Search Engine
Search Engine Optimization Book
© Aaron Matthew Wall
114 Dahlia Drvie • State College • PA 16803
Phone (401)207-1945 • E-mail: [email protected]
Last Updated: Monday, June 12, 2005
Table of Contents
How to Read this ebook
Comparing Search Results................................. 119
SEO as a Standalone Product .................................1
Text in Incoming Links........................................ 120
Questions, Comments, & Concerns .......................2
Exchanging Links................................................ 126
Why Search?
Want to Trade Links? .......................................... 132
Finding Prospects ....................................................3
Interactive Elements ................................................4
Brief History of the Web
The Goal of a Search Engine & How they Work ....5
Origins of the Web .................................................11
Commercialized Cat and Mouse ...........................12
Choosing a Domain Name .....................................16
Hosting ....................................................................22
Interactive Elements ..............................................24
Some Notes.............................................................25
General Internet Topics
Changing Your Site ................................................28
Usability ..................................................................35
Generating Revenue...............................................41
Interactive Elements ..............................................47
Some Notes.............................................................50
Writing for Search Engines
Keywords ................................................................53
Meta Tags................................................................64
Page Title Done Wrong ..........................................67
Page Title Done Right ............................................68
Internal Linking.......................................................71
Navigation ...............................................................73
Optimizing Your Page Copy ..................................75
Building Content ....................................................79
Interactive Elements ..............................................82
Some Notes.............................................................85
Interacting with Search Engines
Directories vs. Search Engines.............................86
Submitting Your Site ..............................................86
Search Engines ......................................................97
Google .....................................................................97
Yahoo! Search ......................................................110
MSN .......................................................................115
Teoma / Ask Jeeves .............................................116
Free Links & Buying Links ................................. 134
Waiting for Results.............................................. 143
Interactive Elements............................................ 144
Some Notes.......................................................... 150
Pay Per Click
Before You Start .................................................. 151
What is Pay Per Click .......................................... 153
Overture ............................................................... 155
Ad Writing Tips .................................................... 158
Customer Tracking and Bid Management ......... 161
Google Adwords.................................................. 163
Bonus Info: How to Improve Clickthrough Rate
and Slash Google AdWords Costs to Maximize
Profits:.................................................................. 168
Resources Cited .................................................. 177
Some Notes.......................................................... 180
Monitoring Results
When Results Don't Show .................................. 182
SEO Worst Practice Manual................................ 183
Other Problems.................................................... 186
Speeding Things Up - Paid Inclusion ................ 189
Other Search Engines ......................................... 191
Hiring an SEO
The Goal of this Ebook: ...................................... 194
What are My Goals? ............................................ 194
SEO Business Models......................................... 195
More Information on Buying SEO Services....... 197
Resources ............................................................ 198
Selling SEO Services
Online Auctions ................................................... 199
Forums ................................................................. 200
Writing Articles .................................................... 200
Ideal Clients ......................................................... 201
Where to find Clients........................................... 201
Questions to Ask Clients .................................... 202
Off the Web & Major Changes ............................ 203
Being Your Size ....................................................203
Contracting & Outsourcing .................................203
Cold Calling ..........................................................204
Niche: SEO Guy – Real Estate.............................204
Sales Cycle ...........................................................205
Dependency on Free Traffic ................................206
Affiliate Sites & Passive Income Streams ..........206
Resources .............................................................206
Quick Start Checklist
SEO Tools .............................................................208
Picking a Product .................................................208
Picking a Domain Name.......................................209
there to help point you toward
answers to other internet business
related questions you may have.
Before getting too heavy into SEO
think if the idea you have is one that
will be easy to spread. If it is not think
of how you can transform that idea
into an idea that is easier to spread.
It is usually far easier to create
an idea worth spreading than it is
to spread an idea not worth
Domain Registration & Hosting ..........................209
Keyword Selection ...............................................209
Page Optimization ................................................210
Home Page Optimization .....................................211
Site Optimization ..................................................211
Registering With Directories ...............................211
Link Building.........................................................212
When Changes Occur ..........................................213
Common SEO Abuse Techniques ......................214
Closing Tips..........................................................214
Chapter 3 covers many nonsearch
related internet topics. I included this
because if you do well with many of
the “nonsearch” related topics it
becomes far easier to build a linking
campaign and achieve top search
engine placement. For competitive
phrases link popularity and the
words in those links are the
single most important part of
With most websites conversion and
profit are more important than the
shear amount of traffic you get.
Making small changes within your site
can double or triple your conversion
rate. If you do everything else
correctly you do not need to put as
much effort into SEO.
If you already know the topics
covered in chapter 3 then feel free to
skip over the sections you already
know. More than trying to answer all
questions about the web, chapter 3 is
Disclaimer: Since search engines are
constantly changing and keep their
algorithms as closely guarded secrets,
there is no way to know the exact
algorithms at any given time. This
information was compiled from my
observations of search engines over
the past few years. Hopefully part of
what this book teaches you is how to
make informed observations as things
continue to change.
With enough experience and
observation one can deduce patterns
and figure out pieces of the puzzle.
This guide was created to help you
solve that puzzle in much the same
way others have.
While following this guide should help
improve your rankings, the author of
this book shall not be held responsible
for damages because of the use (or
misuse) of this information.
All images are copyright by their
original owner.
How to Read this ebook
here are many sections in this ebook. Most of them relate to search marketing, although some of
them relate to other aspects of the web.
While I actively market this book as being about SEO, it is actually more about everything I know
about the web. While there are many guides to how and where to start on the web, most of them are laced
with affiliate links and bogus recommendations. The goal of this guide is what I had wished I read when I
jumped on the web a few years ago. I also reference the most useful resources I found in each field so that
if you are interested in learning more about those subjects you can see what I recommend.
Some areas might read well, whereas others might be a bit choppy. The reason for this is that I rewrite
sections of it frequently. What started off as a 24 page file is a year later now a couple hundred pages long. I
try to reread it as often as I can without getting burned out from reading it too much. It is a hard balance to
strike to keep learning and keep updating everything I have learned. At the same time I have to learn about
search in depth so that I can also provide better than average information about that topic.
If you already know a topic covered in a certain section of this book well then you may not learn much, or
anything from that section. I don’t expect to be able to tell a 20 year professional copywriter how to do her
job. The point of the other sections is that SEO works much better as a marketing mechanism if you use it
in conjunction with other ideas and do not do SEO on an island.
SEO as a Standalone Product
Search algorithms are still in their infancy. Many people will still be able to run successful businesses doing
nothing but SEO for at least a few years to come. When I was new to SEO, and only knew a bit of SEO, I
did not have a strong brand or understand marketing well. I did things like rank people for terms worth
hundreds of thousands of dollars while charging them a one time $300 fee. Did my efforts pay off? Sure,
but due to business ignorance I still almost wound up bankrupt because I undercharged for services.
As you learn more about the value of SEO, and how it integrates into the web, you should be able to
increase your income or social reach significantly. Only by pairing SEO with other marketing methods or
viewing the web through a larger lense will you be able to fully appreciate the value of SEO.
If you do not know what PPC, CSS, SSI, CMS, or many of the acronyms mean it does not make sense to
try to learn all of them in one day. It took me a couple years to learn the stuff I wrote in this ebook. With
that said, in many areas it is adequately sufficient to understand the concept of how or why something
works without knowing all the deepest details.
On top of being a book to read I also wanted this book to act as a reference guide. The index makes it
quick and easy to flip through to a specific area if you want to look at something more in depth later.
While some of this guide talks about technical details, they may not be that important for the average
webmaster to know. For example, latent semantic indexing finds mathematical patterns in language and
determines what concepts a page represents using mathematics. All most people really need to know about
latent semantic indexing is that those types of algorithms would favor natural writing over unnatural
keyword stuffed gibberish.
There are many other algorithms and ideas driving search, but at the end of the day the end goal of all the
algorithms is to favor useful content so the results are relevant, which allows the engines to make more
money serving ads.
Content has many meanings though, and there are different ways to make content useful to different
people. As much as this is an exact guide for what you should do to promote your site, some of the ideas in
this ebook are also there to spark your creativity to help you think of ways to gain strong advantages over
your competition.
Questions, Comments, & Concerns
Some people ask for me to do ten hours worth of competitive analysis for free. Generally I can’t do that
much consulting for free, but if you have a quick question or do not understand something please make
sure you email me so I can try my best to help you.
You bought this book hoping to get useful and easy to understand information, and that is my goal. I have
probably read millions of forum posts and web pages so many of the random thoughts scattered
throughout this ebook might not make a bunch of sense. Some of the ideas came from errors I made on
my sites, and some of them came from errors friends made.
Most sites do not end up getting banned or penalized without reason, although on rare occasion it does
happen. Sometimes engines are quick to respond, and sometimes they do not care much. As you learn
more about why they do certain things and how the business aspects play into the algorithms it becomes
easier to evaluate where they might go and how they might try to go there. SEO is both reactive and
If a section of my ebook is not clear to you, or does not make sense then that is my fault and I should
explain it to you. Feel free to send me an email if you have ANY questions.
Best of luck with your sites,
[email protected]
Why Search?
earch engines take advantage of reverse broadcast networks to help save you
time and money. Search allows you to "sell what your customers want, when
they want it!"
Finding Prospects
I had just finished reading Permission Marketing when I exchanged in one of the
most interesting chat sessions of my life. A random kid from California instant
messaged me to say hello. In much the same way as other marketers do, he scouted
the web to find his ideal client. This guy searched through Yahoo! profiles and
found that on my profile I wrote that I collected baseball cards.
He wanted to know if Barry Bonds was my favorite player. He told me he had over
16,000 Barry Bonds cards. I told him that I had an autographed serial numbered
Barry Bonds rookie, but baseball cards did not mean much to me anymore.
I asked if he did business over the internet. He, of course, said no. It was clear to
me why. He had no way to display any of his cards, and he was using spam to
contact people. I asked him if he wanted to have a website on which to sell his
He told me he couldn't afford it. He said that it was too expensive. What is a fair
price for limitless distribution?
Baseball cards usually drop in value rather sharply once a player retires. Not only
does the price drop, but demand plummets. It’s a logarithmic loss of value. I have
picked up Robin Yount and Dave Windfield rookies for $5 and $8 each (both
cards went for $100 or more in their heyday.)
This kid wanted to buy my autographed Barry Bonds rookie card to add to his
16,000 Bonds cards that he will never sell, thinking he was doing business. I sold
baseball cards back in high school, and I knew how to do it well. I did not learn it
well the first day either. I was trying to sell expensive cards to people who did not
want to spend much money. What solution did I learn? "Sell what your customers
want, when they want it!"
I still displayed some of my $400 and up baseball cards, just to get the oos and
ahhs. Once you have a crowd many people follow just to see what is going on then
you can make sales. I knew I would not sell these cards. So what did I change?
With search you do not
hunt for your customers.
While they are actively
interested in your products
or services they hunt for
I created a display case with stacks of all the major stars and local popular players.
Each card was $1. It did not matter if the card was worth 25 cents or $4, I just put
$1 on each of them. I kept up with whom was doing well and would buy up all the
singles of people that were about to become popular. Buy price ranged from 3
cents to a quarter a card. Most of them I bought sold within a month or two.
By taking the time to go through their junk and making ordering simple I made
money. That $1 display case was a gold mine. Usually that case sold more than my
good cases did and I had small investment (other than taking the time to organize
the cards).
I decided I would do this kid a favor and send him a free book on marketing from
my favorite author. When I asked him if he wanted a free marketing book he
spouted off Eminem lyrics. He got angry when I was trying to help him. He stated
a few of the lines around
I'd rather put out a mother **** gospel record
All of his frustration he felt, all of his anger, and all the time he wasted were
unnecessary. That is why search is powerful. You do not hunt for your customers,
they hunt for you. You pick the keywords and the customer picks you. You not
only "sell what your customers want," but you also sell it “while they are actively
looking for it.”
The $1 baseball card case is a good analogy for effective search engine
optimization. Imagine the cards in that case as being web pages. It is great to rank
well for a term like SEO, but by ranking well for various small volume searches you
may be able to make far more money in the long run. Longer search phrases have
more implied intent, thus are far more targeted, and convert at a higher rate.
Interactive Elements
Resources cited:
Permission Marketing (by Seth Godin) is a book about how to make many micro sales
gaining permission with each sale. If that topic interests you then you may want to
check out that book sometime down the road.
List 5 problems your products solve. Which of these problems are
most important to your target audience? Is there a problem your
product solves that no other products do?
List 10 terms or phrases your target audience would search for to
find your products.
Calculate the time you spend prospecting clients and the value of
that time.
Calculate the money you will save if you cut that time in half by
ranking well for a few of the terms you listed.
Brief History of the Web
he web has became a direct marketers dream. In its infancy the web was
based around the core idea of sharing knowledge for free. The closer your
ideas are in some way aligned with this idea the easier it will be to promote
your site.
The Goal of a Search Engine & How they Work
Search Engine Relevancy:
Many people think search engines have a hidden agenda, or that they just do not
like them. This simply is not true. The goal of the search engine is to provide high
quality content to people searching the internet.
Search engines with the broadest distribution network sell the most advertising
space. As I write this, Yahoo! and Google are considered the search engines with
the best relevancy. Their technologies power the bulk of web search.
The Problem Listing a New Site:
The biggest problem new web sites have is that search engines have no idea they exist.
Even when a search engine finds a new document it has a hard time determining its
quality. Search engines rely on links to help determine the quality of a document.
The following bits may contain a few advanced search topics. It is fine if you do not
necessarily understand them right away. The average webmaster does not need to
know in depth search technology. Some might be interested in it, so I wrote a bit about
Gerard Salton:
The term vector space model, which search algorithms still heavily rely upon today,
goes back to the 1970’s. Gerard Salton was a well known expert in the field of
information retrieval who pioneered many of today’s modern methods.
I will cover some of the parts of the search engine below while trying to keep it
somewhat basic. It is not important that you fully understand all of it, but I would
not feel right leaving the information out.
If you are interested in learning more about early information retrieval systems you
may want to read A Theory of Indexing, which is a quick 50 page book by Salton,
which describes many of the common terms and concepts in the information
retrieval field.
Mike Grehan’s book also discusses some of the technical bits to information
retrieval more than mine. My book was created to be a current how to guide, while
his is geared more toward giving information about how information retrieval
Parts of a Search Engine:
While there are different ways to organize web content, every crawling search
engine has the same basic parts. Each consists of:
a crawler
an index (or catalog)
and a search interface
Crawler (or Spider):
The crawler does just what its name implies. It scours the web following links,
updating pages, and adding new pages when it comes across them. Each search
engine has periods of deep crawling and periods of shallow crawling. There is also
a scheduler mechanism to prevent a spider from overloading servers and to tell the
spider what documents to crawl next and how frequently to crawl them.
Rapidly changing or highly important documents are more likely to get crawled
frequently. The frequency of crawl should typically have little effect on search
relevancy; it simply helps the search engines keep fresh content in their index. The
home page of might get crawled once every 10 minutes. A popular
rapidly growing forum might get crawled a few dozen times each day. A static site
with little link popularity and rarely changing content might only get crawled once
or twice a month.
The best benefit of having a frequently crawled page is that you can get your new
sites, pages, or projects crawled quickly by linking to them from a powerful or
frequently changing page.
The Index:
The index is where the spider collected data is stored. When you perform a search
on a major search engine, you are not searching the web, but the cache of the web
provided by that search engine (its index).
Reverse Index:
Search engines organize their content in what is called a “reverse index.” It sorts
web documents by words. When you search Google and it displays 1-10 out of
143,000 website it means that there are approximately 143,000 web pages which
either have the words on them, or have inbound links containing those.
Search engines do not store punctuation, just words. The following example
reverse index is overly simplified for explaining purposes. Imagine each of the
following sentences is the content of a unique page.
The dog ate the cat.
The cat ate the mouse.
Document #
Position #
Storing Attributes:
Since search engines view pages from their source code in a linear format it is best
to move JavaScript and other extraneous code to external files to help move the
text higher in the source code.
Some people also use CSS or a blank table cell to place the page content ahead of
the navigation. As far as how search engines evaluate what words are first they look
at how the words appear in the source code. I have not done significant testing to
determine if it is worth the effort to make your unique page code appear ahead of
the navigation, but if it does not take much additional effort it is probably worth
doing. Link analysis (discussed in depth later) is far more important than page copy
to most search alrogithms, but every little bit can help.
Google has also hired some people from Mozilla and is likely working on helping
their spider better understand how browsers render pages.
As well as storing the position of a word, search engines can also store how the
data is marked up. For example: Is the term it in the page title? Is it a heading?
What type of heading? Is it bold? Is it emphasized? Is it in part of a list? Is it in link
Words which are in a heading or are set apart from normal text in other ways may
be given additional weighting in many search algorithms. It is however may be an
unnatural pattern for your keyword phrases to appear many times in bold and the
like without occurring in any of the regular textual body copy.
By storing where the terms occur search engines can understand how close one
term is to another. Generally, the closer terms are together the more likely the page
with matching terms is to satisfy your query.
Stop Words:
Words which are common do not help search engines understand documents.
Exceptionally common terms, such as the, are called stop words. While search
engines index stop words, they are not used to determine relevancy in search
algorithms. If I search for the Cat in the Hat a search engines may insert wildcards
for the words the and in, so my search will look like “* cat * * hat”.
Index Normalization:
Each page is standardized to a size. This prevents longer pages from having an
unfair advantage by using a term many more times throughout long page copy.
Thus, there is no magical page copy length which is best for all search engines.
Keyword Density, Term Frequency & Term Weight:
Term frequency (TF) is a weighted measure of how often a term appears in a
document. Terms which are frequently occurring within a document are thought to
be some of the more important terms for that document.
If a word appears in every (or many) documents then it tells you little about how to
discern between documents. Words which appear often have little to no
discrimination value, that is why many search engines ignore common stop words.
Rare terms, which only appear a few or limited number of documents, have a
much higher signal to noise ratio. They are much more likely to tell you what a
document is about.
Inverse document frequency (IDF) can be used to further discriminate the value of
term frequency to account for how common terms are across a corpus of
documents. Terms which are in a limited number of documents will likely tell you
more about those documents than terms which are scattered throughout many
When people measure keyword density they are generally missing some other
important factors in information retrieval, such as IDF, index normalization, word
proximity, how search engines account for the various element types (is the term
bolded, in a header, or in a link).
Search engines may also use technologies like latent semantic indexing to
mathematically model the concepts of related pages. If you artificially write a page
stuffed with one keyword or keyword phrase without adding many of the phrases
that occur in similar documents you may not show up for many of the related
searches and some algorithms may see your document as being less relevant. The
key is to write naturally (using various related terms) and structure the page well. I
will cover more of the details of search engine optimization later in the book.
Multiple Reverse Indexes:
Search engines may use multiple reverse indexes for different content. Most
current search algorithms tend to give more weight to page title and link text than
page copy.
For common broad queries the search engines may be able to find enough quality
matching documents using link text and page title. After the most relevant
documents are collected they may be resorted based on interconnectivity or other
Around 50% of search queries are unique, and with longer unique queries there is
greater need for search engines to also use page copy to find relevant matching
Search Interface:
The search algorithm and search interface are used to find the most relevant
document in the index based on the search. First the search engine tries to
determine user intent by looking at the words the searcher typed in.
These terms can be stripped down to their root level (drop ing and other suffixes)
and checked against a lexical database to see what concepts they represent. Terms
which are a near match will help you rank for other similarly related terms. For
example, using the word swims could help you rank well for swim or swimming.
Search engines can try to match keyword vectors with each of the specific terms in
a query, or try to match up with the related concepts to the search query as a phrase
if the words in a phrase are seen as part of a larger conceptual unit.
Searcher Feedback:
Some search engines, such as Google and Yahoo! have systems like Google Search
History and My Yahoo! which collect information about a user. Search engines can
also look at recent searches, or what the search process was for similar users to
help determine what concepts a searcher is looking for and what documents are
most relevant for your need.
As people use such a system it takes time to build up a search query history and a
click through profile. That profile could eventually be used to aid in search
personalization or help collect user feedback to determine how well an algorithm is
working and what the best results are.
As people give search engines more feedback and it has a larger corpus of data it
will become much harder to rank well using only links. The more satisfied users are
with your site the better your site will do as search algorithms continue to advance.
Real Time vs Prior to Query Calculations:
In most major search engines a portion of the relevancy calculations are stored
ahead of time, and some of them are calculated in real time.
Some things which are computationally expensive and slow processes, such as
calculating overall inter connectivity (Google calls this PageRank) are done ahead
of time.
Many search engines have different data centers, and when updates occur they roll
from one data center to the next. Data centers are placed throughout the world to
minimize network lag time. Assuming it is not overloaded you will usually get
search results from the data centers nearest you. If those data centers are down or
if they are experiencing heavy load your search query might be routed to a different
data center.
Search Algorithm Shifts:
Search engines such as Google and Yahoo! often update their algorithm dozens of
times per month. When you see rapid changes in your rankings it is usually due to
an algorithmic shift, a search index update, or something else outside of your
control. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, and some of the effects take a while to
kick in.
Usually if you change something on a page it is not reflected in the search results
that same day or the next day. Linkage data also may take a while to have an effect
on search relevancy as search engines need to find the new links before they can
evaluate them, and some search algorithms may trust links more as the links age.
Relevancy wins distribution!
The more times a search leads to desired content, the more likely a person is to use
that search engine again. If a search engine works well, a person does not just come
back, they also tell their friends about it, and they may even download the
associated toolbar. The goal of all major search engines is to be relevant. If they are
not they will fade (as many already have).
Search Engine Business Model:
Search engines make money when people click on the sponsored advertisements.
In the search result on the next page you will notice that both Viagra and Levitra
are bidding on the term Viagra.
The area off to the right is also sponsored advertisements for the term Viagra.
Google gets paid whenever a searcher clicks on any of the sponsored listings.
The white area off to the left is the organic search results. Google does not get paid
when people click on these. Google hopes to make it hard for search engine
optimizers (like you and I) to manipulate these results to:
keep relevancy as high as possible
encourage people to buy ads
Later in the ebook we will discuss both organic optimization and pay per click
Image of Search Results:
Origins of the Web
The web started off behind the idea of the free flow of information as envisioned
by Tim Berners-Lee. He was working at CERN in Europe. CERN had a
somewhat web-like environment in that many people were coming and going and
worked on many different projects. This helped lead some of the ideas behind his
eventual World Wide Web creation.
Tim created a site which described how the web worked and placed it live on the
first server at Europe had very little backing or interest in the web
back then, so US colleges were the first groups to set up servers. Tim added links
to their server locations to his directory known as the Virtual Library.
Current link popularity measurements usually show college web pages typically
have higher assumed value than most other pages do. This is simply a function of
the fact that the roots of the WWW started in lab rooms at colleges. It was not
until the mid to late 1990’s that the web became commercialized.
Early Search Engines
The web did not have sophisticated search engines when it began. The most
advanced information gathers of the day primitively matched file names. You had
to know the name of the file you were looking for to find anything. The first file
that matched was returned. There was no such thing as search relevancy. The lack
of relevancy is what lead to the early popularity of directories such as Yahoo!.
Overture was launched as a pay per click search engine in 1998. While the Overture
system was profitable most portals were still losing money. The targeted ads they
(as well as Google AdWords) delivered grew in popularity and finally created a
functional profit generating business model for large scale general search engines.
Many search engines such as AltaVista and later Inktomi were industry leaders for a
period of time, but the rush to market and lack of sophistication associated with
online marketing prevented these primitive machines from having functional
business models.
Commercialized Cat and Mouse
Web = Cheap Marketing:
As the internet grew in popularity, people realized it as an incredibly cheap
marketing platform. Compare the price of spam (virtually free) to direct mail (~ $1
each). Spam fills your inbox and wastes your time.
Information retrieval systems (search engines) must also fight off aggressive
marketing techniques to keep their search results relevant. Search engines market
their problems as SPAM, but the problem is that they need to improve their
algorithms. There will always be someone out there trying to make a quick buck. It
is the job of search engines to filter through the junk to find and return relevant
Becoming a Resource:
Though I hate to quote a source I do not remember, I once read that 1 in 3 people
believe the top search result is the most relevant document relating to their search.
Imagine the power associated with people finding your view of the world first.
Whatever you are selling, someone is buying!
I have been quoted as a source of information on Islam simply because I wrote
about a conversation I had with a person from Kuwait who called me for help on
the web. I know nothing about Islam, but someone found my post in a search I was quoted in their term paper. I have also had college professors
source some of my sites which I am a bit embarrassed to even admit I own.
Sometimes good things happen to you and sometimes the competition gets lucky.
Generally the harder you work and the better your site is the more often you will
get lucky.
Business Links:
As easy as it is to get syndicated with useful interesting and unique ideas, it is much
harder to get syndicated with commercial ideas. Often times links associated with
commercial sites are business partnerships.
Many people do well to give information away and then attach a product to their
business model. You probably would have never read this ebook if I did not have a
blog associated with it. On the same note, it would also be significantly easier for
me to build links into this site if I did not sell this ebook on it.
Primitive Search Technology:
As the web grew, content grew faster than technology did. The primitive nature of
search engines promoted the creation of content, but not the creation of quality
content. Search engines had to rely on the documents themselves to state their
purpose. Most search engines did not even use the full page content either.
Meta Tags:
Meta tags were used to help search engines organize the web. Documents listed
keywords and descriptions that were used to match user queries. Initially these tags
were somewhat effective, but over time marketers exploited them and they lost
their relevancy.
People began to stuff incredibly large amounts of highly focused data (which was
frequently off topic) in these tags to achieve high search engine rankings. Some
porn and other high margin type websites would have strings in their meta tags like
“free, free, free, free, Disney, free.” Getting a better ranking simply meant you
repeated your keywords a few more times in the meta tags.
Advancing Search Technology:
Technology has now gotten to the point where search engines can do a full index
of page copy. Since search engines have been able to view entire pages, the hidden
inputs (such as meta tags) have lost much of their importance in relevancy
The best way to provide relevant results is to emulate a user and rank the page
based on the same things the user see, and what other people are saying about the
document. Meta tags are no longer the primary ranking criteria in major search
engines, though I still recommend using them (we will get into meta tags a bit later
on though).
What is Search Engine Spam?
Search engines make billions of dollars each year selling ads. Most search engine
traffic goes to the free organic listed sites. The ratio of traffic distribution is going
to be keyword dependant and search engine dependant, but I believe about 85% of
Google’s traffic clicks on the organic (free) listings. Most other search engines
display ads a bit more aggressively than Google does. In many of those systems
organic listings get around 70% of the traffic.
Some sites rank well on merit, while others are there due exclusively to ranking
In many situations a proper SEO campaign can provide a much greater ROI
than the paid ads do. This means that while SEOs and search engines do have
business models which may overlap, they may also compete with one another for
ad dollars. Sometimes SEOs and search engines are friends with each other and
unfortunately sometimes they are enemies.
When search engines return relevant results they get to deliver more ads. When
their results are not relevant they lose market share.
I have had a single page that I have not actively promoted randomly send me a
commission check for over $1,000. There is a ton of money in manipulating search
results. There are ways to improve search engine placement that go with the goals
of the search engines, and there are also ways that go against them. Whether or not
you follow search guidelines quality SEOs aim to be relevant.
Many effective SEO techniques may be considered somewhat spammy.
Like anything in life, you should make an informed decision about what SEO
techniques you want to use and which you should not.
You may choose to use highly aggressive crash and burn techniques or slower
more predictable and less risky techniques. Most industries will not require
extremely aggressive promotional techniques. Later on I will try to point out which
is which.
Using Overtly Manipulative Techniques:
While there will always be ways to manipulate the search engines, there is no telling
if you will eventually get caught and lose your rankings if you optimize your site
using overtly deceptive techniques. In any business such as SEO there will be
different risk levels.
Search engines try hard not to flag false positives (return good sites as spam), so
there is usually a bunch of slack to play with, but many people also make common
mistakes like incorrectly using a 302 redirect, or not using specific page titles on
their pages, or allowing spiders to index multiple URLs with the same content. If
you are ever in doubt if you are going too far or making technical errors feel free to
ask me and ask at multiple SEO forums.
The search engines aim to emulate users. If you design good content for users and
build a smart linking campaign, eventually it will pay off.
New aggressive techniques pop up all the time. As long as they are available then
people will exploit them. People will force the issue until search engines close the
loophole and then people will find a new one. The competitive nature of web
marketing forces search engines to continuously improve their algorithms and
In my opinion the ongoing effort of keeping up with the latest SEO tricks is
usually not worth for most webmasters. Some relational database programmers or
people with creative or analytical minds may always be one step ahead, but the
average business owner probably does not have the time to dedicate to keeping up
with the latest tricks.
Tying ethics to SEO techniques is a marketing scam. Either a technique is effective,
or it is not. There is nothing unethical about being aggressive though. You
probably do not want to take big risks with domains you can not afford to have
Some sites that are not aggressively promoted still fall out of favor on occasion.
The search engine & SEO relationship is a love hate relationship.
SEO Feedback Loop:
The effects of SEO do take time to kick in. At any given time, with how
dynamically the web changes, there will be some holes in search algorithms which
make certain SEO techniques exceptionally effective.
I have spoken with current search engine engineers working at major search
engines in regard to this ebook. I also have spoken with database programmers
who later became some of the world’s best Black Hat SEOs.
Some of those programmers have told me what some would consider tricks that
work really well, but only work really well because few people know about them.
Some of my friends have advanced blog spam scripts and other creative link
generating techniques.
I do not try to promote the latest Black Hat techniques in this ebook because:
They are the most likely to quickly change. Some things that are cutting
edge and effective today can become ineffective and actually hurt you
Some of them can be damaging to your brand.
Aggressive techniques are the some of the most likely techniques to get
your site banned.
Some things are told to me as a secret, and if they are made openly
available to anyone (including search engine engineers – some who have
read this ebook) then they lose their value and I lose my friends and
I do not have a ton of experience with exceptionally aggressive
promotional techniques.
People who use aggressive techniques are not evil or bad, but I can’t
possibly put accurate, current, useful, and risky information out to
everyone in an ebook format and expect it to not cause problems for some
To me effective web promotion is balancing risk vs reward. This site got
on the first page of Google for “SEO” within 9 months of making this
site, with less than $5,000 spent on promotion. Most sites do not need to
use overtly aggressive and risky promotional techniques. SEO works so
well because most sites on the web do not actively practice effective SEO.
Choosing a Domain Name
Before you pick a domain
name you should know
your target audience, what
you intend to sell to them,
and what makes your site
unique or different than
everything else that is
already on the market.
Optional Business Models:
Many web based businesses fail because they do not have a functional business
model. Before you even chose a name for your site you should know your target
audience, what you intend to sell to them, and what will make your business idea
unique or different than everything else that is already on the market.
You can still make significant profits without being sure what you want to sell if
you can solve large problems and make life easier for a group of targeted people.
At any level, you still have know the goals and reasons why you are creating a site.
My first few sites failed because they had no functional business models. They
added little value to the web.
SEO has done exceptionally well, and it has even revived the value and
business models of some of my other sites. The single biggest thing I have going
for me is the social currency my blog has created.
A Horrible Domain Idea:
Some people think it is super important to have keywords in a domain. People
purchase domains like
This is a horrible domain name!
Keywords in the domain name are usually important, but it usually can be done
while keeping the domain short, memorable, and free of hyphens.
Dashed Domain Names:
Search engines do not read the words in your URL if they are ran together. Many
webmasters separate the words in their domain names using dashes. In the past the
domain name itself was a significant ranking factor. As search engines have
advanced it is not very significant factor anymore.
Direct marketing mail campaigns usually peak in effectiveness around the third
exposure to a marking message. Many shoppers look around. If you want them to
come back you want to have a domain name which will stick in their heads. It can
(and in some cases should) have keywords in it, but the thing you want more than
anything else is a name that sticks.
If the option between having the dash in the domain and not having a dash exist
you are probably better off going without the dash as it looks more professional
and would most likely be more memorable.
It is branding suicide to only have users find your site via search engines. If you are
hoping to make sales on the first view in search engines you will need very strong
copywriting and usability which is second to none.
If you are just using quick buck lead generation type websites then you may want to
use a dashed domain for the small benefit it may offer, but in most cases I do not
recommend a dashed domain name for long term websites.
Long vs Short URLs:
People will forget the words in a domain which is exceptionally long. Another
problem with exceptionally long URL's is that they get cut off in emails and some
other data transmission types. If you make the idea hard to spread then your site
will most likely limit its potential income.
TLD Domain Selection:
Some regional based search engines or indexes will only list sites which are
registered in their country code. If your site exclusively or primarily caters to a
specific country then you will most likely want to register a domain using the local
country code.
Some search engines will still show your site in regional based search results if your
site is hosted within that country or have your address and phone number in the
page text, but many directories are extremely picky and will only list regional
As search progresses localization of results will become more common. Some of
the major search engines already give sites a regional ranking boost based upon
where the site is hosted and the domain extension.
If you place your site on your regional domain ( for example), I also suggest
buying the .com version of your domain if it is available and forwarding it to the
regional domain you registered.
By buying the .com version and forwarding it your site you help retain traffic you
may have lost by people forgetting to put your region specific domain extension in
their address bar when they type the website address directly into the address bar.
I also prefer to use a .com version of a URL over other generic TLDs. People may
assume your site is a .com even if it is .biz, .org, or .info. Using a .com makes it
easier to advertise your website off the web.
It is a good idea to place your business location on your web pages. If you are in a
country where the search technology is primitive, frequently local searchers will add
the country or city name to their searches, and if you have them on your pages you
stand to be returned as a relevant result for more searches.
Have a Site for Each Language:
Many hucksters sell some translational cross submission type products that are
complete bunk. Essentially you pay them money to accept your check and nothing
more. Search engines do not translate text on the fly when people search (though
page translation is an option after the search).
If you use automated software to copy your text into a different language it is likely
to read clumsily and turn people off. You are better off not having the text visible
on the web if you do not have a person fluent in that language proof the final page
If you have significant content and target audiences in different languages then
usually you will want to have a different site for each language. This will make it
easier to get links from the different geographic or ethnic communities you are
interested in without losing focus of your site.
If your site is in an exceptionally competitive category and you have many links that
would be hard to replicate then you might want to use folders or subdomains on
your main site for each language, instead of trying to build up the link popularity of
many different sites.
I went to the UK and noticed the English there is way different than English in the
United States. Even within the same language you may need multiple versions to
cater to different dialects, customs, and appeals.
Branding Your Name:
You may want to get a keyword or two in your name. By having a keyword in your
domain, it will be an easier sale to directories that in fact you are “Discount Viagra
Online.” It only goes so far though!
Any more than about two or three words in the domain name and it becomes less
memorable. Some of the most memorable websites do a great job of branding by
creating their own word. eBay, Yahoo!, Expedia, Slashdot, Fark, Travelocity,
Using your keywords in
your domain name can
increase click through rates
on search engine listings
and paid ads, as well as
make it easier to get
keyword rich inbound
Most successful businesses are soft innovations though; they may not be able to
afford the time, money, and effort required to create and brand a new word to our
language. You can create a name which is well related to something people already
know. It is easier to market “corn sugar” than it is to market fructose.
Using keywords in your domain name give you a strong competitive advantage
over your competitors. Having your keywords in your domain name can increase
click through rates on search engine listings and paid ads as well as make it easier to
get keyword rich descriptive inbound links.
I wrote an article which explains how important the effect domain name has on
inbound link text.
Branding Your Site:
A keyword rich domain name will make it easy to get inbound link text with your
primary keywords in them, but don’t forget that your domain name also plays a
role into your branding. Your domain name should have your branding in mind as
it can help reinforce the ideals of your brand.
On the web there are many different business ideas or business models. If low cost
is your business model then you will find people who are willing to work for half
your wage that will slash throats to get by on razor thin margins. It is not a way to
enjoy life.
Branding is one of the most important parts of building any website and it is what
allows you to establish healthy profit margins. Every Monday Rob Frankel holds
free branding clinics on his website. I recommend going to at least one of them.
Leaving the Keyword Out:
I lived on a submarine for a few years of my life and then was broke for a few years
after that. I slept on really bad beds for close to a decade. After I started to do well
I wanted to create a website about sleeping. The site is not really up yet, but the
domain name I chose was
Using a creative name makes it easier to build a memorable brand than just
focusing on keywords phrases.
Branding to an Audience Segment:
A guy I met did not have a large marketing budget but wanted to market a video
clip idea. I thought that it would be a great idea to use the viral nature of blogs to
market the initial product. I came up with the name The site later
went under after some technical errors, but within a few months of being finished
it was featured on popular sites such as Smart Mobs.
The Right Domain Name:
I either make my domain names define themselves exactly or I think of a creative
way to state its purpose – either way I try hard to get their primary keywords in the
domain name. At less than $10 each, you can have multiple domains directed to the
same site.
Your best bet is to think of a name that is an extension of who you are.
Another reason to make a domain smaller and easier to remember is word of
mouth marketing. Would you feel better referring a friend to or Which would be easier to
remember and say? If you make a message hard to spread then it will probably
spread at a slower rate.
Buying Multiple Names:
Often times it is worth it to buy multiple domain names, even if you do not use
them all. By securing multiple domain names you can decide to use some of your
secondary domains to cover similar thematically related topics AND prevent
competitors from purchasing the name.
Within 6 months of me starting the SEO website someone was already
spamming me trying to sell me SEO I should have spent the
additional $8 to register that domain from the start. You also may want to buy a
generic name and the domain name that matches your business and direct them
both to the same location.
Example of Breaking Ideas Down into Niche Sites:
I do not recommend buying multiple domain names exclusively for deceptive
practices. Most of my sites are about SEO, but you can break ideas down to their
core and make useful sites in less competitive markets.
Search Marketing Info – this site is similar to the contents of this ebook
(although the site is going to be somewhat outdated). That site is not a well
branded name. I had many concepts on that site which later were extracted
and made as their own sites.
I had a blog on Search Marketing Info. The blog was not successful. I
moved the blog from that site to and it has likely became
one of the top half dozen most popular blogs in the SEO industry.
I had a directory list on Search Marketing Info. I decided to turn that list
into a directory of directories and created that idea at Directory
I listed some bad SEO practices on my Search Marketing Info site. I
decided to turn that idea into Black Hat
Each of the last three sites occasionally spikes in popularity and helps give
me a multi brand approach. I would not be anywhere near as successful if I
kept all of those ideas inside my first site.
Generic VS Unique Names:
Some businesses will require brand development to become successful. Being a
branded SEO makes it far easier to charge a fair rate for my services than if I was
unbranded. My original website is really a weak brand
and was a huge mistake.
There is more than one way to skin a cat, and the same idea can be said for picking
a domain name. If you aim to extract long term profits, and want to make the site
you are working on become your career then you want to pick a name that is not
overly generic.
If you are going to make a generic travel site and are just looking to extract short
term profits then an extremely generic keyword rich domain name is the way to go.
I like the idea of creating things that I think add long term value to the web, so I
usually opt for branded names over generic names, but either way it is a big help in
SEO to get your keywords in your domain name.
Before you pick a name or start building sites you should decide what your
goals are with the site. If you are unsure what type of site you want to make
or why you want to make it, you may want to participate in web communities
to find problems that need solutions and create a personal site until you find
what you want to do.
Creating a Topical Website Network:
*-- This is an advanced SEO technique most webmasters do not need to do. --*
With how many pages there are on the web quality will usually win over quantity.
With that being said, sometimes it will make sense to have multiple similar websites
covering slightly different topics. Doing this can help you create topically
authoritative inbound links to different sites in your network and give you a multibranded approach to marketing.
You want to make sure your sites are all different and unique though. If your sites
are extremely similar then your sites may receive a spam penalty. Even worse is that
if you interlink them all then all of your sites could get penalized at the same time.
Those using strong brands and good ideas can usually do well without creating a
topical network. If you create a topical network expressly to deceive search
engines then you are taking a risk and your sites may get removed from the
search indexes.
Many of the more aggressive techniques are used by people who create crash and
burn domain names. They use a site until it gets penalized and then use a new one.
They actually start building up multiple other sites and networks before the first
even gets penalized. If your brand and domain name are important to you then
make sure you use caution to protect them.
Most sites will not need to do this to be successful, but if you do this there are a
few tips or guidelines I would suggest using to maximize the benefit of creating a
small link network.
Make unique sites: Make sure each site is unique enough that it can stand
on its own merit.
Only cross link the sites where it is logical.
Use various hosts: This way if any of your sites go down not all of your
sites are down. Also some search algorithms can devalue links that come
from sites hosted on the same C block IP address. Some hosts also provide
random C block IP addresses for each of your sites for a rather reasonable
price on a single account.
Get inbound links from external sources: Register your sites with
directories and other topical sites to make sure you have plenty of inbound
links into your link network. This will help prevent your sites from looking
like an island or link farm.
Do not interlink hundreds of domains together unless you are actively
trying to get penalized.
If you are creating and interlinking sites exclusively for the reason to
manipulate search results then you stand a good chance to eventually be
You probably do not want to use the same WHOIS data on a large
number of sites if the sites are made with deceptive intent. Additionally you
may want to register sites at a variety of registrars so there is no discernable
pattern. Also if you register a ton of your domains via proxy that too can
look somewhat suspicious.
Registering Domains:
I usually register my domains at because they have
exceptionally reasonable prices.
If you know you want to stick with a domain name for an extended period of time
it makes sense to register the domain for a number of years.
Many low quality crash and burn type sites are not registered for a number of years,
so some search systems may give additional trust to domain names that are
registered through many years.
Domain Registration VS Hosting:
Whenever you register a domain make sure you register it at an ICANN accredited
registrar. Whenever you host a domain use a reliable host. It is usually a bad idea
to cross the two.
When people register a site at a host it may be hard to renew registration if you
want to change who your host is. Buy hosting from a host and not a registrar.
Many registrars do not have good technical support and do not place enough value
on their hosted clients.
Problems With Bad Hosting:
There are a ton of unreliable hosts on the web. Hosting is one thing I recommend
spending good money on. If your site is down you may lose customers and spiders
may not be able to spider your site.
Some extremely low quality hosts will place hundreds or thousands of domains on
a single IP address on a single server. This may cause system lag and overload the
Bad hosting prevents customers from finding you and may prevent your site from
getting and staying fully indexed in the search engines.
Some hosts will not let you change some of your files or configurations that you
need to change when running your site. If you run into those sorts of problems
you want to ask others to make sure you need to change what you want to, and if
the host will not let you then it is best to change hosting providers.
Less Common Hosting Problems:
It is not common, but some hosts may be configured incorrectly with the wrong
clock time or sending DNS errors that prevent your site from being indexed. You
can use a server header checker to ensure your clock time is not way off (like
months or years) and your home page provides a 200 code and non existent pages
provide a 404 error.
You also can use Web Bug or the Firefox Live HTTP Headers extension to check
your HTTP headers.
Recommended Hosts:
Most of my good sites are hosted by Dreamhost or Pair. Both have provided me
with reliable hosting and responsive customer service.
Dedicated VS Shared Hosting:
I have found shared hosting to work well for me, though some people recommend
using dedicated hosting (which is more expensive). Shared hosting places many
domain names on the same IP address & same server, whereas dedicated servers
allow you to place just your stuff on a server.
Search engines such as Google usually place spam penalties on domain names and
not IP addresses. Although it does happen, rarely does a hosting network get
penalized. I believe the SearchKing network is one example where a whole hosting
network got penalized, but this is extremely rare.
If you are going to be making major investments into the web then it may be worth
it to buy a reliable dedicated server. Off the start I could not afford one, so I used
shared hosting. As my business model progressed I later bought a dedicated host
for SEO Most of my sites are still hosted on shared hosting accounts.
Free Hosting:
I do not recommend free hosting. With the plague of garbage on the web many
people may not be willing to link to sites that reside on a free host.
A commercially oriented website needs to show significantly greater quality for me
to want to link to it if it resides on a free host. In addition free hosts usually put
some ugly banners on your site which ruin the page flow and make it look
exceptionally unprofessional.
I have seen some blogs do ok which were hosted at Blogspot, (Blogger’s free host)
but that exception is based on the fact that blogs are generally more personal in
nature and not so commercially driven.
Additionally if you create a subdomain from a free site and eventually want to
move your site it may be hard to move some of that link popularity to the new
Cheap Hosting:
There are many risks with bad cheap hosting, but decent cheap hosting of
secondary type sites can help diversify your business model and lessen the risk if
your main site goes down. Each site you create should be focused on a certain idea
or question. One cheap host I have used is 3.75 hosting.
Once I renewed my credit card and forgot to give them my changed credit card
details and my sites immediately went down without warning. That is just one
example of the type of things you can expect from cheap hosting providers, but
other than that they have done a good job so far.
If you are unsure how reliable your host is you may want to use a tracking service
such as Internet Seer.
Host in Your Country:
Many major search engines give sites a relevancy boost if it is hosted in the same
location as the local search market. In some locations local hosting may not be
economical, but if you are promoting a site primarily geared toward the UK you
would want to host that site in the UK.
Interactive Elements
Resources cited:
Gerard Salton’s A Theory of Indexing
Mike Grehan’s Search Engine Marketing Book
Porter Stemming Algorithm
WordNet – lexical database
The effect of domain name on anchor text:
Rob Frankel’s free branding clinic
GoDaddy domain registrar (
ICANN domain registration information (
Internet Hosting Report (
Server Header Checker
Web Bug (
Firefox live http headers extension (
Dreamhost hosting (
Pair (
$3.75 hosting (
Internet Seer – host tracking (
Some Notes
1. Why do you want to build your website? Why should people buy off your site
and not Salesman Steve’s Super Site? What makes you different?
2. Who is your target audience?
3. Is your goal to play cat and mouse to extract quick profits, or are you investing
for the long term? Neither is wrong, it just makes sense to chose one or the
other and act accordingly.
4. List 5 websites you think are amazing? Why are they amazing?
5. Create 5 different potential domain names. Make at least 1 of them funny. Tell
them to a half dozen people and see which ones are the most memorable. You
will get more honest feedback if the people do not know you well.
6. Buy your own name. As you change you can change this site to be whatever
you want.
General Internet Topics
here is a bunch more work to creating a successful web based business
than just SEO. Focusing exclusively on SEO is a BAD CALL. Most sites
can become more successful from using SEO, but most sites will not
become successful based exclusively on SEO.
This chapter is dedicated to some of the tips I learned from my personal
experiences and many of the books people recommended I read.
Learning Your Subject
Good is bad on the web.
To be successful you
should do something that
has not been done before
or do it in a way that is
better than what anyone
else is doing.
Quantity VS Quality:
Most Internet Businesses Fail:
Many people are in a rush to build, thinking they are ready to cash in on the next
gold mine. A ton of money changes hands on the internet, yet most internet
businesses fail, why? People think they can make something rather large that is
pretty good. Logic like "if I make a dollar a day off each page and have 200 pages I
would not need to work."
The low cost of content creation can lead to poor document quality. If you say one
incorrect thing you may lose the trust of a prospective customer, sometimes for
Making information which just turns out to be more clutter rarely makes a long
term successful website. If you don't have passion for what you do it is much
harder to be successful in a completely open environment.
Long Term Investment Strategy:
Bambi Francisco asked Mike Moritz (of Sequoia Capital) how he chooses what
companies to invest in. His reply was "It's the idea that the founders are doing
something that they think is useful for themselves, And, then, eventually perhaps,
coincidentally, perhaps accidentally, they discover that the product or service that
they have built because they wanted to use something like this is that of great
interest to lots of other people."
If you create something that you enjoy which is exceptionally useful you stand a
good chance of being successful.
Cutting through Clutter:
Numerous people have asked me to promote their clutter sites. The correct answer
has been no, no, & no. The whole reason search has become such a successful
market is because it helps people cut through the clutter.
Each page on a website already has billions of alternatives a click or two away.
Each page is important. The most important thing to do is focus on a specific
niche...something you are truly interested in.
Be Useful
Many successful websites are successful because they are syndicated. There are tons
of ways you can work to get your site syndicated, but an often overlooked trick is
to simply be the most useful site in your niche.
Amazon is successful because they built in features that make it more useful than
most other book stores. They added value to their product or service by allowing
user feedback, related suggestions, used book sales, and “so you want to” book
collection guides to their pages.
Why did I Make Search Engine Sites?
I am fascinated by search engines. I can build a site about search engines only
because I am extremely interested in them. Reflecting back upon my decisions I
would probably be more successful today if I would have picked just a specific
engine (most likely Google) or a specific type, and then expand from there.
My general rule of thumb is to search for what you want to promote, using your
favorite search engine. Click on the first listing. If it is not good enough then you
should be there. If they know more than you, learn from them. If you devote
yourself to becoming a guru on a topic that you already love there is no reason that
you can't eventually be there. You are only limited by your own courage, creativity,
and efforts.
You can’t learn too much about something that interests you. If someone wanted
to make a network of local sites I would tell them to research Craigslist. You need
to know what worked and where your topic has been to be able to do well with it
going forward.
Tragedy of the Commons & Being Worthy of a
Nothing can be universally accessible and free without destroying itself. Some
places will host sites for free with the hopes of making revenue off ads. Since it
costs virtually nothing to create information (or have a machine generate code for
you) a ton is lost on the web.
As more and more information is created more and more unoriginal information is
duplicated. It gets to be where sorting through the mess becomes more than most
desire to do (this is part of the reason why people use and trust search engines so
much). In most industries most people will fail or barely get by while there are a
few hyper successful voices.
The solution to the information overload problem is to be so remarkable and
interesting that you capture the attention of the audience. RSS and newsreaders
(such as Bloglines or FeedDemon) make it easy for people to subscribe to select
news channels or websites while blocking out redundant or useless noise.
If you cover a news topic which is saturated you may want to use a news reader to
help you organize your news and get the scoop on the latest news as it happens.
The people who are subscribing to RSS feeds are also the most likely to be people
who comment on the contents of those sites. If you can figure out a way to get
these people to desire to give you their attention you quickly and cheaply reach the
most influential voices.
Yahoo! is hoping to take RSS mainstream. Between them and many of the other
technology upstarts more and more people are going to be accessing information
away from conventional search engines.
If you did not own your site is there any reason you would want to visit it
multiple times each week? If you figure out how to make that answer yes then
you are ahead of over 95% of competing webmasters.
Changing Your Site
My Trial and Error:
I was a hack and go sort of person off the start. I have remade thousands of web
pages though, most of them by inefficient means. Some of my worst mistakes are:
using frames, trying to become an affiliate of over 1,000 websites, free money
scams, and generally creating garbage without learning about the web.
Business and Change:
The internet is a highly responsive, trackable medium. You should want to change
to evaluate consumer response. Successful businesses evolve. Few sites stay on top
forever by being stagnant. It’s kind of hard for you to think of change before you
even start building your site, but right now I have hundreds of pages which are
reminding me of changes I still need to make.
Creating a Site Design:
Seth Godin offered me some great advice for site design. The best way to make a
web page is to steal an outlay idea from another website that is not directly
competing with you. When you go to make your first web page, do so as a
sketch. After you have a good idea (which is at least slightly different than the site
you got your idea from), recreate your home page as a picture in an editor such as
Adobe Photoshop. From there you can pay a design firm to create your page or
create it yourself using a program such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Adobe
GoLive. Evrsoft also created a free website editor by the name of FirstPage.
If you do not mind using an already existing template OSWD is a website which
has a bunch of free web designs you can chose from. You can start with one of the
designs and modify it to make it look unique.
Crafting Easy Site Wide Changes:
Cascading Style Sheets:
How do you make it easy to change your site? One simple solution is to use
cascading style sheets to control the display of your information. When the web
was created the idea was to keep layout and information separate from one
another. Using external style sheets allows you to change virtually every aspect of
your site by making changes to one file. What you do is put the layout in a sheet
called yourchosenfilename.css and reference it in your other web pages. A code
similar to the following would go in the head section of your pages.
<link href="/style.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">
For an example of how powerful CSS is take a look at the CSS house. A couple of
the more popular resources on the web about cascading style sheets are the CSS
Zen Garden, and W3 school’s CSS tutorial page. You may also want to view the
official W3C CSS guidance page.
Effects of Change on Branding:
On a daily, weekly, or monthly basis you can choose to change your font type,
layout, colors...just about anything. You can do it in minutes and track the results.
Some branding experts (such as Rob Frankel) believe that changing too frequently
will hurt your brand though.
Make sure you have a distinct idea of why and how you want to change before you
change things randomly. It is best to change and test only one thing at a time so
you know the exact effects of any change.
Using CSS and SSI or
languages is not necessary
if you aim to have a small
website. If you are making
a large site, these
technologies can save you
many hours in site
How CSS Saves Time:
You can link each page of your site into an external style sheet to control the
display. Many of the repetitive changes that would be made on every page can be
done simply by changing that one file. This may not seem like a big deal while
creating page five or six, but after changing file # 200 you would be glad that you
used CSS.
Cascading Style Sheets are not necessary for smaller sites, but are a great idea if you
are going to have a large content based site. They also can help to improve the
content to code ratio.
Server Side Includes:
Server Side Include is an Apache server technology which allows you to include
pages or parts of a page within another page without the negative side effects of
using a framed based navigation system. To include another page inside a page you
would include the following code where you wanted the included page to appear.
<!--#include virtual="/includedfile.htm" -->
Frequently the use of server side includes for common elements such as navigation
work well to allow you to control your entire site making simple changes to a single
file. Between CSS and SSI you can save literally hundreds or thousands of hours in
your site design or redesign.
Server Side Includes also let you include the date last modified or current date in
the page. This is often how many of those generic one page sites have the current
date in their sales letters.
On my Search Marketing Info site I use server side includes for the top banner, page
footer, navigational tabs, local left column navigation, and right side page ads.
You can learn more about SSI by viewing the Apache SSI Tutorial.
SSI Without Breaking Filepaths:
Often times webmasters start out with a smaller site and later decide that they
should start using Server Side Includes or a content management system. To use
Server Side Includes many people change their filepaths from .html or .htm to
.shtml or .shtm. The problem with doing this is that it can cause inbound links to
be broken. You can get around this by modifying your .htaccess file. To learn more
about .htaccess files view the Comprehenvise Guide to .htaccess.
Content Management Systems:
Keeping an updated blog
ensures you have fresh
content available which
keeps traffic coming back
to your site. In addition
blog software can be used
as an exceptionally cheap
Another site changing technique is to use content management systems to control
the look and design of a site. There are many dynamic languages people use such as
Coldfusion and PHP. Most people do not need an expensive content management
system though. Before you invest heavily in a content management system or
design you should know what the goals of the website are. Make sure any content
management system you would consider using produces search engine friendly
Blogs as Content Management Systems:
In my future site designs I will be organizing content with a weblog program such
as Movable Type or Web Crimson. Movable Type costs $199 (as of writing this) for
a commercial license and provides many of the features of expensive content
management systems. Movable Type also offers a free one month trial of their web
based software by the name of TypePad. If you like TypePad you can host your
blog there for a low monthly fee. Blogger is a 100% free blogging software
If you want to give blogging a try to see what it is about I suggest going to and signing up for a free account. If your site is personal in nature or
you like the blog content management system you may not even need to pay for
design beyond a site logo. My SEO Book website is primarily a default Movable
Type template with a logo on top.
I wrote a couple articles on why I think using blog software is often an outstanding
idea for both search engine placement and ease of site design.
Professional Looking Design:
It is worth it to pay someone to make a professional looking design for your site. It
is very affordable easy to use a default blog template and pay a logo designer $50 $200 to design a logo for you. My SEO Book site is not overly simplistic because I
am a minimalist; it is overly simplistic because I am a bad designer. It is a default
MovableType template with a $99 logo at the top.
It is very easy to find shoddy logo design, but there are some good ones. Recently I
purchased logos from The Logo Company for only $75 each. My SEO Book logo
was created by EZY Logo, although their customer support sucks they make good
logos when they make them.
Buying a good original logo is an exceptionally cheap one time investment. I also
recently purchased AAA logo design software for $50. I think it is fun to play with,
but if you are not graphically inclined you probably will want to pay someone else
to design your logo.
Humans do the Buying:
Inevitably it will be human eyes that see your web page. If my first six sections had
no good advice, you would not read section seven.
When you create your
pages make sure they read
well to people versus
writing them for robots.
You will need good copy
conversion rate and to
encourage natural linking
into your site.
I am currently unaware of any automated buying bots which just surf the web to
buy things. (There are automated clicking agents which fraud people, and the
people who create them should be shot.)
Copywriting Books:
How do you write for human eyes? I recommend investing into a copywriting
book as I am not the best source for this information. Some of the books I have
read are Net Words, The Online Copywriter's Handbook, and Persuasive Online
Copywriting. Of the three I most highly recommend the third. Persuasive Online
Copywriting contains a ton of information packed into small convenient chapters
which will work out well if you ever need to look back at the information again.
Copywriting Bible:
The above books are great intro to copywriting type books, but if you are looking
for a thorough copywriting and advertising book I could recommend no book
more than Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. It is more like an
encyclopedia of advertising knowledge from one of the world’s best copywriters. It
is a bit dated and speaks primarily of print ads, but if you are primarily writing sales
copy this is a great book to read.
Horrible Copywriting:
I hoped to have learned something from the hundreds of thousands of pages I
have viewed and the books I have read. Here is an example of BAD copywriting:
We here at XYZ Corporation know what it means to be successful. In fact
sometimes we forget that at one point a long long long time ago we weren't the
premiere information distribution technology enhancement resource agency
facilitator. Times have change though, and we are. We are....
Basics of Online Copywriting:
• Use varying style. Lose corporate speak.
Be yourself.
Make it a conversation.
Make your point up front.
Don't use jargon.
Use shorter text.
Break up text using headers, subheaders, bulleted lists, and other text
breaking devices.
Stress benefits before features (unless it is a tech heavy product).
The above books will also enlighten you with coverage of subjects such as
the sales process, and the different personality types.
An Audience of One:
It is a great idea to sell information. If your copy can connect with a person and get
them to see someone inside the screen, the sale process is much easier. You do not
know who is on the other end of the computer.
People are generally distrusting toward the unknown. If site visitors sense a person
is writing just for them they will not want to click away.
Include a Call to Action:
Many beautiful websites have no call to action. It is a great idea to guide the user.
Some people use flashing text, excessive red coloring or highlighting, or other
over the top techniques which distract the user away from what you want them to
Sales pages may want to play off of the emotions certain colors bring out, but with
informational or general product pages the focus should be on ease of use. I
recommend usually avoiding using random misplaced bright colors on most web
pages, but make it obvious what you want the user to do.
The one green thing on the page... that's it, that's what I want you to do. Users
should be able to do the action you want them to without even thinking! Both
The Big Red Fez and Don't Make Me Think are books largely devoted to this simple
Page Layout Error:
When I first started the SEO Book site I only promoted this ebook off to the side.
I switched to promoting this ebook on every page right below the page content
posts and overnight the sales more than tripled.
During Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign they used their blog to cast a
vote on whether or not their campaign should accept matching funds. After people
vote they were sent to a landing page. The first day saw 100,000 voters and raised
They looked at the vote return landing page and noticed that the donate button
was at the bottom of the page. They moved it to the top of the page. On the
second day another 100,000 people voted, but they raised $4,500,000.
Make it Flow:
Small sentences and paragraphs with common words make writing flow easily. In
addition you can make the text easy on the eyes by setting a line height (area of a
line of text and the space above or below it) to at least 120% of the text height, and
by using the maximum contrast between your text and background.
The text is the sales person since you have no sales person on your site. It needs to
answer questions and arouse appeal toward your products.
Sell Upward:
When at McDonald’s they ask “would you like fries with that.” Most major
corporations know it is easier to sell again to a person than it is to find a new
prospect. After a person contacts you or orders something send them to a thank
you page.
Give them small free gifts, strengthen their bond with you, make them feel good
about their decision, or try to sell them something else. It does not need to bring in
money to be a gain. If they subscribe to your mailing list, you have increased your
exposure FREE. Perhaps you can give them options to read other journals which
are cross promoting you.
Maybe you give them links to companies you are an affiliate of. These links can
hold discounts which appear as gifts when they can make you money. I recently
purchased ink cartridges and got 5% off for adding their site to my favorites list.
The possibilities are endless.
Focus on The User:
The user focus must be on benefits offered to them. Writing the word "you"
instead of "we" is a must. The simpler and easier it is for the user to see benefits
from his action, the better off they are, and the more conversions you make.
Some techies might like features, but to general audiences it is usually best to place:
1. the audience first
2. benefits second
3. features third (if you are selling to a techie audience they may want the
features before the benefits)
Make it a Conversation:
All the above tips pale in comparison to the following tip. Write in a conversational
tone as a person, not a company. Fake fluffery does not go well on the web. People
can smell it a mile away. Since the web started as non commercial there are certain
etiquettes (or netiquettes) which dictate how we should act. When we go outside
these basic ideas we not only avoid conversion, but also likely find that our users
are offended.
Many of the people who have bought this ebook have told me that they bought it
because I sounded honest and real. That is a large portion of the reason why many
of my blog posts are somewhat random or humorous and it is why I have feedback
turned on. It makes it easier to be personal and make my site a conversation.
GapingVoid is a weblog – that some might find offensive for cursing and being
blunt – which talks about creating smarter conversations.
Rapid Feedback Loops:
Websites such as Epinions and Planet Feedback make it easy for customers to see
what others have to say about you. Google Groups, MSN Groups, and weblogs
are additional heavens for service and product complaints. A large portion of the
value of the Amazon experience is user reviews and the "X people recommended
bla instead of this" area. I have had multiple customers contact me from reviews I
did of other books on
Just be honest. If you are not the best, work to improve! You should look and see
what others have to say about your service too by checking search results.
Customer interaction should be personal and not corporate speak driven.
Sometimes you will fall short (as I have many times), but honesty goes a long way.
If you find your way into the conversation and are human about it you will end the
rants and raves, and may even spurn on a few people who believe in you. An
amazing book on how markets are conversations is called The ClueTrain Manifesto
(read the book online free). Often it is a great idea to hire a professional copywriter if
you are really bad at writing.
Quality Content:
Lots of people will tell you to create lots of quality content without ever giving a
legitimate definition of what quality content is. The web is a big social network and
the trick is to get your messages to spread further and faster than your competitors.
Usually creating a ton more pages does not do this as well as creating a way better
The web was designed to give away useful information. The closer you can align a
portion of your business model with that, the better a chance you have at achieving
extreme success.
Many SEOs hold back their secrets so they can profit from them. I give this ebook
away free to charities. I not only help people, but my syndicated network grows. I
have been found by prospective customers from word of mouth in forums I have
never heard of. It usually helps you to help other people and you usually can feel
good about knowing you helped other people.
Working From Your Strengths:
I am typically a bit goofy in the things I say or do. It is why I have created many
funny or fun type websites. It is far easier to be myself than to pull off some sort of
I am not the best copywriter and I do not write the best sales letter pages. If you
read the 33 Days to Online Profits book that comes as a bonus it will include lots
of content about copywriting. Many of the things he links to are going to be not
worth buying for most people. Much of his information in his report about search
engines is inadequate or incorrect.
I still link to his document though because it shows some copywriting techniques
that may be helpful. You only need to be great at one thing to be extremely
successful on the web. Yanik Silver is good at selling people stuff with compelling
copywriting. I do not suggest that you buy most of the stuff he links to in 33 Days
to Online Profits, but I do recommend you glance at how he writes copy.
Real Life Example:
Memorial Day weekend of 2003 I was a little risky. I drove my car until the gas
was just about gone. I was sputtering. I pulled off at a gas station near no others
and went to fill up. I pulled up to the first pump and it had a “credit cards do not
work” sign on it.
I went into pay cash and the cashier explained it was full service. There was no
service man out there. I got rather angry seeing the long line of cars waiting to use
the few pumps that worked.
I drove off to find another gas station. I then realized there were no other close gas
stations. I went back. I almost got into a wreck on my way back to the gas station.
Now I was even more angry.
I arrived at the gas station. I waited in line again. The car in front of me would not
back up and let the person who just finished pumping out. I had to wait until the
van on the other side was done. I then had to wait for the guy who would not
move to finish.
Negative Advertising:
I was finally ready to pump my gas. I tried to use my credit card...after about a
minute of processing: "please see cashier... system down." On the pump it stated
“pump then pay.” So I tried to pump. It did not work.
I went inside and asked the cashier what was up. While snacking on his food he
said, "crunch...Sorry I had not got around to turning your pump on yet." Mind you
it said pump THEN pay. I had been trying for a few minutes at this point.
I went back outside. I pumped my gas. I left never again to visit that gas station. It
was a Mobile in Mystic Connecticut (just off the interstate) and I still vividly
remember the sign in my head as well as the cashier who was snacking while he
should have authorized my pump.
If that Gas Station was a Website:
That was a big tangent...that occurred while I was reading the book "Designing Web
Usability" by Jakob Nielson (sign up for is free newsletter). If that gas station was a
web site I would have left. There is no page that is so important that I can’t go
Many people find your website through search engines. Other sites may link to
your inner pages. There is no way to tell where traffic will come from.
I never see the shopping cart on many sites because they make it a challenge just to
get there. I have abandoned many shopping carts. Most websites have miserable
usability. I must admit some of my sites needs some work in this area is one
of the most neglected aspects of web design.
Web Example:
This comes from a usability / design example story found on page 69 of Taking
Your Talent to the Web.
“I left my baby daughter in the car while I went to buy dope. Then I drove away.
I’d gone about five blocks when I realized my daughter wasn’t in the car anymore.”
That was in the main content area of the Narcotics Anonymous website. At the
end of it there was another linear link to more stories. The site also had a passive
navigation menu.
A large part of usability is quickly connecting with people and then making it easy
for them to do whatever you want them to. In this example it would be to perhaps
read more stories, to see there were other people like them, to find hope, and seek
Good Usability:
As far as usability goes Amazon is quoted time and time again as far as how to do it
right. Some of the tips which help for site design are
Allow users to control their experience.
Do not place excessive text inside images.
Keep a consistent site design.
Have clear navigation.
Use alternative text tags with images.
Use standards where applicable.
Keep file sizes small.
Have search or a link to site level search on every page. On smaller sites a
link to a sitemap will work better than site level search.
Allow the User to Control Their Experience:
While creating text elements, it is important to remember the various people and
the means which they will use to view your site. Some people are looking at the
web through a phone, some can hardly see, others have text read to them.
Some of the best
opportunities to improve
your bottom line are done
by improving conversion
rates by making your site
easier to use.
When specifying the text size or pallet size use relative, not exact values. If you set
the text at 8 pixels and a guy has large text turned on, he will see your site at 8 pixels
(which can be hard to see on larger monitors, especially to a blind guy). He will not
see your site.
Setting the page width to 800 pixels might make a PDA user immediately switch to
another site. Set width using percentages or keep the page narrow. When you
design for different types of users you not only avoid offending these people, but
you also are given extra consideration since you are one of the few who addressed
their needs.
Placing text in images is a bad idea since it may appear illegible or overly large when
the user sees the page on a different platform than it was designed on. It is okay for
some aspects though, as there is some content which makes sense to place in
Your site name may be an ok thing to place in an image. Placing text in images
should generally be the exception and not the rule though. General search engines
do not scan images to determine general search relevancy.
Consistent Site Design:
People expect to see things in certain places. The upper left corner usually has a
logo, and a link to your home page. (Often times the logo is the link.) Search is
either right beneath it or in the upper right hand corner. The most important thing
is that people like to feel comfortable.
Usually most successful ideas are just repackaged successful ideas from the past.
Clear navigation also makes it easier for the user to develop comfort and go where
you want him to go. Even if you try something risky, at least be consistent with it.
Site Level Search:
There are hoards of people who love to search out the information they want
when they come to your website. It is well worth it to include a small search box on
every page if you have a larger content web site. If you do not know anything
about dynamic coding you can get a third party search engine from Atomz or
FreeFind. Many popular blog software providers also have free built in site level
On small sites you should not have a site level search though, as many of the
searches will fail to find the desired information and frustrate the searcher. It is far
easier to actively guide site visitors than to let them enter random text in a search
On top of helping visitors navigate your site a site level search can also help you
find out what terms and ideas your visitors are interested in. You can create content
around their desires and use these terms for for refining your pay per click
With large sites, especially large forums, it may be helpful to highlight the search
terms on the page if site visitors arrived from a search engine.
Use Standards Where Applicable:
People know blue underline means it’s a hyperlink. Whenever possible it is a good
idea to follow standards. Sometimes deviations may be necessary for site design,
but use them sparingly. It makes it easier for people to do what you want them to
without needing to think.
Additionally some sites will be more likely to link into a standards compliant site. If
your site is focused toward a geek or techy market you will likely want to make it
validates and standards compliant. Many sites do neither.
Many sites fail because
they do not create
substantial value and
appeal prior to trying to
extract profits.
Many non commercial
sites make greater profits
than commercial sites
because it is far easier and
cheaper to build links into
non commercial sites.
If your target audience does not care much about standards and the time and
money it would cost to make it accessible are too expensive then it may not be as
important to you.
JavaScript & Active Client Side (Browser Based)
Approximately 5-10% of web browsers are not JavaScript enabled for one reason
or another. I recommend minimizing the number of pages using JavaScript
whenever possible. In addition you may want to make your JavaScript it’s own
external .js file and link to it from within your pages. This can decrease page load
time and improve usability. You can link to the external .js file by placing the
following code in your page head.
<script language="JavaScript" src="filename.js"> </script>
If your entire page is in a JavaScript some people will not see it. If your entire page
is JavaScript many search engines may not index it properly either. Ensure you use
NoScript tags to define what was in the JavaScript to users with that feature
disabled. NoScript tags look like this, and should be placed just after a scripts
<noscript> java description and related links </noscript>
There are ways to use CSS and other technologies to do many of the things
which people used JavaScript to do. Additionally, there are some technologies
which give more advanced presentations while still using fairly lean code that
search spiders can follow. For example, you can use unordered lists to make
DHTML menus.
Keep File Size Small:
The back button is one of the most used buttons on web browsers. If your file
takes a long time to load you may be kissing your user goodbye before he even gets
to see your full hello.
Specify Image Details:
To allow quick loading it is a good idea to specify image sizes on the page so the
text can load before the image is rendered. It may be a necessity to minimize the
number of images, image quality, or image size to have an appropriate page load
<img src =”/images/bla.gif” alt=”Bla picture.”
title=”Picture of Bla.” height=”300” width=”200”>
If an image is simply part of the design or navigation you can just use a blank
alt tag as the image does not contribute to the page theme and stuffing words
in there does not likely add much to your SEO and could make your pages
seem spammy.
If you are unsure whether a page is using text or images you can view the page
source or hit control A to highlight the text and images.
On linked images many search algorithms treat the image alt text similarly to
how they treat link anchor text (which is described in more detail in the linking
section of this ebook). Most SEOs recommend using the Alt tag but do not
mention the title tag. Search algorithms try to use whatever they find useful
thus if people are not stuffing the image titles full of junk some search engines
may want to use this data.
I have yet to use it, but some people use Dynamic Text Replacement to
replace images with their associated text when site visitors have images turned
Using CSS to Minimize Page Load Time:
Using an external style sheet will keep many of your design elements on a single
common page. This prevents pages from looking jagged due to slightly altering
layout specifications from one page to the next. In addition keeping layout code
separate from content will decrease page load time.
When users navigate from one page to another they will not need to reload the
design elements of the page again since the stylesheet will already be in their cache.
Most typical web users expect pages to download within 8 to 10 seconds at the
max. The longer a person waits for a page to download, the more likely they are to
have their stream of thought interrupted.
Flash is Evil:
Huge flash files are usually a waste for a few reasons.
• Those who view a flash intro are usually not interested in seeing it every
time they come to your site.
Flash development is an expense which is rarely justified and is rarely
focused on the needs of the site visitor. Some flash developers also protect
their flash files to prevent others from editing them, which means you may
need to hire them to make changes or design a new site if the flash file has
Search engines struggle to index, navigate, and classify flash.
Flash files take a while to load, while the user may be hitting the back
button (kiss, kiss, good bye).
Even if search engines can determine the content of flash programs, most
flash designers place all the flash in one program, which would make it
hard for search engines to want to refer people to it.
Some people use meta refreshes and other arbitrary Flash detection
technologies which disable the browser back button. Google AdWords will
not allow you to advertise sites which have the browser back button
disabled. One time a flash designer wanted to charge one of my clients
$4,000 for work that took me 10 minutes.
If you do use flash try to keep your files small, embed the flash files in HTML
pages, and use <noembed>what the flash represents</noembed> to write what
the content in the flash represents.
Flash also has an SDK, which can aid in search engine indexing, but it is usually
recommended to avoid Flash.
I am not a usabiliy expert by any means. If you are interested in the topic I
recommend Jakob Neilson’s site and books, and Kim Krause sells an inexpensive
downloadable usability checklist.
Generating Revenue
Create Value and then Extract Profits:
You want to earn money from your site, right? It’s easy if it is a hobby and not the
goal. Many sites fail because they place a ton of ads on their site before they even
get a loyal following.
By creating value without placing much emphasis on early profits you can later
make a larger sum of money when the site has a large valuable userbase.
Non Commercial Profits:
Even if you are only trying to sell your opinion, you can still earn money from it if
you work hard or are creative or outspoken. If you are selling advertising space you
first need to win great distribution. You do not win that distribution by throwing
too many ads up too early! Offer something worthwhile, and then try to extract
value, in that order.
I made a personal blog about losing weight which was accepted into DMOZ and
the Yahoo! Directory both absolutely free. After I get top rankings I can throw ads
on the site and generate money from it’s traffic.
It is easier to get links into a non commercial site than a commercial site. After the
links are in place you can use that link popularity to do whatever you want to do
with it.
Some people may consider it bait and switch, but so long as your site does not
deviate too far from it’s original purpose most of the links will likely stay. If you
think the site deviation would be too far then you can still maintain your regular site
idea and place advertisements or links to your commercial ideas on that site.
Banners vs Contextual Ads:
Many web surfers have become banner blind and ignore the top part of a page.
Banners have horrible conversion rates.
I do not usually use the default banner size unless I feel it fits well with the site
design. The best revenue options are usually link rentals or context based text ads.
Good advertising does not look like advertising.
One site that I work with sells links for over $300 a month per link and only made
about $30 a month off AdSense. Other times AdSense can make far greater profits.
Depending on the market it may be best to use one or the other or a combination
of both.
Reviewing Products:
If you read a book you like, tell people about it. Give them the opportunity to buy
the book from your web site. Review products you like, for example view some of
the literature I have thoroughly enjoyed. Successful affiliate marketers know it is
much easier to sell products if they provide what appears as personal unbiased
Mike’s Marketing Tools is a site which sells a ton of software which I know to be
really good and also a ton of software that is complete crap. No matter what Mike
thinks of the product, he gives the appearance of an honest positive review which
usually highlights more benefits than downsides. In doing that and ranking well for
a ton of product names he makes a good amount of money.
If you do review products in depth make sure you give each product its own
review page.
Point of Action Marketing:
If you are trying to sell your service, drive people toward it. A good technique for
improving subscriptions, for example, is to place a "We Value Privacy" statement
near the signup form. This is called Point of Action Marketing. Assure people that
it is safe for them to do what you want. Recently Bryan Eisenberg (author of
Persuasive Online Copywriting) made the statement that placing a secure checkout
symbol near the checkout typically improved conversion rates between 5 and 15%.
Establishing Trust:
Unbiased reviews and “We Value Privacy” help to build a strong trust element to
your relationship with your site visitors. In addition logos from companies such as
the Better Business Bureau, Truste, and the Public Eye can help build trust.
If you have a secure part of your site in frames the lock (secured) symbol may not
show in the browser. When you are performing online transactions it is a good idea
not to use frames and to also display the VeriSign or Thawte secure symbols (as
Revenue Generating Programs:
Some popular revenue programs are Google AdSense , Amazon associates program,
other major affiliate program networks (such as Comission Junction, Linkshare, &
Performics), and perhaps CafePress for smaller personal websites.
ClickBank is an affiliate program which works well for selling electronic information.
PayPal is also a good third party payment processor. Affiliates Alert tracks new
ClickBank products for sale.
AdSense is rather selective about what partners it will accept, yet another reason
you want to focus on creating quality content. Usually after people have one site in
the AdSense program they let them run screen scrapper and other exceptionally
low quality sites on that same account.
If you can create an idea that generates a decent amount of syndication and attracts
a few good links you may be able to make money selling text link ads.
If you know your industry well then you should have a few friends in it. If your site
directly sells ad space it is best to place a link or a few links to some of the top sites
in that space. Most people are afraid to take a risk and do not see value in
something until some of their competitors do. Why not show a few ads so more
people assume the ad space is valuable. After you gain a few advertisers you can
take the fake ones down. It is important to understand who the important players
are in a market before doing this type of technique.
Affiliate Marketing Tips:
Many people create huge affiliate sites using product feeds. The problem with
generic well used feeds is that many other people will have the exact same content
and Google does not desire to show multiple copies of the same content, so most
of the affiliate feed sites end up not getting indexed.
Some people end up adding RSS or other content to the pages to make them look
somewhat unique, but Google also employs remote content raters to evaluate sites.
If the site looks like it would not have a functional purpose outside of the affiliate
program then Google does not want it in their index. The instructions Google gave
remote content raters for determining if an affiliate site was useful is “is there a
value added service that would make users want to visit this site instead of the
original merchant site.”
People do not usually buy from affiliate banners. A better way to create affiliate
sites is to create unique original content with what looks like unbiased reviews.
Whether you are affiliate marketing or creating your own merchant site each
unique item or idea should have it’s own unique page with sufficient unique
content on it. If the only difference between items is size or color then you might
run into duplicate content issues, but if you are reviewing or selling unique items
you may want to make a page for each item.
Lots of people just give people sales letters, but if you create what looks like an
original, thoughtful, and honest review you can send people to the official sites
using text links from within the reviews that convert exceptionally well. The less
automated your site and SEO techniques are the greater the odds it will do well
Many large affiliates also hide the affiliate links to make it harder for people to steal
their affiliate commission. Instead of pointing at
they would use .htaccess or link to a simple redirect script on their own site and
point to the merchant site using an affiliate link.
Some people think Google hates affiliates. They do not necessarily hate affiliates,
but they hate unoriginal or useless content cluttering their search index. Most
affiliate marketing sites are poorly done useless garbage.
If you are new to the web and do not have much money to work with one good
way to save money is to sell things to yourself using your own affiliate link. Some
merchants may not like this (it may violate some affiliate terms of service), but
when I was new I frequently did it, and I occasionally still do today. If you save $50
for 10 only minutes of work why not?
Google AdSense:
Since Google automates so much of the ad sales process and has such a large
userbase some people can make good money just by selling AdSense ads. Here are
a few tips for getting more out of your AdSense ads:
Good advertisements do not look like ads. Blend AdSense ads with the site
Usually the banner ad format is not good unless is looks exceptionally
similar to the site design. Different format types will have different CTRs
and earnings.
Some people place many ad units on each page. This may work, but many
times this hurts earnings since you are selling more ad inventory to cheap
ads, which may end up getting clicked instead of the more expensive ads
that would display if you ran fewer ad units.
Default blue with underline is good at getting clicks.
Some people place visual cues next to their AdSense ads, although you
can’t tell people to click on the ads.
If you are running a somewhat spammy AdSense site that is just there for
AdSense revenue you want to limit users options by not giving them many
other links to click on. Either do not use site navigation above the fold or
visually depreciate the navigation links.
Google AdSense has channel tracking and URL tracking which will show
you how various channels and sites perform. Additionally there are a
variety of third party programs which sell for around $50 to $100 that
provide additional details.
Google offers these AdSense optimization tips.
JenSense is a good blog about contextual advertising. Jen is also branded as
an AdSense expert. She sells consulting services to help people optimize
their accounts and is also a moderator at Search Engine Watch forums and
Webmaster World.
When using AdSense the CTR and earnings can be much higher if you make a
couple small changes. The key is to test different things out to see what is most
effective for your site design and setup.
Some sites place the ads in such a way that it hurts their ability to gain links. If you
are actively trying to promote a site and build an audience make sure the ads are
not so prominent that they end up causing people to question the purpose or
usefulness of your site.
Many blog posts are generally short, targeted, and quick to make. Many blog
networks are used as AdSense keyword nets. Reporting topical news can build a
large number of pages quickly. Weblogs Inc. is one of the more well know blog
Value Added Packaging:
In any arena there will only be a few people who make tons of money packaging or
repackaging information. Coming up with value added packaging ideas will help
you guarantee the success of your product. I sold way more books than I ever
thought I would have based primarily on the fact that the book was attached to my
blog. Most other SEOs selling a book do not have a search engine news blog.
If you sell things like jewelry the visual appearance of the site is exceptionally
important. Design and copy help develop trust. People do not pay want to pay for
what something is valued at. They want to pay what they feel it is worth.
Price and Value:
In the past I sold my ebook for half of it’s current price. Some people assumed that
it must have low value based upon that price point.
Few affiliate marketers wanted to make a small share of $40 when they could
recommend other products and make $50 - $100 commission per sale. From what
I have seen affiliate marketing is not usually honest, and most affiliates recommend
what makes them the most money, not the best value or best products. For
example, many affiliates promote software in fields where better free software
I doubled my price and later switched to hosting my own affiliate program. Within
a couple months ads I had over 100 new affiliates, and ads for my ebook appeared
on thousands of pages.
If this ebook gives some successful marketers only a couple useful tips, then it has
more than paid for itself. Others who are newer would expect much more since
they still have a bunch to learn.
The more business experience people have the more reasonable their expectations
are. Raising my price filtered out most of the worst clients. Some people will never
be happy no matter what you do. The more you try to use price as your
competitive advantage the lower the quality of your customer base and the
more hate and fraud you deal with on a daily basis.
You are only a commodity if you think of yourself as one. If you sell your product
at commodity prices you will attract commodity clients who may never be pleased
with the amount of value you may be able to deliver.
Business Model & Visitor Value:
Some people are good salesmen or know how to create more value out of their site
visitors. When you learn how to increase your visitor value (by increasing the
amount they are willing to buy or how often they convert) you allow yourself to
receive far greater exposure. For example, at $40 I had maybe 20 affiliates. After I
doubled the price of my ebook I could then afford to pay a high enough
commission to interest good affiliates.
As far as paying for advertising goes, I can not compete with the business models
of link brokers or smart directory owners. Even though many SEOs make many
thousands of dollars of profit per client, I can still afford to compete with their
business models because my site has much greater traffic and a higher conversion
rate than most sites trying to sell SEO services.
Once you know the value of an average site visitor then you know how much you
can afford to spend on leads, which helps you be able to feel comfortable
marketing more aggressively.
Capturing Leads vs Sales:
When selling expensive items over $100 many marketers prefer to get the
prospects primary email address before trying to sell the item. Direct response
marketing usually peaks in response rate around the third exposure so many
marketers what to get prospects on an autoresponder series.
Many marketers also have the shopping cart page open in a new browser so the
prospect has to close two browser windows to leave the site.
How Well Does My Item fit the Web:
Some items make no sense to sell over the web. Heavy commodities that are easily
accessible cheaply are bad items.
Other items fit the web perfectly. For example, something where people would be
ashamed or embarrassed is a likely candidate for a topic to write an ebook on.
Ebooks about genetal warts or beating a DUI ticket are likely to fit the web well
because many people would be embarrassed to buy those types of items in person.
If you had a problem and your book, software, product, or idea helps others solve
the same problem you can use yourself as an example. In a sense you are selling
yourself and your own experiences. Authentic sounding voices and stories can help
owners make a ton of money.
What emotions will people have when searching for your ideas? How can you
connect with their desires or sense of empathy?
Researching Demand for a Product:
Alex Mandossian created a concept he calls the ask database. For niche ideas you
can market an ebook or product before you complete it. Using AdWords you may
be able to find targeted leads for a nickel. For example, you can send them to a
page telling them you are just about done writing an ebook on a topic. Tell them
you are looking to add a little more information. Ask them what they feel is
important. Offer them the ebook free in exchange for their email address and their
feedback. Over time you will collect the most important topics the ebook should
cover and can pay a copywriter to write an ebook covering those topics.
You can also use a similar technique to price a new ebook. Tell people they qualify
as a pre reader and ask them what they would be willing to pay for the information.
Some small percent of people will type in 20 cents or $1, but those would be the
same people who are not interested or would immediately want to return your
product just to try to get it free. Ignoring those numbers you can then look at the
remaining prices people offered and determine a good price from there. If your
product does not cost you much then you are not out much finding exactly what
people would want and the exact price they are willing to pay for it.
Price Points:
I do not sell lots of various products, but I read and listen to many marketers.
Many people believe that ending a price on the number 7 is a good thing because
many consumers are taught the number is good due to religion, gaming, and other
ideas. If your price is going to be somewhat cheap you can usually end the price in
$9.95 without seeing a huge drop off in sales. If you are going close to $100 or over
that number then you may also want to try ending the price with a 7. Usually the
only time to end a price on round numbers (like $250) is if you are trying to appeal
to people who are trying to buy something for it’s extravagance.
Value & Price Disconnect:
If you look on the marketplace sometimes a brand new hard cover
version of a book will sell for far less than a used copy of the soft cover version. I
find it interesting in a marketplace of that size that there would be large price
disconnects with items so close to one another.
In any market there will be price disconnects. Many of which will make no logical
sense. If your longterm business model is being the cheapest then you may want to
refocus on brand building or other aspects or your business model may be doomed
from the start.
Interactive Elements
Resources Cited:
Literature I thoroughly enjoyed. Directory with more in depth information
on the below listed books (and many others). (
Net Words - Nick Usborne's online copywriting book.
The Online Copywriter's Handbook - Robert W Bly's online copywriting
book. (
Persuasive Online Copywriting - Bryan Eisenberg's conversion based
copywriting book.
Tested Advertising Methods – advertising & copywriting bible by John
Caples (
Taking Your Talent to the Web
The Big Red Fez - Seth Godin's quick web design tip book.
Don't Make Me Think - Steve Krug's call to action based usability book.
The Cluetrain Manifesto - Anti corporate speak copywriting book.
( You may also
wish to read it free. (
Designing Web Usability - Jakob Nielson's usability book.
UseIt Alertbox - Jakob Nielson's usability newsletter.
Kim Krause’s Usability Checklist (
What is Quality Content – an article I wrote about what it actually means
to create quality content (
Adobe Photoshop – awesome image software.
Macromedia Dreamweaver - top of the line web page editor.
First Page - free web editor by EvrSoft. (
AAA Logo – logo design software. (
Movable Type - my favorite blog software. (
TypePad - Movable Type's web based blog software.
Blogger - 100% free, easy to use blog software. (
The Logo Company (
EZY Logo (
Atomz - free site level search. (
FreeFind - free site level search. (
Tragedy of the Commons (
Seth Godin - blog by one of the more creative marketers on the web.
OSWD – free website designs (
GapingVoid – free weblog talking about the concept of “smarter
conversations” (
Why I think using blogs is a great idea for many websites
Make DHTML with unordered lists
CSS House - online demonstration showing how powerful CSS is.
CSS Zen Garden (
CSS @ W3 Schools (
W3C CSS Guidance (
Rob Frankel - one of the best branding experts in the world.
Apache SSI Tutorial (
Sample SSI website. Search Marketing Info. (
Comprehensive Guide to .htaccess
Dynamic Text Replacement article – how to replace images with text
Macromedia Flash SDK
GrokDotCom - conversion marketing tips. (
Google AdSense (
AdSense Optimization Tips
JenSense - contextual advertising blog (
Weblogs Inc – large blog network (
Amazon Associate Program (
ClickBank – affiliate program and payment processor for electronic goods
and services. (
Affiliates Alert – tracks new ClickBank products for sale
PayPal - nearly universal payment processor. (
CafePress - sells Tshirts, clothing, and other small material which is good
for sites with a cult following. (
Other Affiliate Programs - my list of top affiliate directories.
Some Notes
1. Search for your topic. Find the #1 result on your favorite search engine. If you
know more than them you will eventually replace them. If not, consider further
focus of your topic or buying books and reading websites to better learn your
topic. Eventually you will be #1.
2. Decide what type of editor would be logical to use for your site. I strongly
encourage the use of blog software if it makes sense.
3. If you believe you are weak in the topics of Copywriting or Usability buy a book
which covers that topic.
4. Think of how you can generate revenue off of your site without making it look
like the sole purpose of the site.
Writing for Search Engines
resumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady
past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. from As We May Think by Vannevar Bush.
Finally...What was all that other junk? What do the spiders want to see? What are
the best words to use? Where do I place them? ... Don’t worry, the above chapters
are not a complete wash. The more you learn about the web, the more you will
learn how ideas overlap. Good usability is usually good search engine optimization.
Some people stress search engine optimization so much that they forget about their
visitors needs. SEO is just one part of the site building puzzle. Ultimately it is your
social impact or money in the bank that is a measure of success, not where you
rank for some random search query.
In the Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell shows how small changes can bear
amazing results. If you can learn to include some of those little extras which
make your site better than your competition you will find that others will do your
marketing for you. That is why I think it is more important to understand the
concepts of the web and the goals of search engines versus just learning flavor of
the moment optimization. If everything else is good then you do not need to worry
as much about optimization.
Plus knowing the above in addition to doing search engine optimization will allow
you to draw lots of visitors and have a higher conversion rate. On the web, when
you lose a customer, it is usually forever. The last thing you want to do is draw
prospective customers into a minefield they are sure to regret.
Each and every page is a chance to capture or lose customers.
Focusing a Site & Combining Site Ideas:
One time a person contacted me asking for a bit of help with their site. They
wanted me to submit their site to directories. When I looked at their site it sold
handmade hemp jewelry and SEO services.
In the real world you would never see people do something like this, but many
people think it is fine on the web.
On the web there are even more alternatives to your business than in the real
world. You need to focus on the consumer that much more.
It is fine to have many unique ideas and revenue streams, but each site should
cover its own specific niche. If you cross industries within your site you weaken
your brand and may offend many people. What are the odds that someone is
looking for SEO services while shopping for hemp?
Even within the specific niche of SEO I can have a site for linking, one for
keyword research, one for pay per click…the list goes on. Most websites fail
because they fail to properly focus, not because they are too focused.
What are Keywords?
Keywords are phrases you want your website to be found under. Often corporate
climates force people to refer to things using special phrases. Keywords are not
about what you call your stuff. Keywords are what Joe average surfer (or your
prospective site visitors) may type in a search box.
Focusing a Keyword:
Single word keywords are
usually not well targeted
and hard to obtain.
When people tell you to target the word "free" they are out of their minds. The
single word is too general and has too much competition. I just did a search on
Yahoo! for "free" and it returned 749,000,000 results. That is over 10% of the web
trying to use free as a sales pitch.
Longer keywords are
easier to rank well for and
conversion rates.
I am not saying that free should not be on your page, it is on most of mine. I am
saying that keywords should define the product or idea. Free alone just does not
get this done.
Keyword Phrases:
If free isn't a keyword, then what is? Keywords are typically two to five word
phrases you expect people to search for to find your website. What would you
expect people to type in the browser to find your site? If you were looking for your
product, what would you type? What type of problems does your product or
service solve? Those answers are likely good keyword phrases.
Keyword Length:
A longer search phrase is also associated with better targeting and increased
consumer desire. Some people say shorter keyword searchers are shoppers and
longer keyword searchers are buyers. As you add various copy to pages you are
more likely to appear in search results similar to your keywords which do not
exactly match your more general keywords. Most good keyword phrases are
generally 2 to 5 words.
Keyword Value Pyramid:
One of the most fatal flaws of many SEO campaigns is that people think they need
to rank well for one term or a few generic terms and focus all of their energies on
that. Generic terms may occassionally convert, but most strong converting search
terms are specific.
If you read SEO forums often you hear many posts about a San Diego real estate
agent no longer ranking for a generic term such as real estate. Since the term is too
generic for most of his target market (and his service would not be fitting for most
people searching for that term) it makes sense that the search engines would not
want to show his site in those search results. As search continues to evolve, it will
get better at filtering out untargeted or inappropriate sites.
Targeting generic terms outside of your area it means that you need to use
aggressive techniques to try to rank. Problems with being too aggressive:
Targeting exceptionally generic terms may not add much value since the
leads are not strongly qualified. Paying extra to rank for more generic terms
may not be a cost that is justified unless you can resell those leads at a
Being exceptionally aggressive raises your risk profile and makes your site
more likely to fluctuate in rankings when new search algorithms are rolled
Here is a search value pyramid:
As you can see from the image, the more we target on our specific market the
greater value we can extract from our sites. I am not suggesting always trying to use
free online texas holdem software download over and over again, but by scattering those
various words throughout your copy you may be able to rank for many related
Where on the Pyramid do I start?
Usually most sites are designed from the top down, starting with a generic concept
and working their way down through specific topics. Another way to look at the
pyramid concept is to look at where the top of your pyramid should start.
Some people will always start at the top with a term like travel, but in doing that
they have to work a long way down to get to the specific categories.
If you start your pyramid with more specific terms at the top your site will have a
stronger theme and it will be easier for you to dominate your niche market. As your
link popularity spreads from the home page it does not have to go far to reach
Honolulu beach wedding packages if your site is about Hawaii weddings or
I am not suggesting that most webmasters should make hundreds of 3 to 5 page
websites, but what I am saying is that it is better to have 100 useful quality pages
about Jamaica than to have 1,000 lower quality pages about travel in general.
You have to be able to evaluate how competitive your market is, what resources
you have available, and whether you can compete in that market. A large reason
many websites fail is being too broad or unfocused. If the top sites in your industry
are Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity,, and other well known properties you
need to have a large budget, create something fundamentally innovating, or look
for a more niche opportunity which you can dominate.
Keyword Density:
Keyword density analyzers end up focusing people on something that is not
important. This causes some people to write content that looks like a robot wrote
it. That type of content will not inspire people to link at it and will not convert well.
In March of 2005 Dr. Garcia, an information retrieval scientist, wrote an article
about keyword density.
His conclusion was “this overall ratio [keyword density] tells us nothing about:
the relative distance between keywords in documents (proximity)
where in a document the terms occur (distribution)
the co-citation frequency between terms (co-occurrence)
the main theme, topic, and sub-topics (on-topic issues) of the
Thus, KD is divorced from content quality, semantics and relevancy.”
Later on in the ebook I will discuss how to structure page content, but it is
important to know that exact keyword density is not an important or useful
measure of quality.
Finding Keywords:
There are many different ways to find keywords for your website. Some good
keyword ideas are:
I frequently optimize for
overlapping terms so I can
rank well for multiple
terms without losing the
focus of the page or
sounding robotic.
Words people would search for to find your product
Data mine your site level search information if you have a site level search
Problems your prospective customers may be trying to solve with your
product or service (even if they do not know you exist)
Keyword tags on competitors websites
Visible page copy on competitors websites
Related search suggestions on large search engines (such as Teoma or
Related term suggestion at smaller engines such as Gigablast, Vivisimo, and Snap
Keyword groupings via tools such as Google Sets
Lexical FreeNet – helps find related terms and ideas.
Tag Cloud – free Folksonomy tool showing related terms. If your product
name or brand are related to other common terms in your market, then
you are doing a good job working your brand into the semantic language.
Keyword suggestion tools (which are covered in the next section)
Keyword Selection Tips:
The goal of keywords is to choose terms that will bring well targeted traffic to your
web site. Each page on your site can be targeted for a few different keyword
phrases. Typically I like to just do about 1 to 2 primary and 2 to 3 secondary
Overlapping Keyword Phrases:
It makes sense to optimize the same page for keyword phrases that share some of
the same keywords. A page that ranks well for search engine marketing should
easily be able to rank well for professional search engine marketing or search
engine marketing services.
Only Use a Few Keyword Phrases per Page:
A note of caution is that you can not optimize a page for 20 different keywords. As
you add more keywords to the mix, you lessen the keyword density and change the
focus of the page. The page can start to sound robot created if you are optimized
for too many terms. Remember that converting eyeballs is what matters. People are
not likely to link to or buy from a page that reads like rubbish.
Misspelled Keywords:
You usually do not want to use misspelled keywords in your body copy or page
title as they will look somewhat unprofessional. It can however help you to add
misspelled keywords to the meta keywords tag (which is explained in further detail
in the meta keywords section).
Some sites use “Did you mean…” pages, focusing the page title and heading tag on
the misspelled versions of the keyword and then underneath it say “often times
internet searchers searching for xxx misspell the word as bla or bla.” If you are
looking for xxx you are in the right place. Learn more about our bla bla bla…
Search spelling correction will get more sophisticated over time. Search engines
want to correct for misspellings in the search results pages before the users get to
your site. I spoke with a search engine product manager who stated that
misspellings can flag pages for relevancy reviews and usually misspellings for SEO
are not recommended for most websites.
If you are using throw away domains in competitive environments then
misspellings might help you get some targeted traffic without using as much effort.
Also if you have a community driven site it will naturally include many misspellings
from various bad spelling authors.
Plural Keyword Versions:
Some search engines do use stemming, but usually the search results for singular
and plural search phrases are different. It is recommended that you optimize for
common versions of your popular keywords, while also using other versions of the
words throughout your copy.
Capitalized Keywords:
Most major search engines are not case sensitive. Cars is usually the same thing as
Hyphenated Keywords:
Most search engines treat hyphens as a space. E-mail is different than email. If a
word is split in half by a hyphen then you should check to see which version is
used more frequently and optimize for whatever versions are commonly searched
If one version of a term is more commonly searched for but is hypercompetitive it
may make sense to optimize for the less competitive term first.
If a hyphen is sometimes placed between two words then using either version (with
or without a hyphen) will cause your page to rank better for both versions.
Localized Keyword Research:
People use different terminology in different countries. In the US we want taxi
cabs. In London they look for a car hire. Make sure if you are not from the country
of your target market you know what common words they use to describe the
products or services you are promoting there.
Common Keyword Problems:
There are a few common problems with keyword selection.
Some people use their internal corporate catch phrases versus focusing on
what people actually search for.
Sometimes words have a more commonly used different meaning which
elevates the estimated traffic and competition level without actually
bringing in any more sales. This especially holds true for acronyms
(examples: pics, cams).
Some people use really generic words that are not very relevant and are
extremely competitive. Optimizing my site for “search engine” would be a
good example of this. Lots of competition to attain traffic disinterested
with my services.
Keyword Selection is a Balancing Act:
You want the words to be descriptive enough for you to qualify the person and
describe your product. You also want the search term to be general enough to be
something that is frequently searched for. The definition of frequently changes
depending upon industry and the value of a lead, but common sense should help
guide you in finding what keywords are the right ones to target. Sales usually are far
more important than just the quantity of traffic you get. The power of keywords is
in their targeting.
Sure you can list well for a really long search term that is only present on your site,
but you want it to be something your prospects are searching for. On the flip side
of the coin it is usually hard to list for a single word such as “outsourcing.”
Selecting keywords is a balancing act. Most good keywords are between 2 to 5
words long.
Use your home page to target your primary keyword and use the other pages to
target other keyword phrases. The keyword phrases targeted on each page should
also be terms that describe the contents of that page and terms that are likely to
yield conversions.
Frequently Asked Questions:
A great way to find targeted prospects is to find what ideas and concepts are
important to them in the buying cycle. Why do they buy? Why did they chose you?
What are common questions they may have during the buying cycle?
You can create a page focused around each of the common buying questions to
show up in the search results when people about to buy and are focused on those
ideas. Answer the questions as best you can and then place your ads near the
Keyword Suggestion Tools:
There are a couple tools on the web which do a good job of helping you find
which keywords get searched for and how frequently they are search for.
Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool:
Free tool based on prior months Overture ad distribution. Please note the
Overture tool combines singular and plural versions of a word and only can track
those terms which already have ads in place. Since Overture makes money by
selling ads and many automated bots search through their distribution network
their results may run high (some highly competitive commercial terms are off by a
factor greater than 10 fold).
If you find the term barber shop gets 15 monthly searches and you find a term like
Seattle barber shop gets 24 monthly searches then likely some Seattle barber shop
owner is frequently checking his rankings.
Google Suggest:
The Overture keyword
tool can show high search
volume due to automated
bots. WordTracker also
will be off on certain
The free Digital Point tool
shows both of their results
side by side so you can see
a couple different search
volume “opinions.”
Google Suggest results
may also be organized in
order of search volume.
Near the end of 2004 Google launched Google Suggest, which attempts to autocomplete your search queries. The results are influenced by search popularity so
you can use the tool to help you find many of your deeper keyword phrases after
you find some of your broad keywords. DaveN also created a scraper tool which
queries Google Suggest.
Google Keyword Sandbox:
Free tool from Google AdWords. Offers likely synonyms to the word you type in,
but does not approximate traffic. To approximate traffic you would need to set up
a Google AdWords campaign and track the number of times your ad displays. Be
careful in doing this because it can get rather expensive if you create random ads
for the wrong words and / or bid highly for your keywords.
Using the above two tools you can get a good idea what words would be good to
target. In addition, there is a tool called WordTracker which is slightly more robust.
WordTracker takes sampled data from a couple meta search engines and projects
future search rates for different words.
The data pool WordTracker uses offers better data since it separates plural listings
from singular versions and also tracks meta search clickthroughs, versus tracking
search engine ads.
Since WordTracker makes money by providing accurate statistics versus selling
keywords their traffic tends to be a more fair representation of actual web traffic.
Keep in mind that their meta search user breakdown might be different than the
cross section of normal web surfers and very low search counts will likely have
many anomalies.
WordTracker is a tool well worth trying if you plan to do in depth keyword
analysis. You can buy a year subscription for a few hundred dollars or use it for a
day for under $10. They also offer a variety of subscription options between those
two time frames.
WordTracker data can be spammed by competitors. For example, if you find the
word golden nugget to convert really well then you can go to Dogpile and
Webcrawler and search for an alternate version (like gold nugget) to make
unimportant terms look like important ones and hide the good ones. I do not think
many people do this, but it can be done, and is more likely to happen in
competitive markets.
WordTracker has a free informational guide on their site you may want to read
before using there service so you can get the most out of WordTracker if and when
you sign up. WordTracker also has a competition feature (called KEI) which aims
to determine how competitive a phrase is, but the tool is no longer very useful in
my opinion. On the next page I will give you my tips on how to determine how
competitive a phrase is.
Keyword Discovery:
Keyword Discovery is a similar product to WordTracker with a few more features
and a deeper database. WordTracker is believed to have a cleaner database, but
Keyword Discovery has historical search data and a deeper database.
Keyword Intelligence:
Keyword Intelligence is a new keyword research product created by HitWise. It is a
bit more expensive than the other tools, with a subscription fee starting at $89 a
month. Hitwise has partnerships with internet service providers and search engines
that allow them to track user behavior of 25 million users. In tracking the behavior
and clicks from various sources this data is likely to be cleaner than most of the
other tools. Additionally they track the actual clickthrough rate of the completed
searches to know what percent of searchers were happy with the results of their
search queries. I have yet to try Keyword Intelligence.
Competitive Intelligence:
Alexa is widely tooted as a must use tool by many marketing gurus. The problems
with Alexa are:
Alexa does not get much direct traffic and has a limited reach with it’s
a small change in site visitors can represent a huge change in Alexa rating
Alexa is biased toward webmaster traffic
many times new webmasters are only tracking themselves visiting their
own site.
Why do many marketing hucksters heavily promote Alexa? Usually one of the
following reasons
if you install the Alexa toolbar and then watch your own Alexa rating
quickly rise as you surf your own site it is easy for me to tell you that you
are learning quickly and seeing great results, thus it is easy to sell my
customers results as being some of the best on the market
if many people who visit my site about marketing install the Alexa toolbar
then my Alexa rating would go exceptionally high
the marketers may associate their own rise in success with their increasing
Alexa ranking although it happens to be more of a coincidence than a
direct corilation
A lower Alexa number means a greater level of traffic, and the traffic drops off
logarithmically. You can fake a good Alexa score using various techniques, but if it
shows your rankings in the millions then your site likely has next to no traffic.
Alexa by itself does not mean much. It simply provides a rough snapshot of what is
going on. It can be spammed, but if a site has a ranking in the millions then it likely
has little traffic. It is also hard to compare sites in different industries. For example,
if I created a site about weight loss there would be many more people searching for
it than a site about knitting. Also, you shouldn’t forget the webmaster bias the tool
has, which means my site will have a higher Alexa rating than it should.
HitWise is another competitive analysis tool, which has partnerships with many
search sites and internet service providers to track user behavior. I believe Alexa is
installed on about a million computers and HitWise tracks about 25 million users.
The HitWise data is rather expensive to access for the small site webmaster, but has
great competitive anlaysis data, showing historical figures, terms that drive the most
traffic to competing sites, and what other sites competitors traffic came from.
Ontology Tool:
Finds related words using the Google ~ search. Logically using related terms in
your text may help boost your relevancy in latent semantic indexing type
Lexical Database:
Wordnet - a lexical keyword database for the English language. I have not used it
yet, but if you are technical in nature it is probably pretty interesting and useful.
The Best Free Keyword Research Tool:
Digital Point created a free tool which combines the Overture tool and the free
version WordTracker tool. I recommend trying the free tool before spending
money on WordTracker. I usually use Digital Point’s tool to do most of my
keyword research. The Digital Point tool can also estimate localized keyword traffic
at the national level.
Downloadable Keyword Software:
I usually do not recommend many downloadable software tools, but Good
Keywords is free and offers some useful features. I do not use it often, but it saves
you keyword searches and can be well worth the free download for doing
preliminary keyword research.
Is it Worth Buying Keyword Research Information?
Most of the major keyword databases are used by various marketers. Since many
people look at this exact same data it is likely that these terms are bid higher on the
pay per click engines and are also more competitive in the regular search results. By
accessing smaller and lesser used databases you can find data that other marketers
may not be using.
Checking Keyword Competition:
Many people will look at the number of pages listed for a phrase and think that is a
fair estimate of competition level. It is not. That is just a measure of how many
pages have those words somewhere in the content or in links that are pointing at
their pages.
The best way to look at the
competitive nature of a
keyword is to look at the
link profiles of the top
listed sites.
A better measure of competition is to search for “keyword A keyword B,” as that
will at least give you the number of pages which have that phrase on it. You also
can further target your competition estimation by searching Google for allintitle:
keyword allinanchor: keyword. Pages which have your keyword phrases in their title
may be optimized, and pages which have them in their inbound links stand a good
chance of being fairly well optimized.
The best way to know what your competition level is though is to look at the link
profiles of the top few sites. Are they using keywords in their anchor text? How
many unique domains are linking into their site?
Google primarily relies upon link reputation to determine relevancy for competitive
terms. Post Trades is a new SEO forum which has a free tool in the upper right
corner which tells you how many unique linking domains are pointing links into a
site. That tool will not tell you whether or not they are using keyword rich anchor
text, but it is another good way to estimate how competitive a keyword is. The Post
Trades tool only analyzes the first 1,000 backlinks in Yahoo!, so if your competitors
have more than 1,000 backlinks it may not be accurate.
Jim Boykin also created a free tool which lists all unique linking sites (of course this
tool is also be limited by the search engines search depth limits). Jim also created a
tool which quickly shows the number of unique C block IP addresses linking at a
I also create a free tool called Link Harvester, which uses the Yahoo! API and
surveys past the 1,000 backlink limit. It shows unique linking domains, C blocks,
.gov links, and .edu links. Some algorithms only allow one vote per site. That is why
seeing how many unique linking domains they have can help you see how
competitive a marketplace is. Links from government or educational sites are more
likely to be well trusted in search results since typically it is harder to influence them
than the average webmaster. Later this ebook will discuss link analysis in far greater
Other Rough Indications of Perceived Value &
Competiton: PageRank, Top Bid Price & Search Volume
A free tool by the name of Prog shows Google PageRank in search results. Most
industries usually have pages around PageRank 5 or so filling up the first page or
two of results. If you see many PageRank 7 and PageRank 8 sites on the first page
then likely you are trying to compete in a fairly competitive marketplace. Most of
the best SEO marketers (heavy link buying examples excluded) usually have a
home page PageRank of 5, 6, or 7.
PageRank by itself is only one rough measure of link popularity.
Other signs of a competitive marketplace is when you notice many lead generation
type websites, many exceptionally smooth websites, educational institutions,
government agencies, large corporations, or high bid prices on those keywords in
the top pay per click search engines.
You can get an extremely rough approximation of the value of a top listing on
major search engines for a keyword by looking at the top listings using the
Overture view bid tool and looking at their search frequencies with WordTracker.
The Tail of Search
Many people feel the need to rank for a broad generic term and optimize
exclusively for that term.
The problem with this is that around half of all search queries are unique each day.
If you were trying to rank well for “used books” you should cater to a variety of
terms around that idea, such as: used book store, buy used books, used book
search, etc.
By writing naturally and answering questions you will also include many common
terms and phrases people search for.
Need Help with Keyword Selection?
If you still need more help understanding keywords feel free to ask me. In addition
Dan Thies of SEO Research Labs specializes in doing keyword research reports for
SEOs, web designers, and webmasters.
Meta Tags
When people refer to meta tags they are talking about the meta description and
meta keyword tags. Some search engines may display the meta description as part
of the search results, but the meta keywords tags generally does not appear in
search results.
What do the Meta Tags Look Like?
The meta keywords tag is
misspellings or synonyms
not occurring in page
The meta description tag
should be a few sentences
to a paragraph of text
which use various versions
of your keywords and
describe the purpose of a
given page.
Meta tags are only one
small element of current
search engine ranking
<meta name="keywords" content="seo ebook, seo e-book, seo
tutorial, seo tutorial book, search engine optimisation,
search engine optimisation tutorial ">
<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="Search Engine Optimization
Book is a SEO blog which provides daily search engine news.
SEO Book keeps up with the latest trends in search engine
algorithm changes and provides new SEO tips.">
Meta Keywords Tag:
The meta keywords tag is not supported by many major search engines. While it is
important to choose the correct keywords for your page, the meta keywords tag
itself is not used by many top SEO experts.
Mike Grehan interviewed Jon Glick (of Yahoo! Search) and asked him about the meta
keyword tag. Jon stated that the meta keyword tag is used to include a page among
a subset of search results, but is not used in determining the relevancy of that page
for the given search term.
If a word does not exist on a page and is not in any of its inbound linkage data then
search engines such as Yahoo! may not know to include the page in search results
unless it exists in the keyword tag. I usually do not use the meta keywords tag on
my pages (as it is not usually very important), but it can help you out some if there
are many different ways to say your product names.
If you use the meta keywords tag it should be unique for each page you place it on.
The keywords tag is a good place to put common misspellings, synonyms, and
alternate versions of a word.
Sample Uses of the Meta Keywords Tag:
If you optimized a page for the keyword phrase “drop shipping” you may
want to include the word “dropshipping” in your keywords tag, although if
the term is that competitive keyword tags are not likely to matter.
Notice how in my above example meta keyword tag I spelled the word
optimization with an s. I targeted the phrase with a z and am placing s
versions in my keywords tag. The term is likely going to be too competive
to compete for using just a meta tag, but most phrases are not going to be
as competitive as search engine optimisation.
Some items are model 15-M or 15M or Cannon 15-M or Cannon 15M.
Prescription is often mistyped as perscription.
If a term is competitive it is going to need to occur in your page copy and / or
inbound link text for you to rank well for it.
Meta Description Tag:
The meta description tag has varying levels of relevancy in different search engines.
Many search engines still support it and display it in their search results in the page
snippets. I suggest trying to get multiple versions of your main keywords, and your
main keywords themselves in this tag a few times.
This tag should be between a sentence to a paragraph and not visually appear
keyword stuffed. The sentences should read well to the human eye since this tag
is still used in many search results pages. If you write a compelling description it
could boost your clickthrough rates, and thus deliver you more targeted traffic.
Many search engines will use the meta description as part of the page abstract if the
exact search term that was searched for is found in the meta description tag.
Additionally it sometimes appears in search results if the search engine can not
extract meaningful content from the page copy or if the algorithm feels the meta
description will provide a more useful presentation.
Some people fail to realize that a good page title and description within the search
results could mean that a number two or three listing gets more traffic than a
number one listing. The meta description tag can often be used to help craft a good
search presentation for your most popular phrases.
Meta Tags Art Not Art:
Some people try and make meta tags sound like an art form. They are not. There
are multiple tags which tell a search engine when to revisit or what language it is in.
These tags are usually irrelevant and ignored.
The only useful meta tags other than the description and keywords tags are those
tags used to PREVENT search engines from indexing your content. Since we
usually want our content seen, I have spoke of the only tags I typically use.
The Truth about Meta Tags:
Meta tags are only one small part of search engine algorithms. In major search
engines each of the following is typically far more important than meta tags.
Link Popularity & Link Reputation
Page Title
Page Copy
Robots Exclusion Standard:
When primitive robots were first created some of them would crash servers. A
robots exclusion standard was crafted to allow you to tell any robot (or all of them)
that you do not want some of your pages indexed or that you do not want your
links followed. You can do this via a meta tag on the page copy
<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow">
or create a robots.txt file which tells the robots where NOT to go. Click here for the
official robots exclusion protocol document. The robot.txt file goes in the root
level of your domain using robots.txt as the file name.
This allows all robots to index everything
User-agent: *
This disallows all robots to your site
User-agent: *
Disallow: /
You also can disallow a folder or a single file in the robots txt file. This disallows a
User-agent: *
Disallow: /projects/
This disallows a file
User-agent: *
Disallow: /cheese/please.html
One problem many dynamic sites have is sending search engines multiple URLs
with nearly identical content. If you have products in different sizes and colors then
other than small differences it is likely you could generate lots of duplicate content
which will prevent search engines from wanting to fully index your sites.
If you place your variables at the start of your URLs then you can easily block all of
the sorting options using only a few disallow lines. For example:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /cart.php?size
Disallow: /cart.php?color
Would block search engines from indexing any URLs that started with
cart.php?size or cart.php?color. Notice how there was no trailing slash at the end of
the above disallow lines. That means the engines will not index anything that starts
with that in the URL. If there was a trailing slash search engines would only block a
specific folder.
If the sort options were at the end of the URL you would either need to create an
exceptionally long robots.txt file or place the robots noindex meta tags inside the
sort pages. You also can specify any specific user agent, such as Googlebot, instead
of using the asterisks wildcard. Many bad bots will ignore your robots txt files and
/ or harvest the blocked information, so you do not want to use robots.txt to block
individuals from finding confidential information.
Free Meta Tag Generator:
I also created a free meta tag generator here. I wrote general tips on that tools page
to help you create your title and meta tags.
Page Title Done Wrong
Why the Page Title is Important:
When the web was created, it was created around the idea of the page and the
link being the fundamental units of data. The page title is one of the most
important attributes on the page. For some non competitive terms a good page title
alone can land a page atop search results. First of all we will cover bad ways to
make a page title.
1. "paxil, prozac, Zoloft buy now, internet pharmacy, Viagra, pills on
wholesalese, antidepressants, weight loss, phentamine..." this is absolutely
not the goal of the page title
2. "untitled document" this is absolutely not the goal of a page title
3. "Welcome to fred’s store" this is absolutely not the goal of a page title
4. "Welcome to fred’s store" this is absolutely not the goal of a page title
The goal of the page title is to give search engines and readers a brief description of
what that page is exactly about.
Problems with the Examples:
1. It is true that the page can be about any specific topic (even prescription
drugs or casino stuff or pornography), but the title should not be a loose
array of selected somewhat similar terms. You could pick any topic and
focus on it, but not on a topic range.
2. Many pages on the web do not even have a title. Unless one was trying to
list well for "untitled document" this title makes it hard to generate any
traffic. In the Yahoo! Search index there are over twenty million pages
sporting the "untitled document" title. They would get much more traffic if
they titled their documents.
Yahoo! Search: allintitle:untitled document
3. First of all people probably have no idea what Fred’s store is. Is Fred’s
store a hardware store? A discount shoe store? A Viagra store (going with
the pharmacy theme)? You just don't know. Neither do search engines.
Placing salutations or unnecessary document references in the title kills the
keyword weighting of the title. I always say "Welcome to...low rankings".
Just for fun I did a search on Yahoo! to show how many sites had the
following in their page title:
a. welcome to (close to 30 million)
b. home page (over 15 million)
c. wecome & welcom had thousands of entries each. The misspelled
words are even sort of competitive.
4. Notice there is no difference between example #3 and example #4. The title is
a page title or document title. The title is not the site title. If, for branding
purposes, you feel you should place the site title in the title of every page it is
advisable that you place it at the end of the title. That is, unless you are so big
that people are likely to search for your name already (Nike, Pepsi, Coke...)!
The page itself is a fundamental unit of data, not the web site!
Page Title Done Right
The page title is a page by
page thing, not a site by
site thing.
Usually you want to lead
your page title with your
primary keywords for that
given page.
We saw how to do it wrong, so how do you do it right? Well your title should have
your keywords in them. Each page should have its own title. Since different
algorithms match for different things there is no such thing as a perfect title. Your
target keyword phrase should be at or near the beginning of your page title. Let’s
pretend this ebook is a page and we needed to title the document. Using the
keyword suggestion tools above I would look up some relevant terms.
All searches performed on Overture search term suggestion tool and results are for
September 2003.
seo 101,543
search engine optimization 56,947
search engine marketing 14,448
search engine marketing news 267
seo book 0 (update: within a few months of creating this domain Overture
started serving hundreds of ads a month for this name due in part to me
heavily branding the site name.)
seo tutorial 70
search engine optimization tutorial 59
Remember that search volume alone does not tell you whether or not the term
would bring in targeted traffic. Seo, for example, is a generic term also inflated by
rank checkers and is a common Japanese name, so those seo search volumes are
not as high as the number indicates.
Some SEO experts frequently compare the page title to the title of a book. Most
major search algorithms place far greater weight on the page title than on page
content. Adding unique page titles to a site that did not have them can easily
double search traffic.
Chose Multiple Keywords:
I was not in much of a rush with this site to achieve top rankings, as I already had
other well ranking sites. I am going to think big with the title. Eventually I will want
to rank well for "search engine optimization" and "SEO." I know that will take a
while though (a year or a few years). I should almost immediately be able to rank
well for "SEO book." (By the time I was done writing this book I already did.)
A Good Title for This Page:
A good page title for this book would then be "Search Engine Optimization
Tutorial ebook - SEO" This ebook will never rank well in search results
though since I do not want search engines to spider it. If Google gave you a free
link to my ebook then you probably would not want to pay for it. I used a robots
exclusion tag on it and move it anytime links at it.
This site is going to cover news topics daily too. The page title of my home page
initially was "SEO - SEO ebook, Search Engine Optimization Tips, &
Search Engine Marketing News Blog”
In that title I am actually trying to do a good bit of branding. I know earlier I said
the domain name didn't really matter, but this domain name matched exactly what
I wanted and I spent thousands of hours and dollars branding that name.
The domain name also matches exactly my keywords without being repulsively
long and dash or comma ridden. It is easy and simple enough to remember, plus if
this book does well enough more and more people will search for SEO Book.
Title Update:
After about a year with the above title I started getting more search queries for my
name and my site name. I eventually changed the home page title to Aaron Wall’s
SEO for personal branding purposes.
Chose Terms of Different Difficulty Levels:
My general rule for the page title is to include at least one competitive and one non
competitive term. In less than a month the home page of this site was listed #1 on
Yahoo! (Inktomi back then) and #1 on Google for "seo book.” Ranking for “Search
Engine Optimization” or “SEO” is a much harder task, but maybe I can hope to
do well for them within a year. (Update, I was ranking for “SEO” within 9
Another good trick for the title might be to use two similar overlaying ideas. If it’s
hard to list well for either of the components of the whole, you typically can still get
top rankings for the searches which mix the terms together. Eventually as you build
your linking campaign you can hope to pick up one or both of the original terms.
A good example of this might be a site that is selling Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Dragon Naturally Speaking is a type of medical transcription software. If you use a
title such as “Dragon Naturally Speaking Medical Transcription Software” it can
help you rank well for the oddball mixed up searches such as “Dragon Medical
Sometimes you can also place a strong call to action in the title which will help
boost clickthrough rate.
Think Along the Buying Cycle:
While it might be good for me to rank at # 1 for “search marketing,” it is doubtful
that people searching for that term are immediately interested in buying. When a
person searches for “search engine marketing service company in San Diego” there
is much more express intent implied in that search.
Longer search terms will usually have less competition and do a better job
of converting. This is the real secret to effective on-the-page SEO. Use
different pages to optimize for many different terms.
If you are using pay per click advertising the long specific keyword phrases will
usually be far cheaper than some of the generic untargeted terms. That is why it is
important to focus different pages on different terms versus focusing your site on
one generic term. Not only is there less competition, but also higher conversion
Page Title and Click Through Rate:
A good page title & URL can double or triple your click through rate. You want to
make sure your page title is especially made for human consumption, and not just
some random ugly keyword stuffed string. Certainly get your primary keywords in
there, but make sure the title is readable too.
Internal Linking
Anchor Text:
When linking between your documents you should use the words you want to list
well for in the anchor text.
<a href="bla.htm">Anchor text</a>
If you can not use descriptive anchor text it is known that some search engines still
place some weighting on link titles (although Google does not). Even if you use
descriptive link text you may also want to use a link title too.
<a href="bla.htm" title=”descriptive text”>Click here</a>
You also can make up for slightly under descriptive site navigation links by
providing descriptive footer text link navigation.
Descriptive internal text
links can help search
engines understand what
your site is about.
I usually link to the home
page of my sites from all
descriptive text links.
A large criteria in search engine rankings is the text used to link to a document.
Sometimes it is hard to control how others link to you, but you can always do a
good job of providing great links to yourself using internal site linking.
Use Descriptive Anchor Text:
When possible you want to refer to your documents using similar word that are
expressed in the title. Let’s say I have a page about 5 HTP that is linking to a page
about the History of 5 HTP. I would not use the word "history" to create the
link. I would use the phrase "5 HTP history" or "History of 5 HTP"
in the link as it would help the relevancy of both pages.
Click Here:
Sometimes it is necessary to use a “click here” link, but most times you can
get around it. You cannot always write a link that helps the relevancy of the page
that it’s on, but almost always you can write a good descriptive link that contains a
keyword or keyword phrase which will help the page the link is going to.
Images as Links:
It is better to use text as links than images, but if you use an image ensure you place
a descriptive image alt tag on it.
<img src="" alt="5 HTP
History." >
If you use image navigation links it is advisable to place descriptive text links at the
bottom of the page to help search engines figure out the relevancy of your pages.
Spamming Alt Tags:
Image links are likely not weighted as heavily as text links because they are more
susceptible to spam.
<... alt="5HTP 5-HTP 5 Hydroxytryptophan
5hydroxytryptophan 5 HYDROXYTRYPTOPHAN">.
Using an alt tag incorrectly, as done above can hurt more than help. The search
engines are generally rather liberal, but it also does not look appealing to the eye to
see that long string on a rollover. What's even worse is some browsers will read
that random string to the computer user and your site will confuse the hell out of
Yahoo! actively edits their search results. If they see signs of artificial ranking
manipulation they may remove your site from their index. Some competitors can
turn you in and get you delisted as well.
Linking to Page Anchors:
On longer pages you can use text to link within the same document. Frequently
FAQ pages have links at the top of the page which link to the answers of the
associated questions. These links look like:
<a href="#anchor1">FAQ Anchor Text</a>
You then place the anchor you are linking to somewhere else on that same page.
<a name="anchor1"></a>
Broken Links in Your Site:
Many directory editors and site visitors will quickly grow disinterested with your
site if it is full of broken links. Some directory editors will run a link checker on
your site in the background while they review the content. The internet is dynamic
and ever changing, and some of your links may break from month to month. I
recommend checking your site for broken links before submitting it to any of the
major directories. Xenu Link Sluth is a free downloadable link checking program
which can even help you quickly build a site map.
I try to look through my site for broken links at least once every few months.
When Broken Links are OK:
A good thing about the blog format of this site is that I do not need to go back and
fix broken links as they fall into the archives. If your site is a clearly dated news site
then you do not need to go back to edit all of your links as sites around the web
Relative VS Absolute Links:
Some people link internally using relative links
<a href="../">Anchor Text</a>
others link using absolute links
<a href="">Anchor Text</a>
Search engines convert relative links to their absolute locations prior to assigning
the page a document ID number. It is preferable to use absolute URLs, but search
engines rarely mess up assigning a proper URL to documents linked to via relative
Linking Out to Quality Sites:
Many people are afraid to link out to related resources throughout their copy. Many
search engines grade pages not only based upon their copy and inbound links, but
also upon the pages that they link to. All of your outbound links should not be link
trades in one corner of your site. Try to naturally mix them in your site architecture
wherever it makes sense.
Linking out to good sites is probably not as beneficial toward directly improving
your search rankings as getting links from great sites is, but it does help you in
multiple ways:
Linking out to other related sites throughout your copy makes your site
look like a more natural part of the web. It will give you a ranking boost in
clustering search engines (such as Teoma).
Linking out to related quality sites or pages offers your users additional
useful information. If you refer them to good information they will be
more inclined to associate you with that good information and many of
them will remember where they came from.
Your site visitors and people you link to will be more inclined to link into
your site if you provide a wealth of good information and also link out to
additional relevant information.
The people who you link to may end up returning the favor down the
road. This is especially true with social sites like weblogs.
Effective navigation should let a user know:
What site they are on.
Where they are in that site.
Where they have been.
Navigation and Search Engines:
Good navigation helps the search engines better understand the site structure as
well as helping site users. Typically your most important documents will have the
greatest number of inbound links.
Often people will use tabs or images for their links which have a minimal amount
of descriptive text in them. You can offset this by using descriptive text links in the
page footer. You can see an example of this technique at It is common to have one set of navigation that is used by site
visitors and another that is used by search engine spiders.
Proper navigation also gives you descriptive internal links. A popular technique for
doing this is called using bread crumbs.
If I broke this book into online pages the navigation for what you are reading now
would look as follows: Search Engine Optimization (SEO Book) > Writing for
Search Engines > Web Site Navigation
The first link would be a link to the home page.
The second link would be to the chapter on search engine optimization.
These links would be optimized text links which help define the purpose
of my pages.
The third piece of text would not be a link, but would just be text saying
the page where the user is. This text would help improve the keyword
density of the current page.
Setting up navigation looks professional, helps the user, and improves your
rankings. You can't beat that with a stick!
Dynamic Navigation
Some sites use JavaScript and other client side navigation. Some search engines
struggle to follow things that happen on the client side (or in the browser). You can
tell if a sites navigation is client side by viewing the source or by turning off
JavaScript and active scripting then reloading your document.
I generally recommend staying away from JavaScript and client side navigation. If
you feel you must use it make sure you add static text links to the bottom of your
Site Map:
It is also a good idea to have a site map, linked to from the home page, which links
to all major internal pages. The idea is to give search engine spiders another route
through your site, and to give users a basic way to flow through your site if your
navigation is broken or confusing. The site map should be:
quick loading
light on graphics
& overly simplistic
I usually title my site map as "site map." Sometimes when people optimize their site
map it lists above the other pages in their site since it has so many descriptive text
links on it. The site map is not the ideal entry place into a web site though. Xenu
Link Sluth (free download) checks for broken links and can also help you quickly
build a site map, which you may later need to reformat to match your site design.
I do not worry about
keyword density. I use
descriptive headers, sub
headers, page titles, and
descriptive internal linking
to help search engines
define what my pages are
Optimizing Your Page Copy
Optimize Each Page:
One of the most important things to get across is that each page is its own unit
and has its own ranking potential and its own relevant keywords. Usually a
home page has more value than the other pages since it is where most other sites
will link into your site at. Home pages should generally be optimized for the most
competitive keyword phrases in your market. Interior pages should be optimized
for other relevant phrases that relate to the content of each page.
There are a ton of things to optimize on each page. Above we already spoke of
how to choose your keywords, page titles, and meta tags. Within each page there is
also a ton of content that can be optimized.
On the Page Optimization Only Goes So Far:
When optimizing a page for competitive terms the bulk of the ranking algorithm
will be based upon link analysis. Effective link building has no limit to how
much it can help your rankings.
Some people think that more is better and more is better and more is better. This is
not true with on the page keyword density, and some search algorithms may
discount links which are created in quick burts.
The algorithms for grading page copy are based on a bell curve. Some pages will
have near perfect term weights and then after some point added placement of that
word does not make your page any more relevant.
Each search engine has it’s own algorithms and they do not all align with one
another. Thus the most effective way to improve your rankings on all search
engines will be via link building, but proper page structure and on the page
optimization does still play an important role in gaining targeted inbound traffic
(especially for uncompetitive keyword phrases or in search engines that rely heavily
on page contents).
Text is Important:
Almost every page is going to have navigation and decoration. It’s impossible to
have just one thing (usability, or copywriting, or SEO – you need them all).
Building a page and a site is a balancing act. For search engines the portions of the
page that matters most and you have the most control over is the text. Some places
try SEO so hard that the copy reads like rubbish. Obviously, that is no good.
Traffic means nothing if people do not convert.
Use Keywords in Headings:
Use the keywords in headings and subheadings throughout the page - this heading
should capture the person’s attention and tell them they are in the right place.
<H1>Optimize Web Pages – Learn SEO Copywriting</H1>
would be a classic straight SEO approach. You may wish to use something with a
call to action as well. That would appear more like <H1>Learn SEO
Heading tags go from H1 to H6 with the biggest tags being the smallest #. You
can also change how the text appears using CSS. Typically think of these headings
like you would a heading in a newspaper.
I usually try to get my keyword phrases and similar phrases in my page heading as
well as subheadings. The rest of the page copy is usually written with sales
conversion in mind, and I do not pay too much attention to optimizing it for
search engines. Natural writing will cause you to use your keywords throughout the
I only recommend using a single H1 tag on each page. I also try to use many H2 or
H3 tags to break up the page copy and help structure the data.
Break the page into subgroups:
h1 (consisting of primary keywords) Only use one h1 tag /page & do not bold
or emphasize it. It probably works best if it is slightly different than your
page title.
h2 (similar subtopic phrase or idea with some keyword phrases in it)
paragraph bla bla bla
h2 (another subtopic with some similar or overlapping keywords in it)
paragraph bla bla
paragraph bla bla bla
h2 (sometimes some of my subtopics do not have keywords, but most do)
paragraph bla bla bla bla
Usually the subheadings will focus on a keyword phrase that is slightly more
specific than the main heading, but will also contain some of the same words as
the main heading.
In addition descriptive sub headings improve the scanability and usability of your
I only recommend using one H1 tag per page. The headings help structure the
information and give the words in their tags a ranking boost. If you start doing
things like:
Placing all your content in an H1 tag.
Bolding the H1 tags.
Bolding all occurances of your keywords.
then you are doing things that would give search engines a reason to discount
your page. Thus the combined effect will be more likely to hurt your rankings
on multiple fronts since your content may look less appealing to search
engines and site visitors will be less likely to link into it.
Place Your Keywords Where it Makes Sense:
• Place keywords in the paragraphs.
Place keywords in the heading tags.
Place keywords in img alt tags.
When the word is part of a small statement making a specific point, you
may bold it or italicize it.
You may also want to include your keywords a few times in bulleted lists.
When possible place the keywords in links, and don't forget navigation.
The key focus of the page should be on readability. If the page does not
make sense to human eyes then it is no good for a search engine and it
will not make sales. You want to use keywords often, but not to the
point where it sounds like you are writing for the search engine and not the
Don't Be Generic:
If your keyword is "eat cheddar" you can look for the word cheese and try to
replace it with cheddar. A good idea in Jill Whalen's "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for
the Search Engines" report is to play detective. Ask who what where when and
how. Try to avoid stuff which is generic.
A great example I can remember is the guy who was #1 in Google for "xyz tips.”
He had words across the top of his page like "forums" "new" and "strategy". I told
him adding the word xyz in front of these would help him out. Sure enough he
quickly got to #1 for xyz tips, and since those words were in link text his inner
pages started ranking better for those terms as well.
Using some mixture of terms and phrases is important (ie: in some spots you want
to use terms related to your keywords and not just your keywords) since latent
semantic indexing type algorithms may be able to detect unnatural copy which
lacks related terms and score it as being less relevant. If you took your keywords
out of the page copy and replaced them with blanks you would still want humans
to be able to understand what the document is about.
Heather Lloyd-Martin also wrote an ebook about SEO copywriting. Her book
goes more in depth than Jill’s and also talks about some of the common problems
SEOs have when working with large companies, and how to solve those problems.
Be Creative:
There are so many creative ways to mix in your keywords. Again, assuming we
wanted to target "eat cheddar" we could write the following:
Cheddar is one of my favorite foods to eat. Cheddar is ...
Notice how the keywords overlap and are in different sentences. There are many
different ways to get your keywords in the content.
Spread Your Keywords Throughout The Page:
Some of the more recent algorithms may have the ability to look for natural
language patterns. In natural language often times the different keywords in a
keyword phrase will often appear far apart from one another.
To boost your rankings in these algorithms you will want to use the word eat in
some spots and cheddar in other spots. Often your keywords will appear next to
each other naturally. Some phrases like “peanut butter” often occur together, but in
general all of your occurrences of the keywords should not be together.
Keywords at the Top of The Page:
Some people strongly believe that keywords at the top of the page and before your
navigation enhance search engine rankings. I have never worried much about this.
It can easily be accomplished by writing a sentence above your branding images or
through using a floating DIV or other CSS techniques. When using tables some
people use a blank cell technique to make the search engines see the body content
before navigation. If search engines place weighting on where the keywords are on
the page then they most likely use the order of the words in the actual page
source code and not the visual display of the pages.
Naming Filepaths:
Usually you want to use short file names and folder names so that the data is easy
to transmit using various means such as email. Long file paths may look a bit
spammy to search engine editors or searchers looking through search results.
Generally you want to use one to a few keywords in each filename or folder. Use
lower cased filepaths because some directories do not handle upper cased
filenames. Separate words with a – symbol between each word. If you leave blank
spaces it will look weird in the address bar and if you use _ search engines will not
be able to parse apart the individual words in each file name.
File names are not hugely important for SEO. If your site is already built there is
probably little reason to change filenames, but if you are making a new site it is
worth the 5 seconds it takes to use keyword rich filenames.
Building Content
Same Old Stuff:
Creating an extremely useful web based tool or paying a programmer to create one
for you is one of the most effective ways to build content which will help you build
a linking campaign. Writing articles will also help you build up your link popularity.
Many websites blindly add large sums of content to their site because they think it
is free so it should help them and has low cost. The problems with adding exact
copies of low quality articles are:
since the articles exist elsewhere yours probably will not rank as well as the
one of the other copies on the web.
low quality content reflects poorly upon you.
Many people add unfocused garbage to their site which loses the interest of
their visitors.
Some unscrupulous parties copy the contents of other websites without
asking. Tools such as CopyScape make this easy to detect.
Tons of tools are on the market which scrape various RSS feeds and mix
them to create many content pages. Content generation tools such as these
will require search engines to place even greater trust on linkage data.
Some people also clutter up the internet with search result screen scrapers and
other auto content generation crap. I am generally against generating low quality
automated content as I feel it lowers the quality and functionality of the web as a
whole, though I suppose some people may find it effective for generating a bunch
of traffic.
Comparison Content:
Many times people are interested in the difference between two similar or
competing products. I created pages comparing Overture to Google AdWords and
many people search to find the pages comparing and contrasting those two
Content Format:
Sometimes the format of information is as important as it’s quality. By distributing
information in different formats it might become easier to pick up inbound links.
For example: good blog posts are viral. SEO Rockstars and SEO Radio are a few
SEO related radio programs which pick up many inbound links.
Free Decent Content:
There is a ton of good free content out there, but you need to do a bit of research
to find it. If you are building a long term business quality is usually more important
than quantity. Creative reintegration of other content with some fresh new content
or other features can make your site much more useful to your site visitors.
If you sell products make sure you grab the official specifications from the
Incorporate user feedback into the pages.
When you write articles remember to quote and link into websites of
topical authorities.
Incorporate related / compatible items into the pages.
If you have a web related idea or are researching the history of something
that may have appeared on the web you can view what a site looked like in
the past from the Internet Archive.You may not be able to use the old web
copy, but it certainly makes for good article information. (please note:
some sites block spiders from indexing certain pages).
Integrate topic specific RSS feeds into your website.
Ask a friend to write an article for you.
Search for articles on your topic in search engines. In addition you may
want to look at article / ezine directories and glance at industry hub sites to
see if the authors allow you to repost their articles. Most people who know
a decent amount about marketing will let you post their articles in exchange
for a link back to their site.
Sometimes it is worth the cost to hire a professional writer. Some of my
friends hire people to write press releases and articles to promote each new
site they create.
Common Content and Copyleft are two projects which aim to help allow
the free flow of information by allowing people to reuse various registered
content. Yahoo! created a free Creative Commons search.
Content from prior to 1921 should usually be usable. From 1921 to 1963
may be usable, depending on whether or not it was registered.
The US Government has a bunch of free copy on a variety of topics.
When in doubt check with .
Government Printing Offices:
Catalog of US Government Publications
New Electronic Titles (contains content which is not yet properly
indexed and sorted)
Library of Congress
US Department of State
US Historical Documents
US Government RSS Feeds
Other Content Creation
• Sometimes it is worth it to spend a little money to help build your site up.
Many people can find college students and pay them about $10 - $12 an
hour to create content for their sites. I live in State College, PA so I am
sure this will work well for me here in the next few months.
Find a copywriter for hire at a site such as Elance or have a more expensive
copywriter ghost write an article for you. Make sure you get the exclusive
rights to the article if you do not want them to use it on other sites or
newsletters later.
Some sites like Constant Content make it quick, cheap, and easy to buy
articles, tutorials, and reviews.
You can buy content from various sites that specifically create content for
sale by finding out who creates news in your industry or by searching for
syndicated content providers from a search engine or directory.
Automated Content Creation
Improper use of any of the following mentioned tools can drastically
increase the chances your site will be removed from search indexes. If you
are new to the web and are running a limited number of websites it is
recommended that you avoid using these types of tools – especially on any site that
is a main source of income.
Most automated content creation tools create content which reads like rubbish.
Some tools such as Traffic Equalizer scrape search results and publish the results as
web pages on your site.
RSS Equalizer can be used to create pages from related RSS feeds. Some people
mix this data to create well themed and useful web pages. In some regions the web
pages created by RSS Equalizer and Traffic Equalizer may be illegal.
ArticleBot is a tool which creates many semantically sound articles from a single
Feed Stomper is a new tool which creates static HTML pages out of various RSS
I have not yet used any of the automated content creation tools, but some of my
friends have stated positive things about them. They are usually used on temporary
Interactive Elements
Resources Cited:
As We May Think - Vannevar Bush's Memex manifesto from around the
end of the second world war
Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell's book about how small changes can
make a big difference.
The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines - Jill Whalen's copy
editing ebook (
Search Engine Writing – Heather Lloyd-Martin’s site and ebook about
SEO copywriting (
Google Sets (
Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool
Google Suggest
DaveN’s Google Suggest Scraper Tool
Google Keyword Sandbox
WordTracker (
Keyword Discovery (
Keyword Intelligence (
Digital Point keyword suggestion tool
Good Keywords – downloadable keyword software
Lexical FreeNet (
Tag Cloud – free folksonomy tool (
Alexa – competitive analysis tool (
HitWise – competitive analysis tool (
Wordnet - a lexical keyword database for the English language.
GoRank Ontology Tool
Prog – Google search with PageRank (
Unique inbound linking domains tool
Unique C class inbound links tool
Free Meta Tag Generator (
Xenu Link Sluth – finds broken links on your site
CopyScape – find people who are copying your website.
Automated content generation – higher risk tools
Post Trades forum – has a free tool which tells you how many unique
domains are linking into a site. (
SEO Research Labs keyword reports (
Mike Grehan's interview of Jon Glick
Article about keyword density not meaning much (
Smaller search engines for keyword research Snap, Teoma, Gigablast, &
Yahoo! Search: Untitled Document - shows many people are failing to
name their documents correctly.
Robots Exclusion Protocol (
Yahoo! Search: SEO Book
Google Search: SEO Book
Webmaster Radio – hosts SEO Rockstars
SEO Radio (
Common Content (
Copyleft (
Internet Archives (
Elance (
Constant Content (
FedWorld (
• (
US Government RSS feeds
BBC RSS feeds (
Government Printing Offices:
Catalog of US Government Publications (
New Electronic Titles (contains content which is not yet properly indexed
and sorted) (
Library of Congress (
US Department of State (
US Historical Documents (
Some Notes
1. Try out a few of the keyword suggestion tools to find your favorite.
You’ll probably use these tools often.
2. Look at your top ranking competitor websites to see what terms they
are optimized for.
3. Do home page keyword research. Optimize your home page.
4. Ask for review of your page at the SearchGuild SEO forum.
5. Optimize another page of your website and ask to have it reviewed if
you are still uncomfortable.
Interacting with Search
ost pages that get submitted to search engines are of low quality. There
is no guarantee that your site will get included for free just by submitting
it. The best way to get listed is to build relevant inbound linkage data
pointing at your site.
Yahoo! is currently the only major search engine to offer a paid inclusion program
through Overture. The Overture paid service powers all of the Yahoo search
properties. In addition to a $49 inclusion fee, they also charge a category based
price per click. Usually paid inclusion is not worth it for most sites.
The best way to submit your site to search engines is by having them find
links into your site from other sites. There is no need to submit or resubmit
your site to search engines.
Directories vs. Search Engines
Search engines are operated by scripts and machine code. Directories are human
compiled lists of sites organized by categories. Since directories are entirely human
edited they take a ton of time and effort to maintain. Whenever I create a new site
and I am happy with it I submit it to a good number of directories. A few of the
larger directories are listed in the next section. In addition here is a relationship chart
to show how the largest search engines and directories interact.
When submitting to directories it is worth it to spend the extra time to ensure you
are in the correct category and are following the directory guidelines. Here are the
DMOZ guidelines.
Submitting Your Site
Submitting to Search Engines:
You may want to pay to submit your site, but most search engines will list your site
free. The best way to get your site indexed is through having a search engine
follow a link from another site. Toward the end of this book I will also address
another option called paid inclusion.
Where to Get Links:
• Directories may list your site after you submit it.
You can exchange links with similar web sites.
Writing articles about your topic and placing them on other websites can
give you inbound links via the article signature. If you submit articles to
other sites you may also want to have a longer or slightly different version
of the article on your site so that you are not fighting against duplicate
content issues when others syndicate your articles.
Writing press releases can give you inbound links.
People interested in your site may eventually link to you without you
You can participate in forums which provide signature links.
A somewhat recent move which has been exploited is posting comments
directed toward your website in weblogs. Some people use automated bots
which make others mad. If you participate in communities and leave
relevant useful comments then eventually people may want to link to you if
they start to like you.
How often do Search Engines Crawl?
Search engines constantly crawl the web. Pages that frequently update with
strong link popularity may get crawled many times each day. Pages that do not
change that often and / or have little link popularity may get crawled only once
or twice a month. Since search engines are constantly adding content to their
index they are in a constant state of flux.
How Search Engines Evaluate Links:
In the eyes of a search engine, you usually can not control who links to you, but
you can control who you link to. In most cases if bad sites link to you it does not
hurt you. If you link back, it does. So in essence it usually does not hurt you to get
inbound links. You should be rather selective with who you are willing to link
out to though.
Blogs and Weblog Comment Spam:
I recommend finding a weblog with posts about a recent news item you are
interested in and posting a comment linking to your site with your real name in it.
The whole point of weblogs is community discussion, so it is not spam to add
something useful and link to your web site from it.
What people talk about when they say comment spam is when people post crap
like "nice site" with "BUY VIAGRA" in the link. Some weblogs have inline
comments (or comments which appear on the same page as the original post).
Posting comments on Movable type weblogs can get your website indexed in no
time so long as the links are static links. Static links are links that do not go through
Again I am not stating that I suggest spamming weblogs, but you can get your site
quickly indexed by leaving relevant comments and participating in the web as a
community. That is what the web is about anyway, right?
If your comments are off topic or add no value to the conversation at hand then
there stands a good chance your site might get blacklisted and it could tarnish your
An even better way to get noticed with blogs is to comment about what other
blogs say on your own blog. If they have trackbacks enabled they may see your
post. If not you can also click the link a couple times to ensure it works and to give
the other webmaster a way to see it.
Most of the time comments and trackbacks will not elicit further comments, but
on occasion they do. On top of building linkage data posting about related sites can
help build your reputation within that community.
Many of the major search engines and blog software vendors came together to
make a nofollow tag. The nofollow tag allows people to leave static links in the
comments and trackbacks which search engines may not count for relevancy.
Essentially the tag is designed to be used when allowing others to post unverified
links into your site. You also can use it if you are linking out to shady stuff as an
example but do not want to parse any link credit to the destination URL.
Many webmasters will likely be a bit sneaky and create fake blogs and then spam
their own blog with links off to high margin website affiliate programs.
The nofollow feature looks as follows:
<a href=“” rel=“nofollow”>Link Text</a>
People will still continue to run spam bots to spam blog comments. Many blog
owners will see their rankings drop hard since many of their old comment links will
no longer help boost their own search relevancy scores.
The rel=”nofollow” tag may also make it easier for many webmasters to cheat out
reciprocal link partners.
Chat Forums:
In chat forums people asking and answering questions creates free content for the
person who owns the site. This automated page creation allows the forum owner
to sell a ton of advertising space.
In exchange for the posts many SEO forums allow signature links that point at
your website. Since forums change rapidly they often get indexed frequently. This
will help your site get indexed quickly if you ask a few questions at a few of the
various SEO forums.
Of course the goal of chat forums is to have meaningful conversations, but if you
are reading this ebook odds are that you may still have some questions.
Forums have many links on the pages though, so the links probably do not have a
large effect on SEO. Forum sig links from relevant useful posts have far more
direct value in driving sales than in effecting search results.
Directories worth Getting Links In:
In general I think it is worth submitting your site to directories, but submitting your
site to search engines is a waste of time. The two most popular directories are
DMOZ and the Yahoo! Directory.
The Open Directory Project:
The Open Directory Project (DMOZ) is free, but sometimes it can take a while to
get listed. DMOZ editors work free of charge and are under no obligation to list
your website.
Ensure you take the time to submit your site to the right category and follow their
directory guidelines. If your site is not in English make sure you submit it to the
world category. Regional sites should be submitted to their respective regional
With the ODP you do not need to keep resubmitting over and over. Resource Zone
is a forum about the ODP. In the past they allowed webmasters to ask for status
checks on submissions, but they discontinued that in May 2005.
You may want to apply to become an editor if you really enjoy your category. As
with your site submissions you should take your time when applying to become an
editor. It is easier to become an editor for a small non commercial category than a
large highly commercial one. After you become an editor and do a good job you
can gain editing privileges over other categories as well.
The Value of a DMOZ Listing:
The Open Directory Project is syndicated by many other sites and inclusion into it
often provides your site with dozens of inbound links. Many people are quick to
state that the Open Directory is worthless or that it is super important.
The fact is that it is fairly important for some sites and fairly unimportant for
others. There are a ton of variables that go into the value of a listing. I usually just
submit and forget about it. I do not find that it helps a bunch to be preoccupied
with a DMOZ listing. Many high ranking sites are listed in DMOZ, and many high
ranking sites are not.
The Yahoo! Directory:
You will still list in Yahoo! powered search results even if you do not submit your
site to their directory. Yahoo! charges a $299 recurring annual fee for commercial
sites (double that for adult sites), which is a bit expensive for small time
Generally I recommend paying for placement in many second tier directories
before paying for placement in the Yahoo! Directory since most of the second tier
directories only charge a one time site submission fee. A number of people I know
have changed their credit card details and found that their Yahoo! Directory listings
still stayed even though they did not repay their recurring annual review fee.
Unlike most directories, Yahoo! recently shifted their directory to list sites in order
of popularity instead of alphabetical. They also paginate the results, so if your site is
new and there are 300 sites listed in your category your site will not be appearing on
the first page of the category unless you also pay a monthly sponsorship fee.
Non commercial sites can list in the Yahoo! Directory free, and I can attest to the
fact that they have listed multiple sites I own for free.
When a site gets submitted to the Yahoo! Directory an editor quality checks the
site. Since Yahoo! controls their own directory it would be logical for them to place
extra weighting on a Yahoo! Directory listed site. Some top SEOs have told me
they have seen significant increases in their Yahoo! Search rankings after submitting
a site to the Yahoo! Directory.
Regional Yahoo! Directories:
I believe Yahoo! has decided they are going to depreciate many of their regional
directories. They still accept free submissions but do not guarantee a review time.
Second Tier Directories:
Directories such as Gimpsy, GoGuides, RubberStamped, Uncover the Net, JoeAnt,
Web Beacon, MSN Small Business Directory, and Skaffe all cost less than $50 to
submit to.
JoeANT is free if you become an editor, and it only takes a couple minutes to sign
up. Gimpsy is free if you are willing to wait a few months. Skaffe is free for editors.
GoGuides has a bulk submission discount program. Wow Directory is another
directory which has been providing free site submission.
If you are going to list your sites in many directories you may be able to save time
by using Roboform to save some of your submission details.
Mix Things Up!
When links and citations occur naturally there is no 100% easily definable pattern.
If something is easy for a search engine to do and it will improve search quality
they probably will do it.
Make sure you mix up your anchor text and your site descriptions so that there is
no easily identifiable unnatural pattern.
If you start directories yourself and you use common default directory software you
may want to look to remove common footprints the script leaves so that other
sites which may be abusing said script do not cause your site to be filtered as well if
a search engine decides to penalize sites which are using a commonly abused script.
Junk General Directories:
On the web links are a currency. The problem is many webmasters want any link
they can get to improve their PageRank. Some webmasters take advantage of this
situation by creating low quality general web directories that will link to anyone
willing to give them some money.
This leads to a couple main problems, which essentially boil down to an
unnatural linkage profile. If a directory is not useful to humans than the
inbound links are likely going to lack linkage data from many trusted sites. To
build up a high PageRank the directory will often build lots of links from many
low quality sites.
Additionally many of these directory owners are lazy have have no desire to
create any legitimate value. In not employing editors to add any useful sites
most of the listed sites in the directories also point to low quality sites.
TrustRank as an Equalizer:
TrustRank is a Google owned algorithm which assigns trust scores to a seed
set of around a few hundred or so human reviewed websites. From those sites
trust propagates throughout the web. If most of a sites inbound and outbound
links are related to sites with low trust scores then that site might have a bad
trust score. Good sites will likely have a higher percentage of trusted links.
TrustRank can rerank the results to account for any improved rankings that
would have occurred due to link spamming. They may even impose a penalty
greater than the effective gain from the link spamming.
TrustRank also flags high PageRank sites with low trust scores for human
reviews. This allows them to assign bad trust score to sites that are artificially
manipulating the search results.
Below is a graphic of the link profile of a typical money hungry low quality
directory. The red Xs represent things that should be there but are not.
Many other low quality sites exist on the web outside of the directory space,
but the business model of most low quality general directories makes the
concept of TrustRank easy to understand.
How do I tell Which Directories are Good or Bad?
I do not necessarily have the best answer for that question. If you are building a site
for temporary profits then even most of the low quality ones can help you build
links that will be effective for ranking in MSN or Yahoo!. The problem comes
about that some of those links which help you in less sophisticated algorithms end
up hurting your Google ranking.
From the picture you can see that the algorithm is heavily reliant upon linkage data.
If you look at a sites inbound links (I will explain how to do this later on) and
mostly find low quality sites and links from few quality sites then that is bad. When
you look through the listings there should, in general, be many high quality sites
that were added free by an editor for each site that paid for a listing. You do not
need to view the whole directory to figure out if it is good or bad, just a few
categories that you know well. Are quality sites listed there? If many junk sites are
listed there then you probably do not want to pay for a submission.
If the categories are almost all blank then wait to see if an editor will be making it
useful. If the directory consists only of paid listings it is probably not worth paying
to be listed.
Another thing to look out for is sitewide or home page ads to high margin sites in
areas like casino, prescription, or debt consolidation. Avoid those types of
directories as well.
I believe TrustRank is not implemented to the point where you get large negative
scores for some links, but they could eventually change how they value different
parts of their algorithm.
Industry Specific Directories: is a business directory which costs $299 annually to list your site.
Many search engines may not follow the links, but it might still be a
good buy for B2B type businesses.
MicroSoft also has a small business directory which is a bargain at under $50 per
year. There are also many industry specific directories you can find by searching for
terms such as “my keywords + add url,” “my keywords + submit,” or “my
keywords + directory.”
I usually try to find directories which have one time submission fees or directories
which look as though they are going to be longstanding directories. Also remember
to consider the things I listed in the TrustRank area above.
Tips to Pick Directory Categories:
Often times a site will fit many different categories. When choosing a category to
submit to in a directory I look at a few different ideas.
Is my site likely to be accepted if I submit to this category?
Are there reasons this organization or other sites outside of this
organization are likely to place extra emphasis on (or otherwise link into)
this category?
How many links are listed in this category?
Where does this category fit in the directory structure?
How related is my site to the sites listed in this category?
Reasons I Like Second Tier Directories (Great Value):
Since smaller directories are smaller usually your link is closer to the root page and
usually most pages have less outbound links in smaller directories than in large
directories. Thus you may gain greater link popularity in a smaller directory if your
categories in a larger are full of hundreds of sites or are many levels deep into the
directory structure.
Directory Traffic:
Directories rarely provide much direct traffic. The bulk of the value of a directory
listing is in how search engines will evaluate the links. Ocassionally you will find a
directory that does provide good traffic – that is the exception more than it is the
Reciprocal Link Required:
Some directories require reciprocal links to be listed in them. I do not recommend
swapping links with most of these types of directories. Directories are intended to
list sites. Sites are not intended to list directories. If you like something then feel
free to link to it, if not then don’t.
Some vertical niche directories are of high enough quality to deserve links, but
most are not.
Link popularity is a currency and if you are lacking money (as I was when I started
on the web) you may need to reciprocate a few links off the start. Make sure the
directory you want to swap with is not shady before swapping links.
The exceptions to this rule are that I am usually willing to reciprocate links with:
extremely powerful sites that I do not believe are going to get penalized.
Generally this type of site still should be on the same topic as your site.
directories which are well focused and are defined as an industry hub in my
Directory Warnings:
Some sites that pose as directories do not provide static text links and / or their
pages do not get indexed. Many of these databases will never provide any direct
traffic or link popularity. Additionally many directories require reciprocal linking
and use their sites to promote aggressive high margin products. If you link into
sites that primarily promote high margin items then you are sharing the business
risk that site owner is taking.
If you are to spend money on directory submission you should ensure that the
directory provides direct traffic or link popularity. You can ensure it helps your link
popularity by ensuring their directory pages have some PageRank on them, are in
Google’s cache (search Google for, and
check the links of listed sites to ensure they are static text links. When you scroll
over a link in the directory the status bar at the bottom should indicate the domain
that the link is pointing to and not some sort of redirect. You also can right click on
the link to copy link location and then past that to the address bar.
You can check PageRank by downloading the free Google Toolbar.
To ensure a page is not showing phantom PageRank you can check to
make sure the page is in Google’s cache. Search Google for
To ensure the links are indexed by search engines you want to make sure
that when you scroll over a listing in the directory that the status bar at the
bottom of the browser shows A few good
directories happen to show some funky characters for redirects. Yahoo is
the only major directory that I know of that show funky characters and still
provide text links that some search engines will index.
Most directories that show some funky tracking characters are not
providing static spiderable links. If in doubt ask questions at SEO
forums before spending any money.
Some redirect links do get indexed, but there is no simple litmus test to
ensure that they do get indexed. You can right click on and copy links from
within the directory and do a server header check on them. If they show a
301 redirect they will probably add to your link popularity. If they show a
302 redirect they probably will not add to your link popularity. If they
show a Java redirect then they do not count. When in doubt if a link
counts ask in a couple various SEO forums.
If you use the Safari browser you can use this tool to view PageRank. For
FireFox try the free extensions offered by Mozdev.
Crap Directories:
Some people buy a directory script, create a ton of categories, and then only add
links if people buy them.
The problem with this is that many categories will not have unique content. Many
of these same directories will list any business that wants to pay for a link.
If there is no unique content, or if the content is all sponsored links the site does
not add value to search engines then they may not want to index it.
You can view how many pages Google knows about from a directory by searching
Google for
Some directories, such as SevenSeek, do not have many listings as compared to the
number of pages in their site. This will cause some search engines to either avoid
indexing the site or only index a small portion of it. The index saturation of a site in
Google can be found by searching for signature text
Signature text for a site is any common text that appears on every page, such as the
copyright. Sites which consist of many pages with the same or similar content may
trip duplicate content filters. If you run a directory make sure you do not let search
engines index the add URL pages.
If you are using a content management system for your site make sure you
are not accidentally offering search engines the same (or near same) content
at multiple URL variations.
Places to Find Directories:
The value of a single
directory link is usually not
very great.
Directories add value after
you list in many of them,
especially if you use
various descriptive anchor
text combinations.
I created the Directory Archives which primarily should only list directories which
parse link popularity to sites listed in them or directories which look like they might
drive traffic to listed sites. In addition SearchEngineGuide and ISEDB each have a
large directory of directories (though many of the directories listed in those may
not parse link value).
Ensure that the directories pages are in Google’s cache and that the address bar
show the location of the site the link is going to before paying for placement in any
I also created a Microsoft Excel Directory Checklist sheet so you can track your
submissions to many general directories. Some of them are a bit sketchy, but some
of them are decent and most of them provide links for free or for a one time fee.
The Value of Directory Listings:
Most directory listings do not provide a ton of value by themselves. What makes
directories powerful is when you list your site in many independent directories.
If you have a keyword rich domain name it will help you get descriptive inbound
links from directories. Most sites on the web only have links from a few dozen
sites. By listing your site in a dozen or so quality directories and also getting links
from other sites you can quickly build up a great linking campaign at minimal cost.
Google Ignoring Some Directories:
Some directories have recently been removed from Google’s cache. Additionally
some of them have not had their cache dates updated in a great deal of time.
Google might be trying to slow the growth of directories by not counting the links
from many of them. Make sure you check the cache before paying for a listing.
Some of the directories will have a greater effect on relevancy in MSN or Yahoo!
than they do on Google so even if a directory is not counted by Google the link
price might still be cheap for its effects on other search relevancy algorithms.
Many directory owners are building multiple related directories. Some search
algorithms such as Google Hilltop will likely automatically filter out some of the
relevancy score from a second directory if it is easily identifiable as being related to
the first directory.
The one time listing fees make directories exceptionally appealing, but do expect
that some of the directories will eventually get hit by some of the search engines. In
my perspective, that cost is factored into the listing prices. I average out the link
costs for links from a number of sites.
The reason there are so many different pieces of information associated with
directories is for a good period of time they were pure and simple cheap marketing.
Instead of just discounting some of the links I believe Google may even place
negative weighting on some of the links from sites they define as low quality. Since
Google is so much more complex and harder to manipulate than Yahoo! and
MSN, and Yahoo! and MSN still place great weight even on many of the bad
directories it is hard to explain what directories count as quality links.
I think it is safe to say that when you look at directories such as Yahoo!, DMOZ,
JoeAnt, Gimpsy, and GoGuides that they probably count as good links in all the
major algorithms. I have still seen Google rank some sites well primarily based on
general directory links.
Search Engines
The following search engines are reviewed in order of search distribution from the
best of my knowledge.
Some of the first listed search engines may appear to have more content and more
information than the later listed search engines. The reasons that the top couple
search engines have much more data listed in their sections is that much of the data
from one section would carry over to the next section.
The order of these listings has nothing to do with the relevancy or quality of the
search results. They all provide quality results using similar algorithms.
Google Search Distribution:
Currently Google is powering around 50% of US search (Google, AOL, Earthlink,
Go, Netscape, and many others). More worldwide search statistics are available
Google shows up to 10 pay per click AdWords ads on their search results, but they
keep them separate from the regular (or organic) listings. There is no direct way to
pay Google money to list in their organic search results.
So how does Google work?
Google takes an empirical view of the linking structure of the web and rates pages
on a logarithmic scale based on what pages link to them. The Google Toolbar
provides a 0 to 10 scale to mimic the link popularity of listed sites. This helps you
determine how important Google thinks a site is.
Many webmasters hear a statement like this and want to run and exchange as
many links with as many people as they can. While Google would like you to
believe that their PageRank algorithm is the core of their search technology they
also use many other technologies to improve their search relevancy.
Sometimes these rings gain popularity, but once they are found out they may get
penalized and delisted. When you link to into the wrong circles you run the risk
of being associated with them. It is important to note that this PageRank value
is only one component of the Google search engine algorithm. Many times a PR
4 site will list above a PR 6 site because it was optimized better and has a well
defined descriptive inbound link profile (which means better keyword rich links
from more sites, and more related sites).
Many Myths about Google:
There are many myths about Google that are represented as fact by marketers trying
to make money. Misinformation spreads like wildfire because everyone wants to sound
like the smart person with all the answers. One example of the many myths about
Google is that you are limited to 100 links per page.
Google threw out that guidance based upon usability ideas. On pages with no link
popularity they will not want to follow many links. On pages with a large amount of link
popularity Google will scour thousands of links. Google’s page indexing limit is 101k,
though most pages should be smaller than that from a usability standpoint.
If you ever have questions SearchGuild and are two of the most
straightforward SEO forums on the web.
What Pages of My Site are Indexed by Google?
You can check to see what pages of your site are indexed by searching Google for mysite.
How do I Submit My Site to Google?
While Google also offers a free site submit option the best way to submit your site
is by having Google’s spider follow links from other web pages.
Where do I Rank in Google for My Keywords?
I use the free Digital Point keyword ranking tool to determine where I rank in
Google. Tracking various sites helps me determine some of the ways Google may
be changing their algorithm. If you sign up for the Google API service and are
doing lots of sketchy stuff then it makes it easy for Google to cross connect your
websites. The Digital Point keyword ranking tool also supports Yahoo! and MSN.
Google Backlink Check:
Backlinks is another way of saying “links into a page.”
When you check backlinks in Google ( it
only shows a small sampling of your total backlinks. Many links that do not show
up when you use the link: function in Google still count for your relevancy scoring.
In addition there is a time delay between when links are created and when they will
show up in search results.
To get a more accurate picture of links you will also want to check backlinks in
Yahoo!. Yahoo! often shows many backlinks that the Google search will not show.
The code to check Yahoo! backlinks is
Digital Point has a free tool which will track your Google position by keyword,
PageRank, and number of backlinks. Rusty Brick also recently created a free tool
which does Google backlink analysis.
How do I know what sites are good?
First off, common sense usually goes pretty far in this category. Secondly,
Google has a toolbar which shows how it currently views a web page or website.
The Google toolbar is one of the top search engine optimization tool for a person
new to search engine marketing. It works on windows and is downloadable at Finally, if you have doubts you probably do not want to
link to the site. You can also feel free to ask me or ask in various SEO forums.
PageRank is a measure of link popularity which can come and go. It’s not hard for
a successful business to rent a few high PageRank links into their site and then
leverage that link popularity for link exchanges. A site with decent PageRank can
get penalized just the same as a site with low PageRank. Usually you will want to
error on the side of caution off the start.
If you are using techniques that fall far outside of Google’s recommended
guidelines I would not recommend using their toolbar since the feedback the
toolbar provides may make it easy for them to link you to all of your websites.
Google Toolbar Broken?
1. Sometimes the Google Toolbar gets stuck at 0 when searching the web. If
you are unsure of the PageRank of a page go to a high PageRank site (like and then type the address of where you were just at in
the address bar of internet explorer. Usually this technique will unstick the
Keep in mind that Google has only been updating toolbar display
PageRank quarterly, so if a site is only a few months old it will not be
uncommon for it to show a PageRank 0 in the toolbar.
2. Using this toolbar you can see the PageRank of your top competitors and
who links to them. You may be able to get links from people who are
linking to your competitors. You need to enable the site information
button from the options menu. When it is turned on you should see a big
blue circle with a white letter I inside of it.
3. To find out who is linking to your competitors you can type in the Google search box. Keep in mind that
Google only shows a small sample of inbound links and other search
engines show better linkage data.
The toolbar is just an aid though, and should be combined with common
sense. If you see sites linking into awful websites or a site looks sketchy
then do not exchange links with them. If their site is highly unrelated to
yours then it might not be a good idea to link from a user experience angle.
5. If you use the Safari browser you can use this tool to view PageRank. For
other browsers try the free extensions offered by Mozdev.
Recent Algorithm Shifts:
In November of 2003 Google performed a major algorithm change. The goal of
the change was to make it harder to manipulate their search results. It is believed
that Google may have significantly incorporated Hilltop, Topic Specific PageRank,
and latent semantic indexing into their algorithm.
Over time it will become increasingly important to get links from the right
community and not just to perform random link exchange. For example, to a
search engine marketer a link from SearchEngineWatch (a search engine
information resource hub) may be worth much more than many random off topic
I still have seen significant evidence that off topic inbound links can improve
your Google rankings significantly, but likely this will eventually change.
In early 2004 Google also began to block the ability of certain sites to sell
PageRank. In addition Google seems to have set up a portion of their algorithm to
delay the effects of some links or to only allow them to parse partial link credit off
the start. These are all moves which are aimed at making manipulating the Google
index through link buying a much more expensive and much more unpredictable
It may take up to three or so months for the full effect of a link rentals or
new links to kick in.
Various Data Centers:
Google uses groups of data centers to process their search queries. When Google
updates algorithms or their refreshes their index the changes roll from one data
center to the next. When results rapidly change back and forth sometimes they are
tweaking algorithms, but more frequently you are getting search results from
different data centers. This free FireFox ShowIP extention tells you what IP
address your search query is being delivered from.
Google Sandbox:
Many new sites or sites which have not been significantly developed have a hard
time ranking right away on Google. Many well known SEOs have stated that a
good way to get around this problem is to place a site on a subdomain of a
developed site and after the site is developed and well indexed 301 redirect the site
to the new location.
About PageRank:
PageRank is a measure of connectivity. It is a rough approximation of the odds that
a random web surfer will cross your page. PageRank is caluculated by following
links throughout the web.
The problem with PageRank is that most industries and most ideas are not
exceptionally important. This means that if Google did place a heavy emphasis on
PageRank than webmasters could simply buy or rent a few high PageRank links
and dominate the searh results. That is not how it works though.
PageRank (also mentioned in The Anatomy of a Search Engine) as it relates to
SEO is over rated. Google making the concept easy to see and understand it allows
more people to talk about them and makes it easier for more people to explain
how search engines work using Google and PageRank as the vocabulary.
Google’s technology is not necessarily better / more effective than the
technologies owned by Yahoo!, MSN, or Ask Jeeves / Teoma.
Hilltop is an algorithm which reorganizes search results based on an expert rating
In the Hilltop white paper they talk about how they can use expert documents
to help compute relevancy. An expert document is a non affiliated page
which links to many related resources. If page A is related to page B and page
B is related to page C then a connection between A & C are assumed.
Additionally Hilltop states that it strongly considers page title and page
headings in relevancy scores (in fact these elements can be considered more
important than link text). Likely Hilltop also considers the links pointing into
the page and site which your links come from.
The benefit of Hilltop over raw PageRank (Google) is that it is topic sensitive and is thus generally harder to manipulate than buying some random high
power off topic link would be. The benefits of Hilltop over topic distillation
(Teoma) are that Hilltop is quicker & cheaper to calculate, and that it tends to
have more broad coverage.
When Hilltop does not have enough expert sites the feature can be turned off.
It is believed that Google might be using Hilltop to help sort the relevancy for
some of their search results.
Topic Sensitive PageRank:
Topic Sensitive PageRank biases both the query and the relevancy of returned
documents based upon the perceived topical context of the query.
The query context can be determined based on search history, user defined
input (such as search personalization – try Google Labs Search Personalization
if you are interested), or related information in the document from which the
query came from.
Topic Specific PageRank for each page can be calculated offline. Using an
exceptionally coarse topic set (for example, the top level Open Directory
Project categories) still allows Topic Sensitive PageRank to significantly
enhance relevancy over using PageRank alone, however TSPR can be applied
more specifically as well.
Since much of it is calculated offline Topic Specific PageRank can also be
rolled into other relevancy algorithms which are calculated in near real time.
I do not think it is exceptionally important for most webmasters to deeply
understand TSPR and Hilltop, other than to understand the intent of these
algorithms, which is to move away from grading the web on the whole.
Evaluating it based upon local topical communities.
Latent Semantic Indexing:
Latent semantic indexing allows machines to understand language by looking
at it from a purely mathematical viewpoint.
Latent semantic indexing adds an important step to the document
indexing process. In addition to recording which keywords a document
contains, the method examines the document collection as a whole, to
see which other documents contain some of those same words. LSI
considers documents that have many words in common to be
semantically close, and ones with few words in common to be
semantically distant. This simple method correlates surprisingly well
with how a human being, looking at content, might classify a
document collection. Although the LSI algorithm doesn't understand
anything about what the words mean, the patterns it notices can make it
seem astonishingly intelligent. Source
Latent semantic indexing is a rather expensive process and many SEO experts
debate to what extent major search engines may be using the technology. If
they are not using it much yet in time they surely will.
Most webmasters do not need to know much about LSI other than knowing
using a variety of inbound anchor text is important, and LSI will inherently
rank natural writing better than content which is clumsy and written with
keyword density in mind.
Google bought a company called Applied Semantics, which had a technology
called CIRCA, which is a natural language processing technology used to
conceptually understand content for targeting AdSense ads. They may use it to
refine their search relevancy as well.
Temporal Analysis:
Search engines can track how long things (sites, pages, links) have been in
existence and how quickly they change. They can track how long a domain has
been in existence, how often page copy changes, how page copy changes, how
large a site is, how quickly link popularity builds, how long any particular link
exists, how similar the link text is, how a site changes in rank over time, how
related linking sites are, and how natural linkage data looks.
In some cases it makes sense for resources to acquire a bunch of linkage data
in a burst. When news stories about a topic and search volumes on a particular
term are high it would also make sense that some sites may acquire a large
amount of linkage data. Most the time if links build naturally they build more
slowly and evenly.
If links build in huge spikes then search engines may discount – or even apply
a penalty – to the domain receiving that linkage data if those links do not build
in a somewhat regular pattern.
Stale pages may also be lowered in relevancy. A page may be considered fresh
if it changes somewhat frequently or if it continues to acquire linkage data as
time passes.
Google may also look at how often your site is bookmarked, who your
advertisers are, and other various feedback they can get from their toolbar.
Google was awarded a patent on March 31, 2005 covering these types of
topics (but in much more detail).
While I do not think they are already necessarily doing all the things they
mention in the patent I think they eventually may. The patent is interesting and
worth reading if you are deeply interested in SEO and information retrieval. If
you do not want to read it you may want to look at the ThreadWatch post that
mentioned it and the follow up thread.
TrustRank is an algorithm which can be used to bias PageRank by placing
additional authority on human reviewed trusted sites. Trust propagates out from
the trusted pages and sites to pages and sites they link to. TrustRank also can be
used to neutralize the effects of some types of low quality link building from
untrusted sources, as well as flag high PageRank low trust websites for human
Human Review:
Google claims everything is done algorithmically, but they need to refine the
algorithms and test the relevancy of their results. In June of 2005 Henk van Ess, of
SearchBistro, posted a remote search relevancy quality rater document and spam
document on his site.
These documents showed how Google asks remote raters to review search results.
Even if the review input is not directly used to alter the search results the guidance
in the documents shows what Google wants. One of the documents was dated
December 2003, so Google has been using human quality raters for a great length
of time.
I would link to the documents, but I believe that GoogleGuy asked that they not
be posted, and they may be taken down soon. I did an overview of the documents
here. I also link through to the original documents on that post in case they are still
The highlights are:
Most search spam sites are heavily automated and provide little useful,
unique, or compelling to the end user.
If people would have no reason to want to view an affiliate site instead of
going directly to the merchant then the site is to be rated as offensive.
For longterm success of affiliate sites or bare bone merchant sites it helps
to add some value added service that would make people want to visit your
site instead of your competitors.
Supplemental Index:
Google has an auxiliary index where it stores some documents it may not trust
enough to include in it’s regular index. Supplemental search results are used to
provide search results when not enough regular search results are available. Why do
sites get put in the supplemental results?
If a site is new and does not have many inbound links some of its pages
may end up in the supplemental results until the site builds up its
popularity and ages a bit. This is typical for some new URLs which have
not been crawled yet.
Duplicate content: for example giving a search engine multiple URLs
with the same content, or a directory full of empty categories with near
similar content on every page.
Too many variables in the URL
Host was down when Google tried to crawl
You can see what percent of a site is indexed by comparing the Google search for to signature text, where signature
text is text that appears on every page. Since pages in the supplemental results are
not trusted as much as pages in the regular index it is likely that Google places low
or no weight on links from many of the pages in the supplemental results.
The Perfect Link:
Google using multiple algorithms in conjunction with each other can allow them to
place exceptional positive bias on links which fit most or all their bolt on
algorithms. This means the best links are those from:
Well trusted sites (sites which were chosen as seed sites or linked to from
seed sites)
Sites that are on your theme.
Pages on that site about your topic which is linked to from sites on your
topic and also links to other resources similar to your site.
The anchor text would include some versions of your primary keywords.
How to Succeed in Google:
Google usually lists a site within a few days to a month. During the first month or
two it is common for your site to go into and out of their database many times
until you have built up sufficient link popularity. Link building can help get your
site indexed and keep you in the index.
Google primarily focuses its algorithm on linkage data. On page criteria is
weighted exceptionally lowly for shorter and highly competitive search phrases. To
do well in Google you will need to target less competitive phrases using many
different pages, or think of ways to get others within your community to want to
link to your site using your primary keywords in the link text. Some of the more
common ideas for improving your link count are to:
Many mixed anchor
text keyword rich
inbound links from
many different sites
(from various IP
ranges) is the single
best way to improve
your rankings across
all search engines.
Join trade organizations.
List your site in directories.
Submit press releases via sites such as Using PR
Web and paying $80 can get you distribution in Google news and Yahoo!
news. Press releases should usually be newsworth, although most of them
tend to be pure crap. I believe Google News has a 65 character limit on it’t
titles, and Yahoo! has a 150 character limit. Both tend to favor longer copy
around the 400 to 600 word range, although a short useful press release is
better than a long useless one. You can look at a few current press releases
on PR Web, Google news, or Yahoo! news for formatting examples. Don
Crowther has good PDF reports offering templates and press release tips
at also does press
releases for an affordable rate.
Create a quality topical directory one level above your category (slightly
Write compelling articles and get them syndicated.
Sponsor 501C organizations (or buy/rent other links), or sponsor other
Reciprocate links with other quality sites.
Place advertisements on relevant related sites.
You will still want to structure your page properly using heading tags, page titles,
and the other page elements to help you rank well in all search engines, but
currently links are what matter most with Google.
Also it is important to note that PageRank is a logarithmic value, and one related
PR7 or PR8 link is worth much more than 3 or 4 PR2 or PR3 links. This is why it
is super important to think of ways to get the best topical hubs to want to link to
Off topic links still count toward link popularity and PageRank. If you can get a
few links from within your community then you may receive a great ranking boost
by sponsoring a few non profits or renting a few strong inbound links from other
websites. If you are in a competitive field you will probably want to build many on
topic links.
Anchor text: (inbound link text) is the single most important element in
Google’s current algorithm and is worth far more than PageRank alone. Good
anchor text combined with on topic links will eventually yield strong search engine
Since Google began delaying the effect of inbound links to new sites it can take up
to 3 months from when your inbound links begin to age for it to pay off in the
Google search results for competitive terms. With Google you want to build
linkage data over time to minimize the chances of it appearing unnatural.
If Google believes your site to be a trusted authority the delay time is not as
noticeable and may not even exist.
Advanced Google Tips:
The most time consuming part of SEO is building a linking campaign. Tools or
ideas which help us save time doing this are extremely invaluable.
When looking at a competitors backlinks (
add &num=100 at the end of the address bar. By doing this Google
will cluster the backlinks by site and make it quicker and easier to look
through them. Google only shows a small sample of backlinks though.
Boolean search operators and different page elements can make
finding backlinks far easier. Instead of only searching for links by
looking at competitors backlinks it may be easier to use the AND function
and search page titles or URLs and keywords at the same time.
You can also classify domain extension or specific site ideas in your
backlink search. Inurl:+”.edu” AND (intitle:links OR intitle:partners OR
intitle:resources OR intitle:engines) AND (“searchenginewatch” OR
“search engine watch”).
Sometimes there are more than a 1,000 results. The Google search
index will only let you go through the first 1,000 results at the most for any
search. If you are getting too many matching results you can specify
filepath. An example search like this might me “search engine marketing”
intitle:”link partners” (*.htm OR *.html).
Filtering out a site. If there is a specific site which keeps clouding up your
link search you can filter them out by placing in your search string.
In Google you are not able to use the link: function with other search
operators. In Yahoo! you can.
As you filter the data with more and more filters you will be able to deeply
see different parts of the web. If you add too many filters then much of the
results will seem random or otherwise useless.
Special Google SEO Tools:
In section 9 of this chapter I will cover some of the more advanced linking tools I
use for most of my link research. There are a couple free tools I recommend using
which were made just for Google.
Top25Web PageRank lookup tool: if you are unsure if your toolbar is
broken (or if you are not using a Windows computer with the toolbar installed)
you can use this free PageRank lookup tool to get the PageRank of any page.
Proogle / Prog: Prog is a search interface which looks like Google with the
exception that it displays PageRank underneath each of the pages listed in the
search results. You can do a backlink check and set the number of page results
to 100 per page to quickly scour backlinks to a competitors site. This will help
give you an idea as to what are the most important backlinks into their site
without needing to purchase any link software. You also can use Prog to do a
quick analysis of the competitive landscape of a search phrase.
GoogleBar: Using the GoogleBar with this downloadable hack (which may
have privacy issues) will allow you to view PageRank even on a Mac.
Google TouchGraph: Not really an exciting SEO tool, but it is a very cool
looking tool which graphs out the sites related to whatever site you enter.
Google and Spam:
Google is primarily a mathematical company and they usually state that they try to
handle spam via algorithms.
While the term algorithm can be used loosely and there is human intervention, but
I am told that they do not specifically respond to most spam reports. You can
report spam to them, but do not expect it to have much immediate effect on search
results. Generally time spent reporting spam to Google would be better spent
making a better site. Also, some competitors can get a bit feisty if they are snitched
on. I know a guy that got so mad at being turned in that a month later he ranked 1,
2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 10. He then emailed the snitch thanking him for the motivation to
create all those other pages.
If your site is kicked out of the index for an automated spam penalty it will usually
come back after 60 days if the thing that triggered the spam penalty has been
removed. You also can send them a re inclusion request email to [email protected]
or [email protected] after you have cleaned up your site explaining a sob
story of how some SEO company ripped you off. If you are still having problems
after emailing them a few times you can call them at 650-330-0100. Google usually
will not reply to most bans. If your site is manually banned you stand a slim chance
of getting back in the index unless you are a large advertiser or you getting banned
was a large public issue.
While they do not openly and publicly advertise it, big spenders on Google
AdWords can get one on one ranking consultations.
Google’s webmaster guidelines are located at
Problems with Google’s Technology:
Since Google has the broadest distribution people also work the hardest to game
their system.
Google tends to take the view that any relevancy manipulation is inherently wrong
and the SEOs are the enemy. In doing this Google often prevents many quality
resources from ranking and ends up occasionally having relevancy which is
substandard. They would rather make their own results slightly substandard than
allow others to manipulate their index.
Jeff Dean, a Google Engineer, also talks about Google’s technology a bit in this
Google Hijacking:
Sometimes people can hijack the search results of other webmasters. This is usually
rather uncommon in most fields, but if you get into high margin areas (such as
prescription drugs) it it much more common.
In May of 2005 Google actually had one of their sites accidentally hijacked. Notice
below how the Google AdSense site is showing up as being part of the domain.
Not too long ago Google changed their facts & fiction page to include:
There's almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or
have your site removed from our index. Your rank and your inclusion are
dependent on factors under your control as a webmaster, including content
choices and site design.
While the hijackings are uncommon, if you are going to play in hyper competitive
fields make sure you make friends with some people who can help you out of
sticky situations. People usually do hijacks via 302 redirects, meta redirects, or a
combination of the two. An unwritten law amongst many of the most aggressive
SEOs is that you should never hijack a listing and you should never file a spam
report. If you do, most likely you will not like some of the retaliation actions which
other webmasters may do.
Froogle is Google’s shopping search engine. It searches the web to find products
and match them up with their associated images. In addition to scouring the web
for information Froogle also accepts free data feeds. Information provided through
a data feed will list above the information found via the web crawl.
To optimize your site for great Froogle listings you will either want to make sure
that your site is designed to make it obvious which pictures go with what prices and
descriptions, or submit a data feed. Data feeds are free to submit and expire after
30 days (so it is a good idea to submit a feed every few weeks). There are many
automated tools which will automatically submit your data feeds once a day to
ensure your Froogle data is current. It is a good idea to use descriptive image
names and titles as well as use your keywords in the data you submit to get top
Froogle placement.
For more information on Froogle see Froogle Information for Webmasters.
Yahoo! Search
What is Yahoo! Search?
The Yahoo! Directory and Yahoo! Search are two entirely separate things. The
directory is a manually reviewed collection of websites. Yahoo! Search is powered
through various search technologies purchased by Yahoo!. Yahoo! Search probably
serves over 100 million searches each day. The directory would likely be lucky to
serve more than a few million searches a day.
Yahoo! Search is powered through a partial rewrite and combination of different
pieces of what was once AltaVista, AllTheWeb, and Inktomi. As they launched the
new Yahoo! Search product they rewrote the Inktomi core to make it easier to
update and improve its relevancy on longer search queries. Yahoo! Search also is
leveraging the power of spam filters which are refined by Yahoo! email processing.
Yahoo! Search Distribution:
Yahoo! technology now powers around 27% of US search including Yahoo!,
AllTheWeb, AltaVista, and many other sites that syndicate or use portions of these
search indexes.
Yahoo! places Overture ads at the top and bottom of Yahoo! search results in a
blue box, and also places ads on the right side of search results. On some of their
partner sites these ads are blended so that they look very similar to regular search
results. In Yahoo! the top and bottom ads are in a blue colored box.
Yahoo! also has a paid inclusion program which allows them to generate revenue
from the regular (or organic) listings.
The Yahoo! Search Index is Shared:
The Yahoo! Search index is also used by AltaVista and AllTheWeb and other
search properties that were recently powered by any of these indexes. Each of the
engine websites may still use their own algorithm to organize search results from
the common search index.
Editorial Approach to Search:
Yahoo! believes that a hybrid of human review and mathematics works better than
just math alone. Sites included in the Yahoo! Directory or in the Overture Site
Match paid inclusion program are given an editorial review. Yahoo! has also stated
that some of their editors randomly review portions of the web. It is believed that
sites which receive a review may eventually be given a small ranking boost, though
Yahoo! has stated that review does not affect relevancy. Yahoo! grants 501C charity
and many educational websites free inclusion into the free side of their Content
Acquisition Program.
What Pages of My Site are Indexed by Yahoo!?
You can check to see what pages of your site are indexed by searching Yahoo! for While Yahoo! also offers a free site submit option (you
must be logged in to use it), the best way to submit your site is by having Yahoo!’s
spider follow links from other web pages.
Where do I Rank for My Keyword in Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Search Rankings is a way to quickly check where your site ranks for any
given term in Yahoo!. Shawn Hogan recently also started allowing people to track
their Yahoo! and MSN ranking positions on the Digital Point keyword tracker,
although it will require you to place a php page on your server.
Also if you want to enter your data and have it automatically tracked you can use
Yahoo! Tracker. Keep in mind that if you do sketchy stuff and make it easy to
cross connect your sites that it can come back to hurt you.
You can also look for other Yahoo! SEO Tools at the Yahoo! Developer Network.
Yahoo! Backlink Check:
Backlinks is another way of saying “links into a page.”
When you check backlinks in Yahoo! (
it usually shows most of the known links into a site. Often times Yahoo! counts
many links that may not be counted by other search engines. Yahoo! has also had
some trouble with 301 redirects and may show the wrong URL locations for some
of the backlinks.
You can check the backlink into the home page specificly by specifying the full
URL of the home page (
You can check the links pointing into any specific page on a site using their
individual page link check command
(link: Ensure you include the http: part
when checking links pointing into individual pages.
Yahoo! will also let you look through a competitors backlinks and specify a domain
type. This makes it easy to see if they have any .gov, .edu, or similar backlinks
which would be well trusted based upon their extension.
weighting on page copy.
Using keyword rich page
subheaders can go a long
way to improve your
rankings in Yahoo!.
Yahoo! and Meta Tags:
Most major search engines ignore the Meta Keywords tag and place low weighting
on the Meta Description tag. Yahoo! specifically asks webmasters for this data.
Yahoo! believes the more information they know about a page, the better they can
evaluate it.
Mike Grehan interviewed Jon Glick (of Yahoo! Search) and he stated that the meta
description tag is treated similar to page content. He also stated that the meta
keywords tag is used for inclusion into a subset of search results, but has no effect
on relevancy. I also covered the meta tags above in the meta tag section earlier in
this ebook.
How to do Well in Yahoo!:
Yahoo! usually lists a site within about a month. The best way to get your site
submitted is by building a strong linking campaign. If you need to get your site
indexed quickly Yahoo! does have a paid inclusion program which I generally do
not recommend using for most websites. Site Match is recommended for large
databases that are hard to crawl, sites with rapidly rotating stock, or sites which
need the tracking provided by the Site Match program.
While also factoring in linkage data, Yahoo! Search places a bit more weight on “on
the page” factors than Google does. Yahoo! Search results seem to be a bit easier
to manipulate than Google’s search results.
To do well in Yahoo! Search your pages should have a decent keyword prominence
and be properly structured using keyword rich heading tags, subheadings,
descriptive linking and navigation (as mentioned above in the “how to optimize
your pages” part of this ebook).
High rankings for more competitive terms will require you to build a linking
campaign. Yahoo! Search may not be as discriminatory as Google is with scrubbing
out bad links. Off topic inbound links are still somewhat powerful in help you
improve your Yahoo! rankings, though it is usually best to get links from similar
sites when possible.
At the 2004 Las Vegas WMW World of Search Conference Yahoo! stated that they
preferred if you have somewhat shallow directory paths of 3 or so levels deep or
(example: = good)
(example: = bad)
At the 2004 Chicago SES conference Jon Glick stated that Yahoo! looks at both
the links to a page and the links to the site to help determine the relevancy scores
of a particular page.
Why Yahoo! is Somewhat Focused on “On The Page”
Yahoo! has a paid inclusion program which allows them to generate revenue from
people who join their paid inclusion program. By relying upon page content
Yahoo! makes it easier for it’s paid inclusion members (or other editorial reviewed
content participants) to improve their rankings.
There are some rumors in the SEO community that Yahoo! may eventually alter
the paid inclusion program to include a flat fee version. I cover paid inclusion in
depth near the end of this ebook (in a section called “paid inclusion”).
Yahoo! and Spam:
Yahoo! actively edits spam out of their search results. If someone you are
competing with is not complying with Yahoo!’s guidelines you may want to point
that out to Yahoo!. There is a chance that Yahoo! will remove your competitor’s site
if they deem it as spam. Again, most of the time it is recommended that you do not
use spam reports unless you are prepared for webmasters to play hardball.
Since it is easy to get delisted via a manual review it is suggested that you not use
overly aggressive spammy techniques to achieve top Yahoo! placement. Also, do
not submit your site to their paid inclusion program if it does not have original and
unique content or your site may be rejected and removed from their search index.
If your site gets deindexed from Yahoo! and you think it was due to not following
their editorial guidelines then clean up the spammy stuff and submit your site to the
Overture Site Match program. Submitting your site will get it reviewed and
recrawled by Yahoo! Slurp if the editors see your site has been fixed.
If your page was removed and you can not afford Overture Site Match read the
Yahoo! spam guidelines (
and request a site review at [email protected]
Additionally Yahoo! has a search help page which may help answer some of your
questions about their search technology
Yahoo! and Affiliate Websites:
Yahoo! tries to edit out many of the "site in a box" type affiliate sites as well as any
content which does not add value to their search experience. Yahoo! does not hate
affiliate websites, they hate unoriginal replicated content as it degrades the quality of
their search results if a searcher sees the same things over and over again.
It does not hurt you to have affiliate links on your website as long as you also have
some original content.
The Problems With Yahoo!’s Technology:
Since Yahoo! actively edits their search results they will be forced to edit them over
and over.
After they remove a site for spam it is very easy for someone to reduplicate that site
(and maybe even use a slightly altered version) at another location.
Yahoo! Mindset:
Some searches are commercial in nature and some are informational in nature.
Major search engines have the ability to distinguish what search queries are more
likely to be commercial and what search queries are more likely to be informational.
Search engines can also classify whether they think a particular result is commercial
or informational in nature. In the search results search engines like to show a mix
of result types so that they have a greater chance of solving the searchers needs.
Yahoo! Mindset is a beta test tool which allows Yahoo! searchers to bias the results
toward commercial or informational type resources.
New Yahoo! Patent:
Yahoo! filed a patent application on May 12, 2005 for using MyYahoo! data to help
improve search relevancy. Bill Slawski links to the patent and reviews it in this
The major search engines are working hard to get a large enough collection of user
data to be able to use it to augment link analysis in determining search relevancy.
MSN is one of the top 4 search properties on the web. MSN Search switched from
Yahoo! to MSN’s technology February 1st, 2005. MSN has about 13% market
Their pay per click ads are currently delivered by Overture. MSN aims to sell all ads
internally by the end of the year. Currently they place a few ads at the top and
bottom and some in the right rail, similarly to how Yahoo! displays ads.
MSN has a search near me feature. Sites can gain a relevancy boost in local search
results if they use their address on their site using the following format:
1 Microsoft Way Redmond, WA, 98052
Some of their search results show pages based primarily on page content. The
MSN Search technology is also somewhat easy to manipulate with bulk non
themed low quality links and other old basic level SEO strategies (such as spammy
domain names and keyword rich content). One friend told me that it reminded
him of Yahoo! Search from 3 years ago.
In February 2005 I started a new site and through about $2,000 worth of directory
submission and link building I had the site ranked top 10 in MSN for a competitive
single word query. One of the major problems with doing that was in building links
that quickly is it will likely make top Google rankings take a much longer time.
Their search will likely evolve rapidly throughout the remainder of the year. You
can learn more about the MSN Search beta product by reading their blog located
here:, and their site owner suggestion
guidelines are located at
MSN also released their own ad service in France and Singapore. They intend to
roll out their own ad sales service to dump Overture sometime near the end of the
year. MSN currently does sell some of the ads direct if you have over $75,000 a
year to spend on ads from MSN.
Teoma / Ask Jeeves
Teoma Search Distribution:
Ask Jeeves and Teoma have a distribution of around 5% of US search. Ask bought
out Excite, MyWay, and Iwon. This purchase doubled their distribution and may
allow them to gain further distribution by cross branding these search sites.
InterActive corporation made a bid for Ask Jeeves. If the sales goes through
InterActive will likely cross promote Ask on their other properties such as,, and
On the Ask Jeeves site they blend Google AdWords ads at the beginning of search
results on highly commercial terms. These ads look very similar to other listings on
the page. If a term is highly commercial they may also display more ads at the end
of the search results. Ask Jeeves also sells banner based advertising and Kelkoo
product ads for some of their more expensive words.
On the Teoma site they only list a couple ads and keep them separate from the
regular results, but most of their traffic comes from their other search properties,
such as Ask Jeeves. Below is a screenshot of the results part of an Ask Jeeves
results page
Notice how I labeled news and press release spam at the top of the search results.
Most search engines usually list their ads above any of their vertical search engines.
The two things that really hurt Ask Jeeves are how they blend the ads and how
prominently they display them.
What is Teoma and How Does it Work?
Teoma is the search engine which powers Ask Jeeves. The core of the Teoma
search technology is based upon the idea that society and the internet consist of
tiny communities which self organize themselves into hubs and authorities.
Hubs and Authorities:
An authority is a site which is linked to by many sites covering that topic. A hub
links to many sites on a particular topic. It is said that a good authority has links
from many good hubs, and good hubs link to many good authorities.
If you read advanced search engine papers and information mining topics such as
latent semantic indexing and multi dimensional scaling you can learn how some of
those technologies are similar to what Teoma does.
Search engines create a reverse index of all the terms in their index. For example,
maybe 10,000,000 pages have the word cheese in them. After a user searches
Teoma will look at the local term space to find similar terms and the local
communities. Teoma takes a snapshot of the area and bases most of its rankings
off of local interconnectivity of that subset of search results.
Here is an oversimplified image. Notice how pages which link to the same pages
may be assumed to be related. Also pages which are linked to from a common
page may also be deemed as related.
In the image E may or may not be an authority page depending on what type of
link it is. If a page has a link from only one hub page then it may not be topically
related. For example, many hosts or web designers add designed by or hosted by
links on some client websites.
When Teoma is Most Effective:
Teoma works more effectively at organizing data in larger developed categories
where there are many links pointing back and forth to reinforce the structure of a
Effect of Links on Teoma:
Teoma does most of its link work after the user searches, and primarily focuses on
local communities, so:
It is hard to measure link popularity in Teoma.
Off topic links have extremely little effect on search results.
On topic links are exceptionally important.
How to do Well in Teoma:
Teoma is usually one of the slower engines at picking up new websites. The
average time for picking up new sites is about a month and a half. They have a paid
inclusion program which will speed up the process, but it is hard to rank well for
competitive terms in Teoma until you are strongly embedded in the local
community link structure.
Teoma is focused on local
/ topical communities.
The best way to rank well
in Teoma is to link out to
related sites and get many
related sites to link to your
Since the primary focus of Teoma is on local communities it can take a long time
to rank well in Teoma. You will need to find ways to embed yourself in the correct
local communities to list well for competitive terms.
Teoma has three sections to its search engine results pages. The results section is
filled with the sites that are considered the authority websites. They also provide
refine and resources sections. Refine is a list of other terms in the local associated
term space. For example, cheese may have phrases like cheddar in the refine
section. Resources are the sites are considered topical hubs.
Teoma and Spam:
I actually do not know a bunch about their spam policies as it rarely comes up in
discussion. They have some of their policies listed when you apply for paid
inclusion and you can report spam to [email protected]
The Problems with Teoma’s Technology:
Since Teoma is so focused on local communities it is easy for people to spoof false
topical authority onto a site by creating many sites within a specific theme that
commonly link to the spoof site and other randomized authoritative sites on that
Since Teoma does not provide a ton of traffic and Ask Jeeves throws a ton of ads
on the top of their search results there is less of a strain on their algorithm by
people manipulating search results to gain profit than there is on Google or
Comparing Search Results
Since different search engines weigh different parts of their algorithms differently
they can all have similarly relevancy while having significantly different search
Some people are quick to ask how they are being penalized by one search engine
because they rank well in one search engine and not another. While many sites do
get penalized for aggressive spamming techniques, most sites that do not rank well
usually just fail to satisfy the specific ranking algorithm for that specific engine in
Google is primarily focused on anchor text and link popularity.
This is probably the single
most important concept in
this whole ebook.
Many people look for links
just thinking “link,” but often
this is not the most effective
way to do link building. If
you think of the web as a
huge social network and
think of links as relationships
you have a huge advantage
over many competitors.
Yahoo! focuses a bit more on “on the page” content (while still relying a
decent amount on link popularity).
Teoma is focused on local communities.
It is far easier to spend a good bit of time learning how to get links versus
constantly tweaking pages over and over again. I do not worry much about exact
keyword density. I know that Yahoo! usually likes it a bit higher and Google usually
likes it a bit lower.
While the on page criteria can vary from engine to engine the ability of off page
factors to raise your rankings is limitless. Different search engines will evaluate
different links in different ways. In general they all like links pointing at your
website, especially links related to your field. Some search engines (such as Teoma)
may also boost your rankings if you link out to related resources.
Thumbshots has a cool ranking tool (often down / broken due to high traffic)
which shows you how sites rank in different search engines so you can glance at
how well different algorithms overlap one another. Due to heavy load this tool is
not available all the time.
Text in Incoming Links
What Link Text is Good to Use?
If you link to this site, a link with the words "Search Engine Optimization" or
“SEO” is more valuable than a link that says "other site." Evaluating the text in the
links, along with who links where, is one of the major ways search engines get
feedback from external sources.
Search engines can look for noun verb patterns in text, but link analysis is the most
effective way to determine document quality.
How Powerful is Link Text?
Many bloggers are politically outspoken and view George Bush in a less than
favorable light. Hundreds of people have linked to his biography page using the
phrase "miserable failure" as the link text. This Google search should show how
powerful the internet is, and how powerful link text is.
Part of why it is so expensive to build a current search engine is that all of this
feedback and linking takes time to measure and collect. The whole time you are
collecting it, everything is changing. The text used in links is going to be very
important in the foreseeable future.
Ranking a Site That Does Not Exist:
If I were to attempt this with a client site I would deserve to be shot. I changed my
DNS and moved one of my sites at about the exact same time. The DNS change
quickly propagated through and my site took a while to load to the new server.
In spite of the site not being there my blank site ( still
ranked at number 6 for “search engine marketing”.
So you don’t repeat my site moving error, the proper way to move hosts is to set
up the new site, point the DNS at the new location, and then take the old site
down after a week or a few weeks.
Why are Links so Powerful?
When we write stuff about ourselves we have a tendency to lie. It is human nature to
boost your own site. This is why meta tags and page copy are nowhere near as
powerful as they once were.
Links from other webmasters are viewed by search engines as unbiased third party
votes. While Yahoo! tends to put more weight on page copy than most other major
search engines do, who links to you and with what words are the #1 ranking
criteria for competitive phrases in all major search engines.
Many people look for links just thinking “link,” but often this is not the most effective
way to do link building. If you think of the web as a huge social network and think of
links as relationships you have a huge advantage over your competition.
You can do many manipulative things to make your ideas appear better than they are,
but if you can find more natural ways to embed yourself in the social structure of the
web you will likely become extremely successful.
Links from Directories:
Some directories will only list your real site name. When submitting to the major
directories you want to get the best listing you can, but many of the workers work
free. You must realize that they are helping you (often for free). To make their job
easy ensure you:
Submit your site to the right category.
Read the directory submission tips.
Check to see how other sites in that category are listed. If they primarily are
listed by site title make sure you submit your actual site title. If they seem to
be a bit liberal (allowing keyword stuffed listings) you may want to submit
with a more liberal and keyword dense title.
Use a suitable description.
View the other entries in the category so you can see the style of the other
Emulate the style of other listings, but provide your own original factual
details in the description. Try your best to state what sets you apart or what
is your unique selling proposition.
This is another reason why it is important to pick a site name which has
your primary keywords in the URL. Keyword rich domain names lead to
keyword rich links from directories.
Links from Other Resources:
Usually when getting links in many places other than directories, they are more
liberal and will list your site as you please. Again, view how they have their other
links and emulate them.
If a site is requesting a super optimized link back they should have no problem
with giving you a great link. When getting optimized links a good way of doing it is
to have the link be your keywords and have the description be something like "site
A offers bla bla bla..."
Vary Link Text:
All the links should not have the same exact text in them as it could be a sure sign
of rank manipulation. You want to mix it up and use different text links from
different sites. This will make it appear as natural linking to search engines.
There are no set rules, but mixing it up will prevent you from flagging spam filters
which currently exist or may soon be added to search engines.
When I get links into my SEO Book site I frequently use the following anchor text:
SEO Book
Aaron Wall
Aaron Wall’s SEO Book
Search Engine Optimization Book
SEO Book: Search Engine Optimization
sometimes I may use a few other variations such as: SEO Ebook, SEO
Blog, or SEO News
I also occasional use what some would consider to be bad link text
sometimes. Rarely using things like “here”, “click here”,, and may help make your link
popularity look more natural.
You want to use a few semantically similar phrases and many anchor text variations
to make your anchor text look as natural as it can.
Using Links to Capture the Tail End of Search:
Many people optimize their sites for stuff like “purple widgets” and forget to
optimize for more specific or related terms. You can’t always optimize your page
for all the terms you like, but you can add some modifier or descriptive words in
some of the inbound link text to try to rank well in a slightly broader keyword
basket. Some example link text might be
Buy Purple Widgets
Purple Widget Store
Purple Widget Sale
Doing this will mean that it may take longer to rank well for purple widgets, but it
means you will likely rank for many more specific queries around that keyword
termspace in a quicker time period.
Giving away Tools or Knowledge for Linkage Data:
Many sites build a ton of free linkage data by creating industry standard tools. I
paid a friend only $400 to create the Hub Finder tool and in its first month of
existence it probably got at least $1,000 worth of free links. Digital Point has a ton
of free links from the tools they give away.
If you have great free tools on your site you can get a good amount of links from
them. If you place tools on other sites make sure you also put a few links on them
such that you also improve your linkage profile by distributing them them.
Paul Graham is a great example of a writer who gains a ton of free linkage data by
giving away knowledge. His How to Start a Startup article is a classic example of an
article that built a ton of linkage data.
In a large social network as long as you think about scalablility it is hard to give too
much away. The more you give away the more you get back.
Framing, Controversy & Story Telling:
Framing is a concept well known in politics. It is a word used to describe for what
language you use to describe things. Sometimes words are more important than the
actual goals of your efforts and offerings.
The yellow Support Our Troops ribbons on most SUVs are made in China, and the
US has cut taxes, cut hazardous duty pay, and cut veteran benefits while calling
back reservists using a backdoor draft. Anyone who dare criticize the ribbons
would be called unpatriotic.
Backdoor draft would be an example of an anti war frame. Extension of honorable service
might be a pro war frame.
If you create an idea or campaign that is hard to dislike, or one which mentioning it
causes controversy, then you will likely gain many links. Don’t Think of an
Elephant is a short book about framing from a liberal political perspective.
Seth Godin’s All Marketers are Liars is a book about how consumers lie to
themselves to justify their actions. Good marketers tell stories to match the bias
and worldviews of their customers.
Customer support is a large part of the story customers will tell other prospective
customers. One time I ordered something from an internet marketing guru and
never got it. They told me that I was all screwed up and I needed to whitelist their
email address. Seems to me they knew what the problem was, why blame it on me?
Sometimes people who download this ebook have the page freeze up during
download or something go wrong in the payment processing cycle. When
problems occur I try to give them customer service as quickly as possible and never
blame them because technology does mess up sometimes, and blaming them
would leave a bad impression in their mind.
If I provide a quick courteous response within a couple of minutes that is
remarkable and means they will be more inclined to think my product is good and
say nice things about me.
Semi Official Article Names:
Many people link to things using their official names. When you write an article you
can create a name which is somewhat keyword rich to help pick up links with those
words in the link text. After time passes and you have a few links you can change
the title to pick up slightly different terms in the link text, or to create an article title
that is more descriptive and compelling.
Keep in mind that if you are too overt with how you mix things up someone might
call you out on the technique.
Creating Tools & Content Based Around Linking
Sometimes when doing link analysis you come across pages that would be
appealing to get links from, but may not fit the profile of a page or site that the
owner of the page in question would likely link to.
Of all the pages on the web, most of them are not overtly amazingly
thoughtful or original. With that being said, it costs next to nothing to write an
article or hire an article writer to write about a topic which could likely gain
links from various trusted or authoritative resources.
For most people it is easier to create something worth promoting than trying
to promote something not worth promoting. Along those lines of thinking, it
is easier to create something people care about if you use their interests as the
source of the content or idea.
Whether or not you care about Search Engine Spam, it is easy to let the author
of a page about the topic think you care by writing a piece that cares, even if
your only goal is the link.
Of course, you don't want to destroy your brand value in the process, but
there should be ways to use tact and get a link without writing something that
is untrue.
If the thought or reasoning behind the article does not totally agree with you,
then it might be a good occasion to hire a guest writer.
Exchanging Links
Does it Work?
I believe exchanging links can go a long way if you can find a way to do it
economically and stay fairly on topic. As of May 26, 2005 the Blue Gecko SEO
forums were ranking at #10 for “seo” and it looked as though most of his links
come for link exchanges associated with a reciprocal link web designer directory he
When asking people to
link to your site, the most
important factors are to be
personal about the link
request and appeal to their
Be Personal:
The best way to go about exchanging links is to be as personal about it as you can.
Look around their website and try to find personal information. The more you find
the better you are.
When submitting your site, try to submit it to the person, not a general info
submission. If you can state where your link should go on their site and how it
would improve their users experience then you stand a good chance of getting a
link. Off topic somewhat personal statements showing you share similar interests
as some of their past experiences on their site may make you seem more human
like and more connected with their interests. It thus becomes easier to get links.
Proper Link Request Buyline:
Another good idea is to make the buy line of the email something like "SEO Book
website suggestion." Odds are that I am going to open that. Feedback is a
fundamental part of any successful business so I have to open it.
I like using the word suggestion versus feedback. If you use feedback they may feel
like you are tricking them when they see a link suggestion. If you use the word
suggesting it is harder for them to think that way and they are highly inclined to
open the email. Getting them to open the email is at least half of the battle.
Email to Use:
When building links you are more inclined to have a higher close rate if you use an
email address from the site you are exchanging links for. Hotmail and Yahoo! mail
type accounts probably do not close as well.
Scouting Out Potential Link Partners:
A good way to find candidates for link exchange is to use the Google toolbar. Do a
search and find your top few competitors. Go down the list, and one at a time
perform a backward link check. See the sites that link to them and see if you can
trade links with those same sites.
Also, look at the category those sites are in and use the Google directory to get the
best sites from those categories to link to you. (To do a backwards link check of a
competitors website you type in the search box.)
Some of the link tools listed in on the next page will also make it easy to find link
partners rather quickly.
The Limits of Reciprocal Linking:
I still believe that reciprocal linking is highly effective, but one of its greatest limits
is opportunity cost. As your time becomes more valuable and you learn more
sometimes it is cheaper to create tools or ideas that will build authoritative links
instead of manually going after link exchanges.
There are a variety of link exchange networks. A few of the more popular ones are
Link Market, Links 4 Trade, Links Manager, and Link Metro. Some of these
networks may help you save time, but do not look for them to be the end to end
solution to your marketing needs.
I tend to view the web as a whole as my link pool, because if you are willing to
work hard enough and create the right content you can get almost anyone to link
to you. Most link networks suffer from the problem that was mentioned by Brett
Tabke when he closed the Buddy Links program:
“You must ask yourself why sites would join BL in the
first place? Because they couldn't get listed in the
search engines. That left us at times 'bottom'
WeBuildPages made a query combination tool which can also be used to find
link partners by tracking various searches on different search engines.
While link trading can work it is only one piece of an effective long term SEO
An example problem with only relying on reciprocal links is some people have
gone so far as to email another sites link partners, asking them to remove the
links to the other site, while spoofing the email to make it look like the other
site sent the email. Sometimes 10 well trusted links have more value than 100
less impressive links.
The Cost of Links:
Some people are afraid of certain links because they think those links cost too
much money. An expensive link can also be a good deal though.
If a link is expensive, if the cost of obtaining it is a significant amount of
money, a long time wait, or the approval from a webmaster who is a stickler
for quality, it means those links are not going to be easy to get. People who
create $5 sites hoping to double their money will not usually be acquiring links
that take hundreds of dollars or many hours to get.
Finding Niche Directories:
You can do a search for "your keyword + directory" "your keyword + add url"
"your keyword + submit site", any of them. Start thinking of ideas like that and
finding link exchange partners or sources of inbound links should be no problem.
You can search across multiple different search engines and even search for various
file extensions. If you have a resource about the ASP language it may be a good
idea to search for ASP filetypes.
Affiliate Program Links:
Most affiliate programs redirect your links through a third party websites, which
prevents the link from parsing PageRank or link popularity.
In addition many other websites use query strings on the links, these will not parse
PageRank to the destination page. A query string is something like
?affil=34565 at the end of the link. This identifies the affiliate for tracking
Even if affiliate programs do not provide static text links they still help raise your brand
awareness and build trust in the eyes of your prospective customers. A well run affiliate
program can also help mean that some of your affiliates are crowding some of your
competitors out of the search results.
Problems with SEO Friendly Affiliate Programs (how they
can hurt Affiliates):
If you build enough link popularity pointing at an affiliate page it can outrank the
regular version, but if many good affiliates are promoting a product and those
pages link back to the home page of the site they are promoting then you can end
up pushing a ton of PageRank to the home page of the merchant site. That
PageRank can filter down to the regular (or non affiliate) version of the page,
which may eventually outrank all the affiliates. More information is available on the
OverTheMark blog.
You Do Not Need To Reciprocate Every Link:
If you have a great resource you do not need to give a link back every time you ask
for a link. The keys to getting the link are to be personal and explain how linking to
your resource could help improve their site.
One of the world’s most well known linking experts is Eric Ward. At my first search
engine conference in Boston he stated that often times he does not offer to
reciprocate links. If you write compelling content people may want to link to it free,
and that is the best way to get links.
I often group my sites with a couple other similar resources when I ask for free
links. This gives me a better chance of getting my site listed because it seems like I
am trying to help them versus just helping myself. In addition this helps clustering
search engines such as Teoma know what sites are similar to mine.
You can’t be afraid to ask or get rejected. Most link requests are rejected, but if you
show that you put a good amount of time and effort in and that you are actually a
human who visited their site then you stand a much better chance of getting a link.
Some people also 301 redirect their new site to an established site to have it show
the PageRank of the other site. Since the PageRank only updates every 3 months
they can make many link trades based on fooling webmasters with the toolbar
PageRank from the other site.
More Advanced Link Exchange Tools:
Automation is an extremely bad thing during the human interaction portion
of link exchange. There is a program by the name of Arelis which will automate
nearly 100% of the link exchange process and it may be useful to use for most
portions EXCEPT the human interaction.
You stand a far better chance to get links if you are extremely personal in your
link requests. I try to automate many of the non human interaction portions of the
link exchange process, but do not automate messages.
SEO Elite and Optilink
are great link analysis tools.
I created Link Harvester as
a quick and easy tool for
those who could not
afford, or did not want to
buy link analysis software.
There are a few linking tools I occasionally use, but keep in mind that anything that
sends automated queries to search engines is usually going to be against their terms
of service.
OptiLink ($224) is link analysis software which can scour up to 1000 different
backlinks of a website and return the results in the order of PageRank. You then
have the ability to go through and try to become link partners with the sites.
OptiLink also lets you know what words are in the different links so you can get an
accurate picture of total link reputation and not just link popularity. Link reputation
is the combination of link popularity and link text. Optilink will let you check the
backlinks through many different search engines and not just Google.
SEO Elite:
SEO Elite (was formerly named Link Proctor) ($167) is newer software which is
extremely similar to OptiLink. It surveys backlinks to find what anchor text is used
and linking page PageRank. In addition SEO Elite will spider the links on your site
or page and check that reciprocal link partners are linking back to your site.
Brad Callen continually upgrades this software to add more features. If you can
only afford to buy SEO Elite or OptiLink I would probably buy SEO Elite. Both
have money back guarantees though, so you may want to try them both and keep
the one you like better.
Prog is a Google screen scrapping search engine which also displays PageRank near
listed sites. It is a handy tool for doing backlink research if you can not afford Link
Proctor or OptiLink.
Prog makes it easy to scan where a competitor’s most powerful links come from
and shows you where they are buying links from if they are buying them on a large
Hub Finder:
Hub Finder is a free web based link analysis tool I created. The sole goal of Hub
Finder is to help webmasters find co occurring link locations. This means you can
enter in the URL of 2 to 10 competing websites, and wherever their inbound link
overlap it will return in the search results.
Pages which are on topic and link to multiple competing websites are likely to link
to your site. On topic links may carry more weight than off topic links in some
search algorithms.
Hub Finder uses the Yahoo! API. It is free to use and you also can place the tool
on your site.
Link Harvester:
Link Harvester is a free web based link analysis tool I created. If you can not afford
to buy link analysis software you can still get a ton of link details for free. Link
Harvester will tell you if a site has any governmental or educational inbound links,
as well as telling you the number of unique linking domains and unique linking IP
Link Harvester also autochecks boxes next to each site that links in more that 4
times so that you can filter out the sites that link in many time and search deeper
through the backlink database quickly and easily. That is something that none of
the paid link tools do.
In addition to doing all of that it displays a link from each of the sites linking in, can
easily have the data exported to a spreadsheet, is free, open source, and uses the
Yahoo! API so you do not have to worry about the tool getting blocked.
Some people have described Golexa as a swiss army knife tool for SEO. It does
not give the detailed link analysis data that some of the above tools does, but it
does have many useful and interesting features.
Bonus Linking Tip:
One of the best ways to use these linking tools is to use them on a website you
know has moved. Alert webmasters to broken links on their sites, and let them
know that you have a similar site. Many webmasters will likely link to your site,
especially if you list multiple similar useful sites and they do not think your motives
are 100% selfish.
Being Smooth:
Sometimes it helps to be a bit smooth. Sometimes I suggest a few resources other
than my own as well. Sometimes I just put my URL under my name as if its part of
my signature. Both techniques have worked to get me many quality inbound links
in a short period of time.
A “non link request” link request may actually have a higher conversion rate than
an active link request with some webmasters.
The use of the above listed tools allows me to automate most of the link request
work while still allowing me to remaining personal in the link request emails I send
Example Email (sent to a personal email if they have one available):
hello <actual person>
I have been browsing around photography sites for hours now and just ran
across yours...its awesome (stroke their ego)
wow your picture of that dove, bla bla bla...bird photography is one of my bla
bla bla
(be specific & show you visited their site)
I took this pic or a flying mongoose here: (look we are the same)
<optional>I have already added a link to your site on my cool sites
page</optional> (/ pay them if you feel you need to... link or cash or
whatever other offer. if you feel a phone call is necessary then you may
want to give them your number or call them up versus send an email.)
your site visitors may well be interested in bla bla bla at my site bla bla (show
them how linking to you benefits them)
if you like my site please consider linking to it however you like (let them
know they have choices - don't come across as ordering them to do
or with this code (make it easy for them)
I think my site matches well with the theme on this page
either way thanks for reading this and keep posting the awesome photos
(reminder ego stroke)
me at
my number
Want to Trade Links?
How Did They Get Their Link Popularity?
You can tell a lot about a website by the other sites that link to it. Typically good
sites are registered in some of the top directories and have links from other good
sites in their same industry.
To determine if a site is worthy of a link you should evaluate their content. In
addition you may want to do a backlink check and see how they acquired their
current link popularity.
If they have a decent PageRank because they have been link exchanging with
Viagra, casino, or other high margin off topic websites then they are probably not a
legitimate resource and trading links with a good number of these types of sites
may end up getting your site banned.
Does Their Site Offer Any Quality Content?
It is a good idea to review the site that wants to exchange links. If you link to the
site you are sending your faithful web site traffic into their domain.
Is it a risk, or do they have good content? If there wasn't PageRank involved,
would you still trade links with them? Do you enjoy their site? If the answer to
these sort of questions is yes then feel free to link to their site. If the answer is no
after no after no then it is not a logical link exchange opportunity.
Avoid the Sure Downfalls:
Off the start you may be a little more desperate for links as you are learning SEO.
A good tip is to stay away from drug, gambling, and porn sites as they obviously
destroy your credibility. Other sites that link to those types of networks may also
hurt your site as well (since they may eventually be penalized).
Always use your own judgment as you will be the one footing the bill if the idea is
wrong. A single link from this website (posting a comment on SEO
will likely give you a PageRank of three or four within about a month. (Please note
I do not like links to debt reduction, credit, adult, gamming, porn, or drug
websites.) There is no reason to compromise your site to exchange links with
garbage websites.
Using Common Sense:
That hemp / SEO store I mentioned earlier is a good example of not using
common sense. If the site you are linking to has nothing to do with the topic of
your site and no relation to what may interest your viewers then you probably do
not want to link to them.
Carpet bomb linking strategies may be successful in the short term, but over time
they will grow less and less useful to the point of eventual ineffectiveness.
There is also an indirect linking effect to linking. If you link to really weird sites
then it lowers the odds that other industry resources will want to link to your site.
Example of a Junk Link Request:
If you send junk link exchange requests like this they will usually be deleted as
spam. On the same token if you receive a message like this you should delete your
Hello Sir / Ma’am
I was at your site today. Great site I was wondering if you would want to
exchange links.
I already have a link to you located at
As you well know search engines look at links and give sites credit for their
incoming links. By linking together we
make both of our sites stronger.
Please link to me with the following information
<a href="">Buy Viagra Cheap Phentamine No
Prescription Paxil Prozac Online</a>
------------------------------------------------------Eventually Aggressive Promotion Techniques get
Even if a site like that has decent link popularity you can usually bet that they will
be losing it soon if they exchange links with all kinds of random sites. Link
exchange works up until a point and then eventually it become link farm. A link
farm is a site with a bunch of completely unrelated links scattered about in no
logical order.
Eventually overly aggressive sites get penalized, but webmasters using those
techniques will usually have already started another site, and you may end up
suffering for their greed if you link exchange with incredibly aggressive sites.
Another trick they may use is to have you link into their good site and have them
link to you from a different domain of essentially no value. Since their good site is
not going to get penalized (because it does not link out to anyone) it does not
matter much to them if their bad site and your site receive a spam penalty for being
part of a link farm.
Free Links & Buying Links
Garbage Links:
While many low quality links may still help over time their value goes down.
Guestbooks and the like are losing their relevancy in search results. Many of the
holes in blog software which permitted heavy spamming are also being taken care
Some people have stated that Google is even filtering out links from pages with the
file extension of links.htm or other page filepaths that would obviously indicate the
page was created for link exchange. There are many legitimate long term free link
opportunities available, though they may take a good bit of work to find.
In a sketchy field you may have to use many sketchy techniques to be able to
profitably compete. You don’t want to be the only site in your industry using really
sketchy techniques unless you can afford for the site to get banned and any effect
that may have on your brand.
Some large corporate sites like Expedia, which spend millions on Google
AdWords, will likely be able to get away with doing more shady stuff than a new
webmaster would.
Have a Good Idea:
The web is a big social network where good ideas will want to spread naturally. It is
far easier to spread an idea worth spreading than it is to push a bad idea. A link is a
vote for a site. It is a citation. It is a remark. Oh hey, I found this over here. By
being remarkable or different it far easier to build a linking campaign without a
large sum of money or effort.
It is worth it to take the extra time to think of a good idea that will naturally want to
spread itself.
Give Something Away:
One of the best ways to build link popularity is to make something useful and
valuable and give it away. PHPBB is a free bulletin board which has a PageRank of
9 or 10. Open Office is another great open source software project.
Some popular things to give away are: software, games, designs, and valuable
Submitting Articles:
There are tons of places on the web where you can submit articles. In addition to
submitting them, if you provide an extremely compelling article with reprint rights
you will find that it may just end up all over the web. I started writing articles when
Google changed it’s algorithm in Nov 2003. Within a month or two I had articles
appear on:
SearchGuild (
SEO Journal (
Sticky Sauce (
LilEngine (
Internet Search Engine Database (
and many many other search specific websites.
When you write articles to submit to other sites you may want to give them a
slightly different version than the one you post to your site so that you do not deal
with duplicate content issues.
Additionally you can drive more targeted traffic to your site by reminding readers
that they can get the extended version of the article on your site.
Becoming an Authority:
In addition to the above links I have received links from sites I have never even
heard of, and I got linked to by the #1 search engine resource
( A link from Search Engine Watch is not something I
could have bought with piles of cash, and it validates me as a search engine
resource in the eyes of many SEOs (as well as in the eyes of search engines). Danny
Sullivan (editor of Search Engine Watch) is a great search engine information
source who offers a free daily newsletter.
Becoming the Resource:
Danny Sullivan is known as the world’s greatest search engine resource. I could try
to become the same thing, but I would likely fail time and time again. That spot in
the web is already occupied.
I can however become one of the better blogs on the subject. I also can have one
of the better ebooks on the subject. It is worth focusing in on an idea until you can
find one that has not already been taken, or something you will enjoy competing at.
It usually is much cheaper to position yourself in a new field or a niche field than a
broad field that already has a dominant player in it.
What Information Sells?
Original content such as:
Tips and articles. How to and creative articles work really well.
News stories.
Resource directories.
Where do I Submit My Articles?
You may find that people link to you just because they like your site. Being a
success on the internet is much easier if people want to syndicate you for free. Off
the start it will require some active effort to spread your name though. A couple
good places to submit articles:
Buzzle (
Idea Marketers (
Ebooks N Bytes (
Article Central (
If you can find industry related hub sites with a wide following those are the best
sites to submit your articles to.
Additional Bonus Article Submission Ideas:
Understanding where and how to find information will help you become
successful on the web. After you find a few authors from the above sites you
should search for their names to see where else they are published. You may also
want to look through major directories and search for sites covering your topic
which accept articles.
You should know who the experts in your field of study are. I also wrote a good
brief article with other article submission locations on my blog
Another trick is to search for the names of sites that are using automated spam
software to submit articles. If people accept their automated request then likely
they will want to list your quality article if you use a personalized inquiry. Two sites
who sent automated spam articles to me are MarketingBlaster &
Writing Testimonials for Links:
I can not tell you how effective this technique is! A good testimonial almost
requires they post a link to your site. There are two main tips about writing
testimonials: who to write a testimonial for and how to write that testimonial.
Who to Write a Testimonial for:
The web has a bunch of garbage on it. The web also has a bunch of good people
on it. It is just as easy to say good things about people who do a really good job as
it is about people who do a shoddy job.
If you tell people how a bad thing is good then those people will think you suck
(this is extremely common in affiliate marketing). Only promote stuff that you
would be glad to throw your name and reputation on.
Often testimonials are reciprocal promotion techniques. On the web many links
are business relations. The easiest spot to get help from is the people you are
helping. It only makes sense to promote and say good things about the people you
do business with.
Not every testimonial is a strong business relationship, but you should write
testimonials only for people you would like to promote. Directly or indirectly that
is what you are doing.
How to Write a Testimonial:
Words like “good” are actually rather bad. When possible you want to use concrete
phrases and terms that make the service sound exceptional. An example
testimonial I wrote was “There are few places on the web where you can place an
ad and have it pay for itself in the first day. SearchEngineGuide is one of those
places.” The first two day of me running an ad on his site I sold over $600 worth
of ebooks.
Many of the people on the web who are considered “marketing experts” are selling
get rich quick scams. Most internet marketers selling internet marketing products
only make money off selling the idea to someone else who will probably lose
money on the deal.
These people usually have crafted the art of writing testimonials because their
livelihood is completely dependant upon selling the products to members of their
newsletters. If you glance through that 33 Days to Online Profits I would not
recommend buying most of the stuff they are selling, but you can learn a bunch
from reading how Yanik Silver recommend other products.
Building Links to Pages that Link to You:
If I tried to add my site to the SEO page at Wikipedia it would just get removed
and labeled as an attempt to spam. Yet, I still can benefit from the existence of the
Wikipedia by adding links to pages that link to me, as long as those links are useful
to the Wikipedia.
I think the Wikipedia is amazing and do not encourage spamming it, but if you
have something that should be linked to from there then make sure it is. If
someone else linked to you and that page is relevant to Wikipedia make sure the
Wikipedia links to that page. For example, Alexa linked at my site when I posted
about Accoona spamming SEO forums. I referenced that Alexa page in the
Wikipedia because that page was relevant to coverage of Accoona.
Again, I want to stress that I think the Wikipedia is an amazing site and that I do
not encourage spamming it. The same indirect link building idea can work with
other sites in similar ways as well.
Building Links to the Most Relevant Page:
When you ask for links it makes sense to point links at the most relevant page.
Pointing links at the most relevant page means:
People will be more likely to link at the targeted related page
People will be more likely to click relevant links
People who click the links will be more likely to convert
Algorithms which are good at determining relevancy will boost relevant links
Other Free Linking Resources:
Linking Matters
Linking 101
Eric Ward
Outsourcing Linking Programs:
Frequently many people find link building frustrating. You may want to outsource
your link building to a link building firm.
Renting / Buying Links:
*-- This is an advanced SEO technique most webmasters do not need to do. I
would learn and practice SEO for at least a month or two before I jumped right
into any type of link rental advertisements. --*
Make Sure Your Site Works Well First:
Many people aggressively advertise on other sites without fixing internal conversion
problems. If you can double your conversion rate without much additional expense
it does not make sense to concentrate on more exposure first.
With that being said you can boost your link popularity by renting a few strong
inbound links. I usually prefer to rent links from related sites as they may also send
direct traffic as well as provide a direct boost to link popularity.
Register with Directories First:
By registering your sites at many different directories it makes your link popularity
look like a natural part of the web. If you only have one or two sources of links the
linkage pattern may seem unnatural to search engine algorithms.
Renting links is extremely expensive if you do it incorrectly. Registering your sites
with many second tier directories costs a one time fee of $20 - $40 each which
continues to pay for itself month after month.
When links develop naturally it is likely that a site has many low power links
pointing into it as compared to number of high power links. You usually want to
build a broad base of low power inbound links before trying to build any
exceptionally powerful inbound links.
If you are reliant upon just a few powerful links then if something happens to those
links you could be in the hurt locker. If you have a ton of low power inbound links
then your rankings will be more stable if you lose a few links or when large
algorithm shifts occur.
Importance of Anchor Text:
When renting links ensure you use the best anchor text possible and do not rent
links based exclusively on PageRank. When I rent links I make sure I am renting
extremely descriptive anchor text as well (as anchor text is the single most
important part of link reputation in Google or Yahoo!).
Renting Banners:
I prefer to rent static text links versus renting image links. Sometimes certain sites
sell banner space cheap. If they are going to sell you a banner ask if it needs to be
an image or if it just needs to be a banner in shape. One of my good friends
ordered a banner filled with a ton of text links from college newspapers dirt cheap.
If you do use an image banner make sure you use descriptive ALT text on it so
search engines will have some idea what the link is about.
Single Link vs Run of Site Links:
If it is a useful on topic site I get run of the site links. Some sites will rent you a
single link for $75 or let you have a link on every page of their site for $100.
Frequently the prices are exceptionally close to one another. Most of the link
renting I have done is sitewide sponsorship from relevant sites, but I also have
many individual inbound links.
If you are renting links from off topic sites it would be advisable to not get run of
site links as that could stick out as abnormal link pattern. Many times Google and
other search engines tend to penalize the sites renting the links and not the sites the
links are on. Many of the major search engines do not give a site much additional
relevancy for sitewide links over a single link.
Caution: In February of 2005 Google did an update where many sites which had a
large percentage of their links come from inbound links with similar anchor text no
longer ranked well. When doing sitewide ads, I usually recommend doing pre sell
pages instead of placing sitewide links.
Pre Sell Pages (or Content Hosting):
Within a site PageRank and link popularity flow naturally. If a site links to another
site from every page many search engines may only take the most powerful link
into account within their relevancy algorithm. Thus if you are paying for ad space
you should try to get the best links you can get.
You can ask the advertising site to point sitewide links in an internal page on their
site. On that page send multiple deep links into various points of your site using
proper link text. You may also want to place links in the middle of paragraphs and
use semantically similar page titles, headers, and subheaders on your pre sell pages.
Some people also link off to a few related resource pages on their pre sell pages to
better help clustering search engines understand what their site is about.
WeBuildPages was the first SEO firm to market pre sell pages.
Importance of Number of Links on the Page:
Any page only has a certain amount of link popularity (Google calls this PageRank
and Yahoo! calls this WebRank) which it can redistribute to other pages. Each
additional link on a page takes away from how much voting power the other links
on that same page get.
A page does not lose link popularity for linking out to other sites, it just splits what
link popularity it can give amongst all pages it is linking to. The link popularity of a
page is split up amongst the pages internal and external links.
When evaluating a potential link buy it is important to consider how many links are
on the page. If you see north of 80 links on a page then you need to consider that
you will only be getting a small amount of link popularity from that page. You can
make up for this a bit by getting run of site links versus renting individual links.
Ease into Link Renting:
Renting links should be a controlled process. By doing it in a somewhat controlled
manner you guarantee you know what links are working and how many you need.
Location of Links on the Page:
A friend of mine is a database programmer / SEO who has friends who work for
Google. He stated that Google is trying to look to change their link algorithm to
where they can provide both positive and negative linkage credit for link location
on the page and site link patterns (most likely discounting footer banners full of
links and other common link rental locations). While I do not believe this
technology is active yet it may be coming in the future.
Ideas like these are what make building lots of natural link popularity important.
Many internet marketing experts are shifting portions of their business models to
creating content they control so that people can get contextually relevant ads within
the main content area of the pages.
The link renting business will evolve as the algorithms do, but quality link renting
will increase in price as the cost of selling links gets more expensive.
Link Brokers:
There are many link brokers on the market which jack up the prices considerably as
middle men. You may want to look around to find one of the main link brokers or
websites selling links directly.
Many sites pose as link brokers by marking up the prices of other link brokers
inventory. When you buy links from a link broker you want to go to the source and
not pay middle men. If you want to use a link broker directly I do know who the
most prominent link brokers are. Send me an email and I will let you know who I
If Something Seems Like too Good of a Deal:
Google has blocked some websites from being able to parse their PageRank (or
link popularity) to other websites.
The PageRank parsing penalties prevent a page from transferring PageRank even
though the site itself may show PageRank. These penalties have typically been
applied to sites with a high PageRank & especially those that are linking to high
margin sites which are extremely off topic.
If a site has a high PageRank and pharmacy or casino ads then there stands a good
chance that it will not parse link popularity.
Shop Around:
You may want to look at a few link brokers to view prices for various linking
opportunities. Prices fluctuate in the link market from person to person and site to
site. I believe link prices are more volatile than the commodities or futures market.
It is worth taking the time to shop around.
Getting Links from Various Sites:
Getting a ton of links from any given site can only pass a finite amount of link
popularity. To improve the effectiveness of renting links it is recommended that
you get links from multiple different websites. This is part of the reason I
recommend registering your site with many different directories. Some search
algorithms may also provide additional weighting on links which have aged.
Cheap Linking Opportunities:
Often times you would be surprised how cheap related sites are renting links for. I
have rented links from a few of the search engine marketing industry hubs at
exceptionally reasonable prices.
In addition blogs and 501 C charity sites are havens for low cost links. Some blog
type sites will give you a link for a minimum $5 to $10 one time donation. Some
powerful 501 C sites will give you year long links for as low as a few hundred
NetworkForGood can help you find a worthy cause located in your area which may
be worth sponsoring which can also help you build link popularity. I view
sponsoring charities as one of the rare true win / win situations.
Some blogs are out to lunch on their price. Some blogs are exceptionally link heavy
and provide almost no value on a per link basis. Many bloggers are just having fun
and are not out to make a ton of money though. For this reason you might be able
to find some exceptionally cheap blog links. An additional bonus with blog
advertising is that blogs are viral in nature, meaning if you have a viral type product
then you may get many ongoing secondary links for free.
Just to give you an idea of how cool BlogAds are (especially for cause driven or fun
type sites), I got tons of bonuses for my first ad set I ran. Over half of the sites I
ran my first ad on extended my ad longer than I ran it for, completely free. In
addition one site provided me a permanent static text link and another site placed
my ad on multiple sites free.
If you have a message worth spreading bloggers will help it spread. A couple of the
more popular blog ad selling networks are BlogAds and AdBright. Some of the links
provided by these blog networks may not be static in nature, but the viral nature of
blogs make them an ideal marketing channel for many messages.
Rent Static Links:
When renting links to improve search engine placement ensure they are static
descriptive links versus links with a tracking code or links that get redirected
through some sort of ad server. Search engines usually do not evaluate most links
which are redirected or sent through an ad server.
Also think of creative ways you can induce free inbound links before spending a
ton of money every month on renting links. The best ideas tend to find ways to
spread themselves. Money spent improving the idea behind your site is better spent
than money spent on renting links since improving your idea or site does not
usually have expensive recurring fees associated with it.
Links with Tracking Codes:
When buying regular ads from websites, if you use tracking URLs you may not
want to point them at your home page or other pages which already rank well in
the search results.
Some webmasters have bought links from authoritative pages using tracking URLs
only to find that some search engines would spider that link and use THAT page as
the canonical URL.
That may not be a problem in some cases, but one of my friends had over 100,000
links pointing at his home page, and his rankings disappeared because a high
authority link rental he did used a tracking code.
Some search engines will usually use the highest PageRank URL as the canonical
URL for a given page. If that URL version does not have good anchor text from a
variety of websites then you risk your rankings tanking if you link at a high
ranking page using a tracking code.
Canonical URLs:
As stated in the above section about links with tracking codes, search engines will
usually only want to index one URL for each set of unique content. The WWW.
version of a domain is a subdomain of the root URL. Sometimes the contents are
the same, but they are not always on all sites.
It is in your best interest to 301 redirect on apache servers (or do the equivalent
rewrite on a MicroSoft server) the URL you are not using to point at the other
version of the URL. This way you do not run into canonical URL and duplicate
content issues. It also will help unify your link popularity if Google is unaware that
both URLs are the same site and some people are linking to different versions of
the URL.
Make sure you know what your old .htaccess file is, read about modifying it, and
know what you are doing prior to modifying your .htaccess file.
Linking Networks:
Currently I do not use any linking network to boost the rankings of my sites, but
there are a few innovative new linking networks which are worth mentioning.
Digital Point created a free cooperative advertising network where text links are
randomly rotated across thousands of sites in the network. The advertising
network does not focus on relevancy yet so currently it amounts to a big link farm,
but since it is so well integrated into the web and spans so many sites it is rather
powerful. Eventually search engines may find a way to negate those links but
currently they are rather powerful.
LinkItForward is a link exchange site where you link out to sites to get credits and
others will link back to your site. Using this network there may be more reliance on
relevancy than the randomness of the Digital Point network, and with
LinkItForward all the links are non reciprocal /one way links.
Link Vault in another link exchange network which acts similarly to Digital Point’s
network, except that it provides static non rotating links.
Before joining any linking network I would read the pros and the cons listed in this
high quality Threadwatch thread.
Waiting for Results
Patience is a Virtue:
Many people want to change and change and change until they get to the top. The
internet is an amazing direct marketing medium. Change is good. With your
website you will want to wait a few months after your initial optimization before
you really start changing stuff though.
After you feel the page copy is decently structured for usability and SEO then you
do not need to change it over and over again unless you are trying to test it. Often
times one of the better ways to test conversion rates is through a split A / B test
using pay per click search engines (will be explained in the Pay Per Click chapter).
Be Consistent:
You have to give search engines a chance to react to what is there. It would be
much harder to list well for a term such as "search engine marketing" if I got some
links with "online promotions" some with "search engine submission" some with
"search engine optimization" some with "website promoter"... you get the idea.
You have to pick and choose. Using a few variations may be a good idea to make
your linking appear as natural linking, but you should focus your anchor text
around related niches. After you master a few terms you may want to diversify, but
you want to choose wisely and stick with it for a few months.
Search engines change their algorithms many times each month. Ranking changes
you see are often due to algorithmic changes and not changes in relevancy based
on small changes in page copy.
Why Frequently Changing can be Bad:
If you write a blog or a site with rapidly rotating content it makes sense that your
copy will constantly be changing. That is not a problem. Where people run into a
problem is when they waste time obsessive compulsively tweaking the same page
copy over and over again. The time spent doing that might be better doing other
If you keep changing your page copy and randomly mixing anchor text excessively
before you establish your online presence with good links then you will never know
what was the best page format or layout.
You will not be sure how you would rank if you picked and stayed with your copy.
Another good idea is to only change one thing at a time since you can not tell why
the changes occur if you do change everything. If your site is a complete disaster a
makeover may be necessary, otherwise just give it time and keep working on
building relevant inbound links.
Interactive Elements
Resources Cited:
Don’t Think of an Elephant – book about the concept of framing
All Marketers Are Liars – book about how good marketers tell stories
Server Header Check
Digital Point Google Ranking Checker
Yahoo! Tracker
Yahoo! Developer Network – various tools
Rusty Brick’s Goolge link analysis tool
The Google Toolbar (
GoogleBar (for Mozilla) (
GoogleBar Hack (for Mozilla) (
PageRank for Safari (
Top25Web PageRank lookup (
Prog free Google PageRank display search tool.
HubFinder (
Link Harvester (
GoLexa (
Roboform – form filler (
Show IP – FireFox extension shows what IP Google results are coming
from (
Optilink ($224) (
SEO Elite ($167) (
Google Search: Miserable Failure which shows the power of link text.
Major search engine search volume breakdown
Paul Graham’s How to Start a Startup article - free example of an article
that helps build links (
SearchBistro – site which posted the Google search reviewer documents.
My review of their internal spam guidelines and search review document
WeBuildPages page about pre sell pages
The Major Search Engines
Inktomi - powers some of Yahoo!’s partner sites. (
MSN Search (
MSN Search blog (
MSN Site owner suggestions
Teoma - powers Teoma and Ask Jeeves. (
AllTheWeb- powers Lycos and AllTheWeb. (
AltaVista (
Yahoo! Search ( free submission
Discussion of Yahoo!’s new patent
Yahoo! Mindset (
Google ( free submission
( webmaster guidelines
Google Research Papers: The Anatomy of a Search Engine ( PageRank
( Hilltop
( Topic Specific
PageRank ( Applied Semantics CIRCA
Jeff Dean video about some of Google’s technology
Example of Google getting one of their own sites hijacked
InfoSpace - Meta search engine which owns Dogpile, Excite, WebCrawler,
MetaCrawler and a few others. (
Search Engine Relationship chart by Bruce Clay
DMOZ submission guidelines (
DMOZ Resource Zone (
Yahoo! Directory (
Gimpsy (
GoGuides (
JoeANT (
RubberStamped (
Uncover the Net (
Skaffe (
Web Beacon (
Wow Directory (
• (
Directories of Directories
Directory Archives (
Search Engine Guide
Other Sites
Google’s cache of my home page
PR Web press releases (
101 Public Relations – press release templates and report
My Directory Checklist (
Coverage of Google’s new patent
Latent Semantic Indexing information
Usually time spent reporting spam is time wasted, but you can report spam
to Google (
Froogle (
Froogle information for webmasters
Report spam to Yahoo! – Yahoo! does edit their search results and is more
likely to reply to a spam report than some engines such as Google
Thumbshot search engine and ranking comparison tool
World Wide Web Consortium (
Problems with SEO friendly affiliate programs
Eric Ward's Netpost linking strategies website. (
Linking Matters (
Linking 101 (
SearchEngineWatch - Danny Sullivan's search engine information website.
SearchDay - the free SearchEngineWatch newsletter
Digital Point’s Cooperative Advertising Network
LinkItForward link exchange site (
Link Vault link exhange network (
why Buddy Links was closed (
Links Manger (
Link Market (
Link Metro (
Links4Trade (
WeBuildPages query combination tool
Threadwatch thread about link exchange networks
SEO Article Sites
SearchGuild (
SEO Journal (
Sticky Sauce (
LilEngine (
Internet Search Engine Database (
General Artilce Sites
Buzzle (
Idea Marketers (
Ebooks N Bytes (
Article Central (
More Article Ideas
My list of article submission locations
Other Resources
NetworkForGood (
BlogAds (
AdBrite (
Some Notes
Download the Google Toolbar if you are using internet explorer. Try it out on a
few sites. Type in a few of the keywords and use the highlight feature to view
approximate page copy keyword density. Also use it to check the backlinks on
one of your competitors site. ( Keep in mind that
I do not view keyword density as being super important. I think it is a good
idea to see how much it can vary from site to site.
Apply to become an editor at JoeANT, Skaffe, Web Beacon, and DMOZ in
categories which interest you. DMOZ will probably reject you. When you do
apply to DMOZ try to apply for a small, ugly, and non-commercial category
(maybe a local one) and take your time filling out the application.
If your site is together and you can afford it, submit your site to the above
listed directories. If you can not afford it apply to become an editor and submit
your site to whatever directories you can for free.
Apply to become an author for Buzzle. (
Write an article about something that interests you that relates to your
business. Practice writing at least one article a week.
Glance through my list of article submission locations.
Find a website to submit this article to and make sure you link to your site in
the author bio. Submit one article to at least one different site each week.
Pay Per Click
ay per click search engines can give you instant traffic and allow you to test
new business models in real time. The pay per click market is competitive
though. It is worth spending an extensive period of time learning how to
write and target ads, tracking your competitors, and doing deep keyword
research before jumping in.
Before You Start
Metrics Based Marketing:
PPC search engines provide a highly trackable marketing medium. Frequently
people begin marketing without any idea as to the approximate value of a click. If
you do not set up a value range and track the results you have no way to distinguish
good marketing from bad marketing.
To know the value of a click you need to decide what the goal of your marketing is.
If you are just branding then you should expect to lose money and tracking may
not be that important.
If you are using pay per click search engines for direct product marketing you need
to know how much each click is worth.
Typical Conversion Rates:
Lead generation sites typically have a conversion rate around 10 to 12%, but can go
as high as 30% + if they are properly targeted and exceptionally appealing to
visitors. Since little investment is needed to arrive at your website and many other
sites are just a click away selling stuff the web has a conversion rate similar to direct
mail advertising. High ticket items have a lower conversion rate and unique cheap
items tend to have higher conversion rates. Many stores find typical conversion
rates might be anywhere from .3 to 4%.
Doing the Math:
There are a ton of factors that go into click price. It is somewhat hard to measure
branding, but ad distribution can help with that. Most other things are tangible.
If you know your average order size, profit per order, and estimated conversion
rate you can get a good idea what clicks are worth. Some people also factor in
lifetime cost of a customer, but it is harder to measure and there is still enough
opportunity in many markets to do your math primarily based on direct return.
Before You Start:
It is a good idea to look at the various ads which are displayed in which order over
time. The top guy might be an idiot losing tons of money or a person who is
paying an extreme premium for branding.
If ads from affiliate marketers or smaller sites are ranking around the same ad
position over the course of a few weeks to a month then they are probably doing
something right (generating profits). It is worth it to take a couple weeks to do
deep keyword research and market analysis before jumping into pay per click
search engine marketing.
You Will Lose Money:
Most clicks end up being failures. Even if you have a 30% conversion rate that
means that 7 out of 10 clicks did nothing for you. When you dip your toes into the
pay per click market there stands a good chance you will lose money before you
start making money. The main reasons are:
You need to learn how the systems work, learning:
o what terms are important and what ones are not.
o how to target the ads
o how to write the ad copy
o how to bid and what terms are overpriced
You are competing against the best accounts.
o Some competing advertisers may have other intangible assets
which give them an unfair advantage.
o If you are brand new your competitors have more experience than
you do.
o Some ad campaigns have been fine tuned for months or years.
Search engines try to sell the concept of pay per click marketing saying that it is so
targeted that everyone makes money, but in the real world that is not how things
work. Some markets are competitive and will require learning, sound strategy, and
Why Pay Per Click is Important:
I was working to raise the rankings of one client for a few competitive phrases. It
was taking a decent investment in time and money. I then started a pay per click
campaign to test a ton of terms. As it turns out his conversion rate for the words
we thought we needed were not great. There were a couple other terms with lower
search frequency and less competition which converted exceptionally well.
Had we not done pay per click marketing we may have never properly focused his
SEO efforts. In less than a month on about $300 we increased the productivity of
his site ten fold.
The only way to be certain of anything in marketing is to test it. Pay per click
marketing allows you to test real time with the fastest feedback loop of any
marketing medium in the world.
What is Pay Per Click
In 1998 Overture pioneered the idea of selling contextual based advertising. You
could buy search results for as low as a penny or two per click. This system has
quickly evolved into one of the worlds most competitive marketplaces.
Why Use Pay Per Click?
Sometime you can not afford to...or simply do not want to wait. Pay per click
search engines allows you to list atop search results quickly. This will allow you to:
Prototype ideas to track demand before you invest into a new business
model or are stuck footing the bill for a new site design.
Quickly gather feedback on market conditions.
Split test to a live audience and gather results in real time.
You can use Google AdWords to offer a free white paper about some topic from a
one page website. If nobody is interested in downloading your white paper or you
can not seem to get enough clickthroughs then odds are:
the market is not yet ready for your product
or you are marketing it from the wrong angle
or you are marketing it to the wrong people
Who Should I Trust in Pay Per Click?
There are a few major players in the pay per click arena. Overture (as of writing
this) currently has network partnerships that span Yahoo, MSN, InfoSpace,
AltaVista, AllTheWeb and many other partners. Google AdWords has a larger
distribution network across Google, AOL, About, Earthlink, and many others
sites...even a few of my own.
For the sake of this report I am only going to cover Google AdWords and Overture.
There are a few other pay per click search engines (FindWhat, Kanoodle, Enhance
Interactive, Search123, Epilot) that may be well worth a look after trying Google
AdWords and Overture. While beginning pay per click advertising I would
recommend only using Google AdWords and Overture.
Why Use Large Pay Per Click Search Engines (Google
AdWords + Overture)?
When you use large pay
per click search engines
you guarantee you are
getting good traffic and
that your business model is
Smaller engines provide
slower feedback loops and
some may not even
provide quality traffic.
The results will be scaleable.
The feedback will be quicker.
Large pay per click search engines offer many great tracking and targeting
features free.
Larger pay per click search engines generally present higher quality traffic
and are less susceptible to fraud.
It is less complex managing two or three accounts versus 100 accounts.
It’s easier to track the ROI on 2 accounts than on 100 accounts.
Many of the extremely small search engines never have real traffic. You
are wasting your time registering with them.
Even some of the better second tier search engines may waste a big hunk
of change. In early November 2004 I tried using LookSmart. It sent me
twice as much traffic as Overture and traffic from LookSmart had a 95%
bounce rate. That means that 19 of 20 site visitors from LookSmart
immediately left and I paid for a ton of garbage traffic. The quality of
traffic from smaller engines will vary from term to term, but its best to go
with the biggest guys off the start and then try some of the smaller engines.
Case Study: the Ignorant Bidder
If a term does not convert well for you then it may not be worth it to rank near the
top for that term.
Not too long ago a person was bidding on an eBay ad for “SEO Book” at over $1
a click. Assuming I can get a 1.5% conversion rate I can afford to pay that much,
but this person was just throwing away their money.
Just to test the waters I placed my ebook on eBay and it did not go for anywhere
near what I usually sell them for.
I find it hard to believe the person who was bidding a dollar a click was making any
money. They later lowered that bid to 21 cents. In some markets there will be
dumb companies that rotate in, lose money, and then go bankrupt. By the time
they go bankrupt others may take their money wasting market position.
Some terms are not worth buying at the price the keywords go for.
Landing Page Tips:
Conversion is a large part of how successful a pay per click campaign is. A few tips
to improve your landing pages:
Remove navigation: unless it is necessary remove other options. Let
people do what you want them to do, and don’t give them many other
Make link text appealing: people tend to glance over copy instead of
deeply reading every word. Since links are action points people tend to pay
more attention to link text. Make sure link text is appealing since it is far
more likely to get read than most of the page copy.
Pictures of people: people like to look at other people. Testimonials and
the like appear more legitimate if they have pictures next to them.
Show them their location: Place the words they searched for in large text
at the top of the page to show them they are in the right location. If you
are a large merchant with many products maybe use something like search
results for: their search term.
Other ideas: some of the other concepts listed throughout this ebook
(such as using short paragraphs and subheaders) also apply to landing
pages. Corey Rudl constantly retested his landing pages. You can learn a
good amount by seeing how he changed his landing pages over time.
MarketingSherpa also has a landing page handbook for sale.
Overture was recently renamed to Yahoo! Search Marketing.
How Does Overture Work?
Overture is manually edited pay per click search engine. You write ads for your
website and they get approved to appear in the search results on Overture partner
websites. Overture bid prices are completely transparent and you can see exactly
what your competitors are bidding at any given time.
Overture places exact match listings above broad match listings. This means that if
you bid on the exact term that someone is searching for you will rank above ads
that are matched via broader matching options.
If you bid 10 cents for “best seo book” and someone else bids 25 cents for “seo
books” your best seo book ad will show above theirs if someone is searching for
“best seo book.”
Overture also truncates search terms for ad targeting, so book and books should
target the same ads.
Overture Bid Prices vs. Click Costs:
With Overture you pick a maximum bid price and your bid will never exceed that.
Their software has a bid discounter built in, so often times your average bid cost
may be less than your bid prices. Overture makes bid prices transparent. In
competitive fields competitors will ensure your click costs are near your bid price.
Overture Programs:
Overture has a $50 startup fee (which is converted to click credit), and it has a $20
monthly minimum spend (20 pounds for Overture UK). If you do some searches
for Overture and PPC releated terms you will likely find some account opening
bonus. Yahoo! occasionally posts $25 or $50 Overture bonus offers in their
directory or in other Yahoo! network places. They also have a FastTrack program
where their account representatives will set up your account for a one time $199
fee. I recommend taking the time to set up your own account. If you are taking the
effort to read this ebook you likely know your products better and are more
interested in your own success than the average Overture editor is.
Overture recently launched Local Match, which allows you to target your ads from
a .5 to 100 mile radius of your business location. The Local Match product requires
that you have a business with a physical address, but it does not require a website.
These ads give driving directions to your place of business. Local Match ads show
up in the same location where other Overture ads appear. Unlike the regular
Overture product Local Match has no monthly minimum.
Overture also offers a paid inclusion program by the name of Site Match (which I
do not recommend most webmasters use). Site Match gives your sites 48 hour
refresh throughout the Yahoo! powered search products. Site Match is a one time
$49 review fee and also has an incremental cost per click. Site Match is good for
sites which:
are rapidly changing
or are having dynamic indexing problems
or need indexed quickly
or need the associated tracking offered by Site Match
Free Overture Tools:
Overture offers a suite of tools to help their advertisers set up their accounts.
Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool: shows the frequency of
searches across the Overture network for the prior month.
Overture View Bid Tool: show the highest bidders for a specific search
Overture Regional Search Term Suggestion Tools: gives country or
region specific search frequency.
Overture Advertiser Workbook: free downloadable ebook released by
Overture to help you get the most out of your Overture campaign.
Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool Errors:
Overture truncates their search volumes. While the plural and singular versions of
search terms will greatly differ in search volume Overture just lumps them
Please note that the Overture search term suggestion tool tends to run high since
many automated bots and bid managers scour through their partner network.
WordTracker tracks click data from the meta search engines by the name of
Dogpile and WebCrawler. Since WordTracker makes their money by selling data
versus clicks you can usually expect more legitimate traffic measurements using
WordTracker. Digital Point created a free keyword suggestion tool which compares
both traffic estimates. and are two additional useful
keyword research resources.
When doing pay per click advertising deep keyword research is a fundamental part
of most successful campaigns.
The Keys to Doing Well on Overture:
Ensure you target your keywords properly and do not get in bidding wars. Do not
bid high prices for exceptionally broad or generic phrases.
Your exact match listings will compete against broad match listings, but if you
make a list of targeted phrases then you will not likely pay for as many untargeted
clicks as a person bidding for more generic phrases. If you use somewhat generic
phrases you will want to make sure you use negative words to block terms you are
not interested in.
A few good examples of good negative terms to block are cracks and free.
Keyword tip - spammed out guestbooks: software or searching techniques
which find spammed out guestbooks which have been visited by competitors can
help you find many keyword variations. Keyword tools may help you find about
500 keywords, but the guestbooks sometimes may yeild over 5,000.
This free tool (web based) or this free tool (downloadable software) or this $50 tool
(downloadable software) will help you create a ton of keywords based on different
keyword groupings. Using that tool will allow you to quickly create hundreds or
thousands of relevant exact match terms. This is the tool I use to make up my
extended keyword lists after I have already done primary keyword research.
Microsoft Excel also has a similar feature called concatenate.
Some of Overture’s partners cut the ad text short so you will want to include your
most important words near the beginning of the ad title and ad description.
Overture does not factor clickthrough rate into click cost. A high click through rate
may bring more expenses without many more conversions so you will want to
prequalify your site visitors. If you are trying to sell bulk stuff at wholesale do not
be afraid to use the word wholesale in the title AND use $1,000 minimum order in
the ad text.
PPC vs SEO in Small Paid Niches:
The more expensive the associated PPC ads are the more value there is in
performing SEO on a site in a paid niche. If the average cost per click is $5 then a
$1,000 SEO campaign pays for itself after only a few hundred targeted visitors.
Overture tends to be a bit sloppier than Google at monetizing niche
advertisements. Overture’s open bidding means that if there are only a couple
strong advertisers one gets to stick the other and then get their ads cheap.
I have one client that gets most of their Overture clicks at about 12 cents when her
competitor pays about $8 a click. On Google I pay closer to $3 for each of those
If you are unsure whether an SEO campaign would justify its fees you can run a
test PPC account to see what type of demand there is in your target market.
Ad Writing Tips
There are many subtle hints to doing pay per click advertising correctly. A small
change in conversion rate can make a huge difference once scaled out across the
entire web. A marginal loss that turns into a marginal profit can become an
automated revenue stream if you know how to write your ads correctly.
English to English Conversion
I went to the UK and realized just how different the versions of English are around
the world. If you are targeting a specific region or country make sure your ads and
website make sense to locals using words and phrases that make sense in their
Use Specific Words!
Choosing a keyword for pay per click ads is similar to choosing a keyword for
search engine optimization. You do not want generic terms. Frequently single word
terms bring so many competitor clicks, compulsive clicks, and fraudulent clicks that
it is hard to justify having them. Single words are usually poorly targeted AND
more expensive. If you get into bidding wars over general terms you are playing the
game all wrong. Actually, the game is playing you.
Do Not Follow the Crowd:
Bid prices may not be justified where they are. Many times people feel they need to
have certain terms. Without tracking them, these people lose money and do not
know why they are losing.
Sometimes people chase things which give them an inflated artificial value. If you
try to do exactly what the other ads are doing you may fail. In many markets the
top listed ad is losing money on each and every click.
Use Creativity to Lower Cost and Increase Conversion
Keyword Selection:
The way to choose a term is to think creatively. Try to imagine what your user may
type into the search engine to find what you are selling. You may even want to bid
on terms which exist in a question format. Think of your target audience. Maybe
these terms are problems that people have. Perhaps these people do not even
know your product exists.
Writing Headlines:
Some of the most competitive ads in the world are magazine covers in a checkout
isle. You may want to glance through a few magazines covers and table of contents
to find ways to write headlines and ads that pull sales.
Place Keywords in Your Ads:
Many search engines highlight the words in ads that match the users query. Placing
the search term in the ad will help your ad stick out more and improve your click
through rate.
Bid on Current Events & Buzz Words:
Often times my cheapest and highest converting ads are for industry buzz words
that nobody else bid on. The phrase “Nigritude Ultramarine” (from the SEO
competition) has sold multiple copies of this ebook. In addition it has introduced
hundreds of visitors to my site at 8 cents per click.
Start with a Verb:
You may be able to significantly increase your clickthrough rate if you start your ad
copy with a powerful active verb.
Additional Conversion Tips:
Many times it is not worth it to list at the top spot. Frequently trying to list at the
top will cause bid wars with ego bidders. Usually listing a bit lower will improve the
return on investment since you have less compulsive clickers and a lower bid price.
In addition as people scroll down the ad list they do a better job of showing user
intent. They do a better job of prequalifying themselves for the purchase.
If you make the ads sound compelling to the reader, you can improve your click
through rate to where you get more traffic than the top ad does anyway. Try to
solve a problem, show a benefit, or offer a solution to their problems.
Link to a Landing Page:
Link into the exact page of your site you want visitors to see and not to your home
page. By channeling all your traffic through the home page you may be telling a
person that you do not care about them, and making it harder for them to convert
into a sale. You may even consider adding a special page to your site that is made
exclusively for that pay per click program. By linking directly into it from the ads
you make it very easy to track ROI.
Exact vs. Broad Matching (will be explained further in
AdWords section):
Many search engines have different matching levels.
Exact match will only show for search results where the user searched specifically
for your keyword phrase, and only your keyword phrase.
Phrase match will show when your exact phrase appears anywhere within the
search query with the words in the same order.
Google and Overture will sometimes show broad match ads when people search
for synonyms of your keywords. If your keywords appear in the search in any order
your ads will display.
If you are new to pay per click you may want to use exact match until you get a feel
for pay per click advertising.
Misspelled Words:
Spelling errors are sometimes corrected for by the search matching software, but
sometimes they are not. Bidding on keywords ran together, missed keys, and
spelling errors can help generate many cheap keyword variations. This free tool
makes generating a list of misspelled terms quick and easy.
Make sure you do not place the misspellings in your ad copy as search engines do
not want misspelled ads.
Search & the Buying Cycle:
Many people perform multiple searches prior to purchase. Typically early searches
tend to be more generic and as people get closer to determining what they want to
buy they search for brand names (or brand name + keyword) more frequently.
It may be harder to determine the ROI on the more generic terms than on well
branded terms as the branded clicks typically fall closer to the purchase date.
Editing Ads:
Overture approves ads before they will display. Google will display many ads
before they have had editorial approval. If you consistently break their rules they
may no longer want to do business with you, but sometimes it makes sense to see
where some of the limits are.
Knowing that Google shows some ads before they are reviewed by humans means
that Friday evening would be a good time to run aggressive ads since they might be
able to display all weekend before they are reviewed.
Once Overture has accepted a keyword you can try to rewrite new ad copy that is a
bit more aggressive. If they do not accept your new ad copy your old listing with
your old ad copy should still remain.
Customer Tracking and Bid Management
How Tracking Works:
If you are paying by the click, you need to know what each of those clicks is doing.
From the second they click until they leave or purchase.
If your server is already equipped with great tracking software it is easy to add a
tracking tag on the back of your ads. Instead of your Overture listing going to have it go to
Tracking Software:
My favorite log file analyzer is ClickTracks. It displays the webpage in a viewable
browser highlighting the click ratio for each of the links. ClickTracks also allows you
to set up custom tracking tags to view traffic through different visitor paths. While
the software is expensive to some at $500, it is a steal for some larger commercial
Some other popular conversion tracking software options are Keyword Max,
Urchin, Index Tools, & WebSideStory. If you are working with an exceptionally
large account you may also want to try something like Efficient Frontier or
ConversionRuler is inexpensive suitable software if you are primarily concerned with
tracking pay per click results. ConversionRuler starts out around $20 a month.
Overture and Google also provide built in conversion tracking software which they
provide free.
Google also created a free cross platform conversion tracking tool which comes
with their AdWords product. It works for tracking email ads, banner ads, and
various PPC search engine ads.
There are also free tracking services such as Extreme Tracking and SiteMeter if you
want to access referrer stats easily, but I would not recommend using them for
tracking any of your pay per click statistics.
If you are a heavy spender on pay per click you will most likely want to use bid
management software.
Bid Management Software:
There are automated software programs which will track your bids and change
them multiple times a day so that you achieve optimal efficiency with your ads.
These programs can do various things such as: list your site relative to another
website, bid gap management (list your site right where the first large bid gap is),
bid trapping (bidding 1 cent underneath your competitor) and various other
The best part of bid management software is that good bid management
software can allow you to dynamically change the bid price from price per
click to other metrics such cost per action or ROI.
If you get big into pay per click search engines and are managing multiple accounts
it is worth the money to use a bid management program to help save time and
money. Currently three market leaders in this field are BidRank (downloadable
software), Keyword Max (hosted software application), and Atlas OnePoint (hosted
software application). Overture also recently created their own bid management tool
by the name of Overture Search Optimizer.
Fraud Prevention Software:
Most major pay per click search engines have fraud protection built into their
system to protect the value of click prices. You should use your server logs to
validate clicks if you are running a large campaign. Generally due to time overlaps
and differences in reporting it is considered acceptable to have an error up to 10%.
If your error is much larger than that be sure to notify the search engine.
If you have a good log file analyzer and understand how to use it then you have no
need for a fraud prevention tool, but these tools make it quick and easy to spot
potential fraud.
If you believe your competitors are clicking your ads or you are investing heavily in
a competitive market you will want to take a look at additional fraud protection.
Two of the current leaders in the PPC fraud prevention software market are
Who’sClickingWho and KeywordMax Click Auditor. They both keep track of clicks
from IP addresses over time. Even if a competitor only clicks on your ads every
few days it still adds up over time. This software allows you to accumulate the
evidence you need to reverse charges and potentially file a lawsuit.
Google Adwords
Google AdWords gets it’s own extremely long section because it is exceptionally more
complicated than other PPC search engines.
Google vs. Overture:
Google AdWords and Overture are in a battle for search distribution. One or both
of these PPC delivers ads on nearly every major search engine or portal.
Google Bid Prices vs. Click Costs:
With Google you pick a maximum bid price and your bid will never exceed that.
Their software has a bid discounter built in, so often times your average bid cost
may be way less than your bid prices.
Google bid prices are not transparent so your competitors have no way to be sure
exactly what your ads are costing (due to factoring in click through rates into
effective bid price – which I will explain later). Often times your actual price is
much lower than your maximum bid price. Remember that on Google it is average
click cost that matters and that is often way different than your max bid.
A few Things you can do with AdWords:
Google AdWords is an advertising medium like no other.
There is only a $5 signup fee (which is converted into bid credits).
You can have ads across Google’s network of sites in less than 10 minutes.
Google’s broad match technology allows you to receive extremely broad
distribution while keeping it quick, easy, and simple to use. Overture now
does this too.
Google’s vast distribution network makes it possible to test a business
model without fully investing into creating that business.
Google AdWords has syndication which you can turn on or off to
determine whether or not you want AOL users and other searchers to see
your message.
Google has a content network of sites (including a few of mine) which you
can decide whether or not you want to advertise on.
The best way to do well
with Google AdWords is
to create ads with a high
click through rate. To do
that you should use the
search words in the copy
and make sure the ads are
well targeted.
Google has rolled out Geotargeting so you can target your ad to a country,
state, metro area, zip code, or geographic radius of your choice. You can
run multiple ads for the same words and test them against each other or
send them to different pages to A/B split test your site or ad copy.
The Importance of a High Clickthrough Rate:
Google lets searchers determine the relevancy of the ads. Price for Google
AdWords is a function of price per click * click through rate. Google uses the
average click through rate from the 1,000 most recent ads in this calculation. This
means if you know how to get a high click through rate you can dominate Google
AdWords by serving up ads at a far cheaper rate than what your competitors are
The following table gives examples of how the Google system calculates bid prices
and ad positions. Observe how some low priced ads appear above high priced ads
because they are more relevant. Also observe that actual click cost sometimes
varies widely when compared to max bid price. Some clicks are at times expensive
and at other times they are cheap. It is the average click cost that matters, since that
is what you are paying. Max bid does not matter since sometimes it can widely
depart from actual click price. For example, I have seen a $6.00 max bid which had
clicks go for 77 cents.
Ad Number
Max Bid
Click Cost
Distribution buys further distribution. Off the start you will want to overbid slightly
as you will be competing against the best ads that have developed over time in your
niche. If your click through rate on falls below 0.5% Google will
slowly choke the ads and eventually will suspend the ad group.
The bid prices Google suggest are often somewhat high. I usually cut the suggested
bid price by 50-75% when I first start an account. I then monitor closely and
change it to try to maintain decent ad position.
Broad Match, Phrase Match, and Exact Match:
Google AdWords and Overture both have different levels of word matching.
Using [search term] will only return searches for search term, which is called exact
match. Overture’s exact match is a bit fuzzy, matching plurals and some common
misspellings. Google’s exact match is more precise, only matching the exact search.
Using "search term" will appear on any ad that has search term in the query (in
the same order), which is called phrase match.
Using search term (no quotations or brackets) will appear on any search that has
search and term in it. With broad matching, synonyms to search term will also
return results. If you decide to start off with broad matching you should view the
synonyms to ensure none of them are wasteful. This is especially true with
acronyms or other terms with multiple well known meanings.
With Google there are all three levels of ad control, Overture groups phrase match
and broad match in a category called advanced match.
Results Will not
results for
[eat cheese]
Eat cheese
“eat cheese”
Eat cheese, I love to eat Cheese eat, or
cheese, you eat cheese
anything else which
does not have both
elements together in
the same order as
the search term
Eat cheese
All above options and
searches such as:
Any other search.
cheese eating, ate
cheddar, etc.
Please note that Overture combined broad match and phrase match into a single
group called advanced match. Google still offers all three matching technologies.
Google Ad Status:
When you upload new terms to your Google account they use mathematical
modeling to determine whether or not they think the ad will be seen as relevant.
Terms have four statuses:
Normal: ad delivery will continue at the normal rate.
In Trial: Based on the account size and history a limited number of words
that were on hold will be tested for relevancy at any given time. As those
words are tested some may be disabled and some will be moved to normal
status, at which point in time more of the on hold terms will be tested.
On Hold: if the mathematical modeling is unsure if the keywords will be
relevant the words start out in the on hold status.
Disabled: terms which were not deemed relevant.
Sometimes advertisers are frustrated by the automation and how some
exceptionally relevant terms are started on hold or disabled right out of the gate.
The point of the various ad status levels is to make it harder to spam AdWords
with irrelevant bulk term uploads. Google automates as much of the ad process as
they can to keep their profit margins fat.
If you are frustrated with something in particular feel free to voice you opinion
online and also see if it can be resolved through talking to your ad representative.
Some ad copy will also be rejected by the automated editorial review. When that
happens you can request an exception and the ad will get a human review.
Google AdWords has a blog (which does not want direct AdWords feedback), an
online support center, and you can contact Google advertising via phone at 1 (866)
2 Google.
Google Keyword Sandbox:
(Not the same thing as the SEO phenomena some people call the Google
The Google Keyword Sandbox ( will
show you what terms will be used for AdWords broad matching. In addition it will
suggest other keywords you may want to advertise for. Unlike many of the other
keyword suggestion tools the Google Keyword Sandbox does not offer search
frequency. To test search frequency you need to set up a bidding account for the
specified term (please note: this can be expensive if you do not target and bid too
In December of 2004 Google also created a search term suggestion tool which
auto-completes partial search queries. It does not show search volumes, but search
volume is believed to play a heavy role in its output. The tool is currently only
available in some languages.
Negative Keywords:
There is a negative keyword option in both Overture and Google AdWords. Any
word that you do not want your ad to appear for can simply be blocked by placing
- badword beneath your keywords.
There are many words which would indicate a lack of desire to purchase anything.
Words like crack, free, pic, mp3 or download are often money losers if you do not
remember to include these in your - keyword list.
Example keyword list showing a negative keyword: (should be much longer and
more detailed, this is just an example though)
Eat cheese
Buy cheese
Thus your ad would show up for many cheese queries, but for none that included
the words free. Google also allows you to filter negative keywords at a campaign
Dynamic Keyword Insertion:
By including your keywords in your copy, you help boost the clickthrough rate.
Keywords which occur in your ads will be highlighted by the search engine results
page display processing program. This draws additional attention to your ad.
Google now offers a tool which will place the active search word from your
keyword list in the ad title automatically. If you have a group of similar keywords
that will still use the same body text you can enable this feature by writing out your
normal body text, and placing {KeyWord: default keyword} in the title of the ad.
When the chosen keyword is greater than 25 characters the default ad title will
show. Otherwise the ad will show the search term as the ad title. Also note how I
capitalized the K and W in keyword. This makes the words in your ad title appear
capitalized. You also can place dynamic keyword insertion technology in the
middle of sentences, such as “Buy Cheap {KeyWord: default keyword}.”
Getting Feedback from Your Account:
When opening up a Google AdWords account many people are hesitant to spend
much money. In spending a small amount the business is essentially ignoring the
feedback loop Google has set up.
Is it better to loose $100 today, than to loose it over three months to finally come
to the conclusion that you need to change? I would rather want to know that I
need to change now. Not all industries will make money from AdWords. It is
not a business model that will work perfectly across the board.
If you spent on targeted keywords your site should have a chance for success. Any
good marketing internet based business relies on fast feedback loops to help it
improve. Off the start you want to overspend on your ads so you can see which
ones are effective. After a while you can regroup your ads by prices and then slash
your bid price down. The ineffective ad groups or keywords will automatically shut
off and your effective ads will keep displaying.
Google Advertising Professional:
The Google Advertising Professional program is a program which allows
marketers to be certified as a Google AdWords expert. The requirements are that
you spend at least $1,000 in a 90 day period after signing up, comply with their
rules, and pass a test. After the 90 day period is up you can place a logo on your site
which will perhaps make many people assume that Google endorses all of your
SEO / SEM services.
The new program also allows you to link together up to 500 AdWords accounts so
that you can access and manage them from a single login. Google also offers many
free online tutorials which can help prepare you for the test and help you learn
more about AdWords even if you do not want to take the test.
Google AdWords is Responsible Advertising:
Add all the above features to the fact that Google also offers a free web based
conversion tracking tool, and you can see how the AdWords system is a direct
marketers dream. Everything is targetable, tangible, and measurable right down to
the cent.
Google also offers a program by the name of Google JumpStart where they will help
set up your account for you. Likely they will not be able to set up the best account
for you, but they might be able to help you get your feet wet. The fee to join
JumpStart is $299, and the fee gets converted to bid clicks.
Keep in mind their goal is to have you spend money, which may not necessarily
have the best ROI or best keyword buys in mind. Search engines would prefer that
merchants get in bidding wars over a select small set of terms and miss out on
some of the cheaper terms.
Bonus Info: How to Improve Clickthrough Rate
and Slash Google AdWords Costs to Maximize
Determine Price By Position:
Often times the top ad position is losing money. To find out what the top position
costs on Google AdWords you can enter $50 as your bid price at the account setup
process. The estimated cost per click would be how much that position would cost
you assuming the standardized assumed click through rate (I believe this to be 1%).
You then can lower the bid price down until you get at position 2.0 then 3.0 and on
down. Each time you get to a different integer you can look at the estimated click
price to see what the click would cost assuming the standard click through rate. If
you have a higher clickthrough rate the bid price for that position will be lower. If
you have a low clickthrough rate your price will be higher.
Determine how Competitive a Market is:
Often markets shift rather quickly. If you notice certain ads appearing again and
again over time they are probably ads that are generating profits. For a quick glance
at how competitive a market is you can download the software product by the
name of AdWord Analyzer or Keyword Locator. Keep in mind there there are some
significant limitations to this type of software, as noted in my Keyword Locator
You also will want to record the top 10 results every few days for a few weeks to
up to a month. If an ad is in around the same position (which is not from a huge
corporation) after a month has passed they are probably earning profits.
Listing Your ads on Top of Google Search Results:
While lower ad positions may have a better ROI in some markets they also may
not provide adequate distribution to create significant profits. Google AdWords
will occasionally list the top ad or two above the regular search results (versus off to
the right side like most other AdWords ads). The top ads usually have a high
clickthrough rate which helps lower click costs. If you get an ad which is placed in a
premium position and then edit it then it may take a few days to get your ad to
appear back in a top position.
The ad position on the Google SERP right column is determined strictly by the
equation max bid times ad clickthrough rate. Before an ad can appear on top it has
to be reviewed by a human and the ad has to be deemed extremely relevant.
Relevancy is closely approximated by clickthrough rate, so the ads which display
above the Google search results factor in clickthrough rate more heavily than max
If you get an ad which is placed in a premium position and then edit it your ad may
take at least a few days appear back in a top position.
Find the Best Products:
If you see a lot of affiliate ads then typically there is a dominant player or system in
that keyword termspace. You may want to try purchasing your competitors
product to see the whole sales path all the way through to the backend.
If there are more non affiliate ads than affiliate ads odds are that there is no
dominant player / system in the marketplace yet.
Checking Broad Match, Phrase Match, & Exact Match:
Often times simply using exact match can drastically increase click through rates.
To determine if a person is using exact match do a search for
keyword A adfkafdjsadf keyword B
If their ad still shows up they are using broad match. If their ads are showing up for
nonsensical broad match searches then they usually have a decent click through
rate and are making profits.
You then can search for keyword A keyword B dfadfkadfa. If their ad does not show
up for the broad match check and shows up for this check they are using phrase
If their ad does not show up for the phrase match, then they are advertising via
exact match. Any time you are checking competitors’ ads you will want to refresh
the screen multiple times as sometimes certain ads will not show. Due to ad
budgeting some competing sites only show ads some of the time.
Extreme Local Targeting:
Google will allow you to target your ads to:
any zip code or metropolitan area
a radius near your business
the defined coordinates of any polygon you enter
Using Syndication:
Google has various levels of ad syndication explained in the below chart. is part of all ad delivery options. You may also enable their search and
content networks as well.
Syndication Type
Where Ad is Shown
Search + AOL, Earthlink, &
other search sites.
Content + many AdSense partner
You can check if your competitors are using AdSense syndication on content
networks by performing a search on and then clicking through to a
product from that search.
If you set up ad syndication you can (and should) make separate ad campaigns for
each level of syndication. Bid whatever you determine to be fair market value for
the Google AdWords distribution. On that ad campaign disable all
Set up a second campaign and bid a slightly lower amount and enable search
syndication but do not enable content syndication. Please note that consumer
targeted ads may well have similar or greater value on AOL as they do on Google.
In that case you may want to make Google and search syndication part of one
Since content ads do not have as much implied desire they usually have a lower
value than ads displayed on Google. Set up a third campaign with a significantly
lower bid and enable content syndication. You may also want to try using image
ads to lock out competition from being able to advertise against you.
At any given time Google will only display one of your ads. By using three separate
tiers you ensure you bid a price which is close to fair market value for each ad
network while still maximizing the reach of your ads.
Syndicated ads do not appear on partner sites until they are approved by an editor.
Many ads appear on prior to editorial review.
How Google Determines AdSense Relevancy:
Google reads the content of AdSense publisher webpages to determine what their
pages are about. When attempting to match ads with those pages Google
not a single keyword, but the entire keyword list associated with an ad
adgroup creatives are also used to help understand what ads to display;
max PPC and clickthrough rate also play into the order of the ads
displayed; and
you want to use well themed keyword adgroups to help ensure your
ads are delivered properly. Including generic words like laptop can
make it harder for Google to understand what your adgroup is trying
to sell.
Using appropriate campaign negative keywords can also help further
target your ads.
Google offers effective contextual advertising tips in this free 9 minute
Google AdSense CPM:
Most AdSense publishers do not make an exceptional amount of money for
publishing AdSense since the ads do not usually have a high clickthrough rate.
To help compensate for that, and to make AdSense more appealing to large
traditional media buyers Google has been beta testing selling AdSense ads on a
CPM rate.
When this takes effect people will be able to buy ads on off topic sites for
branding, but they will have a $2 CPM minimum, and will have to compete
with the revenue earned by other advertisements, which could drive the price
much higher. This will eventually cause people to significantly bid up the ads
on some of the larger & more important AdSense partners.
Large publishers who do not want to compete with Google selling direct ads
can optionally turn off the CPM feature.
Filtering Junk AdSense Clicks:
Click fraud is a huge issue. Google now allows you to filter out sites that you
do not want to advertise on. If a site sends you significant traffic that does not
convert you can block their URL so your ads do not appear on their site.
This tool, which I have not yet tried, tracks which sites your AdSense ads are
appearing on. Sometimes low quality scrapper sites actually convert well since
people only find them via search and immediately click an ad while still in
search mode. You can’t determine how well a site will convert without tracking
it, although if you are getting a ton of clicks and suspect fraud then it is best to
block the URL.
If you enable content syndication (displaying your ads on AdSense) make sure
you filter out regions which have notoriously high click fraud (India and most
of Asia) unless you are trying to target those regions.
Why Lower Ads Often have Better ROI:
The lower ads have a lower bid price. That can help save money if the top placed
ads are overpriced. Another great benefit of having a lower ad is that a user that
clicks on one is more prequalified to make a purchase. By scrolling through a
bunch of ads they have displayed a greater intent to make a purchase.
These two mathematical facts often mean that listing at 5 or 6 often provides a
better ROI than listing at the top. You will need to determine the profit elasticity
for your market to see what ad locations will return the highest overall profits.
Lowering Click Price after Bidding:
After you get 10 or 20 clicks and have a decent click through rate you may want to
slash your bids in half or by 2/3. Often it is best to start off with your ad around
the #1 or #2 positions to collect feedback and then let it fall back after you drop
ad price.
Expanding Breadth:
If you are running your ads correctly the availability of well targeted ads should
be what is limiting your spend.
If your ad spend is limited by a budget and you are ranking high for many of the
search terms you may want to lower your max bid to lower the position down to 3
to 7. In doing so you will be able to show up on more search results and people
who are looking at the lower ad positions are more prequalified to buy.
Dynamic Keyword Insertion:
If you have a group of similar keywords that will still use the same body text you
can enable this feature by writing out your normal body text, and placing
{KeyWord: default keyword} in the title of the ad.
When the keyword matching the search is greater than 25 characters the default ad
title will show. Otherwise the ad will show the search term as the ad title. Also note
how I capitalized the K and W in keyword. This makes the words in your ad title
appear capitalized.
Having keywords in your title can help your title jump out at people and improve
click through rates.
Google now also allows you to pass the referring keyword trigger as a variable in
the actual destination URL. To pass the trigger keyword as a variable use
&kw={keyword}. You can also track whether the clicks came from Google
content ads or Google search ads by adding the following to your URL
Use Keyword Rich URL’s to Your Advantage:
Often people view the URL as one of the most important parts of an ad. The ad
title sticks out the most, but many people factor in the URL more than the copy.
By changing your URL to a keyword rich URL you can sometimes raise your click
through rate by 50 – 200%. A new throw away domain name only costs $8 at
If you have some high selling affiliates you may want to reward them by giving
them their own keyword rich domain. This can also help some of your affiliates get
their message through to customers since a few bad affiliates can get messages with
your URL in it blocked from being received by people using AOL or similar email
Bid on Competitors Names:
Trademark laws still have not been firmly set in this field. Google allows US and
Canadian advertisers to bid on trademark names of their competitors. The
competitors trademark names may not appear in the ad, but they can be used as
the ad trigger word.
If you use competitor names as the triggering word then you need to group that in
an ad that is not using dynamic keyword insertion or your ad title will put you in
trademark violation.
Keep in mind that since the laws are gray in this area you may run into some
problems if you push the envelope and do not respond to complaints. I believe in
the US trademark owners are required to inform you of the problem and give you a
chance to fix it before they have a chance to sue you for damages (whether or not
they can sue you is still somewhat up in the air).
I did this particular technique and ticked off about a dozen SEOs who made a few
hate threads. I primarily was looking for AdSense ad space in articles, but some of
the SEOs had nasty comments about the technique (although it is rather common
You may want to ask people before using their names if you think they may take it
the wrong way. Another good way to appear on many of the content sites is to run
your ads on phrase match for some of the more popular article titles in your
Viewing Geographically Targeted Ads:
Often people will target ads to a specific country. If you are not in the country you
will be advertising in you can view the country specific ads by adding &gl=country
code to the search string (ca for Canada, US for United States, UK for United
Kingdom, etc).
If Google is mixing in state regional ads it will list the state name at the bottom of
the ad.
Geotargeting can allow you to afford words which may be broader than your
globally effective keywords since they geotargeting only delivers ads to locations
you are interested in advertising at.
You may want to break your ads down by different price levels by country codes.
One of my friends nearly doubled his ROI by placing ads from low converting
countries in their own cheaper ad groups.
Sending Users to a Landing Page:
The conversion process works best when you remove unnecessary steps. By
sending a user to a focused landing page versus your home page you can improve
conversion rates.
Use Capital Letters:
Google will allow you to use capital letters at the beginning of words in the title and
in the description. Using capital letters at the beginning of each word in your ad
title and ad description can also help boost your clickthrough rate.
Split Testing:
Google will allow you to test multiple ads at any given time. Every week you
should try to make a new ad and place it up against the best ad from the week
prior. If you have an ad that is getting an exceptionally low click through rate and
another pulling decent you can usually get rid of the bad ad after a few clicks on it.
Perry Marshall created a free online Split Testing tool which will help guide you
using mathematics to determine if it is whether or not you have collected enough
data do stop testing. He said he usually recommends waiting until it is at least 90%
to 95% sure of the results (as determined by the software).
You can also make two copies of the same ad and send it to different URLs to test
different landing pages.
When split testing you will want to turn off the auto optimization tool and you may
want to limit the test only to Google so you can get the most accurate data.
More Advanced Ad Testing:
I do not work with large enough accounts to have put extreme effort into some of
my tracking, but a few other ad testing options are:
Split Testing: explained above, but you can keep doing split testing over
and over again, creating smarter and smarter ads
A/B/C testing: make two identical copies of one of the ads and compare
it to another. Run until the CTR of the same ads are nearly identical and
then compare that rate to the other ad.
Quadrents: use two title sets and two description sets which make 4 ads.
Leave them unoptimized and run the AdWords account until a clear
leading ad is found.
Taguchi Method: a bit complex for this guide, as I have not deeply
researched it and most people probably will not use it, but the Taguchi
Method allows you to set up a large matrix of variables and determine what
the best combinations are using advanced mathematics and minimal
If You Are Having Problems with a Word:
For your highest traffic and most expensive keywords you will usually want to
make custom ads specific to each one. If you have a word that is giving you
problems in an ad group, remove it from the ad group and set it out on its own.
Off the start you can try to exact match it for a while. If you try multiple exact
match specific targeted ads for that keyword and still can not get it to run then that
might not be a word worth running an ad for.
Cheap Traffic:
Some AOL users have type search term here in their search queries. Some of them
accidentally run searches with the word here attached to a term, like hereViagra or
hereYourTerm. Some people search for stuff like NBA There is a
ton of cheap targeted traffic if you are creative.
Affiliate Ads:
Google only allows one affiliate or merchant ad per keyword per URL. This means
that affiliates do not need to identify their relationships in the ads and whoever has
the ad with the highest effective click price between the merchant and all of their
affiliates gets their ad displayed.
Affiliates can still have their ads show up if they create white label affiliate sites with
information about the products.
Creative PPC Techniques:
Mikkel wrote a few good ppc tips in this article. A few pointers he offered were:
Think creatively.
Do not point PPC ads at landing pages.
You may be able to cloak pages that the ad editors see.
Do not use the budget function.
Someone at ThreadWatch also mentioned that some of your most creative
AdWords ad ideas might be best to try out on a Friday evening so that they may be
able to run a full weekend before being spotted by an editor.
If you have the top premium AdSense position and also rank well in the organic
listings you can help bump the #2 premium ad position down to the right rail if
you edit your copy. It may take up to 3 days for an editor to read your new ad and
raise both ads to the top of the results again.
Getting Quicker Business Feedback:
When starting a B2B account it is often a bad idea to start an account on a
weekend. Monday is usually the biggest spending day for most B2B purchases and
is the best day to start your ads.
Lead generation may be a smarter way to dive into Google AdWords than trying to
sell affiliate products. Since it is common to have a lead generation rate of 10-20%
the feedback loop is about 10 times as fast as selling a product that may convert at
Google AdWords Competitive Analysis Software:
Google does not give its users tons of information about competing sites. Recently
a couple software products hit the market which ping Google and determine the ad
display rate and average ad position for your ads and competing ads. You can use
this information to see which competitors are most sophisticated and what
positions have the most competition and perhaps profits.
AdArchiver is a cheaper lower end product. AdGooroo is a higher end more
sophisticated system. Google also released an API which allows people to build
interfacing software.
Bidding on Your Brand (Important):
If you rank at the top for your brand name should you also buy the associated ad?
My answer is usually yes for the following reasons:
You can control the branding statement on your ads. You can’t do that
with your regular listings.
You can point people at your landing pages or make special offers with the
ads. Usually your home page
If you are not advertising there then your competitors may be.
If the top ranking ad is from the same site as the top ranking regular result
then more people may click on your regular result.
If you have affiliates make sure you are not getting in bidding wars with
them. Create a consistent affiliate marketing plan that makes sense.
Additional AdWords Resources:
• Google offers a free ebook to help you get the most out of your Google
AdWords account.
Andrew Goodman's Google AdWords report.
Perry Marshall’s Definitive Guide to Google AdWords.
Greg Heslin’s Google AdWords 123 – talks about affiliate marketing using
AdWords, mentioning specific testing numbers, and marketing based on
human emotion.
Google Advertising Professional Program
Google’s learning center
Many of the Google AdWords tips I learned came from Andrew
Goodman’s and Perry Marshall’s reports.
Resources Cited
• MarketingSherpa’s Landing Page Handbook
Overture Advertiser Workbook: (free)
Google’s Maximum Effect Guide (free)
Andrew Goodman’s 21 Way AdWords Report (
Perry Marshall’s Definitive Guide to Google AdWords
Greg Heslin’s Google AdWords 123
Google Advertising Professional Program
Google AdWords Blog (
Google AdWords Support Center (
Google’s learning center
Black Hat PPC
Customer Tracking & Bid Management
ClickTracks - log file analyzer...awesome ( )
Urchin – offers both log file analyzer and downloadable software. Google
recently purchased Urchin. (
Index Tools – web based tracking software (
WebSideStory – (
ConversionRuler – web based PPC click tracking
Extreme Tracking - free tracking software (
SiteMeter - free tracking software
BidRank - downloadable bid management software
KeywordMax – web based software (
Atlas OnePoint - web based software (
Overture Search Optimizer
Google also offers a free cross platform tracking product with AdWords
which can track email ads, banner ads, and various PPC search engine ads.
Fraud Prevention Software
Who’s Clicking Who (
Click Auditor (
Track which pages your AdSense ads appear on (
Keyword Suggestion Tools
Digital Point Keyword Suggestion Tool
Keyword Discovery
Good Keywords
The Google Keyword Sandbox
Google Search Suggestion (organized by search volume)
Overture Keyword Suggestion Tool
Overture View Bid Price Tool
Keyword Typo Generator
Country Specific Search Frequency
Keyword List Creators
Free web based (
Free downloadable software (
$50 downloadable software (
Keyword Software Tools
• Adwords Analyzer helps you see how many competing ads there are.
Keyword Locator is similar to AdWords Analyzer, but a bit more expensive with
a few more features (
Keyword Locator review (
AdWords Competitive Analysis Software
• AdArchiver – cheaper competitive analysis software.
AdGooroo – more expensive and more sophisticated software.
Google AdWords API (
• ZoneEdit (
Split Tester (
Google Contextual AdWords Tips
Large Pay Per Click Search Engines
Google AdWords (
Overture (
Smaller Pay Per Click Search Engines
FindWhat (
Kanoodle (
Enhance Interactive (
Search123 (
Epilot (
Some Notes
Sign up for a Google AdWords account (one time $5 fee which is converted
into bid credits) (
Write down 5 generic terms for your website. Check the traffic for these terms
using the Overture Keyword Suggestion Tool.
Search for these terms and view how much people are bidding using the
Overture bid price tool.
Do the words seem like they are worth their price? Do these prices surprise
Check the price of these same words with your Google account. Are these
prices close to one another?
Write down 10 negative keywords for your site. Why are these words bad?
Write down 10 phrases you think you can make a killing off of. Why are these
phrases good? Check the prices, are these generic terms? If they are generic
write down ten more terms and compare their prices.
Before spending money on pay per click you should spend hours writing ad
copy and many hours performing keyword research.
If you intend to spend heavily on Google AdWords you may want to read the
additional reports I linked to. You only need to find one or two good tips from
a different perspective for those reports to pay for themselves.
Monitoring Results
earch engine marketing is an ongoing process which is never really done.
You should reserve some time each month for viewing the competition and
working hard to create new ideas to help spread your popularity.
The web grows with or without you, so if you are stagnant then you are falling
When Results Don't Show
Think Big:
With pay per click or regular search engines you should always be looking to
improve your bottom line. Hosting has gotten so cheap that more traffic does not
usually cost much more money. Most people rarely come near their limits. Pay per
click advertising it is the same thing that Don LaPree preaches with his newspaper
ads, except that it is way more trackable and has faster feedback loops. You find
something that is marginally profitable and repeat it many times over. Keep
refining the ads and increase profit margins.
The Value of Large, Reputable Serivces:
Sometimes results never show up. That is why it is important to stick with the
larger pay per click search engines when you use them. If you start using small
ones you not only have to spend more time managing a ton of accounts, but you
may also be buying traffic which is only machine generated. The things you need to
focus on are your site, your ads, and your conversions. It is easy to lose focus of the
big picture if you are trying to maintain 25 accounts.
Why Isn't It Working?
With regular search listing it takes months of optimization and gathering links to
list well. If your site does not list at all after a month or two (especially for really
focused terms such as your own domain name or domain string), then it indicates a
problem. You have either not created enough inbound links for the search engine
to find you, or you are being penalized for spamming, or you do not know how to
find your site, or have technical problems with your site.
SEO Worst Practice Manual
This chapter is dedicated to some of the tricks people try to play on search engines.
Much the same as people spam your inbox; many others are spamming the search
engines. Some of the most common current techniques are:
free for all link exchange – not effective
cloaking (if done incorrectly) – cheap cloaking is usually bad cloaking
redirects – usually not effective
hiding text either on or off the page – not effective
interlinking many small sites to gain popularity (this one still usually
works exceptionally well if done correctly)
keyword stuffing – not effective
link renting / buying & creating a link network (this one still usually
works exceptionally well if done correctly)
Why They Usually do Not Work:
Free For All:
Free for all link exchanges are very easy to spot for search engines. Once they are
spotted they get issued a spam penalty and many get deleted from the search
engine index.
As long as there is some small amount of value there some adult or drug website
webmaster will find it. After one finds it many follow and then the site becomes
Meta redirects with short time duration are offered a small penalty to lower their
relevancy. Google has been doing a better job of spidering java redirects recently
and has penalized many sites that were using mouseover redirects. Yahoo! editors
may remove your site from their search index if they notice deceptive redirects.
If you do move a site or page you can use a 301 redirect to allow the link popularity
to parse through to the new location. If you do move site locations you will want to
leave the old site up for a few weeks to a month to ensure search engines and
internet service providers have updated the old DNS details for your site before
taking it down.
Link Renting & Creating a Link Network:
Link renting and creating link networks are exceptionally effective SEO techniques
if done correctly (though if your link renting or site networks are done exclusively
to manipulate search results and it is easily detectible you may get penalized).
Linking a bunch of small sites together also shows up easily if you do not have a
bunch of different external links pointing into your link network. Many search
engines also have the ability to devalue links from the same C block IP range or
from the same owner. Make sure if you do this you register your domains through
a proxy, use various hosts for different sites, and get a bunch of links pointing into
your sites. If you create link networks and do not have original useful content on
each site (and reasons for creating many sites) then you are taking a risk that your
site may be removed from search results.
Some people also use automated bots to scour the web for links. They still work
some, but they really annoy some people and can ruin your branding.
Hidden Text:
Hidden text usually exists on sites that have other problems as well. If the search
engines find it they may drop the site.
While it is sometimes hard for a search engine to find, fellow webmasters may rat
you out to the search engines or not want to exchange links with you for using this
practice. Yahoo! actively edits their search results and that would be a large amount
of traffic to lose if they found you.
Using invisible text adds little on the reward side, and admits that you can’t
compete. There are far more effective SEO techniques to use.
If cloaking is done correctly it is extremely hard to detect. The problem with
cloaking is that it builds no intrinsic value. As the web grows your site stays
stagnant. I would not be interested in chancing my long term financial stability on
the ability of one software company to stay ahead of the major search engines
If you do use cloaking I would recommend going with one of the best:
***** Link Building / spam TANGENT************
Black Hat is the term given to unethical SEO. When in doubt if something is bad
feel free to ask me. I also have recently created as an example
directory of promotion ideas which will typically waste your time and money. Me
creating Black Hat SEO caused some people to view me in a negative light.
Even if people hate it they may talk about the idea spreads I will become
more well known. To be extremely successful on the web you either have to
be really good or really bad...that site is really bad...but it has a clear purpose.
Now the entire industry has to either come up with a different catch phrase, or my
site sticks as the official answer... That is a bunch of marketing power I can leverage
in the future!!!
Within 6 months of me making that site Danny Sullivan (of SearchEngineWatch)
mentioned it in a new article about spam. Since that site has came out it has cost
less than $5 a month and has generated thousands of dollars worth of business,
link popularity, and notoriety.
It is hard for me to get people to link to “Aaron Wall: SEO Consultant.”
It is somewhat easier for me to get links into “SEO Book: free search
engine news.”
It is way easier for me to get links into “Black Hat SEO: funny link
*******END TANGENT**********
Why Frames are Evil:
Though it is not a spam technique it is not recommended that you use frames. The
problem with frames is that everything on the internet has a defined location,
except frames. While the home page has a defined location the search engine will
not group the other frame sets. All the internal documents will show as stand alone
pages, which will require you to use redirects to display the frameset. You can use a
noframes tag to allow search engines to read the content, but you still will have
other major problems.
The most evil thing about frames is that if I do not know what the URL of one of
your great articles is, then how can I link to it?
Aggressive SEO Practices Which Still Help:
Some SEO firms still do rather well by creating reciprocal link rings and by buying
links. When a person is paying for placement in the Yahoo! Directory, they are
renting links the same way that “unethical” SEO firms are. Ethics is generally a
bogus term to use in relation to SEO. Effective vs ineffective and risk vs reward
are better ways of describing different SEO practices.
When exchanging links you do not want to exchange links with any site that does
not add value to your user experience or offer you great strategic advantages. I have
in the past reciprocated links with a few off topic sites, but usually I would only
consider doing this if my site was new and theirs was extremely powerful.
When buying links you should look at local 501 C nonprofit sites, blogs, and other
sites that sell links rather cheaply. Sometimes sites inside your industry will rent or
sell links at reasonable prices.
Aggressive SEO Firms:
Many people will play the ethics angle to promote themselves. Search engine ethics
is a rather bogus concept when you are getting paid a ton of money to promote
corporations which use sweatshop labor.
It is important that you can trust your SEO, and you should know if they are doing
anything which could get you punished. It is a fact though that the search engines
and SEO firms owe each other absolutely nothing when it comes to the organic
search results.
I recently became more aggressive, though I am still rather conservative in
comparison to many SEO firms. It is a balancing act.
Link purchasing is an effective form of advertisement just like buying a billboard.
Many people who sell links do not care about your gain, but their own. There are
some exceptionally gifted link broker networks out there, but they are not
necessarily going to be easy to find. If you are marketing in an extremely aggressive
category I can help you find a link broker that suits your needs, but you will
probably save money by hunting out cheap links from related sites and listing in
directories first. Whenever possible I also try to rent “run of the site” links versus
renting single links.
If something seems like a thing you have never heard of before or it can not be
easily explained then it should probably be questioned. If the idea shows search
engines one thing and then shows the user something else it is generally not a good
practice unless it is via paid inclusion, or is done by an extremely talented SEO.
Feel free to ask me if you have any specific questions on the topic.
Other Problems
Often people like to use flash to show off their web design talents. Many people
are overwhelmed by flash content. Some dialup visitors will not wait for your flash
to load. Overture and Google AdWords have become such an effective advertising
medium because of their simplicity.
I strongly urge not using flash on most websites because it gives search engines
inadequate content to read. If you do not give search engines much text then you
will need a larger linking campaign to get that page to rank well. If you do embed a
flash object make sure you also provide content inside noembed tags to help search
engines understand what is inside the flash.
<NOEMBED> My happy content or whatever…</NOEMBED>
Session IDs & Do Not Feed Search Engines Cookies:
Assuming you have many incoming links and your site is still not indexed after an
extended period of time you should do some evaluation. If you have not received a
spam penalty and your site was not previously banned you may have a technical
There are many dynamic websites which only get a fraction of their web pages
indexed. Search engines are getting better at finding the pages, but they still do not
like session ids. If a search engine thinks you are giving it a session ID number it
will not want to cache your page.
If search engines indexed sites that gave them session ID numbers they could draw
too much from the site in a quick amount of time and crash the server, they could
get the idea that the site is much larger than it actually is, or they could fill their
index up with pages that no longer exist. If you have a shopping cart do not issue a
session ID until an item is placed in the cart.
Dynamic Site Fiction
Some ill informed people say that search engines penalize sites for having a .asp or
.php extension. This is complete garbage.
Search engines read any page as hypertext no matter what the file extension is. If a
site is not getting indexed it usually is lacking in sufficient inbound link popularity, is
using java navigation that spiders can not follow, or is issuing the search engine spiders
a session ID or cookies.
Is My Site Cached?
To check whether or not your page is in the Google cache you can do a search in
Google for If the page is in their cache
then Google is reading it just fine.
All search spiders are not the same though, and some other things can keep your
site from getting indexed. Yahoo!, for example, has been known not to index some
sites well if each page does not have a unique title.
One URL for Each Unique Content Unit:
At the end of the day search engines want as much useful valuable content as they
can index. Each additional useful document improves their relevancy and allows
them to sell more ad space.
Some people use rotating URLs or create many pages using printer friendly
versions, and different versions based on size and color. If many of your pages are
almost exactly the same or if the URLs search engines index are usually dead when
they go back to reindex them then there stands a good chance that search engines
will not want to index your site very well.
Disable Cookies:
Search engines do not accept cookies. If your site gives cookies try turning them
off and seeing your site how some search engines see it. If when cookies are
disabled a session is placed in the URL to search spiders it could cause indexing
Dynamic Site Tips:
The best tips I have been told for getting dynamic content spidered are have three
or less variables, and keep each product or category ID variable at or below 10
digits. Building a site map can also help spiders find your inner pages.
id= is often associated with session IDs. Search engines do not want to index
multiple copies of the exact same content and may avoid portions of your site if
they think that a parameter is a session ID. Avoid using ID in your URL.
Instead of using ID=345 or catID=345 use prod=345 or cat-345 in the URL. If
you use many variable you may also want to try URL rewriting.
If you do not have dozens of inbound links into a large database driven site then
only a small portion of your site is likely to get indexed.
If you have a database driven site with sensitive data you may also want to change
the database error pages so it is harder for hackers to find their ways into your
Content Management Systems:
When debating what content management system to use you may want to look to
see what various people say about how search engines index it. Additionally, a few
common problems with many content management systems are
Many use the same content for the page title and heading tag. By making
these tags slightly different you can rank for more search terms.
Many content management systems have problems with URLs, session
IDs, and cookies
Many content management systems do not allow you to add custom fields
for things like the meta description tag.
URL Rewriting:
Also, if you are using an Apache server you can use mod rewrite to write your inner
pages as if they were static domains and not executed variables. Microsoft servers
also have custom software solutions. In the next section I will cover what I consider
a last alternative way around some of these types of problems: paid inclusion.
Wrong Server Status or Server Misconfigured:
If you use a custom error script make sure that the error page returns a 404 header
code. Also make sure your regular pages return a proper 200 series status code.
Rarely server clocks are misconfigured. If search engines do not think a document
has changed since they last visited it then some of them will not spider the
document again.
Free Help:
If you are uncertain if something is wrong with your site there is a ton of free
feedback available at the SEO forums. Often times you will get great free advice
because the person giving it either likes to help people or realizes that it is great
marketing to help people out.
Speeding Things Up - Paid Inclusion
• I do not usually use paid inclusion. It may be worth the fee for helping
teach how to do SEO, but I think the fees are rarely justified for most sites.
Yahoo! has been cracking down on low qualitly content. If your site is
less than 100% legit or does not have substantial original content I would
not recommend using Yahoo!’s paid inclusion program. If you submit it to
their paid inclusion program and they reject you they may remove your site
from their search index.
Paid Inclusion Benefits:
• The first benefit of paid inclusion is that you are guaranteed that your page
will be in the index, even if your site would otherwise have a dynamic issue
that was stopping it. You may not immediately list exceptionally well with
it, but it will be in the index.
Paid inclusion programs also offer a rapid refresh rate, which is perfect if
you have rotating stock.
Paid inclusion gives you the chance to tweak your page to match the
algorithm and see the changes in the rankings within a couple days. This is
invaluable if you are teaching yourself how to do SEO. It gives you a rapid
feedback loop which helps you learn and change quickly.
Yahoo! Search heavily weighs in page content into their algorithm. Yahoo!
factors in links, but nowhere near as much as Google or Teoma does. Add
a decent number of quality inbound text links to a page ranking well in
Yahoo! Search and it should list well in Google, Teoma, and other major
Large sites and large partners may submit trusted feeds, which are usually a
bit easier to tweak and optimize than changing page copy.
Why I Don’t Use Paid Inclusion:
I do not recommend buying many paid inclusion programs unless you have a page
of rotating stock that you need updated frequently.
Yahoo! is the only major paid inclusion program with a decent amount of traffic.
They charge recurring fees for each click which does not work with many business
models. Their paid inclusion program goes by the name of Overture Site Match.
Overture Site Match:
Inktomi Site Submit was replaced by Overture Site Match (Yahoo!’s paid inclusion
program), which charges a review fee and an incremental cost per click. Having a
web page included in the Site Match paid inclusion program costs $49/year, plus a
flat category based cost per click of 15 cents or 30 cents. There is speculation
within the SEO community that Yahoo! may be thinking about dumping or
changing its paid inclusion program.
Yahoo! Search’s Info:
Yahoo! Search has a rather large index. It is also an algorithm which is primarily
driven by page content. Typically if you list good in Yahoo! and then add a quality
linking program you should rank well in the other major search engines which
place more focus on links.
One of the good things about Site Match program is that if an editor reviews and
views your content as valuable then they may shift it over so that they use that page
as a seed page to get the rest of your site indexed. Additionally Yahoo! offers free
inclusion into the Site Match program to some 501C charity websites.
Most people spending money on paid inclusion programs would fair better to
spend their money on building a linking campaign. I only recommend paid
inclusion if your site has rapidly rotating stock, is driven by a large database that
search engines struggle to crawl, or if you need the tracking associated with the Site
Match program.
Other Paid Inclusion Programs:
InfoSpace has a paid inclusion programs, but they do not get enough traffic to
justify the fee for smaller websites. If you build up sufficient link popularity your
site may get spidered by the major search engines frequently enough to where there
would be no purpose to pay for InfoSpace paid inclusion.
InfoSpace powers less than 10% of the overall search market. Google and Yahoo!
Search control the lion share of the market.
Many other small search engines such as EntireWeb offer paid inclusion, but
generally I think they are not money well spent. I usually do not recommend paying
for inclusion in sites or search indexes that do not provide a spiderable static text
link to your site.
General and topical directories are important to list in, but you need to investigate
the area thoroughly before spending. Make sure they provide you with a spiderable
text link and that the page you will be listed on is in the Google index by checking from Google and Yahoo!.
Free Paid Inclusion Programs:
The best way to get indexed is through link building, but in June of 2005 Google
created a free program called Google Sitemaps, which is used to help their crawler
know what pages are on your site.
The program is in beta, I have not used it, and there is no guarantee they will index
pages that are only mentioned on the Google Sitemaps files. Many webmasters
have also created programs which interface with popular content management and
blog scripts to automatically generate up to date Google Sitemaps files.
Other Search Engines
There are hundreds of search engines on the web, but only a few control most of
the traffic. Generally speaking if I did not mention a search engine in the ebook I
do not think of it as a primary concern for most search engine marketers.
Smaller Foreign Search Engines:
Some asian search engines operate using different functions for relevancy than
their current worldwide counterparts since many of the characters are ran together.
Recently Yahoo! and Google have both invested in this space and I would expect
rapid shifts in relevancy in the next year.
Most of the other large search engines (domestic or international) can easily be
found out by checking the latest Neilson / Netratings figures from
Shopping Search Engines:
I did not cover shopping search engines extensively but they usually operate
similarly to how pay per click search engines work. Shopping search engines have a
limited distribution compared with the larger search engines. The major shopping
search engines are Bizrate, DealTime (owns and Epinions), Kelkoo
(a European shopping search engine purchased by Yahoo!), Froogle, Yahoo!
Shopping, MSN Shopping, Price Grabber, and MySimon.
Expect to see significant consolidation in this market soon. Google has actively
been promoting their Froogle product and Yahoo! bought Kelkoo toward the end
of 2003. Click here for more information about shopping search engines.
Local Search:
Local search has the potential to be a rather large market, as North America Yellow
Pages bring in 16 billion dollars per year.
Various businesses will tell you that is not a big deal and other businesses will tell
you that it is the best thing since sliced bread. Typically who is funding the report
determines the outcome.
Local search is still somewhat underdeveloped. Google Local recently allowed
businesses to list their local information for free. Yahoo! Local allows sites to be
listed for free and charges $9.95 a month for premium placement.
If you have a local type business you may also want to look at some of the other
local search properties such as CitySearch, SuperPages, and SwitchBoard.
Invisible Tabs:
A general search database can only provide a useful search service for a limited
number of search queries. That is why so many vertical search engines exist. They
can afford to buy leads from Google or Yahoo! and then funnel them through the
sales cycle and sell them at a higher price to merchants.
All of the major search engines are also looking to build out their vertical search
offerings. Sometimes at Google you will notice above the search results they have
links to news, press releases, local search, Froogle (shopping search), stock quotes,
weather, maps, books, and other types of information.
Google calls this area OneBox. Danny Sullivan wrote a great article about this
concept called Searching with Invisible Tabs which helps explain what this
technology does. Essentially if search engines know enough about you or your
query to assume that a smaller more specific database will provide better results
than the general database they will make that selection for you. Search engines are
also experimenting with some technologies to try to answer some questions from
within the search results page.
For the time being general search is exceptionally important, but as time passes
these niche databases will be used more and more frequently. If you have a local
business it is probably worth the time to submit your business details to local
search engines. If you sell a wide variety of products it is probably worth your time
to submit a Froogle feed.
Creating and positioning a site which is able to be listed in some of the vertical
databases (like Google News for example) gives your business an unfair advantage
over other businesses that are not.
Search Engine Papers:
If you are interested in more of the algorithm stuff there are some free great
documents out there which go into great detail.
• SearchEngineWatch search engine ratings and reviews
Shopping Search Engines
Black Hat SEO (
Old article I wrote about SEO Forums (
Free ebooks and literature (
Overture Content Match – paid inclusion program – not recommended to
most webmasters
Lycos Insite paid inclusion – not recommended to most webmasters
Excite Paid inclusion – not recommended to most webmasters
Google Sitemaps (
Searching with Invisible Tabs
Google Local ( Add your site to Google Local
Yahoo! Local ( Add your site to Yahoo! Local.
CitySearch (
SuperPages (
SwitchBoard (
• Fantomaster – industrial strength cloaking (
ISAPI rewrite software – url rewrite software from MicroSoft servers
Mod Rewrite – url rewrite instructions for Apache servers
Hiring an SEO
The Goal of this Ebook:
The goal of this ebook was to be a do it yourself guide to SEO. Some people read
through this and say that its too much and they do not want to do it.
The core of SEO is a simple concept…you want other people to link to your with
your primary keyword phrases in their link text. That is what good SEO is.
If you do not remember parts of the ebook you can look at it later or ask questions
at SEO forums. Additionally the last chapter is a quick start checklist. I decided to
add this section to the ebook because I know some people who read this ebook
end up wanting to buy SEO services and hopefully I can help them find a good
The only time I have ever bought SEO services I paid too little and thus bought
from a shady vender. That is part of what caused me to learn SEO and write this
ebook. I might not have all the answers, but I have likely read millions of forum
posts and have seen many complaints. If you need help finding someone to do
SEO please let me know and I will recommend someone to you. Below are some
resource links and important questions associated with buying SEO services, as
well as brief descriptions of some of the SEO business models.
What are My Goals?
That is what most businesses or webmasters want. Some people think they need a
number one ranking, but ranking number one in and of itself may not mean a
Each day around half of all web searches are unique. If you do SEO well then you
site not only shows up ok for some of the generic terms related to your products,
but also lots of specific terms.
Buying Rankings:
When you buy SEO it is best to pay for targeted traffic instead of just trying to buy
a number one ranking. You should communicate clearly with your SEO so they
understand what your specific goals are. You also should feel comfortable with
them and trust them before you give them any money. If you do not feel
comfortable then you are likely better off to keep shopping around.
Pay for quality targeted traffic, do not pay for rankings!
Risk vs Reward:
Some SEO techniques are more risky than others. Make sure you understand what
risks are associated with your promotion techniques.
There are exceptionally cheap and effective automated techniques which eventually
may cause your site to get penalized. If you are setting up throw away domains that
may be fine, but if you are not using a throw away domain you will want to avoid
those types of techniques.
Most SEOs are not able to gain top rankings or tons of traffic overnight. Make
sure you know what to expect and when. If you need traffic in a hurry then you will
probably want to use pay per click search engines.
SEO Business Models
Profit Share:
Some SEOs may be interested in working using a profit share business model. This
type of relationship requires a great amount of trust from both parties. Usually
people who do not know you well will not want to work for a potential share of
future profits.
I can not even tell you how many people set up a generic pharmacy template
driven affiliate website and want me to work for future profits for them.
Most SEOs are not going to want to work via profit share off the start. If you have
an original great idea some may but it is going to be hard for most webmasters to
find a profit share SEO partner.
Pay Per Click:
Some marketers specifically sell services for setting up and managing pay per click
search engine accounts. Some people charge 20% of ad spend for management,
some people charge for account setup and let you run things from there, and some
people charge recurring fees.
Different business models will be better for you depending on how competitive
your market is and how complex your campaign needs to be. If you have an
exceptionally cheap campaign then it will be hard to get people to work for 20% of
ad spend.
Sell All Clicks as Pay Per Click:
Some SEOs sell both organic traffic and pay per click ads on a cost per click basis.
This has recurring fees, but also may limit your down payment risk since you are
only paying for traffic which you get.
Some networks that do this have you pay to create content where they also place
ads for others, and they may take years to deplete your initial deposit. Make sure
you define how the ads will appear and get an approximate time range to deliver
traffic. Also ask around to ensure their traffic is legitimate traffic and not some
automated traffic bots.
Cloaking and Doorway Pages:
Some software allows people to automatically generate thousands of keyword rich
pages a day. Obviously search engines do not like this technique. Some people are
exceptionally good at cloaking, but you still may get caught if you use it.
If you find yourself paying only a few hundred dollars you will want to set up
different sites for those types of services and you will not want to connect those
other sites to your other site in any way. Multiple sites can get penalized because
one of them was doing something shaddy.
Create a Content Network for You:
Some SEOs create a content network for you and charge you for the traffic. In a
sense this is leasing traffic in a way similar to using pay per click search engines. If
they know what they are doing they should be able to provide you targeted traffic
cheaper than pay per click search engines do, but there are a couple major
downsides to this business model.
Some of these networks also sell traffic to your competitors…meaning you
could be paying to set up networks that send traffic at competing websites.
Some of these networks may require a down payment which takes many
years to pay itself off. After they already have your money there is no
guarantee that they will care about you.
When your clicks run out you have to pay again.
If you decide not to renew then in the end you paid to create another
competing website which will continue to drive traffic at competing
One Time Fee for SEO on Your Site:
Some niche fields have little competition. If you do not have many competing
websites in your field you may be able to rank well by doing on page SEO,
performing a bit of directory registration, and trading a few links. In niche fields
you may be able to get by with only paying a one time fee.
Most quality SEO services (even for a niche site) will cost over a thousand dollars
since there is great value in it. Some people who do not realize what their services
are worth may charge less, but if you pay only a few hundred dollars you stand a
good chance of wasting time and money.
Ongoing Fees for SEO:
If you are in a competitive field doing a good job of SEO may require ongoing
fees. Many SEOs also require a down payment before they begin work. The
competitive nature of the market will determine what rates work.
Some SEOs will be cheaper than others, while some charge a hefty premium for
their knowledge and experience. If you are in a field such as gambling or pharmacy
then the associated SEO fees are going to be much greater than they are for a
person selling pillows or dog toys.
Size of Firm:
As an individual I am somewhat biased in saying that I think small SEO firms
generally do a better job than larger ones.
There are a ton of problems with scaling out a large SEO firm.
Most people inherently are not going to be as creative or knowledgeable as
some of the better SEOs.
As the size of the firms increase cost increases exponentially.
It is hard to keep good SEOs working at larger firms because they might
feel like they are lost in the shuffle.
Doing SEO does not necessarily require a ton of expenses or an office. If a
person could make $50,000 - $100,000 or more per year working out of
their house why would they want to work for a firm for much less?
More Information on Buying SEO Services
SEO Trade Unions & SEO Directories:
Any trade union or SEO directory will have some people (likely marketers) at the
center of it. This may of course cause conflict. SEMPO, for example has been
ridiculed to death by many prominent members of the SEO community. I do not
recommend SEMPO since it seemed like a promotional technique for selfish
There are a few more reputable locations you can look for SEOs at. SMA is
comprised of many regional SEO / SEM trade associations which intends to be a
bit more reputable than SEMPO. A couple other spots where you can hunt for
SEO / SEM professionals are:
SEO Pros – reviewed best practices guide of SEO firms.
SEO Consultants – reviewed directory of SEO firms.
MarketingSherpa – has a Buyer’s Guide to SEO for sale. I have not yet
read it.
SEO forums – much of the information in SEO forums will be outdated
or over hyped information with an agenda, but it is an additional location
where you can seek feedback about SEO firms.
People somehow related to Traffic Power made a bunch of fake forums to
promote there less than stellar services, but on most SEO forums you will
find a few friendly people who provide good answers to SEO questions.
Some of the people who seem like they would be compatible with you may
be worth contacting to see if they are available to perform SEO services.
At various SEO forums you will find various different biases, so it is a
good idea to ask questions at a bunch of different forums to get a feel for
them. You may want to space out your questions and ask slightly different
questions at the different forums so that people who frequent various
forums do not think that you are using some sort of automated forum
spamming software.
You can also find further information about hiring an SEO at
• SEO Pros (
SEO Consultants (
Marketing Sherpa’s Buyer’s Guide to SEO
SEO Forums – list of some SEO forums
Honest SEO – (
Selling SEO Services
hen I originally created this guide it had no information about selling
services. The two main reasons for that are that I am bad at selling
services (as I tend to underprice them) and that as time passes most of
the most successful SEOs end up moving closer to the profit stream
by setting up their own ecommerce sites or partnering with local merchants they
If you want to sell services I highly recommend talking to Dan Thies. Taking his 16
week course or a one or two hour consultation with him would likely help you
develop a brand strategy and help you scout out leads. Below are what tips I can
offer from my limited experience in selling services and from listening to some of
the tips Dan gave me.
Online Auctions
Some sites like run auctions which allow people to buy various
services. Most of these auctions will be from:
Competitors looking at how to price their services.
People who are not interested in, or do not know the value of quality SEO.
People looking for a steal. These are customers who will waste your time
and never be happy, even if their $100 spend makes them $10,000 or
I personally only ever placed a few bids at online auctions, but the things you want
to look out for when trying to sell services are to make sure that the leads are
ones you would want to take on
ones you have the technical knowhow and time to pay on
ones that appear willing to listen to feedback and have reasonable
ones that are interested in bid quality instead of bid price
You can’t expect to learn everything, especially when you are new. One of the
fundamental flaws when I started learning was that I thought it was my job to learn
marketing, html, graphics, SEO, PHP, ASP, MySQL, etc. In trying to learn
everything you can spread yourself too thin.
The nice things about forums are that you get to learn and teach at the same time.
Some of your posts can act as mini sales letters which will drive targeted leads your
way. Reading other threads will help you learn nuggets. On top of selling and
learning you also get to make friends and learn who knows what. This can help
immensely when issues come up that you are unsure of how to handle.
I usually try to stick with smaller to mid sized forums off the start as they are easier
to get noticed at than in large forums. Forums like Cre8asite and SearchGuild
might be good places to get started.
Writing Articles
Not everyone is a good writer, but I believe most people can be trained or practice
to become at least a decent one. I no longer write articles as much as I did in the
past, but for a while I was featured in WebProNews almost weekly.
The key to writing articles is to write something so compelling that people will
want to link to it, or write something decent and work to get it syndicated on
networks with many eyeballs.
When I started SEO I was exceptionally poor. It took a while for me to get around
to writing articles, but when I did write one I noticed a flurry of leads the next
couple days. $300 was a lot of money to me back then, and it was not uncommon
to make that in consulting to leads generated from each of the articles I wrote.
Well executed research articles tend to get significant media coverage. Kalena
Jordan did a study on the lack of search engine visibility of the top 100 New
Zealand companies and got a ton of leads from it. Fathom Online created a
Keyword Price Index rating which tracks PPC ad prices by category each month.
Many search related sites give Fathom Online free exposure every month by
mentioning these statistics. SEO PR was the first SEO company purely focused on
the public relations aspect. It is easier for them to get links from other SEO sites
than it is for most other SEO businesses. Brad Fallon created an SEO radio show
which makes it easy for him to get on topic links.
In an industry with a rather tarnished reputation the value of having a voice that is
seen or heard by many is something you can’t place enough value on. For example,
there is at least a 99% chance you would have never bought this ebook if I did not
have the associated blog.
Ideal Clients
There are many ways to find customers for SEO. One of the common problems is
that many people do not know they need SEO services or what SEO services are.
If you think of prospects in terms of the ideal prospect what would be their
common characteristics?
they have a profitable business
they are in a market position that is not hyper-saturated
they sell non commodity products or things that are not easy to get
they already rank ok (the top 100 or so) for some of their keywords
their business model makes sense for the web (item is cheap to ship or
requires customization which makes it more convenient to buy online than
to keep hunting at various offline stores)
they already have websites
they are well established on the web
they are willing to spend enough money to see results
they already know a bit about SEO
they have reasonable expectations
they are a similar sized business or one that you would feel comfortable
working with
Where do you find these people? Odds are that most leads are not going to line up
with all your most desirable characteristics. Some people will align with many of
them though. You probably do not want to spend the same amount of effort on all
leads. Instead it is wiser to place more effort on leads which seem close to
conversion and leads which seem like they are a great match for your business.
It is also important not to rely to heavily on any one potential client. Some people
may just be feeling out the market or trying to learn as much from you as they can
for free before doing their own services.
Where to find Clients
Again I would like to emphasize how well articles worked for me in the past.
Almost every single person I worked with found me from articles I wrote.
Some common places to look for clients:
business & shopping categories of What’s New at the Yahoo! Directory –
these people have spent $300 on a single link and are actively promoting
their websites.
Some services (used mostly for email spamming) also track sites which are
newly accepted to DMOZ.
Pay per click ads for somewhat expensive keywords. Make sure you do not
click their ads to visit their sites.
Local business meetings.
Search conferences.
Create lists or review products on (which has worked for me
Leave testimonials in proper places.
Product demo meetings from companies like WebTrends. Watching them
demonstrate and sell their products will help you learn how to sell, and you
will be surrounded by qualified leads.
Questions to Ask Clients
Many times clients will not tell you of past experiences. Research the clients before
accepting the job.
they may have had their site banned
do they have any past SEO experiences
they may have shadow domains and duplicate content or other problems
they may think they know everything already, and may not give you room
to breathe or do your job correctly
there are limits to how blunt you can be, but you need to find out who
makes the decisions.
get a baseline of where the client is currently at so you can compare the
outcome to their current market position
Also make sure you understand the short and long term goals of the client and that
they are willing to listen to you and provide you with the resources necessary to
make them possible.
It works best if they understand the process and have their expectations inline with
what you plan on delivering before you accept the project. It also works out best
when you work with people you feel you would like to work with.
Off the Web & Major Changes
What does their company deserve to be ranked in the top ten available resources?
What is their unique sales proposition?
Is their business healthy? Are other disruptive technologies entering or replacing
their market? Are they continually losing market share? Do they plan on launching
new site technologies?
Do they intend to use search engine marketing as one of many marketing channels,
or are they expecting their whole business to succeed or fail based on SEO? Is their
site good other than search engine marketing? Are they willing to accept your
feedback on usability and other issues related to conversion?
Some of the stuff you can’t act directly, but your gut can get a good sense of how
flexible the company is.
Being Your Size
Many people desire huge corporate clients who may have so much red tape that
they bog them down and prevent them from doing well. Some small firms try to
act big and conversely some large firms try to act small. Usually it works best if you
act your size and attract clients you can handle.
Partner with other firms so that if you feel that a company would be too much of a
research hog or not profitable enough you can get a referral commission by
sending them to someone else.
Don’t be afraid to mention some of the cons of SEO services. If you are the only
one who they talk to who sounds honest and mentions risks (such as large
algorithm changes or no guaranteed results) then you may get hired. It is usually
best to fail on the conservative side when estimating return so that you can meet
your goals.
Some of my friends with small firms have beat out larger firms by having better
proposals and being more hones about some of the cons of SEO. Some small
firms also have the advantage of being able to move fast since they do not have the
associated legal and IT related wait times.
Contracting & Outsourcing
Can’t do everything yourself? It is not uncommon to work out partnerships to
make a percent commission off of sales or mark up the price others charge you for
Don’t know all the answers? Nobody really does. It is best to have a network of
friends you trust who you can work with and who can find answers to questions
when you are unsure of the answer.
Some people are also willing to work representing your company, so you may be
able to scale out to handle a decent number of clients without needing to hire a ton
of employees. When you outsource work to another it is not uncommon to double
their fees to make sure you account for your own time and still have adequate
profit margin. Don’t forget to include credit card fees and pay yourself for your
With how fast things change in the SEO space, having a large number of
employees can be as much of a negative as a positive.
Cold Calling
If you actively harvest leads and pursue them you will either need to email them,
call them, or find another way to contact them. Cold calling is not something I am
well versed in, but if you actively seek out clients in this manner realize that most of
them will not be interested.
The more personalized your pitch and the better you can show benefit to them and
feed off their empathy the greater the chance of them saying yes. When you find
out what their problems are, restate their problems to them in your recommended
solutions, it appeals to their sense of logic and feeds off their empathy.
Many large SEO firms get most of their clients from cold calls. In addition some
firms such as Traffic Power have tainted the image of many SEOs with their cold
calling and services.
Niche: SEO Guy – Real Estate
A friend of mine, Morgan Carey, goes by the pseudonym SEO Guy. He was doing
fairly well selling general SEO services, but eventually shifted over to primarily
catering toward the real estate market.
He created a forum by the name of Real Estate Webmaster, where many people
talk about promoting real estate websites. He picks up many leads from current
client sites and that forum and now is one of the few SEO firms which is an
exclusive expert in the real estate field.
Other SEOs have also done well by branding themselves as the link building
expert, the keyword research expert, the SEO copywriting expert, the site
announcement expert, and other ideas in and around the SEO scene.
Sales Cycle
It is important not to get stuck on one specific idea or technique to where you lose
focus of the bigger picture. Work clients along the sales cycle without getting to
focused or becoming to dependant on any one client.
Some people may want as much as they can get for free. Showing prices on your
site may filter out some of the worst leads before they even contact you. When you
become successful at SEO more people will want to hire you than you could
possibly work for. It is best to take on a few quality clients instead of trying to work
cheap for many clients.
Make sure you do not put 10-12 hours into giving away free competitive research
and an actionable plan. You may be able to sell an in depth analysis services prior
to selling full services. It requires a smaller commitment of the client while
protecting you from working free.
If you want to give away something it does not hurt to give away a PDF which
describes your process.
Since I do not sell SEO service to many people I have never signed an SEO
contract and have not made many proposals. I do not know much about contracts,
but some of my friends have recommended Proposal Kit. You might want to ask
some SEO friends for a proposal and contract examples to work from. It is
probably wise to have a legal person look over a proposal prior to signing as well.
Proposal titles usually look something like “Increasing the Profitablity of Company
X by Maximizing Search Engine Visibility”. Then the proposal usually fits on less
than a page.
When you first throw them a price make sure there is some padding in it, this
allows you room to work while still having adequate profit margin, and a higher
price usually helps a person assume there is greater value. If you are selling SEO
services correctly you should stress value instead of price and the clients should
view it as a long term investment.
If a client has too many questions with the price then that might signal there are
other issues, such as business partners, lack of confidence, or other decision
makers. Before you get too involved with a potential client it is good to know who
all needs to sign off on a deal. If the person is doubtful of the value perhaps you
can try to sell pay per click marketing or start their account with a small test PPC
budget to let them see what type of traffic and conversions they could be getting.
I do not provide any sort of reports to any of my SEO clients, but some people
like to use software such as Web Postion Gold, Web CEO, Internet Business
Promoter, or Advanced Web Rankings to provide client ranking reports. To me it
is important to track the end results, but if you clients might be impressed by
ranking reports those products cost somewhere between $50 and a few hundred
Dependency on Free Traffic
One of the largest problems many people face when they are doing good SEO is
that they become dependant on free traffic. This ends up hurting them in other
areas since they can take that free traffic for granted. Make sure you are working on
sites that are trying to build competitive advantages outside of SEO,
maximizing its conversion and profit potential, can compete on the paid ads, or
make sure the owner realized the free traffic can go away and that they should be
establishing other marketing channels as a safeguard.
Being able to scale to handle large increases and decreases in traffic volume is
exceptionally hard for some businesses. It is another great reason why many
businesses should use PPC to augment their SEO, to have a more reliable traffic
stream that can be adjusted as needed.
Affiliate Sites & Passive Income Streams
As an individual SEO work comes in spurts. To help smooth out the demand
curve you may want to create multiple affiliate sites around topics you know well
and are interested in. You can profit from AdSense, link rentals, lead generation, or
affiliate programs.
The nice thing about affiliate programs is that you get paid for sales without the
demands that customers place on you. If you are busy on other projects or want to
be lazy for a while and only make a sale every three months that can still be another
valuable income stream which helps you do well during periods of low demand.
Most SEO compensation programs do not compensate the SEO directly for the
returns of their work. The nice thing about an affiliate programs are:
You are compensated for each sale you make. Most SEO business models
do not do that.
You do not need to spend time cold calling or looking for clients.
Affiliate programs and contextual advertising can provide low effort
passive income streams.
Affiliate marketing is much more flexible than client work.
• Kalena Jordan’s press release about New Zealand sites being poorly
What’s New at the Yahoo! Directory
Proposal Kit – software for making proposals and contracts
Real Estate Webmaster – example of an SEO firm working hard to do well
in one particular niche (
Quick Start Checklist
ome people have stated that they thought some of the stuff in this ebook
was a bit complex or maybe too much information. Just in case you forgot
some of the stuff, if any of it was confusing, or you need help getting a foot
in the right direction I created this checklist to help out new webmasters.
SEO Tools
Often times using the right tools can save you a bunch of time and money. I
created a free PDF checklist of all the SEO tools I use.
Picking a Product
Are you interested in the product you are trying to sell? If no, why not
chose a different product?
The internet makes marketing anything a possibility. You are far more
likely to succeed if you are interested in what you are trying to sell. Also it is
far easier to sell people what they want than to get them to want your
Is the marketplace for your product oversaturated?
Example: posters, credit cards, prescription drugs, hosting, generic site
design, & ink refills are all oversaturated markets.
Is the product something people would want to order over the web.
Is there something you can do to make yourself different than everyone
else on the market? (please note: cheaper usually is not a legitimate
branding / business model for most websites on the hyper competitive
Example: No other ebook covering SEO was supported by a blog that
keeps up with the SEO industry every day (at least when I created this
Example: I created a SEO worst practice directory. Nobody else has made
a site like that. It has earned me $1,000’s in the first year with a marketing
budget under $100.
Would people want to link into your site without you asking them to? If
no, what creative or original ideas can you add to your site to make people
want to?
Picking a Domain Name
FOR NEW SITES: Pick a domain name that has your primary keywords
in it. Use a short & memorable domain name.
Register as a .com if possible if you have a global market.
If you are targeting a specific country or language: register a domain name
in that country’s TLD designation (ex: buy a website for a UK
targeted site). Also buy the .com version of your domain name and point it
at your country specific location.
Often times certain directories and search engines will either be biased
toward local sites or only let local sites in the index.
If you are going to be working in competitive fields or if you will have large
sites you may want to use a different domain for each different language
you are targeting.
Example Domain Names I own:
Domain Registration & Hosting
Register your domain with an ICANN accredited registrar. I use
Host your site with a reliable host. I recommend V7inc or DreamHost.
Fore dynamic sites: make sure your host supports the technology you will
be using (such as ASP & PHP) before spending money.
Keyword Selection
Use a keyword tool to help you find the most targeted keywords for your
site. is free.
Pick themes or keyword baskets to optimize the various sections of your
site around.
Targeting keyword phrases is a much better idea than trying to target
individual words. Keyword phrases tend to be easier to rank well for AND
they typically convert far better than individual words.
Target different keyword phrases on each page.
Target no more than 1-2 primary and 2-3 secondary keyword phrases per
Page Optimization
Use your keywords in your page title. Place the most important keyword
phrase at the beginning of the page title. Do not put your site title on every
page of your site unless you are really trying to brand that name. In that
scenario it still is usually best to place the site name at the end of the pages.
Shorter site titles are usually better than really long ones. Often times I
overlap keyword phrases in the page title.
Overlapping keyword phrases in the page title can help you pick up
multiple search phrases. For example, “Professional search engine
marketing services” helps me obtain good rankings for:
o search engine marketing
o professional search engine marketing
o search engine marketing services
o & professional search engine marketing services
Create a unique page title, meta tags, and content for each page. Here is my
free page title and meta tag generator:
Meta tags are not extremely important but they can help some. The meta
description should be a few sentences to a paragraph describing the page
contents. The meta description tag can be seen in some search results so
you want to write it for human eyes. The meta keywords tag should
contain misspellings and synonyms. Each keyword phrase in the keywords
tag should be comma separated.
Use a single keyword rich H1 header on your page containing the same the
primary keyword phrases. This helps reinforce the page title.
Use keyword rich subheaders (H2 or H3) before every paragraph or every
other paragraph. This improves usability and helps define what the page is
about to search engines without making the page look like it was wrote for
a search engine.
Use bulleted lists and bolding to make content easier to read.
Write the bulk content for human consumption. If you write all your
sentences for the search engines the pages will read bad and nobody will
read them.
Home Page Optimization
Target your most competitive keyword phrase with the home page.
Link to your home page from every page of your site. Include your home
page’s primary keyword phrase in the text links pointing at it.
Link to the major theme pages from your home page.
Site Optimization
Use text based navigation.
If you use graphic navigation:
o Use descriptive alt text for your image links.
o Link to your primary pages from every page of your site using
footer text links.
o Make sure you include the primary
Use keyword rich breadcrumb navigation to help search engines
understand the structure of your site.
EX: home page link(use keywords in it) > level 1 > level 2 > page I am on
Use a site map to help search engines spider through your site.
Whenever possible use descriptive text when linking between pages of
your site.
Link to other resources that improve your users experience.
Use CSS to improve the look and feel of your pages.
Registering With Directories
Register your site with the major directories, second tier general directories, and
topically related directories. Almost all of the directories listed in provide static text links.
More niche specific directories are located at, but you
should check to ensure they provide static links before spending money registering
your sites. Search for things like “my keywords” + add url to find other niche
Often times I do not mind spending hundreds of dollars getting links from
different sites (or directories) across many different IP ranges. Many of the tier 2
directories charge a one time fee for listing and some of them allow you to add
your sites free if you become an editor.
In my directory archives I have 50-100 general directories listed in the general
directory categories. Most top ranking sites in mildly competitive fields do not have
text links from 50 different sites pointing at them (so if you can afford it, doing this
offers a huge advantage to you for your Yahoo! and MSN rankings, but you need
to chose directories carefully when considering how TrustRank may effect
Google). Even if you are in more competitive fields and rent some powerful links
these listings in various directories can help stabilize your rankings when search
engine algorithms shift.
If done correctly owning a directory right now has the potential to be a highly
lucrative business model because there is a ton of value in getting links from
different IP ranges.
Some directories I highly recommend are Yahoo!, DMOZ, JoeAnt, GoGuides, &
Link Building
Link building is the single most important part of achieving a high ranking
When possible try to get your keywords in the links pointing at your pages.
Trade links with topical hubs and related sites.
Look for free links from related sites and directories.
If you have some good internal content try to get direct links to your inner
Write articles and get them syndicated at other sites.
Participate in forums which provide signature text links with your posts. If
you are knowledgeable enough and a good communicator you can make
many friends in the forums who will link to you free.
Issue press releases with links into your site.
Leave super glowing testimonials for people and products you really like.
Often times when they post them they will include a link back to your site.
Leave relevant comments in blogs that do not send their comments
through redirects.
Sponsor charities, blogs, or websites related to your site.
Consider renting links through a link broker if you are in an extremely
competitive industry. Adult, gaming, credit, or pharmacy categories will
likely require link rentals and / or building topical link networks.
Mix your link text up. Adding words like “buy” or “store” to the keywords
in your some of your link text can make it look like more natual linkage
data and help you rank well for many targeted secondary phrases.
If you need help determining how competitive your industry is feel free to
send me an email and I will give you my opinion. If you are looking to hire
an SEO you may want to look at or feel free
to ask me to recommend you to someone.
Brett Tabke (owner of WebmasterWorld) wrote a quick couple page guide
worth looking at before building your site.
When Changes Occur
Your rankings will improve. They will also get worse. Many people rush off to
change things right away when the algorithms change. Sometimes they role in new
algorithms more aggressively than they need to and then later roll them back.
If you are unsure of what just happened then you may not want to start changing
things until you have analyzed what happened. Sometimes when algorithms are
rolled back or made less aggressive many sites still do not rank well because their
webmasters changed things that were helping them. Nobody is owed a good rank,
and just because a ranking temporarily changes it does not mean that a site has
been penalized. It is far more likely that the ranking criteria has shifted and the site
may not match the new ranking criteria as well as it matched the old ranking
Sometimes one of the greatest SEO techniques is knowing when to do nothing at
all. I had one client that I shared profit with that I did not do much work for. Why?
After I built his site up he had a strong market position. I could have kept building
many links, but it would not help him reach much more of the market. It would
have added nothing but cost, and if you are too aggressive it adds to the risk profile
without adding much on the reward side.
Tim Mayer, a well known Yahoo! search engineer once mentioned that it did not
make sense to bring a knife to a gun fight. The opposite also holds true, if you are
using a shotgun and all the other competing sites are using less aggressive
techniques then you stand a greater chance of being penalized.
All SEO techniques are just a balance of risk vs reward, and while you want to rank
at or near the top of the search results you probably do not want to use techniques
that are exceptionally aggressive as compared to the other top ranking sites if you
intend to build a site for longterm profits.
Common SEO Abuse Techniques
I saved this idea for the end for a reason, because it is important and I hope you
remember is when you are done reading this ebook. There is no such thing as a
perfectly optimized page. Search engines do not want to return the most optimized
page, but the page that best satisfies the users goals. Some of the search relevancy
algorithms are genetic algorithms which train themselves to test the relevancy of
new result sets.
If you have a page title and H1 header tag that are the exact same and all your
internal and external links use that same text then that looks suspicious to some
search algorithms. They may want to deweight that.
How do you minimize your risks and make your site more stable? Its best to mix
things up a bit and use various different versions. Another idea that might help
you is looking at things like a search engine engineer.
There is a concept called poison words, where if you have things like link exchange,
add url, or link partners on a page there stands a good chance a search engines may
place less weight on that page or it’s outbound links. In the past some common
poison words were things like forum and guestbook. The more likely content is to
be of low quality or related to spam the more likely search engines are to want to
deweight it.
Maybe they could want to penalize the use of spammy sites using an H1 header, so
instead people use an H2 header for the highest level header tag on the spammy
sites. Maybe they look to deweight sitewide links to the homepage near the end of
the page code using the exact same link text as the home page’s page title, so
instead you link to the home page from earlier in the page code and use slightly
different anchor text than your page title and most of your link profile.
Some guys like DaveN end up mentioning lots of subtle tips like the ones I just
mentioned. If you think like a search engineer, those techniques which are
common in SEO and not so common on regular websites are the most likely to be
deweighted or penalized.
Closing Tips
The web is nothing but a big social network. SEO was my entry to the web, but I
have bigger hopes, dreams, and goals in mind.
No matter what your goals are SEO can help you get there off the start, but at
some point it will be necessary for you to find ways to get other people to want to
syndicate your ideas. Kinda like what Abe Lincoln was saying when he said “With
public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed.”
I am somewhat altruistic in that I think if you study and do what you are interested
in (even if it is on the side off the start) then eventually that will drive you toward
I also want to share a quote with you from Weaving the Web by one my favorite
web personalities, Tim Berners-Lee (he created the World Wide Web).
“People have sometimes asked me whether I am upset that I have not made a lot
of money from the Web. In fact, I made some quite conscious decisions about
which way to take my life. These I would not change - though I am making no
comment on what I might do in the future. What does distress me, though, is how
important a question it seems to be to some. This happens mostly in America, not
Europe. What is maddening is the terrible notion that a person's value depends on
how important and financially successful they are, and that that is measured in
terms of money. That suggests disrespect for the researchers across the globe
developing ideas for the next leaps in science and technology. Core in my
upbringing was a value system that put monetary gain well in its place, behind
things like doing what I really want to do. To use net worth as a criterion by which
to judge people is to set our children's sights on cash rather than on things that will
actually make them happy.”
Most successful web based businesses do not need to actively practice SEO. SEO
does help improve the bottom line and help get you found, but after you get found
it is up to you to convert. It is up to you how hard and creatively you work to
develop your business and reputation.
If this is the last book or ebook you ever read about running your business online I
would probably consider that a mistake. I try to read at least one book a week.
While not everyone has that much time, it is a always a good call to keep learning
new stuff. Rarely do I ever read a book without learning an important lesson or
good idea.
I am not a creative genius or a branding expert, but if you need help coming up
with another angle to promote your business from or need SEO help don’t hesitate
to shoot me an email and I will see if and how I can help in any way.
Also, create a blog to see if you like writing. Way too few people ever actually speak
their mind in this world. is free and easy to set up.
Best of luck with everything & to your success,
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