Archive for September, 2008

SEO and the iPhone

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Shortly after I purchased my iPhone, I realized how much easier it was to access those websites that have a specific site for the iPhone (and smartphones, in general, for that matter).  Websites I use all the time and do not have an app are especially helpful – such as my bank’s site and ping.fm (a microblogging service that “pings” what I write to several social media sites).

Here’s what Ping.fm looks like in my Firefox web browser:

Ping’s iPhone version is a much simpler version, and therefore much easier to upload:

Not only will special iPhone websites upload more quickly, but you can actually increase your search engine visibility by creating one.  I just read an article by Denver SEO Guy Knox about SEO for the iPhone.  This gentleman from Denver gives a step-by-step plan to creating your very own iPhone site using WordPress.

With the direction web users and smartphones are headed, it’s silly NOT to think about SEO for iPhones.  I’m excited to learn more about Search and the iPhone at SMX East next week!

Nicki Hicks
I love my iPhone

Link Building Strategies: Who Needs ‘Em?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

You do!  Do you need to use all of them?  My guess is no, especially if you’re a small business.  But if you have a website, and expect to get half way decent search results, you had best start a good link building campaign.

There are quite a few different strategies you could use.  Rich and I have both talked about some of these strategies before.  But here’s a comprehensive smattering of all of them.

Backlinks or Backward Links

Directory Links

Directory submissions can be found in a wide variety of sites: from paid (like Yahoo!) to free (like DMOZ, JoeAnt, and Gimpsy).  While I’m not sure if paying for a directory link is entirely worth it, you might as well submit to free directories, especially those specializing in your niche.

Affiliate or Client Links

Linking to your clients or to companies affiliated with yours is a great way to share the PageRank wealth.  By linking to them, you’ll very nearly guarantee a reciprocal link in return.

Buying links

While personally, I don’t see the point in buying links or even “renting” them, there are ways to purchase them without looking like a spammer.

Resource Links

I read an example a while back that stated it’s a good idea for a website that sells shoes to link to a site that sells shoe laces or shoe cleaner, because their customers are most likely also going to be interested in those products.  However, it would be unwise to also link to weight loss formula or male enhancement supplements – while their customers might also be interested in these products, it simply comes off as looking spammy.  Above all, you want to provide added benefits for your customers, right?  So why not become a resource and anticipate their needs?

Intrasite Links

Above all else, I think the goal of linking is to make the web user’s experience that much better.  So, if you can create links within your copy to other places in your site, then you should!

Links for calls-to-action (the cliché “buy now” or “click here” links) are especially important.  Links show the web user where you want them to click, therefore making the whole experience easier and better.

When possible, you want to use text-based links – with keyword rich anchor text.  This is simply because search engines like text-based links more than image links – they can essentially “see” them better.  However, if you have to use an image (say your logo for a home link), be sure to include descriptive alt tags.  It is thought that keyword rich alt tags do have search engine clout.

Can I have too many links?

Yes.  Think about it.  When a site’s content looks like this, it becomes distracting, unnecessary, and ultimately unhelpful.  As I said, the point of links is to help direct your user – you don’t want them to become overwhlemed in the process!

Nicki Hicks
Maine SEO

SEO is NOT a One-Time Deal

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Online trends are changing constantly, just look at the new Google Insights for Search to find that out.  What’s especially interesting about Insights is their “rising searches” element – showing you what the “hot” new searches are.

While performing a single keyword analysis and optimizing a site is great (and i obviously highly recommend doing it), it’s also important to constantly optimize your site.  SEO is an ongoing process.

Change for the sake of “hot” keywords

There is a “myth” in the SEO world that says copy which is constantly updated and changed will rank higher, simply because Google’s spiders have to crawl the site more often.  Whether this is true or not isn’t the point.  There is no reason to change copy just for the sake of change.  That being said, copy can and should be updated and molded over time to follow keyword trends.

For example, if I own a business where I breed and sell Labrador Retrievers, and today the hot keywords are for yellow labs and black labradors.  (NOTE: I have not done the research, and in fact, have no idea if people are searching for those words.)  But in a month or two, I find people are search for labrador retrievers, I might add the word “retriever(s)” into my title tags and copy a few more times.

The key, as always, is to make your changes naturally, without stuffing keywords.

Change for experiment’s sake

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: while we have an idea of what causes high rankings, we’ll never know for sure.  That’s why experimentation is helpful.

In my dog selling business, I might optimize something (say, my title tags) for my geographic location.  Then, a few months later, maybe I’ll optimize for the fact that we have every color labrador (yellow, chocolate, and black).  Or perhaps, I will update my robots.txt file, adding my contact page.  Then, I could also add a new page about how to train puppies, because I found in my keyword research that “How to Train Your New Puppy” was a hot keyword phrase (again, I have not done the actual research).

What’s the point?

The point is that you need to constantly be optimizing and follow keyword trends.  Continuously looking for opportunities for backlinks is also important, but a topic for another time…

Also, remember site changes take time to be recognized by spiders.  It can take up to six weeks for Google to update their index, and even longer for rankings to change accordingly.

Nicki Hicks
Yes, Labs are my favorite

Simple SEO For Web Developers (AKA The Web Developer’s SEO Checklist Part II)

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

I made a post when I first started blogging with an SEO Checklist for Web Developers.  I recently reviewed the list, noticing that while all those things are great to remember, sometimes it’s the simple parts of SEO we forget.

I also decided to write this post after thinking about office alignment.  Ahh, alignment, a term I grew sick of all through college (and one of my professors in particular, I’m sure, would be ecstatic to know I noticed it in the real world).  I realized that even though I work in an office of only eight people and our work constantly overlaps, we sometimes forget the effects our roles have on others’ work.

I, for example, forget that even though I have knowledge about so-called “easy” SEO best practices, not everyone I work with knows them.  So here are some major points to remember (and I apologize for any repeats from other posts):

  • Use hyphens (-) NOT underscores (_).  It seems to have been handed down from the old school programming and web developing generation to tech gurus today that underscores should be used.  Don’t use them!
    Search engines see hyphens as a space (example-page is example page) and underscores as no space (example_page is examplepage).
  • Keyword rich domain name.  There is debate about this – some say a domain name doesn’t matter as long as you can say it out loud and someone can easily spell it back to you (which is very true).  But I say – why not make it keyword rich while you’re at it?!  (While also remembering other domain rules: short, sweet, and memorable.)
  • Title URLs intuitively.  When creating secondary and tertiary pages, make sure they make sense!  For example, NOT category2/animal12.html, BUT marsupials/kangaroo.html.
  • Titles/Headers/Meta-descriptions.  These should all be keyword rich, unique, and accurate portrayals of what is on each individual page.  However, I caution you: these become difficult to create when a keyword analysis has not been done.
  • Links. Links should be those important points web users will want to click on.  Links should have keyword rich anchor text, not a simple “click here”.  Also, try to use as many text-based links as you can; if images are necessary, use keyword rich alt tags.
  • To have a site map or not to have a site map? I wrote in the original Web Developer’s Checklist that yes, you do need a site map.  This is another SEO conundrum.  What I’ve heard most recently is that site maps are important for large sites (retail, especially – with a ton of products).
  • Directories…do I submit? Every SEO has his/her own opinion about this one too.  In my mind, you should absolutely submit a client to niche directories for their specific industries – especially a free directory.  Also, submitting to a well known directory like DMOZ never hurts either – it’s free!  I’ve heard it’s also good for new sites, especially, to buy a $299 for a Yahoo! directory listing.  Since you have to pay this fee every year, why not have the link for the first year for getting started??
  • Most importantly…(drum roll, please)…design sites for web users AND search engines.  Site design and development is an art, and should be treated as one.  However, try not to get caught up in the fever that is making a website beautiful instead of the web user’s pleasure of a site being functional.

I’d like to add that SEO is most successful when done before and during a website’s existence.  Therefore, this list should really only be necessary when a site is built without optimization being done simultaneously.

Nicki Hicks
Advocate for Alignment

Does Duplicate Content Hurt You At Google?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

(Geez, I hope not. I’ve now posted this same article in three places!!)

Last night during a presentation I gave at TechMaine, someone asked a question about whether it was a bad idea to post the same content at multiple blogs. I said that it wasn’t; that except for your mom, you can’t expect anyone to read all of your content so repurposing that content across multiple blogs is OK.

In fact, the content of the flyte blog and my Internet Marketing 101 blog often overlaps, so I’ve placed certain posts at both blogs. Occasionally I might change up some of the language to be more specific to one of the audiences, but often there’s just not enough time in the day. Plus, I actively engage in article marketing which–when done right–gets your article posted to mulitple Web sites that link back to you.

Her question may have origins in many people’s belief that there’s a Google penalty for duplicate content, and somehow Google will punish you for having the same content in multiple places.

Coincidentally, Google came late last week on their own blog and stated that there is no Google penalty for duplicate content…although some exceptions remain.

<tangent> Google cites an example of duplicate content that mentions the book Everyone Poops; a great kids book that we have in our house. It also inspired this politically themed t-shirt over at Threadless that I love and own. </tangent>

So, go ahead and post your content in more than one place, Google’s cool with that. Just make sure you read their whole blog post first.

Found via Search Engine Roundtable.

Rich Brooks
You Can Say That Again

Is Reciprocal Linking Worth It?

Friday, September 12th, 2008

The short answer: no one really knows.
Sorry, I don’t have a copy of Google’s algorithms…do you?

Let’s think about it…

How about a “for instance”?  Let’s suppose that I link to a really interesting and relevant blogpost or article.  The author sees that I’ve linked to them, decides to read my blog, happens to be writing about a related topic as one of my posts, and links to it.  While this is not a reciprocal link, it is a mutual link.  In other words, these links provide benefits for both bloggers’ readers.

The issue is that we don’t know whether Google can tell the difference between mutual and reciprocal linking.  And how would they?  There are no “code footprints” to say whether two people got together and decided to give each other links or whether it happened naturally.

Google can, however, tell if you bought a link or through a link farm.  There are often bits of code associated with these exchanges that will serve as a tell tale sign to search engines that you purchased the link.

What’s important to remember

At the end of the day, links are meant to be helpful for your viewers.  I’ve talked about the importance of anchor text and how it should be keyword rich.  Equally as important is the site that you’re linking to and how relevant it is to the topic at hand.

While there are ways to buy links without looking spammy, I think your best bet is to simply link naturally.  You could also ask for links; both would result in more organic backlinks.

Yet, the question remains: what weight (or PageRank) does Google give mutual links vs. reciprocal links vs. paid links?

Nicki Hicks
Linker Au Natural

Maine SEO Project: Maine Heart Surgical Associates

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

We’ve had a busy few weeks of finishing up SEO Projects here at flyte!  Just yesterday we finished another big project: for Maine Heart Surgical Associates.  As the Cardiac and Vascular organization just recently moved their Vascular & Vein Center to the new location in Falmouth, Maine, the marketing department wanted to optimize for that portion of their site.

So, that’s exactly what we did!  We optimized specifically for their Vascular & Vein Center – starting by cleaning up and consolidating several of the pages, as that was our biggest concern.

Then we hit the ground running with keyword research and other onpage optimization.  The second half of SEO (link building) started with Maine Heart’s intrasite linking, followed by a plan to increase backlinks.  With MHSA’s enormous untapped potential sitting in the writing hand of their surgeons, we suggested they start their own blog.  With the big move to Falmouth, however, that was nearly impossible.  But in the future, you very well may see a blog from Maine Heart!

If you have concerns about varicose veins, PAD, carotid disease, aneurysms, or venous disorders; be sure to check out Maine Heart Surgical Associates and their Vascular & Vein Center.

Nicki Hicks
I can now pronounce ‘Ambulatory Phlebectomy’

Google Re-allows WebPosition Gold Searches

Friday, September 5th, 2008

About a month ago, it seemed that Google blocked WebPosition Gold for good.  However, just yesterday a post on Search Engine Roundtable proved otherwise. Here is the gist of the post:

Just about a month ago we reported about the issues people were having with WebPosition Gold and other rank checking tools. We first thought Google was going after these rank checking tools but then we learned that the issues were due to Google testing out new HTML structures and layouts in the search results pages.

After reading the article, I ran a client’s ranking report on WPG and found that yes, in fact, I can get Google’s ranking results again!  At the same time, I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: while higher rankings are the short-term results you want from SEO, better conversions are the long-term goal.

Nicki Hicks
Psyched About WPG

Google Chrome – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Well, it’s official.  As of September 2, 2008 at 2pm EST, Google released its very own web browser: Google Chrome.

Yes, another Chrome post.  I know there’s a million out there.  But I noticed that many of them are very one-sided: either Chrome rocks or it stinks. (Strange I know, who’d have thought…opinionated bloggers?!)  I’d like to take a look at all sides though, especially what I’ve seen.

The Bad

(For when asked “I have good news and bad news, what do you want first?” I always reply, “the bad”.)

  • I’m still waiting on the Mac (and Linux, if we want to get technical about it) version.  Being on a Mac OS, I’m obviously partial.  So running IE on my Parallels program is really not ideal.  Though, from what I’ve been able to play around with, it is pretty neat.
  • Is it any better than Firefox 3? I think that’s one of the bigger questions.  Even in the short time FF3 has been available, I’ve become a huge fan.  Chrome has many of the cool gadgets that FF3 has.  So the argument remains: Why should I switch over?
  • Where are the plug-ins? I have so many plug-ins in my FF browser that I have to turn some of them off so I actually have a large enough window to be able to view something!  I’m sure Chrome won’t take long, but when I go for my Gmail icon, I have to remember that I have applications now!
  • It’s just plain hard to switch browsers. (Yes, now I’m whining.)  More than anything, how am I supposed to remember the dozens (if not hundreds) of passwords and logins that Firefox has saved for me?  (Obviously the important ones I have written down.)  But it’s going to take a while to get all those passwords automatic again!

The Good

  • Increased Security (aka The Sandbox)
  • Enhanced Search Options. And no, they do not MAKE you search in Google.  You can select whatever default search engine you’d like.
  • Individual Tabs. Each tab runs as its own process, so if the application fails for any reason, ONLY that page and tab will close.  Pretty handy when you have a lot going on.
  • Thumbnails of your most visited sites on the homepage.  This is just plain cool and helpful.
  • Not tied to any other Google application. Man oh man, has there been an uproar about this one! Just check out any of Matt Cutts’ recent posts on the matter!

The Ugly

  • “Google is taking over the world.” Or at least the Web.  There will always be negative rumors and connotations flying around a large, successful organization.  Take a little Google-Twitter situation that took place Wednesday!

All in all, I think Google Chrome will do well.  I can definitely see how users going from Internet Explorer to Chrome will be amazed by the switch.  But again, for FF3 users, the wow factor really just isn’t there..yet.  I’m just waiting for a Google OS now!!

Nicki Hicks
Committed to Firefox (for now)

Is Anchor Text Really That Important?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

In a word, yes. Allow me to clarify by saying that anchor text is the actual word or words you use to link to other web pages (whether your own or external ones).  That means anchor text can only be a text link (so images don’t count); text links are found primarily in the navigation and copy of a web page.  Although image links do not have anchor text, they can have alt tags which, arguably, hold some search engine clout.  But that’s a topic for another time.

How do web users read web sites?

You might ask yourself – what does this have to do with anchor text?  Well, a lot actually.  You’ll see below that users look for links to click on when scanning pages.  This is important to note because adding descriptive, keyword rich links will help your users in their decision to click or not!

Navigation Anchor Text

Navigation and copy anchor text, while both anchor text, must be treated differently.  First of all, many SEOs believe that anchor text in the navigation holds more weight than that in the copy.  Therefore, you want to place your richest keywords there.

That being said, links still need to be user-friendly before search engine friendly and therefore be titled intuitively.  In other words, you want the links in your navigation to make sense – many are standard (like About Us and Contact).  Finally, there is an issue of space – so be sure the links in your navigation are short and sweet – you do not have the ability to even think about keyword stuffing here!

Copy Anchor Text

The fact of the matter is that while you do not want too many links within your copy, a good smattering is nice.  Even more importantly are the keywords you use for the links – they should be natural.  When writing, I tend to write everything first, noting where I want to place links.  Afterward, I’ll go through and choose the best set of words to use as links.  That way, I’m not consciously choosing which words to use for links.  At the same time, if no good words present themselves, I’ll add in good keyword rich anchor text.

Like navigation anchor text, those in the copy must still be titled intuitively.  However, let’s get away from the “click here” or “contact us” links, shall we?  When indexed by search engines, those don’t help anyone!  Take the opportunity to increase your visibility with a link like “Find out how to increase your Search Engine Visibility” or “Contact flyte for a free Search Engine Optimization consultation”.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  Entire sentences should typically NOT be anchor text.  However, the important words should be!

So…how do we know anchor text is important?

Well, for one thing, Google has even been reporting the matter for over a year now in their Webmaster Tools.  Plus, since Google holds their PageRank algorithm in such high esteem, we’ve learned that anchor text that is also important.  When asking for links, it is always good to suggest which keywords and phrases to use.

For help with deciding which anchor text you should use, contact flyte.

Nicki Hicks
Link Master



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