Archive for August, 2008

Google Search Ranking Feature Threatens Wikia
August 29, 2008

It’s no secret that Google has been working on a Digg-like feature that lets users vote searches higher or lower, make comments, and alter the search results. Screenshots of the feature at work have been popping up in the wild for a year now. Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz noted it in 2007. Google confirmed that it is testing the feature as part of its experimental search efforts.

Earlier this week, Ben Gomes, distinguished engineer at Google, alluded to the experiment in a blog post Aug. 26 and provided this screenshot of what users could do with such a feature. The buttons next to the results let users bump the results up or down.

Gomes offered the information with this caveat: “At this point, I can’t say what we expect from this feature; we’re just curious to see how it will be used.”

My first thought after reading the post is that sounds a lot like what Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is doing with his Wikia Search, which launched in January and lets users edit data about search engine results and rank them for relevancy.

I spoke to Wales today, Aug. 28, and he didn’t seem too concerned, acknowledging that while he was aware Google was testing such a feature, he hadn’t read the Gomes blog post, but pointed out that the experiment appears random.

Random is interesting. If it’s random it’s difficult for a community to form. I always draw a distinction between things that I would consider to be crowdsourcing—and I consider that to be a very negative term—that aren’t really thinking about a community of people getting together to discuss thoughtfully and work together to build something, but rather it’s atomistic. They show it randomly to individuals and they may do something useful or not. That’s not to say that it’s impossible for that to be valuable, it’s just that it’s very different from what we’re doing, which is trying to build all of the tools for a community to come together and take editorial control of the search engine altogether. That’s very different from some kind of user feedback feature.

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How-To: Increasing Crawl Visits and Site Indexability
August 28, 2008

Fact: Google’s search engine spiders visit some sites more often than others. Oft-indexed sites are thought to be more appealing to Google — and on searches, they’re likely to appear higher for relevant keywords.

Here are a handful of tips that may encourage search spiders to visit your site more often. Most are old SEO standbys:

1. Make sure you’ve got a sitemap, which enables spiders to locate new pages more quickly. (Once spiders are on your site, they have a limited time to crawl content before moving on. Guiding them through your site can help them dig deeper.)

2. Keep your link and semantic structure simple. Duplicate content should also be kept at a minimum; sifting through it wastes precious time that could be spent indexing unique material.

3. Update content daily. And if not daily, then consistently — a few times a week would be good. Relevant sites keep their material up-to-date, and oft-updated sites — such as news sites — are sometimes crawled several times per day.

4. Try to win link love from other highly-relevant, generously-updated sites in your field. Think of quality links as votes for your site’s importance. (Avoid link farms, though; Google cracks down on fishy-looking linkback practices.)

5. Minimize page load time. Remember a spider’s time on your site is limited; don’t force it to crawl through the hinterlands of gigantic images and heavy PDFs.

6. Is your content hidden behind a form? Here’s news: spiders can’t see past them. Tactical SEO consultant Bruce Clay recommends cloaking forms for spiders. (This is considered by some experts to be a black-hat tactic, potentially punishable by Google, so tread lightly. Clay says major liquor brands, which are obligated to ask at outset whether a site visitor is over the legal drinking age, cloak forms for spiders as a matter of course.)

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SEO Success — Guess What…Content Works!
August 27, 2008

People ask me all the time, “how can I get ranked in the search engines quickly?” Sometimes, I can point out a couple of things that will make a near-immediate impact on Web sites — such as fixing a duplicate content/mirror issue by implementing a 301 permanent redirect strategy, correcting a robots.txt file (I spoke with someone at the Search Engine Strategies conference whose development team had put “disallow: /” in their robots.txt file — this isn’t good, by the way) or, including keywords in the title tag that are relevant to every page (people still don’t do this — I don’t understand!).

More often than not, though, the answer to long-lasting results in the search engines comes back to one simple truth: search engines like content. And good content takes time.

When I mention content, it certainly can be in many different forms (video/audio/images and text). For the purposes of this column, I’m referring to textual content.

The Perfect Search Experience

The number of pages and the quality of the content available on the domain is one of the major factors that search engines use to determine “authority.” I refer to this as the “Wikipedia effect” because Wikipedia has a ton of pages indexed. It seems like Wikipedia shows up in Google’s top search results for nearly every search, doesn’t it? Yet, only one page of its site is specific to what you searched for.

This is the perfect search experience: search for a keyword and get a result for a Web page that’s specific to what you searched for.

Theming Content

Wikipedia also does a great job theming their content. It’s not enough to have one page of content to support your most important keyword. For the search engines to believe your Web site is an authority for a keyword, your site must have a treasure-trove of content to support the idea that you’re “the authority” for “keyword phrase number one.”

Also, remember that one ranking for one keyword probably isn’t going to equate to success in the search engines. You need a long-term strategy against many keywords (don’t ignore the tail, or those keywords that have smaller number of searches performed against them).

In recent client pitches, clients have asked me what it takes to compete against a given list of keywords. After I reviewed their competitive landscape, I told them that we’d need to develop about 1,000 pages of unique content to get them where they want to be.

Needless to say, many companies would just say “wow,” and contemplate sticking to their PPC activities. The cost, in terms of time and money, may overwhelm them.

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Making The Business Case For SEO
August 22, 2008

So what’s the ROI on this SEO program you’re recommending? How much revenue upside is there? What will it cost? How does this stack up against the fourteen other projects we’re working on right now?

Are these questions familiar to you? They are to me. I hear them in my sleep. I have had to answer each of them at some point (and most more than once) when making SEO recommendations both in-house and to clients. As SEO continues to grow as a viable marketing channel, you need to be prepared to answer these questions as well. Why?

Every SEO effort requires changes to your company’s website. And every time you change a website, it not only costs money, but also requires valuable engineering resources that could be doing something else. So, if you’re considering recommending SEO at your company, it’s important to think about the impact your SEO efforts might have for the business in real dollar terms. This is driven by the fact that product and engineering managers need to prioritize engineering resources to be sure that, at any given time, they are being used to drive the maximum value for the company.

The larger the company, the bigger an issue this becomes. In multi-product companies, the scope of this issue is greatly expanded. In large, multi-product companies like Yahoo!, the scale and scope can be daunting. Nothing gets put on a product road map without a business case, and the more compelling a business case, the higher the priority on the product road map. The good news is that the same practices that allow us to succeed in large, multi-product companies, also apply to small and mid-sized companies just as readily.

Here are some things you can do to help sell your SEO efforts to management or clients:

Value your traffic. It’s important to have a notion of what a click from a search engine user might have on your website. At Yahoo!, we use the notion of Lifetime Value to help us value web activity across a large number of web properties with vastly different business models. In principle, this does not have to be a complex exercise, but it can get as complicated as you let it. The idea is to quantify the revenue generated by a user over the lifetime of that user, and to discount that revenue stream back to the present. Use whatever data you have and then refine the model as you learn more. Where you don’t have data, use your best estimate, but make sure to note your assumptions and challenge them often.

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Search Engine Optimization: Back To Basics
August 21, 2008

It’s tough to run a business, spend time with the family (did I mention that I have a 4-year-old and twin 18-month-olds?) and write a weekly SEO column (70 weeks straight, now). After completing a 2,500-word article for another publication, wrapping up my preparations for Search Engine Strategies in San Jose (where I’ll be speaking and moderating), and getting four new client projects rolling last week, I was fried.

Because I haven’t covered the SEO basics in a while, let’s look at a few things that will help your site rank well organically.

It’s tough to run a business, spend time with the family (did I mention that I have a 4-year-old and twin 18-month-olds?) and write a weekly SEO column (70 weeks straight, now). After completing a 2,500-word article for another publication, wrapping up my preparations for Search Engine Strategies in San Jose (where I’ll be speaking and moderating), and getting four new client projects rolling last week, I was fried.

That’s when it occurred to me: we’re all busy (some more than others). And, for some of you, you are the one who’s trying to find those easy/quick things that will help your Web site do better in the search engines. There just isn’t enough time in the day for you to do everything, but, at the moment, you can’t afford to outsource to a firm that specializes in SEO.

Because I haven’t covered the SEO basics in a while, let’s look at a few things that will help your site rank well organically.

Domain Age

Nothing beats a domain/URL that has existed for a while. If you’re still in the early stages of developing a Web site, consider buying a domain that already has links to it (i.e., relevant links from Web sites within your industry) and has a clean track record (hasn’t been blacklisted in the past).

Some of the best options for using the power of a used domain name include:

  • Find an expired domain name on your topic and use it as your main domain name.
  • Pick a new brandable domain name and find an expired domain name; redirect the expired domain name to your new domain name using a 301 permanent redirect.
  • Find an existing Web site on your topic and buy it from the owner.

Whichever option you choose, do some research to find an “aged” domain name that has the appropriate on-topic links going to it. One option is to look at authority Web directories (Open Directory Project, Best of the Web, Yahoo Directory, that list Web sites on your topic. Can you buy any of the listed domain names or Web sites?

Expired domain name auctions are another option. GoDaddy has a auction service, and there are others — Snapnames, NameJet, and Sedo.

If you want to search for a domain name that’s on-topic, try searching for: “this domain name expired on” keyword (where “keyword” is the topic of your new Web site’s topic). There are other variations of this search that you can do. Also, look at domain “parking pages” for a common element or phrase that might help you find more domain names.

Once you find a potential domain name, there are two things that you’ll want to do.

  1. Perform a linkdomain search ( for the domain name at Yahoo, where is the domain name you want to look up. A linkdomain search shows all of the links to the domain name, not just the links to the site’s home page. Also, visit the sites to verify that the links to the domain name still exist.
  2. Look at the Internet Archive to see the domain name’s history. What did the site used to be? What really was the former topic? Important note: verify that the site that’s revealed is the same domain name that you’re looking up. If a domain name was formerly redirected to another domain name, the domain name may change.

You can also look up the domain name at Google by searching for the domain name in quotes (i.e., “”) to see where the domain name was previously mentioned on other Web sites. If the domain name still is in the Google index, great; if not, find out why.


All things being equal, the search engines want to rank a Web site with copy. When I say copy, I don’t mean 10 words. The search engines want you to have at least 150 words of copy on a given Web page, with a decent percentage of these words including the keywords that you want to be found for when people are searching. You would be best served to include these words that you are focused on within the first paragraph of text, and in your header/H1 tag.

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Top 10 Resources for Search Engine Optimizers
August 20, 2008

Having been in the search-marketing field for quite some time, I typically write about topics that assume readers are familiar with SEO (define). Lately, I’ve had requests for some information on SEO basics to get Web sites to rank better in search engine results. That got me thinking that in any field, there are always newbies looking for access to good information and resources.

If you’re relatively new to SEO or just about to undertake SEO on your Web site for the first time, you’re likely looking for some key resources. For the benefit of SEO newbies, here’s a short list of some top online resources for SEO — in no particular order.

  • Google Webmaster Guidelines. Right from the horse’s mouth, these are the guidelines Google suggests you follow to help your site rank in its listings.
  • Yahoo Search Content Quality Guidelines. Same concept as with Google, but for Yahoo.
  • MSN Guidelines for Successful Indexing. See above.
  • Google Keyword Tool. This is the best and cheapest (free) tool around to help you identify potential keywords to optimize your site for. Supplement the information on volume with the advertiser competition estimates to get a sense for how much competition you might face for those terms in the organic listings. Although the competition estimates are for paid search advertisers, typically a term with a high amount of paid search competition will also have steep organic ranking competition.
  • SEOmoz Tools. An ever-growing list of handy tools for search marketers, SEOmoz helps you to do just about anything when it comes to SEO, including measure the SEO strength of your site (Trifecta tool), find out how well your site is targeted to your keywords (Term Target tool), and evaluate the feasibility of achieving ranking those keywords (Keyword Difficulty tool), as well as check site inclusion, back links, PageRank, and much more with the SEO ToolBox. The only downer is that for access to the advanced features of the tools, you have to pay a subscription fee.

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How to Generate Website Traffic – 26 Ways
August 14, 2008

Unless there is web site traffic generation in the business’s site, there are no chances for the business to grow. It simply means that there is no result in terms of leads, subscribers, sales or any such source, which a businessperson is looking forward to achieve.

Web site traffic generation plays a major role in taking a business at high levels. The following tips ensure an easy method for a businessperson to achieve the desired goal.


1. Write about the position held and e-mail it to bloggers. Chances are that they link back to the web site.

2. Assign links to social sites of book marking in the web pages.

3. Include signature link in the forums that might point to the web page a businessperson is trying to promote.

4. Make sure there are opposite opinions on a topic, provided there is justification for every opinion. Some opinions may annoy certain readers with different ideas. This will encourage them to visit that web page to raise their voice.

5. Remember to post comments on blogs of other people and links to the web site.

6. Reply questions on Yahoo Answers and quote the web site.

7. Design a 404 page, which directs again to the web site home page.

8. Make a review of a company or a product. In case of a positive review, e-mail it to the company. Request them to feature it in the press section. This works well.

9. For easy web site traffic generation, write a few articles and submit those to articles sites.

10. A writer may also write a newsworthy press release and submit the same to the PR Web for targeted web site traffic generation.

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Proper SEO and the Robots.txt File
August 13, 2008

When it comes to SEO, most people understand that a Web site must have content, “search engine friendly” site architecture/HTML, and meta data — i.e., title tags, meta description, and meta keywords tags.

But lately, I’m seeing a lot of “optimized” Web sites that have totally disregarded the robots.txt file. When optimizing a Web site, don’t disregard the power of this little text file.

What is a Robots.txt File?

Simply put, if you go to, you should see a list of directories of the Web site that the site owner is asking the search engines to “skip” (or “disallow”). However, if you’re not careful when editing a robots.txt file, you could be putting information in your robots.txt file that could really hurt your business.

There’s tons of information about the robots.txt file available at the Web Robots Pages, including the proper usage of the disallow feature, and blocking “bad bots” from indexing your Web site.

The general rule of thumb is to make sure a robots.txt file exists at the root of your domain (e.g., To exclude all robots from indexing part of your Web site, your robots.txt file would look something like this:

* Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /tmp/
Disallow: /junk/

The above syntax would tell all robots not to index the /cgi-bin/, the /tmp/, and the /junk/ directories on your Web site.

Real Life Examples of Robots.txt Gone Wrong

I recently reviewed a Web site that had a good amount of content and several high quality backlinks. But, the Web site had virtually no presence in the SERPs. What happened? Well, the site’s owner had included a disallow to “/”. They were telling the search engine robots not to crawl any part of the Web site.

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How to Create a Successful Web Site For Nothing (or Almost Nothing)
August 11, 2008

Have you got eight hours and $10? Then you can build a Web site for your business.

Thanks to competition among Web-hosting providers, and the falling costs of Web storage, it’s never been easier to get a Web site up and running — from buying the domain name to building a site to setting up a payment system to tracking traffic.

But many small businesses still seem intimidated by the job. In a survey published last year, JupiterResearch LLC found that just 36% of online small businesses — that is, businesses with fewer than 100 employees, where managers access the Web at least once a month — have Web sites.

So, here’s a guide for owners looking to make the leap online. We’ll lay out all the steps you need to take to build your site, and present some expert opinion about getting it noticed and keeping track of customers — all with no technical background required.


First, you have to buy a domain name — e.g., — for about $10 a year. As an example, we’ll show how to buy a domain using the registrar Go Daddy Group Inc., but you can shop around at others, such as Tucows Inc. and Inc.

Type the domain name you want in the search box at If it’s taken, try another. When you’ve settled on one, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Proceed to Checkout.” Ignore the offers for additional products and services, continue to the checkout page, enter your payment information and hit “Checkout Now.”

You’re now the owner of a Web address.


For years, companies have charged small businesses a fee to “host” sites — store the sites’ content on their computers. According to a recent survey from Jupiter, about a third of small-business executives say they pay up to $1,000 a year for Web hosting, and about another third pay more than $1,000.

Fortunately, in the past year, a number of companies have begun providing hosting services free of charge. They often make money by charging for premium services or running ads on your Web pages.

All you need to do is visit the Web site for one of these hosting services — such as Microsoft Corp.’s Office Live Small Business, Weebly Inc. or SynthaSite Inc. — and enter a user name, a password and some other details. Then visit your domain-name registrar and tweak your settings so that your Web address points to the service you’ve chosen. The hosting service will give you instructions on how to do this.


Once you’ve got a host, you’ll want to design your site. The good news: Most of the free hosting services provide tools that let you build a site quickly, without lots of technical know-how.

Among the things you’ll need: a welcoming home page; an “About” page that describes you and your business; and a “Contact” page that tells people where you’re located and how to reach you. The rest depends on your business. If you own a restaurant, you might include a “Menu” page. If you’re selling a product, you might include a “Store” page where people can buy your wares.

Adding those things can be simple. In Weebly, for instance, click on the “Pages” tab, then choose “New Page.” In Office Live, click “Web pages” in the top left-hand corner of the editor and choose “New page.” In SynthaSite, click “New Page” at the top of the editor.

In each case, doing so calls up a blank page template, like opening a new document in Microsoft Word. Once you’ve created a page, you usually can add content simply by typing the text you want into the template and dragging and dropping graphics.

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Flash and SEO: Like Oil and Water
August 7, 2008

We often deal with clients that are planning to “revamp” their sites with Flash, with SEO having already generated tremendous gains in their sales. The thing that we most dread to hear is that they’ve hired an experienced “Flash designer” that will be taking their websites to the “next level.” Unfortunately, that “next level” is often the basement – at least in terms of SEO results.

The bottom line here is that a site built entirely in Flash still faces huge obstacles. While there have been recent moves from Google and Yahoo! to try to index the content from combined Flash/SEO sites, those moves have not yet, from my experience, translated into SEO results or success (at least when compared to html sites).

We should make a distinction here between embedded Flash and sites built entirely from Flash.  For example, a site that contains Flash elements but still contains basic html elements will not overly suffer, as the Flash element (usually a movie in a box on the homepage or elsewhere) is externalized. A search engine spider will generally not try to parse through any files that have been externalized in the code – they will only index the code that is readily apparent on the source page.

However, from an SEO results perspective, there are still major issues with sites that are built entirely in Flash, and SEO is normally the first thing that suffers. First of all, the URL generally never changes no matter where people navigate on the site. As any decent SEO practitioner will tell you, every page of your site is a potential entry page for a search engine. With a site built in Flash, SEO suffers even more as you only have one potential entry page, which is the main URL. This cuts off dozens, hundreds, or thousands of potential pages that could otherwise be indexed in Google and Yahoo! (and all other engines). When your only potential entry page in the search engine listings is your home page, it is very difficult to target a wide assortment of keyphrases, potentially eliminating SEO results or rankings.

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