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High Rankings Advisor: Rankings in AltaVista and Google - Issue No. 035

November 20, 2002
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Successful Seminar

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Rankings in AltaVista and Google
---->   Everyone's Doing It So It Must Be Okay

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

*Guest Article/Case Study:
---->   Links Are Good for Business

*Stuff You Might Like
---->   Recap of Past Stuff

*Advisor Wrap-Up:
---->   Gobble-gobble

________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!  A special "hi" goes out to all of you who attended my
seminar on Monday.  It went really well!  Even those who already knew
a lot about SEO said that they learned things, plus it reaffirmed the
stuff they already knew.  Since things went so well this time, I'm
thinking of holding another one.  Perhaps in May -- I'll keep you
posted.  I was surprised to find that most of the 70 people who
registered found out about it through this newsletter.  Guess I can
save my money on other ads next time and just publicize it here!
There was some great feedback on the evaluation forms, which I'll be
looking at closely to help me make future seminars even better!
Thanks to all who came.  It was nice to meet you!  Plus a big thanks
to Lee Laughlin from Fearless Media, without whom there wouldn't have
been a seminar, nor would it have run so smoothly!

Okay...enough seminar talk.  I've got some Q&A, plus an awesome case
study article written by a business owner friend of mine who found a
great way to build traffic, credibility and search engine rankings for
her "moonwalk" rental site.  Be sure you read it all the way through
as there are some great tips you might be able to use on your own
site.

On to the good stuff...


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Rankings in AltaVista and Google++

From: Jackie Jahosky

Hi Jill -

I always look forward to your newsletter and now I have a couple of
questions about SEO.

I submitted to AltaVista almost 3 months ago. I know you always say to
wait at least three months, but here's the thing: I also signed up
about 5 URLs using their express inclusion and I get hardly any
traffic at all from them. However, the same URLs provide me 20X the
traffic on Google & MSN. Is that just the way it is now? Do people
just not use AltaVista anymore? Should I care that AltaVista has not
indexed my entire site?

My second question is this:

I optimized my pages myself and have gotten page one listings on
Google for *some* of my most important keywords. However for some of
my other important keywords the same optimization did not even get me
in the top 20 pages on Google. I'm wondering why this could be since I
did the same optimization for those words. Could it be that those
words are just more competitive? I read somewhere that pages that are
also listed in ODP get a boost in rankings on Google. One page that is
doing well happens to be the same page (which is an inner page & not
my main URL) that got listed in ODP.

I have been unsuccessful at getting my root URL listed in ODP. So, I
guess my question is how do I get my other important keywords high
rankings on Google?

Let me know what you think.

Jackie Jahosky
Specialty-Lights.com

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Jackie,

It seems you sorta answered your own questions already, and you're
definitely on the right track.  But let me just expand on your
conclusions a bit and hopefully give you some ideas of what you can do
to further your optimization efforts.

As far as AltaVista goes, you are correct: they don't seem to bring
much traffic these days, even when you have many top-ten rankings.  Of
course, they just reinvented themselves (again) a couple of weeks ago
(see last week's article
</issue034.htm#seonews2>).  Therefore, it's
impossible to say what the future holds for them.  If they start to
provide some high-quality, relevant search results and spend some
time/money to market themselves to the searching public, perhaps we
will see more referrals from them in our logs.  As part of their new
release, they are attempting to do more crawling and refreshing of
sites.  You may find that your additional pages will be added soon.
If not, I wouldn't worry about it at this point.  If you start to see
your paid-inclusion URLs bringing more traffic, you can decide at that
point if you'd like to pay for some additional pages.  Personally, I
don't understand why AV thinks their database is worth more to be
included in than the other engines', and therefore I have not used
their paid-inclusion service.  If they lower their price to be more in
line with what they're worth, I might give it a whirl in the future.

As to your Google problem, you are correct that the DMOZ link to the
inner page of your site might be what's giving it the added boost it
needs to rank highly for its keyword phrases.  Google does seem to
like DMOZ links, plus the DMOZ database is used by tons of small
directories all over the Net.  Very often you'll see these other
directory links showing up in a backward-links check.  It's a shame
that it's such a pain to get listed in DMOZ these days, because it
really can be helpful.

At any rate, since you do have one page listed in DMOZ, it's not
surprising that they won't also list your main page.  Although some
sites can get additional listings, it's generally not the norm.  But
everyone is basically in the same boat.  What I suggest for your main
page is to make sure you're listed in all of the other major
directories such as JoeAnt <http://www.joeant.com>, GoGuides
<http://www.goguides.org>, Gimpsy <http://www.gimpsy.com> and any
others you can find that might be specific to your industry.  If there
aren't any directories like that, read today's guest article to see if
perhaps it would make sense for you to create your own
industry-specific directory!

It's also important to note that, contrary to popular belief, Google
is not simply about links.  Links can definitely help, but you've got
to make sure you have a good 250 words of well-written copy that's
utilizing your keyword phrases a number of times.  Make sure to
optimize for just a couple of phrases per page, even on the main page.
As I stressed to the folks who attended my seminar this week, you
can't try to do everything with your main page.  This is one of the
biggest mistakes I see people make.  Shoot for just two or three
phrases and laser-focus your copy on them.  It could very well be that
the phrases you're having trouble with are more competitive than the
ones you're ranking highly with (as you suggested).  If this is the
case, either forget about those words and shoot for some additional
less-competitive phrases, or just keep plugging away at it.  Get your
copy down pat and be sure you're using the same keyword phrases in
your Title tag.

Good luck!

Jill

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~~~Next Question~~~

++ Everyone's Doing It So It Must Be Okay++

From: Steve M.

Jill

Having banged on about our poor visibility on search engines, our tech
team has come up with a solution which they have implemented on our
sister sites.

The good news is that Googlebot has come past, indexed thousands of
pages and has driven (we estimate) around 40,000 extra visitors to
those sites.  It's now proposed that we do the same for the site I
run, which is the IT site.

The bad news is that what they have done is effectively cloaking -
i.e., intercepting Googlebot and displaying a set of pages that the
average visitor wouldn't see.

When I mentioned this, I was told that "everyone does it" and that
Google can't start throwing everyone out because it would lose so many
sites.  My preferred solution (i.e., using the traditional method of
getting Googlebot to enter through the 'noframes' tag [it's a framed
site]) was rejected because Googlebot would get confused because it
can now read framesets.

A lot of questions I know, but I feel we are stirring up trouble for
the future.

Steve

~~~Jill's Response~~~

When I first read Steve's email, I thought perhaps his company wasn't
actually cloaking but was simply detecting older browsers and
providing different content for them.  (Search engine spiders are
somewhat like older browsers in what they can "read.")  So I asked
Steve if this was the case, or were they actually intercepting
Googlebot specifically (by finding out all its IPs, etc.).

Steve wrote back that they were intercepting Googlebot specifically.
So it seems that they are indeed IP-cloaking, which is a definite
no-no with Google.  It's wonderful that using this technique has
gotten thousands of their pages into Google and that it's bringing
tons of traffic to them.  However, does that make it right?  No matter
how you slice it, it is against Google's published Webmaster rules,
and if caught, the sites will definitely be banned.  On their
Webmaster FAQ page <http://www.google.com/webmasters/2.html> they say:

"We will not comment on the individual reasons a page was removed and
we do not offer an exhaustive list of practices that can cause
removal. However, certain actions such as cloaking, writing text that
can be seen by search engines but not by users, or setting up
pages/links with the sole purpose of fooling search engines may result
in permanent removal from our index."

If you're using a throwaway domain, and don't care if it's banned,
then certainly it's your company's prerogative to take that chance.
The visitors and sales you make out of it for the short term may be
worth the risk to you.  However, if your company has created a brand
with a good reputation, what does breaking the rules say about you?
Perhaps it says you're daring and willing to take a risk.  Or perhaps
it says you're lazy and just out for a quick buck regardless of the
consequences.  Only your company knows what their true motivation is.
However, to say they're doing it because "everyone is doing it" is not
only wrong but sounds like something my kids would say!  Of course, my
response to that (as any good mom's) would be, "If everyone were
jumping off the Empire State Building, would you do it too?"

The fact is, "everyone" is *not* cloaking.  Thankfully, most are
actually moving away from that sort of thing.  Although it may seem
like an attractive option right now, since Google would prefer to keep
cloaked pages out of their database, you can bet that they're working
on methods to detect them.  It may not be today, and it may not be
tomorrow, but the party will not last forever.  That you can bank on!

As to your idea of using the noframes tag to place your content and
links, you are correct that this is the right way to do things with a
framed site.  Yes, some of the engines are starting to follow the
frameset code, but that's a good thing!  It doesn't mean you can't use
the noframes tag in addition.  Those engines that can't follow
framesets still need the info in the noframes tag, and those that can
will probably just ignore it.  Either way, you do have to optimize
your pages.  Optimize your noframes copy and tags on the main page,
and optimize all your inner-framed pages.  Make sure they have lots of
great keyword-rich content and put navigational links on every page.
Yeah, it's a pain in the neck to optimize for high rankings when you
do it this way.  But it's the most viable long-term strategy.  A
little hard work now, and you won't have to think about it again for
years. To learn more about optimizing a framed site, please read my
article here: </framedsite.htm>.

Good luck convincing your pals!

Jill


~~~Guest Article/Case Study~~~

++Links Are Good for Business++

Every now and then it's a good idea to do a reality check and find out
what real business owners are doing to build their site traffic and
rankings.  Advice from SEOs is great, but hearing from others can give
us a different perspective.  Today's guest article is from Scottie
Claiborne, co-owner of Hullaballoo Entertainment, a company focused on
family-oriented information and activities.  Scottie is one smart
cookie.  She's got a Master's Degree in Information Technology
Management and spent many years as a retail buyer before focusing on
small business and the Web.

So let's give Scottie a warm Advisor welcome!

Guest Article
Links Are Good for Business
Scottie Claiborne

Read the advice on SEO boards and tutorials these days and you will
find a lot of information about linking.  There are debates and
"facts" on whom you should link to and whether reciprocal links are
good or bad.  The reality is that the Web is made up of links and you
should link to sites that your users will find helpful.

Without links, the Web would be a lonely place.  Only those that could
afford to buy advertising banners and pay for placement in the search
engines would ever see any traffic.

The Importance of Linking

I have a small moonwalk rental business that was a part-time venture
until last spring.  When I decided to do it full-time, I turned to our
Web site to help establish and market the brand. Some attention to
search engine optimization paid off, and the site was soon #1 for our
local keywords.

What I did not expect was the national and international traffic.
Before long, I had phone and email inquiries from all over the
country.  Even though our region is clearly identified, people wanted
to know who rented moonwalks in their area.  As a service, I started
to make a list of rental companies that I could refer others to.  In
order to lessen the calls and emails I was receiving, I posted my list
on the site and invited other companies to send me their information.

I started an aggressive search to identify as many companies as I
could, and added them to the directory.  When I listed them, I emailed
the site owners to ask for a link back.  Some did, some didn't, but
since the focus was to provide a service to users, I did not enforce
the reciprocal link.

Some of the links are from sites Google isn't aware of, some have a
low PageRank (PR), and a few rank well. Some are well designed and
some are really ugly. Many listings do not have Web sites at all. I
did not take PR criteria into account when building my list. The focus
was on creating a comprehensive resource for users.

Ranking Highly

While the intention of the directory was not to influence my search
engine rankings, the site is now #1 on Google for its most important
keyword phrases. How did that happen?

I believe the site (and the directory page in particular) have been
designated as a hub and an authority.  An authority is a site with
many pages linking to it, and a hub has many similarly themed outbound
links.  The tight theme of this page and the content that includes
both text listings and links have made it spider-friendly as well as
user-friendly.

The Payoff

There are many ways that this directory has helped my business:

1) Not only are local customers able to easily find our site, they are
impressed that we offer a national-level service.

2) We don't waste time answering the phone or emails from people who
want us to help them find a rental company. And we don't have to say,
"No, we can't help you."

3) We have begun a moonwalk sales business as well, and companies who
are pleased with the referrals we have been sending them are eager to
buy their next equipment purchase from us.

4) We are building a reputation as an authority in the industry, and
can bank on that in the future -- however we choose to use it. We have
even been asked to sell franchises.

5) If we ever decide to implement paid listings, the current members
already know that there is excellent value in being listed in our
directory.

6) We are building awareness of the moonwalk industry by getting
companies noticed who might never have been found on the Internet
before.

Content is King

Is your site or industry appropriate for a directory of this type?
Think about it from a user's standpoint and decide why they are
visiting your site.  The best way to determine how your site can be
improved is to listen to the comments you receive through feedback
forms, emails or phone calls.  If you don't have a feedback form,
you're missing an excellent free market research opportunity.

The easiest way to improve your site, traffic, rankings, and business
conversions is to simply give people what they are asking for.  You
don't need a high-priced consultant or an in-depth study. Go find some
customers and start asking them what they want!

Scottie Claiborne
www.hullaballoorental.com


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Recap of Past Stuff++

I've had a lot of requests for links to the various ebooks and reports
that I've promoted over the past few months.  So here's a quick
rundown of them with links to my reviews:

"Search Engine Optimization" Report by Mike Grehan
</searchenginereport> - This is the one
that's rocking the search engine world by providing solid facts on how
search engines work.  While the rest of us have been using trial and
error to determine how to get high rankings, Mike's been interviewing
the people that invented search engines!  Read my full review here:
</issue018.htm#stuff>.

"Search Engine Optimization Fast Start" by Dan Thies - an SEO ebook
for very busy people </issue013.htm#stuff>
(and you can read my interview with the author at
</issue014.htm#stuff>.)

"21 Techniques to Maximize your Profits on Google AdWords Select" by
Andrew Goodman - a special report that shows how to do exactly that
</issue006.htm#seonews2>.

"Step-By-Step(tm) Copywriting Course" by Karon Thackston - a
full-blown copywriting course disguised as a .pdf file
</issue009.htm#stuff>.

"Selling Subscriptions to Internet Content" - This is the 253-page
transcript from ContentBiz's "2nd Annual Selling Subscriptions to
Internet Content Summit" which was held in May.  If you have great
free content that you want to start charging for, this report is a
must-read.  See my full review here:
</issue017.htm#stuff>.

Please note that those are my affiliate links and I get a percentage
of any sales that may result from your purchases.  It's a nice way for
you to support the Advisor and also gain some extra SEO information!


~~~Advisor Wrap-Up~~~

That's all, folks!  To my American subscribers, I hope you have a
happy Thanksgiving!  Next week I'll be in sunny Pompano, Florida with
my family, visiting my 94-year-old grandmother.  My sister Beth, who
lives in Hawaii, will also be there, so it should be a fun time.  My
husband has plans to sign us all up for a swim with the dolphins at
the Miami Seaquarium.  I think I may sit it out and just videotape the
rest of them.  It's not cheap, and the money would be wasted on me.
Not sure I even want to touch a dolphin, let alone swim with one!
(Can you tell I'm not an animal person?)  We'll see if we can get Beth
to join in.

At any rate, there will be no newsletter next week.  See you in two! -
Jill
 
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