Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Cat and Mouse Game - SEO vs. Google

After the end of the holidays some Internet merchants are smiling so wide they could eat a banana sideways. Other Internet merchants are screaming mad. Most have visibly noticed the recent changes in Google’s rankings.

After the end of the holidays some Internet merchants are smiling so wide they could eat a banana sideways. Other Internet merchants are screaming mad. Most have visibly noticed the recent changes in Google’s rankings. Google, a search engine company based in California, quickly burst onto the Internet in 1998. It quickly became a very popular choice for indoor surfers. Google’s innovative way of ranking sites based on an algorithm they developed gave sites a rank based on how relevant their website is to the competition based on a word of phrase of the Internet user. Every Internet website cherishes a top 10 listing under a widely searched keyword. Now to be listed on page one under a popular keyword can be worth millions to an internet business.

By the end of 2005 most Internet businesses have noticed changes for better or worse. Those changes in ranking were based upon an update Google made. When Google updated, certain industries noticed a large number of sites that were affected, while others noticed no change at all. While really no one but Google knows all of the changes it introduced in that update, it now appears that some of these website owners may have taken part perhaps unknowing in an artificial linking strategy.

When Googlefirstlaunched, the birth of a new business, search engine optimization was formed. Search engine optimization or SEO is the process of designing or redesigning a web site so that it matches up as closely to possible to how Google ranks a web page. SEO experts know that inbound links, links that direct you to their website, play a large part in the rankings game.

Because of this, there were many sites that would spring up over night, that had little to no relevance to the actual word they were obtaining placement under. As SEO experts developed their techniques they even ended up selling Google’s own advertising back to them through Google’s Adwords Campaign. Linking basically works like this. If website A links to website B, that link is telling Google that website A thinks website B is important. If a large amount of important websites linked directly to Website B, Google would see this as a good thing give would give Website B a better positioning.

And Google’s original ranking of votes worked extremely well for a while. That was until the birth of a internet fad that is only gaining momentum. Blogs, a short form for the word weblog, is usually an online journal of comments and thoughts on the web. They usually include philosophical reflections, opinions on the Internet and social or political issues. Since a Blog is usually a journal, its daily or semi-daily entries are always being added. The content is constantly changing. Another important factor on how Google ranks websites.

Once SEO experts caught on to this, a few decided to use this as the sole way to manipulate rankings and achieve results. In some cases, SEO experts get rankings in fractions of the time it would usually take to get placement. After the update this has left some internet business owners left with only fond memories of a top ten placement.

It is assumed that Google will continue to evolve their algorithms in an attempted to remove irrelevant content. As the cat and mouse game of SEO versus Google continues one thing is for certain. Google intends to stay on top as a leading search engine by focusing on the one thing that made them successful, relevant searches.

Couch Potatoes Overtake Google Zeitgeist

Google Announces Top 15 Gainers for the Week Ending January 23

As Google dove more deeply in January, U.S. Google users stuck to the tried and true: celebrity news related to TV (Zac Efron, Jenna Elfman), movies (Kate Beckinsale), and problems (Leif Garrett). The sports-minded tracked seasonal football, tennis and pre-Olympic skating news, as well as a major car auction and a reality show (American Idol). The pull of real-world news had just one appearance this week (Jill Carroll).

For breaking news and obscure information alike, people around the world search on Google. Below is a summary of the Google Zeitgeist results for the top 15 gainers on Google.com when comparing search queries that have risen by a significant percentage for the week of January 16-23.

For more information, visit the Google Zeitgeist at http://www.google.com/zeitgeist.

Google.com Gainers

anna benson - persona in her own right and wife of Mets player Kris sounded off Jan. 22 about her husband's trade to the Baltimore Orioles
zac efron - young star featured in new Disney channel "High School Musical" which premiered Jan. 20
kate beckinsale - star getting mixed reviews for her werewolf-hunting role in Underworld: Evolution, which premiered Jan. 20
miss america - venerable pageant had two firsts on Jan. 21: it's now held in Las Vegas, and was televised on the cable channel Country Music Television
jenna elfman - former "Dharma and Greg" star debuted Jan. 23 in "Courting Alex," new sitcom on CBS
leif garrett - former teen star, arrested Jan. 14 for heroin possession, says he will beat his addiction
barrett jackson - mammoth collector car auction in Scottsdale, AZ ended Jan. 22 with record-breaking sales
american idol - popular reality competition premiered a new season Jan. 18
tanith belbin - ice dancing champion is warming up for her debut with partner Ben Agosto at the upcoming Winter Olympics
australian open - major tennis tourney is underway in Melbourne
martina hingis - now dubbed "Comeback Queen" for her headline-grabbing performance in the women's semi-finals at the Australian Open
jill carroll - no word yet on the fate of U.S. reporter kidnapped Jan.7 in Baghdad
maria sharapova - Russian tennis star reached the women's semi-finals of the Australian Open
seahawks - Seattle football team won against Carolina Panthers Jan. 22, giving them a first-time slot at this year's Super Bowl vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers
steelers - Pittsburgh team beat the Denver Broncos Jan. 22, guaranteeing their spot against the Seattle Seahawks in this year's Super Bowl on Feb. 5

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Google 2006 and Jagger's Aftermath

Sometime between September 22 and November 17, 2005, Google launched a major update to its search algorithm, shaking up the search engine optimization (SEO) community—and millions of Web site rankings. The update has been named Jagger and is apparently finished.

The keywords that people used to find your site with in Google may not be producing as many visits any more, because the Jagger changes caused your rankings to plummet. Of course, many people have seen their rankings stay the same or improve in Jagger's aftermath, too.

If your site's rankings have decreased, what can be done to get back to where you were or better in the post-Jagger Google world?

There are still a lot of questions, to be sure, and not a lot of answers. But there are some good beginnings of answers. Since this update was rolled out over months and in three distinct phases, it has been much more difficult to determine what factors have been given more weight or less.

For instance, inbound links (or IBL, in trade talk) to your site have always been important to achieve high rankings in Google. But there are many different kinds of IBLs. Link trades—where you put my link on your site and I put your link on my site—may be less valuable than a one-way link. This has been the case for a while. But is the importance of each changed since Jagger?

Ways Jagger Might Help You

Aged domains—Sites with domains that are older rank better now. The older the domain, the better its rankings—with all other things being equal.

Very relevant links—IBL and outbound link (OBL) relevancy is more important after Jagger. This means that if you point to related sites or you get links from other sites that are related to your site, you may rank better after Jagger, with all other things being equal.

Links from trusted sites help—TrustRank (or a similar concept) is more important than ever after Jagger. TrustRank is a concept that says if you get a link pointing to your site that is highly trusted by Google (trusted either programmatically or by human editors), then you will rank better all other things being equal. (See http://www.vldb.org/conf/2004/RS15P3.PDF).

Variety of links—Links from .edu and .org sites are good for increasing your rankings and are more important than ever. It's vital to get links form a wide variety of Web sites. Just like your investing, you need to diversify your IBLs. (This was probably true before Jagger.)

Aged links—The older the link that points to your site, the more weight it's given now. (Also probably true before Jagger.)

Embedded links—Links that are embedded in sentences and paragraphs instead of stand-alone links are weighted more heavily now. (This may be not be true yet, but it's likely to be true soon.)

Article links—Articles are what directories had been a year or two ago for link building. Links from the author byline or within the article that point back to your site will positively affect your rankings.

Fresh and unique content—Now, more than ever, regularly updated and added original content will help your rankings.

Be a big guy—If you are a behemoth site like Wikipedia, Yahoo, AOL, eBay, Amazon, etc., you will rank better than you did before Jagger.

High traffic and stickiness—User popularity statistics now, or will soon, affect rankings. In other words, user actions on your Web site, like how long they stay (stickiness), how many pages they visit, and even how many people visit your site in a given period, can all affect how Google ranks your site.

Things That May Not Help You Anymore, or May Even Hurt You More

Duplicate content—Any kind of duplicate content can hurt your rankings. Some say this only refers to other sites having the same content as you, and others say even duplicate content within your own site can be bad. I find the latter hard to believe, since all sites have repeating slogans, phrases, checkout instructions, or any number of other duplicate sentences within the same site. (Use http://www.copyscape.com/ to find people who are stealing your original written content and publishing it on their site.)

Hidden text—Hidden text within your html, in tags, CSS, or comments, can negatively affect your rankings. (This is something you should never do.)

Footer links—Some say links in the footer are disregarded now. (This is one we have found no evidence for.)

Directory links—Links from directories are weighted less now. (This is one we have found no evidence for, but is most likely true or will be soon.)

Decreased rate of link building—The speed and volume of inbound link creation to your site from other Web sites, if changed, can negatively affect your rankings more so now. (This one is most likely true too.)

Reciprocal links—Reciprocal link trades are worth less than they were before or are worth nothing now. (It's probably true that they are at least worth less now.)

Linking to bad neighborhoods—Reciprocal link trades hurt your rankings when you link to sites that are considered "bad neighborhoods" by Google, such as link farms or sites that are banned by Google. (This is most likely true and has been for a while.)

Link schemes—Participating in link schemes such as Co-ops or Link Vault can hurt your ranking more than help them. (I have not found any evidence of this so far for my client's sites, but this could be true).
Again, I don't think anyone outside Google knows which among those factors are true or false, and how each one affects a given keyword phrase's ranking. In fact, that's the idea. Google doesn't want people gaming its system. So many variables need to be considered, that it is very difficult to figure out which ones affect what.

What to Do If Your Site's Rankings Have Dropped Since Jagger

If your site was ranking well in the Google SERP's (search engine ranking position) before Jagger, then it was nowhere to be found right after Jagger hit, and now your site has still not bounced back at all, then you probably tripped a filter, got penalized or even banned. You may have duplicate content on another site, or someone copied a lot of your content, or you may have canonical issue (where yoursite.com and www.yoursite.com are considered two different sites by Google causing it to look like duplicate content). You may have hidden text, or keyword stuffed your pages or any number of other things. You're definitely going to need more knowledge than this article can give you to get your rankings back.

Some say that Google updates have happened before around the same time of year, and many sites that tanked came back after the first of the year. I don't know if this is true, we'll just have to wait and see. For those who have still not rebounded, this may be nice to know.

Interestingly, most of our clients' sites either stayed the same or improved after Jagger. Our own company site improved. But, unfortunately, a few of our clients saw some decreases in their rankings right after Jagger; they have since rebounded, but are not quite at the pre-Jagger levels. Here's what we did for them:

Scoured their site for bad outgoing links and made sure that each site they linked to was indexed by Google and was not trying to game Google. Any questionable links were deleted immediately. But we did not get rid of all our link partners, we just culled.

Determined the ratio of the different types of incoming links to learn where improvements were needed. In other words, we determined the percentage of links to their site that were link trades, one-way links from related sites, one-ways from unrelated sites, link advertisements, directory links, forum signature links and more. We then advised them to increase their one-way related inbound links that are embedded in sentences, and not concentrate so much on link trades and stop getting one-way unrelated link development altogether.

Cleaned up the HTML on every page, made sure all tags were closed and that there was no extraneous code on any page. And we put CSS and JavaScripts in separate files.

Took out any inadvertent hidden text. One client had keywords in comment tags in their HTML that we deleted.

Decreased file size of pages, by taking out old links and superfluous verbiage, and by re-optimizing the .gif and .jpg files.

Wrote much more succinct meta descriptions and on-page verbiage.

Made sure that every title tag on every page within the site was different.

Coached them about the importance of continually developing good, quality, original content.

Brainstormed ways in which their sites could entice other webmasters to link to them because of what their site offers, such as good content, free Web tools, articles and many other things. This is called natural linking and what Google regards as the only legitimate way to build links. Therefore, it is vital.
We tried to look at the overall link development strategy, the value of the site, and the quality of the site, both the content quality and the HTML quality. A clean, simple, fast-loading site with natural links pointing to it from a variety of other related websites—some .org and .edu, others from trusted authority sites, and many from small related Web sites that add fresh and unique content daily—will rank well in Google over time and won't be affected by any update, including Jagger.

The best way for you to learn what to do in Jagger's aftermath is to read articles like this, participate in forums that discuss these topics, and, most important, experiment with your own sites to see what works. This takes time and patience. So does building quality sites that have things to offer and subsequently get natural links. But it's all worth it.

Fundamental Principles of SEO

Michael Martinez at SEOmoz has found the lost tablet that we had all thought Mozes had dropped on Mt. Sinai (thinking Mel Brooks); The Four Fundamental Principles of SEO.

1. Visibility : Visibility is an intangible aspect of search engine optimization, but it is every bit as important as the other three fundamental principles.

2. Content Organization : Anyone can create content. A lot of people do. Organizing the content is the challenge.

3. Keyword Research : Too much attention is given to “key words” and too little attention is given to “research". Keywords are meaningless until you know how they fit into the big picture.

4. Links : Anyone can build links. A lot of people do. But links need to be organized just like the content.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Top 10 search engines


Google has once again topped the list for the most popular search engine.

The Nielsen/NetRatings report which analyzed the top 10 search engines for November 2005 found Google Search to be the leader in this field capturing 46% of all searches.

During 2005 a staggering 2,365,998,000 searches were made using Google.

In second place was Yahoo! Search with only 23%, half that of Google Search.

It seems that Google Search is clearly head and shoulders above the competition.

The rest of the search engine pie was shared sparingly amoung the other players.

MSN Search came in third with 11% followed by AOL Search with 6.9%.

Fifth and sixth place were closely contested with My Way Search just ahead with 2.5% followed by Ask Jeeves Search at 2.3%.

There was very little in it for the last three spots with Earthlink, Dogpile.com and Netscape tie for seventh, eigth and ninth places.

iWon Search just made it into the top 10 at 0.5% of the 5.1 billion searches recorded in November last year.

According to Ken Cassar, a chief analyst for Nielsen/NetRatings, the rankings have remained stable over the past few months.

"The top five players have held their respective positions for the past six months, demonstrating the benefits of incumbency in the search arena," said Cassar.

Google Search has once again proved to dominate the search engine market.
But competition is heating up as companies start to develop search engines with a local flavour.

Recently South Africa witnessed a flourish in the local search engine industry with Funnel, eSearch and Jonga attempting to capture the South African audience.

Only time will tell if a close rival for Google Search will emerge, but for now Google is king.

Sun Shines On Google Rumors

Google has a custom operating system in use internally, but will they have to share it when they outsource their server farms becomes the big question, at least if you believe what Sun Microsystems has to say.

Tom Foremski had an interesting conversation with a Sun executive, but the man dishing out the attention-grabbing sound bites wasn't Scott McNealy for once, but John Loiacono, the executive VP of of Sun's software group.
During their chat, we find the many rumors and instances of wishful thinking about Google creating an operating system have a basis in truth. As Google utilizes
grid computing extensively, Loaicono confirmed Google developed an operating system to manage those grids of low-cost white-box PCs that power the all-knowing search algorithm.
Then the next bit of the conversation comes along, one that will have the likes of EDS salivating over the prospect of being the recipients of lots of pieces of paper from Google that say "Pay to the order of" and plenty of zeroes to the left of the decimal point. Foremski noted:

He also said that Google is thinking about whether it wants to be running its own data centers and developing its own software.
He suggested that Google might outsource some of its infrastructure in the future, which would make sense if grid computing and utility computing take-off. After all, a machine cycle is just a machine cycle in the world of web services--it is what you do with it that counts--not the fact that you own and manage the infrastructure.


Even though many people would love to get their hands on the Google operating system, Google may think, prudently, that having lots of gleeful hackers, crackers, and spies poring through the kernel for vulnerabilities isn't a wise course to take. Perhaps they'll suggest
Open Solaris instead.

Google Explains Why 'Failure' Search Leads To Bush

As the Justice Department and Google continue to butt heads, the search engine is going to lengths to show it’s not politically biased in any way. But not everyone agrees with Google.

When you go to google.com, do a search for “miserable failure.” The top page that comes up is the official White House biography of President George W. Bush. That result has prompted complaints against Google by conservative users. They assume it reflects a political bias by the search engine.

Truth is, though, that it’s a result of something called “Googlebombing.” Here’s how it works: Google’s search results are generated by computer programs that rank Web pages in large part by examining the number and relative popularity of the sites that link to them.

In this case, a number of webmasters are using the phrase “miserable failure” to describe and then link to President Bush’s Web site. Thus, the leader of the free world has been “Googlebombed.”

It’s by no means the first time this has happened in some form or fashion, either as a political statement or just a prank. But in this case, the search engine has taken the unusual step of responding to a Googlebomb.

In a statement, they say, “We don't condone the practice of googlebombing, but we're also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. Pranks like this may be distracting to some, but they don't affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission.”

Given that, it probably won’t be long before conservative webmasters and bloggers respond with a Googlebomb of their own.

In case you’re wondering, the same thing happens when you search for “miserable failure” on Yahoo! Some are also now referring to Googlebombing as cyber-graffiti.

Sun-Times nets Google ad deal

One of the interesting I found is Google is best-known as an Internet search engine, of course, but nearly all of its revenue comes from ads. Through the first three quarters of 2005, the California-based company posted $4.2 billion in advertising revenue, up 96% from the year-earlier period. Most ads on Google's site are keyed to its users' search terms. Now, in the Sun-Times, Google is running ads in proximity to relevant content. On Dec. 12, for instance, Google ads touting ticket brokers, White Sox apparel and Chicago Bears memorabilia ran in the Sports section.

Click here to read more >

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Google Unwraps the Google Pack

Google Pack offers programs that meets Google's high software standards and are considered best in their class, including:

Adobe Reader 7
Ad-Aware SE Personal
GalleryPlayer HD Images
Google Desktop
Google Earth
Google Pack Screensaver
Google Talk
Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer
Mozilla Firefox with Google Toolbar
Norton AntiVirus 2005 Special Edition
Picasa
RealPlayer
Trillian

Google Pack also includes Google Updater, a new tool that intelligently downloads, installs and maintains all the software in the Google Pack. Google Updater alerts users when updates and new programs become available and ensures each program is always up-to-date. Google Updater can also be used to monitor the status of installation, run software that's been installed, or easily uninstall software.

Users can easily select which programs they want to install. For programs already installed on a computer, Google Updater checks whether the latest version is running. If not, Google Updater will install the latest version.

Every program included in the Google Pack is free, has earned a reputation for excellence, and was evaluated to ensure it meets Google's Software Principles. Google respects users' rights to control their own computers and does not include software that is spyware, generates pop-ups, or that is difficult to uninstall. Additional information on Google's Software Principles is available at http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/software_principles.html.

Google Pack beta is available in English, runs on Windows XP, and supports Firefox 1.0 and higher and Internet Explorer 6.0 and higher. More info on Google Pack is available at http://pack.google.com.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Twenty One Link Building Ideas

These days even the most hardcore SEO copywriter must know somewhere deep inside that on-page SEO elements are a tiny part of Google's ranking algorithm. The heart of Google's ranking algorithm is - and will remain - anchor text and inbound links.

Ideal Website Link Profile
One link per linking domain

Instead of site wide links, try getting just one or two links from those websites that choose to link to yours.

It's hard to resist the temptation to get those site wide links, but site wide links aren't exactly a normal linking pattern and may raise a red flag with Big Brother Google.

Fewer Reciprocal Links
Reciprocal links are easy to detect and may be subject to negative valuation. Try to keep your reciprocal links under 5% of your total linkage.

Varied Anchor Text

Use variations of your keywords in your anchor text. Using the exact same anchor text in the majority of your links may raise red flags insofar as natually occurring links tend to not use identical anchor text.

Varied IP's

Using dozens or even hundreds of domains on your own server and on a single Class C IP Block to create link popularity for yourself is so 2004. Move on. The search engines have figured this one out.

Related Links

If you want to rank for Web Hosting, get links from pages that talk about web hosting. Better yet, get links from pages that have web hosting in the title of the page. Really, it works.

Link Acquisition Strategies
Major Directories
Submit to the major directories, such as DMOZ and Yahoo. These links may actually drive some traffic.

Second Tier Directories
There are hundreds of second tier web directories out there. Submission is sometimes just $20 or $30, so you really can't go wrong. Only pay if it's a one time fee.

Free Directories
One of the nicer things on the Internet is a free submission web directory. There are hundreds of these web directories, usually generating revenue by displaying Adsense ads. Go submit. Now. You can read the rest of this later.

Topical Directories
One of the better quality links that may give you targeted traffic is a listing in a topical web directory. If you sell widgets, go over to widget-world.com and get listing.

Related Sites
Do a search on your favorite search engine. Note the top ten websites ranking for your search term. Report these sites to Google for spamming. Then offer these website owners a small annual fee to have your link appear on the index pages of their websites.

Reciprocal Linking

Exchange links with a few of the better quality sites which deal with the same topics as your website.

Press Releases

New product line? Company going public? Acquired another company? Any newsworthy event you may have, do a press release and submit it through PRweb.com.

Link Conducive Content

Create useful informational pages which attract links. Offer a free tool, or advice. Forums often attract free links.

Free Stuff in Exchange for Links

Ever wonder how phpBB.com got a PageRank of ten? They gave away a script for free, with a link back to phpBB on every page. We gave away free hosting and saw some sweet PR, too.

Paid Stuff in Exchange for Links

The vast majority of vBulletin's backlinks come from paying customers using their software. Ask your customers, politely, for a link.

It doesn't have to be web related, either. Even if you sell lumber, you can ask your contractor/customers to link back to your website from theirs.

Writing Articles

Write articles. Include a link in your byline. Offer articles to related websites. Voila. Linkage.

Writing Testimonials

One great way to get links and make people happy is to give other webmasters testimonials. Do you like your web host? Neither do I, but it doesn't stop me from offering a testimonial to my web host which includes a link back to my website.

Supporting Good Causes

A few of the better links we've acquired for v7n were acquired by donating to good causes, such as MozDev and Evolt.org

Blogs & Forums

Contribute intelligently to blog or forum discussions. Include a link to your website in your signature.

Interviews

Interview people who have friends. Their friends will link to the interview you place on your website. Or, if people like you, give interviews and make sure the interviewer includes a link to your website on the interview page.

Professional Organizations

Do you belong to the AMA, the MRI or the BBQ? Most professional organizations have websites. They may already include your name and address - ask them to include a link to your website.

Free Hosted Doorway Pages

Create a two or three page doorway site on Geocities. Include your keywords in the page titles. Include several links to your real website with your keywords in the anchor text. Provide doorway pages with limited number of links from dubious sources.

Awards

Selling widgets? Have a Best Widget Resource Site Award. Give the award to every widget resource site on the Internet. Get them all to link to you. Schweeet!

Contests

Have a contest. Create publicity. Get links. Even better if you can tick off a pompous windbag. More publicity.

Friends

Seventeenth-century English author John Donne said, "No man is an island". I really have no idea how that ties into this discussion, but I am sure you know people. Friends, family, people who think you are friends - these folks may have websites, and you may be able to force them into linking to your website. Who knows; it's worth a try.

Natural Linkage

Whatever you do, do it bigger and better than the other guys. Create content that is genuinely useful, and the links will come natually.

15 Shades of SEO Spam

Spam, in almost any form, is somehow bad for your health. The vast majority of web users would agree with that statement and nobody would even think of the finely processed luncheon meat-product made by Hormel. Even the word itself is infectious in all the worst ways, being used to describe the dark-side and often deceptive side of everything from Email marketing to abusive forum behaviour. In the search engine optimization field, Spam is used to describe techniques and tactics thought to be banned by search engines or to be unethical business practices.

While writing copy for our soon to be revised website, the team put together a short list of the most outrageous forms of Spam we had seen in the last year and a short explanation of the technique.

Please note, we do not encourage, endorse or suggest the use of any of the techniques listed here. We don't use them and our clients' sites continue to rank well at Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask. It is also worth noting Google has been the dominant search engine for almost five years. Most of the spammy tricks evolved in order to game Google and might not apply to the other engines.

1. Cloaking
Also known as "stealth(ing)", cloaking is a technique that involves serving or feeding one set of information to known search engine spiders or agents while displaying a different set of information on documents viewed by general visitors. While there are unique situations in which the use of cloaking might be considered ethical in the day-to-day practice of SEO, cloaking is never required. This is especially true after the Jagger algorithm update at Google, which uses document and link histories as important ranking factors.

2. IP Delivery
IP delivery is a simple form of cloaking in which a unique set of information is served based on the IP number the info-query originated from. IP addresses known to be search engine based are served one set of information while unrecognized IP addresses, (assumed to be live-visitors) are served another.

3. Leader Pages
Leader pages are a series of similar documents each designed to meet requirements of different search engine algorithms. This is one of the original SEO tricks dating back to the earliest days of search when there were almost a dozen leading search engines sorting less than a billion documents. It is considered SPAM by the major search engines as they see multiple incidents of what is virtually the same document. Aside from that, the technique is no longer practical as search engines consider a far wider range of factors than the arrangement or density of keywords found in unique documents.


4. Mini-Site networksDesigned to exploit a critical vulnerability in early versions of Google's PageRank algorithm, mini-site networks were very much like leader pages except they tended to be much bigger. The establishment of a mini-site network involved the creation of several topic or product related sites all linking back to a central sales site. Each mini-site would have its own keyword enriched URL and be designed to meet specific requirements of each major search engine. Often they could be enlarged by adding information from leader pages. By weaving webs of links between mini-sites, an artificial link-density was created that could heavily influence Google's perception of the importance of the main site.

In the summer of 2004, Google penalized several prominent SEO and SEM firms for using this technique by banning their entire client lists.


5. Link Farms
Link farms emerged as free-for-all link depositories when webmasters learned how heavily incoming links influenced Google. Google, in turn, quickly devalued and eventually eliminated the PR value it assigned to pages with an inordinate collection or number of links. Nevertheless, link farms persist as uninformed webmasters and unethical SEO firms continue to use them.


6. Blog and/or Forum SpamBlogs and forums are amazing and essential communication technologies, both of which are used heavily in the daily conduct of our business. As with other Internet based media, blogs and forum posts are easily and often proliferated. In some cases, blogs and certain forums also have established high PR values for their documents. These two factors make them targets of unethical SEOs looking for high-PR links back to their websites or those of their clients. Google in particular has clamped down on Blog and Forum abuse.


7. Keyword Stuffing
At one time, search engines were limited to sorting and ranking sites based on the number of keywords found on those documents. That limitation led webmasters to put keywords everywhere they possibly could. When Google emerged and incoming links became a factor, some even went as far as using keyword stuffing of anchor text.

The most common continuing example of keyword stuffing can be found near the bottom of far too many sites in circulation.


8. Hidden Text
It is amazing that some webmasters and SEOs continue to use hidden text as a technique but, as evidenced by the number of sites we find it on, a lot of folks still use it. They shouldn't.

There are two types of hidden text. The first is text that is coloured the same shade as the background thus rendering it invisible to human visitors but not to search spiders. The second is text that is hidden behind images or under document layers. Search engines tend to dislike both forms and have been known to devalue documents containing incidents of hidden text.


9. Useless Meta TagsMost meta tags are absolutely useless. The unethical part is that some SEO firms actually charge for the creation and insertion of meta tags. In some cases, there seems to be a meta tag for virtually every possible factor but for the most part are not considered by search spiders.

In general, StepForth only uses the description and keywords meta tags (though we are dubious about the actual value of the keywords tag), along with relevant robots.txt files. All other identifying or clarifying information should be visible on a contact page or included in the footers of each page.


10. Misuse of Directories
Directories, unlike other search indexes, tend to be sorted by human hands. Search engines traditionally gave links from directories a bit of extra weight by considering them links from trusted authorities. A practice of spamming directories emerged as some SEOs and webmasters hunted for valuable links to improve their rankings. Search engines have since tended to devalue links from most directories. Some SEOs continue to charge directory submission fees.


11. Hidden Tags
There are a number of different sorts of tags used by search browsers or website designers to perform a variety of functions such as; comment tags, style tags, alt tags, noframes tags, and http-equiv tags. For example, the "alt tag" is used by site-readers for the blind to describe visual images. Inserting keywords into these tags was a technique used by a number SEOs in previous years. Though some continue to improperly use these tags, the practice overall appears to be receding.


12. Organic Site SubmissionsOne of the most unethical things a service-based business can do is to charge clients for a service they don't really need. Charging for, or even claiming submissions to the major search engines are an example. Search engine spiders are advanced enough to no longer require site submissions to find information. Search spiders find new documents by following links. Site submission services or SEO firms that charge clients a single penny for submission to Google, Yahoo, MSN or Ask Jeeves, are radically and unethically overcharging those clients.


13. Email Spam
Placing a URL inside a "call-to-action" email continues to be a widely used of search marketing spam. With the advent of desktop search appliances, email spam has actually increased. StepForth does not use email to promote your website in any way.


14. Redirect Spam
There are several ways to use the redirect function to fool a search engine or even hijack traffic destined for another website! Whether the method used is a 301, a 302, a 402, a meta refresh or a java-script, the end result is search engine spam.


15. Misuse of Web 2.0 Formats (ie: Wiki, social networking and social tagging)
An emerging form of SEO spam is found in the misuse of user-input media formats such as Wikipedia. Like blog comment spamming, the instant live-to-web nature of Web 2.0 formats provide an open range for SEO spam technicians. Many of these exploits might even find short-term success though it is only a matter of time before measures are taken to devalue the efforts.



Search engine optimization spam continues to be a problem for the SEO industry as it tries to move past the perceptions of mainstream advertisers. When under-ethical techniques are used, trust (the basis of all business) is abused and the efforts of the SEO/SEM industry are called into question. Fortunately, Google’s new algorithm appears to be on the cutting edge of SEO Spam detection and prevention. Let’s hope 2006 is the year the entire SEO industry goes on a Spam-free diet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Google Top Gainers 2005

A look back at 2005 wouldn't be complete without some lists. Here are three from us to you, representing some of the most popular searches this year on Google.

Google.com - Top Gainers of 2005

1. Myspace
2. Ares
3. Baidu
4. wikipedia
5. orkut
6. iTunes
7. Sky News
8. World of Warcraft
9. Green Day
10. Leonardo da Vinci

Google News - Top Searches in 2005

1. Janet Jackson
2. Hurricane Katrina
3. tsunami
4. xbox 360
5. Brad Pitt
6. Michael Jackson
7. American Idol
8. Britney Spears
9. Angelina Jolie
10. Harry Potter

Froogle - Top Searches in 2005

1. ipod
2. digital camera
3. mp3 player
4. ipod mini
5. psp
6. laptop
7. xbox
8. ipod shuffle
9. computer desk
10. ipod nano

There Is No Such Thing as Free Content

You may be starting to see new websites popping up offering "instant web content." Yeah, as if you can simply add water and -- poof! -- watch your AdSense clicks skyrocket! (I'm sensing an anti-informercial-site rant coming on, but that's for another time.)

The latest one I've found is NicheContentDirectory.com. Don't ask my how I learned about them (OK, you twisted my arm... they appeared in our AdSense feed). This lovely site urges you to "grab content, upload articles - create targeted traffic to your site!!!" The premise behind these silly sites, of course, is to sell or distribute targeted content that you can add en masse to your site for little or no effort, which will increase the number of pages in the engines for your site.

But, remember, just as the first law of thermodynamics states there is no such thing as a free lunch in energy, there is also no such thing as free content. It may be attainable for little or no money, but it will definitely cost you. Don't do it.

It's common knowledge today that search engines often penalize sites for publishing duplicate content. If there's content out there that is free, you can bet that your competitors are probably out there "grabbing" it, too. Essentially, if you do this, you're just wasting your time because it won't help. The engines are very sophisticated in their ability to detect duplicate content, and the allure of free content and instant results isn't worth it.

So, be different. It'll be worth it. Actually hire a writer, or write content yourself that you can't find anywhere else. This is what sustainable business is all about.

Some Favorite Firefox Extensions

Aardvark 1.1
AI Roboform Toolbar for Firefox 6.5.8
Backpack Pages 0.1.4
BetterSearch 1.9
Ext2Abc 0.4
Forecastfox 0.8.2.5
googlebar 0.9.15.07
Greasemonkey 0.6.4
Highlighter 0.1.2
IE Tab 1.0.7
Linkification 1.1.6
ListZilla 0.7
MeasureIt 0.3.5
Performancing 1.0.1
Sage 1.3.6
ScrapBook 0.18.4
SearchStatus 1.14
SessionSaver .2 0.2.1.030.4

Friday, January 13, 2006

Your Google homepage, to go

Anyone who's ever tried to browse the web on their cell phone knows that it isn't always the best user experience. That's why I'm excited to tell you about Google Mobile Personalized Home. They've designed a way for you to view the things that you really care about, from your Gmail inbox to news headlines, weather, stock quotes, and feeds (Atom or RSS). The interface is optimized for small screens, and They've arranged things so you don't have to click on a bunch of links to locate what you're after -– your personalized content appears on top, right where it should be.

Some things to watch for and consider in 2006

Here are some things to watch for and consider in 2006


  • The advancement of mobile shopping.

  • Further advancements in multi-channel marketing driven by increased abilities to track and measure across channels and platforms, as well as an increased focus on integrated, upfront planning.

  • More customer-centric focused efforts.

  • Enhanced and expanded programs to focus on driving incremental sales and overall profit, rather then limiting metrics to lowest cost per lead.

  • More emphasis on increasing conversions, improving and optimizing results from campaigns at the site level.

  • Increasing levels of sophistication and capabilities to track, analyze and understand customer behavior. 

  • Expansion of efforts beyond search, affiliate marketing, pay for performance and other more typical ecommerce/online direct sales strategies and tactics.

  • Increased applied importance on strategy and long-term planning.

  • More testing of new platforms and vehicles such as click to call, blogs, mobile advertising, video and rich media.

  • More efforts to build awareness and reach consumers earlier in the buying process.

  • Expanded use of behavioral targeting.

  • Expanded use of content and new emerging technologies.

  • More campaigns and programs developed to reach, engage and motivate customers at multiple points in the shopping and buying cycle.

  • Increased efforts in the area of search engine optimization.

Majestic Research’s Top 20 websites

Online marketing plays a strong role in this direct sales process, particularly in the research, consideration and evaluation phases. Search engines are often the first place consumers go to research a purchase. Hitwise in November 2005, reported that the 10 leading comparison shopping sites visited after Google.com comprised 11.3 percent of total shopping and classified visits for the week.

Here is Majestic Research’s Top 20 websites during the recent 2005 holiday shopping period and the percent of customers who came by inputting the URL into their browsers:

Amazon, 86%
eBay, 86%
Victoria’s Secret, 82%
Target, 79%
Wal-Mart, 76%
Overstock, 71%
Half.com (eBay), 70%
The Home Depot, 70%
Kohl’s, 68%
Best Buy, 68%
Bath & Body Works, 66%
Sears, 65%
Circuit City, 64%
Kmart, 62%
Buy.com, 61%
Lowe’s, 60%
Old Navy, 57%
Bed, Bath & Beyond, 56%
J.C. Penney, 52%
Macy’s, 45%

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