September 25, 2002
~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~
----> Something for Everyone
*Search Engine Marketing:
----> Too Much Emphasis on KEI
----> Everyone's Hiding the Source Code
*This Week's Sponsor:
*Notes from Search Engine Strategies Conference:
----> The Spam Police
*Jill's Editorial (aka Rant):
----> What it Means To Be a Professional
*Stuff You Might Like
----> 1/2-day Search Engine Marketing Seminar
----> Sorry, No Voice Left
Hey! In today's issue, I've got a couple of questions/answers, a
report from the SES conference, a good old-fashioned rant and a bit
more info on my upcoming seminar in November. Be sure to take the
time to read all the way through, as there's something for
veryone! - Jill
~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~
++Too Much Emphasis on KEI++
From: Bill Farber
Hi, Jill. First, I want to say that I really enjoy your newsletter.
It's extremely informative. I've just started with search engine
optimization and the newsletter is a great help.
My question deals with finding key words and key phrases for common
industries such as real estate. I'm a web designer and most of our
clients are either homebuilders or real estate agents and I find it
very difficult to find key words and phrases that don't have much
competition (especially for real estate agents).
I know one way to target the audience is geographically; however, the
KEI from Wordtracker hovers around 10 or below when I insert St. Louis
(my geographical area) into the key phrases. When I leave out St.
Louis, the KEI goes up, but the number of competing web pages goes up
tremendously. Am I putting too much emphasis on the KEI? Am I
worrying too much about the competing web pages? Do you have any
Glad you enjoy the newsletter!
The short answer is not to worry about KEI. I never even look at that
when performing my WordTracker research
</wordtracker>. My feeling is that you
need to mostly worry about your own site, making it the best it can
be. What others are doing should not be as important to you. The
WordTracker competition reports tell you how many competing sites are
coming up in the results for the various keyword phrases. This is
somewhat helpful in avoiding extremely competitive phrases, but you
shouldn't let it scare you away from optimizing for the phrases that
are relevant to your site. I avoid it because, well...it scares me!
I find that if I don't know how competitive a particular keyword
phrase is, and just optimize for it because it's the best phrase for
the site, I can usually do fine. Why not at least try, ya know?
If St. Louis Real Estate is what you need to be found under because
it's the most relevant keyword phrase for your site, then that's what
you have to optimize for. Sure, you can optimize for lesser phrases
too, such as "buying a home in St. Louis" or "moving to St. Louis,"
but you should still try to go for your big money words. You've
really got nothing to lose by trying. What you can do is shoot for a
longer phrase, such as "St. Louis Real Estate Agent" which will
naturally also encompass the smaller phrase, St. Louis Real Estate.
For more info on this, check out this past issue of the Advisor
DOES ANYONE SEARCH FOR "SEO GURU"?
Not according to WordTracker!
(But they do search for "SEO Services.")
Don't even *think* about optimizing your sites without first
researching your keyword phrases in WordTracker.
"WordTracker rocks! I couldn't do my job properly without it." - Jill
++Everyone's Hiding the Source Code++
From: Ronni Loundy
I am fairly new to the SEO field and your column has been of great
help to me. My question is this: I have noticed lately that most
websites are now using some form of cloaking to hide their source
code. I was always of the opinion that most search engine and
directories discouraged cloaking software. Have the major search
engines finally decided to accept cloaking? If so, would you have any
specific cloaking packages that you would recommend?
I'm not sure what you mean about most sites using cloaking. I haven't
seen this in the least.
attempted to go to the View > Source at the top of the browser? You
should be able to view it that way.
You are correct, however, that the search engines frown on cloaking.
It would not be in their best interests to accept pages that showed
one thing to the search engines and another to the visitors. It's
simply too easy to abuse.
Just curious...what is it you want to protect your source code from?
If someone stole your Meta tags, for instance, it would not help them
in the rankings. There's really no reason (that I can think of) to
hide your source code. Cloakers are using their software to show one
thing to the search engines and another to the users. They may claim
that they want to protect their code, but that's just an excuse (in my
No need to hide your code. No need to cloak. Simple as that!
[Jill's Note: After a few emails back and forth, Ronni and I
discovered that she actually had a problem with her Internet Explorer,
which was why she wasn't able to view the source on every Web site she
visited! (She simply needed to clear her cache, as it was quite
I wanted to let you know about this because very often when we see
something happening, we assume it's because of one thing, when in
reality, it's something altogether different. It's important with
SEO -- and really with everything in life -- not to jump to
conclusions. Just think what could have happened to Ronni had she not
come to me...her cache is full so she sees no source code...she thinks
it's suddenly necessary to cloak in order to get into the search
engines...she purchases cloaking software and goes for it...next thing
you know, her site is banned! All cuz of a bug in IE!
The moral of the story is to make sure you always try to understand
the true cause and effect of everything that's happening around you,
and never make assumptions without fully checking them out! - J ]
~~~Notes from Search Engine Strategies Conference~~~
++The Spam Police++
Today's reporter on the street is Shari Thurow from Grantastic
Designs, Inc. <http://www.grantasticdesigns.com>. You may remember
her past guest article a few months ago, "Search Engine Spam Affects
Us All" </issue021.htm#guest>. As you may
have guessed, search engine spam is a subject that is near and dear to
her. I'll bet you can't guess her other favorite subject. (Here's a
hint, it has nothing to do with search engines.) Give up? Okay, I'll
tell you...it's guinea pigs! Shari is a guinea pig expert. After
mentioning that my kids got one last week, I received a very detailed
email from Shari with all sorts of great guinea pig tips. She's had
guinea pigs since she was just a toddler! (I got lots of other cute
guinea pig stories from others too...thanks!) I just thought you
might be interested in that little tidbit of information. I always
like learning about the people I know online. It gives you a new
perspective on them. She's now Chip's honorary guinea pig godmother!
Anyway, here's Shari's coverage of the Spam Police session from the
Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose. (Sorry, no guinea pig
tips in it. You'll have to email her privately to get those!)
The Spam Police
To keep search results relevant and accurate, search engines actively
work to thwart excessive and unethical optimization tactics.
Spamdexing, commonly referred to as spam, is taking extreme or
excessive measures to achieve top search engine positions. Spam can be
also using any words, HTML code, scripting, or programming on a Web
page that is not meant to benefit user experience.
In a session entitled "The Spam Police," representatives from FAST
Search, Google, and the Open Directory explored the issue of spam.
Major spam guidelines include the following:
(1) Don't create Web (doorway) pages, domains, and subdomains with
the same or very similar content.
(2) Don't deliberately hide text or links from your target audience.
Do not create text or links solely for the reason of search engine
positioning, such as hiding links in a transparent image (e.g.
(3) Don't create pages built primarily for the search engines. This
especially includes auto- or machine-generated pages of little value
to your end users.
(4) Don't stuff irrelevant keywords anywhere on a Web page.
(5) No misleading Meta information or anchor text.
(6) No redirects.
(7) No cloaking.
(8) No excessive cross-linking to artificially boost link popularity.
(9) No keyword stuffing in graphic images (alternative text).
(10) No domain spamming, e.g., typos (yhaoo.com) or "celeb" spamming.
(11) Don't commit identity theft/page jacking.
Tim Mayer, Vice President of Web Search at FAST, stated, "Spam is more
about how and to what extent a [spam] technique is used rather than
the technique itself."
For example, the Web design technique of using hidden layers in
Cascading Style Sheets is not considered spam. Many drop-down menus
are created with hidden layers, and Webmasters that utilize this
navigation scheme on their sites will not have their sites penalized
for using it. However, if hidden layers are used deliberately for
keyword stuffing, that technique is considered spam.
Mayer also mentioned pop-up-window spam, where excessive pop-up
windows appear when users leave your site.
"FAST does not want Web pages in its index that harm the quality of
our search results," said Mayer.
To determine whether a search engine optimization strategy can be
considered spam, Matt Cutts, Software Engineer for Google, said that
Webmasters should ask themselves:
(1) Would you utilize the optimization technique if the search engines
did not exist, and
(2) Would you be embarrassed if others knew what you were doing?
(Cutts called this the "Grandmother Test.")
"As Google improves its spam detection, it gets riskier to take
shortcuts or to try to cheat. If an SEO spams on behalf of a client,
both the SEO and their clients can be removed from our index," advised
Unfortunately, due to the rampant abuse of Cascading Style Sheets to
hide text, Google highly recommended that Webmasters not place the
robots exclusion protocol (robots.txt) on any external style sheets.
Cutts also advised against using automated programs because they have
a greater chance for abuse. He cited rank-checking software and
doorway-page-generating software as examples.
"You are responsible for what happens on your domain," said Cutts. "Be
careful whom you link to. You have no control over who links to you,
but you have complete control over the sites you link to."
Elisabeth Osmeloski, Volunteer Editor at the Open Directory (ODP) and
search engine optimization expert at Beyond Ink
<http://www.BeyondInk.com>, addressed the spam policy at ODP.
To avoid getting labeled a spammer by ODP, remember these tips:
(1) Don't use auto-submitting programs. Watch out for those offered as
a "free or cheap bonus" from your Web hosting company because they can
hurt your domain's reputation.
(2) Don't submit mirror sites using different domains - editors have
eyes and will see through it pretty quickly.
(3) Don't submit multiple deep links to multiple categories unless
your site truly has useful, original content that adds value to the
directory. Deep links are the exception, rather than the rule.
"There are several myths about the Open Directory Project that
contribute to the frustration submitters often have when trying to get
sites listed on dmoz.org," said Osmeloski. "For one, there is a
common notion that if your site hasn't been listed in three weeks, you
should resubmit. This only contributes to the backlog of sites that
editors must manually review before adding a submission to the
directory. After making sure you've submitted to the most appropriate
categories (one regional, one topical), wait at least four weeks, then
email the editor listed at the bottom of the category page. If there
isn't an editor listed, it DOES NOT mean that the category is lacking
an editor -- drill up a category and email the editor listed there.
Also realize that the delay in your listing may be due to a highly
competitive category where spamming is prevalent, or the category
branch may be undergoing a massive reorganization that is intended to
improve the overall quality of ODP's ontology."
ODP guidelines can be found at
Below are the URLs/email addresses to report suspected spam abuse.
(You can also use these addresses if you suspect your site has been
penalized for spamming, or if you wish to dispute a spam penalty.)
Google: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or
AlltheWeb.com (FAST Search): mailto:email@example.com
Open Directory: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Just wanted to mention that you can learn more about what Matt Cutts
from Google was talking about, i.e., "Would you utilize an
optimization technique if the search engines did not exist?" in Alan
Perkin's white paper on "The Classification of Search Engine Spam"
Next week, Craig Fifield from BCentral's "Submit It!" will be covering
Shari's SES conference session "Designing Search-Engine-Friendly
Sites." So stay tuned! - J]
~~~Jill's Editorial (aka Rant)~~~
++What it Means To Be a Professional++
I've noticed that every time I put out a newsletter that has a lot of
talk about spamming the engines, and how you shouldn't do it, I seem
to get a few more "unsubscribes" than usual. So go ahead, all of you
who are now going to unsubscribe because of the above article (and
this one). Go! Do it now before you read this. (Don't let the door
hit you on your way out!) I don't want you to read any further. You
might learn something important about being a professional, and I know
you're not interested.
Okay, now that I've gotten rid of them...let's talk seriously here for
There's a lot of stuff posted on search engine forums and newsletters
around the world about how companies who spam the search engines are
unethical, and that it's important to hire only "ethical SEO
consultants" or "ethical search engine marketers."
But, if you think about it, ethics is not something that's
quantifiable. What makes any given SEO technique ethical or
unethical? Isn't ethics more of a way of life than a method for doing
something? Is trying to trick the search engines really unethical?
Sure, it's stupid, in my opinion, but is it really unethical? I don't
believe that those who practice what I sometimes refer to as "shady
SEO techniques" can necessarily be classified as unethical. Just as
everyone who follows every search engine rule can't automatically be
assumed to be ethical.
What we should instead be discussing is which companies are
*professional* and which are just out for a buck. This is true in
every industry, not just SEO. If the people in our industry can
remember this when trying to create a professional organization of
SEOs (and there are many factions trying to do this), it will go a lot
smoother. It's really quite simple. My friend Alan Perkins, who is a
champion of "professional SEO," pointed out this page to me recently:
<http://www.npanet.org/public/position.cfm>. It says in part:
What defines a professional?
"A professional is a person who, by education, training, and
experience, performs work, analyzes and solves problems, makes
decisions, and promotes ethics associated with a particular field of
study." - A. Carol Rusaw, Learning by Association, HRD Quarterly,
They go on to list some criteria for defining a professional. The one
that really jumped out at me was this:
"[The] Professional assumed to know what is good for the client better
than the client."
That really hits the nail on the head. It would be easy for any of us
to say, "Sure, why not, I'll take your money and just tweak your Meta
tags" when asked to do so by a client. Of course it would be easy
money. But would it be right if you knew that doing so probably
wouldn't really help their site be found in the search engines? Not
in my opinion; nor would it be professional.
So what about when a potential client comes to you saying "we know
exactly what we need" because they read somewhere how SEO should be
done. They ask you for a proposal to create 10 zebra (doorway) pages
for their site. They don't want you to touch the actual pages of
their site, they just want pages that live on the "fringes" of the
site. You know, the kind that only the search engines will find
(because you added a link way down low on the home page to a sitemap
of all the zebra pages). Once the user arrives at one of the pages
from the search engines, they're basically forced to click an extra
time to finally arrive at the *real* site that they wanted to begin
Should you give the client a quote for this even though you know in
your heart that it's not necessarily the best way to optimize their
site? Certainly, creating those pages that way couldn't really be
considered unethical or anything. But what if you see that their
current site already has tons of great content pages? They really
don't need to add zebra pages, they just need to tweak their current
content a bit to make sure they're using words that real people use
Or perhaps they just need to make sure the search engines can easily
spider through the site and find all that great content, e.g., turn
dynamic URLs into static URLs.
What do you do if when you explain this to the client, they're still
set on using those zebra pages? They refuse to make changes to their
actual pages (cuz someone told them they shouldn't have to!), and even
though the site will be much improved by making these changes, no
amount of cajoling will convince them of this. So what do you do
then? Do you do things the way they want you to? Do they really know
better than you, the SEO professional?
If I were in this situation, and I couldn't persuade them how wrong,
unnecessary and shortsighted their preferred technique was, I'd have
to turn down the job altogether. Yeah, it's hard to turn down some
decent money that a job like that could bring. I mean, you could
probably even create those zebra pages using WPG's Page Generator, and
give them some fancy new name. They're really not zebra pages...these
ones would be giraffe pages! It could be good money for little work.
And after all...it IS what the client wants, right?
There are plenty of ways you can justify it to yourself. But the
bottom line is that it's your job as a professional to do what you
know in your heart is right. If it means you don't get that
particular job, then so be it. There will be other jobs. And there
will be other clients that appreciate your looking out for their
site's long-term well-being. You can bank on that. Seriously. The
money you lose from declining that type of work will be made up in so
many different ways. Trust me.
~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~
++1/2-day Search Engine Marketing Seminar++
Okay, I've got a little more information for you regarding my November
18, 2002 search engine optimization seminar.
It will be held at the Boston Marriott Burlington, which is easily
accessible from Rte. 128, Rte 3, and many other major highways in
Mass. So there's no excuse not to come! I believe the price will be
$250 for early-bird sign-ups, and $299 after that, but that's not
definite. I've received a lot of interest so far from you guys, and I
look forward to seeing you all there.
A registration form will be posted on my site, hopefully by the end of
this week. In the meantime, if you want to be notified when it's up,
please email me at mailto:email@example.com and I'll let you
You can see what I'll be teaching you here:
I'm also working out the details for a luncheon after the seminar,
which will only be open to a limited number of conference
participants. If you think you might be interested in attending it,
please mention it in your email so that I can get some idea of a head
count. I want it to be a small enough group that we can get some
really good SEO discussions going, and have a more social atmosphere.
Maybe I'll even have a contest where one lucky seminar participant
gets to come to the luncheon for free!
Watch this spot for more info.
Well, I think I've talked so much this issue that my voice is starting
to wane <grin>! I'll just end it here. See you next time! - Jill