Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Blog Search Engine

This week we’re featuring web resources you can use to improve your internet marketing. I assume you have a blog (you do, don’t you) and you’d like to increase the web visibility of your blog. One way to do that is by submitting it for inclusion in as many blog directories as possible. A good one to start with is the Blog Search Engine.

Blog Search Engine

Go to the bottom of the page and click on “Submit Your Blog”. Complete a short form, select the correct category for your blog, and that’s it.

Google Tracking U

I noticed today that Google is keeping track of which links I click on. This has happened in the past. Google has said it is something they do in order to monitor the quality of their search results.

You can tell when Google is tracking clicks in the search results if, when you put your mouse on a link you see a URL similar to the following.


Normally the URL is: http://internetresults.blogspot.com/

I tried doing Google searches using other internet connections and the tracking URL did not appear. This is normal behavior. Google does not track everyone who does a search. What I found interesting is that even after I cleared my cookies, Google continued to track my clicks on search results anytime I used my main internet connection.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Keyword Suggestion Tool

A key component of web authoring and optimization is determining the keywords you want to target. You need to find keywords that are relevant to the topic discussed on the web page, and which people are actually using in searches. You'll probably think of a few good keywords yourself. But, how do you determine whether searchers are actually using those keywords?. And what about words that never occurred to you?

The Digital Point Solutions Keyword Suggestion Tool can help.

Enter a keyword and this free online tool will provide alternative suggestions, based on actually historical search data, from Overture and Wordtracker. You’ll get a list of keywords and phrases ranked by their popularity. You’ll see how frequently people are searching for the terms that came to your mind, and get suggestions for addition terms that might be appropriate.

Digital Point Solutions also provides a free keyword position tracking tool .This utility will automatically check Google, Yahoo and MSN for search engine ranking and track those rankings for you. Although this tool is free, you will need to register before you can use it.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Google Snipets - A Google Secret

One of the most frustrating features of Google search results is how the web site descriptions are composed. Google takes snippets of text from the body of the page, selecting phrases that include the keywords used in the search. As a searcher I find the resulting Google descriptions to be useless. They don't have enough information and tell me little about the actual content of the page. As a web designer I see the Google snippets as presenting information that is unrelated to the message of the page. I'd prefer the description from my meta tags be used, as that would allow me to deliver a targeted message that is accurate and specific for the page.

Here's the "secret". You can get Google to display the page meta description in some circumstances.

If Google finds the search phrase in the meta description, it will display the meta description instead of snippets from the page. So, start checking your logs to find out what phrases searches use to find your pages. Or even better yet, set up your landing pages so they log the referrer. You can then incorporate the most common search phrases into your meta description--returning control of your Google description to you.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Font Trading Cards

Something a little off the wall today...

When designing a web site we can not go wild with fonts, if for no other reason than we can not be assured the visitor will have the appropriate font installed on their computer. Thus for on-screen text it is best to stick with the common fonts such as ariel, verdana and times roman.

However, at times we may wish to use different fonts in graphics. An excellent resource for information about fonts is the www.fonts.com web site. And if you really want to learn about fonts, you could start collecting their font trading cards--available online free.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Problems With Being Dynamic

While we’re on the topic of things to avoid, let’s talk about dynamic content.

Dynamic content in this case refers to pages that don’t exist until the information for the page is pulled from a database. Dynamic content pages usually include a question mark in the URL, such as:


In the above example the dynamicpage.php can display information about a variety of products. The “?product=55” code tells the web page to get the information for product “55” from the database and display that information.

The URLs for dynamic pages can be very long. For example, Google search result pages are dynamic pages. Here is the Google URL for the search results for “dynamic pages”:


The problem with dynamic pages is that the search engines may not know how to handle the information to the right of the question mark. Some dynamic pages may get indexed, others may not. Some may be seen as duplicate content and dropped from the search listings, others may not be seen at all. Search engines, and in particular Google, have been improving how they handle dynamic pages, but there are still problems.

If you do have a database driven web site, and you want information from your dynamic pages to show up in organic search results, there are several things you can do.

• Create static pages that present the information from your most important dynamic pages. I’ve done this using custom software I wrote to automatically create static pages directly from the database. It has given excellent results.

• Instead of creating pages based on the database, create unique static pages that serve to “introduce” the content in the database. For example, if you are selling dog collars and the dynamic pages show the specific information about 10 dog collars—create a static page about dog collars in general. Discuss topics such as how to find the right size collar, safety, and the importance of dog licenses. All of this excellent dog collar related information will help this page rank high. Dog owners can then follow the links into your dynamic pages.

• Avoid the use of the variable name “ID” in your dynamic pages. Google is able to index some dynamic pages, but the variable name “ID” seems to give Google problems.

• Limit the number of variables in the URL. The fewer the number of variables, the easier it is for search engines to understand.

• Submit your dynamic pages to services such as Froogle. With Froogle you create a feed that provides Froogle with the information about the page, including the dynamic URL. (Froogle is Google’s online shopping comparison service. Froogle search results are shown at the top of many Google search results.)

• Purchase Google Adwords and Overture PPC ads that directly link to the pages with products you want to promote.

• Have a good site map that will lead people, and search engines, directly to your dynamic pages. Don’t rely on search spiders following URLs created by on-page code. The spiders will never see those URLs. Provide hard-coded URLs in a location that is easy to find, preferable on a page (site map) in the root folder.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Don't Do The Wrong Things

I've just taken on a new client and realized there is something important I should say here.

In a couple of past posts I've mentioned that the way to have a successful web site is to have quality content, easy navigation and a good site map. But, there is a problem with this. I forgot to mention that you must avoid doing the wrong things.

I was reminded of this because my new client's web site, although a good site, is packed with things that prevent it from doing well in search results. For example...

It uses frames. Google has indexed the home page, which consists of four frames. The Google search results have four pages--one from each frame. So Google has a link to the header graphic, the navigation menu, the footer information, and the main body. It's great that they have the text from the main body indexed, but it's a dead end. There are no links and no contact information.

Don't use frames.

Even getting past the problem of frames, every content page on the site has the same page title, the name of the company. The page title is one of the most important factors used to determine the topic of the page. It needs to provide a good description of the content, and it must include the important key words for the page.

This is a company that provides services to the local market. But, there is no way for search engines to tell where they are located. In this case each page that describes a service offered, should also include the address of the company. This could be a part of another key feature this web site lacks--a call to action.

Don't forget to include your phone number on EVERY page!

Don't forget to tell visitors to your web site what you want them to do. Do you want them to call you? Do you want them to request a white paper, literature or a price quote? Make it easy to do.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Truly Open Directory

Here's an interesting new directory:

Truly Open Directory


This is a Wiki based directory. Anyone can add to, delete from or change it. It's an interesting approach to creating a directory that I hope works.

A big advantage is that it allows web site owners to have listings using the descriptions they want, provided no one else edits them that is.

A big disadvantage is that I'd expect a Wiki directory to be full of spam--and it was on my first visit. However, as I was cruising through various categories, whenever I came across obvious spam I deleted it. With enough legitimate web site owners visiting the Truly Open Directory, the spam problem should be keep under control.

Another big advantage is that listings appear immediately. There is no delay for editorial review or a system update.

Another big disadvantage is that your listings are subject to editing by your compeditors. This may require frequent visits to ensure your titles and descriptions remain accurate and focused on the market you intend to target.

A big advantage is that you can edit your compeditor's listings, to ensure they are accurate and fair. Oh--do I see an editing "war" developing here?

Another advantage is that as I've added web sites I've seen those links quickly appear in various search engines. Apparently the Truly Open Directory is being spidered frequently.

The bottom line - list your web sites in the Truly Open Diretory. It's quick and easy to do, and well worth the effort.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Google Still Has Not Settled Down

Apparently I was wrong last week when I said Google search results had finally settled down. This weekend I was doing research on the Bible. On Saturday Google was returning useful results. Assuming I could easily redo searches, I did not make note of all the web sites I found. Returning to my research Sunday evening I found Google was returning a completely different set of results for the same search terms I had used Saturday. Not only were the search results not repeatable, but Sunday's results were not nearly as relevent and useful as Saturday's Google search results had been.

This morning I've run my normal key word tests and found that once again Google's search results have completely changed. This time, although my sites continue to do well, the search results are much less relevent than they were last week.

From a web user perspective I find this type of instability on Google's part makes my web research using Google more difficult. It is continuing to push me towards using MSN.

But, as web marketers how are you to respond to this? The answer continues to be the same. There is nothing you can do to change what Google is doing. Stop worrying about it and work make the best web sites possible for your visitors.

Have unique content that is useful to visitors and which is valuable for others to link to.

Have an easy-to-use navigation system.

Include a site map.

And apply Kaizen techniques to your web sites. This means continually improve. Always be searching for ways to make your web site better.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Google Bans Itself

After my last post the question has come up: If Google can do it [keyword stuff and cloak pages] why can't I?

Today the news came out that Google has banned itself from it's own search results.

The Google pages that used keyword stuffing and "cloaking" were informational pages about Google Adwords. They were created/updated by an automated system in a way that was optimized for internal use within Google. But what they were doing for internal use is banned by Google when someone on the outside does it. Google has announced that the pages have been remove from Google search results and the group responsible for the pages will fix them and apply to Google for re-admitance just like anyone else would have to.

It's good to see Google taking this approach. There is no problem with designing/optimizing pages any way you wish for internal use. But if they are accessible on the web in genera,l you need to expect to have to follow all the rules, no matter who you are. Google did that.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Six Key Words To Success

February was a tough month for many web site owners. Changes in Google once again resulted in numerous web sites dropping out of the Google search results. Then yesterday it was discovered that Google is boosting the search ranking of their own pages using methods they ban everyone else from using. When your business depends on ranking well in Google, and in other search engines, what should you be doing?

Here are six key words:

Useful Content

Easy Navigation

Site Map

Useful content means that your website has information visitors will find useful. This means it has to be unique, well written and have substance.

Easy navigation means that visitors can quickly and easily find the useful content. Your navigation system should be well organized, consistent and informative.

A site map is an index to your web site. It serves two purposes.

1) It aids visitors in finding useful content on your web site.

2) It identifies the important pages for search engines to index, giving search engine spiders a single page that has links to every page of importance.

At a minimum there should be a link from your home page to your site map, making it easy for visitors and search spiders to find it.

Yes, there are other things you need to pay attention to in order to climb to the top of the search results. Things such as the page title, meta tag description, links, keywords on the page, and good marketing optimization. But, the foundation on which your web site is built is: Useful Content, Easy Navigation and a Site Map.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Measuring The Value of PPC Traffic

When it comes to Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, you should know as much as possible about the people who click on your ads. What day, and what time of day did they click on the ad? What search terms did they use? For contextual ads, what web site (and page) did they come from? Information such as this is available to you in a variety of ways.

1) If you do not have many landing pages, you can find this information in the logs of the machine hosting your web site. However, reading logs directly is not practical, so you will need software, such as Web Trends, that reads and organizes the log information.

2) There is also software that will collect, organize and neatly present to you visitor and tracking information about your PPC visitors.

3) This article is about a third option. The do-it-yourself option.

No matter what method you use to compile information about your PPC visitors, each PPC ad should have its own landing page. This allows you to individually track the performance of each ad.

My adding a little bit of PHP code to each landing page, and renaming the web page so that it has a filename extension of .PHP instead of .HTML, you’ll have a text file listing the key information about each visitor.

Logging PPC visitors.

In the above example the filename that will be used to store the information is "google-landing-page.txt". Change this name to be unique for each landing page.

The above will save the date and time the person arrived at the landing page; their hosting company; and the URL they came from. This URL will include the search terms they used, if they are coming from a search results page.

You’ll probably also want to know which clicks resulted in a sale or other desired action on the part of the visitor. Including the following code on the thank you page that appears when the visitor buys something, will log that information. (In this case the thank you page is in the same folder as the landing page.)

Logging PPC results.

The above will show in the text file as a "SALE". It will give the date, time and identify the visitor’s hosting company. This will allow you to link them with the log information recorded when they arrived on the landing page. Thus you’ll be able see which search terms and contextual ads are generating the most sales.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Getting IBLs

One-way in bound links (IBL) are a major contributing factor to boosting your site to the top of the search results.

What is an IBL? This is a link to your web site for which you have not put in a reciprocal return link. Search engines like these links because they are obviously not part of an artificial reciprocal link exchange. They are closer to a true reflection of the topic and value of your web site content.

How do you get IBLs?

1) Create unique, outstanding content on your web site. Give people useful and interesting content and they’ll link to it. The content does not have to be specifically about your products or services, but it should be of interest to people in your target market. For example, a web site I work on sells tools used by maintenance workers in industrial facilities. I added a page giving wire gauge sizes—information part of the target market has some interest in. That page has attracted links and has become the 15th most popular landing page bringing traffic into the web site. A double benefit.

2) Get your web site listed in every possible directory you can find. This includes the major directories such as DMOZ, JoeAnt, and others. A god starting point is the list of directories available in DMOZ:


Don’t forget local and regional directories in your area. If you are a member of a trade associations, be sure your web site is included in their online directory. If you exhibit at a trade show, be sure to get your web site included in their directory. Ask your suppliers to include you in their online listings of dealers. Don’t pass up an opportunity to get a one-way link.

3) Write articles about your products and services and offer them to industry publications with the provision that the include the URL to your web site. Don’t forget local newspapers and publications. They almost always have a web site and typically welcome articles. If you’d like wider distribution, offer your articles through the many online article distribution services (search for “free articles” in Google).

4) Learn how to write a good press release, then use press releases to tell the world what you are doing. Have you taken on a new product? Send out a press release. Did you hire a new salesperson? Send out a press release. Who should you send your press release to? Any local, industry, or national publication that might be interested in what you are doing. I ran a small software publishing business out of my home for ten years. Through the use of press releases my small company received coverage in national publications such as Business Week, U.S. News & World Report and INC. Magazine.

Also use the free press release distribution services available on the internet. (Search Google for "free press release distribution"). They'll put your press release on the web and include a link to your web site.