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High Rankings' Advisor: Jill's SEO Mailbag Bonanza - Issue No. 014

June 12, 2002
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   That Time of the Month

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Yahoo! Express
---->   Weird MSN Results
---->   Follow-Up Comments
---->   Theme-Based Web Site
---->   Search Engines and Cloaking

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   Step-By-Step(tm) Copywriting Course

*Stuff You Might Like
---->   Interview with Dan Thies

*Advisor Wrap-Up:
---->   Ideas Needed for Giving Away a Free Pass
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Well, it's that time of the month again, folks.  (No, not *that*
time!) It's the time when I open up the High Rankings mailbag, and
post some of the questions I've received over the past week along with
my answers.  <Insert David Letterman music here: "Letters...we get
letters...we get lots and lots of letters..."> (Does he still do
that?)

I've also got that interview I promised you with Dan Thies, author of
the ebook I reviewed last week, "Search Engine Fast Start."  Dan does
a nice job of explaining why his methods are a good SEO option for
busy Webmasters.

On to the good stuff! - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Yahoo! Express++

From: Tamara

Hello Jill:

I love your advice and have a simple question, I wonder if you would
be so kind to answer.  I am a psychic who has two sites up since 1994
and 1995.  I have done all my own submissions, and have done very well
for myself.  I feel my recognition has put me in all directories and
all search engines for free.  I am now considering paying for maybe
Yahoo! Express or something.  My question is this:  Since I am already
in these engines, should I just work on my wording of my index page of
my site, or actually pay for a higher ranking, knowing nothing is
guaranteed.

I really appreciate your expertise and know how.  Grateful for your
time.

Peace and blessings,

Tamara
Psychic to the stars
www.tamara3.com

++Jill's Response++

Hi Tamara,

Nice to hear from you.

If your site is already listed in Yahoo! you can't actually submit to
them again.  They will simply take your $299 and that will be the end
of it.  Once you're in, there's nothing much you can do to change your
listing.  However, if your scope of services has changed, you may be
able to submit a request to get your description changed.

Also, it's important to note that working on the wording of your page
will have no effect in directories such as Yahoo!.  Since Yahoo! is
not a search engine but a directory, you have your one listing and
changes to your site have no bearing on it.  Changes to your site
will, however, affect your listings in the spidering search engines
such as Google.  If you're not getting the kinds of rankings you want
with them, you should definitely work on the copy in your pages.

It's important to first do some keyword research and determine the
keywords people are actually searching upon to find your type of site.
In my opinion, the best place to do keyword research is WordTracker:
</wordtracker>.   Once you have determined
your best keyword phrases, you'll then have to incorporate them into
the copy of your pages and your HTML Title and Meta tags.  Since your
site has been around for a long time, there should be no reason to
have to pay for submissions anywhere.  The search engine spiders
should already be crawling your site on a regular basis.

Good luck!

Jill


++Weird MSN Results++

From: Rick Barker

Hi Jill,

Thank you for your great work. I always look forward to receiving your
newsletter.

Late last week I noticed MSN started delivering search results
numbering in the hundreds as opposed to the usual thousands. At first
I thought they were doing maintenance of some sort. But now roughly
four days later their primary search results still number in the
hundreds.

The latter made me wonder if MSN primary search results, now scant,
were coming exclusively from LookSmart and Overture. If the latter is
correct, I think that would make MSN the first major search engine to
generate all paid for listings at their primary search page. I
couldn't help but wonder how the Internet community would respond to
this change if true. I asked myself that question because in a recent
Search Day newsletter (#275), a LookSmart advertisement noted 7 out of
10 users skipped over paid listings opting instead to click on "core"
search results. Could MSN just have cut their throat?

Anyway, you have the wherewithal to see if my suspicions are correct
so I thought I'd bring this to your attention. Thank you again for
your great work.

Rick

R. Barker & Associates
rbarker@divns.com

++Jill's Response++

Hey Rick,

Good observation!

I just checked my favorite phrase, "search engine optimization" and
found that it does say only hundreds of results (178), and all 178 of
those were from their Web Directory, aka LookSmart listings.  However,
going through each page and past the 178 Web Directory pages, the next
page gave me the "Web Page" results (or Inktomi results), which were
numbered 179 and above.  Suddenly at the top of the page it said
"Results 166-180 of about 195757 containing 'search engine
optimization'."

So apparently, they're only counting the directory results when they
first tell you how many, but if you get past the directory results (or
do a search that comes up with only a few or no directory results) you
get the actual number of sites as per Inktomi.

Hope this helps!

Best,

Jill

_________________________________________adv.

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_________________________________________

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</issue009.htm>

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Money-back guarantee if you're not completely satisfied.
(But you will be! - Jill)
_________________________________________


++Rick's Follow-up Comments++

Oops! I didn't think to actually go through all the listings they
mention to see if they end at the number given. With the recent
changes at LookSmart, I'm still wondering if some search results will
eventually lead to all-paid-for search results at MSN. It will be
interesting to see how this shakes out by July 14th. Thank you for
your prompt response. I really do enjoy your newsletter and writing
style.

Rick

++Jill's Follow-Up Comments++

Hi Rick,

Actually, with the changes at LookSmart, I think it will start to go
the other way.  There will be fewer paid results, because so many
people will be refusing to pay LookSmart's alleged "extortion fees."
(At least this is what I'm hoping for!)

An Inktomi listing should become more valuable at MSN once LookSmart
starts dropping all those who refuse to give in to their demands.

Glad you enjoy the newsletter!

Jill


++More From Rick: Theme-Based Web Site++

I actually agree with you. I recently advised a client that our
Inktomi listings could possibly begin to shine if LookSmart does
indeed begin to drop listings. But part of me is in disbelief they
would do something so stupid.

On another issue, there has been some discussion in your newsletter
about "theme" based web sites. It made me wonder if what I've been
doing for several years is now referred to as "theme" based web
design.

When Pokemon first came out I decided to go after roughly twelve
keywords with doorway pages for affiliate programs I was in. Rather
than hanging single pages off sub-directories, I decided to build one
big website-looking doorway page. All the navigation links (text) in
the left hand column were actual search terms. The "Pokemon Hats"
page, for example, linked to a doorway page about Pokemon hats and had
the same navigation links in the left hand column (just as with normal
web sites). I scored big with this web site placement wise.

Today, I still employ what I call a "related search term/keyword"
approach to web design. My own site incorporates this approach but
doesn't yet rank well (too much competition). Another site I used the
approach, which really scored earlier this year (minimal competition).

Is my approach what is being referred to as "theme" based web design?
If so, it really works well most of the time; particularly for search
terms with minimal competition. Frankly, I've never seen anyone else
use this approach.

Rick

++Jill's Response++

Hi Rick,

>>I actually agree with you. I recently advised a client that our
Inktomi listings could possibly begin to shine if LookSmart does
indeed begin to drop listings. But part of me is in disbelief they
would do something so stupid. <<

They've already been doing it.  Most of the sites that don't pay after
their clicks run out (usually in just a few days) are being dropped
from the results.

>>On another issue. There has been some discussion in your newsletter
about "theme" based web sites. It made me wonder if what I've been
doing for several years is now referred to as "theme" based web
design.<<

Until I read Dan Thies's ebook last week, I wouldn't have been able to
tell you.  Yet, from what you're telling me, and from what I gathered
from his ebook, it does sound like you're doing nearly exactly what he
says to do!

[See my interview with Dan in the "Stuff You Might Like" section
below, for more info.]

Jill


++Search Engines and Cloaking++

From: Linda Girard

Hello Jill!

I enjoy your newsletter very much - thanks for putting it together!

My question is:

I just found out that some SEO companies that specialize in "Cloaking"
have underwriting agreements with Search Engines in order to get
around the negativity of this topic.

Could you please tell me if this is true and doesn't it seem unethical
on the part of the SEO'er and the search engine to do this?  Also, if
this is true: why are the search engines telling us cloaking is bad
but letting this underwriting happen?

What is your opinion?  Please enlighten me -- Thank you!

Linda Girard

++Jill's Response++

Good question!

I believe what you're referring to is the "trusted XML feed" programs
offered by Inktomi and some of the other search engines.  Some,
including Danny Sullivan, have referred to this as cloaking, yet in
the strict definition of the word, it's really not cloaking.  (I use
Alan Perkins's definition which briefly is the following: "Identifying
a search engine using its IP/HTTP request and delivering content to
that search engine that will not be seen by users of that search
engine.")

What the search engines are doing (for a hefty fee) is different from
that.  These XML feeds are showing the search engine one thing and
showing the user something else; however, they are under the strict
control of the search engines themselves.  Since the search engines
are the ones that determine what is allowable and what is not, this
method is definitely acceptable.  They have stated that they do not
allow cloaking (as defined by Alan), but that they are willing to work
with you if your site has special needs and you wish to provide your
site info via XML feeds.

I realize this sounds like a bit of a double standard, and personally,
I'm not all that comfortable with it myself.  However, it's their
search engines and they can allow whatever they want and disallow
whatever they want, ya know?

Jill


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Interview with Dan Thies++

Last week, I reviewed Dan's "Search Engine Fast Start" ebook, which I
liked, but which left me with many questions.  (If you missed the
review you can read it here:
</issue013.htm#stuff>.)  I figured the best
way to get my questions answered was to interview the man himself.  So
without further ado, here it is:

Jill: With numerous ebooks and special reports about search engine
optimization on the market, what would you say your main reason for
writing your ebook was?

Dan: The main reason for writing "Search Engine Fast Start" (SEFS) was
that none of the other books I have seen provide any kind of
step-by-step instructions that a novice could follow. There are things
I know about optimization that aren't in the book, because I wanted
something that would let the reader see results quickly.

There are bigger, more expensive books out there for the full-time SEO
professional. I just want to make all of the part-time amateurs
dangerously competent, to where they don't have to be afraid of the
professionals, because there's always a niche where you can position
your site and get good traffic.

Jill: Would you call this book a "tell all" on how to optimize for
high rankings in the search engines? Or is it something else?

Dan: Telling *everything* is not necessarily the best way to teach
this stuff, because a lot of folks just give up. Or worse, they try
keyword stuffing and other spam tricks (after paying good money for
these "insider secrets"), get caught and then they're shut out
completely.

There are a lot of things I know about SEO that aren't in the book,
but readers get access to that knowledge when they email me for
support. Ninety percent of the time, though, that extra knowledge is
almost useless.

It's the 80/20 rule - give me 80% of the traffic, with 20% of the
effort, so my site becomes a success, then let me decide if I want to
put in the other 80% of the effort to get the other 20% of the
results.  Other books just don't do that - they may give you "the
whole story," but you don't know where to start.

Jill: What are the main ideas you try to get across in the ebook?

Dan: The central ideas of SEFS are as follows:

1. More keywords, more content, more traffic. Identify *all* the words
that apply to your site, and organize at least some of your content
around them, targeting your audience.

2. Optimize the pages that need to be optimized with a 5-minute
formula. Target one primary search term per page, do your optimization
and then leave it alone.

3. Efficiently work on "off the page" factors, and don't ever stop
doing this because it brings in traffic on its own in addition to
helping with your search engine strategy.

4. Finally, organizing your site into themes if you have the time.  If
you've done your homework on keywords and positioning, the theme sort
of comes together organically.

Jill: I know that "theme-based" SEO was a hot topic a year or two ago,
but I don't hear about it as much as I used to.  Does this technique
continue to work as well as it did in the past, or has its day come
and gone?

Dan: The short answer to your question is YES, it still works.  In
fact, it works better than ever, especially at Google. I find that
spending less time on optimization and more time on linkage and
promotion (not to mention *never* submitting) has driven results I
would not have seen otherwise.

If you read the academic literature, which is where the future of
search engines is being written, you'll see that themes, by whatever
name, are going to become more important over time, not less. Like a
lot of things, though, it was over-hyped for a while.

Jill: Dan, since you mention your own site, Website Promotion Central
(WSPC), in your ebook, and use it as an example of theme-based SEO, I
did some checking in Google and had a hard time finding your site.
I'm sure many others who read your book would like to know why this
might be.  Can you fill us in?

Dan: Website Promotion Central was ranked as high as #2 on Google for
"website promotion." Then it was banned from Google because we offered
a minor incentive for folks to link to us. We had originally thought
that our 2-week traffic test with LinksToYou was the problem, and
that's actually the story that's in the book, because it took so long
for Google to answer.

[Jill's note: That's an interesting comment about incentive-based
linking getting the site banned, and something very important to keep
in mind for anyone who might think that's a good way to get links.]

WSPC was in the top ten *everywhere* at that point, but after 18
months of not working on links, it's slipped a bit: #2 at Direct hit,
#3 at Hotbot, #8 at MSN, #11 at Lycos/FAST, off the map at AltaVista.
This is a big emphasis in my book that you have to keep working on
links and doing basic site promotion. Usually even 15 minutes a week
is enough to maintain your position.

CannedBooks.com, where the SEFS "sales letter" lives, is ranked at
#106 on Google (it's floating around the top ten at Yahoo) for "search
engine optimization."  It should rise in the top 20-30 sites for that
search term soon, but if it goes up into the top ten -- well, I hope
it doesn't go that high. I don't think a sales letter should ever
outrank sites (like HighRankings.com) that have a lot of good content.
[Jill's comment: LOL, good suck-up!]

Jill: Personally, I feel that there's not much sense in optimizing a
site for extremely competitive search phrases since they won't bring
in the most targeted visitors.  But there are others who do attempt
this type of SEO.  How well does your strategy work for very
competitive search terms, and what's your take on whether to bother
with general keyword phrases?

Dan: When I first discovered this system, it was by focusing on a very
competitive search term, "website promotion." But as I learned from
that experience, generic search terms are not the right focus.

It doesn't matter where we are for the most competitive search term --
for my site, what matters is that I already have over 100 search terms
in my logs for this month.

The goal isn't necessarily to hit the top ten for the least targeted
search term (getting 1,000 hits a day from people who searched for
"real estate" is a big load on your server, so unless you sell real
estate nationwide or even worldwide, it's a very BAD search term to
get traffic for).

If someone types in "search engine mastery" or "search engine
optimization book," or "search engine 101," those are the type of
searches I'm interested in, because they're ready for what I have to
offer. If I showed up in the top ten for the more generic search, then
the search engine needs to be fixed because CannedBooks.com is a sales
letter, not a content site. Someday maybe my newsletter would merit
that kind of ranking, but not the sales letter.

Jill: It seems to me that your approach would work best for very large
sites. Is this true, in your opinion?

Dan: This approach works for sites that are one page, up to hundreds
of pages. The more content and the more keywords, the more searches
you'll show up on. A really effective implementation leads to
thousands of search phrases showing up in the logs each month.

Jill: What about using multiple domains? You mention that in the book,
and that is something that I have been advocating against lately. What
are your thoughts on these in this new "Google era" of clamping down
on that sort of thing?

Dan: I almost wish I had left that out of the book. It was put in for
"completeness" but I've already had to put out an update clarifying
it.  I don't really recommend it, even in the book. It only makes
sense to split content when it makes sense to your visitors.
SitePoint.com is a good example - each domain in the network has its
own Webmaster, etc.

To be completely clear, though, Google isn't cracking down on themed
networks. What Google is doing is becoming more intelligent about how
they compute PageRank, so that self-linking doesn't help you out like
it used to. I think that's a very positive thing, because it prevents
cheating by better-funded sites.

A big network of sites that are all linked to each other (like
Webseed's 20,000 domain link pop farm that got them into trouble), is
going to get some human attention from the "search quality" guy, but I
don't advocate that kind of approach.

Jill: If someone purchases your ebook, is it pretty self-explanatory?
Do you offer any kind of assistance when people have questions about
your methods?

Dan: I spend, on average, about 7 minutes on email support for each
copy sold, and half of the books I sell are sold after an initial
email consultation that averages about 5-10 minutes. Those who take me
up on the invitation end up developing a plan for their site with me,
where we consider how much time they can invest and other factors.

I would really hope people would buy the book, then email me with
their URL and let me know what they're planning to do and what their
goals are. When they do that, I can tell them if they're on the right
track. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they are, so that and customer
feedback tells me that it's pretty self-explanatory. Less than a third
of my customers use the email support, in spite of my efforts to reach
more of them.

Jill: Some of the references to Excite and GoTo make the book seem a
little dated. How are you handling updates?

Dan: I send out email updates directly to my customers when anything
significant happens, like Excite going out of business (which happened
a couple weeks after I released the first edition), but I haven't
changed the book itself because people are usually printing it out,
and replacing even a chapter throws the page numbering out of whack. I
want to be able to refer folks to a particular page or chapter when
we're doing support.

I prefer to think of this as an ongoing conversation that begins when
they buy the book, or sometimes before they buy it, but it doesn't end
just because I've been paid. I've got a second edition in the works
for later this summer, and every copy includes a full year of updates,
so people who buy it today will get that update, as well as the third
edition next spring.

Jill: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Dan!

Anyone interested in learning how to put Dan's SEO techniques into
action can purchase his ebook here:
</faststart>.  (Yep, that's my affiliate
link.)


~~~Advisor Wrap-Up~~~

A couple of quick notes:  I'll be speaking at the San Jose "Search
Engine Strategies" conference, which is being held from August 12 -
14.  I hope to see many of my West Coast subscribers there!  You can
find more info here: <http://www.intmediaevents.com/sew/summer02/>.
I've got a free two-day pass available (it's a three-day event this
time) for one of you subscribers, but I haven't thought of a good way
to give it away yet.  If anyone has any ideas for an interesting way
to do this, please let me know.  I could be boring and to say to just
email me if you're interested, but where's the fun in that?

I'm also heading off to Yellowstone National Park with my family in a
couple of weeks.  I don't think it will impact the newsletter since I
won't be gone on any Wednesdays; however, if I'm feeling a time crunch
because of it I may have to skip an issue.  I should have a better
idea of my schedule next week, and will fill you in on the details
then.

That's all for this one.  Have a fun week!

Jill
 
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