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What is Search Engine Optimization and Why Do I Need It?

web designWeb Design ServicePurchasing web design service is confusing with all of the different buzz words floating around. A service being pushed by many web developers is search engine optimization (SEO). It has become a huge field in the last few years despite the fact that many purchasers of web development services are not clear on what it is or why they need to consider it in the making of their site.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Nearly every internet user finds new web sites using a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN. You go to their site, type in what you are looking for and usually find it in the top two or three results. What goes on behind the scenes of every internet search involves complex software intelligent enough to figure out which pages are the most relevant to your search. If you are looking to buy a product online, you will search for the product name and typically buy it from a company who comes up near the top of the result list. Search Engine Optimization is the process of figuring out which search phrases, or “key words”, potential customers might use to find what you are offering, and then doing whatever is necessary to move to the top of the search results so that these searchers visit your site.

Figuring out what key words to target is a tricky process. If you run a company that sells candy, your first thought might be to target the key word “candy”. There are a number of problems with targeting such a general word or phrase. If somebody is logging on to the internet to buy candy, they are just as likely to use a search phrase like “chocolate”. The other problem is that if someone searches for “candy”, they might simply be looking for recipes or information. Spending money on search engine optimization which results in visits from recipe seekers will not be beneficial to your company or to the searcher. Luckily, there are many tools available, such as WordTracker, to do proper key word research and determine exactly which phrases are the best to target.

The second part of the search engine optimization process is crafting your site to be near the top of the search results for the phrases you chose. This can be very difficult, as the World Wide Web is full of competing web sites that would like to be higher on the list. There is a wealth of information describing exactly what you can do to have a good shot at being in the top results. I will discuss some of these methods more in depth in future articles. In the meantime, I recommend reading the information at Bruce Clay’s web site. It is the best resource on the internet for good, free information on SEO.

you need S.E.OYou Need Good S.E.OWhy do I need Search Engine Optimization?

If you are going to promote your website through standard advertising (i.e. print, TV, or radio), you might not need to invest very heavily in SEO. Most startup companies do not have the budget to promote their site through those mediums. If that is your situation, doing some careful research about SEO can help you access a form of advertising that is nearly free and reaches millions of people interested in exactly what you have to offer. If you have the budget to pay a professional for this service, make sure to investigate very carefully and get examples of their work. If a company offers you a guaranteed top spot on Google, be weary. True SEO professionals will tell you the truth: that getting a high search ranking for a competitive key word phrase will take months of diligent work and planning, and involves many factors that you cannot control due to competition for the elusive top spot.

When you write the copy for your web site, use language that contains your key words. Try to provide information that your visitors will find useful. People are much more likely to buy a product or service from a company that gives some of its expertise for free. It is also important to continually update the information on your site to keep visitors returning to see what new information is available. Hopefully they will make a purchase along the way. 
 
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5 Valuable Search Engine Optimization Tips

seo contentContent OptimizingSearch engine optimization is THE most cost effective way for a company to market their products and services. Below are 5 extremely valuable search engine optimization tips:

1. Content is Key

Webmasters are extremely concerned with optimizing their code and as a result, they often forget about optimizing the content. As optimization tips go, this is one you should pay close attention to. The first 200 words of your home page should be loaded with keywords, this includes your headline. Some search engines, particularly those that ignore meta tags, will actually use the first few lines of text (including the headline) as your site description.

2. Utilize Static HTML

You don't need a "dynamic" website unless you have dynamic content, such as airline seat availability and pricing which needs to be dynamically published from a database because it constantly changes. You may store your website in a database but you're better off publishing it as a static HTML website. It's cheaper, the pages will download faster, and search engines will find it easier to comprehensively index your website.

The less HTML code you have, the better, as it makes it easier and faster for the search engine to index your page. Aim for a total page weight of 50 KB for any page (that's including graphics). Certainly, anything over 100 KB is going to be slow, and some search engines don't like pages that are over 100 KB.

title tag seoThe Title Tag is Important3. The Title Tag is Critical

The title tag is the single most important piece of content for people who search. Keep it short: Don't have more than 60 characters (with spaces), which is roughly 8-10 words. Lead with the most important careword for that particular page. Always start off with what is specific about the page and move to what is general. Many websites begin their title with their brand or organization name, and then follow with what is unique about the page. (This is a very common mistake, so check out your website.)

4. Optimize Your Images

This is another optimization tip that many people forget about. However, through use of your "alt" image attribute tag, you can slip in an extra keyword phrase or two that describes the picture users are about to see. The text only shows up when the user has turned off the 'view images' option in their browser or the image fails to load. But some search engine robots will pick it up too and the extra keywords could help your ranking. So take a few seconds to implement this optimization tip on your site and you could see improved results soon.

SEO ExpertSEO Professional5. Why You Shouldn't Optimize Your Own Site

While we have given you some basic optimization tips to help you quickly boost your search engine ranking, we still recommend that you hire a Search Engine Optimization professional for the best results. Search engines change their guidelines regularly, making it impossible for any one or two people to stay on top of all the changes while still running their business. What was a great optimization tip yesterday, could get your site blacklisted today. Your SEO professional will watch over your site as if it was our own, ensuring your site is always running in peak form. For example, we predicted many of the guideline changes Google made in November of 2003, saving many of our customers from the massive fall in rankings most experienced.
 
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Getting Honest With The Search Engines

discussion forumsDiscussion ForumsI spend a lot of time reading newsletters and forum postings about Search Engine Marketing. More often than not, people are asking about methods used to improve Search Engine rankings: what works, what doesn't, and what will get you in trouble.

Search Engine*:

A program that searches documents for specified keywords and returns a list of the documents where the keywords were found.

Algorithm*:

A formula or set of steps for solving a particular problem.

Frankly, no one can predict what will happen from day to day with the Search Engines. Only the Search Engine companies themselves know if the algorithms will change from one day to the next. Even the Search Engine rules change from month to month, sometimes daily. Think of the changes that have happened since pay for inclusion and pay-per-click have taken over the market for Search Engine results.

It seems so simple to try and comply with the Search Engine rules. Even though optimization adds to the basic content of a site and source code, there are ways to approach this without stepping over the line.

We personally do not use the methods mentioned below (methods to avoid, methods to be wary of) in order to play it the absolute safest way, using a long term plan in providing you optimum ranking in the Search Engines.

Keyword stuffingAvoid Keyword StuffingMethods to avoid

Keyword stuffing. "Stuffing" keywords into places where keywords don't belong, such as comment tags, image ALT tags where the keywords have nothing to do with the specific image

Invisible text. Text color the same as background color

Automated submissions. Using automated tools to deliver huge numbers of pages to submission pages of Search Engines

Submissions to "thousands" of Search Engines. A waste of time, since the major Search Engines/Directories drive the majority of the traffic to websites

FFA (free for all) links. Link popularity is good, but only when the links are relevant; a link from a page of random links is not worth nearly as much as a link from a site that is relevant to your site

Search Engine Marketing companies hosting your pages on their server. The marketing company "owns" your pages, and if you decide you want to move them, you may have a hard time wresting them away. (This is not always the case with marketing companies that also provide hosting, but you need to carefully choose when using this option.)

Methods to be wary of

  • Cloaking
  • Doorway pages
  • Maintenance programs

Cloaking*:

Also known as stealth, a technique used by some Web sites to deliver one page to a Search Engine for indexing while serving an entirely different page to everyone else.

Cloaking is very difficult to do correctly, if you do not have an expert providing this service you could well be banned by the Search Engines. There are ways for this to be done that are accepted by some Search Engines. In general, cloaking is not always accepted by the Search Engine rules and can be a gamble unless you are certain your service provider knows what they are doing. Check credentials and get referrals from people who have used their services.

Doorway page**:

A page made specifically to rank well in Search Engines for particular keywords, serving as an entry point through which visitors pass to the main content.

Doorway pages are not accepted as they used to be by the Search Engines. A carefully crafted doorway page done by hand is entirely different from an automated doorway page generated by software. A few well-designed pages are a far cry from mass generated automated pages sent in large numbers through the Search Engine submission page, which are often considered as spam. Again, check credentials and get referrals from people who have used their services.

website maintenance2Website MaintenanceMaintenance programs

There are times when a page drops from the Search Engine listings or you re-design the page which might give you a reason to re-submit the page to the Search Engine. Re-submitting your pages every month is not always necessary. Having a log stats program in place will help you see which pages are still listed, along with a monthly ranking report. If you have these tools you should be able to see if any of your pages have changed. Be wary of people who consistently re-submit your pages, since re-submission can sometimes cause your pages to be dropped if they are already listed in the database.

My own experience with a very large website I did Search Engine marketing for, showed that the older (longer) the pages were in the Search Engine results, the better for link popularity and ranking. Of course, paid inclusion can give you more security in having your web pages stabilized in the Search Engine results.

A good maintenance plan will include providing a ranking report, tweaking keywords in your source code as needed for a monthly/six month/yearly fee and may also include log stats so you can see where your traffic is coming from and what keywords your visitors are using to visit your website.

Methods that work

Good content

Content is one of the most important items you need for your website. Once visitors arrive, you need to keep them there. Adding keyword-rich text that makes sense and serves the concept of the web page improves your ranking and keeps your visitors interested. The more text, the better for Search Engine spiders when they index a website.

Good navigation

There is nothing worse than arriving at a website and having difficulty understanding where to go for the information you are seeking. Have easy to use, clearly marked navigation so your visitors click through instead of click-away in frustration. Search Engine spiders (robots) index text and links; having good navigation is important to the indexing of your web pages.

Title TagTitle TagsTitle/META tags

Individualized Title and META tags for each of your important web pages gives you the best chance for optimum success in ranking. Title tags are necessary for Search Engine ranking, in particular with Google's Search Engine. META tags have decreased in importance, but are worth using for clarity and search results. The META description is still used by some Search Engines as the default text indexed by Search Engine spiders for the search results. The keyword tag is the least important but is still used by some engines. My theory is, you never know when the rules of the Search Engines will change, or a new engine will want them, so take the time to include these tags in all your web pages.

Link popularity

Links from other popular websites back to your website are one way of increasing your site's popularity. Finding websites with similar content (but not your competitors) and high link popularity, then trading links to be posted on each site, is one way of increasing your site popularity. Good content is vitally important because visitors who stay longer while visiting a website help measure the popularity of the site in the Search Engines.

Paid Inclusion

Paying a one-time fee or (as is most recently the case) a yearly renewable subscription fee to be included in the Search Engine results. Directories also use this style of service to accept submissions. Paid inclusion does not guarantee that you will be listed with the Search Engine or Directory, but gives a shorter time-line of acceptance if they do.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click)

Overture is the most popular PPC engine. You bid an amount per keyword phrase to get the highest ranking in the Overture search results compared to your competitors.

Google AdWords Select

Google AdWords is a program that uses your chosen keywords in an ad in the Google Search Engine results in order to promote click-throughs

Log Stats programs

Having a log stats program is very helpful in tracking your visitors, finding which keywords they are searching on to enter your website, tracking which pages they leave from and much more. Analog is a good free log stats program. WebTrends is a popular paid logs program used by many businesses.

free or paid submissionsFree or Paid SubmissionsFree submissions take patience

After paying for inclusion, try submitting to some of the secondary Search Engines and directories. Long before Google was a household word, I thought it might become popular and submitted the company website. It certainly paid off a year later when Google became the best of the upcoming Search Engines.

Another avenue to venture down are specialty directories. As the web grows larger over time, specialty directories (also known as vertical portals or "vortals") focused on your business area may help you get more link popularity and your company name out to the public.

Stay Honest

Stay honest, create good content and do your homework when hiring for services.

Using affordable Search Engine Marketing services you will add to your audience exposure on the web. In this way you will always be ahead of the game and hopefully, ahead of your competitors.

If you would like a free quotation, or more information, please contact us today

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Search Engines and Spam

spamming search enginesSpamming Search EnginesWhat is Spam?

Spam (for Search Engines) refers to the use of any illegal technique to improve a page' ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Who decides what 's illegal? The SEs, who else?

Tons of articles have been written about search engines and spam. Why the need for another article? Because, believe it or not,  MOST of the major search engines are still vulnerable to MANY unethical techniques used by malicious Webmasters.

Spam has been known for a long time. For years, Webmasters tried to cheat the search engines. Today, many SEs say they know all the tricks and penalize those pages. As you will see, most SEs only SAY that they will punish spammers, but in fact they DON'T.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization, Placement, Positioning, Ranking, or whatever you want to call it, is the process of designing a Web page that can be easily indexed by the SEs and receive high rankings in the SERPs.

My Experience with Search Engines

Recently, using some major U.S. SEs, I made a search for a Web design company in New York. Let me to share with you my highly disappointing experience.

The search engine results pages (SERPs) in most of the search engines were full of Web pages that used one or more spamming techniques. The most frequently encountered illegal strategies used by many SEs were:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Page redirect
  • Mirror domains

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the adding of many relevant, sometimes irrelevant, words in the:

Keywords META tagKeywords META TagKeywords META tag

One of the criteria some search engines use to rank pages in the results list is the presence of relevant words in the Keywords META tag. From use to abuse is a little step, so some webmasters place many words, repeating them many times in the hope that the page will rank higher. The record was a page that had 1,150 words (no mistake, WORDS not characters) in the Keyword Meta tag. The word "design" was repeated 209 times. Unbelievable, right?
What are Search Engines' positions regarding this spamming technique? One of the Web's most important Search Engines, in their submission guidelines, states that it will "exclude submissions" with "excessive keywords". It looks like 1,150 words are not "excessive" enough, because THAT SE and many others index the page.

Besides stuffing words in the Keywords META tags, some Webmasters also add lots of words in the:

Visible page

Another criteria some search engines rank sites in the results list is the so-called "word frequency": the more times a word is repeated in the content of a page, the higher are the chances it will be near the top in the results list.

Some Webmasters often abuse this criteria by placing words or phrases- most of the time- at the bottom of the page, many, MANY times. Do you recall the site that has 1,150 words in the Keywords Meta tags? Well, the same site just "copied and pasted" those words in the copy of the page.

You might think that it's weird to see a bunch of words inserted in the page. Well, Webmasters have found two methods to work around this problem: "tiny text" and "hidden- or invisible- text". "Tiny text" means that the Webmaster places the text in a very small size, most of the time hardly legible. "Invisible text" means the use of the same color for text AND for background, so users will NOT see the words but SE's spider WILL see, so the page will rank higher than it deserves.

The Search Engines' position regarding this spamming technique? One of the Web's most important Search Engine, in its guidelines writes: "We must sometimes exclude submissions" of "pages with text that is not easily read, either because it is too small or is obscured by the background of the page". Other SE's will "significantly downgrade a page's ranking" ... "if words cannot be read due to their small size or color".

Despite these statements, both SEs, as well as other SEs, index pages with text in the same color as the background. To illustrate the total lack of respect for users with little fear for SEs, one Web page has a whopping 936 words in BLACK text on a WHITE background. Incredible!

web page redirectWeb Page RedirectPage Redirect

One page can be redirected either by using the "refresh" META tag or using cloaking techniques. Why the need to redirect a page? One of the legitimate reasons to redirect a page is having a new URL for the site. But some Webmasters abuse page redirection to obtain higher rankings for their pages.

How does it works?

Using the "refresh" META tag:

This technique consists in building 2 pages: one, highly "optimized" - read "spammed"- with many, MANY words in the KW and Description META tag and also in the Title tag. Most of the time the copy of the page is also highly "optimized" with KW stuffing- many times with invisible text.

These pages called: "Doorways Pages", "Gateway", "Entry" or "Bridge" pages most of the time display a "Click here to enter the site" or simply "Enter" or sometimes "select Flash or HTML" message on the entire page. Using the "refresh" META tag the Webmaster will "redirect" the user to a second page, which will appear after a determined number of seconds after seeing the first page. If the time is set to "0" (zero) seconds, the viewer will NOT see the first page, but directly the second one.

Why two pages? The first one shown to SEs as highly "optimized" will help the page rank very high in the SERPSs, by cheating the SEs. The second one is "nicer", not too much spam, a good page for viewers.

Cloaking technique is probably the most controversial spamming technique.

It also uses 2 pages, one for the SE and another for the viewer. The big difference between this technique and the one above is that in the first case it is possible to see the code of the first page (shown to SEs), but in the second case it is not.

Hiding the Meta data (especially keywords) in the code can provide a huge advantage in this current highly competitive market, as there are known cases of Webmasters that stole a competitor's keywords in an attempt to rank higher.

What are search engines' positions regarding redirecting? Do not submit any site with an address that redirects to another address" or "Your site cannot mirror or redirect to another Web site" or we "may permanently ban from our index any sites or authors who engage in cloaking to distort their search rankings" or simply: "Don't cloak".

Pretty clear, right? Then why some Webmasters insist in using cloaking techniques? To hide their pages' code from prying eyes. Bad guys are not afraid to spam- most of the time, SEs only SAY: "don't do that". If you do, there will be NO- or sometimes very little- punishment.

Mirror domains

Consists in building hundreds or even thousands of pages with SAME content but with altogether DIFFERENT URLs (Web addresses). The advantage is clear: by finding the "right" tricks to cheat the SE algorithm one can "dominate" the SERPSs with pages one after another. One company had 62 pages in the Top 100 results list.

What are the search engines positions regarding this spamming technique? "Do not submit mirror sites". "Your site cannot mirror or redirect to another Web site". "Do not submit" . . . "the same pages from multiple domains". But in practice most of the SEs are vulnerable to this technique.

Spamming in on page elementsSpamming in on Page ElementsQuestions for:

Search Engines

When are you going to be SERIOUS about your job?

When will you PUNISH the spammers? Have CLEAN indexes? It is not difficult. A dialog with the Webmasters community might result in opinions such as THIS one:

"I can't understand why the search engines aren't professional enough to put their anti-spam efforts into a detailed agreement and have anyone that wants to be listed sign their agreement. Such an agreement would spell out very clearly what is and what isn't allowed. Anyone breaking the rules would be subject to specific penalties or banning, but would be notified and have a chance to fix the problem especially if the infraction was not too serious".

Clear enough?

Why do you accept advertising from sites which use spamming techniques? So, if a page cannot achieve high rankings, for few buck it becomes "featured" site or listing and voilà!, on the top of the list. Is this the latest trick for a poor site to be listed high? Now, on one hand, in your guidelines you tell Webmasters not to spam, on the other hand, if a spammer PAYS, that's no problem. Good bye relevancy, hello profits! Here is a comment by a high-ranking official from a major SE: "the more we take payment for listings, the more you'll get great results" Excuse me? "Big" pockets' sites are NOT always more relevant than "poor" pockets' sites.

I know I'm not the first one to ask but, when are you going to make a CLEAR distinction between paid listings and real results? The user needs to make an informed decision. The user needs to be helped, not confused.

Webmasters

Why use techniques seen by the SEs as spam? Why take the risk of having pages penalized, or even permanently banned, from indexes? Two months of glory, then a new domain, blacklisted again- poor way to market any business.

Think it's impossible to get higher rankings WITHOUT using spam? My answer is NO. Do your homework, read thoroughly and abide to SEs guidelines, cross your fingers and you'll be # 1.

Have you ever seen one of your page's ranking lower than a page which uses spamming techniques? I bet you did. Now, how did you react? Did you report it to the SE or you said "nah, that's no use anyway"? Or perhaps you thought it's not nice to turn in the Webmaster. OK, let me ask you something: would you like, that while waiting in line to buy a ticket to a movie, somebody, who comes AFTER you, go in the front and buy a ticket BEFORE you do?

Or perhaps THIS is the solution?

A site will be nominated and posted on a listserv which any member can second then the offender will be notified of his conviction by the spamdex police. They will have a week to clean it up and re-submit and remove the offending listing from the search engines. After a week the offender will be reported to the search engines. The search engines will have a month to act or they will be added to the list as an accomplice to the activity.

Search Engine Results PageSearch Engine Results PageHuh? What do you think?

Site Owners

When are you going to wake up? What am I talking about? Well, I'm taking about a report, which says, "nearly 46 percent of the marketers surveyed said they allocate less than 0.5 percent of their annual marketing budgets on search engine optimization (SEO) services". Now, read it again, and again.

So, you spend 95,5 % on gizmos such as Flash and Java Scripts and less than 1% for SEO. Let me tell you something: bells and whistles will never help a page rank high in SERPs. NEVER. In fact it will work against.

Which are your rankings, by the way? When was the last time you checked, if ever? Are you in the Top 30 results for your strategic keywords when the user runs a search? You're not? Practically you don't exist for your prospects. Still wonder why so many .com CLOSE? Are you going to be next?

Do you need a Ph.D. to realize that the SEO- your Web site "salesman"- is more necessary than ever? One of these days you'll discover the power of search engine marketing: the cheapest yet most effective way to promote your site to more than 300 million prospects. Bright future for SEO.
I can see a bright future for the SEO, don't you?

When are you going to understand that SEOs is NOT only optimizing the Keyword Meta Tag? SEO is a highly specialized, time-consuming and sometimes expensive but absolutely NECESSARY task. It's both an art and a science to position a Web page near the top in SERPs. So, forget about your in-house SEO "expert", shop around and find a reputable SEO firm or consultant.

Do;s and don'ts when you talk to the SEO guy:

If a Web Marketer suggests you to get rid of that flashy or framed Home Page, just DO IT! Or, don't blame HIM for the consequences. If a SEO says something about cloaking and doorways, run, and I mean it.
Don't even think telling a SEOs, that you'll pay him, AFTER the pages show up in the search engines. Enough said. Don't be a kid by asking him to GUARANTEE you Top 10 positions! No honest SEO will do it. The only thing a SEO can guarantee is an increase in the number of pages indexed and an increase of the current rankings. With some luck your sales will sky rocket.

Last thing: please, avoid those submission tools and their hype: "submit your site to 500,000 SEs for $24.95". Submit your Web site by hand. Period.

IN CONCLUSION:

SEM Search Engine MarketingSEM Search Engine MarketingSince the summer of 1995, when I worked for the first time with a Search Engine, I saw some SEs disappearing, and lots of new SEs appearing.

Competition is good, but users might be confused with thousands of SEs. Besides, not everybody knows sophisticated searching techniques such as the Boolean operators, so there is a lot of frustration out there. If we add the irrelevancy of the results in most of the SEs, we have a pretty sad picture.

A clean index should be the main priority for any search Engine. If a SE gives irrelevant results, the user will switch to another SE. Can a SE afford losing users in todays'fierce competition between SEs? I don't think so.

To wrap up, I am not saying here that ALL the Search Engines are vulnerable to ALL the known spamming techniques. All I say is that MOST of the Search Engines are vulnerable to MOST of the bad tricks.

I also believe that it is NOT important to list WHICH SEs are vulnerable to WHICH spamming techniques or WHICH sites spam WHICH SEs. The important thing is it STILL happens.

Not only in the American SEs. I've checked also Spanish, German, French and Italian SEs. Less spam, but still there.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free quotation, or more information

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How to Use Keywords to Optimize Your Site for Search Engines

SEO Keyword ResearchSEO Keyword ResearchPlacing keywords strategically throughout your web pages will greatly improve your rankings in the search engines. Many sites, however, leave them out altogether so your Site won't get ranked at all. Inserting too many keywords in your web pages or repeating them too often, will result in your site getting banned from the search engines.

How do you sort all this out so you can effectively market your web site to the search engines?

What is a keyword, and how to create targeted keywords for your site. Next we will discuss where to place keywords, how many to use, and some tips on what to avoid.

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