Tag Archives: SEO

What not to do for SEO

What Not To Do for SEO

The work of SEO has changed a lot since I started doing it in 1998.  In those days, the task was to use tricks to portray the content of the site as being more narrowly focused on certain terms than it actually was, in order to rank high on those terms.  Since those days, search engines have become a lot more sophisticated, so the old methods to trick them aren’t as useful anymore.  However, I’m surprised that I still see some of these techniques being used, so it’s useful to lay out methods that you shouldn’t try (anymore) because they’re more likely to give you low rankings in search results than high rankings!

To understand the whole business of SEO, it’s best to think of search engines as businesses.  Their customers are the people who are searching; they want to satisfy those customers so that they’ll come back and search again, so that the search engines can offer them ads to read.  How do they satisfy their customers?  They want their customers to get good results from search!  They want to give high ranking to sites that have lots of up-to-date, in-depth content that’s relevant to the search being conducted.

Keyword Stuffing

The ultimate method for keyword stuffing used to be putting lists of desirable keywords at the bottom of each page, with the text in the same color as the background.  Site visitors couldn’t see it, but the search engines could, and potentially give high ranking because of the presence of these important keywords.  That particular technique was especially easy for search engines to detect and ignore.  Or, having detected this egregious form of keyword stuffing, the search engine might even reduce the site’s ranking below where it would be without any keyword stuffing, on the principle that a deceptive practice is being used, and other, undetected deceptions may also have been used.

You also see lists of keywords at the top of a page or at the bottom of a page.  Understand that this is the oldest trick in the SEO book, one that search engines learned about long ago.  It won’t help, and may actually hurt.

Writing for the Googlebot

The old idea was to settle on a single keyword for a Web page, and use it at the start, again and again through the text, and once more at the end.  In addition, be sure to provide all the variations such as singular and plural, so that the search engines, and Google in particular, will see all the words.

This is not only no longer necessary, but unnecessarily stilted writing for the bots will be detected and may actually hurt your ranking in search results.

Article Directories

About five years ago, article directories were popular for SEO.  The idea was that you’d write articles for directories, including your URL, and the posted article would give you a link from a site with a lot of content.  A lot of people did this, because it worked.  However, these days this technique simply doesn’t work and may even harm your ranking in search results.

The first problem with article directories is duplication.  Google wants to present a searcher with different content in the different sites that it summarizes in search results, so it abhors duplicate content.  This means that placement of the same article in many directories won’t be helpful.  There is “spinning” software available to substitute words in articles so that they look different, but these days Google can detect spinning as well, so even spun articles can get you into trouble.

Another problem with article directories is that they are often repositories of poor quality content.  They’ll have articles that are full of spelling and grammatical errors, that are also easy for Google to detect as poor quality.  Some sites using article directories may hire writers to produce low-cost, “unique” articles, often getting very poor quality results that get posted in article directories.

If you’re writing articles in your field, the best place for them is on your own site!  Start a blog and write for it regularly.  That’ll provide a steady flow of relevant, fresh content, just what Google loves to deliver to their customers, the searchers, those people we want to have as our customers too.  In addition, you can be a guest blogger in other influential sites, and link back to your own site.

Article directories just don’t have a place in your SEO strategy today.  

Article Spinning

Occasionally you’ll see ads for software to spin articles.  They will exclaim that a new level of AI is being used to produce really intelligent spins, new articles from old that don’t look like the old ones at all but read beautifully.

Now you can have it all, they’ll say.  Copy content from authoritative sites, spin it and put it onto your own site–it’ll never be detected as a copy, and you’ll have new, quality content.  Or take your own content spin it and put it on other sites that you build that link to your site.  Now your site will be seen as authoritative!

Don’t believe it.  Computer programs do not write as well as people do–you’re most likely to have just a jumble of barely readable copy.  And given Google’s growing ability to detect spinning, you’re just getting yourself into trouble, either now or down the road.

Stay away from article spinners.  This will save you a lot of time because they are usually considerably more work to set up and get working than the advertising tells you.

Buying Links

Google’s big innovation was to measure the importance of a site by the importance and number of links to it from other sites, and the importance of those sites.  A logical way to be seen as more important, then, is to get links from important sites.

Clever entrepreneurs noticed this also, and launched various schemes for selling links from high-authority sites.  You pay your money, and you get a link to your site.  As you can guess, this directly undermines Google’s most basic method for measuring the importance of a site, so they have been very concerned about link buying for a long time.  They’ve put great effort into detecting sites that sell links, so if you deal with them you’re at risk.

Google is always interested in learning about sites that are selling links.  They don’t tell us, but I’d guess that one of their important methods for detecting link selling is through voluntary reporting.  If I’m offered links for sale, I’ll be sure to check my clients’ competitors’ incoming links for any signs of these purchased links, so that I can report them to Google!  I’m not the only SEO professional who does this, I’m sure.

Don’t buy links!  It’s a waste of your money.

Multiple Redirected URLs 

Yes, we know that Google tends to give a site high ranking on the words that make up the URL.  I’m reading in search engine blogs that this is less important than it once was.  However, in the domain of small business where I work, your site will tend to rank better on the terms in your URL.  Yes, for large businesses brands are important; but for a business that’s too small to build a huge brand, those terms in the domain name are still helpful.

But there’s another practice I still see that’s not helpful:  the purchase of multiple domain names, redirecting them to the principal domain name.  The idea is that Google will be so stupid that you’ll get ranked better on terms in those alternate domain names.  You won’t; all you’ll do is waste the money that you’ve spent on those domain names.  And, similarly, don’t consider building a site full of low-quality content on those domain names and including lots of links to your primary site; that won’t help either.  Instead of building junk sites, build one really good site with a lot of high-quality content.

One domain name is all you need.

The Bottom Line

Instead of trying to trick Google, give them what they want–a steady stream of fresh, quality content that’s relevant to the main topic of your site.  And you may want to get help–like me–to be sure that Google will recognize the good quality content that you’re providing.

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What is Web marketing?

What’s Hot in Web Marketing?

What’s Hot?

Marketing is all about building and influencing trends.  It’s also true that trends are important within marketing.  Certain approaches become “hot” and widely used.  Particularly with the Internet, the evolution of technology and discoveries of how people behave on-line make certain methods work particularly well at certain times.

Knowing what’s hot right now in Web marketing can be important to because that’s likely to be a technique that can pay rich dividends in terms of bringing business to you.

For this discussion, I’m grateful for a discussion that took place with a client yesterday, who had attended a talk on Web marketing that echoed just what’s presented here.

Evolution

What I started this business in 1998, Web marketing consisted mostly of what’s called search

engine optimization, or SEO, which at the time was fooling Google into the impression that your site had content about the most popular topics of the day.  A variety of tricks were used to do this.  Today Google knows all about those tricks, and if you tried to use 1998 SEO today your site would see very few visitors from Google.

In those days of yore, we talk about Web 1.0, the use of the Web as a distributor of information.  Visitors found Web sites through search, and then accessed information there.  Web 1.0 was all about information provided by site owners.  Visitors were passive consumers of information.

On-Line Reviews

More recently, we’ve seen the growth of importance on the Web of user-generated content, as Web users shift their role from passive consumers to active providers of information–this is generally called Web 2.0.  Of course, marketers are eager to use that trend to their advantage, hence the emergence of on-line reviews as a marketing tool.  In fact, on-line reviews are the hottest topic today in Web marketing.

My own review management service was started to enable business owners to obtain more genuine, favorable reviews from their real customers.  A number of my clients are now using this service to increase the number of reviews they receive, and to show a live feed of reviews on their sites, tagged so that Google recognizes them as reviews.

Mobile

Technology trends account for the second major hot topic:  mobile device use.  More and more users search the Web using mobile devices, mostly phones but also tablets.  Google recognizes this, and of course they don’t want to send their customers to sites that don’t look good on small screens, so they’ve told all of us that if your site doesn’t look good on the small screen, it’ll hurt your position in Google search results.

If you haven’t already done so, check out your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.  If you fail the test, it’s time to engage your Web designer to solve that problem.  If your site is built with WordPress, which I recommend, you’ll have a number of options, and you may be able to solve the problem with just a plug-in.

Content

With all the current attention taken by on-line reviews and mobile use, it’s easy to forget the importance of content, which after all is what Web surfers are looking for.  If you’re a small business and have limited resources to develop content for your site, it’s best to put a lot of your effort into what’s called evergreen content, which is content that will have continuing value, that won’t have to replaced right away.

Once you’ve compared as many sites for search engine positions as I have, you’ll see that the sites with a lot of well-written, interesting content related to the main theme of the site will have higher ranks in search engine results than sites with more limited content.  If you want to rank high for some term, write about that topic.

Producing content is hard for small businesses.  I usually advise small businesses to get double duty from their content by writing a blog, or articles, for their Web site, and then putting that content into their newsletter, as well.  I follow my own advice; this blog post will also be an edition of my newsletter.

SEO

Finally, we come to SEO, that used to be the cornerstone in Web marketing.  Even today, some small business owners look for someone to “do SEO” for their site, expecting that there’s some magic that can produce high rankings.  There used to be such magic, when search engines weren’t as sophisticated and could easily be tricked.  If you try many of those old techniques today, your site could be removed from the Google index, with devastating impact on your Web customer acquisition.

However, there is still an important role for the practitioner who understands technically how search engines analyze a site and decide whether the site has quality content.  Fortunately for me!  That role is to, first, understand all of the priority topics on this page and provide guidance with them, but then to make sure the site is set up so that Google will recognize the worthwhile content that is present.  If things like tags and headings aren’t given proper attention, the benefits that should come from a quality content development effort may not be realized.

The Bottom Line

Yes, you can do all of this yourself.  But it’s complicated, and it changes over time.  It’s easy to make mistakes that can ruin your ability to attract customers through your Web efforts.  So the bottom line is:  don’t try this at home!

The Internet offers you the cheapest advertising medium ever devised, and professional help (from someone like me!) can allow you to focus on your own business, while making the best use of what the Internet can do for you.  And getting the maximum business benefit from your investment in your Internet presence.

The most glaring example of how the unwary can get into trouble is provided by the unscrupulous providers of specialized Web sites for professionals.  I’ve seen these services provide sites for dentists, doctors and lawyers that will never bring them any ranking in search engines because of built-in problems.  Their customers think they’ve offloaded all of their Internet promotion problems into this vendor who delivers them a lovely site.  Then for the money they spend they get nothing.

Search Keywords in Your Domain Name

A Good Idea or Over-Marketing?

The question comes up time and again–is there any value to including terms where you want to rank well in your domain name?

Will this help you get better position in search results?   What are other aspects of using this approach?  And if it is used, what’s the best approach?

The Benefits

For most any Web site, take a look at the terms in the domain name and do a Google search for those terms.  You’ll see that the site is likely to rank high on those terms.  Of course, often the terms are often the company brand, that’s central to the site and is mentioned over and over in every page.  So the domain name wasn’t Google’s only cue that this site is highly relevant to this term.

I’ve been doing SEO for fifteen years, and one of the only aspects of SEO that’s stayed the same is that Google uses the terms in the domain name as an important indicator of the content of the site.  Again and again, I’ve seen that one of the best ways to get good position in search results is to use keywords in the domain name.  There’s no guarantee, but with some promotion, it’s a good way to help get good positions in search results.

The Issue

There’s one huge issue, though, and it’s the same issue that runs through all SEO.  Do you want to write the content of the site, choose the domain name , all of this, for Google, or for the people you’d like to have as customers?  If you build the site for people and not for Google, then it might be great at attracting customers, but no customers who are searching for you will find the site!  On the other hand, if you write just for search engines, then you’ll be found but your site may not bring you customers.domain-name.  There’s a balance to be struck, and what’s the correct balance depends on your particular situation.

You’d like your domain name to be easy to remember for your customers.  The logical choice for the URL, then, is your brand.  Your customers use your product or service, and if they remember the brand, they can find you on the Internet easily by searching for the brand.  If you’re a professional and do  business in your own name, then you hope they remember your name, and you’d want to use that in your domain name.  You’d rather be “Bill Smith, Attorney at Law” than “Gaithersburg Lawyer”.

On the other hand, if you’re an attorney just starting out, with no name recognition and no traffic to your site, using gaithersburglawyer.com as a domain name will help you get position in search results for people looking from a Gaithersburg lawyer.  Particularly if you have a new Web site, you’ll have no position in search results, and it’ll take you time to get that position, so this legitimate short-cut to position in search results could be a good idea for you.

The Answer

What to do?  It’s a matter of balance.  For many small businesses, you may not have a lot of brand recognition, so you can use a domain name with keywords.  Find something your customers can remember easily, and go with it.  If you’re a professional, the same idea can work for you.  You’ll promote your own name again and again on the site, so you’ll show up high in searches on your name.  You can safely use a domain name based on keywords.

If you’re just getting established, then the keyword approach can be particularly useful for you.

What About Hyphens?

There’s an active dialogue about whether hyphens hurt search results position.  But Google themselves ends this disagreement.  Their Webmaster Guidelines say

“The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs.”

So Google actually recommends the use of hyphens.  That’s good news, because hyphens also make domain names more readable.  A hyphenated domain name also avoids misinterpretations that could occur with domain names such as these, that are all real domain names:

Should You Change Your domain name ?

If you’ve decided that you’d like to change your domain name , you can do it without losing all of the search results positions that you’ve achieved over the years.  Just get your Webmaster to establish 301 redirect commands for all the pages of your site, so that anyone who references an old URL will be taken to the new one.  Google recognizes a 301 redirect as a notice that the content of a page has been moved to a new address; you won’t lose your position in search results.

The Bottom Line

Choose your domain name as part of your overall marketing strategy.  Are you trying to establish your business or is your site taking advantage of an established brand?  And should you decide to change your domain name , you can do it without giving up your positions in search results.

 

Say Yes to WordPress. Here’s Why.

WordPress is very popular, now hosting some 20% of all sites world-wide.  And it’s free.  But, by themselves, those aren’t strong enough reasons to choose WordPress for your site.  In this post  I review several key considerations that should be important in your choice of a hosting vehicle for your site.

WordPress now hosts more Web sites than any other platform on the Web, some 20% of all sites.  Many benefits derive from the huge number of sites using it, which creates an attractive marketplace for people who design and build Web sites, for people who help you use Web sites to promote your business (like me!), for people who develop add-on software for WordPress, called plugins, and even for people who host Web sites.  If you choose WordPress, you’ll always be able to find people to help with site design, maintenance or promotion, you’ll be able to buy great extensions for your site at low prices, and you’ll never be stuck when a company goes out of business.

There are six important reasons for you to consider WordPress:

  1. It’s open source
  2. There’s a large, valuable community of support
  3. End users can edit their own content
  4. It’s secure if managed properly
  5. It’s scalable up to quite large
  6. It’s future-proof

Open Source

For several years, I developed a number of sites with a great tool.  It provided a lot of features, was easy to use, and was one of the most bug-free software products I’ve used.  However, about a year ago, the company went away.  When I moved to a new computer, my installation won’t work any more–I need a new install key.  The company is gone, so there’s no way to get the key.  I’m out of luck with all those sites and now have to redevelop them.

Because the code is open source, even if the company that leads the writing of WordPress goes away, the code is available to everyone, and there are lots of developers to help keep it going.  And because it’s open source, you have none of the licensing issues that we all face and despise.

If you need a customization of WordPress, there’s may already be a plugin to meet your needs.  And if not, it’s not hard to write a new one, and not expensive to hire someone to write one.

Another advantage of open source is that there’s a huge community of developers who are contributing free and inexpensive software to extend WordPress.  Just think of what you want to do and search for a plugin–you’re likely to face a rich array of choices at little to no cost.  Anyone who wants to make money from selling a WordPress plugin realizes that the plugin is competing with a price of zero for the platform itself.

Professional Ecosystem

In addition to developers, there is a huge community of people who use WordPress to build sites, and provide other services around WordPress.  They compete with many other providers, so the competition drives down the price for site development.

Easy Editing

You don’t want to hire a Webmaster every time you want to add content to a site.  You’d rather have your employees who write the content simply edit it on the Web site itself.  WordPress provides a simple-to-use WYSIWYG editor that editors can use to write their content right on the site, and insert images and videos as well.

No advanced skills are needed to edit a page on WordPress; anyone who can edit a Word document can edit a page on a WordPress site.

Security

Unfortunately, the Internet is a rough neighborhood these days!  We all have security concerns, all the time, with our Web sites.  The WordPress core code has been remarkably secure since WordPress’s inception–however, the same large installed base that attracts service providers also attracts people with malevolent intent.  So you need to protect yourself.

There have been and continue to be security weaknesses in plugins.  It’s important to keep plugins updated to the current version, since fixes are often intended to close security holes.  In addition, use strong passwords.  It’s sound as well to use two-factor authentication for users.

But there’s good news here, too.  The robust plugin market has produced a first-rate security package for WordPress, the security plugin WordFence.  It’s so good that it’s included in Dave’s Super Hosting Service.  I’ve seen a number of WordPress sites hacked, but have never seen a site protected by the premium version of WordPress.

Scalability

The New York Times, Microsoft and Facebook all run sites based on WordPress.  If your site has hosting with appropriate capacity and scalability to the load you’ll experience, and you’re careful to test your complete site for performance, there’s no reason that the biggest companies can’t use WordPress.  For small business, good design practices are all that you need to do to obtain the performance you need.

Future-Proof

WordPress has a commitment to backwards compatibility, so new releases of WordPress won’t ever break your site.  You avoid the infuriating problem of a new release requiring, suddenly, tons of work.

Again, because of the huge number of WordPress sites, When Google announced that it was suddenly important for our sites to be mobile-friendly, WordPress was there–the standard WordPress themes are already mobile-friendly.  When Google wanted sites to implement Advanced Mobile Pages, they developed an AMP plugin for WordPress, so you can have AMP on your site, with just the installation of a single, free plugin.

The large group of active developers as well as the backward compatibility commitment protect your investment in your site.

The Bottom Line

Use WordPress to build your site.  Or when you rebuild your site.  It’s the right choice for essentially everyone.