100,000, congratulations! If you haven’t already you should compare your Alexa rank to your competitor’s website. Is yours higher? Then you have some work to do.

A google PR (page rank) is a little harder  to explain as very few people know exactly it is calculated, but it is a measure of how popular and how much of an authority it is.  Google PRs range from 1-10, with 10 being the most coveted.

There are also a number of plugins you can install directly into your Firefox browser (if you needed a reason to switch from using Internet Explorer, these tools might just convince you). If you like simple and unobtrusive check out searchstatus. For a more full featured tool you’ll want to download the SEO toolbar from seobook.com.

Keyword Research: 3 magical tips to find the best wordtracker data faster

If want want some help to speed up your keyword research, guest author John Alexander is going to give you a few free tips.
While this article is primarily geared towards Wordtracker users, everyone will find these tips useful.

Tip Number 1: Stop thinking about keywords alone

It’s true that you are going to discover important keyword phrases in the end result, but don’t start by going in exploring for specific keywords that are already pre-programmed into your mind because you *THINK* they are most important or you may just spend your time seeing only what everyone else sees. When you are exploring or when you’re in “exploration mode” you want to discover the big windows of opportunity that most people hardly EVER see. Stop guessing and look at more than the first bit of data that makes the most sense.

Tip Number 2: Stop putting yourself under pressure.

When exploring Wordtracker’s keyword and phrase research data, you need to stop putting your research up against the clock and stop feeling like you need to be extremely logical. Release yourself from stress and treat it more like a mission of exploration. If you remove the pressure it will often make room for you to think much more creatively.

Allowing ourselves to be creative when exploring human behavior can open up huge rifts that might otherwise and often go completely undiscovered. Hang on to your hat, because as you allow yourself the liberty to be creative and reduce all of the usual stresses of a client’s expectation of high performance, there is new liberty to observe things that you might have ordinarily missed.

Tip Number 3: Explore every notion that naturally comes into your mind.

If you don’t see what I mean, I’ll say it plain and simple. Many times people say they do keyword and phrase research but what they are actually doing is entering very specfic terms that make the most sense and in doing so, they can miss lots of other opportunities because they don’t understand how to expore all of the data.

Allow yourself to focus on “how people dialog with you.” Think back to any conversations you’ve had recently with a customer. Can you recall that conversation? What did they say to you and how did they say it? What did they ask you and how did they ask it. Let these ideas begin to come into your mind through a natural creative progression from one thought to the next.

Think about this next time you are doing keyword and phrase research …

We are often not logical when we are in a creative state. Exploring true keyword and phrase research data is one action in life where it actually pays off NOT to be so logical. It takes practice, but once you are on a roll you won’t need me or anyone else to tell you that you’re finding especially and useful results. Some of the most boring “everyday words” can open huge windows, if you explore them.
Why is that, you wonder? It’s simple, nobody ever thinks to explore common terms.

Is it always logical? No.

If our minds worked logically, we would exhaust every category and list hundreds of types of wheels before we moved on to clocks, and then list dozens of clocks. But instead, notice that our minds bound forward. In some small way this illustrates the leaps which have measured our progress. But recognizing that this is naturally the way the mind works, I encourage you to give yourself permission to explore Wordtracker in the same fashion.

Let your mind be free to observe landmarks along the way and then dig into those landmarks to reveal several levels of search behavior beyond what others are seeing.

You might ask yourself, but why are others not seeing what you will see? The answer is very simple. Their minds are pre-loaded, pre-programmed, and totally fixed on a “keyword hunt” for the keywords they are convinced are important. They do not understand the value of exploring what an audience of searchers truly want. I call this limitation the “keyword hunt” mindset.

Don’t go into doing Wordtracker keyword and phrase research with a pre-established list of keywords that are subconsciously stored in your mind, but instead, go into Wordtracker with a clean slate. Learn how to let the tool sort all of the best data and then reveal the best windows of opportunity based on searches within the last 90 days.


John Alexander conducts seo training at Search Engine Workshops offering live SEO Workshops with his partner SEO educator Robin Nobles, author of the very first comprehensive online search engine marketing courses. John is author of an e-book called Wordtracker Magic and has taught SEO skills to people from 87 different countries world wide. John’s articles can be read in publications like Search Engine Guide, WEBpro News and many others.

Why Your Website is Not as Search Engine Friendly as You Think !

Unless you can put a tick by most of the elements in our list then your web site is NOT very search engine friendly.

If a search engine is to regard your web site as truly search engine friendly it must be able to tick a lot more of the items in our list than was ever previously the case.

If you can not in all honesty tick enough elements on the list below, then you have some catching up to do, especially when this is not a complete list.

  • Details on how often to visit
  • htaccess file used
  • Related terms on a page relevant to topic
  • No tracking hosted by other sites
  • Unique page titles that use keyword phrases
  • Minimal on-page scripts and inline CSS
  • No rapid building of site links
  • Information on the type of page
  • No pages with similar content
  • Key pages that are reached in two clicks
  • Incoming links use keyword phrases
  • Permanent redirect links to other pages
  • Link nofollow tag used
  • Incoming links from topic related sites
  • Less than 155 character page description

You might also like to try our optimization tutorial quiz to see how search engine friendly your website is compared to our full list of fifty factors.

There are ten questions in our online search engine optimization tutorial quiz that cover all the essential aspects for a search engine friendly website and cover the essential elements of optimization that you should have on your own web site.

An optimization tutorial following the quiz explains why all of the elements are important in making your site well optimized and search engine friendly.

To determine how well your site is optimized take our search engine optimization tutorial and see what you could do to improve it.

You will not be asked to sign-up for anything, or provide any personal details.

About the Author:
Andy Theekson has 8 years of experience in web site design and search engine optimization and offers free advice and a wide range of website optimization services.

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