SEO

Importance of Diversity in SEO

Tip - Diversify content for searchI’ve discussed image and video optimization in my various S E O 101 posts and free eBooks, so I thought I’d point out some quick examples of how a variety of content can give you a kick start in search engines in this world of Universal Search.

Many of you know that I do search engine optimization for FramesDirect.com as well as manage and edit their blog, which is high on eyewear fashion, celebrity sunglasses and so forth. Our readers love to get scoops on who’s wearing what on TV and in films, so when the new Iron Man movie came out (great flick, by the way), we started getting questions about what sunglasses Robert Downey Jr. wore in certain scenes. In the opening scenes, Downey is wearing Ray Ban 3320 sun glasses, so I wrote a blog post on it appropriately titled Ray Ban 3320 Sun Glasses in Iron Man.

At the same time, I posted an image of those Ray Ban 3320 sun glasses on Flickr, complete with a title, description, tags and links back to the blog post and product page at FramesDirect.com. When you post an image at Flickr and include a title, tags and description, it’s like posting a web page which is spiderable and can be indexed by the search engines. The links are “nofollow” but the pages can still rank and bring you traffic.

Since Google drives the most search traffic, optimization tends to favor it, but we have all discovered that the different engine rankings can vary wildly. Including images, as well as videos, podcasts, etc., can help you rank across engines.

Below is a screen shot of a Yahoo search for “iron man sunglasses” where you will see the blog post ranking at the top as I write this. Cool!

Yahoo search for Iron Man sunglasses

In Google, the blog post doesn’t rank on the front page at all, but the Flickr image does at #7:

Google search for Iron Man sunglasses

See how important it is to diversify your content across the board? Granted, #7 isn’t as good as #1, but because the different engines have different algorithms, diversifying your content types across different media (text, images, videos, podcasts, etc.) you get ranking opportunities you would not otherwise have.

And, as a bonus (not shown), a Yahoo Answers question that I answered about what shades Downey wore in the movie came in at #8. Again, the links back to you in Yahoo Answers are nofollow, but they can still bring you traffic. More exposure! Even better if your answer is chosen as the best!

If you’re real lucky, you’ll get something like we got recently for a search in Google for one of our top selling products:

Google search for Sable Water Optics Goggles

Results #1 and #2 are pages from the FramesDirect.com web site, #3 is a video posted on YouTube featuring company CEO Dr. Dhavid Cooper, #4 is a New York Times article featuring the goggles and linking to us and #5 is the same video as #3 but posted to Metacafe.com.

So, be sure to cover your bases. My rule of thumb is that whenever I do a blog post, I take all of the elements of it and find search friendly places to do supplemental (but not duplicate) posts that can link back to it. These places include Flickr, Yahoo Answers, YouTube, Twitter and the FramesDirect.com Fan Page over at Facebook. This is by no means an all inclusive list, just a few places to get started.

Diversity is the key!

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News

Live Product Upload Down

I get an error message with Live Product UploadHope you’re not trying to upload a feed to Microsoft’s Live Products shopping service this morning because it’s down. I get a Runtime Error if I try to access the upload page at http://productupload.live.com/.

I suspected something funky earlier this week. I set up an account for my client, FramesDirect.com, and uploaded a rather large feed, something like 25,000 products (hey, it’s a huge site with LOTS of eyewear products). According to Live Products, which is much like Google Base and even will accept a Google Base feed, it can take up to 36 hours for the feed to be live. This was on Monday and late Friday night the upload still showed “processing” as the status. Thirty-six hours, huh?

No word yet on what is happening.

Hope I didn’t break it. 😉

Update: OK, Live Product Upload appeared to go back up around noon Pacific Time. However, the feeds I uploaded on March 10 are still showing “processing” today, March 15.

Again, so much for the “36 hours” mentioned on the site. You’d think if there were problems with the feeds, which have to be refreshed every 30 days, Microsoft would at least alert me to them.

Sheesh. I know it’s free, but most aggravating.

Update #2: Whoops! Checked at 5:15 p.m. Pacific time Saturday and it’s giving that Runtime Error again.

Update #3: Looks like it’s back up, but it’s been seven days since I uploaded my client’s feed and it STILL says “processing” in the Product Upload control panel. I filled out the feedback form requesting an explanation at Day 6, but no word back yet.

Up to 36 hours my ….

Update #4: Turns out Microsoft did respond. I found it in my spam folder, but the remedy is a pain and might turn into a major project. Google Base feeds are supposed to work with Live Product Upload, but now I’m being told to cut the feed into smaller chunks and see if that works. The feed is something like 25,000 products. This is pretty lame, Microsoft.

Update #5: I split the feed into two and uploaded both over a day ago. I’m looking at the Live Product Upload control panel now and it shows these and the two earlier March 10th full uploads as still processing (I’d delete them, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to do so). This is getting old…

Update #6: …really old. Splitting the feed into two equal parts had no effect. Still says “Processing” as do the two feeds I uploaded on March 10. If we have to split this baby into a dozen pieces to upload it every month, we might pass. I sent an e-mail back to Live Product Upload support. I’ll let you know what they say.

Update #7: It took two weeks, but after a few e-mails to support, the tech folks at Microsoft got the feeds up and live. Now that they’re up, I need to make some changes and upload again. Problem is, I’m getting that Runtime Error in ‘/’ Application error again! Sheesh!

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SEO

Online Retail Optimization: Will It Blend?

Getting found in blended search creates new opportunities and challenges for retailers.
Getting found in blended search creates new opportunities and challenges for retailers.

Online retailers face more competition than ever these days and, with the onset of blended or universal search, on-page optimization just won’t cut it anymore to get pages ranking at the top. Although site architecture is still important in your overall SEO strategy, today’s search results are filled with a variety of resources besides web pages.

For instance, take a look at a search for “The Monkees” on Google (hey, I’m a child of the 60s and I dig The Monkees!):

A blended search result for The Monkees

Notice the lack of traditional web pages in the results? You’ve got music results, news results, the ever-present Wikipedia result and a YouTube video with just a single web page above the fold. These are your blended results. News, images, videos, web pages, audio files feeds and blogs can now come up in search results. All of the major search engines are on the blended search bandwagon.

So, what is the first question you need to ask about your online retail site? Easy.

Will it blend?

Blended search is about different ways, actually, opportunities to get traffic to your site, not just about site architecture. As an example, an all Flash site would not be a good idea for a retail site. Spiders still can’t read Flash. However, add a blog and some feeds to that Flash site with images, good textual content, videos and so forth, and you’ll cover a lot of bases that your site would otherwise miss for coming up in blended search results.

Blended search gives you chances to pull traffic in ways other than your product page rankings. Your images, videos, books, news, feeds and audio files can get you traffic and back links from all types of places on the web.

So, where to get started?

1. HTML SEO basics are still important. Create quality content in all forms – textual, graphical and video. See my post S E O 101 for beginning optimization steps.

2. Videos help in search engine results. Multiple videos can actually show up in the top 10 rankings and have a high click rate.

3. Get social. Ratings, reviews and comments from social sites can show up in the top search engine results. Build relationships in sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.

4. Create a MySpace video page. As with #3 above, participate in the social scene.

5. Show them how. “How to…” searches are very popular. Create a video for your specialty or product and put it on your own site as well as on YouTube, Metacafe, Yahoo, etc.

6. Name your images and graphics. Use captions and ALT attributes when possible. Include brand, product, number, etc. See my post S E O 101: Image Optimization for more tips.

7. Always, always, always include a picture with your products. In addition to a higher click rate when an image is present, sometimes products won’t appear in feeds that pop up on various sites if they don’t have an image associated with them. Make your images available for Google Image Search (through Google Webmaster Central).

8. Feed them. Product feeds can be pulled from various sources all over the web. You want your products to be among them. Start out by uploading a feed to Google Base and MSN/Live Product Search. Both are free. Once you’re comfortable with the way product feeds work, try paid feeds like ShopZilla or Yahoo Shopping.

9. Match product titles in feeds with what is being searched for most often. For example, are there more searches for something general like “Ray Ban aviator” or are most queries for something more specific like “Ray Ban 3025” for your products?

10. Manage your seller ratings. Shopping feed distributors like ShopZilla.com and Dealtime.com include ways for customers to rank their experiences with companies selling through them. You want yours to be as high as possible as these ratings can be a factor in how high your products rank on these sites.

And, probably my top recommendation would be to remember that you are creating all of this for the consumer, not the search engines. Write for the user in an easy to read format that makes sense. Become a reference source for your products so that site visitors will refer to you, link to you and come back to you.

Search results are like a good milkshake. The better the blend, the better the result.

And who doesn’t like a good milkshake?

😉

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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 .

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News

SMX West 2008 Wrap in Pictures

Here’s a wrap-up of the day by day and some of the sessions I attended at SMX West 2008 in Santa Clara, CA, February 26-28, 2008.

SMX BASH

SMX Bash with Bruce Clay and Danny SUllivan

Bruce Clay & Danny Sullivan (with attractive young woman – sorry, I didn’t get her name!) at SMX Bash to kick off the conference.

Just a shot of some of the folks enjoying the SMX Bash to kick off SMX West 2008 in Santa Clara

A shot of some of the folks enjoying the SMX Bash to kick off SMX West 2008 in Santa Clara.

Great backpack for SMX West 2008

Danny said that there was a lot of discussion over the bag to offer at SMX West, but they came up with a winner. Unlike the totes I got at every other conference I have been to, this one is a backpack with several compartments, totally cool and something I will use long after I leave Santa Clara. Congrats to the folks at SMX West!

Day 1

Danny Sullivan keynote at SMX West 2008

Danny Sullivan gives his take on Search 3.0, blended search, and 4.0, personalized search, in his keynote. Sorry it’s a bit blurry. Taken in the dark with my iPhone.

A pre-session photo of Search Engine Land's Venessa Fox and Sean Suchter.

A pre-session photo of Search Engine Land’s Venessa Fox and Yahoo!’s Sean Suchter.

SMX West Search Bowl

Danny Sullivan quizzed teams from the big four search engines and a team of search marketing all-stars on search history at SMX West 2008 Search Bowl.

The Google team won SMX West 2008 Search Bowl

The victorious Google team took the SMX West 2008 Search Bowl trophy, defeating teams from Yahoo, Ask, Microsoft and the SEM All-Stars. Continue reading

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SMX West 2008 Search Bowl Winners – Google!

The Google team won the SMX West 2008 Search Engine BowlThe Search Bowl capped off the first day of SMX West 2008 with Danny Sullivan moderating a search history game show style competition between teams from the Big Four search engines – Google, Microsoft, Ask and Yahoo! – along with an SEM All-Stars team.

Well, as usual, Google kicked butt and took home the trophy.

SMX West 2008 continues at the Santa Clara Convention Center with a keynote address on Wednesday morning from Louis Monier, Vice President of Products at Cuill, a new search engine attempting to set new standards in the filed of search. Monier is formerly with Google, eBay and Alta Vista.

SMX West runs through Thursday.

SMX West Search Engine Bowl

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SEO

Google – The Next Big Brother?

Something interesting I noticed last night. If I sign into Google with my user name and password and then search for “eyeglasses” in the Google search box, my employer, FramesDirect.com, comes up #1. If I log out and run the same search, we’re back behind a competitor. I tried this numerous times on different PCs and browsers and every time I ran the search signed in, we were #1. As soon as I logged out, the results reverted.Of course, I had initially hoped that Google was going through an algo shift or update and that we would stay in the #1 position. I even went to to the old Google Dance page at http://www.seochat.com/googledance/ to see where we were on the www, www2 and www3 servers. Same thing. We showed at #1. Then I opened Firefox and got totally different results from what I was seeing in Internet Explorer 7. In Firefox, we were still behind the competitor. I moved to several different computers in the house (doesn’t everyone have several?) and could not repeat our #1 ranking on any of them.It was then that I happened to look up at the open Internet Explorer window that showed the #1 rank. I was logged into my Google account without realizing it. I went around and logged into the account of the other PCs and, voila, we were #1.

Not as good as actually being in the #1 spot, but at least I now know what was going on.

Continue reading

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SEO

Yahoo and Javascript Drop Downs

Yahoo informed us a while back that they had problems with our navigation at http://www.framesdirect.com. Apparently, on the bottom of some of our catalog pages we had links to “More designer eyeglasses” where we would list other brands. Say for instance someone is looking at Ray Ban eyeglasses on our Ray Ban catalog page. At the bottom, we’d have a section for “Other designer eyeglasses” and list Rodenstock and others that came close alphabetically. We figured it was handy for the user and is pretty standard. Heck, even Amazon.com does it.

Yahoo, however, considered the practice to be spammy and redundant. Of course, when you try to ask what they mean, they basically just repeat themselves (look at our guidelines, etc.) and won’t give you any information.

We couldn’t figure out why they felt this way. Our competition is doing the same thing (and a lot worse) and Yahoo wasn’t giving them any grief.

Continue reading

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SEO

Subdomains and SEO

The widely held belief among the SEO community that subdomains are great for boosting optimization could be changing. I work for Frames Direct ( http://www.framesdirect.com ), an online retailer selling eyeglasses, sunglasses, contact lenses and goggles online. Like most, we were rolling merrily along with many of our various brands set up in subdomains (rayban.framesdirect.com) and so forth. About six months ago, our pages started falling out of Yahoo. As usual, Yahoo provided a canned response that gave a list of their guidelines in general. We didn’t have a clue what it was they objected to, so we started going through our 40,000+ page site trying to clean up anything and everything that might be a problem.

After weeks of doing away with old pages that had long been forgotten, many old sitemaps, duplicates and doing 301 redirects left and right, we requested reinclusion and got the same canned response that we weren’t in compliance with Yahoo guidelines.

As we continued to search for the reason, we finally managed to get in touch with a couple of Yahoo search engineers. One responded with a cryptic, terse “why are you playing games?” e-mail that didn’t help at all. We didn’t have a clue WHAT they wanted and they refused to tell us what the problem was. There are two SEO analysts on our team and neither one of us could have guessed what the problem eventually turned out to be.

The other, bless his heart, actually gave us some guidance. Big on his list – getting rid of the subdomains.

That floored us. As far as we were concerned as SEOs, there was absolutely nothing wrong with our use of subdomains. But, when the Yahoo Gods talk, you pretty much have to listen. We converted the subdomains to subdirectories and did 301 redirects to the subdirectories. While we were at it, we created some new content for all of the pages involved so that there would be no questions regarding any duplicate content.

Yahoo started respidering us in January and our pages are beginning to show up in the index again. Whew!

I write this in response to an article by Rob Sullivan, suggesting a combination of subdomains and subdirectories make for good SEO ( http://www.textlinkbrokers.com/blogs/comments/330_0_1_0_C/ ).

I’d be VERY careful about using subdomains these days. In addition to the Yahoo problems we had, I heard Matt Cutts comment recently that subdomains are among his next spam targets over at Google.

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