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May 2007 Archives

May 16, 2007

Better B2B Landing Pages: A Case Study

Strictly Business - A Column From Search Engine Land
If your goal is to make Google richer with no gain for your yourself, then stop reading. You don’t need to worry about landing pages or conversions. But if your goal is to grow your own business using search, then you must pay as much—or more—attention to converting traffic into leads as you do to getting traffic in the first place.

To understand how to improve conversion rates for B2B lead generation sites, let’s take a look at the search marketing campaign of KAYDON Bearings. I’ll analyze and comment on the mistakes they are making (in my opinion), and offer suggestions for how they can improve. Note: I have no relationship with KAYDON, and chose to use them for this case study arbitrarily.

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Search Illustrated: Improving Rankings Through Keyword Clustering

Search Illustrated - A Column From Search Engine Land
Early information retrieval systems were fairly basic programs designed to essentially to find a match between search terms in a query and those same words appearing in documents. As search has evolved, however, simple keyword-based matching is only one of dozens of factors used to find relevant documents related to a searcher’s query.

Because searchers are often parsimonious with query terms, search engines need to develop contextual models to help them better understand both queries and web documents. Search optimizers can leverage this by optimizing not just isolated keywords, but keyword clusters that offer a richer context of meaning for a search engine to chew on.

Today’s Search Illustrated graphic depicts this approach:

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May 17, 2007

The Ranking Roller Coaster Cause And Effect

There are many reasons why your site might lose search engine result rankings. Some of those reasons can be traced to a particular fault while others just occur in the natural course of life. In essence, rankings change because change happens.

But understanding what causes typical loss of rankings can give us a better insight into sea of search engine ranking fluctuations and help prevent serious long-term effects caused by a sudden drop in search engine rankings. While we can never prevent all losses of search engine rankings, understanding the reasons why changes occur can, at least, help you make your presence in search results more stable over all.

Reasons for ranking drops (and rises) can be boiled down to three things: Your site changes, competitors’ sites change, or the search engine algorithm changes. Or any combination of those three. Let’s look at each of these individually.

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Search Friendly CMS Does Not Equal Search Optimized One

100% Organic - A Column From Search Engine Land
Having a supposedly “search engine friendly” website isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it can be quite a disappointment. That’s because it’s not the same thing as being “search engine optimized.” I’ve seen the words “search engine friendly” bandied about quite a lot, particularly to market and sell blog platforms, shopping carts, and content management systems. But buyer beware: That won’t necessarily correlate to high search engine rankings out of the box.

Make no mistake about it—there is a huge difference between implementing a “search engine friendly” platform versus architecting and building your website to be “search engine optimal.” Generally speaking, the term “search engine friendly” describes design elements, menus, URLs, content management systems and shopping carts that are easy to optimize, while search engine optimization is all about improving the volume and quality of search-referred traffic to a website.

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Strategies For Inducing Editorial Links

Hypothesis: PR5 and up sites retain PR better than PR4 and below. Fact: Not true, especially if you have paid links, as Loren pointed out earlier today. With the recent Google PR rollout, I’ve seen PR5 sites go down when they had no Google ads and PR5 sites stay level when they had AdSense. That in itself is no proof, merely an observation. What’s apparent, however, is that Google is discounting all sorts of links they don’t like now, for whatever reason, and sometimes relying on snitches to do the work for them. If you’re worried about your site’s PR, what can you do? Build more links, of course.

However, let’s take a different viewpoint of linkbuilding: that of other readers who are a bloggers/ webmasters themselves. What can you do to honestly, cleanly induce editorial links? The old saw: produce good content, but not just any content.

Editorial links are the best kind of links, the kind Google wants you to build. In the normal course of website operation, you will accumulate backlinks. But unless you are producing linkworthy content on a daily basis, the process is slow. Let’s consider a few related strategies.

For better or for worse, I write for other people on a number of websites that range in PR from 5 to 7. I also have my own sites that range from 0 to 5. So I have seen a reasonable spectrum of sites for the past year, and seen how an action on my part is or isn’t received.

One thing that I’ve been doing lately is adding more and more visual content to my websites and that of others – not for any conscious reason, but merely to add more depth to my content. I could also add audio podcasts, but I’m not yet sure that it would have as much response as my visual content has been receiving. (Please see my Performancing post, Creating visual content for your blog, for a few specific suggestions.)

You should keep in mind that trends change, and to aggressively induce external backlinks to your site, you have to keep being innovative, maybe mix things up. Clue: rich media is in, and it’s going to continue to be in.

Here’s a quick summary of types of content that I’ve seen draw link attention in the past year:

  1. Lists.
    Everyone likes a good list, if it’s relevant and saves them time or informs them in a way they haven’t been informed. Lists of resources, lists of rules, lists of things you can do, or whatever. But a list without outbound links isn’t as linkworthy. It’s just a list and shows little effort, unless each item is very indepth. Add something of your personality to each listbait you create, something uniquely yours – at least until others start emulating you.

  2. Free blog themes.
    Though the rumor is that big G will discount these sorts of links. That’s not as bad as a penalty, and there’s still traffic to be gained in the effort. A good theme will continue to at least draw traffic, which might consist of other bloggers that decide to link to you editorially. So you could still gain “legit” links.

  3. Diagrams.
    Some of my diagrams have been pulling a bit of weight, link-wise, lately. Adding a relevant and professional-looking diagram to your content is a worthwhile effort, and on some blogs, I’m doing this for nearly every post. My diagramming inspiration often comes from what I’ve seen at idagram and infosthetics, as well as years of producing infographics as both a programmer/ webmaster and a technical writer. One web-based freebie is Gliffy. If you prefer something more like Fireworks and Illustrator, there’s the free Inkscape. I use that sometimes, and I also splurged and bought SmartDraw (non-affiliate link) – which I use for the diagrams on Search Engine Journal and others, with good response.

  4. Audio podcasts.
    Despite having been a community radio co-host and show producer for a friend, I’m treading lightly on producing audio-only rich media. I can’t produce my old DJ Chaos shows for the web without worrying about the copyright fee problems that Last.fm and Pandora have been having of late. I’m waiting on this.

  5. Video channels.
    I’ve started placing SplashCast players on several of my sites. I take 20-30 minutes here and there to produce different audio and visual content for each “channel” – even if that amounts to selecting a few images from Flickr and some videos from YouTube. Put in a bit of effort in the presentation and/or the theme of the rich media content. Don’t just slap a few things together haphazardly. Think of a theme and create a suitable playlist. Keep adding new playlists.

    I have an example SplashCast channel at NewMediaJones (which is duplicated larger on my personal site). Once you hit the Play button, hovering your mouse over the player will show the channel guide link at top left. Click on that to see the different “shows” I’ve put together using YouTube music videos. Each new show has a different theme.

    In addition to the player, to draw traffic, I’m posting the playlists, which are rich with well-known music artists’ names. The theory is that the playlists will draw traffic and teamed with a media player, eventually, editorial links. Million channels of TV, anyone?

  6. Maps.
    Don’t just add a map to your article. If you have geographic information lurking in your content, see if you can’t plot relevant points on a map. Try Google Map’s new My Maps feature to do this. You’ll see a tab marked “My Maps” to the left of the map window. You can drop a variety of point icons and text for each, hyperlinking them to other sites. Could be a nice mapbait lurking there for you, especially if you write in the travel or world news niches, but even if not.

  7. Miscellaneous visual content.
    There are loads of other free applications (downloadable and web) that produce visual content of all sorts. Probably the type that has produced the most positive reaction has been my fractal images, created with the very cool, very free Apophysis. The images I’ve produced with Apophysis and posted at two of my sites last Summer and Fall continue to draw traffic from Google ImageSearch and the occasional editorial link. Because this application creates such a variety of fractal images, it’s likely you’ll find something to suit the nature of your site, regardless of topic.

It’s my new hypothesis that it will take innovation in blogging, and employing rich content, to compete for editorial links, to induce other bloggers to grant you valuable backlinks. These are the type that Google seems to value greatly, and not surpringly. And since Google marketshare is so large, and a Microsoft/ Yahoo merger not currently in the works, it should obvious where your linkbuilding efforts should lie.

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May 18, 2007

Google Book Search Expands

Although Google currently has a wealth of books in their Google Book Search database this isn’t enough either for them or us, so they’ve taken steps to improve the situation. If you now do a search you’ll find references to millions of books that they haven’t yet digitized. You can then click on an “About the Book” page where you can find basic book information such as author, title, publication date, and where possible, reviews and web references. Since Google hasn’t yet digitized these books, you won’t be able to preview or search the text, but when you find a book that interests you, they are offering links to places where you can buy it at a bookstore or borrow it from a library.

It’s a sensible move on Google’s part, and pushes the blending of results a little further. After all, if I’m interested in a book and I can’t find it in the digitized collection I’m still going to be interested in it, and this is a helpful move. I was impressed with the currency of the database, and the easy availability of options to limit searching from All Books to Limited Preview to Full View. In summary – a really good improvement on the service providing immediate benefits to all searchers.

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May 20, 2007

Post-Acquisitions, Google & Microsoft Should Offer A (Free) Bone To Search Marketers

One month ago I mused about possible impact of Google’s DoubleClick acquisition on SEM agencies and bid management tool vendors. This week’s Microsoft acquisition of aQuantive sheds an interesting new light on the situation.

As I reported, DoubleClick (and now Google) sells a powerful PPC bid management system called DART Search. Features include one-screen management of ad campaigns on Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, Microsoft adCenter and other services. It also allows automated bid price management according to rules set by the advertiser. So, for example, bid prices can rise or fall depending on position or ROI goals.

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