I hope you had a fantastic Independence Day. I feel very thankful to live in a free country such as the United States. Sure it has its problems, but in my opinion it is still the best place to live in the world. While 4th of July is usually associated with fireworks, family get-togethers, barbeques and the like, it is also good time to reflect upon the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, 228 years ago. Most of those men sacrificed home, business, family and even their lives as a result of signing that document. We all owe a debt of gratitude to these as well as the men and women today who live and die to protect the freedoms we so often take for granted.
Well I’ve got a great issue for you today. It has been pretty interesting the last two weeks as Google and Yahoo have cracked down on a major search engine spamming company. Also in the feature article today, I will discuss the fundamental elements of a web site that can be optimized for better placement in the search engines. So on to the good stuff!
In this issue…
- SEARCH ENGINE SPAMMER IS BUSTED!
- FEATURE ARTICLE – FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS OF SEO
- SEARCH ENGINE HEADLINES
- CLOSING COMMENTS
SEARCH ENGINE SPAMMER IS BUSTED!
In March of this year, I wrote an article entitled “Doorway Pages or Advertising Pages, What Is The Difference?” which exploited the spammy tactics that a company called Traffic Power uses and how it is not a good long term marketing solution. I received a lot of praise for that article but at the same time upset the company I was referring to (even though I didn’t mention them by name in the article). Too bad I say.
Well, an interesting development has taken place over the last couple of weeks. Google removed a large number of this so-called SEO’s clients’ web sites from their index because of the spammy techniques that they employed. In fact, a Google employee who goes by the name of “GoogleGuy” at Webmaster World posted the following:
This is proof in the pudding that Google has finally made a stand against this company and their unethical spamming practices. I praise the actions of Google because there is so much spam that is abounding in the search engines. Unfortunately, thousands of their clients have suffered a serious blow as a result of this. This is a good warning to anyone that decides to spam the search engines – it may work for awhile but when you get caught, the penalty can be devastating.
Therefore if you receive a call from Traffic Power or any other company that employs the same unethical tactics, hang up the phone! If Traffic Power’s customers would have done any research on them before hiring them, they would have discovered a ton of bad press about them and possibly avoided hiring them in the first place. Now these web site owners face a long and gruesome road of removing the spam and trying to get re-inclusion in the Google index, a process that can take up to a year!
If you would like to read more, check out this thread at High Rankings Forum. Make sure you have a fresh cup of coffee and about an hour though as it is a pretty long thread.
FEATURE ARTICLE – FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS OF SEO
What is this SEO, short for ‘search engine optimization’ anyway? It almost sounds like we are optimizing search engines doesn’t it? What it really involves is optimizing web sites for prime search engine positioning. It involves optimizing various elements that search engines look at in the pages they index. We will take a look at what those elements are and how we can ‘better’ them so that our sites can be found in the search engines.
First let’s start with the definition of ‘optimize’:
optimize v., mized, mizing. -v.t. 1. to make as effective, perfect, or useful as possible. 2. to make the best of. 3. to write or rewrite (the instructions in a computer program) for maximum efficiency and speed in retrieval, storage, or execution.
So we understand that to ‘optimize’ a web site is to make it the best it can be in hopes that by doing so, it will not only be found in search engines for phrases that are related to it, but that the site will provide an overall better user experience for visitors as well. These two items really go hand in hand because you can have a great web site but if no one is able to find it, what use is it? On the other hand you could have great search engine positioning but if your web site is not user friendly and informative, how will you convert visitors to customers?
So what are the elements of a web page that can be optimized? The first and most important is the title tag. The title tag is what determines the title of your listing in the SERPs (search engine results pages). In the html of a web page, it is represented between an opening and closing tag like this: <title>Title Tag Here</title>. It is what you see at the top of your browser when viewing a page or the default title you see when bookmarking a page. The amount of characters of a title tag that search engines will index varies but most stay right around 64 characters. Therefore you have limited space to incorporate keywords you want to target as well as your company name. Add to that challenge the fact that you want your title to grab someone’s attention so they will click on your listing.
Therefore I always recommend that you only target one to two phrases as well as your company name per page. For example, lets say you want to target ‘landscaping maintenance and design’ and you are in Arizona. Your title tag might look like this:
<title>Arizona Landscaping Design and Maintenance | Company Name</title>
Because the title tag is the most important element you can optimize and you are limited to 64 characters, it is wise then to optimize the title tag of each page of your site and to make them unique to the topic or subject of that page.
The second most important element you can optimize is your body copy. Your copy should be html text as search engines cannot read graphics or Flash movies. It should include the keywords you want to target. Avoid repeating your keywords in a way that would look foolish to your visitors but rather use them sensibly. It is amazing how many times I come across pages in which the keywords a person wants to target are not even represented in the copy.
Then there is the meta description tag. This is a meta tag that lies between the opening and closing head tags in your html and that contains a short description of what the page is about. You can usually write an informative description up to about 200 – 250 characters. Now currently, the major search engines are not using the meta description tag as the description you will see when one of your pages shows up in the results of a search query but sometimes they will. Therefore you should still optimize this element of your pages anyway in case they ever decide to go back to showing the meta description tag as the description in the SERPs.
Another element that can be optimized is alt attribute text that lies behind hyperlinked images. Alt attributes are those little boxes of text you sometimes see when mousing over an image or the text you see in image boxes if you have graphics turned off in your browser. Be sure not to ‘stuff’ alt attributes with repetitive lists of keywords but rather use them naturally to describe the image while making sure they keywords you want to target are represented. Keep in mind that currently the major search engines do not pay any attention to alt attributes behind images that are not hyperlinked anywhere, only those that are. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add alt attributes to non-linked images but just something to keep in mind.
Internal linking structure should also be optimized. This essentially involves making sure a search engine can find and index all of the pages of your site. If you have a small site, many times you can make sure every page is accessible from the home page either in your top, left or right side navigational structure and/or in a set of footer links. For larger sites with many pages and sub-sections, use a site map. Search engines will follow graphical links but I believe they prefer text links. Google even places importance on the text that is used in and around a text link which is referred to anchor text.
These are some of the most important elements you can optimize on your web pages. The crucial thing is to not just stop at the home page but look for ways to optimize each and every one of your pages so they are unique and yet specific to the topic of that page. This will help improve your possibilities of showing up well in the search engines as well as expanding your visibility to be found for a variety of keywords and phrases. The Arizona Builders’ Zone site, which we own and operate, is a very good example of a site in which nearly every single page has been optimized for prime search engine visibility.
Written by David Wallace
SEARCH ENGINE HEADLINES
Here are some of the latest headlines related to the search engine industry.
AskJeeves Drops Remaining Paid Inclusion Program
AskJeeves is retiring its Site Submit paid inclusion program. The move, coming several months after the company dropped its Index Express XML-based inclusion offering, marks a complete withdrawal from the practice of allowing companies to pay for guaranteed indexing.
New Google WebSearch Program Pays Publishers For Searches
Google has released two new services allowing site owners to install web search capabilities on their own sites, including one that pays.
Google, Yahoo Face Off in Suit
Google is the darling of the Internet and seemingly at the top of its game as it charges toward a public stock offering sometime this summer. But the Mountain View company could be paying hundreds of millions of dollars to its Sunnyvale archrival, Yahoo, if it loses a little-noticed patent lawsuit unfolding in a San Jose courtroom.
Well that’s all for today. I will be pushing the next issue of this monthly newsletter a week back due to the Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose that I will be attending on August 2 – 5. Therefore it will be released on the second Tuesday of August instead of the first. I should have some exciting things to report from the conference which is usually the biggest one of its kind held each year. I am looking forward to seeing the faces of many people I know online but have never met in the ‘real world’. If you are attending, be sure to look me up and say hi.
Happy Independence and have a great month of July!