David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

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



How NOT to redesign a website

Nov 20, 2008 - filed under clients, web design, website conversion, website updates 18 Comments

Sorry, but I just have to share this with you.  I won’t bother with the long-winded email exchange between myself, the prospect and Cindy (our designer) – I think my final email message sums it up fairly well (and hopefully fairly diplomatically): 

I understand that you have opted to have your website redesigned for $150 in India.  There are a lot of very talented technicians in India who work for very little.  I am constantly being approached by Indian web folks offering to outsource my web design, SEO, and other items.

I understand that this time you made your decision on the basis of expenditures.  If at some time you decide to choose a website designer based on the income you want it to generate for you, I hope you will look us up.

Best of luck.

Website design is not just about art. It’s about the elements on the page and how they are used to engage visitors, offer them choices, answer their questions and move them through the sales process (or the sign-up process, or the lead generation process, or whatever the goals of the website). This gentleman will most likely waste $150 and a lot of time, probably suffering a fair amount of frustration wondering what went wrong.

Cindy and I are working on preparing a couple pages on website re-design case studies, demonstrating how we have altered the various elements on the home page to help increase conversions.

Link bait lesson from Matt Cutts

Nov 18, 2008 - filed under bookmarking, content, Digg, Google, linking, social media 9 Comments

Matt Cutts, Google’s public face for webmasters and search engine consultants, has shown us how to do link bait.  Oops, I mean, how to do really good quality content.  Yeah, that’s what I meant to say.

Here is the link bait…I mean content:


Note that it is a numbered list, and not a “top 10” list.  Matt chose a top 9 list, which is just a little offbeat..  Note that there are plenty of illustrations.  And the text and images combined are useful – actually demonstrating how to do something – not just silly stuff (although sometimes I like silly stuff, too).

Matt submitted it to Digg: 


As of now, it has 42 Diggs. 

Study it hard, becasue even if your content doesn’t get more than one or two Diggs, this is how the Google guru prepares his content, so you can’t go wrong posting something like this on your website. 

There now, Matt just got a link from me as a result of his quality content.  You see?  It works. 

Canada finally has social bookmarking

Nov 14, 2008 - filed under bookmarking, social media, zoomit canada 7 Comments

If you are a Canadian who enjoys online social networking, you might have spent some time as an orphan.  You don’t find much Canadian coverage at the big US-based social bookmarking websites like Digg and Reddit.  During the heat of the federal election, there was nary a whisper about Harper or Dion – it was all McCain and Obama.  That’s natural, because stories are voted to prominence by the membership, most of whom don’t know whether a Harper bounces nor how one would properly inflate a Dion.

You are no longer an orphan!

We have set up a made-in-Canada social bookmarking website just for you: Zoomit Canada.  If you are Canadian, please come and join.  And please tell all your friends.

If you are not Canadian, please tell all your Canadian friends.  Canadians have plenty to talk about – help us give them somewhere to do it.

Like Digg, but “Canadianer” – Zoomit Canada

Nov 11, 2008 - filed under blogging, social media, zoomit canada 4 Comments

To all those Canadians on social bookmarking websites like Digg and Reddit who were wondering, “Will I ever see a Canadian story make it to the home page?”…

…well, the answer is yes!  In fact, if you rush over right now to Zoomit Canada, you find nothing but Canadian stories on the home page.  That’s because Zoomit Canada is the social bookmarking website made for Canadians:  “Canada’s News, Chosen By You.” 

And if you’re not Canadian, here’s your chance to do all your Canadian friends a favor.  let them know that they can…

  • submit Canadian stories to Zoomit Canada .
  • vote for their favorite stories (actually, it’s spelled “favourite” in Canada)
  • comment on stories to share their opinion.

Like Digg, it’s free.  Unlike Digg, you are welcome to submit your own blog post…so long as it, you or your blog is Canadian, of course.

You Need Sucky Links

Nov 10, 2008 - filed under content, linking, pagerank 18 Comments

I’ve been meaning to blog about your desperate need for sucky links for some time, because I have not seen this aspect of link quality discussed anywhere.

People approach me all the time asking for high-quality links.  Not surprising – who would want low quality links?  But if you ask an SEO consultant to build you only PR6+ links, consider what message that sends to the search engines.

At worst, Google will assume you are buying links to buy PageRank…and we all know how much Google loves link-buying to boost PageRank, don’t we.

At best, the search engines will think your site appeals only to some kind of an elite.  How else would you explain that only high PageRank (high traffic, high-trust, etc.) pages link to your website?  Why do smaller blogs not link there?  How come your website is not included in any normal directories?  Why does this website have no appeal to normal people…and why should we rank it if it has no popular appeal?

No, the search engines won’t ask these questions outright.  But remember that all algorithms are created to simulate what would be normal linking and trust patterns that real people would follow.  Having links only form high quality, top-ranked websites does not look normal.  It’s a giant red flag.

Ironically, the more high-quality links you have, the more poor quality links you need.

By “poor quality”, I do not mean spammy websites.
I do not mean you should be on pages full of words related to
enhancing body parts and gambling away the kids’ inheritance. 

But I do mean, that you want links form websites with a variety of linking profiles, ones that might be new or might not be running any link-building campaigns, ones that we might consider much less significant.  In short, you want a normal linking pattern.

The ideal way to build links is still the tried and true…

Step one, create awesome content such as useful articles, instructional videos, samples and demos, all the things that are generally called “link bait”.

Step two, publicize this content.  If it really is good, many websites will link to it, including top-rated websites and many smaller less significant websites.  They will do it naturally. So you will have a natural linking pattern.

To answer the obvious question, yes you will surely want to put extra effort into publicizing your content to high-trust, authoritative websites.  But those links are the kind of links that less-significant website owners will follow, read and link to, as well.

So don’t forget to get links form a wide variety of insignificant websites as part of your link-building campaign.  With algorithms designed to simulate something like democracy, votes from “the little guys” count, too.

Twitter Grader

Nov 05, 2008 - filed under Twitter 5 Comments

Interesting observation.  I began posting on Twitter on October 9 (Has it really been that long?), and now my account is ranked at 60 out of 100.  “A grade of 60 means that the user scores higher than 60 percent of the other user profiles that have been graded. ”

This is good news.  It means I am doing some top-notch social networking.  No, wait, this is bad news.  I have lots of other things to do with my life.  It’s a hard call, isn’t it.

Here is my Twitter account: http://twitter.com/amabaie

Here is my grade, which will be updated over time: http://twitter.grader.com/amabaie

In fact, here is the badge they offer, which will (I assume) update over time right on this page.

Here is where you can get your Twitter grade and badge for your website: http://twitter.grader.com/

For SEO, Write More Text

Nov 03, 2008 - filed under content, writing 6 Comments

Over at the High Rankings Forum a couple weeks ago, the following question was asked:

“What’s the general consensus on padding your site pages with paragraphs of extra test just for Google or for better page rank? Does it work? I’ve always believed that web sites should be designed for humans and if done well, the search engines will find it. What’s the prevailing wisdom on this?”

You can see the original post at http://www.highrankings.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=37658 …but you won’t see my response.  It must’ve been one of those times when the Internet crashed on me as I was uploading my response.

So for what it’s worth, here it is.

First, you can place a trillion words on your page and it won’t help your PageRank…unless the words are such that will inspire others to think, “Hey, I want to link to this page!”  That’s what PageRank is all about. 

That being said, I am a big more-is-better believer both for the search engines and for real people.  Why? For search engines: If you replace 300 words with 800 words, and the words remain on-topic and keyword relevant, the following will most likely happen: 

1. Your keywords will show up more often.
2. Variations of your keywords will show up more often, as will synonyms that might not have fit into your shorter text.
3. Many other words will show up that could be part of long-tail searches.
4. It is possible that the amount of information on a page might even play a small role in  rankings.

For humans: If you replace 300 words with 800 words, and the words steadily aim to provide increasing explanation/evidence as you scroll down, the following will most likely happen: 

1. Impatient doers will ignore everything below your first “click here” or other call to action, so the added text makes no difference to them.
2. Undecided people, who like your message but are just not sure, will keep reading and you have the chance to convince them.
3. Analytics (people who need lots of info to make a decision) will love you and will be much more likely to follow your call to action.

There is no right answer to this, but for what it’s worth…write!  Write!  Write!

How Long a Title Tag?

Oct 30, 2008 - filed under linking, title tags 17 Comments

This is a tough one.  I have a habit of trying to fit as much into a title tag as possible.  I try to keep it below 12 words as a general guideline, but I know there is a difference between a short 12-word title, such as “Dine in – fast food fair for people who eat on the go” (53 characters) and a long 12-word title, such as “California pipeline producers – environmentally sensitive petroleum infrastructure for transporting energy internationally” (OK, so it’s just 11 words, but it’s 122 characters).

In addition to being the most valuable real estate on a web page, the title tag is also used by many other websites to link to your page.  So someone linking to the pipeline site, might use “California pipeline producers – environmentally sensitive petroleum infrastructure for transporting energy internationally” as the link text.

A new study suggests that Google reads only the first 55 characters of link text, which means that in the above example it would read only “California pipeline producers – environmentally sensiti”.  If you had to target such ridiculously long words for your search market, that would totally suck.  But it does speak to the importance of placing your most important keywords at the beginning of your title tag.  This is where so many websites that put a corporate name of even their domain name at the beginning miss the mark.  It also means trying to keep words like “the” and “and” out of those first 55 characters. 

A couple caveats: Google could at any time change this to 50 characters.  Or 60.  Or 600.  Or 10, for that matter.  So don’t get stuck on the number 55, but focus on the principle.  Yahoo and MSN will have their own limits, too, so don’t stop at 55 if you have something that might get picked up by someone else.  And, of course, the title tag is not primarily about link text, is it? 

Keyword Discovery – New Features

Oct 29, 2008 - filed under keywords 1 Comment

The folks at Trellian have updated my favorite SEO tool, Keyword Discovery.  (Yes, fair disclosure, that’s an affiliate link and I certainly appreciate anyone who uses it.)  Keyword Discovery is my keyword tool of choice, so much more that a cheepie like me pays a monthly fee.  In addition to the detailed keyword research I can do for new clients and to update ongoing clients, I use it to very quickly get a sense of what I might be up against competition-wise when quoting for a potential client.

Here are a few of the latest upgrades to Keyword Discovery, more or less in Trellian’s own words.

KeywordDiscovery Updates:

1. More Keyword Data Options

– With every keyword database you now have the ability to search through
even more data. Along with a recent update a new “Historical” option has
been added to every keyword database view search volume data from August
2006 onwards.

– US Regional specific dataset is now available.
The US keyword database has over 868 Million searches in the 12 month
database and over 1.6 billion in the 2 year historical database.

(Editor’s note.  This will come in handy if you have a website that ships ony to the USA!)

2. Three New Features and Three Improvements

– Adult Filter
This function removes adult based keywords from the search results.

(Editor’s note.  This follows a welcome change I have noticed in Google image search results!)
– Remove Spaces
This function allows searching for search term with and without spaces.

– Domain Score
This is for domainers who are interested to know the search counts for .com
based searches.
For a detailed explanation please see:

– Keyword Density Tool Upgrade
A range of extra filtering, sorting, stop word list and view options have
been added. If you liked the keyword Density tool before, you will be
impressed with the all the new options.

– Export Function Upgrade
You can now select the database for search counts at the export prompt.

– Import Function Upgrade
You can now import directly to a project.

3. New Features Added to the API
For API and Enterprise users only, the API has received a few updates
including the addition of:

– phrase match option
– plural searches
– all regional databases
– all historical databases

All these are incremental changes, of course.  The best part is that you can get recent keyword research to find out what is new in how people are searching, and you can get the high-volume historical research to know what keywords have stood the test of time (and better choose long tail keywords).  Plus, there are a number of country-specific databases.

Offline Links Count, too!

Oct 16, 2008 - filed under linking, marketing, website conversion 13 Comments

This will be a short post (I hope!).  Just a few days ago I returned from some fun in New England, and I was thinking about returning into the mountains of New Hampshire or upstate New York.

So it was with more interest than usual (I didn’t rip it up) that I opened a flyer that read”VOUS venez peut-être de GAGNER un des six forfaits escapade à Lake Placid”.  This delightful and hopeful notice was followed by a website address where I could enter a code to verify that I had indeed won a package to lake Placid: www.LakePlacid/WIN .

So I did.

Or, at least, I tried.

I tried again. 

And again. 

I tried adding .php and .html and .asp … all to no avail.  many people would have given up at this point, or much earlier, but I have a stubborn streak that you really don’t want to catch from me, and finally I figured out what was wrong; they had forgotten to print the .com in the URL.  I knew what to look for, and still it took me a while.  How many people would not have known that a URL is invalid without a TLD?  How many people would have given up without even trying to fix the URL? And most importantly, how much money did the Lake Placid Essex County Visitors Bureau invest in designing and mailing these brochures that were missing four crucial characters?  It is a mistake I am sure they will not let happen again.

When building links, one of the points that even the legions of outsourcing link-builders in India will focus on is that they will make sure to post the correct URL without typos.  Your offline link-building is just as crucial.  In fact, a typo in one online link doesn’t matter too much.  A typo in a pamphlet that hundreds or thousands of people will read matters much more.

By the way, I did not win that package…but I should get an A for effort.  And if nobody else figured out the correct URL, maybe the Lake Placid Essex County Visitors Bureau will award me the prize by default and I’ll get to do some 46er trekking.

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