Training

SEO 101 – Google Personalized Search

Personalized search
Whether we want it or not, personalized search is being rolled out by the big search engines. Here are some updated tips for site owners.

Another way that Google has changed the playing field as far as search engine optimization is through Personalized Search. With Personalized Search, Google reads your search history, measures your length of stay and clicks on sites and dishes out search results based on what it thinks you want to see, which can be totally different from what others see. For Google to show these personalized results, you have to be signed into a Google account (Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Reader, etc). The problem is that most people will forget that they are signed in and won’t know that the results they are seeing are personalized and different from what others might see.

Why is Google personalizing search? In a nutshell, because Google thinks it’s what we want. Many of us in that big “we” category aren’t convinced that’s so. Regardless, it looks like it’s here to stay.

One advantage Google sees is that by studying your personal search habits, the engine might be able to better distinguish the meaning of your query. For instance, if you have been searching for a new truck lately, the search engine might be able to figure out that you’re current query is for a Tacoma truck and not the city of Tacoma. Narrowing the search down like this can benefit conversion rates.

Of course, the other big engines will follow suit with their own versions of personalized search results (whether we really want them or not). So, in order to optimize your sites for more personalized search friendliness (stickiness and more clicks), here are a few tips.

Continue reading

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Training

SEO 101: Local Search Optimization

Getting found in local search results.
Getting found for local search queries takes more than having a web site with your address on it.

If there is any part of SEO that is currently ripe with opportunity it’s Local Search. A huge portion of search is for information local to the searcher (Palm Springs movies, Houston pizza, etc.), but a ton of local mom & pop businesses simply don’t know that there is such a thing as “local” search. Many folks think that search is, well, search!

So, now is the time to take advantage of this lack of understanding about local search and get your business in there! It takes more than just a web site targeted to a local audience. Rather, you need to know about about how local search works.

For instance, searchers are basically lazy and tend to search for a city name rather than narrowing down to a neighborhood or zip code, so instead of “pizza 92262” they’ll start their search with the city as in “palm springs pizza” as the query.

Also, take a look at what you get in a local search result:

Google local search exampleNotice that Google now provides ten results (with web site URLs and phone numbers) and a map with locations of the listings. You’ll also see the number of reviews that each business has received. Other search engines will give similar results, though, as of this writing, with a varying number of results mapped and listed. Also notice that the organic results show up below the local results – another reason to be in there if you can.

So, let’s jump into some tips to help you with your local search optimization.

1. Include your physical address. Make sure it is on every page on your web site. if you think slapping a postal address into the HTML address meta tag will help you get found in local search, think again.

2. Be central. Unfortunately, the search engines tend to focus on the city center, meaning that the first results that come up for a search like Boston bars will be those in center city. If you’re lucky enough to be centrally located, you’ve got a leg up on the competition. If not, you could try getting a mailing address that is centrally located, but the search engines will definitely frown on that. All it takes is one disgruntled person going to that location and finding a mailbox to report you. And, businesses without street addresses can’t get listed in Google local listings.

3. Optimize your web site. Regular SEO can have an influence. Be sure to use the name of your city in your content (our Palm Springs office, not just our office). Use your city name in your image ALT attributes and anchor text. See my S E O 101 series for general optimization tips. Make sure your classic SEO is location specific.

4. Optimize your local listing. In Google, go to Local Business Center. For Yahoo!, go to Yahoo! Local. For MSN (or Live or whatever they call themselves today), go to Windows Live Local Listing Center. Fill out the forms with all relevant information. Provide links, web pages, photos and coupons if available.

5. Get reviews. Reviews can have an effect on how you rank in the results. Lots of good reviews can only help you. Enlist friends, customers, relatives, business partners or whoever you can to write good reviews to get you started, but don’t spam. You’ll get caught.

6. Get listed in trusted sources. The search engines pull some reviews and listings from what they consider trusted sources like Superpages, Yellow Pages, Info USA, Localeze and Yelp. Some are free, some are for a fee, but listings in these can help. In Yahoo, del.icio.us rankings might also have some influence.

7. Make sure your data and category are accurate in #4 & #6 above.

8. A keyword-rich domain name can’t hurt.

9. Do local videos. These tend to have great click-through rates and can come up in Google blended results.

10. Cross link with maps on a trusted site like Mapquest.

11. Create a local listing for all locations. If you have more than one, don’t just create a local listing for the main one. Get them all in there!

As always, this barely scratches the surface of local SEO and is intended to get you started in the right direction. I go into more detail in my SEO workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check my blog at http://www.weboptimist.com for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

This article will be updated periodically.

See my related S E O 101 posts .

Standard
Training

SEO 101 – The Basics

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is not rocket science, but it is complex and it is an ongoing process that changes almost daily. There is no such thing as a permanent fix to magically send you to the top of the rankings for good. But here are some of the basics to look for when optimizing your site for the first time.

On-Page Factors

1. Title Tag
This one is very important. Among the first things the spiders will crawl on your page is the Title Tag at the very top of your HTML code. This is what you see in the blue bar at the top of your browser when you land on a page. Using unique text in this tag on each page is absolutely essential. I have seen huge sites with thousands of pages all using the same content in the Title Tag of each page, frequently the name of the company as the only text. Not only will you NOT rank for anything but what is in that tag for your entire site (Do you want every page on your site to rank for nothing but your company name? I don’t think so.), but you run the risk of most of your pages not appearing in search results at all. You must have a unique Title Tag related to the unique subject matter of each page throughout your website (10 to 15 words, 80 characters maximum).

2. Internal Navigation
There was a time when the search engine crawlers choked on javascript links and database driven web pages that looked something like http://www.widgets.com/product.php?categoryid=1&productid=10, but they are better at reading them these days. However, you still need to make your links as digestible to the spiders as you can. As much as possible, you should make your links through plain text and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Javascript and image map links should be avoided as well as session IDs and variables in dynamic pages. Avoid using frames like the plague! These can all still give spiders a fit. Also, use an HTML page sitemap (a page with a list of your page links, not a Sitemap – see below) with text links to not only help visitors find what they are looking for, but to direct the spiders to all of your internal pages.

You’re better off letting your pages be found naturally by the spiders. Good global navigation and linking will serve you much better than relying on an XML Sitemap, which is a file that is uploaded to a search engine with a list of your page URLs.

3. Make Your Site Unique
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but that’s a big no-no on the web. Do not copy someone else. Make your site as unique as possible with information that no one else has. In other words, don’t steal content off of someone else’s site. Not only can that be copyright infringement, but it can put you and the site you copied from in hot water with the search engines for duplicate content (see Duplicate Content below). Creating a buzz about something unique is great link bait. Which leads us to:

4. Content
Content is King. Content is spider food. The search engines are looking for the foremost authority on a keyword or phrase. Do your keyword research and make sure your site has plenty of keyword rich content high on the page that is useful to the visitor as well as digestible to the spiders. Make use of H1, H2 and H3 headlines that contain your keywords. Make sure your prose is natural and easy to read.

Don’t go overboard and make every other word on the page the keyword you want to rank the page for. Stuffing the page with keywords is considered a form of spam.

Focus on search phrases, not single keywords, and put your location in your text (“our Palm Springs showroom” not “our showroom”) to help you get found in local searches.

Having terrific content will not only be great for your visitors and spiders, but it’s wonderful link bait, too (see Links below). A blog is a great way to create fresh, new content (for the spiders and for visitors) and attract inbound links. The more good content you put on a blog, the bigger the blog gets. The bigger the blog, the more relevant it will become to the search engines. For some, a blog can completely take the place of a standard web site.

Also, use Flash animation and images sparingly. Spiders can read text, not Flash nor pictures. A sure way to kill any chance of ranking well is to create a site that is all Flash or mostly images.

5. Duplicate Content
Let’s say you have a site that sells a thousand different types of widgets and the pages are all built from the same template with the same text and the only difference is the model of widget on the page. What could happen is that the search engines will not see enough difference in the pages to consider them unique and will rank what it considers the best single page and dump the rest.

To avoid duplicate content issues, make sure all of your pages have unique Title Tags, Meta Tags (see below) and text, in this case probably in the form of product description text.

And, if you are writing articles for distribution to the various article sites for mass distribution (a great way to get back links), be sure to publish the article on your own site first and give the spiders a chance to crawl it. That identifies you as the originator of the content. Then push the article out for distribution across the web, making sure you have a link back to your site in the article content.

6. Code Bloat
Between you, your web designer and web programmer, it’s real easy to wind up with a page that is full of internal code that not only impedes spiders, but causes your pages to load at a snail’s pace. Be very careful with this. Too much code will send both the spiders and the visitors away and can knock the meat of your pages down to the bottom. It’s best to have your spider-friendly content as high in your code as possible, so when you can, place javascript (if you absolutely MUST use it) and CSS in external files that can be called with a single line of code from each page.

For instance, one site I worked with had so much javascript going on that the first 200 lines of code after the Title and Meta Tags were javascript, knocking the rest of the content down and making the page load size huge. I was able to move the javascript into external files, each simply called by a single line of code. This made every page on the site smaller in size and brought the spider-friendly content up higher in the code by 199 lines.

For example, you could put your all 100 lines of your CSS on each and every one of your 300 site pages or you could call your CSS from an external file called style.css with one single line of code on each page like:

External CSS code

Having a single file for your CSS or javascript also means you only need to edit one file when changes need to be made, too. 🙂

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll need to ask your web developer or learn a bit about HTML.

7. Tweak and Test
Make one change at a time and evaluate. Changing too many things at once can confuse things to the point where you don’t know which change you made did what. For instance, let’s say you changed your content on a page as well as the linking structure and Meta Tags at the same time and the page dropped in the rankings a few days later. How would you know which to point to as the problem?

Try one tweak at a time and give the search engines time to digest it before moving on to the next.

8. Meta Tags
The only Meta Tag that carries any weight at all as far as SEO is the description, and it doesn’t have the influence it once had. It basically has no effect on rankings these days. Still, it’s a good idea to make it keyword rich and include what you want to show up in the SERPs (search engine result pages) as your description. Yes, this is what frequently comes up describing your site in the results, so be sure it says what you want it to say. A good description can definitely have influence on clickthrough traffic. What makes a good meta description?

a. Target the description to the individual page using the keyword focus for the page.
b. Describe the page in human-readable text.
c. A list of keywords just won’t cut it. Use a snippet of text that accurately describes the page.

The keyword tag has very little influence on rankings anymore, practically none, but it can’t hurt to include it. Just don’t stuff if with a thousand words. Ten or so should be enough for any page. As of this writing, Yahoo appears to be the only major search engine to actually find words included in the keyword meta tag.

Off-Page Factors

9. Links
If Content is King, then Links are Queen. Search engines look at links pointing to your site as verification that you are an important authority site. It’s not just the quantity of links but the quality that counts. You can have thousands of links pointing to you, but if they are all from link farms or spammy sites, they won’t do you any good. Try to get back links from quality sites. If you have good content, a lot of links will come your way naturally, but if you want to speed things up, you’ll need to actively pursue those links. One way is to contact theme related, non-competitive authority sites and request a link. The acid test for a potential link is if there is a natural, logical reason for that site to link to you. If not, then you don’t want the link.

And, you want the links back to your site to use your keyword text in them. This is extremely important. If the keyword you are targeting is “widget” then you want the link back to your widget page to use that text and not “click here” or something like that.

Another way to use your content to get back links is by submitting articles to other sites for publication (A blog and RSS feed are great for this). Just be sure the content includes links to your site. Press releases are also great for generating interest and backlinks, but take care and only submit press releases to sites like PRWeb when you really have news.

Having a blog and RSS feed have an added advantage – an open door to the various social search sites. If you place easy link buttons or links (click here to Digg this article, etc.) on your blog articles and posts, visitors will save them to the various social bookmarking sites, creating instant backlinks and the potential of being found by other visitors to those social sites.

Submitting to trusted directories is also a good place to start. Most of the best require a fee for a listing, but they can be a great first step in your link building campaign.

There’s no simple, easy one-step way to build links. It’s really about networking and relationships and your useful content is the key.

10. Competition
Keep track of your competition by searching for your primary keywords and study what they are doing. Don’t copy them, but you can analyze what they are doing right and you are doing wrong. See who is linking to them and investigate getting your own link. If you are a new site, you’ll be playing catch up for a while, but have faith. That guy in the #1 spot had to start from scratch at some point, too.

11. Training & Support
If you are on a shoestring budget and don’t have money to hire an SEO, you’ll have to do it all yourself. SEO changes daily and if you think all you have to do is tweak Meta Tags, you’re several years behind and have a LOT of catching up to do. You’ll be learning as you go. You’ll probably want to invest in some SEO training. I give search engine optimization workshops and do site critiques, so check my blog, The Web Optimist, for information.

You can get ideas, updates and recommendations from my blog and from S E O forums and blogs online. Don’t rely on the forums as a solution for all of your website problems, but as a place to go for advice from S E Os and others who are also asking questions.

12. Analysis & Statistics
Sounds boring, but all of your hard work is worthless if you don’t know how you are doing. Chances are your hosting company will have some sort of web statistics feature where you can check basics such as unique visitors, where your traffic is coming from (referrals), page not found errors, etc. One mistake newbies make is to consider “hits” as the number of visitors they are getting. In actuality, “hits” are useless information. Hits are simply server pulls. As an example, if you have ten images on a page each time the page is loaded each image results in a server pull or “hit”What you really want to look at is the number of “unique visitors” to your site, not hits, as an indication of your traffic.

If you are an e-commerce site, you’ll also want a way to track conversions, which will require something more than your basic hosting stats. Google offers free web analytics that could be adequate for many site owners, but there are also commercial applications available that offer greater functionality.

Whatever you do, don’t leave the site on autopilot. Check your stats frequently. You’d be surprised at the little things you’ll see that will help you bring in more traffic.

13. History
There is evidence that the search engines actually look at your domain history in their ranking algorithms (How long the domain has been up, how many years you’ve renewed for, if you’ve changed IP addresses frequently, etc.). The more stable you are the more they consider you a trusted site.

If you’re in it for the long haul, renew your domain for several years at a time (not just annually) and get a dedicated IP address and keep it. The best situation is to have a dedicated web server, but not all of us can afford that. The next best thing is to pay for a dedicated IP address with your host so that you are no longer sharing the hosted IP block. It usually doesn’t cost that much. Not only will the search engines see you as stable, you don’t run the risk of the IP being banned if one of your shared hosting neighbors is naughty. Although Google claims that a shared address is fine, if you are serious about your business, why take chances?

Don’t bounce from host to host because that screams SPAMMER to the search engines. Find a good hosting company and stay there. Also, be aware that by using services that block domain ownership information when you register a domain, Google might see you as a potential spammer.

——————————————-
This barely scratches the surface of beginning SEO and is intended to get you started in the right direction. I go into more detail in my SEO 101 workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check my blog at http://www.weboptimist.com for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

This article will be updated periodically.

See my related S E O 101 posts .

Standard
Training

SEO 101 – Updated

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is not rocket science, but it is complex and it is an ongoing process that changes almost daily. There is no such thing as a permanent “fix” to magically send you to the top of the rankings for good. But here are some of the basics to look for when optimizing your site for the first time.

On-Page Factors

1. Title Tag
This one is very important. Among the first things the spiders will crawl on your page is the Title Tag at the very top of your HTML code. This is what you see in the blue bar at the top of your browser when you land on a page. Using unique text in this tag on each page is absolutely essential. I have seen huge sites with thousands of pages all using the same content in the Title Tag of each page, frequently the name of the company as the only text. Not only will you NOT rank for anything but what is in that tag for your entire site (Do you want every page on your site to rank for nothing but your company name? I don’t think so.), but you run the risk of most of your pages not appearing in search results at all. You must have a unique Title Tag related to the unique subject matter of each page throughout your website (10 to 15 words, 80 characters maximum).

2. Internal Navigation
There was a time when the search engine crawlers choked on javascript links and database driven web pages that looked something like http://www.widgets.com/product.php?categoryid=1&productid=10, but they are better at reading them these days. However, you still need to make your links as digestible to the spiders as you can. As much as possible, you should make your links through plain text and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Javascript and image map links should be avoided as well as session IDs and variables in dynamic pages. Avoid using frames like the plague! These can all still give spiders a fit. Also, use an HTML page sitemap (a page with a list of your page links, not a Sitemap – see below) with text links to not only help visitors find what they are looking for, but to direct the spiders to all of your internal pages.

You’re better off letting your pages be found naturally by the spiders. Good global navigation and linking will serve you much better than relying on an XML Sitemap, which is a file that is uploaded to a search engine with a list of your page URLs.

3. Make Your Site Unique
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but that’s a big no-no on the web. Do not copy someone else. Make your site as unique as possible with information that no one else has. In other words, don’t steal content off of someone else’s site. Not only can that be copyright infringement, but it can put you and the site you copied from in hot water with the search engines for duplicate content (see Duplicate Content below). Creating a buzz about something unique is great link bait. Which leads us to:

4. Content
Content is King. Content is spider food. The search engines are looking for the foremost authority on a keyword or phrase. Do your keyword research and make sure your site has plenty of keyword rich content high on the page that is useful to the visitor as well as digestible to the spiders. Make use of H1, H2 and H3 headlines that contain your keywords. Make sure your prose is natural and easy to read.

Don’t go overboard and make every other word on the page the keyword you want to rank the page for. Stuffing the page with keywords is considered a form of spam.

Focus on search phrases, not single keywords, and put your location in your text (“our Palm Springs showroom” not “our showroom”) to help you get found in local searches.

Having terrific content will not only be great for your visitors and spiders, but it’s wonderful link bait, too (see Links below). A blog is a great way to create fresh, new content (for the spiders and for visitors) and attract inbound links. The more good content you put on a blog, the bigger the blog gets. The bigger the blog, the more relevant it will become to the search engines. For some, a blog can completely take the place of a standard web site.

Also, use Flash animation and images sparingly. Spiders can read text, not Flash nor pictures. A sure way to kill any chance of ranking well is to create a site that is all Flash or mostly images.

5. Duplicate Content
Let’s say you have a site that sells a thousand different types of widgets and the pages are all built from the same template with the same text and the only difference is the model of widget on the page. What could happen is that the search engines will not see enough difference in the pages to consider them unique and will rank what it considers the best single page and dump the rest.

To avoid duplicate content issues, make sure all of your pages have unique Title Tags, Meta Tags (see below) and text, in this case probably in the form of product description text.

And, if you are writing articles for distribution to the various article sites for mass distribution (a great way to get back links), be sure to publish the article on your own site first and give the spiders a chance to crawl it. That identifies you as the originator of the content. Then push the article out for distribution across the web, making sure you have a link back to your site in the article content.

6. Code Bloat
Between you, your web designer and web programmer, it’s real easy to wind up with a page that is full of internal code that not only impedes spiders, but causes your pages to load at a snail’s pace. Be very careful with this. Too much code will send both the spiders and the visitors away and can knock the meat of your pages down to the bottom. It’s best to have your spider-friendly content as high in your code as possible, so when you can, place javascript (if you absolutely MUST use it) and CSS in external files that can be called with a single line of code from each page.

For instance, one site I worked with had so much javascript going on that the first 200 lines of code after the Title and Meta Tags were javascript, knocking the rest of the content down and making the page load size huge. I was able to move the javascript into external files, each simply called by a single line of code. This made every page on the site smaller in size and brought the spider-friendly content up higher in the code by 199 lines.

For example, you could put your all 100 lines of your CSS on each and every one of your 300 site pages or you could call your CSS from an external file called style.css with one single line of code on each page like:

External CSS code

Having a single file for your CSS or javascript also means you only need to edit one file when changes need to be made, too. 🙂

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll need to ask your web developer or learn a bit about HTML.

7. Tweak and Test
Make one change at a time and evaluate. Changing too many things at once can confuse things to the point where you don’t know which change you made did what. For instance, let’s say you changed your content on a page as well as the linking structure and Meta Tags at the same time and the page dropped in the rankings a few days later. How would you know which to point to as the problem?

Try one tweak at a time and give the search engines time to digest it before moving on to the next.

8. Meta Tags
The only Meta Tag that carries any weight at all as far as SEO is the description, and it doesn’t have the influence it once had. It basically has no effect on rankings these days. Still, it’s a good idea to make it keyword rich and include what you want to show up in the SERPs (search engine result pages) as your description. Yes, this is what frequently comes up describing your site in the results, so be sure it says what you want it to say. A good description can definitely have influence on clickthrough traffic. What makes a good meta description?

a. Target the description to the individual page using the keyword focus for the page.
b. Describe the page in human-readable text.
c. A list of keywords just won’t cut it. Use a snippet of text that accurately describes the page.

The keyword tag has very little influence on rankings anymore, practically none, but it can’t hurt to include it. Just don’t stuff if with a thousand words. Ten or so should be enough for any page. As of this writing, Yahoo appears to be the only major search engine to actually find words included in the keyword meta tag.

Off-Page Factors

9. Links
If Content is King, then Links are Queen. Search engines look at links pointing to your site as verification that you are an important authority site. It’s not just the quantity of links but the quality that counts. You can have thousands of links pointing to you, but if they are all from link farms or spammy sites, they won’t do you any good. Try to get back links from quality sites. If you have good content, a lot of links will come your way naturally, but if you want to speed things up, you’ll need to actively pursue those links. One way is to contact theme related, non-competitive authority sites and request a link. The acid test for a potential link is if there is a natural, logical reason for that site to link to you. If not, then you don’t want the link.

And, you want the links back to your site to use your keyword text in them. This is extremely important. If the keyword you are targeting is “widget” then you want the link back to your widget page to use that text and not “click here” or something like that.

Another way to use your content to get back links is by submitting articles to other sites for publication (A blog and RSS feed are great for this). Just be sure the content includes links to your site. Press releases are also great for generating interest and backlinks, but take care and only submit press releases to sites like PRWeb when you really have news.

Having a blog and RSS feed have an added advantage – an open door to the various social search sites. If you place easy link buttons or links (click here to Digg this article, etc.) on your blog articles and posts, visitors will save them to the various social bookmarking sites, creating instant backlinks and the potential of being found by other visitors to those social sites.

Submitting to trusted directories is also a good place to start. Most of the best require a fee for a listing, but they can be a great first step in your link building campaign.

There’s no simple, easy one-step way to build links. It’s really about networking and relationships and your useful content is the key.

10. Competition
Keep track of your competition by searching for your primary keywords and study what they are doing. Don’t copy them, but you can analyze what they are doing right and you are doing wrong. See who is linking to them and investigate getting your own link. If you are a new site, you’ll be playing catch up for a while, but have faith. That guy in the #1 spot had to start from scratch at some point, too.

11. Training & Support
If you are on a shoestring budget and don’t have money to hire an SEO, you’ll have to do it all yourself. SEO changes daily and if you think all you have to do is tweak Meta Tags, you’re several years behind and have a LOT of catching up to do. You’ll be learning as you go. You’ll probably want to invest in some SEO training. I give search engine optimization workshops and do site critiques, so check my blog, The Web Optimist, for information.

You can get ideas, updates and recommendations from my blog and from S E O forums and blogs online. Don’t rely on the forums as a solution for all of your website problems, but as a place to go for advice from S E Os and others who are also asking questions.

12. Analysis & Statistics
Sounds boring, but all of your hard work is worthless if you don’t know how you are doing. Chances are your hosting company will have some sort of web statistics feature where you can check basics such as unique visitors, where your traffic is coming from (referrals), page not found errors, etc. One mistake newbies make is to consider “hits” as the number of visitors they are getting. In actuality, “hits” are useless information. Hits are simply server pulls. As an example, if you have ten images on a page each time the page is loaded each image results in a server pull or “hit.” What you really want to look at is the number of “unique visitors” to your site, not hits, as an indication of your traffic.

If you are an e-commerce site, you’ll also want a way to track conversions, which will require something more than your basic hosting stats. Google offers free web analytics that could be adequate for many site owners, but there are also commercial applications available that offer greater functionality.

Whatever you do, don’t leave the site on autopilot. Check your stats frequently. You’d be surprised at the little things you’ll see that will help you bring in more traffic.

13. History
There is evidence that the search engines actually look at your domain history in their ranking algorithms (How long the domain has been up, how many years you’ve renewed for, if you’ve changed IP addresses frequently, etc.). The more stable you are the more they consider you a trusted site.

If you’re in it for the long haul, renew your domain for several years at a time (not just annually) and get a dedicated IP address and keep it. The best situation is to have a dedicated web server, but not all of us can afford that. The next best thing is to pay for a dedicated IP address with your host so that you are no longer sharing the hosted IP block. It usually doesn’t cost that much. Not only will the search engines see you as stable, you don’t run the risk of the IP being banned if one of your shared hosting neighbors is naughty. Although Google claims that a shared address is fine, if you are serious about your business, why take chances?

Don’t bounce from host to host because that screams SPAMMER to the search engines. Find a good hosting company and stay there. Also, be aware that by using services that block domain ownership information when you register a domain, Google might see you as a potential spammer.

——————————————-
This barely scratches the surface of beginning SEO and is intended to get you started in the right direction. I go into more detail in my SEO 101 workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check my blog at http://www.weboptimist.com for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

This article will be updated periodically.

See my related S E O 101 posts .

Standard
Training

SEO 101 – Social Media Optimization

Social Search Optimization
Social search is about networking and scratching each others back. Here are a few optimization tips.

Over the past couple of years the social media sites like Wikipedia, Digg, StumbleUpon and so forth have created new venues for great content, tagging, traffic and link building. Tapping into them requires a different approach and here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Link out generously. Yes, I know that idea grips the heart of many an SEO with cold fear, but this is all a part of the viral social media culture. When you link out to good resources, whether it’s from your blog or social site account (MySpace, StumbleUpon, etc.), you’re scratching the backs of influential social media types so that, hopefully, they’ll return the favor when they see that link from you.

2. Have a friend submit. If you’ve got a story or article you’d like submitted to a site like Digg, have a friend with a trusted account submit it for you. Nothing will make your story crash and burn like submitting it yourself. That’s a no-no in the social media world.

3. Target your audience. For instance, here are the most active age groups for a few of the social sites:

  • Digg – 18-24, mostly male
  • StumbleUpon – 45-54, mostly male
  • Del.icio.us – 35-64, mostly male
  • Reddit – 35-54, mostly male
  • 4. Buy text links. I can already hear the SEOs moan! There’s a twist to this recommendation, however. Buy the text links to point to, say, your video to generate traffic. As long as the video, podcast or whatever is on one of the major media sites like YouTube, you’ll have no fear of being penalized by Google since the purchased link points to the media site and not your site or blog.

    5. Check for backlinks. You want to know who’s pointing to you, don’t you? Google is notorious for giving skimpy backlink data, so check out Google Blog Search. It gives better results.

    6. Protect your brand. Set up corporate profiles in popular social sites like MySpace and FaceBook. Besides providing good marketing and networking potential, you’ll prevent someone else from claiming that profile and pretending to be you.

    7. Recommendations to get you started. YouTube, StumbleUpon, Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, Digg, Yelp, Reddit, LinkedIn, Flickr, FaceBook, del.icio.us, MySpace, CraigsList Forums, Technorati, NewsVine.

    By the way, LinkedIn is a great place to start, especially if you want to network for business, look for jobs and keep in touch with former co-workers. Feel free to check out Richard Burckhardt’s profile and add me as a connection. I’ll do the same. That’s what social media is all about!

    This article is intended as a companion piece to S E O 101 and will be updated periodically.

    See the entire S E O 101 series.

    I go into more detail in my S E O 101 workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check this blog for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

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    SEO 101 – Universal Search

    Universal Search
    Confused by the mumbo-jumbo of Universal Search? Here are some tips to help you with your optimization efforts.

    Time was when you’d search for different things in Google through different verticals (those links at the top left of the Google home page) – web pages, images, videos, news, maps, etc. In the search giant’s infinite, uh, wisdom, that was not good. Google decided that bunching everything together in one big pile of results was what we all wanted (I don’t remember being asked if that was what I wanted, but that’s what we’re getting). I’m sure you’ve seen the results for a search that include images, news and so forth in addition to the standard HTML pages. For example, a search today for “Frank Sinatra” in Google brings up the results below with an image, news, lyrics, etc.

    Results for search for Frank Sinatra in Google

    Naturally, the other search engines have jumped on the bandwagon as well, so optimizing for what Google refers to as Universal Search takes on a few twists of its own. Here are a few pointers.

    1. Optimize press releases – Good, solid press releases about real news have been used as reliable tools in many an SEO toolkit for quite a while. Now it is even more important that the release be optimized and include at least one image, which is also optimized. This gives you optimized text as well as images that can potentially show up in the search results. See more about image optimization in S E O 101 – Image Optimization.

    2. Use top Google News sites – Use sites like NewsKnife and Google News Reports to find the top news sources for Google News and try to get your news and news images into them. By studying these sites, you might get tips on what works and what doesn’t to get your news and images out there.

    3. Popularize video content – The popularity of a video appears to have influence on rankings. Post your videos on large video sites as well as on your own site. Views, comments, optimized meta tags and so forth can give a rankings boost.

    4. Bloggers – Cater to influential bloggers who might link to you, your images, videos, podcasts, etc. or ask to reprint your content. Get the picture?

    5. Get your organization on board – This can be the hardest part. Convincing your co-workers of the importance of keyword-rich file names for images, videos, podcasts, etc. can be daunting. If they are used to file names like 1jigot45.jpg, it’s a must, however. Getting them to share images with links back to you through sites like Flickr and corresponding sites for videos, etc. should also be on your list of things to do.

    6. Make bookmarking easy – Provide an easy way to bookmark your site, especially for Google. It has been reported that the number of bookmarks to a site can have an influence on results in Universal Search. Put a Bookmark this at Google link on your pages.

    7. Enhance your maps.google.com listings – In addition to filling the listing at Local Business Center with relevant, keyword rich text content, upload photos with optimized file names.

    8. Use Google Product Search – Uploading your products to this free service (aka Google Base) gives the potential of those products showing up in the Google One Box results. For instance, in the search below for “Persol 2219-S sunglasses” the products at the very top under “Product search results…” (the “One Box”) come right out of Google Base.

    Persol 2219-S sunglasses search results

    9. Localize – User location takes a much bigger role in Universal Search. Make sure your site is optimized for your city, town, neighborhood, state or whatever geographic location you are targeting.

    10. Reputation management – Pay attention to the reputation of blogs, videos, audio, etc. that you use or connect to on your site. You don’t want bad vibes from one of them rubbing off on you. Cleaning up reputation problems is difficult as it is, but getting caught in someone else’s garbage can even more difficult to clear up. Screen carefully.

    This article is intended as a companion piece to S E O 101 and will be updated periodically.

    See the entire S E O 101 series.

    I go into more detail in my S E O 101 workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check this blog for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

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    The Benefits of SEO Training

    Here’s a nice rundown of the benefits of S E O training reprinted from an article published at EzineArticles.com.

    By Victoria Slotover

    With high search engine rankings becoming increasingly important for business success online, search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of the marketing mix. However, hiring a professional S E O to run a campaign for you can be expensive. That’s where S E O training comes in.

    The Importance of S E O

    With 90% of internet users using search engines to find websites and the majority of those people only looking at the top two results pages, having a high search engine ranking really can make the difference between business success and failure.

    By optimizing your website for a particular search term you are able to attract traffic to it from people who are actively looking for your products and services.

    This helps your business to generate what are effectively, qualified leads which are likely to produce sales.

    The Benefits of S E O Training

    The primary advantage of S E O training is that it gives you access to S E O techniques you can apply yourself for a fraction of the cost of using an S E O consultant. As such, S E O training is an effective and affordable way to achieve high search engine rankings.

    S E O training helps small businesses learn basic S E O skills to enhance the visibility of their websites in the search engines. There are a number of benefits offered by S E O training. For example:

    S E O training provides your company and its staff with an understanding of the issues involved with, and the techniques required for, successful S E O. This means that S E O training will allow you and your company to optimize your website internally rather than paying a consultant to do it for you.

    S E O training also allows you to modify your website in accordance with company developments, whilst still maintaining its search engine ranking.

    S E O training gives you the necessary information to brief your web designers effectively to ensure that their design proposals do not harm your ranking potential.

    SEMS Consultancy offers S E O training courses throughout the UK.

    Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Victoria_Slotover
    Ezine Article: The Benefits of S E O Training

    – – – – – –

    Considering search engine optimization training in the Palm Springs or Southern California area? Take a look at the upcoming course I Built It, So Where Are They? Secrets To Search Engine Optimization .

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    SEO 101 – Link Building

    Link building tips
    Link building is about networking and relationships. It can be hard work and, yes, sometimes you have to give a little.

    The process of building links can be one of the most difficult, time consuming parts of SEO. Getting links from the wrong sites can be worse than having no backlinks at all. The core of what you want to do is get links to your site using your keywords from respected, related sites. In the eyes of the search engines, your site will then appear to be a respected authority site for that theme or topic.

    Ranking in the search engines is based in part on link analysis of a site. Here are a few tips that might help your link building campaign’s results in that analysis.

    1. Quality content attracts good links. Provide good, up to date, topical content that naturally includes your keywords and you’ll get backlinks. A blog, of course, is great for this (See S E O 101 – Blogs & Feed Optimization).

    2. Pay attention to link anchor text and surrounding text. Having your keywords in the link is extrememly important and powerful as link building goes. But, the search engines also pay attention to the text surrounding the link. The surrounding text gives the search engine an idea of what the page is about.

    3. Search for linking partners. Run searches for your keyword phrase and see who is linking to who for possible linking opportunities.

    4. Go easy on reciprocal links. These are OK as long as you don’t over do it. Be sure any reciprocal links are from theme related, quality sites.

    5. Search for verticals. Here’s a simple way to find possible places to submit your site as a listing to other sites and directories. Run a seach for:

    “submit your site” +”your keyword phrase”

    Naturally, replace “your keyword phrase” with what you are looking for like “blue widgets” or whatever.

    What you will get is a search results page filled with submission possibilities. Unfortunately, many will require a reciprocal link back, so reread tip #4 above.

    6. Jump start your link building with directories. Again, you don’t want to overdo this. Directories aren’t the backlink bank that they used to be, but submitting to a few trusted directories can get you off to a good start.

    7. Ezine and newsletter article submission. Find related ezines and newsletters and offer to write articles in exchange for links within the content. Frequently these will be archived on the web, so the backlinks will remain even after the fact.

    8. Affiliate links. If your affiliate links are not redirected, you might get some backlink juice. Encourage your affiliates to start their own link building and you’ll benefit from it. Beware of too many redirected affiliate links like those from Commission Junction, though. An affiliate link from a redirect can potentially deplete the power of existing direct links.

    9. Do be selective about who links to you. Although you have limited ability to control links pointing at you, you can decline link requests from sites that you don’t think are appropriate. Backlinks from non-related sites or “bad neighborhoods” can do your reputation damage.

    10. Don’t try to fake it. Those 50 domains you bought in 1998 with dummy content all linking back to your main site might have made you #1 last decade, but now they can get you booted from the rankings altogether. The “mini-net” is dead.

    11. Negotiate your existing links. Inventory your backlinks and see what keywords are used. For any that need to be changed, contact the site owner and ask them to link to you with the approriate anchor text.

    12. Get links from a variety of sources. Don’t rely on just directories, press releases, social sites or blogs.

    13. Look for local links. Local is so … near. Local links like chambers of commerce are great authority links.

    Building links is all about relationships. It’s just a form of networking that requires personal contact, negotiation and sometimes, pure luck.

    This article is intended as a companion piece to S E O 101 and will be updated periodically.

    See the entire S E O 101 series.

    I go into more detail in my S E O 101 workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check my blog at http://www.weboptimist.com for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

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    Palm Springs Area Beginners SEO Workshop

    Palm Springs beginners SEO class
    Coming soon to a palm tree near you, Beginner SEO Classes.

    As mentioned in my previous post, Beginner S E O Training – Palm Springs & Online, I’ll be teaching a couple of courses for newbies to search engine optimization this fall.

    Given the rather lengthy title I Built It, So Where Are They? Secrets To Search Engine Optimization, the class will be in partnership with the Center for Training and Development at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, CA. We’ve got two scheduled this fall:

    Saturday, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM; 1 session on October 13, 2007

    Saturday, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM; 1 session on November 3, 2007

    The classes will take place on the College of the Desert campus in a computer classroom and will be an expanded version of my S E O 101 series. In addition to the usual lecture, pointers and demonstrations, I’ll be taking volunteers and walking through some of their web sites and providing suggestions on how they can do better with their search engine optimization efforts.

    So, all you locals sign up because there is very limited space. As for you non-locals, well, we’re talking October or November in Palm Springs, here. You KNOW you wanna! 😉

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    SEO 101 – Duplicate Content

    Duplicate content issues
    Having the same content on multiple pages can get you into trouble with the search engines.

    Duplicate content is a hot, if not over discussed, topic among the search engine marketing community. In a nutshell, if you have basically the same content on more than one page, the search engines will choose the one they think is the most important and rank it and only it. If you do too much of this, you could get some demerits from the search engines. If you really overdo it with mirror sites and the like, you could get banned or at least penalized.

    Most web sites will have at least some duplication of content. For instance, an e-commerce site will probably use a single template for every product page. The trick is to give each product page a unique title and description tag as well as some unique content on the page in the form of descriptive text and images. As a rule, something as simple as this can keep you out of trouble.

    Here are some other tips that might come in handy.

    1. Use tools like Copyscape.com to find stolen content. If you are concerned that other sites are stealing or scraping your content to use on their own pages, use this free web site to find out. Simply paste your URL into the form and do a search. What you will get is a list of pages with text that is similar to yours. If you see anything blatant, contact the offender and ask for your content to be removed. If they won’t, report them to the search engines.

    2. Use analytics software. Your web analytics can tell you what pages are converting. Put those into your sitemap and any that aren’t converting that could be considered duplicates can be excluded in your robots.txt file or by using the “No Index” meta tag on the individual pages. That tells the spiders which pages you want indexed and there’s less risk one of the non-converting pages will be considered by the engine as the most important and index it instead.

    3. Choose one domain for branding. Don’t go overboard and put up a bunch of domains with similar content on them. Focus on one. If you’ve already got several domains up, consolidate them into one and 301 redirect the others to it.

    4. Test domains should be invisible. It you are using a domain simply for testing new designs, functions, etc., be sure it is not accessible to spiders or users, who will both be confused about which domain is the real thing.

    5. Choose www or no www. Most search engines can figure this out these days, but it is still wise to choose whether your site is http://www.yourdomain.com or http://yourdomain.com. In the past, these have been seen as two separate sites and could cause duplication problems. Best to decide on one and 301 redirect the other to it.

    6. Don’t do server load balancing. You’ve probably noticed sites whose URL will be something like http://www1.domain.com and then maybe http://www2.domain.com the next time. That’s server load balancing. Problem is, the search engines will see www, www1, www2, etc. as duplicate copies of the site. That’s asking for duplicate content problems.

    7. Use absolute URLs. An absolute URL is http://www.yourdomain.com/yourpage.html as opposed to making the link on your page a relative URL like yourpage.html. This is especially important if you use secure pages (https). Without using absolute URLs, you can go to an https page and then try to leave by way of a relative link. Problem is, you’re still in https without that http://www.yourdomain.com/yourpage.html absolute link and every page you go to after that will be https://www.yourdomain.com/page.html instead of http://www.yourdomain.com/page.html . Not only is it a pain for the user who will get secure page notification pop-ups, but the spiders will see all https as a duplicate site. Besides, https pages generally should NOT be indexed.

    8. Session IDs can be a nightmare. Yes, this problem will take some advanced technical help. The problem with session IDs is that on these dynamically created (database created, for you newbies) pages you can have exactly the same content on a multitude (thousands or even hundreds of thousands) of pages with completely different session IDs. Dump the session ID info into a cookie for all users or identify the spiders and strip the session IDs for them only. For more info, see Google Webmaster Guidelines.

    9. WordPress Canonical URL Plugin. If you are using WordPress (as I do), install this plugin to take care of duplicate pages that can occur after you do permalink customization. Basically, this redirects posts in default WordPress URLs to your new URL structure.

    10. Top level domains in different countries should not be a problem. If you have basically the same site up in different countries using country-specific domains, you will probably not have duplicate content issues. It’s best to host the sites in the appropriate countries and customize the language and keywords for each, though.

    Bonus tip: Want to see what Google has indexed from your domain (or any domain for that matter) during, say, the past seven days? Just point your brower to http://www.google.com/search?q=site:yourdomain.com&as_qdr=d7 . Simply change the “yourdomain.com” to your actual domain name and alter the “=d7” to be whatever number of days you are looking for (d5, d10, etc.). Or, change the “d” to “w” for weeks or “y” for years.

    As always, these are just a few tips to help you avoid duplicate content issues. The suggestions on this page are by no means the only ways to deal with duplicate content.

    This article is intended as a companion piece to S E O 101 and will be updated periodically.

    I go into more detail in my S E O 101 workshop, offered to web site owners and small businesses. Check my blog at http://www.weboptimist.com for more information or contact me to set up a custom workshop for your business group of five or more people in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Travel is possible for large groups.

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