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SEO Website Audit

High Rankings' Advisor: Optimizing Dynamic Content - Issue No. 022

August 7, 2002
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Just Your Average Intro

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Target-market Questions

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   AltaVista Express Inclusion

*Guest Interview
---->   Optimizing Dynamic Content

*Other SEO News:
---->   Search Engine Strategies Conference Fun

*Advisor Wrap-Up:
---->   No Newsletter Next Week
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hi everyone!  I've got an action-packed issue for you today.  A
target-market Q&A, an interview regarding the optimization of
dynamically generated sites, and some info on the fun stuff going on
at the SES conference in San Jose next week.

On to the good stuff!  - Jill


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Target-market Questions++

From: Lee

Hi Jill,

Love your tips and writing.

I have a service that offers "Home and Real Estate Buying without
Credit Checks or Qualifying." (You select the property, and we do the
rest. No "up-front" payments either.)

A "built-in" bonus is that buyers can rebuild their credit whilst
living as owners in their own home and restart their lives!

The main target markets are:
1. All credit impaired, bad- and no-credit people, and therefore
2. Renters of homes or upscale apartments
3. Rent-To-Own

After reading your tips, I am clear on the context and tags, but
confused about WHICH group to target, because the key phrases for each
are quite different, although they do have common factors:

a) Repair Credit
b) Renters, House For Rent
c) Rent To Own
d) Home Buyers, Home Buying, Buying Homes
e) Real Estate (too big)
f) Home For Sale (many look here to get ideas of prices etc.)

Should I do one item for the home page with the main and related key
phrases, or more?

Which one??? To me they are all good.  How to know which is best?  I
was thinking "Home Buyers or Buying."

Should I put the rest on different pages with their own titles and
corresponding phrases? Or, different sites for each? Or, different
URLs leading to one site? Or what?

In newspaper classifieds, my prospects would look under Homes For
Rent, because they cannot qualify to buy.  So that's where I would
place my main ad, followed by Homes For Sale.  But, the web is quite
different. Hence my dilemma.

Apologies for the length of this email, but you write great tips and
this is your reward!!

Many thanks,

Lee

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Lee,

Fascinating question! I can see why this could pose quite a problem
for you.  It's interesting that in newspaper classifieds you would
target the Homes for Rent crowd.  If that works for you, you might
want to think about how you can target that same market on the Web.

The problem, of course, is that you don't want to deceive anyone
regarding what your Web site is all about.  You obviously can't put
"homes for rent" phrases all over your site if that is not what you
offer.  So let's think about this for a moment.  How can we target
that particular audience without deceiving them?  (This calls for an
additional cup of coffee!)

Well, how about this...

Would it be possible for you to say something like, "Looking for a
home to rent, because you don't think you can afford to buy one?"  I'm
not saying to use those exact words, as I'm sure a professional
copywriter could do much better, but you get my drift.  I can envision
a whole page or article on that subject.  Perhaps that is the key
right there...articles!  Since what you offer is so unique and
different, and since most people don't even know your type of service
exists, having loads of articles on the different aspects would be
perfect.  Doing this would enable you to target each specific
audience, and to also use the various keyword phrases you want to
target.

In other words, you could have an article all about repairing credit,
another one about renting homes (and how it may not be the only
option), and so on.  I would keep these fairly non-commercial in
nature, but don't hide the fact that you can provide more information
through a quick email or phone call.

That said, "homes for rent" and most of the other phrases you'd like
to target are all extremely broad phrases.  No matter what you do,
it's gonna be extremely difficult to get high rankings for them.  Do
you offer your service to the entire world?  The entire U.S. or
Europe?  One particular state?  A certain community within a state?
If it's possible to narrow down your services by geographical area,
then definitely do it!  It would be a whole lot easier to target those
people looking to buy or rent homes in upstate New York (or London,
England, or whatever) than the entire world.  By trying to rank highly
for phrases like "homes to rent," that's exactly what you're
doing...targeting the entire home-renting universe.

So the first step is to narrow down your target market.  In fact, you
should do this even if you do target the whole world.  You could start
small by creating pages or subsites that focus only on certain
geographical areas.  Once those were in place and doing well, you
could branch out to new areas.  There are lots of local Web directory
sites that would probably allow you to add your regional site to their
real estate section.

As you've already realized, your main page is going to be the
trickiest.  It may be that you can't really target any specific
keyword phrases on that page.  Instead, you may have to give an
overview and just point people to the individual pages regarding those
topics.  I'm working on a client's site right now that's in a similar
boat.  They offer a variety of services, with no specific focus (other
than, say, "marketing").  I'm slightly uncomfortable not having a
keyword focus on the main page, as that's not how I generally do
things.  However, I'm hoping that the individual service pages will
carry their own weight, with the main page funneling people (and the
search engines) to them.  In theory, it should work.  Eventually,
obtaining some outside links to specific inner pages will be
important, and it would be the same for your site.  By having
informative articles on your site, you'll also be more apt to
negotiate some outside links to them.

Hope this helps!

Jill

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____________________________________________


~~~Guest Interview~~

++Optimizing Dynamic Content++

Every week, I receive a few questions from people who have dynamically
generated sites and are having trouble getting them spidered and
ranked in the major search engines.  I've written about this subject
before, as it's been a long-standing problem in the SEO world.
Instead of simply reiterating my thoughts on the subject, I thought it
would be smart to provide you with some information from someone with
a more technical background than I have.  Who better than my
colleague, Alan Perkins?

Alan has been working with search engines since 1995. He holds patents
in search engine technology and was lead developer of Search
Mechanics, a product to help webmasters make their sites more
search-engine-friendly.  Alan is also the co-founder of e-Brand
Management <http://www.ebrandmanagement.com/>, a company dedicated to
helping people build and maintain a successful online presence.

Alan and I are currently working together to optimize a dynamically
generated Web site for one of my clients.  It's been quite a learning
experience for me (and the client), and there's a whole lot to it.
The good news is that dynamic sites *can* be optimized to be found in
the search engines, but you do have to know what you're doing in order
to make it happen.

So without further ado, here's my interview with Alan:
---
Jill: Can you explain what dynamic content and dynamic URLs are?

Alan: The terms dynamic URL and dynamic content are frequently used
interchangeably. However, this can lead to confusion because they are
two separate, but related, terms.  A URL is not content - a URL is the
address of some content.

Dynamic content is information that is delivered to the Web browser in
a different form than it exists on the server.  It is usually pulled
from a database and created on the fly at the server level through CGI
programming, ASP, PHP, or by a content management system such as
BroadVision(tm) or ATG Dynamo(tm).

Dynamic URLs, on the other hand, are simply Web site addresses that
contain a question mark (?).

In contrast, static content is stored on the Web server in the same
format that is delivered to the Web browser.  And static URLs do not
contain question marks.

In general, dynamic URLs are addresses of dynamic content, and static
URLs are addresses of static content. However, this need not be the
case, as we shall see later.

Jill: We often hear that search engines have a problem indexing
dynamic content; why is this?

Alan: It boils down to two issues -- the same core content seen at
different URLs, and different core content seen at the same URL.

When the same core content is at different URLs, a small site can
appear to be very large because an unlimited number of URLs can be
used to provide essentially the same content. Spiders can fall into
"dynamic spider traps," crawling through thousands of URLs when only a
few really needed to be crawled. Since a dynamic URL usually indicates
dynamic content, the simplest way for a search engine to avoid these
spider traps is to avoid dynamic URLs altogether.  Remember, search
engines want to index any given core content just once.

Now let's consider different core content at the same URL. There are a
number of ways in which this might happen. For example, a site may
have content that may be viewed at the same URL in multiple languages
depending on the browser settings. Another example would be content
that gets updated every few minutes or so.

Whatever the means, search engines typically index only one copy of a
specific URL once every few weeks or so. Therefore, if a search engine
indexes your English content at a given URL, the same search engine
will not index your Spanish content at the same URL (during the same
indexing period). And if your content is frequently updated, the
search engine's copy of your content will not be fresh. A search
engine prefers that the visitors to a particular URL see the same
content its spider saw.

Jill: Sounds like sites with dynamic content have an uphill climb when
it comes to the search engines.  So what can we do to help them get
indexed?

Alan: The general answer is to give each search engine what it wants:
unique core content at a unique URL, plus the same core content seen
by all visitors.

But I'm guessing you want specifics. So here they are!

1. Use static URLs to reference dynamic content.

If a search engine sees a static URL, it is more likely to index the
content at that URL than if it found the same content under a dynamic
URL.  Therefore, you can turn your dynamic URLs into static URLs
despite the fact that you are serving dynamic content.  There are a
number of ways of achieving this, and your method will vary depending
upon your server and other factors. To go into all of these methods is
beyond the scope of this interview; however, you can visit the
following sites for two popular servers:

Apache: <http://httpd.apache.org/docs/mod/mod_rewrite.html>
ASP: <http://www.asp101.com/articles/wayne/extendingnames/>

2. Link to dynamic URLs from static URL content.

With limited resources, it may prove difficult or impossible for you
to implement a solution based on static URLs. Don't worry! There are
other things you can do.

Over the years, the engines have tried to find ways of crawling
dynamic content while avoiding dynamic spider traps. One technique
they use is crawling dynamic URLs that are linked to from pages with
static URLs. For example, if you give your site map page a static URL,
but have links to dynamic URLs within its content, there's a good
chance that the leading engines will crawl those links.  If they like
the content they find there, they will index that content. The search
engines' reasoning here seems to be, "If you're prepared to link to
this content, then so are we."

You can reinforce this reasoning by negotiating links to your dynamic
URLs from pages on other sites (especially high-quality pages which
are already indexed). Again, the search engines' reasoning here is "If
other sites are prepared to link to your site, then so will we." If
others won't link to your dynamic content, that might give you some
idea why search engines won't either! If it proves impossible to get
links to your dynamic content from other sites, then you can't expect
a search engine to link to your site either.

3. Pay for inclusion whenever possible.

AltaVista, Ask Jeeves/TEOMA, FAST and Inktomi offer one or more means
of paying for individual URLs to be spidered.  You can use these
paid-inclusion programs to get your dynamic URLs indexed.
Paid-inclusion programs only affect inclusion and do not influence
ranking, so it is still important to make sure your dynamic content is
well optimized.  For more details see the Add-URL pages of the
respective search engines.

Conclusions:

1. Search engines have problems creating links to dynamic content.
2. If you can recognize these problems, you are halfway to getting
your dynamic content indexed.
3. Where practical, use static URLs to reference dynamic content.
4. Otherwise, try to ensure your dynamic URL is linked to by content
referenced by static URLs.
5. Consider using paid-inclusion programs.

Jill: Thanks for your answers and your time, Alan!  For more
information on optimizing dynamic sites, please read RankWrite Issues
009 <http://www.rankwrite.com/archives/issue009.htm> and
041<http://www.rankwrite.com/archives/issue041.htm> (scroll down to
the appropriate Q&A in each issue).


~~~Other SEO News~~~

++Search Engine Strategies Conference Fun++

The San Jose Search Engine Strategies conference is fast approaching,
and I will be there with bells on (or perhaps a lampshade?).  I'm
looking forward to meeting all of you who are attending, and if you're
not...why aren't you?  (There's still time to view the agenda and
purchase your passes here:
<http://www.intmediaevents.com/sew/summer02/>.)

Now there's even more incentive to attend.  I just got a note from
Advisor subscriber Ben Wills, who will be at the conference and was
wondering if I was planning a subscriber get-together.  I hadn't
actually thought about it, but it sounds like it would be fun.  (Of
course, for all I know the conference attendees are all subscribers,
but whatever!)

The agenda is really packed, so how about this: after the first day's
sessions, there's a sponsored cocktail reception.  After that (from
6:30pm - 7:30pm), Danny will be moderating a Search Engine Marketing
Session.  This has previously proven to be my favorite session of the
conference and I highly recommend attending it.  (Possibly because
everyone has just had a few drinks at the cocktail reception!)  So how
about, after that session (say around 8:00 or so), any and all
interested subscribers meet at the hotel bar?  I'll see if I can steal
the mike from Danny and remind everyone in that last session also.
I'd like to say that the first round of drinks will be on me (as
opposed to in me), but with a subscriber list of over 12,000 (and the
price of hotel drinks!), that could add up to more money than I have
in my bank account!  Any big companies wanna sponsor our little
"meeting"?  If not, no biggie, it'll be pay-as-we-go.

Okay, so that takes care of the first night.  (We'll figure out how to
eat later!)

As to the second night, it looks like our friends at Google have taken
care of that one for us by holding a Google Dance at their
headquarters!  There will be free transportation, food, drinks, music,
t-shirts and other stuff, so I'm probably gonna be there.  Who says
that geeks don't know how to party?  (Slide rules and pocket
protectors are optional!)

To attend the Google Dance, you'll need to sign up here:
<http://services.google.com/events/ses2002> no later than August 9th
(so hurry up!).  You must also be a registered conference participant.
Be sure to bring your conference badge and a printout of the RSVP
confirmation page to the event.  Only one person can be admitted per
confirmation, so RSVP separately for each person planning to attend.

I'm looking forward to meeting you all, so please don't be shy.
Believe it or not, I'm probably shyer than any of you could ever be,
although I have learned to deal with it over the years.  So, don't be
afraid to come over and say hi!

By the way, I'm also looking for people who would like to report on
some of the sessions they have attended.  Chris Sherman from SearchDay
often runs these, and I think they'd also make good Advisor articles.
I checked with Chris to make sure I wouldn't be stepping on his toes,
and he thought it would be a great idea all-around!  If you are a
halfway-decent writer and are interested, please let me know ASAP!


~~~Advisor Wrap-Up~~~

So I guess that's a wrap!  There will be no newsletter next week,
because I know it wouldn't come out very well if I tried to put it
together while traveling.  And besides, you'll all be at the
conference with me anyway!

While you're waiting for the next issue, be sure to sign up for the
Search Engine Marketing Tactics 2002 (Amsterdam) and join me for some
additional fun in September.  It's being billed as a "Hands-On, No
Fluff Practical Search Engine Conference."  More info can be found
here: <http://internetconferences.nl>.

If I don't see you in San Jose, I'll catch you in a couple of weeks.

Jill

 
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