August 28, 2002
~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~
----> Keep Sending Your Success Stories
*Search Engine Marketing:
----> Chuck Enough and Some Will Stick
*This Week's Sponsor:
----> Overture's Ambassador Program
*Notes from Search Engine Strategies Conference:
----> Dealing With Directories
*Stuff You Might Like:
----> Take Your Words to the Bank
----> Hairy Internet Connection
Hey, everybody! Thanks to everyone who emailed me this week to let me
know how my advice has helped you achieve the rankings you desire. It
seems that Google's been good to many of you this month! I haven't
had a chance to email everyone back yet as I'm so far behind in my
work, but I will try to write back when I get a chance. I love
hearing your success stories, so please keep sending them in. One of
these days I'll create a proper testimonials page for some of the
As usual, I've got some interesting stuff for you today. The first
"question" is really an observation from a frustrated SEO. I had to
delete a bit of nasty language, but I think many of you may sympathize
with his frustration. Hopefully, you'll also pull some interesting
insights from my reply.
After that, I've got the first Search Engine Strategies Conference
report from one of my diligent reporters on the street, Anne Kennedy.
So let's get right to the good stuff! - Jill
~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~
From: Bernard Wellings
As much as I enjoyed your pages and all the responses to your
opinions, I have to say that you and everybody else have no control
over long-term rankings. The search engines can and do change their
criteria overnight. You can be the best SEO in the world and when
Google changes its criteria...you are the worst SEO in the world...for
Google. I appreciate you are trying to make a buck as we all are.
In the real world have you noticed that Google has stopped using the
PageRank algorithm to rank its pages? Link popularity is no longer
relevant...although Google still affirms the PageRank system on its
help pages. The results are coming up randomly...or it seems to me
based on page title alone. Hypertext linking appears to be penalised
whereas in the past it was the bee's knees.
I assume this is down to the fact that Google needs money, and is
trying to get the money from all the sites that have made money in the
past from their high Google rankings. I was one of them.
I can understand Google doing this...we all want to be paid and Google
is the..., or was...the best.
Our company will definitely give money to Google by way of sponsored
advertisements in the hope of getting back to the sales we achieved
while we were one of the favoured few. But our high ranking was not
down to SEO but just down to the old theory of "chuck enough *** at a
wall and some of it will stick."
I suppose you could say that the SEO earns his bread by analysing why
***(1) stuck and ***(2) didn't. But that's about as much as the
science goes. When the Google man changes his criteria, then the top
page becomes the bottom page.
Please forgive the crude language (***), but I thought it necessary to
get across the message.
It sounds as if your date for the Google Dance went home with someone
I actually agree with some of your statements, but not surprisingly, I
vehemently disagree with many of them. Let me take your points one at
>...you and everybody else have no control over long-term rankings. <
Agreed! How can anyone control rankings? I've never claimed to
control them. In fact, this is the main reason why I don't offer any
guarantees for rankings, and why I don't label what I do as "search
engine positioning." I don't "position" anything. If I could
actually position or guarantee a particular ranking (not counting
pay-per-click ads), I'd have quite a little racket going for myself!
It's important for people to realize the distinction. If you enter
into a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign thinking that you
will suddenly be #1 for any and all keywords forever and ever, then
you'll be sorely disappointed.
>You can be the best SEO in the world and when Google changes its
criteria...you are the worst SEO in the world...<
I only partly agree with this statement. It's true that fluctuations
in the rankings are a normal part of the biz. However, if you've
truly done everything you can to optimize your pages for high
rankings, you shouldn't see huge differences from month to month. Ups
and downs of plus or minus 20 positions are to be expected.
When your rankings drop out of sight for more than one month, it's
usually due to one or more specific reasons:
1) You've optimized for extremely competitive or general keywords.
These types of sites can show huge fluctuations in rankings in any
given month. You've got to optimize these pages for all they're
worth, and continue to build high-quality inbound links if you feel
the need to rank highly with competitive words. Better yet, stop
trying to shoot for the moon and take advantage of the ability to gain
lots of "little traffic" for keywords that aren't quite as
2) You haven't actually optimized the site's pages to be the best they
Very often, people *think* their site is optimized when in fact it's
not. Just because you know some SEO doesn't mean there's not a whole
lot more to learn. Doing a few rudimentary things like putting
keywords in your Title tag may work for a while, giving you the false
impression that that's all you needed to do. However, you've really
only put on a Band-Aid! It was better than doing nothing, but a good
Title tag does not make for an optimized site. I've put together
plenty of in-depth reports on sites that have done a little bit of
SEO. Many were even getting some high rankings. However, I've always
been able to find things that they hadn't thought of yet, or that they
didn't know existed. Since SEO is cumulative, each and every little
tiny thing can add up to one great big ranking somewhere down the
line. Sometimes it just takes a fresh pair of eyes to see these
things, and sometimes it takes someone who lives and breathes SEO to
understand the various nuances.
3) You've tried to trick the search engines, as opposed to working
This will almost always backfire in the long term. Tricks can work
temporarily, and may even be good for a quick shot in the arm. But if
you're serious about your business and your Web site, you'll want to
plan a long-term ranking strategy that doesn't involve trickery. A
good percentage of sites that fall from page one rankings to page 100+
rankings have gotten there through the use of less than honorable SEO
techniques. If this is the case for your site, you know what you've
done and I don't feel sorry for you. Say bye-bye to quick fixes and
hello to long-term successful SEO strategies! C'mon...you can do it!
>In the real world, have you noticed that Google have stopped using
the PageRank algorithm to rank its pages? <
Nope. Of course they haven't!
>The results are coming up randomly...or it seems to me based on page
title alone. Hypertext linking appears to be penalised whereas in the
past it was the bee's knees.<
>From my vantage point, there has never been a huge correlation
between the PageRank you see on your Google Toolbar and your page's
ranking in the search results for a particular keyword phrase. As my
friend Mel recently stated in my forum hangout, PageRank does NOT
equal a page's ranking. I can't stress enough to you that PageRank is
only one ranking criterion out of many, many ranking criteria. Yes,
PageRank can affect your ranking, but not to the extent some people
believe. And no, this is not something new. It's just that
"PageRank" has suddenly become the buzzword of the year, giving it
some sort of god-like status. I believe that PageRank has the same
relevancy (or lack thereof) that it's always had in Google's ranking
algorithm. (I have plenty of thoughts on PageRank which you can read
in my PageRank Mania article here:
>I assume this is down to the fact that Google needs money, and is
trying to get the money from all the sites who have made money in the
past from their high Google rankings.<
If you're saying that Google is removing, banning or penalizing sites
in order to get the companies to advertise using Google AdWords
Select, I don't believe it for a minute. Perhaps I'm just naive, but
I don't think that Google got where it is today by operating that way.
If they were out to make a quick buck, they'd institute a
paid-inclusion program like every other spidering engine has done.
The reason they don't want to even do that is because they believe in
the integrity of their search results and would prefer not to have
money taint them (or give the impression of tainting them). Every
time someone believes that their pages were banned from Google for
that reason, they are simply wrong. They usually don't want to admit
what they've been doing behind the scenes. It's very simple,
actually. If you play by the rules, you won't get banned. If you
break the rules and get banned...then too bad for you. Stop making up
excuses for why Google is bad and take a look in your own mirror.
Before you jump down my throat and tell me you were banned and didn't
do anything wrong, there have been some instances of sites being
zapped by an over-zealous Googlebot, even though they haven't done
anything wrong. These sites are few and far between, and Google has
tweaked things a bit over the past few months so that the chances of
this happening are fewer and fewer. If your site's suddenly missing,
it's likely that there's a technical reason why. It's highly unlikely
that Google is just trying to mess with your head!
>...our high ranking was not down to SEO but just down to the old
theory of "chuck enough *** at a wall and some of it will stick."<
Well, there's your answer right there! Sure, some stuck and then it
eventually fell off. Duh, that's what *** does when it gets thrown at
the wall. But it's NOT what SEO is all about. In fact, it couldn't
be further from how I and many others perform SEO. There are tried
and true SEO methods that work...every time. I don't even look at
competitors' sites when I start an SEO campaign for a client, because
what they're doing is irrelevant to me. I only need to worry about
what needs to be done to the site at hand. I realize this is not the
way many of you approach your SEO campaigns, but if you think about it
for a minute, it makes perfect sense. If you are comfortable with
your optimization techniques and know that they work, then why do you
care what the competitors are doing? What they're doing won't enable
you to optimize your site any better than you were already going to
optimize it (assuming you know exactly how to optimize a site).
I believe that last statement is critical for anyone who wants to move
toward the future of SEO, i.e., making your site the best it can be
for the search engines AND your visitors. Isn't that what matters the
most? Put it all together, and that's what will help your bottom
line. I guarantee you that if you shift your mind to this way of
thinking, you'll be surprised at the positive results.
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~~~Notes from Search Engine Strategies Conference~~~
++Dealing with Directories++
Welcome to the first of a series of guest articles reporting on
various sessions from the Search Engine Strategies conference, which
was held in San Jose a few weeks ago. This week's guest writer is
Anne Kennedy, Managing Partner of Beyond Ink
<http://www.beyondink.com>. Beyond Ink provides online market and
Website analysis, strategic Website planning, copywriting for the Web
and search engine marketing. I had the pleasure of dining with Anne
one night in San Jose, where she introduced me to the Mexican dish
"chicken molé." Yep, that's the one that uses chocolate (cocoa) in
the sauce! Surprise, surprise.
Let's have a warm Advisor welcome for Anne Kennedy!
Be Nice, Be Honest when Dealing with Directories
Anne Kennedy, Beyond Ink
Sitting in on the Dealing with Directories panel, we got updates from
Yahoo!, LookSmart and The Open Directory Project, as well as info on
how to form a sound relationship with each of them.
Above all, they told us, keep in mind that real live people, not bots,
review sites and compile these directories. Furthermore, ODP category
editors are all volunteers. So it follows that being nice, and even
more, being honest, are surefire ways to succeed with them. These
directories reach nearly all search users. Yahoo! consistently ranks
in the top-four in audience share, while LookSmart and the ODP provide
directory listings to the other top search properties (Google, AOL and
MSN) as well as to many others.
Geo-targeting was the buzzword for all three directories. Because you
can list a site in their regional categories, they provide
opportunities to gain visibility in specific geographic locations,
hugely useful if you define your target audience this way. LookSmart
said you could list a site in multiple regions if your content is
relevant to those places. The Open Directory allows both topical and
regional category listings, as well as sub-pages in sub-categories.
Yahoo! positioned their recurring annual fee for sites submitted using
Yahoo! Express (since December 28 last year) as an annual checkup and
opportunity to make changes as your website evolves. This applies to
all commercial sites, including regionally specific ones. Yahoo!
clarified the renewal process: they will send you an email as the
deadline for your annual review approaches and offer you the
opportunity to opt in or out. If you continue, the Yahoo! editor will
review your placement, description and title to keep it up to date and
If you have a batch of 50 or more unique sites to submit at the same
time, you can take advantage of Yahoo!'s new bulk submission process.
Yahoo! may give you a substantial discount off the individual price,
depending on the number of sites you submit.
You'll find more information on Yahoo! annual express fees and bulk
submissions at <http://add.yahoo.com/express>. You can check their
terms of service for all the details about minimum site requirements
and appeals. Have questions for editors? Try their online help docs
at: <http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/url/> or email questions about
directory listings to email@example.com.
LookSmart had surprisingly little news about their pay-per-click
inclusion program, but we did hear that their directory now serves 77
percent of US Web users, who make 45 million searches per day.
LookSmart's Zeal directory is a good place to list non-profits for
free, if you're an editor (Zealot). If you're a non-profit, you most
likely are an expert in your field, and being an editor may be a smart
move to build credibility and wider exposure.
You'll soon have access to new tools on LookSmart to modify your
content in the directory. They project these to roll out within the
next two quarters.
Open Directory Project (ODP) aka Dmoz
The ODP now has 9,000 volunteer editors and welcomes more. Though
owned by the planet's largest media corporation, the Open Directory is
run as a separate division from the commercial content portions of AOL
Time Warner or Netscape, and takes pains to keep its content "open
source," while centrally managing quality control. Their hierarchy of
editors means that submissions to all categories will be reviewed.
When Dmoz delays listing your site, it's usually because there are a
large number in queue. Resubmit if your site doesn't appear in the
directory within a month. You may find it useful to make it look like
new information though, so you don't appear to be pestering the
There is a public forum (though not officially sanctioned by the ODP)
at <http://www.resource-zone.com>. Dmoz will soon launch an abuse/spam
report system for general users. For now listing oddities, problems or
abuse issues may be sent either to firstname.lastname@example.org or a meta editor
listed at <http://dmoz.org/edoc/editall.html>. (See
<http://dmoz.org/add.html> for submission guidelines.) General
information can be found at ODP Help Central
So when dealing with directories be kind, clear and honest. Their
reach is vast and the people can be a real help.
~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~
++Take Your Words to the Bank++
Well, I was planning to review Byran Eisenberg and Lisa T. Davis's new
copywriting book, "Take Your Words to the Bank"
</takeyourwords>, but I haven't finished
I've met Bryan in "real life" and he's got a lot of knowledge stored
up in that head of his! I've read enough of this book to know that I
really like it, and I don't want you to go another week without
hearing about it! Those of you interested in writing for the Web will
definitely get something out of it.
What I can tell you from what I've read so far is that it is very well
written, easy to understand and packed with a lot of useful
information. In fact, if you already purchased Karon Thackston's
"Step-by-Step Copywriting Course"
</copywritingcourse>, this would make a
great companion piece.
As soon as I get a chance to finish reading it, I'll give it a proper
review so that you can make an informed buying decision. I just don't
feel comfortable writing the review without having read it all (or at
least most of it). If you're ready to give it a whirl anyway, you can
purchase it through my affiliate link here:
</takeyourwords> for only $29.00. Let me
know what you think!
Well, it was a little bit hairy here for the past hour as my Internet
connection was giving me some grief. (Is there a worse feeling in the
world?) Hopefully, I can keep it working long enough to send this to
my proofreader and then out to you. If you don't get it until really
late today, you'll know why!
Got some fresh chocolate this morning from one of my dinner-mates in
San Jose -- thanks, Joan! It was good timing, as I was just about
finished with the last batch.
Have a great week! - Jill