David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

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



Trade Links With PR0 Pages

Feb 02, 2009 - filed under linking, pagerank 15 Comments

Do you trade links with PR0 pages?  Once upon a time I avoided PR0 pages.  It was usually a sign that a web page was being penalized or suffering from some contagious tropical disease.

But times have changed, and my approach has changed with the times.  In recent months I have seen a lot of “links” pages with PR0 value on the Google Toolbar.  This includes pages that are linked to from every page of otherwise PR4-PR5 websites.  PR0 in the Google Toolbar is n o longer, in my opinion, a kiss of death.

If I am offered a link from a PR0 page, the first thing I do is give it the old eyeball test.  If it has a lot of the wrong kind of links and the wrong kind of spammy words all over it, that ends it there.  But if the page looks good (on topic, manually-maintained, etc.)  apart from the lack of a green bar, I take a look at the home page of the site to see if it has a green bar and to see what the path is to the link page.  Is it linked to from the home page, from the template, from a second level page?  

In other words, I’ll make my own call at roughly what the value of the page is.  And given the error-prone toolbar that is at best an approximation anyway, I am sure my calculation isn’t that far off.  

Is this process more work than just looking at the toolbar?  Yes.  But when the toolbar is blank, the only alternative to this process is to just ignore what could be a good link.  Given how hard we work to find good, on-topic links, I think the work is worth it.

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Map of Our Visitors

Jan 30, 2009 - filed under analytics, blogging, multilingual SEO, stats 6 Comments

One of the most amazing things about the Internet is that it brings the world together.  For instance, this website brings visitors from all over the world (which is a great thing for someone like me, who enjoys multilingual SEO).  However, I do not often see a website demonstrating how broad its reach is. 

Many websites feature language and currency options, and a few show testimonials from a variety of locations.  And occasionally I have seen a map widget that shows red dots where visitors come from.  But surprisingly, I have never seen a blogger share with his readers where the other readers come from.  Given that blogging is a conversational format, I would think this would be a natural.

Below is a map of where our visitors come from.  This was cut and pasted directly from Google Analytics, so it’s easy to do.  Just for the record, this does not include blog traffic.  A couple days ago I realized that I do not have Google Analytics tracking on the blog, just on the main website.  I have corrected that, but for now this is where our website visitors come from.  It’s pretty impressive when you think that people from almost everywhere outside of the Sahara have been on the website in the past month.


By the way, if we go back a year, most of the yellow spaces turn green, with a handful each from Bolivia, Mongolia and Paraguay and even a couple from Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea.

If you run a blog, why not write a post like this, sharing with your readers where their fellow readers come from.  Help bring the world just a little closer together.

Should Social Media Be Part of Your SEO Plan?

Jan 22, 2009 - filed under marketing 21 Comments

The buzz so far in 2009 is that SEO is not enough; social media is a must.  While this is an exaggerated claim that is nevertheless gaining credence, the truth is that you would be foolish not to review the social media tools available to see if any of them are worth your while.

A recent thread at WebProWorld gives some good insight into the issue, and what follows is an expansion of my contribution to the thread.

From a marketing perspective, best to identify the social media where people interested in your topic hang out, then start connecting.  If that’s Twitter or Digg or Zoomit or FaceBook or StumbleUpon or MyBlogLog, whichever.  This is just like in the offline world finding out which meetings and associations you need to be at for various functions (meeting potential clients, meeting potential suppliers, professional development, etc.). For instance, you might decide that all you need social media is as a way of keeping your ear to the ground.

However, if you hope to maintain high search engine rankings in a competitive field, a more proactive social media strategy can be an invaluable tool. For SEO purposes, your goal is to get people talking about your content.  When people talk on the Internet, they create links that feed the search engines’ algorithms.  The basic recipe for social media SEO is…

  1. Create and keep creating lots of great content on your website.
  2. Find out where people interested in your content hang out.
  3. Network (that means mostly chatting, sharing, asking questions – just as you would at a trade show reception)
  4. As you get known, start sharing your own content.
  5. As you get more known, people in the social media will start talking about your content (both on the social media site and in their blogs “back home”)
  6. Don’t stop.

The Web is a reflection of real life.  If you understand real life, the Web is not that hard to understand, either. If you understand networking in real life, networking on the Web is quite similar.
My top social network of preference is Twitter (I am at http://www.twitter.com/amabaie) .  But I am also active in a number of other places for various specific reasons.
If you represent multiple clients (if you are an SEO consultant or a public relations agent, for example) there are pros and cons to establishing multiple profiles, one for each client.  Obviously, each one assumes its own identity and each one builds its own circle of friends, but then each one also has to do the work to network; some will, many won’t. 
If you try to do it all for them, you’ll end up very confused.  I know of a couple people who have gotten their two accounts confused with each other.  I have many websites, and I have created two accounts at Twitter.  The one that is “me” serves for my main professional website and my personal growth website, and for almost any other purpose I might want (including helping my clients); it is me.  But I did create one other profile specifically because a) the followership it needs to cultivate is a very specific demographic and b) the account is almost completely a broadcast account (very little networking) and needs to have a much more organizational face than I want for my main account.
Whether on your own or through your SEO or PR agent, you should consider social media as part of your SEO strategy.  It is not a necessity for every business, but it is not something to be ignored either.

By the way, here is the original thread at WebProWorld.

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Correcting Offline URL Errors

Jan 20, 2009 - filed under linking, marketing 1 Comment

Three months ago, I wrote about how offline links count, too.  I recounted the story about how hard it was for me to enter a contest, because of the typo in the URL on a printed flyer.  Well, it seems the contest is on again.  Yesterday, I received a new flyer in the mail from the Lake Placid folks with a new entry code and…the correct URL.

How will this new flyer by viewed by people?  We can only speculate, but here are some possibilities.

  • People who did not try to enter before will most likely see this as brand new, so the gaffe would not affect them.
  • Some people who did not try to enter last time might remember the previous flyer, in which case it served as branding and might increase the person’s likelihood of entering this time.
  • People who tried to enter last time might try again.
  • People who entered last time might figure it’s a waste of time to try this time.
  • Many people might not try to enter the contest, but they will get the message to visit upstate New York, which is the whole point of the contest.

There will probably be plenty of people who fall into each of these categories, and perhaps some others, too.  Hopefully for the resorts involved in the mailing, most of it will be positive.

And I’ll bet they spend more money on proofreading in the future!

Marketing By Age

Jan 16, 2009 - filed under keywords, marketing, website conversion 9 Comments

Do you know the age of your audience?  Of course, if your website sells iPhone accessories, you have a pretty good idea.  Or if you sell lawn bowling supplies, you also have a pretty good idea.

But most website owners, when asked the age of their audience, respond with “all ages”.  This might be true, and it might not be all that true.  Either way, it is worthwhile fining out, because how you market to people at various stages of their lives differs greatly.  I was reminded of this by an article in Scientific American on how we change our attitudes as we age.

“Openness typically increases during a person’s 20s and goes into a gradual decline after that.  This pattern of personality development seems to hold true across cultures. Although some see that as evidence that genes determine our personality, many researchers theorize that personality traits change during young adulthood because this is a time of life when people assume new roles: finding a partner, starting a family and beginning a career. Personality can continue to change somewhat in middle and old age, but openness to new experiences tends to decline gradually until about age 60.”

So knowing the stage of life your audience is in can make a big difference to whether you want to pitch your product as a “new experience” or an improvement on a familiar experience for example.

You might also find that attitudes impact what search terms to target.  For instance, if you are pitching travel packages to a younger audience, the word “adventure” might be a key component of the search terms you focus on.  If you are pitching to an older audience, you might prefer to use words like “nature” in your keyword development.  Chances are your page will include both words, but where you place the emphasis is important.

It might be that the main difference in keyword focus is in your inbound links.  Some links might use “Nature vacations in Peru”, whereas others might read “Adventure vacations in Peru”.  If your link is on some lost “links” page buried deep in somebody’s website, it might not matter which anchor text you use.  But if the link is prominent on somebody’s website, with the potential to bring real visitors with real money in their pockets, it pays to ask the linking website owner what his demographics are.

All marketing starts with knowing your audience.  There is no marketing that is tougher than pitching to “everyone”.

How Is NoFollow Data Treated By The Search Engines?

Jan 14, 2009 - filed under nofollow, rankings, Wikipedia, Yahoo 17 Comments

In theory, the search engines don’t follow links with the NoFollow attribute attached. That’s what NoFollow means. However, anybody who has been checking backlinks for multiple websites (for example, if you have many SEO clients, prospective SEO clients, competitor websites, etc.) will notice that Yahoo lists many NoFollow links as backlinks (I wrote about this last year, too.). I have seen this at Google (I believe in Webmaster Tools, but my memory is not certain on this point – sorry). 

If the search engines index NoFollow links, it is possible they use the data (otherwise, why waste so much computing resources indexing them?), despite that purpose of the NoFollow attribute being that the links should not count in their algorithms. This post speculates on how the search engines might use this data. 

A Partial History of NoFollow

Seasoned SEO experts can skip this section. It is intended for newbies, and it is only partial because I am sure I am missing out some details.

Before there were blogs, there were guest books. Guest books were like prehistoric Web 2.0 . They allowed website owners to create some form of user interaction with otherwise pamphlet-like websites. They engaged the user. They created stickiness. Best of all, they were set-it-and-forget-it, so many website owners thought “why not?”

Spammers quickly learned that they could drop links in guest books, which were often unmonitored. The extent to which this was happening reached near epidemic proportions to the extent that serious SEO specialists were leery of leaving any links in guest books for fear of having their websites penalized for spamming. Search engines were concerned because any mass linking scheme threatens to skew the quality of the search results they present their clientele – the searchers.

The search engines were let off the hook by the website owners. Those who did not moderate their guest books were disgusted by the spam. Those who did moderate their guest books were frustrated by the spam. For a low- or no-maintenance tool, guest books were proving to be a pain without any obvious benefit (such as increase in sales).

In truth, blogs came along and offered a much better way to engage visitors in a two-way conversation. Blogs offered a venue for opinionated and chatty webmasters to engage with visitors, and the blog CMS was much easier to handle than an “articles” section on the website (especially because many bloggers found they could dispense with pesky technicalities like grammar and even staying on-topic.). Blogs also offered a much more obvious business benefit than guest books – search engine rankings, which could be translated into increased sales.

It wasn’t long before blog comment spam had replaced guest book spam. But this time, the search engines would not be let off the hook. Blogs had so many obvious benefits and so much more invested in them that, instead of petering out, they kept proliferating. Indeed, each blog spawns hundreds or even thousands of pages, each one fertile for dropping a spammy link in a comment. And many blog owners were (and still are) lazy, allowing comments to be automatically posted without moderation. NOTE: This blog is moderated, and I use a DoFollow plugin. If your comment is worthwhile, your link will count. If your comment is not worthwhile, sorry.

Many bloggers became alarmed at all the spammy links, and were worried that they might be penalized for linking to bad neighborhoods. That’s why the search engines created the NoFollow attribute. And if you believe that, I have some superb oceanfront property on the moon that might interest you for a surprisingly reasonable price.

In fact, search engines were once again concerned because as I said earlier any mass linking scheme threatens to skew the quality of the search results they present their clientele – the searchers – and mass automatedblog comment spam was showing no sign of slowing down.

The search engines gave everybody, not just bloggers, a simple means to indicate when an outbound link from their website should not be followed by the search engines because it is not a link in which they have placed trust. Basically, the whole point of NoFollow is to eliminate user-generated links from the algorithms, since those links cannot be considered as “votes” for the sites being linked to by the sites doing the linking.

So Why Are Search Engines Indexing NoFollow Links?

 This is a puzzle. If the search engines created NoFollow to tell their robots not to follow, obviously something has changed since then, because they are following. But do the links affect the rankings? Here are a few theories of how the search engines might be using the data. These are highly speculative, so feel free to throw in your own speculations into the comments below.

  1. One obvious theory is that the search engines are not using this data at all in their rankings.
  2. A second theory is that the search engines are using the links to determine relevancy (a link from a comment on an SEO blog to my website helps the search engines confirm that my website is about SEO), but that the links do not count toward link popularity or PageRank.
  3. A third theory is that the search engines have built into their algorithms a process for selecting which NoFollow links they should include in their algorithm calculations. For instance, they might choose to follow all Wikipedia NoFollow links, but no MySpace NoFollow links.
  4. A fourth theory is that the search engines use NoFollow external links to dampen their trust rating of a website. If a website owner has lots of external links that it is not willing to trust, that is one signal that the linking website itself is not all that trustworthy. Makes sense for MySpace. Bummer for Wikipedia (but I’ve voiced my opinion on Wikipedia’s abuse of the NoFollow attribute before).
  5. A fifth theory is that the search engines use NoFollow internal links to dampen their trust rating of a website. Unlike some of these theories, this one makes sense. After briefly experimenting with internal NoFollow internal links on one of my websites, I removed them all. Think what message it sends the search engines about the quality of your website if you say you can’t trust your own web pages.
  6. A sixth theory is that search engines do not use NoFollow links directly in their rankings, but that they are included somehow in a link profile establishing a website’s level of activity on the Web.

I would like to hear your comments and theories. I should note that I have not researched this post in any great deal, because it really is just speculation. I wrote it while my daughters danced last weekend, and there is no WiFi there. So feel free to add your theories and enlighten me and our readers if you know of any great sources that can shed some light on this.

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You might be a redneck SEO if…

Jan 05, 2009 - filed under SEO 32 Comments

I’ve always enjoyed Jeff Foxworthy and his “you might be a redneck” jokes, so…

Most SEO specialists seem to live in big metropolitan cities like Boston or London or Toronto. Not me. I live out here in the sticks. Which I guess makes me a bit of a redneck SEO, so…

If you think you might be a redneck SEO, I have devised this handy little test, with 50 signs that you might be a redneck SEO. Please feel free to share this with your friends colleagues and even friendly city-folk you might know. And don’t be shy to add to this list if there are important signs I missed.

By the way, it helps to imagine Jeff Foxworthy’s voice when you read these. Here is a video of Jeff Foxworthy doing his you-might-be-a-redneck routine to get you in the mood (Sorry, they turned off embedding on this, but the link is good.)…


Top 50 signs that you might be a redneck SEO

  1. If Yahoo! Is something you holler when your horseshoe rings the post, you might be a redneck SEO.
  2. If you’ve ever tried to change the transmission in your computer, you might be a redneck SEO.
  3. If you don’t Digg because digging sounds too hippyish, you might be a redneck SEO.
  4. If your idea of link-building is getting a longer chain for your wallet, you might be a redneck SEO.
  5. If you have to put on boots to go out to your home office, you might be a redneck SEO.
  6. If you look for scraper sites to clean the bottom of your boots, you might be a redneck SEO.
  7. If you find on-page optimization a challenge because you can’t write on your computer screen, you might be a redneck SEO.
  8. If you think GrayWolf, theGypsy and Neoblog are race horses, you might be a redneck SEO.
  9. If you spit for good luck before you click “submit website”, you might be a redneck SEO.
  10. If you re-use your spit … never mind. Next!
  11. If you don’t like title tags ‘cause titles are for uppity city folk, you might be a redneck SEO.
  12. If you like to Sphinn your partner at the local barn dance, you might be a redneck SEO.
  13. If you refuse to take on a client with a pink website, you might be a redneck SEO.
  14. If your other Mac is a truck, you might be a redneck SEO.
  15. If you prefer black hat SEO because real men don’t wear white, you might be a redneck SEO.
  16. If you have a Dukes of Hazard screensaver , you might be a redneck SEO.
  17. If wonder just what blade Matt cutts with, you might be a redneck SEO.
  18. If you agree that bounce rates are becoming a big SEO issue because gopher holes are damaging your ATV, you might be a redneck SEO.
  19. If every time a client mentions conversions you shout “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”, you might be a redneck SEO.
  20. If the words “viral content” send you running to the barn ‘cause you lost some 30 chickens to a flu bug last spring, you might be a redneck SEO.
  21. If you don’t care for link bait but you sure would love to help your client with his trout bait, you might be a redneck SEO.
  22. If you place the “home” button on your website between the “barn” button and the “outhouse” button, you might be a redneck SEO.
  23. If the word “blog” sounds just messy to you, you might be a redneck SEO.
  24. If you think Twitter is where they send all the twits, you might be a redneck SEO (but you can follow this SEO at @amabaie.)
  25. If a “search engine” means the 4 x 4 you take to chase away the foxes, you might be a redneck SEO.
  26. If you say you work from a mobile device and mean that you work from your home, you might be a redneck SEO.
  27. If you try to trap your mouse with cheese or peanut butter, you might be a redneck SEO.
  28. If you bill clients not by the hour, not by the links, not by the rankings, but by the six-packs consumed, you might be a redneck SEO.
  29. If your home page is set to Auto Trader or Monster Auto, you might be a redneck SEO.
  30. If adding video to your computer means buying an eight-track player, you might be a redneck SEO.
  31. If you think Sticky SEO is when you drop your keyboard in the pig pen, you might be a redneck SEO.
  32. If your office wall is decorated in very tasteful velvet Elvis, you might be a redneck SEO.
  33. If you bring your laptop to the family reunion hoping an eligible cousin will sit on it, you might be a redneck SEO.
  34. If your favorite ringtone goes ma-aa-aa-aa, you might be a redneck SEO.
  35. If your personal assistant also goes ma-aa-aa-aa, you might be a redneck SEO.
  36. If your car sports a worn bumper sticker reading “SEO or bust”, you might be a redneck SEO.
  37. If you wear jeans and a toothpick to a client presentation, you might be a redneck SEO.
  38. If your computer desk demonstrates that you are an environmentally aware operation because it is built from a used outhouse, you might be a redneck SEO.
  39. If you have more than one tattoo on your butt reading “SEO”, you might be a redneck SEO.
  40. If you sing in the shower “Thank God I’m an SEO Boy”, you might be a redneck SEO.
  41. If you own one computer that runs and five cars that don’t, you might be a redneck SEO.
  42. If you try to buy used links at the local flea market, you might be a redneck SEO.
  43. If your Avatar at Zoomit Canada is a picture of your belt buckle, you might be a redneck SEO.
  44. If organic search is what you do when you lose a rifle in the corn field, you might be a redneck SEO.
  45. If don’t do SEO contests, but would rather like to try an SEO drag race, you might be a redneck SEO.
  46. If you think sites rank well because they have “#1” in the title tag, you might be a redneck SEO.
  47. If you ask your clients to pay with ammunition or fireworks, you might be a redneck SEO.
  48. If you respect motherhood, apple pie and meta tags, you might be a redneck SEO.
  49. If your idea of social media is a telephone – the kind with a dial that turns, you might be a redneck SEO.
  50. If you think a cell phone is what you do when you don’t need a telephone with a dial that turns anymore … you might be right!

I hope you enjoyed this little test to see if you are a redneck SEO. Did you pass? Really? Great, welcome to the club. And if you come up with any other signs that I have missed, please add them to the comments below.

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My Top SEO Blog Posts of 2008

Dec 31, 2008 - filed under blogging, SEO 7 Comments

Just for fun, I went back through 2008 to see if I could narrow down the top 10 best blog posts I published during the year. It’s amazing how much writing a person can do in one year. I looked for those posts that are the most substantial and useful, and hopefully will stand the test of time.

It was not easy to choose just ten, but the following are my top 10 picks, in reverse order by date:

1. Bounce Rate SEO Fallacies
Regular readers might be getting tired of hearing from me on this topic by now, so I will simply say that this story already continues in two posts I have made in the past 24 hours, and this post spurred a debate at Sphinn

2. Website Optimization for Telephone Leads
This post is one that fills a pretty unique niche. In fact, I don’t think I have seen a handful of blog posts or articles in my life linking SEO and telephone leads. This is a very practical how-to post.

3. You Need Sucky Links
I get tired of all the emphasis on PageRank and how some website owners try to avoid getting sucky links. I don’t mean links from really bad neighborhoods, just low quality links that don’t count for much. But these are pretty important, nonetheless. Read the post to find out why.

4. Offline Links Count, Too
Folks in the online world tend to forget that there is a real world out there, and “links” in the real world can do wonders for one’s business.

5. Earlybird Link-building
File this one under “advanced SEO tactics”. Why wait until your website is completely developed and launched to start building your links? Give the search engines a taste of what will be on your site before it actually is. This is another how-to post, which drew a pretty good discussion.

6. How to get More Value from Your SEO Consultant
This is the one “SEO business” post I selected for the top 10 of 2008. It is important not to lose site of the client-consultant relationship.

7. New Google Rank-check Tool Is Released
Call the title a spoof or a prank, but topic is some seriously good advice for the search engines.

8. Why Blogs Are Good for SEO
Prospective clients almost always get this piece of free advice: “Get a blog.” This is one post that I expect to be just as valid in 2012 as it is today … and that’s an eternity in SEO.

9. Yahoo Violating Nofollow Attribute
I chose this post because it seems even truer today than it did back then. In fact, just prior to Christmas, I found several new batches of “nofollow” backlinks showing up in Yahoo. It might be that PageRank is not passed along through “nofollow” links, but I am pretty sure they count for quite a bit. Although best practice is to make sure I get nofollow-free links for my clients, I jump at good nofollow links, too.

10. Link Exchanges: It’s Not the Size of the PR but How You Use It
If you love that pesky little green bar on the Google Toolbar, don’t read this post; it will only irritate you. For newbies, a welcome to a sneak peak at how this SEO specialist evaluates possible link exchanges.

So that’s it. A whole year of SEO advice condensed into a single post. If you like any of these posts, please Sphinn them or Digg them of Mixx them or Stumble them so that others might enjoy them, too.

Happy 2009!

What PageRank Can Tell Us About SEO and Bounce Rates

Dec 31, 2008 - filed under algorithms, analytics, browserank, Google 3 Comments

Last night I posted about what Google has to say on SEO and bounce rates.   You can  view the post here. A great question was posted by Wilson: “David, I was wondering, why Google want to have two different answer for the bounce rates…? ”

Even broken down into four parts, my response was longer than allowed for comments on this blog, so I decided to make it a post on its own.  Here is my answer to Wilson’s question:

Great question. I will get to that, but let us look at another misunderstood part of the Google algorithm.

We have been wondering for years why Google has three different measures for PageRank. The real PageRank calculation used in their algorithm is a complex logarithmic calculation. All other things being equal, a link from a PR4.12964 page is probably worth many links from a PR3.45294 page, for instance (We have no idea to how many decimal spaces the real PageRank is calculated, not whether this has remained steady over the years or whether it fluctuates over time).

Then there is the PageRank in the Google Directory, which supposedly is on a scale of 8. I can’t find any reference to the 8-point scale in the Directory, but the Wikipedia article on PageRank is a good reference on this point. Interestingly, the Google Directory states that…

 “The green ratings bars are Google’s assessment of the importance of a web page, as determined by Google’s patented PageRank technology and other factors. These PageRank bars tell you at a glance whether Google considers a page to be a high-quality site worth checking out.”

Note the “and other factors” wording.

Finally we have the famous Toolbar PageRank, a green bar on a scale from one to ten. This is what most webmasters mistakenly refer to as Google’s PageRank calculation. However, it is just an estimation that makes a PageRank of 4.0001 look the same as a PageRank of 4.9999, even though the latter might be worth many times the former. Meanwhile, it makes a PageRank of 4.9999 look much less valuable than a PageRank of 5.0001, even though the two are almost the same. Furthermore, everyone involved in SEO can recount numerous instances where a page “should” have a much higher or much lower PageRank than another page, based on the number and value of incoming links, but the Toolbar PageRank does not reflect that. (For instance, I have noted on many sites that a “links” page with identical link juice to a PR3 content page might nevertheless have a PageRank value of zero.)

What does this tell us about bounce rates?

Just like PageRank, bounce rates is a metric Google shares with its users. PageRank is viewable to everybody; bounce rates are viewable only to the website owner. In both cases, Google is showing a very simple calculation … a number people can use to quickly make comparisons between pages, between websites, between last month and this month, etc.

As I wrote above, “It would be a ridiculously simplistic algorithm that calculates bounces using such simple calculations.” Any serious calculation of bounces applied to a search engine ranking algorithm would have to be such a complex multidimensional equation that it would be useless to you or I as humans viewing it with our eyes (unless you happen to be a mathematical genius – and I mean genius – which I am not by a long shot.

Except to the extent that a search engine chooses to reveal how it treats bounces and other actions in its algorithm, we will never know for certain what plays a role and what does not, nor how big a role each factor plays. This is par for the course with ranking algorithms.

It is also totally possible that Google and the other search engines do not include bounce rates and related user actions yet in their algorithms.  Adam Lasnik’s comments quoted in my previous post are good hints, but they are hardly official.     Google engineer Knut Magne Risvik speaking in Norwegian at Digi.no and saying that  Google can measure how many seconds it takes from when a user clicks on a link to click back to Google, and if it is a short time that visit was a failure, is not quite an official Google statement either.  The only search engine that has released anything official is MSN through its BrowseRank paper … and that is not a statement current practice but of future intentions.

As this very young field matures, Google might also change its Google Analytics definition of “bounce rate”. SEO aside, the raging debate over whether a high bounce rate could sometimes be a good thing (depending on the nature of a website) makes a good case for changing the Google Analytics definition, too.

The summary to all this is that I have to answer Wilson with a simple “I don’t know”.  But, just like defining “bounce rate” and “PageRank”, such simple answers are really a lot more complex than they look.

Google Leaves Questions About Bounce Rates

Dec 31, 2008 - filed under analytics, Google, sticky seo, website conversion 5 Comments

Regular readers will know that I have been in a somewhat involved debate on this blog and over at Sphinn on the issue of bounce rates as they might now or later on apply to SEO.  I maintain that is a matter of business necessity that search engines would try to more precisely measure user satisfaction with each result of each search phrase, and that bounce rates would be one metric they could use.  Frequent readers will also know that I do not view “bounce rates” as a simple number or as a static pass-fail type of calculation.  It would be a ridiculously simplistic algorithm that calculates bounces using such simple calculations, in my humble opinion. 

Recently, Web Pro News  reported that Google answers bounce rates questions.  In fact, two separate answers were provided, one that relates to SEO and the other that relates to Google Analytics.  Many webmasters will confuse the two and we all know that’s how false rumors get started — the kind of false rumors that years from now will be reported as fact by many people calling themselves “SEO expert”. 

It is possible that Google Analytics and SEO are related or will be related, but don’t bank on it.  Here is what Adam Lasnik of Google has to say specifically about bounce rates and SEO.

If you’re talking about bounce rates in the context of Google Analytics, I’m afraid you probably know as much as I do. I love the product, but don’t know the ins-and-outs of it very thoroughly.

If you’re talking about bounce rates in the context of Google web search and webmaster-y issues, then we really don’t have specific guidance on bounces per se; rather, the key for webmasters is to make users happy so they find your site useful, bookmark your site, return to your site, recommend your site, link to your site, etc. Pretty much everything we write algorithmically re: web search is designed to maximize user happiness, so anything webmasters do to increase that is likely to improve their site’s presence in Google.

The bottom line is that you want to do all the things that we talk about in Sticky SEO to keep people on your website, to engage them in your website, to send Google and other search engines signals that they found your website to be useful.  And, of course, you want to reduce the number of visitors who send the search engines signals that your website is useless.

Just for information, here is my post on objections to ranking based partially on bounce rates.

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