Testing Link Depth: Updated

Let’s see how a couple links affect crawl depth. Ignore test please.

Capture picture-perfect memories with digital cameras designed to meet your needs. Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a pro. Digital Cameras: Here.

Shop the hottest styles and trends in women’s clothing, including shoes, swimwear, perfect wear-to-work looks and accessories. Women’s Clothing: Here.

Update me Google.

NOTE: Cached HP cached on (1/27). Individual post cached on (1/27).

Added the below on 1/28.

Testing a previously uncached URL (1/28): Compare prices from other stores.

Testing a previously uncached URL (1/28) Dell Alienware M11X.

Testing a previously uncached URL (2/4) Compare prices from other stores.

Testing a previously uncached URL (2/7) Compare prices from other stores.

CRAWL ME

Testing a new URL (2/15) Crawl this and this. Let’s see if some additional links and content going to a new URL does anything. Test. Test. Ignore. Thanks.

Google Caffeine

The new Google sandbox has been out for a couple days now and I’m seeing a ton of spammy results.

Google turned up the domain authority way up in the new sandbox. Some on page stuff looks like it got tweaked higher too.

Update: Looks like topical relevancy got tweaked up also. One of our subdomains started ranking a lot better in caffeine vs live.

More notes:

  • Exact Domains = Win
  • Better semantic relationship detection
  • Unique domain links stronger
  • Universal search getting less prominence
  • Faster indexing
  • Time based results dropping faster

Update: Looks like results are starting to roll out. You’ll know if you see results that have been indexed within a couple minutes of going live.

Testing how Google is reacting to faster updates and refreshed content. As more and more factors are temporal based, Google is going to continue to favor relevant content that has been recently updated (it could be content update, backlink updates, or query rate changes).

Looks like Google still hasn’t released Caffeine live across the board. I’d expect to see some big announcement on the official blog when they do.

Update: Haiti & Google – http://www.google.com/relief/haitiearthquake/

Update: So while there hasn’t been announcement about Caffeine yet, I’m seeing new page updates within 5 minutes on Google’s end. Fastest I’ve seen is 30 seconds (not including real-time which is a totally different thing). If you’ve been noticing a trend of small short updates, I’m testing something. Ignore me. Nothing going on here. Really nothing going on here.

Mayor Bloomberg Getting into the SEO Game

Sounds like Mayor Bloomberg is getting read to SEO up NYC.gov:

The Mayor also announced that the City is working with Google to use Google search patterns to better understand the usage of NYC.gov and ultimately improve site content. By analyzing trends for New York City-related searches made by Google users, the City will tailor content to user preferences and improve costumer service.

Source: New York Future Initiative

Free Link Tips

Tired of directory and article submissions? Here are some tips for getting quality free links to your websites.

1. Profile Pages

Profile pages are essentially pre-sell pages. The links come from keyword rich pages (since you provide the content) and these links can include deep links. Depending on how the profile page is setup, the links may be located in the editorial block.

For example, both MySpace and Squidoo offer great profile pages. These profile pages are located one level off from the main domain. You can place multiple links within a large amount of text.

MySpace

Every account as MySpace has access to a profile page. Take a look at an example profile. Here you can see a decent amount of text with links sprinkled in the content, along with some nice anchor text.

Squidoo

Squidoo is even better. In addition to a profile section, Squidoo allows you to create individual topic pages called Lenses. Each of these lenses can be topic specific and include multiple links. Think of Squidoo lenses as hosted information pages. Here’s a quick example of a lense. Squidoo plans to share revenue with its lensemasters in the future.

2. Real Time Aggregators

Real time aggregators like memeorandum and megite are great for keeping updated with the latest news. From a SEO standpoint, sites like these represent a great vehicle for free links – provided you take the time to figure out how these sites rank.

Washington Post Trackbacks

The Washington Post supports trackbacks on many of their blogs. Similar to other trackback systems, they’ll toss you a link if you send them a trackback. With the immense number of blogs/content over at the Washington Post, you’ll find it fairly easy to come up with a blog post that is worth linking to. For example this one. (As opposed to straight out trackback spamming)

Memeorandum / Megite.com / Tailrank /Chuquet

These sites are real time aggregators – all run on different algorithms so you’ll have to take the time to figure out what works for you. A general tip, once you are in the system you can rehash whatever is on the front page and typically get a link.

Here’s a hint:

Megite works as the following:

Input:

a bunch of keywords, or a list of news or blog sites for a category

Process:

step 1) The sytem uses those keywords or the list to find more blogs or news site from the web. We called it data mining or auto discovery.

step 2) Some magic algorithm and ranking are used to discover the relevent and important blog posts or news.

step 3) learn from the discovered news and posts and infer more blogs and news site, then back to step 2) or output the intermedia results and push them to Megite web site.

3. Hosted Content

In addition to the big hosted blog sites like blogger, typepad, and wordpress.com – you can tap into other hosted content sites for links.

Gather.com

Gather.com is like an article repository that shares revenue with its authors. Here is an example Gather.com article.

The bonus with all these sites is that the better your content is, the better results you get. Better links, more natural traffic and in the case of Gather.com and Squidoo some extra cash too.

Large SEO Firms Suck?

I’ve been meaning to write something about this topic for a while, but never really got around to it. Do large SEO firms suck?

Jim Boykin, CEO of WeBuildPages, has ranted before about large SEO firms:

I don’t get it…I just don’t get it…people pay huge money to huge SEO companies and the get very fancy meta tags and keyword analysis for their 12 month contract…I think I’ve ranted about this before…but how do these big companies get away with selling “meta tag and on page optimization” for 12 month contracts…and NO LINK BUILDING…I just don’t get it!…here’s another kicker…I know that some of these big companies (including the big SEO company name I removed above) have people who work for them who know better…they just gotta know that meta tags and on page optimization alone can’t do squat for rankings…I don’t get it.

Maybe I shouldn’t bitch…the more of the big companies that continue to do 1997 SEO, the better my company looks, and the more of their clients I’m going to take from them (because the biggest part of our work involves working on getting our clients links).

Rand’s post from last week addressed this too.

Both Dana and I commented that we had received many phone calls from customers of large SEO firms who had been unsatisfied with customer service, client relations and, most frequently, quality of work. I had hoped it was just me, but I think it’s a trend in the corporate world that large service providers suffer in many aspects of the services they offer. Dana and I talked specifically about some notable examples of big names in the SEO industry who had gone to work for large firms and, subsequently, left due to disagreement in how the company was managing their customers and their employees.

As most of you know, I work for Search Engine Optimization Inc (SEO Inc) – one of the larger west coast SEO firms. I’d like to think we are doing an awesome job for our clients. We pay a great deal of attention to every single client and take a consultative approach to everything we do. This allows us to tailor our campaigns and ensure high quality work.

But I’d like to hear what you think. Do you think large SEO firms suck? What can be done better? What are the typical unsatisfactory issues? Which large firms do you like? Which large firms don’t you? Why?

How can you tell if an SEO firm is good?

I think it’s pretty simple, would their competition recommend them to you? This is why Rand’s list of recommended SEO firms is so useful. Every firm listed is being vouched for by their competition. That’s much better than a client testimonial in my book.

What are your thoughts on large SEO firms?

Optimization vs User Experience

I’ve run into this problem many times:

Before optimization a site is converting about 3% of its traffic. After optimization, it’s converting about 2% of its traffic but I’ve increased the traffic to the site by 50%. Not bad right? I only lost about 1% conversion, but I’ve increased traffic by a whopping 50%.

Some quick math shows that I haven’t done anything to help the site’s overall goal.

100 visitors x 3% conversion = 3 visitors converting
150 visitors x 2% conversion = 3 visitors converting

Quite often, small changes will affect the conversion rate of a page – a couple more footer links, some content rewording, or a revised title. All your efforts could easily sabotage your returns.

Obviously usability and search engine optimization can go hand in hand – they aren’t mutually exclusive. But what if you need to choose between one or the other to spend on? Should you allocate your budget for marketing or improving user experience? Or what makes more sense for a successful website?

I’d start off focusing on a web site’s usability and user experience, long before I’d allocate funds for marketing. You should too.

Why?

First, improving your user experience/usability augments the effectiveness of your marketing campaign. It doesn’t go the other way around.

Second, marketing costs are limited by time. If you stop paying for PPC or SEO – your traffic will begin to taper off too. Not so with improvements to usability, since generally it is a one time thing. (Of course, you probably want to continually improve your user experience)

Third, dollar for dollar it’s hard for marketing to generate the same amount of returns investing in your user experience will generate. Let’s say your current conversion rate is 1% and through usability testing / conversion tweaks, you are able to increase that to 2%. In order for marketing to return the same amount of overall conversions, you would have to increase your traffic by 100%. On top of that, you would need to keep those traffic gains consistent all the time.

Fourth, many usability tweaks are common sense. For example, take a look at this thread over at Webmaster World, many of the tips are simple and would not cost anything other than a few minutes of your time.

Focus on a good user experience first, then place your efforts into your search engine marketing campaigns. Not before.

Anyone else have a story about optimization/marketing campaigns that affected conversions (for better or worse)?

W3C Teaches You How to Build a Better Web Page

I was looking at some of my referrers and I noticed someone from w3.org had linked to one of my articles. Turns out the link came from their new working draft on web content accessibility. I spent some time reading through the working draft and was amazed at the amount of good information in the document.

The document is a comprehensive guide of the techniques you can use to conform to web content accessibility guidelines. Although the guide is not written from a search engine marketing standpoint, most of the document’s techniques are applicable for search engine optimization.

Here are a couple other w3 documents that can help you craft better web pages:
http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/
http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/
http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20-HTML-TECHS/

WebmasterWorld Dropped from Google Due to Robots.txt

It didn’t take long for Google and MSN to drop WebmasterWorld completely from their indexes after Brett Tabke changed WebmasterWorld’s robots.txt to disallow all spiders. WebmasterWorld is not showing up in Google or MSN and I’m sure Yahoo is soon to follow.

I know Brett is making a point here about resources being consumed by search engine spiders, but banning them entirely and not providing an alternative site search is a horrible decision from a user stand point.

Danny Sullivan has more indepth coverage about the changes at WebmasterWorld and the recent delisting from the search engines.

Remixing Spam

Jason Dowdell thinks search engine optimization spammers are remix artists.

Using other people’s creative works to produce your own creative work is the essence of remixing. When done right the results are amazing and can be found in all forms of media. From dangermouse to Tarantino, we’re all familiar with the results of good remixes. But I see another form of remixing most people don’t understand and may not agree with me on. I think seo spammers are remix artists of sorts, at least these days anyway.

I agree in part with Jason – content remixing is an art. Take a look at Technorati’s Live 8 page. The page is a great example of content remixing. Blog posts are aggregated to form new content combined with important links. So by remixing other pieces of content, Technorati has created something new and useful. If you search for “live 8″, you’ll notice Technorati’s Live 8 page outranks the Live 8 homepage. Is this SEO spam? Or is this content remixing? Is it the same?

No.

Compare Technorati’s Live 8 page to the many scraper sites. They both generate content dynamically, they both display advertisements, and they both were created to rank well in search engines.

So what’s the difference?

Scraper sites do not create anything for the public – no new value is brought to life through the scraper’s efforts. Content remixers use other people’s works to create a new experience. Scrapers recycle experiences.

Google, MSN, Yahoo Treat HTML Character Entities Differently

For last week’s SEO Quiz, I spent some time researching HTML character entities in order to maintain valid xhtml code.

For instance, the encoding for » is ». During my research on HTML entities, I noticed that the search engines differ in the way they convert query input.

Google converts encoded HTML into the character it represents, before processing the query. I’ll use Õ as an example. The character Õ is encoded as Õ

A search for “Õ” in Google returns results for the letter “O” and “Õ”. I’m guessing that Google knows that “Õ” is a variation of the letter “O”. In MSN, however, a search for “Õ” returns the same results as a search for “213″. This means MSN strips all escaping characters before processing the search. Yahoo processes a search for “Õ” the same way MSN does. Try a search for “A” and “A” in all the search engines to get a better feel for the differences.

Additionally, Google returns a different error message than MSN and Yahoo. A search for “$” (the encoding of “$”) returns nothing in Google. There is no error message, no results returned, nothing. A search for “$” returns the same thing.

Since MSN and Yahoo strip the escaping characters, the query is still processed and results are returned for a search of “36″. A search for “$” returns an error message explaining that there are no results containing “$”.

Interesting to see the differences between the engines and how they convert queries before processing. I’m suprised that Google doesn’t return any error message for these searches, but it looks like they are the only engine out of the big three that converts HTML entities before processing.

Back to Basics – Indexing

Sometimes we all get caught up with the torrent of search engine marketing news that comes out daily. Every day there is another Google update, some new technique to use, some old technique to avoid. Sites get banned, rankings go up, pages disappear – it’s very hectic at times.

In the midst of the all the chaos, it is good to take a step back from time to time.

So let’s spend a little time discussing the most basic idea behind search engine optimization: Indexing.

Before you can begin to think about optimizing a page’s title tags, content, links – one thing needs to be certain, that page needs to be indexable.

There could be many factors holding back your web page from being indexed.

Perhaps there is an error in your robots.txt?
Maybe your web server is blocking directory contents?
Is there JavaScript or broken code within your page?
Are there any incoming text links to the page?
Are there any automatic redirects from the page?
Is your site using frames or only flash?
Is your entire site navigation in JavaScript? A dropdown?
Are your meta tags telling robots to not index?
Is your site full of duplicate content, invisible content, or hidden links?
Did you buy a banned domain?

Making sure nothing is preventing your pages from being indexed will save you a lot of trouble later on.

Search Bistro Cooking With Fire

Search Bistro’s Henk van Ess and GoogleGuy are having a tiff over Henk’s posts covering Google’s evaluation methods. In a 12+ page thread over at WebmasterWorld, Henk and GoogleGuy are engaged in a heated exchange that makes for a great read. Just keep in mind, it is no surprise that Google is evaluating the quality of its search results. I would be shocked if they didn’t.

Henk’s reporting, although crossing the lines a bit, has uncovered interesting details regarding Google’s feedback process. But don’t read more into the documents than they really contain. This program collects feedback & quality ratings about Google’s algorithms and does not directly influence Google’s search rankings.

Continue reading

Google Updates Information for Webmasters

Google sneaked in a couple new lines in the Webmaster Guidelines. Make sure you check out all the new pages over at the Webmaster Guidelines – great information straight from Google.

Have other relevant sites link to yours.
Submit a sitemap as part of our Google Sitemaps (Beta) project. Google Sitemaps uses your sitemap to learn about the structure of your site and to increase our coverage of your webpages.
Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.

PageRank is a measure of global popularity, since it measures how many pages in the entire index is linking back to you. PageRank by itself does not consider any other information, like the relevancy of anchor text or the topic of the original page.

But here, Google is telling us that they are focusing on the value of relevant topical links, which sounds like local popularity to me. Bye Bye PageRank, Hello LocalRank?

Update: Forgot to mention that Google has always been using some sort of local popularity analysis for its rankings. I’m thinking they are placing a bigger public emphasis on it now.

Update #2: Gary Price at SEW notices a couple more additions. Google explains what to do when moving a web site to a new IP and what the differences are between the supplemental index and the main index. Make sure you read the section on returning pages for a specific country. Great information.

Google Sitemaps with WordPress

I spent a little time and worked up some php code that generates a Google Sitemap from a WordPress site. The php code generates a Google Sitemap xml file with all your posts ordered by time – newest posts first. Here’s a link to my Google Sitemap so you can see how it looks.

I’m sure there are ways to improve on my code so go right ahead. If you do, just leave me a comment. I might want to download it from you.

Just copy this code into a php file.

You can refer back to my previous post to read more about the Google Sitemaps Protocol and how you can submit your Google Sitemap.

Update: Wanted to point out that this generates a Google Sitemap from all your posts. There is no page support or category support. It is real basic and can definitely be improved.

Update #2: I won’t be writing a plugin for this since Arne Brachhold has already written a great one. Thanks Arne.

Breaking Down Google Sitemaps XML

Since Danny Sullivan already covered the overview of Google Sitemaps, I’m going to take some time to explain the Sitemap protocol.

What is the Google Sitemap Protocol?

The Google Sitemap Protocol allows you to tell Google what URLs on your web site is ready to be crawled. The Sitemap contains a list of URLs and some meta data about the URL such as when they were last modified, how frequently the content changes, and the priority of the page relative to other pages.

The Google Sitemap is in an XML format using some very simple XML tags. So if you know how to alter HTML files, you will be fine with Google Sitemaps. XML is a bit more strict than HTML, so you will need to remember to encode all your data values (fix those &’s!).

Continue reading

Google Sitemaps Accepts Page Feeds For Indexing

Google just launched a new program called Google Sitemaps, allowing webmasters to submit individual pages (in a feed format) for faster indexing.

Danny Sullivan has a comprehensive review of the program, so I’ll skip the overview.

The big thing here is you can tell Google which pages to crawl and how often to come back. Google does not promise that they will crawl your pages, but they do say they will make an effort.