David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

Tips for better SEO (search engine optimization) and website marketing …



Archive for the ‘SEO’ Category

Title Tag Clinic for Training Websites

Friday, February 1st, 2008

If you run training sessions, courses or classes in various cities at various times, let me give you a secret weapon that will help you fill your seats.  This secret weapon is also great for how-to-authors or anyone else who tours.

I just got off the phone with a client who runs training sessions in various cities.  We were looking at how her website ranked for various local searches related to her type of training in a couple cities where she will be over the next couple months.  In one case, we searched on Google for:

topicname training cityname

Her website came in at #6, with a title tag of:

topicname cityname

Of course, the first recommendation I gave was to add the word “training” to the middle of the title tag, which would probably vault the page to at least #3 in Google’s rankings.  So the title tag would read as follows:

topicname training cityname

OK, so far this is all common sense.  But my second recommendation is not something any SEO class will teach you.  It was to add something to her page’s title tag that would most likely ensure she got more targeted click-throughs than Google’s #1 or #2 listing above hers, without having to grab the top spot. 

Studies have shown that typically 40% of searchers click on the #1 listing in the search engine results.  This is true across all engines and to some degree or more across various types of searches.  And yes, it is true equally for people who look at other listings, even for those who scroll down and look at listings #9 and #10; they tend to return to the top and click on the #1 listing, perhaps because there is a subconscious sense of authority that comes from being Google’s top pick.

But who are the 60% of people who do not click on the #1 result?  Here are a few suggestions (maybe you can add to this list):

  • People who see that the #1 result is not at all what they are looking for.  For example, some people searching for “pursuit of happiness” might be looking for the band, some for the constitution, some for a self-help website.  So many searchers will scroll to find the top ;listing related to their topic.
  • People who have already been to the #1 listing and did not find what they wanted there.
  • People doing research or price comparisons and want to visit many websites for more information.
  • People who feel the #1 listing looks spammy from the outset.
  • People who see something so totally laser-targeted to them, that they skip over the top few results and click directly on that link.

The recommendation I gave my client was to add something to her title tag that would convert the majority of searchers into this last group.  Before I tell you what it is, you must understand the thought process of someone looking for a training session.  They are looking for a local session; they don’t want to travel to Chicago or London or Toronto.  They are looking for something now; their contemplating time is over and now they are searching because now they want to sign up.

So here is how I recommended my client set up her title tag for pages announcing upcoming, scheduled courses:

topicname training cityname month year

Even if very few people search by date, imagine that you are searching Google, Yahoo or whatever engine by location and up pops the results with a bunch of typical generic listing titles and you notice in the title of the fourth listing that there is a class or training session not only in your city but coming up next month.  Bang – you have just diverted a lot of traffic from the #1 listing that is vaguely about training to a listing that offers specifically what the searcher is looking for.  More importantly, you have just diverted the traffic that is holding money in its hand, ready to buy.

Like I said….secret weapon! 


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SEO tetsimonial – Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

When you get accolades from your clients, it’s worth sharing…and it’s not every day that an SEO company gets the kind of accolades that we have received this morning: 

Il y a aussi le fait que nous sommes, tout simplement, les premier sur Google, c’est tout un exploit qui mérite d’être félicité. Bravo à notre notre companie de référencement!. Il faut que vous sachiez que c’est d’une importance capitale”

If you don’t read French, trust me that these are mighty fine words to put spring in our step.  Or, you might try using one of those (ugh!) free translation websites.  The English would probably say something about how we roast warthogs in the bathtub, but you get what you pay for..


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Google is Tops

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

It’s official…at least according to the New York Times.  Google’s market share is at 65.1%, just shy of the 66.6% that would be two-thirds of the market.  That leaves precious little room for Ask and MSN to expand their market share, which must be making them very frustrated.  As long as Google keeps paying attention to what people want when they are searching, I don’t see this changing.  If Google gets cocky, of course, we will see a whole new ball game.

What this all means in practical terms is that the most important source of traffic for most businesses is Google.  It is certainly not the only source.  One could make a very tidy profit driving traffic in many other ways, both online and offline, but it would be stupid to ignore Google.  All the more reason to be very careful not to do anything to your website that would run you afoul of both the letter and the spirit of Google’s webmaster guidelines.


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Link Building by the Specs? No Thank You!

Friday, November 30th, 2007

So somebody needs to build links to help his search engine rankings, and has come up with a very precise list of exactly what he wants.  It includes 19 exact specifications, which perhaps he pulled from a handy article somewhere on the Web.  Here is the list he presented, but this post could be abut any such list… 

1. One way non-reciprocal links only, no link exchanges.
2. THREE WAY Links where all links are in the same theme is OK
3. All links must be permanent.
4. Only 10% can be in directories.
5. No blogs
6. ONLY OUR THEME , (our theme is quite common so you will not have problems).
7. NO hidden links or any site that has hidden links.
8. No directories. No link farms, link-exchange programs, forums, Google banned site, black hat website. No guestbooks, links within forums, links within newsgroups or links from link exchanges etc. and never participate in any commercial web rings.
9. No sites banned by Google.
10. Link page must have a recent Google & Yahoo cache.
11. Must be manually submitted.
12. No Automated software (e.g., Zeus, Arelis or others)
13. All links must be from a different domain and IP address (geographically diverse, different class-c IP address block).
14. Only 10 to 15 links per week per language per site
15. Link pages must be static urls (no variables or parameters in the url)
16. No blacklisted or spam sites.
17. No more than 40 outbound links per page.
18. The link text must be from our keyword list and point to that keywords target page
19. All links must be static and without “nofollow” tags, no redirects, or javascript
20. Links must be on a PAGE with a Google PR of at least 2
21. All links must be on a page of the same language
22. Links must be on domains where we have no link

This post is about why I refuse to build links according to lists like this.  First, I must note that some of the items such as #9 and #7 and #15, for example, all make perfect sense.  These are deal-breakers that make a link useless. 

However, other elements are judgment calls: stipulating how many links per page, the PageRank, that a three-way link is acceptable but not a two-way link, among other factors.  What people hire me is to exercise that judgement.  To decode when a page might be PR1 but incredible on-topic and worth going after.  Or when a page might have 200 links, but with PR4 and lots of real human traffic it is worth its weight in gold.  Honestly, the client can just have his secretary or an offshore link-builder do the manual job of seeking out the links.  He does not need me for that.  What he needs me and my trained staff for is to exercise judgment – judgment that he is overriding with a pre-fab list. 

Does the client really think we have control over how many links are built in a week?  That depends on the response rate and the amount of back-and-forth with various webmasters.

And how much does he want to pay me to track down IP addresses to make sure they are all different?  Or check that the client does not already have a link on the domain?

That’s why I turn down offers to try to fit a strategic process into so comprehensive a list of technical specifications.


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How to chose a link partner

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Most webmasters are at a total loss when they try to decide whether to do a link exchange.  In fact, they are so lost that they rely on how much green is showing on the notoriously inaccurate Google Toolbar.

Here is my top-5 list of how to decide if a link exchange is worthwhile.

1. The page is cached by Google.  That is the drop-dead bottom line.  If it is not cached, Google can’t find it.  And Google is the biggest search engine by far.  If Google can’t find it, chances are that Yahoo, Ask and MSN can’t either.  And chances are that real people won’t land on the page or navigate to it.

2. Relevance. The page should not be optimized for “links”. “link exchange” or “resources”, unless are searches you are targeting in your SEO efforts.

3. Relevance.  The page should be relevant for the specific words you are targeting.  In other words, the title tag and the heading should include at least one of the main words of the search you are targeting.

4. Relevance. The page should be on topic, regardless of specific words.  If it is full of totally unrelated websites, the search engines can see that it is just a collection of random links.

5. If you can get a link on a content page, or where yours is the only external link on the page, you have struck gold!


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Reciprocal link heresy

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Let’s go hunt us a sacred cow today, OK?  Specifically, the sacred cow that all links must be reciprocated. 

There are a number of software programs you can purchase that can periodically make sure that all your link partners retain their links to your website so that you can notify them, warn them, threaten them and remove their links if they have removed yours.

Others spend time double-checking by hand.

Is this money well spent?  Is this time well spent?


First, you have gained nothing by removing the links of those few who have reneged on their end of the bargain.  You have not increased your link popularity.  You have not gained additional PageRank.  You have not increased your website’s trust, relevance, content, number of pages or any other indicator that will lead to higher rankings.

Second, you have just spent money buying software that could have been spent elsewhere.  Or you have spent time checking backlinks that could have been spent creating them.

Third, you might even be doing yourself a disservice by making every outbound link on your resources page a reciprocated one.  The search engines are pretty clever.  They can detect when 100% of your outbound links are reciprocated.  They can detect when 100% of your links are part of a triangular linking pattern.  Do you think they are impressed with that?  My logic is that it is to your advantage if over time some of your link partners reneg and you have less of a pattern (remember that when it comes to linking, patterns should be avoided, for they indicate to the search engines that the links are contrived).

So, with apologies to everyone hocking link-checking software, my recommendation is to not waste another minute of the precious few God gave you checking up on your link partners.  A nice hike in the mountains would be a much better investment for your business…and of course for you!


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Hidden Text Trick

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Every wonder how that image-only home page can outrank you for some pretty important search terms.  The typical advice you will get on forums and in articles is that it is all in the links – that the high-ranking page has more, better and more relevant links pointing from other web pages. 

But there might be something more sneaky and nefarious going on.  Check the source code.  Are there hundreds of words of text that do not appear on the page?  If so, go back to the page.  Where can they be, you can’t see them and there is no scrollbar to scroll any farther.  You highlight the page to see if any hidden text shows up and all of a sudden the page starts scrolling.  You see plenty of text.  And technically it’s not hidden, but it is tucked away where nobody would think to view, because the webmaster has deactivated the scrollbar.  Pretty sneaky.  But is this hidden text?

Technically, the text is very clearly visible, so it is not technically hidden.  On the other hand, a manual review of this site would reveal that there is spiderable text placed where most visitors would not know how to find.  I am willing to bet that a hidden text penalty would be issued to such a page.   

My advice is to report your competitor to Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask right away.  And don’t even think about doing the same thing…because someone else might report you both! 


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Inbound links – better to own than to rent

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

I like this post saying Don’t Buy Rent Links

Julia Kristiva makes a great arguement for creating content, going through the costs and revenue, and how the website benefits from the content.  In this example, she references a useful tool created for a client.  But articles, data, case studies, ebooks, and other useful content can have the same effect.

I have never been a big fan of buying (“renting”, actually) links.  Just as with home ownership, it’s better to own than to rent.  If you own something that people want to link to, you effectively own the links.  But if the links are a result only of your monthly payment, your are renting. 

It’s the difference between a cost and an investment.


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How to learn SEO

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

I am being pressed to tell someone how he can quickly learn SEO. 

“OK, so if they want to have their site optimized, what would be a going price for that? And what are the details of having this done? Can I find out these answers by going to your site?”

This line of questioning is not unusual from someone interested in an SEO quick start.  However, my response…

The price depends on what they need to have done and how competitive the markets they are chasing are.  And on who is doing it.  One SEO quoted $80,000 for a job that I thought should run around $10,000 to $20,000.  Or you can go offshore and easily get your website’s reputation hacked up for a mere $3000.

Although there are certainly plenty of items common to almost all SEO projects, again it depends on the website, the company and the market.  It’s a lot like marketing a book…there is not one size that fits all.  It’s not for nothing that you could spend weeks on end reading the numerous forums where SEO is debated and still not come out knowing what information is right and what is not, let alone what information applies to your situation and what does not.  If you really want to learn SEO, the SEMPO course is the place to start, at least to avoid making serious mistakes and getting the basics down, then experience will be a good teacher over time.

Sorry, there is no simple answer and no out-of-the-box process.  If there were, then everyone would apply it and there would be 1000 websites in the top 10 for every search term.  Since there can be only 10, it is almost by definition the things that are new and original and above what everybody else is doing that really make the difference.


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Optimize for misspellings

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Your PPS is cute, what with the “translaters” !  :o)

That was part of a query I received from a lady needing translation of a French medical document into English.  She was refering to the following paragraph from my “free lance englishfrench translaters” page.

P.P.S.: If you came searching for a free lance frenchenglish translater or free-lance englishfrench translaters, you won’t be the first to make a little spelling booboo. That’s OK; it’s our job to make sure that your final translated text is error-free.

This is just a cute way to get a few misspellings tactfully into the text of the page.  When someone searches for “free lance translater”, their real intention is to find a “freelance translator”, so including the text on the page is one good way to help them find hwat they meant to type, not what they actually typed.

Is this appropriate?  Are we tricking the search engines?  Not at all.  We are helping people find what they want.  It is always wise to include as many variations of a word as possible.  It is for that reason that writing naturally makes sense.  Writing just for a keyword, say “Freelance French English Translator” would not sound right.  Variations of these words should also appear on the page, such as “translation” and “translators” and maybe “translating”.

Including misspellings is another way of covering the various combinations of searches people might eb undertaking


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