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Top ten free SEO tools

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Have you ever wondered which are the best free SEO tools available on the Internet?  Well here is my top ten list, so listen closely. 

Free SEO Tool #10: Top Ten Analysis SEO Tool at http://www.webuildpages.com/cool-seo-tool/ is a great way to get a snapshot of your top ten competitors at Google for any given search term. 

Free SEO Tool #9: Go Rank Analyzer at http://www.gorank.com/analyze.php reviews your web page for a given search term to give you a snapshot of how the search term shows up on the page.  Actually, this probably should be higher up on the list.  In other words, I should use it more often. 

Free SEO Tool #8:  Aftervote at http://younanimous.com/ is a really different tool, and I’m not sure too many people would think of it as an SEO tool.  It is, in fact, a meta search engine that combines the results of Google, Yahoo and MSN, along with some other factors to provide its own original results.  So you can see at a glance which sites are doing well for a given search term across all three engines.  It also features a number of performance indicators, including Google PageRank, Alexa ranking, Compete page strength, and a link to see the WhoIs data.  You can also add a whole slew of plugins, including Netcraft reports and submission links for Digg and other social bookmarking websites.  In short, this is a great all-in-one tool for sizing up the competition for an individual search term or for finding joint venture or link partners of value.  One of the handy features is that you can see the Alexa ratings for some of your top competitors at once, so you can better judge the value of your own Alexa rating.  Hmm.  Actually, Aftervote is a bit like #10 above. 

Free SEO Tool #7: Overture Keyword Selection Tool at http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/ is useable.  OK, this is one area where Mr. Cheapie here is willing to pay the big bucks, specifically for Keyword Discovery. But if you really want a free tool, Overture can really help.  It just doesn’t carry over search data from previous months, so if data is seasonal, you have to wait until, say, the Christmas season to do the keyword research that will carry you next Christmas. 

Free SEO Tool #6:  Google Toolbar at http://toolbar.google.com/T4/index_pack.html is pretty useful.  Sure people make way too much of it, but the little green bar gives an instantaneous snapshot of the value of a page.  No green, and you might as well check the drop-down to make sure a page is cached.  If it’s not, forget it.  The difference between a PR2 and PR4 might be irrelevant in practical terms, despite the world wars and family feuds that can be fought over such minutia, but if the Toolbar shows a PR5, that’s pretty impressive (if it is real).  If all you need is a quick snapshot, use the toolbar.  If you want better info, use the Page Strength Tool or another. 

Free SEO Tool #5: Spider simulator at http://www.webconfs.com/search-engine-spider-simulator.php .  This lets you see at a glance what the search engines see, which links they can follow and what text they see.  I have often found major problems much quicker this way than wading through a jungle of code.  It can also be helpful for locating hidden text and hidden links on competitors’ websites if you think they are all a bunch of thieving hooligans.  There are probably hundreds of spider simulators of similar quality.  I use this one; it works for me. 

Free SEO Tool #4: Social Bookmarking Aggregator Tool at  http://www.seo-writer.com/tools/bookmarker.php should really be at #1, given that I created it and it is, of course, perfect.  But it is more of a viral tool than an SEO tool.  Still, the more people bookmark your pages, the more links they build and the more bloggers are likely to pick up on the bookmark and build links – all natural links the way Google and Yahoo like them!  And it’s available in Spanish, too, at http://es.seo-writer.com/tools/bookmarker.php Go to the bottom of this post right now and click on the social bookmarking links to bookmark this post.  You’ll see how it works and make me happy all at once.  :-) 

Free SEO Tool #3:  Common Links at http://www.randycullom.com/common_link.php is an even more ingenious backlink tool than Yahoo Site Explorer, but it is less flexible.  Pick a search term, and plug it in.  It will tell you which are the top ten sites for that term at Google or at Yahoo, then get the common backlinks.  For instance, if a page links to three of the top ten websites for a certain search term, chances are that the same page is more likely to link to your similar website than a page that links to only one of your competitors (and could be the owners’ mother’s website, a satisfied client, a supplier, a buddy, another site owned by the same person, etc.) 

Free SEO Tool #2:  Yahoo Site Explorer, at https://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/ shows pages indexed and backlinks to either the site as a whole or to a specific page.  This is superb competitive intelligence.  You can mine your competitors’ backlinks to create your own backlinks.  Unlike Google, Yahoo gives you the whole list.  Why stop at your competitors?  Why not look for complementary websites and what their backlinks are, too? 

Free SEO Tool #1 –  SEOmoz PageStrength Tool at http://www.seomoz.org/page-strength/ is a superb alternative the Google Toolbar’s PageRank measure.  I like the PageStrength Tool because it pulls information from a number of indicators – including the Google PageRank toolbar – and provides a composite view of how important a page is.  This is useful in evaluating potential partners, purchasing domains, sizing up the competition, etc.    However, it does have some limitations.  I have noticed that it sometimes draws inaccurate backlink data from Yahoo, and it gives big marks to certain very specific criteria, such as links from Wikipedia and Digg, rather than from a range of  major Web 2.0 sites.  Still, it does include age of domain and Alexa ranking, both of which are also important, as well as a number of other indicators totally lost on the Google Toolbar addicts (and we all know how reliable the Google toolbar is every third Tuesday of even numbered months!).  In some ways, this is similar to Aftervote and to the Top Ten Analysis SEO Tool, but it is a little more sophisticated. 

So there you have it, my top ten list of free SEO tools.  And no sooner will I hit the “publish” button, that I’ll tell myself that I really did not put them in the right order.   

If you have ideas on the top free SEO tools, please leave a comment. 

 


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SEO and Length of Text

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Over at High Rankings I just responded to a question about whether it really is necessary to have 200 – 250 words of text on your page for SEO, when the title and meta description tags are optimized.  Surely a newbie question, but one that clients often bring forward based on a very quick reading of plenty of inaccurate information floating around on the Web.  Here is the response I just posted

I suppose it is redundant to have nine players come up to bat when you really need no more than four (in the event you load the bases), so why not just field a team of four players?As for limiting your text to a sparse 200-250 words, why not limit your team members to anyone 5′ and under?

The answer, of course, is because only one of two teams will win any given game, and every advantage you have is good and every advantage they have is bad. Only ten of a million or two web pages will be in Google’s top ten for any given search phrase, and every advantage you have is good and every advantage they have is bad.

There is a notion that search engine rankings can be achieved primarily in a scientific manner.  Science is when repeating the same action provides the same result, no matter how many time you repeat it.  But SEO is more like a sport, where the rules and the players are constantly changing, and where you are competing for the prize and there can be only a handful of winners and many, many losers.

 


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Google Search Engine Ranking Factors Report

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

SEOMoz has come out with some superb information once again that every SEO specialist and every webmaster should read.  The Google Search Engine Ranking Factors Report summarizes the opinion of all the top SEO specialists (except me…hmmm, I guess I am not quiote at the top yet), many of whom I personally admire.  The report rates various factors for their importance to Google rankings.

Below is the lsit of the top 10 most important factors, according to these esteemed SEO specialists.  I would probably rate the factors in a similar order.

 

 

 


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My Right to Google Rankings

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

I have the right to Google.  After all, I pay taxes to Google, don’t I?  And the Constitution says that I have rights to Goiogle rankings, doesn’t it?

Is it just me, or is this how most websmasters think?  The laters kerfuffle (is that how you spell it?  Is kerfuffle even a word?) began when Google’s webmaster liason Matt Cutts blogged that people should report paid links to help Google develop ways to reduce the skewing effect of paid links in their search results. 

Quite frankly, it’s a little silly to expect most people to go along with this, and Matt could probably find plenty on his own, but he  apparently wants some outside feedback to catch what he might have missed.  So what?  It’s his right to ask in his blog for any kind of feedback he wishes, just as it is my right to ask for any feedback I wish.  It’s up to people to decide whether they wish to provide that feedback.  Nobody is obliged to report anything.

But the debate is raging strong at Threadwatch and at WebProWorld.  Here are a few of the incredible things people are saying:

“Isn’t this somewhat hypocritical? Doesn’t Google sell links through AdWords?”
 

“It’s alright to sell links just as long as we’re the ones selling them. That’s the message I’ve been getting loud and clear from Google.”
 

“If I want to buy a link to generate traffic (not caring about SEO) or I want to sell a link because people want my traffic, who is Google to tell me I can’t or my site will be punished.”
 

“We don’t owe Google anything. Google owes us everything!”
 

Adwords are paid links, but they do not affect the content of anyone else’s site without their consent.  If I sell links on my site, it absolutely affects the content on Google’s site, so they have every reason to be concerned.  They have no right to stop me from selling links, but they have every reason to want to control for the effects those paid links would have on their results…which is what they are hoping to do. (Google is not threatening to punish any site.)
 

How about this comment:
 

“I think Google should show us the alternatives if they don’t want us to go down the paid link route.”
 

Considering that I have been doing SEO for , what 3 or 4 years now without buying almost (I said “almost”) any links, I think we all know how many linking alternatives there are.
And now there is an article by  iEntry CEO Rich Ord, 7 Reasons Google’s Paid Link Snitch Plan Sucks, that panders to the congregation (although at least his arguements make a little more sense, except for #6: The hypocrisy of being in the business of selling links and then asking others not to sell them is a bit much for many webmasters.

Here is my take:  It is my business and mine alone whether I sell links or not, and mine and mine alone whether I buy links or not.  It is Google’s business and Google’s business alone to decide which links, if any, will form part of its algorithm calculations.  And as much as everybody seems to think they own Google, they do not.  It might be silly or even useless to ask people to report paid links, but the vitriol and false entitlement are clearly  misplaced.

Here is my take:  It is my business and mine alone whether I sell links or not, and mine and mine alone whether I buy links or not.  It is Google’s business and Google’s business alone to decide which links, if any, will form part of its algorithm calculations.  And as much as everybody seems to think they own Google, they do not.  It might be silly or even useless to ask people to report paid links, but the vitriol and false entitlement are clearly  misplaced.

 


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Younanimous – AfterVote

Monday, April 16th, 2007

I have a new favorite search engine: http://younanimous.com/ .  Younanimous has just changed its name to AfterVote, but it remains at the same URL. Why is this such a cool engine?  For three reasons:

1. It provides a hybrid of Google, Yahoo and MSN, so results are not skewed by one engine’s particuylar preoccupations.

2. It allows you to customize results more than the big ones.  You can filter out PDF document, for example.  

3. It gives more info at your finger tips. In addition to the individual results of Google, Yahoo and MSN, it gives Alexa data, Google PageRank, Compete data and WhoIs data for each result.  

Here are a few ways to use AfterVote:

1. To quote for new SEO clients, one can more quickly determine how competitive the field is by searching for a couple of the top search terms.  At Google, I would have to click on several results to see their PageRank and how well they are optimized on-page.  Here I can quickly see the PageRank of all the top players and whether they are the same players across all the engines (800 pound gorillas) or whether the results are more fickle (much less competitive). 

2. For a website owner, this can be used as a keyword research tool.  Hmmm, do I optimize for “hotel jobs” or for “hotel careers”?  This is much more intuitive and probably more reliable than KEI data.

3. Only one result returned per domain.  Note that Alexa and Compete are domain-specific data, not page specific, so they are good for broad assessment goals: which sites would make good JV partners, which would be good for link exchange, which might be good for advertising, etc.

4.  For people who are afraid to use Web Position or other rank-checking software, they can quickly see how they are doing across the three engines for their top keywords.

5. One weakness is that it returns only 10 results from Google, whereas you can set it for 100 at Yahoo and 50 at MSN.  Hopefully this will be upgraded somehow.

 


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The Silly Myth About Reciprocal Links

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

“I would like to exchange links with you to maximize Page Rank on Google for both of us, but it is important not to link to the same site – they need to be different sites to count on Google” 

It’s not the first time some linking email message lectures me about how Google ignores reciprocal links.  Of course, that’s total phony bologna.  Google values links based on their value, not on whether the other site links back.  It is actually a very natural thing for two sites in the same niche to link to each other.  It is also good marketing to exchange visible links with non-competing, related websites.  And it is totally legitimate to show visitors and search engines alike that you are related in topic to another website that Google might also value.  Google has no interest in discounting legitimate reciprocal linking. What Google does want and even need to discount are links set up to mess up its results.  All links built solely for the purpose of cooking Google’s results are therefore discouraged.  Those that are aggressive enough to skew Google’s results must be stopped.  Google has that obligation, otherwise it will lose its clientele. In case you, too, are tired of receiving such misinformed emails, here is how I just responded to one: 

“I think you have been taken for a bit of a ride by some way-too-clever SEO charlatan who thinks that reciprocal linking is being penalized or discounted by Google.  At best, three-way link exchanges add some variation amidst two-way link exchanges; at worst, the search engines (who can easily read such schemes) would read this as an attempt to scam them.  I personally don’t think it makes a hill of beans difference whether there are two-way or three-way exchanges.  I do what makes sense for each website.”       

 

 

 


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Submit your URL to deep link directories

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I have read much debate over which directories and what types of directories are worth submitting your website URL to.  I have to admit that I often disagreee with the views espoused in many of these discussions.

Today I want to speak up in favor of that rare bird, the deep link directory.  A deep-link directory is one that allows links directly into pages of interest within your website.  Very few directories allow this; most insist on submitting your home page and your home page only.  This cripples people from posting links to the pages of most interest, which are often inside the website, or from linking to various topics within a website with a broader coverage. 

From an SEO perspective, you don’t want all your inbound links pointing to your home page…unless, of course, you are trying to send a message to the search engines, such as, “Look how shallow my website is.  See?  Nothing there worth linking to but the home page.  There’s nothing inside that anybody would want to link to, no siree.  Don’t even bothering indexing all those useless pages.”

So when I got involved in creating directories, they all offered a link to the home page URL plus up to three deep links.  Here are links to four free deep link directories where you can submit your website:

Submit travel websites with deep links

Submit webmaster websites with deep links

Submit real estate websites with deep links

Submit all sorts of websites with deep links

Since options are limited for free-submit deep link directories, here are four of my favorite paid deep link directories.  None of these have recurring fees, and they are all reasonably priced.   

Bloggeries (just for blogs).

Octopedia (our page there)

Abilogic

Webtopia (the Canada page)

World Site Index

 


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A brand-new SEO scam

Friday, March 9th, 2007

This SEO scam is so new that it hasn’t even begun yet, at least not to my knowledge.  I don’t want to give SEO scammers ideas, but I am 100% certain that this is coming and that there will be many, many, many (did I mention “many”?) unsuspecting webmasters who will fall for it, so let’s for once get the warnings about the scam out there before it begins. 

Google’s new personalized search has already begun, and within months it will start to skew Google’s rankings in two ways.  

First, data Google gathers about how people are searching will certainly start to be factored into the general algorithm.  This means that on-page relevancy and inbound links will have to share the stage with such factors as click-through rates, click-back rates (back to Google from the site), length of visit, number of pages viewed, repeat visits, etc.  In other words, Google will be better able to measure “good” content from trash.  

A whole industry will sprout up to help webmasters take advantage of this, much of it black hat (like click fraud, perhaps?), some white hat, mostly to create more “sticky” content, improve click-through rates and encourage people to “vote” in some way for the site. On the white hat side, TheBookmarketer can help you move ahead right away, as I reported in this post on how to use social bookmarking to a website’s advantage

Second, the data it collects from each individual will be used to present more personalized results to that individual.  Exactly how this will work remains to be seen, as there are many ways that Google has hinted it can factor the information into a person’s individual results.  But one thing is for certain…as soon as SEO scammers get a sense of some of the factors that affect personalized results, the scamming will begin.  Here is exactly what the scammers will do:  

1. The scammer will tell the website owner to sign up for a Google account.  

2. The scammer will tell the webmaster to “visit your website every day” or “visit at least ten pages of your site in succession every day” or “Google bookmark your website” or “do the following ten searches and click on your site from the rankings every day”.  The precise instructions will depend on the factors that most influence personal search.  

3. The scammer will promise that the website owner will see his site move up in the rankings.  And he will see it move up in the rankings.  But only on his computer using his personalized search.  Even if his website shows up as #1 for “broken glass”, none of the broken-glass-buying market might even see his site in their results. 

This scam won’t fool everybody.  It is most likely to work on the little guy, who operates from one computer and would not think to compare results.  It might not work forever, but what scammer will stick around to argue the finer points once he’s sucked the money out of an unsuspecting website owner’s pockets? 

Google will surely take steps to reduce this in order to protect the integrity of its results (remember the searcher is whom Google must please), but like every game of locks and lock-pickers, there will be plenty of scams flying under Google’s radar or keeping one step ahead. 

The best protection a webmaster has against this sort of scam is to include mention of it in passing in every article posted on the Internet about personal search.  Hopefully not too many webmasters will miss it before hiring an SEO scammer.  And that’s why today I am outing the scammers before they even start!

 


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Wikipedia should be spanked!

Monday, February 26th, 2007

I must be feeling edgy today.  I just posted a message on a public forum saying Wikipedia should be spanked!

The post is over at Webdigity webmaster forums.  It is consistent with what I wrote a month ago about Wikipedia being the dead end on the Information Highway, although I don’t think I mentioned spanking that time.

 


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Business Ethics on the Internet

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

I was quoted last week in Maclean’s, Canada’s national newsmagazine (sort of an equivalent to Time or Newsweek) on a matter of ethics.

I get to see two very contrasting worlds of ethics on the Internet.  First, we run an SEO marketing service, which means that we spend a lot of time swimming in polluted waters.  Let’s face it, for every really good and honest SEO, there are several incompetent ones, and probably as many outright dishonest (unethical ones).

On the other hand, we run a freelance writing agency.  Writers tend to be a highly ethical group, sometimes overly so.  We’ve only had to ever sever our relationship with one writer who showed signs of being unethical.

So it might come as a surprise that we were commenting on ethical lapses related to writing.  The context was a cover story on cheating in universities in both Canada and the United States, and how the universities are pretty much ignoring this destructive wildfire sweeping their campuses.

And, of course, the Internet is fueling this fire, offering both anonymity and instant access to “information”.  And for every person seeking a ghostwritten term paper, there is some dishonest writer willing to write it.

Ethics is ethics.  Period.  Anonymity does not make something right.  The Internet does not make something right.  Notwithstanding that many things that are really matters of pour etiquette get labeled “unethical” on the Internet, there are all too many people willing to be evil to make a little extra money (What, me, use strong language?)

OK, I know you’ve been salivating to know what I had to say about ethics and writing in Maclean’s, so here’s the excerpt:

Running a freelance writer agency, I can tell you that the second most-frequent writing request, after books, is for school papers.  We have even been requested to write PhD entry essays.  We respond to all such queries by refusing to help a student cheat himself (or herself) out of an education.

 

 


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