Monday, May 5, 2008

Web-Content Conundrum

The Web consumes content like a teenager at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Lots and lots of content makes you more search engine friendly, helps establish your knowledge and expertise, explains in detail what you offer, and justifies that offer with all the explanations, statistics, and rationale you can muster. The problem is no one reads it.

Well that's not exactly true: some people read every scrap of information on your site; they just happen to be the tire-kickers, the people looking for ways to get stuff they don't have to pay for, or they're competitors looking for ways to copy what you do, or worse find something wrong. This is definitely a dilemma that needs to be addressed.

The Answer Lies In The Questions

The answer is obviously not to eliminate all the good stuff you've worked so hard to create, or to bury it where no one will ever see it. When it comes to Web-content ask yourself:

1. Is our content meaningful and relevant, or is it just hype and bunkum?

2. Is our content understandable by our audience, or is it so inarticulate that people just give up, even when they are desperate to find out what you have to say?

3. Does our content hold our audience's attention? Does it just explain, or does it engage, excite, and entertain while at the same time persuade on both a rationale and emotional level?

4. Is our content so intimidating and technical that it leads to more confusion and questions than answers?

5. Is our most important content buried in volumes of extraneous information or advertising copy, making it difficult to access and understand?

If any of these questions describe the text-based information on your website, then perhaps you need to find a way to make that important information more useful to your clients, not just search engines spiders.

When it comes to website content there are five things you need to keep in mind in order to make that content meaningful: Relevance, Clarity, Effectiveness, Memorability, and Personality.

Relevance: The Appropriateness of The Material

The material on your website has to be relevant, it is good for search engine indexing and it is good for establishing your expertise and trustworthiness, a quality that is an absolute necessity in a Web-based business environment, but exactly what constitutes relevant content?

In order for content to be relevant it must serve your overall marketing agenda and at the same time it must be useful to your target audience.

If your goal is to generate long-term clients by establishing a relationship with your website visitors then that relationship has to be symbiotic, that is, it must benefit both you and the your prospective clients. There are far too many websites around that are based on the P.T. Barnum principle that everyone is a sucker and can be conned. At the other end of the spectrum there are also way too many sites that are nothing more than catalogs, a kind of, here it is, take it or leave it approach. Then there are the sites that provide pages and pages of specifications and features that confuse more than clarify. And finally there are the websites that are nothing more than business cards or display ads, an approach that says to the visitor that you are too cheap, too lazy, or too unimaginative to bother creating an appropriate marketing website.

The fact that search engines seek out relevant content is merely a positive by-product of good content, it is not the ultimate marketing objective, which should be to open up a communication with your audience and start a productive and profitable relationship.

Clarity: The Ability To Be Understood

Is there anything more important than being understood? I assume you have a website because you want to promote and expand your business, but if visitors do not understand who you are, what you do, and why they should pay you to provide them with a product or service, then exactly what are you doing?

Being understood sounds like a simple thing, but it is not. Ask yourself, to whom am I trying to communicate? Is it a search engine robot or a real person? If your main concern is the ever changing search engine indexing machinery then you risk the danger of not being completely understood by the people who visit your website.

There is a certain comfort in dealing with the illusion of certainty that speaks to the mechanics of search engine optimization: all you have to do is follow the rules and you'll be successful. The problem is the game is fixed and the rules keep changing, and more importantly it's the wrong audience. Any order you ever generated was from a real person and if real people don't understand your marketing message, then all that traffic to your site is wasted.

Effectiveness: The Ability to Serve Your Marketing Objectives

Being clear and to the point is important but it doesn't necessarily make your site effective. Dragnet's Sergeant Friday may have wanted, 'just the facts, nothing but the facts' but in the real world people need more.

People are busy and they do not want to waste their time on things that have no meaning for them, and that is the key. Things become meaningful when they engage while they enlighten, educate while they entertain, and persuade while they present. People spend hours upon hours on the Web doing things that could be considered a waste of time and non productive, so the idea that people will not invest their time on your website is just plain wrong. If they won't spend the time, then they aren't really interested or your presentation stinks.

What makes the Web such a powerful marketing tool is its multimedia capability, the opportuníty to communicate using text, images, motion graphics, video, and sound (audio) design. And of all these delivery options the two most effective communication techniques are video and sound (audio) design.

Memorability: The Ability To Stick In Your Audience's Minds

Clarity and effectiveness are vital but if people don't remember who you are, all your hard work will be lost. Maybe you've convinced your audience that your way is the answer, but if they don't remember it was you that told them, then you've wasted the opportuníty.

There are lots of sites around that expect instant response. They present their material and expect you to press a button and give them money. It's not that this can't happen, but it certainly is not what usually happens.

How many times have you wished you could remember that website that had that thing that you didn't need then but you need now? Not every potential customer is ready to buy right away, and if they forget who you are, someone else will benefit from your effort.

Let's put it another way, sales is like sex, while marketing is like a seduction. If you're not prepared to invest in romancing your audience, they'll immediately forget you exist and the sale will go to the business that gets remembered.

In order to create that memory, your website has to be an experience, an experience that resonates and entertains by delivering your marketing message with style and flair, using real human beings, analogy, and the classic story format in a professionally executed performance.

Personality: The Ability To Distinguish You From The Competition

Every business has a personality, an image, an identity that is the sum total of every experience anyone who has ever had contact with your company has ever had. Success online and offline depends on how well you manage that personality.

Your website is part of your public face and in many cases it is your only public face. Your business is not what you sell and it is not you, it is a separate and distinct entity that needs to be treated like a precocious child in need of care and feeding, and development.

Personality starts with a point-of-view and an attitude strong enough to make an impact. And the more mundane your offering, the more important it is to make a statement. Victoria's Secret has little trouble grabbing people's attention, but if it's sandpaper you sell, you better try harder. We especially see this identity crisis with distributors, whose own personality often gets sublimated to the major brands they carry.

Perhaps you remember the J. Peterman character from the old Seinfeld television show. The character was played by, actor and voice-over specialist, John O'Hurley, who is nothing like the real J. Peterman. But the characterization was so strong, and so memorable, that O'Hurley was able to single-handedly rescue the company from financial trouble.

If you're looking to create a Web-personality as effective as John O'Hurley's J. Peterman, you should consider adding a video or audio host to your Web-presentation, one that engages your audience's attention and captures their collective imagination.

A Final Thought

At the end of the day there is one thing about websites that should guide you in your decisions as to what you present and how, and that is simply, websites are for people not search engines. If the people coming to your website don't hear what you have to say, understand what you're offering, and remember who you are, then your website isn't doing what it needs to do for your business.

About The Author

Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design firm that specializes in Web-audio and Web-video. Visit, and

Keyword and meta description tags

Keyword and description meta tags optimization tutorial for better search engine rankings. Have you ever wondered why some web pages get higher search engine rankings than others? Of course you have, if you are a web developer. You may have read or heard of a hundred ways to improve your page ranking and tried them all. Only to see dismal results and wonder what the heck went wrong.

Been there and done that. So I thought I would let you in on the secrets I use to get my pages to rank high in the search engines. Once you read these tricks you might think that is so obvious I should have thought of it.

Here are the 10 rules I use to search engine optimize a page for keywords and description meta tags.

1. First let's assume that you already know what the page is about and have already created it. This is not a tutorial on how to write web pages. Rather guidelines for search engine optimization using your meta keywords and description tags.

Depending on the type of page you are creating determines how many keywords you should use. For instance a sales letter is typically 2000 or more words. In that type of page you need to describe all the advantages of your product and why it is the right solution. You will want to get testimonials and place them in appropiate places. You may even want to tell a story relating to how well the product has performed. Don't over do the page or you will lose your prospect to boredom.

The product page (different from the sales letter) should be between 500 and 750 words. All you are trying to do here is sell a product. Visitors that make it to these pages probably already know what they are looking for and are only looking for specific information. Your job is to convince them that your product is the right one. Beyond that and there is more opportunity for your visitors to disagree with your pitch and move on.

The article page should be at least 1000 words and not more than 5000 words. Okay some might say that 5000 is too long and others have said that isn't 1000 words aren't enough words to describe what they have to say. Too long - some say that 500 words is good for an article page. So lets look at this: a person who can read 10 words a second will be through your page in 50 seconds. Not enough time for them to soak up your message. A person reading 3 words a second will take about 2-1/2 minutes. Plenty of time for your message to sink in.

The average reader can read somewhere around 6 words per second. Which would take them 83 seconds to read your 500 word article. Barely enough time to get your visitors comfortable. At 1000 words the avearge reader will read your page in roughly 3 minutes. At 6 words a second your reader needs around 3 minutes to read a 1000 word article. This plenty of time for the reader to make a decision to click on your most wanted response.

At over 2000 words the average reader will need 5-1/2 minutes to get through it. This is stretching the limit of time most visitors will spend reading one web page. At 5000 words the average reader takes over 13 minutes to read your page. This is well past the amount of time a visitor will need to decide to click on your most wanted response. If your article is really good most people will read all the way through it. If not they are off to the next website in a flash. If you have more than 2000 words you may want to consider breaking the article into 2 pages.

Okay, back to rule #1 use the right amount of words for a particular type of page. Not too many and not too few.

2. Primary meta keyword (the first one) must be an exact match with the file name of your page. This lets the search engines match up your keyword with your page and give your page higher relevancy. Here is an example from: Ocular Defense Formula (Pr2 and #2 in Google). The first keyword for this page is "Ocular Defense Formula." This seemingly obsure product gets 33,000+ search engine results in Google alone. So it is not that obscure after all. And makes for a good example.

3. Use only 5 keywords in your meta keywords tag. More than that and the search engines might think you are keyword spamming and won't list your page. The search engines rank your keywords in the order that they appear. This makes the first one the primary keyword and the second one a secondary keyword and so on. You should line your keywords up in the order of relevance to the page. Here is the meta keyword tag I used in this example.

"Ocular Defense Formula, Lutein, Bilberry, eye health, vision"

4. Use all of your keywords in your meta description, with the primary keyword as close to the front as possible. Definitely within the first 5 words of your description. The search engines don't read your description verbatim, but can find and match them with your keyword list. So try to use them all but don't repeat them if at all possible. Again if your meta description repeats your keywords too often the search engines might think you are keyword spamming and not list your page, so don't do it.

5. Meta description should be between 100 and 200 characters. It is important to get a solid description of your page. Less that 100 characters and the search engine may not find it relevant enough to list. More than 200 characters and the search engines may truncate it. Which looks unprofessional on your part. Truncated meta descriptions may leave searchers with the impression that your content will be too wordy and full of you know what. Too short a description and your visitors may think there is not enough information on your page and move on to the next result. So try to get your description just right, not too long and not too short. Here is the meta description for ODF.

"Ocular Defense Formula with Lutein, Bilberry and herbs to support eye health and protect your vision from aging and oxidation. Learn how to improve your visual acuity."

6. Line up your meta keywords up too resemble a sentence. Although search engines don't read your keywords as a sentence verbatim, it should reflect well what your page is all about. See the meta keyword tag above.

7. Proof read your content twice. You should always proof read your work before you post for a lot of good reasons like spelling, grammar, placement and paragraph distribution. Once your page looks great proof read it again with your focus on keyword placement and repitition. You want your keywords placed in your content sparingly. What? you say. Again over use of your keywords might result in the search engines thinking you are keyword spamming. That isn't to say you shouldn't have too few. My rule of thumb is 3 uses of a keyword for every 300 words. This lets the search engines know that there is a lot of supporting content for the keyword.

As you are proof reading you may discover that you have a much better keyword for your meta tag than what you originally thought. For instance in ODF I discovered that I had left out the keyword "vision". After proof reading my page I added that keyword to my list and used it a couple more times in the page.

8. Put your meta description all on one line in your html code. This will ensure that the search engines reads it all. I have noticed that some search engine results leave off the second line of a description. That may leave out some of your meta keywords if that happens.

9. Never use more than 3 words for your primary keyword (and file name). People rarely search for a keyword phrase over 3 words long. Too many words in a keyword phrase and the search engines may not find enough relevancy to list your page in the results. Two words in a keyword phrase (and file name) is ideal. For Ocular Defense Formula, I thought 2 words weren't enough to describe the page. "Ocular Defense" would have been too vague and misleading. I could have named the page something else and optimized for those keywords, but, ODF is a product page and optimizing for something like "Eye Health" would have been misleading and probably not get listed high in the search engines.

10. Use your primary keyword in the first and last paragraph of your page. The search engines will give more relevancy to your page if they find your keywords at the beginning and the end of your page. Also your primary keyword should appear in the first 90 characters of your content.

Bonus tip - Use your primary keyword as a text link in your page only once. Not twice but definitely once. If you don't want your visitors to leave your page make that link an "add to favorites" bookmark. On a product page this works great because you don't want to give your visitors the opportunity to go else where.

In summary use these tips to increase your search engine rankings. Optimizing your keyword and descriptions should improve the relevancy of your page and boost your search engine rankings. Notice how I used my primary keyword and description meta tags in this last paragraph.

About the Author:

Tim Koen - web developer, Tool Time blog. All the best website tools, tips and techniques to grow your online business.

How to Optimize for Google: Part 3 of 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of How to Optimize for Google I discussed general website optimization, links, and Google webmaster tools. In Part 3 we will look at a number of other considerations which play a role in successful rankings in Google, and also touch on some tactics which are best avoided.

Completing Optimization: Other Considerations


If you need to use redirects on your site, it is very important to use the correct one. If a page is moving to a new location, or being removed all together, it is very important to have this page redirected to either the new location or the next closest page using a Permanent 301 Redirect.

While rare, if a page is being moved to a new location for a short term, with the intent of it returning to the original location, then and only then, will you want to use a Temporary 302 redirect.

Non WWW Redirects

To help eliminate page rank split, and provide your site with a little extra value, implement a non-www redirect. What this redirect will do is change the URL to include the "www" whenever a URL is accessed that does not include it. This can help to consolidate links to the correct page and give your site some additional strength. For more help on Non WWW redirects

HTTP Headers

Check your page headers! If you have implemented any form of redirect on your site including mod rewrites, check your HTTP headers. You may be surprised at what you find. Some forms of redirects may use a 302 code where you really want a 301. By checking your headers you can ensure all is well, and troubleshoot problems. On our website we have added our own HTTP Header Checker for your convenience.

Home Page URL

Never have more than one URL for your home page. If your home page is available and displays on more than one URL, then utilize 301 redirects on all but the main URL you want to focus on - in most cases "". All your links pointing to the home page should direct to the exact same URL otherwise you will split the value of your home page into multiple duplicate URL's.

Google sees "" and "" as different pages, but displaying the same content. This splits the overall value of your home page, and can decrease the chances of rankings. By keeping it consistent with a single URL, you remove this split and retain more of the strength.

In theory having your home page split like this could bring with it duplicate content penalties, however, I have yet to see this actually happen - that said, it is best to avoid the risk all together.

XML Sitemap

XML Sitemaps are great for ensuring that Google and the other engines are able to spider your entire site. While an XML sitemap will not directly impact your search rankings it can help as Google is more likely to see any SEO based changes more quickly, which in turn can have an impact.


This is the first file all search engines look for every time they visit your site. While placing a blank robots.txt file in your root folder will not help with search rankings, it will help reduce 404 errors appearing in your log files.

It is also highly recommended that if your site utilizes an XML sitemap, to include a call to this sitemap within the Robots.txt file. Simply add the following line to ensure that the major engines (including Google) can find your sitemap:


Potential Blockages

If you are finding that your site is simply not being indexed it is possible that you are blocking the spiders in one way or another.

Start with checking your main site navigation, if you are using Flash or some other fancy form of navigation that could be your problem right there. Next check your HTTP headers to ensure that your home page is returning a 2xx code which indicates that the clients' request was successfully received. Finally take a look at your Google Webmaster Tools for any noted errors. If you are blocking Google, chances are you will be able to uncover the issue with these steps.

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content can be quite damaging to your rankings. Ensure that all content on your site is unique. Never steal or "borrow" content from another site, and never cut and paste large portions of text from one page of your site to the next. By keeping all pages of your site entirely original you stand the best chances of getting a thumbs up from Google.

Fresh Content / Regular Updates

Update your content. In highly competitive markets, sites with old static content can often slip away. Keep your content fresh and updated to keep bringing Google back to your site. If they find new pages and updated pages with every visit, they will come back more often.

Site Age

The age of your site can also have an effect on search engine rankings. While there is little you can do (short of keeping the same domain) to help on this matter, remember that the longer your site is online, the better its chances for success. It pays to select the perfect domain right from the start and not to change domains mid-stream. Older sites that stand the test of time add a level of authority in Google's eyes. New sites seldom see rankings for competitive terms in their first year.

Note: Site Age is determined not by the date the domain was originally registered by rather by the date Google first discovered content on your site.

Load Time

Load time can have an impact in your Google AdWords Quality Score but it is unknown for sure if it can also impact your organic search rankings. It is best to keep your load time to as little as possible. If it is not already a part of the Google Algorithm, it likely will be soon. Besides, it is also best in order to give your site visitors the best experience possible.

Server Up Time

This can be a rather significant issue. If you find that your web hosting company has a history of down time, change hosts. If Google comes to visit your site once and it is down, not to worry, they will come back, but if Google visits your site often only to find that it is unavailable, you can find yourself with drastically depleted rankings.

Google Local

If you have a traditional brick and mortar store, consider submitting to Google Local . While this will not directly impact your regular organic rankings, you may find your site ranking above the organic results with a "local business results" map listing. This tends to be most common when your business is near the geographic center of a city, and when the search phrase uses a geographic modifier.

W3C Compliant Code

There is much speculation as to if W3C compliant code can have a positive impact on search rankings, and the majority believe "maybe" with some saying "yes". Regardless, it is definitely a good idea to have your site be W3C Compliant if at all possible. Not only may it help you in terms of search rankings, but having compliant code can decrease load times, and help to ensure cross-browser compatibility, all of which are good things. If at all possible, it is recommended that sites be made to be compliant.

Many experts who took part in the SEOMoz "Google Search Engine Ranking Factors" lean towards it not being a big contributor, however, it may be an issue if Google has difficulties indexing a page properly.

A code validation service is available at .

About The Author

Scott Van Achte is the Senior SEO at StepForth Web Marketing Inc., based in Victoria, BC, Canada and founded in 1997. You can read more of Scott's articles and those of the StepForth team at or contact us at, Tel - 250-385-1190, TollFree - 877-385-5526, Fax - 250-385-1198

Top 3 Google Linking Strategies of 2008

If you're serious about getting great ranking on Google you need to be serious about linking. Of course there are lots of ways to get links so we'll focus on just the methods that are fast, low cost or free and get the best results. Here are three that can put you on top of Google in no time flat!

First let's start with getting inbound links from directories. A link from a directory gets a lot of weight from Google because they value it as a form of endorsement. You've probably used some directories yourself, like Yahoo. Or maybe you've used some without even knowing it, like The Open Directory Project ( that powers many of the most popular search engines, including Google!

Each directory is different and offers different options for obtaining links to your site. Here's a rundown of how different directories will link to your site...

1.) Free Submission: Just like it sounds. No charges for inclusion. is the best one and powers Google, AOL and even Yahoo Search (not Yahoo directory.) Just be sure to follow their submission guidelines and pick the most appropriate sub category possible for inclusion. This is extremely important.

2.) Paid Submissions: They charge a fee to review the submitted link and possibly place the page. You might pay a few dollars one tíme, a recurring annual fee or as much as the $300 that Yahoo charges for commercial site review.

3.) Reciprocal Link: These usually require you to link to the directory before they will even consider linking back.

4.) Featured Link: Your link gets a premium spot that you pay for.

5.) Featured Homepage Link: This is a featured link on the homepage. As you've probably guessed, this can get real expensive.

Yahoo is easily the most popular (and most expensive) but it's not the best. It's been my experience that a free listing with is worth more than a paid listing with Yahoo. Even though Yahoo is more popular as a directory that people actually visit, DMOZ is much more popular with search engines and carries a lot of weight. A "vote" from DMOZ is a big deal indeed.

Here are the five top directories offering free listings. Some even provide inexpensive expedited listing services or featured listings:






There's a site that keeps an updated list of directories, but not all are free. You have to visit each to see if there is any cost. Go to TopWebSiteTips and scroll down to the drop down box at the bottom of the page. Select your desired Google PR and search. If you want to avoid getting niche directories in the results, check the "General Directories Only" box after your first return set and rerun the search.

As a second option, you can also consider paying a submission service to get your site lísted in the major directories. There are plenty that will do it for a reasonable fee. Just be sure they do the following three things:

1.) Manual submission only.

2.) Verify that your site is not already listed.

3.) Provide proof of submission (usually screen captures).

Just search Google for "directory submission service" and you'll get plenty of options. I've used in the past with good success. They provide a "slow submission" service that makes your link building appear more natural to Google and other top search engines.

And finally, there is no better way to get quality links than from a traditional reciprocal link campaign. This can be a time consuming step without automated software, but is very important.

Here are 10 steps to a successful reciprocal linking campaign:

1.) Write down the keywords you want to be found for.

2.) Draft a standard letter you can use to easily customize for each site (customization tips at the end.)

3.) Run a search on Google for each keyword and jot down the URL for each match returned (not just the homepage but the URL for the actual page you want the link from, which is the one that came up in the search.)

4.) Remove any direct competitors from the list.

5.) Go back through your list and find the contact info for each site. Record this information.

6.) Create a link to each page you want to get a link from. This should be from the most appropriate page on your site, not the homepage. Do not exceed 10 outbound links per page at most. The fewer, the better.

7.) Send the customized email with the considerations outlined below.

8.) Verify their backlinks.

9.) Remove any outbound links that do not reciprocate within a month or so.

10.) Check your inbound links every couple of weeks. Make sure you are still getting the links you earned and that the people linking to you have not moved you to a less desirable page.

Reciprocal Link Email Tips:

A.) Address the email to a person by name if possible.

B.) Start with a complimentary statement about what you like on their site.

C.) Introduce yourself and your site.

D.) Lead into why you feel your site is a good, non competing match (outline benefits for them and their visitors.)

E.) Mention that you have already linked to their site and hope they feel a reciprocal link will be beneficial. Provide the URL to the page you linked from.

F.) Explain why you linked from the page you did and the anchor text you used to show you understand link strategy.

G.) Request that if they link back they use one of your anchor text suggestions along with the exact URL you want them to link to.

H.) Offer to change the link anchor text of their URL if they wish.

I.) Thank them genuinely for their time and sign with your first name to make it more personal and natural.

You can do all of this manually or invest in a good piece of software to do the difficult and time consuming work for you. Many SEO professionals (myself included) use SEO Elite because it finds the best link partners, automatically gets their contact info and even manages entire campaigns. It's also a link verification system and search engine rank checker so it covers all of my SEO needs nicely ($167.)

So whether you do the work by hand or invest in a time saving "instant gratification" SEO tool, the information in this article can help you to the top of Google in record time. Good luck!

About The Author

Mike Small has been an SEO specialist since 1998 working with clients from start up to the Fortune 500. He has authored five SEO books and is the founder of popular SEO blog .

Six Quick and Simple Ways to Dominate Google Rankings!

The reason Google is the most successful search engine in the world is because they provide the best search results; pages ranked by tangible value. That tangible value is a combination of content and links, with links being the more important factor (they assume any pages linking in will only link to good content or risk their own ranking.)

Here are a few tips that will help you take full advantage of Google's love of linking...

1.) Link Deep and with Relevance

So why is deeper better and what's this about relevance? Google figured out that a link to a homepage is only good if that homepage has the information the visitor needs. If a person clicks a link for "amazíng chocolate chip cookie recipe" and ends up on the home page, which has nothing of the sort, Google discounts it as a wasted link. On the other hand, if the link leads to the page containing info on the "Amazíng Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe," even five levels deep, the link has huge value to the visitor and to Google.

Want some proof? You already have it if you've ever used Google's AdWords pay per clíck service. They will not even accept PAID links to pages that are not the most relevant for their visitors, regardless of what you are willing to pay per clíck. Now that's saying something!

2.) Use Absolute Links Internally

It sounds complicated but it's not. Absolute links are those with a fixed full URL. There's another kind, called "relative" links that skip the first part of the domain and remain "relative" to the file structure. Let's take a look at the difference...

Here's the absolute link to the Google Ads page from Google's homepage: ""

Here's what it might look like as a relative link: "./intl/en/ads/"

Long story short; absolute links help your SEO efforts and relative links don't.

3.) Use Keywords in Anchor Text

Use relevant keywords in your link anchor text (that is the text within the hyperlink.) Forget about "Clíck Here" like you see on so many sites. Not only does that not help your ranking, it actually lowers the relevancy of your real keywords because Google believes that if a word is important enough it will likely be used as part of a link to get the visitor where they want to go.

4.) Follow the 1% Solution

Make no more than 1% of your page text into links (both outbound and internal.) That is, if you have 500 words on the page there should be no more than 5 text links total. And don't overuse the same keyword text for the links. So if you have three mentions each of three different keywords, try to use each just once in a link. Then use similar text for any remaining links.

Example: If "chocolate chip cookies" is your main keyword phrase you might use "chocolate chip cookies" as the anchor text for one link and then "my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe" for another link.

It's also a good idea to use 10 Links Max per page whether you have 1,000 words or 10,000 words on that page.

5.) Add a Link Failsafe

This is really simple and almost nobody does it. Links get broken more often than we like. Sometimes it's because we moved a page and sometimes it has nothing to do with anything we consciously did (especially with blogs.) The solution is to create a custom 404 page (Page Not Found) that looks just like any other page on your site and has a simple note like "We're sorry we cannot find the page you are looking for. However, if you love cookies of all kinds we think you'll find exactly what you want by clicking on one of the following links..." Then of course you have a navigation system for them to follow.

6.) Get the Best Links Possible

This is extremely important yet often overlooked because it can be such a difficult and time consuming job. If you take nothing else away from this article, please take this... Finding the best possible inbound links is the single most important thing you can do to make the number one spot on Google.

Here are three tips to help minimize your time and effort while giving you results SEO experts charge an arm and a leg for.

A.) Get listed in directories.

Submít your site to the top directories like and Once they link to your site you will have great relevant inbound links and some instant credibility with Google.

Here are some great free directories in order of value, starting with the best...,,,, and Yahoo is important but charges $299 for commercial site inclusion.

B.) Use "Special Commands" to do the legwork for you.

The best linked sites can easily be found with a simple search command called "allinanchor:" Here's how to use it. Go to Google and type in "allinanchor:keyword goes here" (no quotes and no space after the colon.) Now hit Enter and you'll see the sites that have the highest relevancy for keywords used in anchor text. Look for any that you know are competitors and outrank your site.

Now take the URL for any of these and use this command "link:www.theirdomain.extension" (again with no quotes and no space after the colon.) This will show you all the sites linking in as well as internal pages linking back in.

In short, these two special commands give you an inside look at exactly how the competition does what it does with the results they get. This is huge!

C.) Use good SEO software whenever possible.

If you can afford to spend one or two hundred dollars to save huge amounts of time and get professional results, it's well worth it. Like many SEO professionals whose livelihood depends on results, I've been using SEO software to get top search engine placement for years. The best ones not only help you identify great link partners but will even help you contact them and make sure they don't cheat you in any way. I use SEO Elite and am still amazed by all it can do.

If possible, get a tool that also does rank checking and reporting. Once you begin you'll want to check rankings every so often and an automated tool will save you a ton of time. Oddly enough I bought SEO Elite primarily for rank checking then discovered it was worth its weight in gold as linking tool as well. So whatever tool you use, get as much out of it as you can. You might be pleasantly surprised.

About The Author

Mike Small is the founder of the free SEO (search engine optimization) site and author of numerous search engine optimization books and whitepapers including the SEO Notebook.

How to Optimize for Google: Part 1 of 3

In today's online world search engine rankings can make your business succeed, and while rankings in Yahoo and MSN are very valuable, their combined market value is still less than that of Google. This makes achieving top rankings in Google that much more important.

In this three-part series on How to Optimize for Google we will touch on a number of important aspects for top Google rankings including website optimization, links, Google Webmaster tools, and a number of other considerations.

The focus of Part 1 will be with on page website optimization.


This article is not about keyword research so I will not spend too much time on this topic, however, I felt it was important to at least brush on this slightly. If you are interested in reading more, please see Keyword Research for Organic SEO.

Make sure that your targets are achievable. If you select the wrong keywords, it can make your entire optimization experience essentially a waste. Choose keywords that are attainable but yet still provide a reasonable search frequency for your industry. Your phrase selection should also be targeted to bring qualified traffic to your site.

Using the hotel industry as an example, targeting the word "hotel" would make very little sense but by narrowing it down to "Victoria BC hotel" you now have less competition, and a more qualified audience. Keep your targets in perspective and go after the obtainable rankings.


There are many on-site factors that play a role in your search engine rankings. Here are a number of those factors and what you can do to increase your chances of success.

Title Tag

The title tag plays one of the most important roles in search results at Google, and is almost always the heading Google chooses for each of its listings. Placement of your target phrase is best used near the start of the tag and repeated again in the middle or near the end. Three uses of your target phrase may be helpful in some instances, as long as it is not too overwhelming. For best results each page on your site should have a totally unique title tag.

It is also important to remember that because Google will use this title as the main heading for your listing, you will want to keep it attractive to potential searchers. Try to also add a call to action, or other wording to help make your listing appear attractive to searchers.

To help illustrate the fact Google takes this tag into consideration, simply do a search for your target phrase and take a look at the titles of the top 10. I tried a search for a rather broad term "hotel" and saw that all 10/10 listings had it in the title tag, and 6/10 had it as the very first word. A quick scan showed that the entire top 30 either had the word hotel, or hotels in their title tags.

If you do only one thing to your website, make sure that all your title tags are relevant, unique, and contain your target phrase for each page.

Meta Description Tag

The Meta Description tag is still occasionally used by Google as the description which appears in the search results themselves. While this used to be a more common practice Google tends to use it most often on sites with very limited content, or those which are flash based. I have seen it still used for content rich sites, however this is less common.

The Meta Description tag still has an impact on search rankings. Your best bet when using this tag is to keep it short and sweet with your target phrase close to the start and not repeated more than 3 times. Like the title tag, each page on your site should have its own unique description tag.

Meta Keyword Tag

When it comes to Google this tag is useless, and won't influence your rankings. There is some speculation as to whether a spammy keyword tag can however, have a negative effect on Google rankings. As a result, if you do utilize a keyword Meta tag for the smaller engines, it is best to keep it clean and play it safe.


Keyword density plays a role in overall rankings; however, it is not as cut and dry as it once was. Once upon a time there was a magic number that when used could almost guarantee top rankings.

This is no longer the case. Today the ideal density varies from industry to industry, phrase to phrase. To find out what density you should aim for, take the top 10 or 20 search results and see what percentage those sites are using. In most cases you will find that the majority of these sites have a very similar density to one another, and this average density is a good estimation of what you should aim for.

Body Text and Keyword Placement

The location of relevant text on your site will help establish the overall importance of your target phrase. While you do not want to overwhelm the engines and site visitors with a bombardment of target phrases at the top of the page, try to sprinkle in some instances as close to the top of the page as possible.


Be sure to include various synonyms for your target phrases within your body text on your site. Google will use these synonyms to tie in the overall relevance of the page for your main target phrases, which in turn can improve your odds.

To find possible synonyms you can use a thesaurus, but the best way is to search Google itself and see exactly what they consider to be similar. Simply search in Google for your target phrase preceded with a tilde, such as "~hotels". Next scan through the search results for any text Google has bolded. These are all words that Google considers to be related. Using the "~hotels" example Google brings up phrases such as 'travel', 'tourism', 'accommodation', as well as various hotel chain names such as 'Hilton Hotels'.

Keywords in Domain

There is still some speculation if having a target phrase as part of your top level domain (TLD) is of use to search rankings. From my experience, yes, there is value here, although, nothing like it was several years ago.

If you are starting off in the online world and are contemplating which domain to go for, consider one that uses your target phrase, assuming that it is both relevant to your business name, and uses no more than a single hyphen. While multiple hyphens in a domain can be successful, they are very common with highly spammy websites, so it is best to not take that route if possible.

While having a keyword located within your domain can provide some ranking juice, I would not suggest heading out and doing a domain swap. In most cases you would be better off working on your existing site than starting from scratch with a new domain.

Keywords in page specific URL

Using keywords for specific page URL's can also help add a little bit of value to your site, providing you use them responsibly. Consider using a keyword as a directory name and as part of a file name where it naturally makes sense to do so. If you have a website that focuses on tourism and includes local hotel listings, you may want to consider the following structure for your page on the Hilton:

Heading Tags

Placement of target phrases within heading tags helps to establish the importance of those given phrases. That said do not over do it, or abuse it. Only place target phrases within a heading tag if it makes sense to do so, and don't flood a page with numerous tags. Heading tags are not as critical as they once were, but still a good contribution to a well optimized page.

Link Anchor text

This is the actual text you clíck on as part of a link. When full or partial target phrases are used within your text links they help pass on some value to the linked page for those phrases. This is also true when considering surrounding text. When the content around the link is also relevant, the link holds slightly more value.

While a link that simply states "clíck here" or "" does have its place, they provide considerably less value than a link that would use "discount hotels" as its anchor.

Image Alt Text

While image alt text still plays a minor role, its biggest part is within the use of image based navigation. If you have an image linked to another page, the alt text will be attributed much the same way as standard link anchor text is.

Image Alt text should always be short and to the point and should accurately describe either the image itself, or the page the image is linking to. Do not use alt tags as a place to stuff keywords.

Inline Links

These are links that are found mid sentence or mid paragraph as opposed to a simple listing of links as found in a menu or possibly on a sitemap. Links found mid paragraph tend to pass on a little more value from the surrounding text and can provide more relevance to the linked page.

Site Navigation

It is absolutely imperative that your website be fully spiderable by the search engines. This may seem obvious, but often webmasters overlook Google's ability to crawl a website. Google has become very advanced in what links it can follow and how it can spider a website, but there are still some things that can cause significant roadblocks.

- Flash: One of the most commonly made mistakes is the use of flash. If flash is used as a sole means of site navigation then you can count on Google not viewing your internal pages, and having a significant disadvantage in terms of site rankings.

- Java Script / DHTML: These days most Java Script and even DHTML menus can be spidered by Google, however, this is not always the case. If your site utilizes any kind of fancy navigation and you are wondering why Google has not indexed your internal pages, check out Google's Cached Text version of your page. If you do not see any text links, then your navigation may be invisible to Google.

- Images: Image based navigation has been safe for many years now, but if your site uses this form of navigation it is essential to have brief, relevant alt text on all your buttons. This alt text will act much like standard anchor text for text based links. This is not only for the purpose of search ranking value, but take a look at Google's cached text version of your page. If you have image based links that do not have alt text, those links do not appear. This doesn't mean Google won't follow them, but for anyone viewing your site on a text based browser, your links will be invisible to them.

URL Structure

Avoid long elaborate URL's with extraneous characters. While Google has reached a point where they can index massive URL strings, it is best to avoid them if at all possible. For dynamic sites consider utilizing mod rewrites to significantly clean up the URL to not only make it more search engine friendly, but more user friendly as well."victoria"&catid="accommodations"&type="hotel"&comp="hilton"

stands a better chance if cleaned up to read:


Basic website optimization is a critical component for successful placement in Google but is only part of the overall picture. Stay tuned for "How to Optimize for Google - Part 2 of 3" where we will discuss Links and Google Webmaster Tools.

About The Author

Scott Van Achte is the Senior SEO at StepForth Web Marketing Inc., based in Victoria, BC, Canada and founded in 1997. contact us at, Tel - 250-385-1190, TollFree - 877-385-5526, Fax - 250-385-1198

Optimize Email Deliverability with Best Practice Strategies

As an email marketer you may face email deliverability issues every day. Whether you're sending a personal email or bulk customer communication, electronic messages are frequently intercepted, filtered, erroneously labeled as spam, bounced or returned to the sender as undeliverable. For routine non-business correspondence, this is simply a minor annoyance and inconvenience. But when your message broadcasts a crisis or emergency, or if it includes time-sensitive account, billing or service information, you could face serious consequences. If you're a marketer, every undelivered message translates into lost revenue. Luckily, there are ways to improve the odds of delivery and decrease the chance of running into problems in the first place.

The key to email deliverability lies in earning the trust of Internet Service Providers, or ISPs. Because these companies need to provide quality service to their subscribers, they devise standard protocols and policies regarding unsolicited bulk email. To communicate with your subscribers and customers, without interference, focus on four key criteria proven to optimize deliverability rates.

1. Mind Your Lists.

How relevant is your list? You should only add recipients via responsible opt-in practices, removing bounced accounts and unsubscribe requests immediately. Never use distribution lists that are severely outdated or purchased. Many purchased lists include spam trap or HoneyPot addresses, intended to lure and catch spammers.

2. Maintain Low Complaint Levels.

Do recipients want your messages? Every time a subscriber reports you to their ISP, deliverability plummets. Several popular ISPs, including AOL, Yahoo and Hotmail, make this extremely easy with one-click spam reporting features. It's important to know how many complaints are coming in. Complaint processing can be automated, with email marketing service providers removing complainers from your distribution lists and integrating this data into real-time reports. However, you should strive to avoid complaints altogether. To minimize complaints, let recipients' know who you are by identifying your company in the 'from' field, use a clear and relevant subject line and distribute messages on a routine and predictable schedule.

3. Be Professional.

What does your message say about your company? Advance your brand and professional reputation by sending well-designed, organized and relevant email communications. Segment distribution lists and customize messages whenever possible. You should also make sure that domain names for landing pages have a public Whois record and a clearly linked Privacy Policy.

3. Use Email Authentication.

Take advantage of email authentication technologies. One such solution is Sender Policy Framework (SPF), providing an open-standard, technical method for preventing address forgery.

4. Understand Reputation.

What do your past actions say about you? ISPs filter spam based on your company, domain name and private IP address reputation. Building a solid reputation in these areas takes time, and the only way to build it is by sending legitimate emails and following practices. Send legitimate emails, clean your lists and avoid complaints. Make sure that your email service provider or email servers are setup with private IP addresses so that you repuation is only impacted by your email marketing practices.

Once you've taken all proactive email delivery strategies, use the reporting tools in your email marketing software to measure overall delivery. If you find specific ISPs are blocking your blast communications even though you've followed best practices, contact them right away to resolve the matter and apply for whitelist status.

Email marketing benefits are undeniable. With diligent efforts, marketers can dramatically increase business-critical email communication deliverability and improve their bottom line.

About the Author:

Dan Forootan is the President of EZ Publishing, Inc., the creator of the StreamSend Email Marketing service.

Everyone Is All A-Twitter About Twitter

I personally have been Tweeting for a few months. But I use the phrase "tweeting for a few months" loosely. I haven't been all that consistent with it, and I definitely didn't have a strategy. I just thought it was kind of cool.

Recently I've started paying more attention to it for a few reasons; my mother-in-law was at a librarian conference recently and attended a session on Twitter. I got into a conversation with her about it, and then the next day I saw John Reese's email about Twitter. It seems like there is a lot of twittering about Twitter going on.

What is Twitter?

According to the Twitter FAQ, "Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you're doing."

Wikipedia says, "Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates via SMS, instant messaging, email, to the Twitter website, or any one of the multitude of Twitter applications now available".

Basically Twitter asks the question, "What are you doing?" and allows you to send a short update (your tweets are limited to 140 characters) to your followers (family, friends, colleagues, customers, potential customers etc).

Twitter allows you to send and receive updates (also called tweets) via your browser, email, instant messaging clients and SMS (using your cell phone). No matter where you are, you can tweet!

I haven't been following Twitter since day 1, so I'm not going to comment on it's evolution but I will speculate that as its popularity grows, as more and more marketers use it, 2 things are inevitable:

1. Rules on Twitter etiquette will continue to evolve as we learn what we like and dislike about it, and as we respond to the inevitable abuse of Twitter (don't mean to sound negative but it happens with each exciting new opportuníty - people end up abusing it).

2. More and more companies will jump on board and try to get in on the conversation.

Start Twittering (or is it Tweeting?)

Remember, when you first join Twitter, it can feel like a lonely place. When you aren't following anyone and no one is following you, you may find yourself asking "what is the point?" I've heard so many people say they just don't get it. In fact, I've said that myself.

The key is to find the Tweets you want to follow so you can keep your finger on the pulse of your niche. The next key is to start building your followers. More on that in a minute.

How can Twitter help your business?

The more contact you have with a potential customer, the more likely you are to get their business. You can stay "top of mind" through Twitter. Let them know what's new in your industry, in your company etc. You become a source of quick news flashes for them.

Here are just a few of the benefits of Twitter:

  • It reminds people that you exist.

  • It shows people you have something to say.

  • It shows them that you are human.

  • It allows you to mention new offers, sales and breaking news immediately.

  • It allows you to form a more casual relationship.

  • You can use Twitter to promote your social bookmarking submissions.

  • You can ask for referrals, suggestions, feedback and help, and people will respond.

Twitter is also fun and is contributing to the new language we are constantly developing. For example "Twitterference" - the intrusion of twitter updates on your phone making it hard to have a conversation on your phone.

Finding Followers:

Start by reaching out to your friends, family, mailing líst etc. You can also add your Twitter link to your email signature line; add links to your website and Blog. Mention your Twitter account in your newsletter.

Twitter Rules

One cardinal rule (that is in your best interest to follow): if you use Twitter as a pure sales tool, you will lose followers quickly. As with all forms of social media, it is about creating a conversation and sharing news - it's not all about you shoving your sales message down their throats.

Tweets are limited to 140 characters. This is to allow them to be easily sent over mobile SMS systems.

You aren't able to embed HTML with the exception of hyperlinks. (But they are no-follow links, so they won't help you in your SEO quest for backlinks)

Bonus: Twitter automatically uses the TinyURL service to shorten links.

Don't tweet too much, or too little. There is no magic number and it varies according to your audience. Some people say don't update more than once per hour. Others say not more than once or twice a day. I tend to be in the once or twice a day camp. If there is breaking news and some days you just have to update more often then it's OK. If your tweets are valuable information, people will be more tolerant of frequent updates.

On the other hand if you are too quiet, people have nothing to follow so make sure you find that balance and tweet just enough to keep people informed but not annoyed.

Don't forget that your profile shows a history of all your tweets, so if a new person comes along and sees that you don't have many tweets they may decide you aren't worthy of following. Also if your past tweets aren't informative or interesting, you lose some potential followers.

You'll find that sometimes you get involved in personal conversation with someone. Try to avoid doing too much of this. Not everyone will be interested in your personal communications. If you do need to do this, put the @ symbol in front of somebody's name - this indicates that this message is for them.

One thing to keep in mind about personal conversation tweets - some people who are following you may not be following the person you are talking to. This means they get only one half of the conversation. One suggestion is to word your tweet so that spectators have an idea of what you are talking about. That way, they can feel more included in the conversation.

Trust and Twitter

With so much hype in marketing, people are really looking for a company that can trust. You can build trust with prospects by allowing them to get to know you, and by providing them with information. Twitter allows you to do just that.

A great tip: look at your Tweet history - is the information valuable, does it build trust? Would you want to follow yourself?

Get tweeting!

It may take some trial and error, and you probably want to check out what others are tweeting about to get a feel for the style. But don't spend too long lurking - check it out and then jump on in.

About The Author

Jennifer Horowitz is the Director of Marketing and co-owner of . Since 1998, her expertise in marketing online and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has helped clients improve revenue and achieve their business goals. Jennifer has written a downloadable book on Search Engine Optimization and has been published in many SEO and marketing publications. Jennifer can be reached at

How to Optimize for Google: Part 2 of 3

Optimizing for top Google rankings includes a number of factors. In Part 1 of 3 we discussed onsite optimization. In Part 2 we will touch on incoming links as well as using Google Webmaster Tools.


Links are very important in today's Google rankings, but just how many links you need will depend on both the competitiveness of your target phrases, and the quality of the incoming links themselves.

Essentially the number one rule of links is to keep it relevant! Topical relevance is very important in order for inbound links to give your site the most value. If the page that links to you is relevant that is good, if the entire site linking to you is relevant, that is better.

First to get an idea of how many links you may need, take a look at the top 10 ranking sites in Google and record how many links Yahoo is noting for each site. (This is because Google does not display anywhere near all the links they have noted). The average of this count is often a good indication of how many links your site may need.

There are many different ways to get links to your site including the age old reciprocal link trade, directory links, article based links, and links from press releases.

Reciprocal Links

Reciprocal linking has seen its value drop considerably over the past few years, however, if the site you are trading with is relevant you can still receive value from these links.

Paid Links

Google frowns on paid links, however that is not to say that they don't work. Often you can find highly reputable and relevant websites which are offering paid advertising spots. If these links are coded to link directly to your website without passing through any tracking redirects, you will in many cases see value in the form of both direct traffic and increased link densities and rankings.


Writing and distributing industry specific articles is a great way to help boost both your link counts and site traffic; for examples of such content see StepForth's SEO Blog News articles. Consider writing articles on a regular basis and submitting them to some of the more popular services such as EzineArticles. Be sure to include a link to your site from somewhere within the article, or at the very least within your bio. Try to use a target phrase as part of the anchor text for additional value.

Press Releases

If something of importance has happened to your company such as a new product launch, or other notable achievement - essentially anything news worthy, put out a press release. Submit this press release through services such as PRWeb or PRNewsWire. Again, be sure to include a target phrase as part of the anchor text.

There are also a number of places you can get links that have basically turned south, and are not generally recommended. These include signatures in form posts, guest books, and other typically free links.

Forum Posts

Forum posts can help to marginally raise your link counts; however, with this one you must be careful. Only add a link to your site in your signature if both the forum allows it, and you are a respected member of the forum. If you are a solid contributor and your posts have depth and meaning, and the forum is highly relevant to your site, then having a link in your signature may give your site some juice. Posting wildly to random forums will in most cases get yourself banned, and will be both a waste of time and potentially make you and your site look bad.

Guest Books

In nearly all cases, do not post your link to guest books. If you happen to stumble upon a guestbook that is highly relevant to your site, the other comments are relevant to your site, and you have something useful (and again relevant) to say, then perhaps consider it, but typically focusing on links from guest books is considered SPAM and is best avoided all together.

Blog Comments

Having a link from your blog comments is not necessarily a bad thing. If you find a relevant blog post of use, and have something relevant and constructive to say, don't be afraid to enter your link into the "URL" field of the form, but don't try stuffing links into the comment itself.

Link Farms & Bad Neighborhoods

These are sites that allow you to simply post your link no stríngs attached. They are mostly long scrolling pages with countless links. Stay away from them. If you see one, run in the other direction. These links are bad, will not help with your rankings, and in some cases can actually damage your rankings.

Stay away from sites that cross link with obvious spammers. These networks of SPAM sites are not ones you would want your site associated with, and if you achieve links from enough of these sites it can adversely impact your rankings. Even more important, NEVER link to any of these sites - as that will certainly tie in your connection to them and give Google reason to discount your rankings.

DMOZ, Yahoo and Other Directories

Directory based links can be of significant help, especially if they are from highly reputable directories, the two biggest being and the Yahoo Directory.

Getting a site into DMOZ is like Gold. Google loves links from DMOZ and your site will reap the benefits. The big catch however is actually getting your site into the directory in the first place. Find the perfect category for your site and check to see if it has an editor. If you see a link "Volunteer to edit this category" try and find another relevant location. Pages without active editors take much longer to get listed into. Once you find the perfect directory submit your site every 4-6 months until listed. If you are lucky you will get in eventually.

Yahoo Directory is seen as an authority in the eyes of Google, and getting your site in will help your link reputation. This link does come at a price of $299 per year, but will play a role in helping your website achieve top rankings.

There are a number of other valuable directories out there that can help you with your search rankings. Before submittíng to any directory the key is a combination of relevance and authority. If the directory is relevant and active, it may be worth considering.


Google Webmaster Tools can be very useful for your optimization efforts. It may not directly help you obtain higher rankings, but can help you trouble shoot if you are experiencing problems. It will also allow you to remove URL's that you don't want indexed and set various preferences such as your domain, crawl rate, and geographic target.

XML Sitemaps

This is the most common reason people use Google Webmaster Tools - the submission of their XML sitemap. While you can use your robots.txt to have Google find your XML sitemap, by submitting it directly to Google you can check up on the spidering status.

Error checking

Webmaster Tools is also quite useful for checking on various error URL's that Google may know about. Under the Diagnostics > Web Crawl you can view any errors that Google has to report on your site. By cleaning up any errors you can help boost your chances of rankings.


From inside Google Webmaster Tools you can get a much clearer look at what sites Google is noting as having links to you, and give you a better indication of the need, if any, to raise your link counts.

WWW Preference

Be sure to select your domain preference under Tools > Set Preferred Domain. In nearly all cases you will want to select the version including the "www" .


Inbound links play a significant role in successful Google rankings. By focusing on relevant links, as well as by diversifying where you get those links from, you can build a solid foundation for your search rankings today and into the future.

Stay tuned for Part 3 (of 3) where I will discuss other considerations including redirects, HTTP headers, and a number of other factors which play a role in successfully conquering Google.

About The Author

Scott Van Achte is the Senior SEO at StepForth Web Marketing Inc., based in Victoria, BC, Canada and founded in 1997. You can read more of Scott's articles and those of the StepForth team at or contact us at, Tel - 250-385-1190, TollFree - 877-385-5526, Fax - 250-385-1198

Microsoft and Yahoo!, Search Engine Partners? How Mergers and Acquisitions May Change the Search Engine Playing Field - and Where Google Comes In

Until recently, there were five major players in the search engine world: Google, MSN, AOL,, and the Yahoo! search engine. These top Internet search engines quickly could be narrowed down to four, however; AOL uses the Google algorithm and will yield nearly identical results. Further narrowing is rapidly occurring - seems to be stepping out of the spotlight to focus on specific markets, and in early March 2008, Microsoft began attempting to purchase the Yahoo! search engine. If there are just two top search engines with which to be concerned, what does this mean for your business and for SEO as a whole?

What's Going On with the Yahoo! Search Engine?

As almost anybody with access to a news source knows by now, Microsoft put in an unsolicited offer to purchase the Yahoo! search engine in early March 2008. Yahoo! rejected this offer at first, saying that it undervalued its company as one of the top engines (and a provider of other services, including email and chat as well). Microsoft did not increase the offer at this point; it instead decided to enter a proxy battle.

A proxy battle would involve Microsoft putting up its own board of directors to let shareholders decide if its purchase of the Yahoo! search engine would be acceptable or not. In essence, Microsoft has decided that it will attempt to convince shareholders that their interests are better served by people who will approve this acquisition between two of the top Internet search engines. And Yahoo! shareholders have been beaten down for some time, so it is widely expected that the majority will in fact favor this acquisition.

Meanwhile, Yahoo!, on spurning this offer, began talking with other companies in order to build strategic partnerships and keep itself as one of the top engines, as it had been for so long. It was rumored that MySpace's parent company, News Corporation, was in talks to work with the Yahoo! search engine, as was Google. However, these talks seem to have fizzled, and Yahoo!'s board of directors has begun speaking directly with Microsoft's board. Yahoo! bought a bit of time by delaying the election of its board, but it is believed that this is all the shareholders will stand for at this point.

So I'm assuming that if the acquisition goes down, the Microsoft search engine and the Yahoo! search engine will likely be using the same algorithm, even if they remain separate sites. It just makes sense not to spend the money to have two separate research departments, especially when the Yahoo! search engine is widely regarded to be superior to Microsoft's.

Will Continue to Be One of the Top Internet Search Engines?

For a time, seemed to be trying to go head to head with Google and to position itself as one of the top Internet search engines - period. You may remember the "algorithm" ads that it ran for a time on television. However, recently announced that it will instead be tailoring itself to the niche market share of which it already has control. In other words, they're no longer trying to be all things to all people in the way that other top search engines like, well, Yahoo! and Google are.

What we know about's demographic is that it is largely female, although refutes the notion that it is focusing on "older women." According to an article in Forbes, an spokesperson said that:

...reports of the site becoming oriented towards older women are false and were fueled by an erroneous Associated Press article that has since been changed. Ask acknowledged that married women do compose a lot of its core users and these matronly queries are often dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia type queries - as well as categories like health and entertainment(1)...

Seeing as also laid off 8% of its staff at the same time that it refocused, it seems clear that the company is no longer aiming to be considered one of the top Internet search engines.

And this means that we are down to two search engine technologies dominating the entire landscape: Google and a MSN/Yahoo! search engine hybrid (Micro-hoo? Yah-soft?).

How Will This Affect Consumers?

If there truly are only two major top Internet search engines, the industry will be like Coke vs. Pepsi. Sure there are other, smaller players like RC Cola that some people will be brand loyal about, but for the most part it's either Big Guy One or Big Guy Two.

And this means that businesses that had good rankings and that were getting good traffic from, say, and MSN but not the Yahoo! search engine, will be in a bind. With only two top Internet search engines, there will be less real estate to compete for and the same number of businesses vying for this real estate.

How Will This Affect SEO Companies?

In one sense, having only two serious engines makes the job easier for search engine optimization companies - there's just less algorithms to absorb and master. However, it makes the opportunity for volatility much more likely. Before, if the Google or Yahoo! search engine changed its algorithm, you had three or four other engines to fall back on while you worked to update your practices. But with only two major players, a tweak to either the Google or MSN/Yahoo! search engine algorithm could have much further reaching implications to individual companies in the search space.

Who Will Compete Next?

Google has been coasting for many years as being seen as the underdog in the industry - the cool, hip engine to use that's not owned by the big guys. However, search engine optimization practitioners have started to see some cracks in that veneer. The truth of the matter is that Microsoft is seen as a huge corporate conglomerate, with Google starting to be seen similarly. And now Google has to answer to shareholders, rather than just going along trying "not to be evil." Google has its own set of privacy issues and conflicts of interest, such as its recent purchase of DoubleClick, which came along with a SEO company. [See my recent article A Slippery Slope: Google Owns a Search Engine Optimization Company on this topic for more information.]

So when there are just two top Internet search engines, the door is opened for competition. If another company can come along technologically that is on par with the Google and Yahoo! search engine algorithms and that does not have huge corporate considerations, it could very well start gaining some market share in this space. I'll let you know if I see any contenders.



(c) Medium Blue 2008

About The Author

Scott Buresh is the founder of Medium Blue, a search engine optimization company. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including MarketingProfs, ZDNet, SiteProNews, WebProNews, DarwinMag,, and Search Engine Guide.

Do-It-Yourself SEO: A Beginner's Checklist

There have always been do-it-yourselfers succeeding at web promotion and search engine optimization. In fact, many of the established businesses offering web services today came from humble beginnings, perhaps nothing more than a college student with a laptop, an internet connection, and too much free time. The Web evolves as the result of the innovation and experimentation of individuals. The sharing of knowledge. The do-it-yourself attitude.

As text link brokers and mass link networking decrease in value and use in social media increases, it becomes more important for companies to have an internal approach and awareness of search engine marketing. Don't get me wrong; outsourcing to SEO firms is still a smart option. That said, making the most out of Web 2.0 usually requires some level of cooperation between SEO firm and site owner. You don't need to be an expert to know the basics of good SEO practices, and that added knowledge will be a great advantage whether you're working along side an SEO team, or promoting your own site in your spare time.

So if you're on a "need to know" basis with SEO, the following points should illustrate what an overall plan should include:

1. Create Search Engine-Friendly Content

Unique web content is your most valuable asset, and ensuring search engines can read it is crucial. Text embedded in images or Flash cannot be read, so make sure you use important keywords, headings, and hyperlinks in plain text form. Instead of using images as navigation links, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) makes it easy to format those links to look more like 'buttons', thus creating powerful anchor text as well as making it visually appealing. Use heading tags properly and don't try to hide keywords or text by making it the same color as the page background or shrinking it so it can't be seen. Make sure the keywords you wish to rank high for are used frequently in the page copy but within reason.

Now that you've created good content, is it actually being crawled? Copy and paste a page's URL into a search engine to see if it has been indexed. If you've just created the page, it may take a few days to show up. Aside from age, many factors can lead to web pages not being indexed by search engines, such as duplicate content (ie. a printer-friendly version of a page might be indexed and the normal version not, or vice versa); links generated by JavaScript instead of HTML; poor site architecture (ie. using too many sub-directories); lengthy, dynamically generated URLs using special characters; and orphaned pages.

2. Choose Your Keywords Wisely

One of the first steps of SEO, this one needs to be done properly the first time or all your future efforts and promotion could end up being wasted. Start by writing down general terms that describe your products, services or web content. Use keyword research services to investigate word and phrase variations. Wordtracker, KeywordDiscovery, and the Google AdWords suggestion tool are good starting points. The goal is to find those niche phrases that your target market uses to find sites just like yours and optimize your site for them. If the phrases do not get enough use by searchers, your profits from ranking for them will be low. At the same time, stay away from general terms that are tougher to rank for (ie. like "art", "computers", "business", etc.) as a great portion of the traffic will be irrelevant and you'll break the bank attaining such competitive phrases.

3. Get Others to Link to Your Site

In theory there are countless ways, some traditional and some quite innovative, to get other web sites to link to yours. In practice, it can be easier said than done. Google defines a link as it pertains to rankings and SEO as a "vote" from one site to another. The more quality votes your site receives, the greater chance you have of rankings well. If a well established site links to yours, that link carries more weight than one would from a mom & pop shop or less reputable page.

If your site has useful content and is doing something unique, you're already ahead of much of the competition. People need a reason to link to your site, as very few will do it out of the goodness of their heart. Trading links can work, but link exchange networks have decreased in value and won't be of much use in competitive fields. Buying links, if you haven't heard, is a big Google no-no. While entire articles could be written on this topic, here are a few popular methods of acquiring incoming links:

- issuing company press releases with a link back to your site

- submitting to reputable business directories such as Yahoo! and

- be active on related blogs by commenting and exchanging ideas

- if you have clients with web sites, ask if they would mind adding your link in a "partners" section

- participate in relevant forums and discussion boards with a link in your signature

- write and submit original articles to web publications in your field with a link in your bio

- get involved in social media and bookmarking

4. Join the Social Media Revolution

The collaboration between Internet users and the development of online communities is at an all-time high. Social bookmarking sites such as, StumbleUpon, Furl, Reddit, and Technorati offer users a way to store their favorite pages and media online, and share it with others. These services also provide a way to promote your own content or create a buzz over a product or service. Creating a Myspace page or Squidoo "lens" is also a way to network and share information.

However, if your goal is to generate sales then you must offer something without the promotional hype. The reality of social media is that popularity is based almost entirely on public interest. If your information or media isn't unique or of interest to anyone, you cannot force success using social media communities.

The key to using social media and bookmarking sites to your advantage is to not be shy. Network with other users, bookmark and share useful content, create eye-catching titles for your entries, and tell your friends and co-workers to vote on content you have on these sites.

These four points are a general guideline to follow for SEO. Search engine optimization experts and firms are a good outsourcing option in competitive markets, while the DIY attitude can yield great results for web site owners with smaller marketing budgets. If you're in the latter group, hopefully this helps get you started.

About the Author:

John Metzler has held executive positions in the search engine marketing industry since 2001. He is the Founder of FreshPromo, a Canadian-based SEO firm and updates his blog regularly.

Maximize Traffic With 10 SEO Power Tips

How do you know what type of content is really going to attract the right searchers?

In this article I wanted to cover a few very basic tips that you can keep in mind when building high-performance strategies. Remember that good search engine marketing is not about trying to manipulate or "fool the search engines." Good SEO skills are more about creating genuine relevancy for well-written content that deserves to be found because it is truly the most relevant and useful to your audience of readers.

What students quickly discover in the 5-Day classes is that the optimization skills are not nearly as hard as many people make them out to be (even for the most competitive phrases,) once you've been trained and understand the full scope of influences that are at work. The biggest advantage that we have had is all about the "accuracy of information."

1. Write content that your audience is already looking for within the last 90 days.

True keyword research is not about 'guessing at keywords' but its all about researching actual data. How are your SEO research skills using Wordtracker or Keyword Discovery? At the SEO Workshops we teach much more than the traditional "keyword research" methods. We help students learn "Keyword Forensics" and how to quickly tap into the hidden niche trends that 99% of most Webmasters never even notice.

2. Does your Web copy speak to the reader or does it speak about yourself?

Remember that your Web site should be focused on your audience first and appeal specifically to a niche interest. When writing your Web copy, you need to dialog in an appropriate tone and format for the right audience. Some of the most interesting content will have more appeal if it speaks to your audience in terms of "you." You can, you might, you will, yours, your and you're INSTEAD of we, ours, we're, we will, we can, etc.

3. Focus on writing for the human audience first and search engines second.

While search engine optimization is important to your visibility, try writing your content first. Most people don't write their best when trying to optimize and create content at the same time. Focus on creating highly useful content that is extremely focused on one topic per page. Once you have completed your writing so that you are pleased with it, then go in to do a mild re-write for the search engines.

4. Tips for triggering idea generation and giving your strategies a unique twist.

While many people seem to spend time exploring their competitor's Web sites, we encourage you to lead the way with new ideas. Try not to be obsessed with what the competition is doing, but be creative and start your own new trends. Spend just a little more time working on your projects this week than you did last week. Setting yourself apart from the competition is easier than you might think and gives you a huge advantage over others.

5. Creating your content so that it "speaks" to a specific audience of visitors.

Think of how your Web copy reads and ensure the dialog flows smoothly. Read your work out loud and see if you can improve the tone of your message with natural expression. Keep your specific audience in mind. How you write for senior citizen (in tone and in format) may differ considerably from writing for an audience of for example "new parents." Always ask yourself "what is important to these readers?" Rely on researching accurate data to eliminate guess work.

6. Remember strong calls to action

Without a firm call to action, don't expect the reader to naturally guess at what you want them to do next. Plain ordinary dialog that asks the reader to take the next action will usually work best. Dialog that is written for voice (similar to the way a broadcaster writes to project their personality.)

7. Build your search engine optimization skills in the beginning with the "stress free" approach.

If you are new to SEO, you may want to focus on the long tailed niche phrases since most searchers are doing fairly descriptive and intelligent searches these days. Ideally you want to attract those who already know what they are looking for and just need to find your pages more easily. With practice and the right training you can go after highly competitive phrases too but you'll find that the best conversions nearly always come from the niches. Also remember that it is the basic SEO skills that carry you through and must come before any of the advanced strategies. The result will be stable top rankings that stand the test of time with minimal fuss.

8. Give your readers a non-threatening reason to respond right now.

What is the objective for your page and does your Web copy work effectively at fulfilling that objective? It may not always be about trying to sell a product or a service. It should not be about fulfilling your needs first but it should be about meeting the needs of why that searcher first conducted a search. Meet their needs and deliver up something that satisfies their search first and then give the visitor a non-threatening reason why they might respond to you. Do you want their e-mail address? Or do you just want them to pick up the phone and call? Never lose sight of the fact that the Web is a marvelous two way interactive experience, if you want it to be. Make your Web site a vehicle for relationship building and remember that many readers may actually have the desire to interact and participate through Blogs or other "User Generated activity." Give your visitors something that involves their participation.

9. Remember that your readers always want to feel like they are in control of their Web experience.

People often use the Web for researching topics of interest or doing preliminary price comparisons or for looking up information. While most people explore the Web for their own purposes, the more that you put them in control of their experience the better. If appropriate, you may want to consider adding additional tools or functionality to your Web site in order to enhance its usability for your specific audience.

10. Did you know that if you write your content so that it naturally "reads very well."

You will naturally gain some bonus for having created content of quality. By this, I mean content...that reads well to a human being. Don't stuff keywords all over the place. Instead, use moderation in everything you do. One of the things you need to understand is that "theme based" search engines like Google, are actually using a measure of artificial intelligence (AI) to measure how well your article "reads" based on all of the overall context of your body text (other than the keywords) based on data that a search engine has gathered concerning a specific topic. This is great news for writers because if you are making a transition to writing for the web, you'll find some search engines are literally rewarding pages that are "well written."

About the Author:

John Alexander has taught live SEO Workshops since 2002 at as well as Online Webinars at the SEO Workshop Resource Center at