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High Rankings Advisor: Who Will Be the Next Google - Issue No. 032

October 30, 2002
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   See Jill in Action

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Who Will Be the Next Google?

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   Webnautics: Custom Programming/Scripts

*Usability and Search Engine Optimization:
---->   How To Impress Search Engines and Users (Part 1)

*Other SEO News:
---->   FAST Gets Skinny

*Stuff You Might Like
---->   Google Guts

*Advisor Wrap-Up:
---->   On the Air
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey all!  We're getting close to the wire on my search engine
marketing seminar.  As a reminder, it will be held at the Boston
Marriott Burlington on November 18th.  I've been very pleased with the
turnout so far.  There are people coming from both "ends" of the East
Coast -- from Ottawa, Canada all the way down to St. Petersburg,
Florida!  And of course the New England states are well represented.

Along with my SEO presentation, I've got reps lined up from AltaVista,
Overture and PositionTech to tell you about their offerings (during
the breakfast and break).  Plus, I've extended the early sign-up
discount until this coming Monday the 4th.  So if you've been thinking
about signing up, now's the time to actually do it!  Learn more here:
</seminar>.

And with that out of the way, let's move on to the good stuff! - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

From: Jim Kukral

Great newsletter...and good advice.  Your strategy should keep your
clients happy for the long run.  I learn something new each
newsletter.

Here's my question to you, from one seo person to another.  Who's
going to be the next Google when Google eventually falls?  Teoma?

Jim F. Kukral

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Jim, glad you like the newsletter and advice!

Who will be the next Google?  Hmm...  Teoma is very good, but...

Those of us who've been in this biz for a while understand that search
engines come and go; that's a given.  I remember the first time I read
about AltaVista in my local newspaper.  I was so excited to try it to
see if it would actually provide relevant results.  It did pretty well
for those days, but then again, we never really expected much back
then!  Eventually AltaVista (which was owned by Compaq, who purchased
its original owner, Digital) was sold off to CMGI.  During the dot.com
boom it became a victim of trying to figure out who/what it wanted to
be when it grew up.  The thing is, if AV had been given a chance to
stay "techie," it might still be king today!

Currently, Google seems to be trying really hard to stick to their own
techie roots, which is why they're so darn good!  They've even found a
way to make money with it that doesn't compromise the search results.
Plus, they did it all through word-of-mouth advertising.  You've got
to give this company credit for how far they've come in just a few
years.  They kind of make me proud too, because they prove that the
good guys CAN finish first -- and that if you just keep doing the
right thing, good things will come to you.

As I've stated before (in previous articles), the title of Best Search
Engine is Google's to lose.  The only way I see that happening is for
them to royally screw up.  That is, they'd have to totally lose their
focus on what's important to them and to their users, and instead try
to make a quick buck.  I certainly see no signs of them doing anything
like this.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  Their focus is on how
they can become even *more* relevant, as opposed to more rich.  The
interesting thing about it (which may or may not be what they planned
all along) is that they are able to make money almost *despite*
themselves.  (I can personally relate to that!)

While other search properties were falling all over themselves trying
to figure out more ways to "monetize search," Google quietly developed
their AdWords Select program.  From what I understand, they're making
some pretty decent bucks with it.  Plus, they don't have the FTC
breathing down their neck for mixing ads into their regular search
results.  At conferences, they sit at the table with the other search
engines and show their disagreement when the others say that
paid-inclusion is necessary in today's search world.  Obviously, it
isn't.  By not traveling down that slippery slope, Google has managed
to continue to have great, relevant results that keep their users
coming back for more.

None of this is to say that there aren't some other really good and
relevant search engines out there.  I think all of the major search
engines right now have much better results than they had a few years
ago.  And if Google disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow,
we'd all still be able to find what we're looking for on the Internet.
I have no doubt about that.  Personally, I'd probably head over to
AlltheWeb.  I'm also sure that I could find what I was looking for
very easily with AltaVista, AskJeeves, Lycos and possibly even MSN
(although that one is iffy).

So why don't I (and others) use those other search properties?
Because Google is so simple.  Look at any of those other portals.
They're covered with words and ads and are one big flashing mess!
When I want to search for something I just want to search for
something.  So I go to Google.  If I want to see headlines or find out
what's happening in the entertainment world, I might look at the front
page of Yahoo or MSN.  But for search, I want my Google.  This is why
word of mouth worked so well for them.  Once you've gone Google, why
would you go anywhere else?  You wouldn't.

Okay then...what's the answer to the question of who will take
Google's spot if/when they go bye-bye?  Since it's not gonna happen
tomorrow, I don't think it's possible to say.  It would depend on what
Google did wrong in the first place.  I don't see any other engine
doing anything *better* than Google at this time, so it would be
difficult to usurp their position.  But as I said, I don't think that
someone better coming along will be Google's eventual downfall.  It
will have to be Google losing their focus and totally screwing up, in
my opinion.  And right now, they're doing just fine.  Talk to me
if/when they ever go public!


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~~~Usability and Search Engine Optimization~~~

++How To Impress Search Engines and Users++

My friend, usability expert Kim Krause of the Cre8asite Forums
<http://www.cre8asiteforums.com>, has written today's guest article.
This week, Kim discusses the structure of your site and how to make it
search engine AND user friendly.  Next week Kim will tell us how to
use your site's navigation to enhance your search results, while also
making it easy for your users to find what they're looking for.

Without further ado...here's Kim!

Guest Article
How To Impress Search Engines and Users
Kimberly Krause

To build a successful Web site takes more than being a skilled
programmer or user interface designer. You may know all there is to
know about Dreamweaver, MS FrontPage, PHP, HTML, or Flash and still
not construct a Web site that will be found in search engines or be
easily navigated by site users.  Fortunately, being found in searches,
generating sales and traffic plus showing consideration for site
visitors can all be achieved using the same basic techniques.

Structure

1. Use a tag line. In addition to your Web site name, a slogan or tag
line helps immediately clarify for the user what the site is about.
Avoid cheesy marketing or hyped promotional content. Instead, place a
practical sentence with your top keywords in plain text near the top
of the homepage. Engines will find it and quickly "know" what the page
is about.

2. Provide visual content alternatives (words) to icons such as
directional arrows. Words are clues on where the user is and where
they can go and are often better than arrows and graphical signposts.
Descriptive text goes a long way towards helping engine crawlers
categorize the page.  Adding captions above or below graphics is
another way to include keywords or additional information to users and
crawlers.

3. Group elements together and provide information about the
relationships between them. For example, if you sell tools, group them
by manufacturer, refurbished, sales/specials or use.  Textual
directions and instructions to users about the groups and their
connections provide more opportunities for inserting important
keywords on a page.  Usability studies show people scan related items
in groups before moving onward.

4. Use headings and subheadings. Whether grouping sections into "hubs"
or grouping long pages into blocks, subheadings help users scan the
pages. Directory editors can quickly get an idea of the subject matter
and engine crawlers will easily locate keywords, especially if you use
header tags such as H1, H2, etc.

5. Remove blinking stuff. Animation is cool but it interferes with the
ability to easily scan a page. Movement is distracting.  Ever try to
read moving text that's timed too fast? It's nearly impossible and
special-needs software can't see it at all.

6. Links. It helps with Google and the other spidering search engines
to provide keywords in text-based hyperlinks. In addition, a sentence
that says "Please click here to learn more about blah blah" is warm
and conversational, plus it provides subject clues and helps the user
stay on track while maneuvering around the site.  Using standard
hyperlink underlines is always a good idea because it's what users
expect.

7. Hubs and Buckets. These are great design elements to experiment
with. Imagine for a moment, the card game Solitaire. There's a
hierarchy, with the Ace, King, Queen, Jack and then all the numbers.
Now, imagine hubs and buckets like that.

The Joker is the homepage. A hub is a King, Queen or Jack. The Ace is
your sitemap. The buckets are the numbered cards. You can even
visualize that all the diamonds are a sub-hub, all the hearts are a
sub-hub, etc., with buckets underneath them. The goal is to optimize
each of these hubs and buckets according to theme, making it easier
for users and engines to locate them.

Let's look at a product-oriented Web site as another example. There's
a Homepage, About Us, Contact Us, Sitemap, and Product Catalog page.

The product catalog page is a "homepage" or "jump page" IF there are
several product lines such as executive line, small business line,
budget line, etc. Those "lines" each have their own hub page launching
the product line. Often these well-written pages act as deep linked
"doorways" that rank high on searches for their specific terms. They
can be divided into "buckets," where each individual product is
featured. Every time a new product is added to the line, a new bucket
is added to the hub.

When a Webmaster uses templates in their design, the creation of hubs
and buckets is that much easier. Each hub can be a template, while
each bucket can be a different, but related, template design. I've
seen some very nice sites that use color to help differentiate hubs.
For example, the executive line would have a template that features
the color blue in the background, and the buckets inside might be a
lighter shade of blue. Another hub would be green, with its buckets
being a lighter shade of green. This is good for usability. Hub and
bucket templates that are unique and easily recognizable without their
graphics are helpful to your special-needs or color-blind users too.
They may not see the color changes, but they learn that the page
structure changes depending on the product or emphasis (such as a sale
item, for example).

8. Use common language that users will recognize quickly while
scanning a page. This same simplicity will help bring better search
results since users will be typing in broad terms first, and then
drill down to more specific terms to locate what they want.  It's also
wise for crawlers and users to have the strongest keywords and most
important information in the top-middle of a page.

9. "Front-load" paragraphs and sentences by stating the main topic.
This helps users and crawlers to locate information faster. In
addition, "skimming" with speech synthesizers helps the disabled user
jump from heading to heading, or paragraph to paragraph.  In this way
they listen to just enough words to determine whether that section
interests them.

10. Headings, subheadings, column headers and page descriptions are
all excellent ways to feed engine spiders clues about the page theme.
They also help users scan content or listen to a page using
special-needs software. I love to make subheadings stick out with drop
shadow images, but hate losing that SEO-edge.  So now I only make
graphics for words an engine doesn't care about such as "What's New."
Adding text to the alt tag behind the image will provide aid to
disabled users. When you want to stress a theme, always put it in
writing (real text), not images or JavaScript.

Kim Krause
Cre8pc and Cre8asite Forums
http://www.cre8pc.com
http://www.cre8asiteforums.com


~~~Other SEO News~~~

++FAST Gets Skinny++

If you like to customize the look of your favorite search engine, you
should check out FAST's new "skins" at AlltheWeb
<http://www.alltheweb.com> which allow you to personalize the look and
feel of the search engine.  You get the same high-quality search
results, but they come packaged in a look and feel that you choose!

Sounds kinda cool, and I can see teenagers really liking it once they
find out about it.  Unfortunately, at first glance it appears as if
you have to do a teeny bit of work to set up your skin, so I haven't
tried it yet.  I think they'd get more takers if we could just click a
button and use some existing skins, but I didn't see that option.
Instead, you have to copy a cascading style sheet (CSS), make changes
and upload it somewhere, which is going to be more work than many will
want to do just to make their search engine pages look cool.

I may point it out to my daughter and see what she thinks.  We
probably won't agree on which skin we like best, however!


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Google Guts++

I read a really good Search Engine Strategies conference report in
SearchDay this morning called "Anatomy of a Search Engine: Inside
Google."  Avi Rappaport, a search engine consultant who maintains the
"Complete Guide to Search Engines for Web Sites and Intranets," wrote
it.  The article had some great info on how Google actually works.  If
for some strange reason you don't subscribe to SearchDay
<http://www.searchenginewatch.com/searchday>, you can read the article
here:
<http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd1030-in-google.html>.


~~~Advisor Wrap-Up~~~

If you're in the New England area this Sunday (Nov. 3) at 12:30 PM,
tune your radio to "The Computer Report" on WOTW 900 AM and listen to
me being interviewed by Bill and Dave about search engine
optimization.  It's New England's longest-running technology talk
show, and I'm psyched to be on the air with them!

That's all for now! Catch you next time. - Jill
 
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