David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

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

THE HAPPY GUY MARKETING

 

Official Google Blog: Making search better in Catalonia, Estonia, and everywhere else

Mar 30, 2008 - filed under Google, keywords, multilingual SEO, SEO Comments Off on Official Google Blog: Making search better in Catalonia, Estonia, and everywhere else
 

I was reading the official Google blog about how they are making searching more user friendly in Catalonia and Estonia…but really, these were just examples, and what they are doing is just us applicable to New York or Melbourne.  Using an Estonian example, they show how someone looking for a barber would be also considered to be looking for a barbershop.  In other words, Google is working more and more on understanding the meaning of what we search for, not just the words.

For those of us who are searching, this reduces the guesswork of which words the website owners have chosen to use.  For those of us who want Google to recognize the meaning of our wbe pages, it means we have to be more holistic in our explanations.  The text welcoming visitors to the barber’s website should also include words like barbershop, shave, cut, hair, stylist, etc.  It means to worry a little less about keywords and a little more about all-the-possible-keywords your visitors might be using when they think about your products, servicess or topics.

Those of us in the business have known this was coming, and some of us have suspected for a while that Google has been slowly getting better at understanding meaning, alternate spellings and alternative searches (Try searching for metal bending to see what I mean.)  But this talk from Google sends a pretty clear message that they are serious about it and moving forward at a good clip.  And can Yahoo and the rest be far behind? 

Read more about Google’s meaning-based search results

More on multilingual SEO services

A Degree in BS?

Feb 21, 2008 - filed under clients, ethics, writing Comments Off on A Degree in BS?
 

We get requests for all sorts of writing, and every now and then somebody ignores the quote plastered on every page of our website about not doing their school papers for them and cheating them out of an education.  So on occasion we get to ignore a request like this:

I need someone to help me with a continueaction book report  on why should I celebrate thanksgiving , I have done part one  which was 12 pages part 2 need 38 pages  it is just that i have so much to do before I gradurate in may for my B.S. degree form bible college. 

 I think she might have taken the “B.S. degree” thing too literally!

Link Exchanges: It’s not the size of the PR, but how you use it

Feb 08, 2008 - filed under linking, pagerank, SEO 7 Comments
 

If you plan to haggle over PageRank with me…goodbye.

That’s right, I have kicked the habit.  The size of your PageRank doesn’t impress me any more.  PageRank surely is still real, but an individual page’s PR can often shrink or grow so that neither you nor I can really know its real size.

  • The Toolbar PageRank has always been at best an approximation. 
  • Pages that show with PR3 or PR4 in the Google Directory are now often showing PR0 (PR Shrinkage)
  • Whole sites are now showing PR0, even while they continue to rank as well as when their pages showed PR3 – PR4.
  • Increasingly link-pages or directory-style pages are showing PR0, sometimes after showing PR3 or PR4 just a week earlier.
  • The gray bar used to mean a page was not cached in Google – a sure sign of a penalty or a brand new page.  No longer.  Many pages with PR are now displaying the gray bar.
  • Toolbar PageRank is dead!

Until very recently, I was assuming that the Toolbar was only showing false negatives – that if a page showed PR4 it was a pretty good bet that the PR of that page is at least PR4.  But recent observations have lead me to question this assumption, and perhaps I am jumping the gun, but I believe the toolbar is now showing false positives, too.

What I look for in a link exchange

Rather than PageRank, I look for a few other key items on the page where my client’s link will appear:

  • Most importantly, I want to know the page is cached by Google.  Not only is that absolutely vital for the link counting with Planet Earth’s most important search engine, but it is a fairly good indicator of whether other search engines and real human beings will find the page, too.  Not cached?  I won’t even look at any other factors.  This is the show-stopper
  • Is the page relevant to my topic?  If not, it had better be superb in every other area.
  • Is the page relevant (optimized) to my search phrases?  Again, if not, it had better be superb in every other area.
  • Is this page optimized for words like “link exchange” or “reciprocal links”?  Why not just type “SLEAZE” in big bold letters across the top of the page?  And don’t think the search engines can’t read words like “link exchange” or “reciprocal links”.  This is another factor that comes pretty close to being a show-stopper, too.
  • Is the page part of some automated link machine script?  Let’s face it, you don’t want to send the search engines a message that, “Hey, I can’t get real links from real people who just love my site, so instead I found an automated script to keep me warm at night.”  This is usually a show-stopper, too.
  • Once I see that a page is cached and passes the four eyeball tests above, it’s time to get critical.  The first thing I look for is a page that can easily be found.  If the page is one of 50 categories in a directory whose main page is linked only from the home page, that’s not a very good sign. Two clicks deep, and sharing link-juice with 50 categories?  I don’t think so.
  • I also check that the page is not the last in a series of pages that link one from the other…that’s how many clicks deep from the home page?  Never go to dance with someone if she’ll make you stand in line to dance.
  • I like a page that is either directly linked to from the home page or is linked to from a page that is in the sitewide template.  From an internal linking perspective, this tells the search engines that the page actually counts.  And you want your link to count.
  • Of course, I also look at the quality of the website overall.  Is this a website that likely carries a lot of trust value?  Does it rank well for similar search terms to the ones I am targeting?  Is the link directory full of all sorts of totally unrelated categories, perhaps some of them even unsavory?  If this website sleeps around too much, be careful what you might catch.
  • Is the page a content page?  I can forgive a number of other items for a genuine link in the midst of a page of text.
  • Is my link last on a page with 500 links?  I really prefer pages with 50 or fewer links, but if there are more, I am fine with having our link added near the top of the list, but not at the bottom.

Tell me you have a high-trust website and a linking page that is well linked internally, relevant to my search phrases and clean from the flotsam that shouts out “sleaze”.  But don’t tell me your page has bigger PageRank than mine.  It’s not the size that counts; it’s how you use it.

Title Tag Clinic for Training Websites

Feb 01, 2008 - filed under SEO, title tags, traffic, website conversion Comments Off on Title Tag Clinic for Training Websites
 

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! 

SEO tetsimonial – Woo Hoo!

Jan 29, 2008 - filed under clients, SEO Comments Off on SEO tetsimonial – Woo Hoo!
 

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..

Google Toolbar False Positives

Jan 28, 2008 - filed under Google, linking, pagerank 1 Comment
 

For some time I have been pretty much ignoring PageRank in the Google Toolbar.  I know too many sites that lost big PR on certain pages and not others or lost it across the board, all with no noticeable affect in their rankings. 

More and more I see that link pages on websites register PR 0 (solid white bar) or no PR whatsoever (solid gray bar, which used to mean a site with a penalty) but which I can see by the PR of the rest of the website and the link structure should be all countr by PR2 or PR3 if not more.

But I have been assuming that the Toolbar shows PR lower than reality, never higher.  That is, it gives lots (and lots and lots and lots) of false negatives, but never any false positives.  However, lately my faith has been shaken.  There have been a couple offers of link swaps involving pages that just intuitively should not have such a high PageRank.  Today one of them struck me as odd enough, that I though I would blog about it.

This is a home page of a website that, according to both Google and Yahoo has 2 pages and shows less than 300 backlinks at Google.  Furthermore, it is a blog with just two posts, both from 5 days ago.  How would it get to be PR5, which takes a lot more links than it once did?  And why am I suddenly getting an email for a home page link swap (becasue the savvy owner realises that he has something to capitalize on quickly before it turns to dust!)?

Don’t trust that green and white bar. 

Certificate Error Message

Jan 28, 2008 - filed under Internet, Yahoo Comments Off on Certificate Error Message
 

Have you ever been to visit a website only to get a message in your browser window saying the site has a certificate error and recommending that you do not visit the site?  I wonder how many people are scared off from this. 

One of the sites I manage has always had this problem when accessing the control panel.  I know there is no danger, so it doesn’t stop me, but it does mean an extra irritating click every time.  And it does not affect users, just me.  Yes, Microsoft has probably been watching me for years, carefully waiting for the right moment to strike.

Anyway, today I noticed that Yahoo’s SiteExplorer sub-sub-domain gives the same error.  I assume it will be “fixed” soon, but it is heartening to know that even one of the biggest websites on the planet gets this kind of annoying bug, too. 

Google is Tops

Jan 08, 2008 - filed under Google, SEO Comments Off on Google is Tops
 

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.

Google gets social with StumbleUpon

Dec 04, 2007 - filed under bookmarking, Google, social media, StumbleUpon 2 Comments
 

For the past week, I have been noticing three little icons beside certain entries in the search results.  One of them is the StumleUpon logo, and when hovering my cursor over the logo it says “read 4 reviews” , or whatever number applies to that listing.  The other two logos, stars and a word bubble, are attached to the same StumbleUpon reviews.

So what does this mean?  Well, for starters, it is one whopper of an endoresement of StumbleUpon.  Just for fun, I googled “Google buys StumbleUpon” to see if the obvious is true, and surprisingly the results show that Google actually bought a “competitor” to StumbleUpon not that long ago.  Perhaps that makes this an even stronger endorsement.

In any event, what this means for you and your websites:

1. Make sure you get your website reviewed.

2. Make sure you get your website positively rated.

I am certain that before long, stumbling client pages will become a standard tactic of all SEO specialists.  In fact, there might even one day be a StumbleUpon arms race, just as there has developed a link-exchange arms race these days.  If you don’t have your StumbleUpon account yet, it’s time to sign up. 

So if you like this blog or even just this post, please take a moment to click “I like it!” on your StumbleUpon toolbar and write a wonderfully glowing review. 

Link Building by the Specs? No Thank You!

Nov 30, 2007 - filed under linking, pagerank, rankings, SEO Comments Off on Link Building by the Specs? No Thank You!
 

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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