Category Archives: Search marketing

Promote my website online in 2008

No, not *this* website silly, the websites of people who land on this page, you know, those people who sit on Google or !Y looking for ways of promoting their sites confused by the overwhelming amount of stuff out there all shouting, Read me! Read Me! Like some Alice in Wonderland Bottle of Drink Me.

Promote my your website online

Regular readers aside, there is a chance that you may have come from a search engine for a query related to promote my website online, or get on the first page of Google or SEO for small businesses or Improve my sites position in the search engines or … I’ll stop there, point made.

Potentially the list is endless. All manner of people search for things in all manner of ways. There is no set in stone route. There are indicators and tools that people and companies working in fields like me, use daily to get a feel for a niche or domain. We look at search data provided to us by the search engines based on the competitiveness of an a PPC keyword or phrase, some of us have access to stat counter data that allows us to use data collected real time from websites that have the code installed, allowing us to see things like referral strings, user activities and clickthroughs. In other words we use information indicators from real people in real life scenarios. There is little if any guess work involved, it’s asbout real data crunching and using that knowledge to inform your strategies.

Promoting a small business online

Big businesses with big budgets have it easy. They already have the content, already have the budget that enables them to invest in people who can help them get to, and understand what it is they need to do and how it is they do it. Small businesses do not usually have access to similar resources.

Search marketing for SME’s

So how do you get started? Lets just assume you already have a website that’s been built, you might have already paid an SEO or an SEO Company to optimise your website or you might not have, whatever the case, lets just look at what might be a typical scenario.

A typical brochure type website

Your site is some old type standard 4 page website with a Flash animated intro perhaps a Home, About, Services and Contact page with a bit of static text that says not very much at all. What people don’t know is that, despite you being small, you have a massive catalog of products and stock, you have a small sales team, a customer support team, a marketing dept that deals with newspaper ads and off line directories, you have a distribution network, a product development team with an inhouse design dept too. You are small on the grand scale but in your niche you like to think you are getting to where you need to be. Your company in the area you operate is well known and respected, and your suppliers and customers all value what you do tremendously. Yet outside your little bubble nobody knows that. A little glance at your website reveals none of any of that, in the online world nobody knows because nobody told them.

Invest in your online presence and get that ROI

I hear some of you saying but hang on, I just paid $5000-00 for that website You mean Ive got to rip it all up and redo it? The answer to that is in some cases YES in some cases NO. Some websites are so awful that they are just beyond redemption. The attention they need is so drastic that they might as well start again from scratch, they need a root and branch deconstruction that addresses absolutely everything, their only redeeming feature is the email addresses that came with the domain. For others it’s not so drastic, it’s a fairly straightforward case of assessing the resources at hand and deciding what to do with them. This single blog post isn’t really the place to do justice to what is often a complex individual thing in that no two businesses are exactly the same. All have their own strengths and weaknesses that need to be assessed in the light of the company at hands aims and objectives, that said there are a few things I’d like to leave you with to consider.

7 8 general SEM tips that will help your website succeed online

  • Employ a professional SEM/SEO firm or SEO ConsultantThe best way would be to employ one of the above to deliver an improvement. Forget the outlay, it really shouldn’t be a concern. A well constructed, SEO/SEM campaign can deliver a massive ROI, massive. They should be able to help you look at your business and help you with a strategy that will propel you through the roof.Don’t want to do that? Scared off by the fees? Don’t have the initial investment capital required?

    Not to worry, you can have a go at doing it yourself, at least aspects of it, but prepare to make a few mistakes and lose a $ or 2 in the process…

  • Invest in a PPC program.You wouldn’t think twice about paying £500 for a onetime half page local newspaper advert, yet the same money could deliver up to 5000 laser targeted geographically related enquiries directly to your site from people in buy mode. Try this link (free £50 at the time of publication). A good PPC program will enable you to identify related keywords and phrases relative to your product or service and deliver visitors who have entered these into search engines.

  • If you have a product database, put it online! If you sell things then people online will not know unless you tell them. Getting your inventory into a web based system is an absolutely crucial part of any online marketing and promotion strategy. Do it now, send me a message from here and I’ll tell you where to go, heck I might even do it for you.
  • Use your staff to build you content Identify your company strengths and use the people you employ. Install software that will enable you to use your team to big up your products online, allocate company time to key individuals with something to say, get them all singing from the same hymn sheet, get their enthusiasm for your company, their jobs, your customers, your products out there.

  • Interact with your customers and suppliers Install software that gives your customers genuine opportunities to feedback and interact. Show the world that your company is alive and reacting to customer issues or concerns. Allow the people who have used your products or services to talk about their experiences, if your products and services are good then with the right approach you’ll be surprised at how you can pull people in and share their views. This well help solidify relationships and improve repeat sales and increase user confidence in your company its products and services.
  • Use social media to reach out to your niche The online world has an array of fora with dedicated categories and communities for all manner of interests. If a category or community doesn’t exist then consider creating one. Interact with bloggers and stumblers generate interest and get your stuff dugg build networks and friends with similar interests. Use sites like Myspace and Facebook to generate interest and Buzz, get your company or you out there in your space.

  • Get relevant links to your site for the keywords you seek to attain There is no real substitute for using a bonafide link building service, a good link building service will know where to acquire the right kinds of links. They will often as part of their service, offer a content writing service too which will help your domain get the necessary links required to assist in your overall website promotion strategy. It should be said too that by following the proposals above you will naturally attract links to your site which will over time, improve your websites performance in the Search engine results pages (SERPS) ultimately lowering your PPC adspend into the bargain.
  • Read blogs and content from people and companies who have a passion for this stuff Not vital, but you’d do a lot worse that to read articles and content from people who live and breath this stuff, me aside of course you might also do well to read blogs related to Online marketing ideas, Niche marketing ,Social Media , Search marketing and online sales to mention a few. Why? Simple really, doing business online is the future for many businesses today. By increasing your knowledge base you increase your ability to make informed choices that will enable you to make the best possible purchasing decisions. If you ever bought a ‘pay £10 per month for submission to a zillion search engine package’ then you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Getting back to where I started initially, if you found this article online then it might have been because you were looking for ways to promote your site. Perhaps you’d been burned in the past by some company that didn’t deliver or for reasons related to a limited budget. Heck you might even be a company just starting out looking for ideas and information. Whatever the case, I hope you found it all useful and wish you every success for 2008.

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Unfairness inherent in authorities – just another flaw in an algo

Before I say too much else I just wanted to say that generally in most cases I think it unnecessary to be too specific when highlighting the failings and flaws of others. It’s too easy to point fingers and say, oh look at how crap so and so is, or look at how so and so are doing that. In most cases it’s simply not necessary, you can say the same thing without making an enemy for yourself.

Why am I gabbing on about this? Well I guess I’ve been partially inspired by a piece by a guy named Loren Baker at search engine journal, a site I read regularly and most of the time simply love to bits. Yet today, I was left with a bit of a hmmmn taste in my mouth asking myself whether it was really necessary to out the guys he did in the way he did. In one fell swoop he has effectively smashed the revenue stream of one particular website ( or seriously diminished its efficacy) and no doubt condemned the sites advertising to declining revenue streams at some latter point.

The power of the written word eh?

Ok, so sure , anyone could have dobbed these guys in via a search engine report link, we all know that and hey perhaps people have already. The point is though that SEJ is read regularly has a hefty subscriber base what is written there is practically guaranteed to be read by Googlies and Yahoos and Msn search dudes. I don’t know Loren, so I can’t comment on the type of guy he is or even try to second guess his motives. At worst he might have a payday loans site at position 11 and at best he might just be as perplexed as us all by the apparent power of the noscript tag and authority domains and is wondering why this is still so effective, I expect it is the latter.

Where is the juice – Noscript tag or Authority domain?

To think that noscript content could have such an impact on SERPs in isolation would be pretty silly.

Lets get this straight right here right now. The noscript tag is no magic bullet. The examples highlighted at SEJ are not (or weren’t) sitting at positions 1 and 3 in Google simply because of a few links contained in a noscript tag, they were there because the sites that contained their links were from sites of multiple themes and disciplines all of which contained the hit counter code from Hitcountermaster.com.

False authority too easily attained

Why does (or soon to be did) Hitcountermaster.com have so much power and authority?

For those of you who may have been asleep for the past 3 or so years, domain authority in SEM terms relates to a domains ability to rank or convey link juice or pass pagerank. The idea is that if enough domains are linking to a singular site then it might well mean that the site or sites being linked to from so many different points (domains) in the web graph, could well be an on topic site for the keywords being used to link through to it. It’s one of the reasons why blogs and SMO sites are considered favourably in the search ranking fraternity. The idea is bolstered by the belief that individual bloggers are less interested in gaming search engine rankings than the minority of so called SEO’s and webmasters that are. The democratic effect of lots of people talking about a topic dictate that this social effect should be looked at and noticed and absorbed in any over all ranking score.

This all sounds somewhat perfect and idylic even. A meritocritous way of ranking sites from the social chatter ofweblogs and other live mediums. Harder to game, seemingly more reliable in any scoring system.

The applied semantic technology of old (we were told) was a vital tool for classifying content into its various themes and classifications. People have blogged and bragged about the importance of getting on topic themed links from related sources ( me included at some point I’m sure) yet when we look at that example it shows that in reality huge aspects of all this is bollocks. Forget your themed links from the right sites and directories, feck that, just go out and get any type of link from any type of domain that you can for your singular target keyword and…kazaaam, you’ll get the rank you want.

I was going to show what I meant further by using the Google link command link:http://www.hitcountermaster.com yet curiously it shows no backlinks already, I wonder why that might be ;)

Anyways, not to worry we can use Yahoo’s site explorer with that funny old seo-rd parameter that they like to chuck in there and note that there are actually 2500 + reported backlinks for that domain. I can’t say whether this accurate or not as the SE’s may already have applied their SEO paranoid counter measures, but the point is, that a cursory glance over the sites shown reveals that domains that used the hitcounter code were from a very broad range of domains and blogs. They were not all from finance or loan related sites, in fact very very few of the sites discussed finance or laons in anyway at all!

Their backlinks came from .edu’s, .orgs, .coms, .co.uk blogs, websites about religion, books, wood, horses in fact you name it and there was probably a site of one sort or another linking back to hitcountermaster.com’s advertisers.

What it sreveals is that Google in particular doesn’t appear to work too hard in establishing domain authority. It seems to rely on numbers and not very much else. Why else would an uber competive term like payday loans be so easily and readily attainable?

Success for attaining payday loan SERP numero uno status was arrived at just like this.

1. Create a keyword domain that discussed finance and loan stuff within its content.

2. Get lots of links from lots of different domains with your ideal keywords

Yep, that was all there was to it. No need to get the right types of links from the right types of sites, just get links of whatever type and you are good to go.

So they went to hitcountermaster.com and checked out their advertising rates and happily used their advertising program to boost them up the SERP’s. Hitmastercounter.com had domain authority, built upon the juice conveyed back from the 1000′s of domains and sites that linked backed to it within their code. This told Google and perhaps other search engines that here was a site that was being linked to from lots of different domains and IP addresses. It must therefore, be some kind of useful resource and worthy of whatever authority score the algo decided to bestow.

Yet, if you look at that and weigh it against the idea of the social web and multiple voices linking to singular things with related keywords then you see that in this regard, hitmastercounter.com just shouldn’t have been in the same kind of crowd. It hadn’t done anything wrong, hit counters have been around long before Google or link text algorithms; it’s how they work, they sit on a site and link back to the mothership to read things like referals and times and dates and click paths.

So to me at least it shows that the whole ‘authority’ thing is at best a little weak and at worst completley and utterley underdeveloped. Why isn’t the algo detecting multiple same text incursions?

Why doesn’t it count the number of instances of keyword anchor text and decide that a number above a certain threshold or % maybe skewed and perhaps marked down a touch?

Why doesn’t it look insider the containers of where these links are found and make a judgement on that basis. In the payday loan example all of the links were inside a noscript tag! Yet, the algo again didn’t detect this fact and allowed the domain to rank for its keywords.

Why doesn’t it look at the placement of the code itself and notice a pattern? Whatever happened to the concept of Block Level Link Analysis?

The tactic as described is nothing new, there are 1000′s of others all doing the same. Just go to do a search on Google or yahoo fro free hit counter and see who is advertising. I’d bet that most are employing similar tactics to boost their own sites or sites of clients up the SERPs. It’s an exploit that is likely to be grown and adapted.

Is it going to be closed anytime soon? Hell, who knows. Surely it doesn’t take too much effort to say if link is this or that then discount its value. It makes you wonder what some of those search guys get up to all day…

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The perfect algorithm – how would yours work?

Search engine ranking algorithms are a mysterious thing. Very few people on earth have access to their exact blueprint, for those of us who think we have cracked it, it all seems relatively simple. Put enough of the right things in place in the right combination and presto you are in, right, simple huh? In reality of course, hardly.

Work at the coalface dictates that the safes combination gets harder to crack as more people try to open it for their target terms. It just doesn’t do anymore to think of ones documents in simple structure word count and number terms. As the document numbers increase, some keywords can take on an almost esoteric level of attainment. The access parameters are ratcheted up to a point of ‘hey if you want to score here, you gotta be doing real good‘. So, whats a man to do then?

Techno crackhead SEO’s on observation acid

SEO minded people who think about this sort of stuff might well share some of my musings, specifically in terms of thinking like a search engine algorithm. The theory being of course that any successful understanding of anything makes it a whole lot easier to apply what we have learned and therefore, apply in attacking it – hardly rocket science there.

Too many people I think, tend to approach SEO from a rigid bits and bytes approach. They forget that at their very core, search algos are built by ordinary thinking human beings, subject to similar influences as us all. They are people who visit the same kinds of conferences, interact with the same kinds of people via forums and blogs and pubs and restaurants. The only difference between them and us, and lets not make no mistake about it, it is very much them and us is that they hold the keys and are in a state of continual defence and counter offence.

Observation observation observation

If you look at most sites that perform well consistently today, then amongst the more competitive of SERPs, there are a number of observable constants.

It seems almost obvious to say, but I’ll say it nonetheless that most good sites with good competitive rankings are relatively well balanced and have the right combinations of the required signals to rank.

Really Rob? No shit sherlock, well yeah but it doesn’t hurt to say them out loud now does it.

Content content content

On the content side its pretty safe to say that a site has to have the right level of keywords, spread about in the right kind of way. In the overwhelming majority of cases pages that rank for keywords have them on the page.

Trust me baby and I’m popular too

On the trust side a site needs the right level of authority in its field, with the right kinds of people linking in, in the right kinds of way.

On the social side its not a bad thing to to hope that the site is discussed often enough in the right web social circles.

Do people hang at your party?

From the visitor perspective, we know that search engines can deduce a hell of a lot from the actions of people who are either logged in or have a toolbar installed. Toolbar data being a great way of obtaining that vital user behaviour data useful for indicating the right positive or neagitive feedback signals.

If you can objectively measure how people behave ‘on site’ then overtime, with sufficient data, some excellent assumptions can be made.

If questions like, ‘Once on a site how long do visitors stick around‘ can be answered or ‘Are they off in a heartbeat flicking back to the SERP for a better result‘ then asking the questions of ‘Is this a common phenomena‘ and ‘How many different people in different parts of the planet engage in such behaviour patterns‘ really do help to make assumptions and say that these would be the kinds of signals that should be folded in and added to a sites overall ability to rank.

We don’t like SEO’s we don’t want or need their sphere of influence

For the Search engines, an SEO’s ability to influence the latter aspects mentioned is next to zero. As a result, this information should outweigh many of the other established or accepted signals that many assume to be weightier.

For me, this should be the holy grail of a search engineers work, creating an algo that is next to unmanipulable, at least by the direct actions of search engine marketers.

Other contributions of course are things like ‘user personalisation’, often talked about as the next big SEO challenge, with algos tailored towards surf history, age and user behaviour; almost dictating that the day of the universal SERP are on their way out.

SEO on its deathbed?

Absolutely not! Good SEO’s who appreciate the ever shifting sands already have an excellent take on all of the factors required to rank. Even with the private data mining capabilities mentioned, the search engines still require good, well structured sites made and promoted by people with a good understanding for what creates and sustains buzz and interest in this Internet world – that demand isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Conclusion

Its no surprise that the big search players all make a big play on the benefits of membership to their little cookie clubs and whatnot, and maybe a day will come even, where they are arrogant enough to make you play their game or go off and find something else to search with, who knows.
They can hardly be blamed mind, cos after all, it all helps in the quest for the perfect algo right?

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Ask.com CEO less than enthusiastic for Y!’s pay for inclusion model

Ross Dunn over at Stepforth Seo wrote an interesting piece discussing Y!’s revamped search marketing progam.

The idea once was, and um…still is by all accounts is that you pay to be included via extra spidering of your urls and based upon your ‘natural’ ranking, you then rank in the SERP’s.

Hmmn I find myself wondering. WHY?

Why did they even bother resurrecting this unworkable, accusatory minefield?

If you are ranking ok naturally, then why would you do this? Why would you pay to use this service?
If you are not ranking well ‘naturally’ then again, why would you do this? If paid inclusion gives you no ranking boost, then why do it?

Even if you were mad enough or greedy enough to use it and exhausted your budget, where would you revert to afterwards?

Would you still get spidered regularly? Would you plummet like a stone?

Just makes no sense. If you were to plummet like a stone then its clear that your ranking was dependant upon the money in your account.

It cannot be both things, what am I missing here?

Jim Lanzone CEO of ask.com, whilst commenting had a number of things to say.

Three years later, I’m still against paid inclusion, because I still think it is hypocritical to charge for something we need to do anyway to be the best search service we can be. I also think it’s a dis-service to our users to blur the line that much between paid content and editorial content.

Absolutely! Where is the editorial transparency? Why shouldn’t users have a right to know who got to where and how? Isn’t advertising supposed to be labelled as such, so that its clearly identifiable? Is this advertising or isn’t it?
If Y! really think that some 3 years after a product is greeted less than enthusiastically, that they can just repackage it and expect people to buy in then, wow. That’s a huge signal.

Lets just put to one side the idea that during these 3 years not one amongst their number could gain sufficient voice and traction to say “hang on a fuckin minute, haven’t we already tried this and gotten poo pooed?” Lets, put to one side what the FTC might just have to say about it all. Lets just for one minute look in disbelief at what the logic of their program dictates.

If they expect their index to be increasingly made up of commercial sites that have paid to be included. Then they are making a clear distinction between paid and unpaid. They are saying that their index values freshness. They will present fresh content by increasing the spidering rate for sites that have paid for it. Good content, useful new stuff thats springing up everywhere else can go to the hinterlands.

IOW, they just aren’t too interested in helping shape a dynamic evolving web, at least not publically! So much for a ranking algorithm based on document relevance, or popularity or usefulness! So much for even calling it a search engine anymore. Give it a couple of years with a program like this and you might as well call it the Yahoo xml feed directory!
Even back in 2004, it really did remind me of the debacle that was Look$mart, it had all the signs of vaguery and incomprehensiveness that helped do that firm a swift about turn. And yet, here we are again, a relaunch! I thought it had died and gone away, seriously!

They love php over at Y! They even have Rasmus on their staff. Maybe they can ask him how to escape the \$ signs in their code.

Seriously, would they be that surprised to hear people thinking in terms of

[php]

if($prosubmitparticipant){

$rankboost= $postionone;

$increasedprofits = “yay!”;

}

if($basicsubmitparticipant){

$rankboost= ($positionone – 8);

$increasedprofits =”Hmmn”;

}
$urlrank = ($documentscore + $rankboost);
[/php]

Don’t they get it? Didn’t they listen to the concerns back in 2004?

Do Internet searchers get good, accurate information? Or are the results of the search skewed to favor those who’ve paid to be in the index? The jury’s out on that one.

Jim’s points are too good to pass over. When referencing their paid inclusion pro model he asked the question.

What are the odds that out of 2 million results for a given query, their partner sites will be ranked highly enough, consistently enough, on their own to: a) generate enough traffic for the partner site to make it worth participating in the program; and b) generate enough revenue for Yahoo to make it worth operating the program?

Again, duh! Absolutely. Where is the logic that argues against a person saying something like – The paid inclusion program is evidence of the Yahoo Serps being full of nothing but undisclosed advertiser urls? Why would you even say that the program is aimed at advertisers looking to spend $5000 per month if you weren’t in some way going to intimate that they might get some kind of leg up for doing so; and if that is or was the case, then where is the transparency for the search engine users?

Jim’s right again when he says

I just know that 75% of the clicks on a major search engine typically go into the top 5 results on the page. It would just be too much of a coincidence if paid (and unmarked) partners got those rankings/clicks instead of non-paying sites.

It just makes no sense. In fact this aspect of yahoo search marketing is IMO just a lot of old poorly presented rubbish. It’s written in a way that leaves me scratching my head.

Does that matter? Well, it should do. It’s people like me who decide whether or not to spend clients money in this way. Maybe they don’t care even.Perhaps they’ll just target individuals and sell them a line that spins it postively.
PPC program great, that works, tried and tested. A revamped overture with a few extra bells and whistles.
PFI in this form. Nah, not for me, nor my clients either. Too many whatifs and buts for my liking.

Hey Y! AltaVistaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

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