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SEO Website Audit

High Rankings Advisor: Cloaking Firestorm - Issue No. 042

February 5, 2003


*Introductory Comments:
---->   Cloaking Firestorm

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   All Lowercase or Initial Caps?

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   Logo Design Guy

*Guest Article:
---->   Best Practices for Multilingual Web Sites

*Other SEO News:
---->   Cloaking, Doorway Pages and XML Feeds

*This Week's SEO Sound Advice
---->   SEO for Local Companies

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

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Finally, I Got An A!


~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hi guys!  Man oh man did I have an interesting week.  Remember last
week's guest article </issue041.htm#guest>
that defined cloaking?  I asked Alan to write it for the newsletter so
that we'd all have an easy rule of thumb to follow when deciding if
something was considered cloaking.  I was really, really pleased with
the article because I thought it would help everyone to be on the same
page when they talk about cloaking.  Many of the debates we have in
the SEO world are over definitions, so it helps if there are some
definitive places to refer to when discussing these issues.

Well, I guess I'm really naive (or just really dumb).  I had no idea
of the firestorm that Alan's article would cause when I posted it at
my forum haunt, Ihelpyou Forums
8>.  Even before the posting, Alan and I heard from Danny Sullivan via
email to disagree with some of what Alan wrote.  Danny's basic
contention is that there are two kinds of cloaking: approved and
non-approved.  XML feeds would be a good example of approved cloaking,
under Danny's definition. About 50 friendly emails and forum posts
later, Danny and Alan still do not agree on a definition.  I'm sort of
in the middle.  I really love Alan's definition for its simplicity.  I
think newbies who never heard of cloaking before could be directed to
that definition and have a good understanding of what's acceptable to
search engines and what's not.

But Danny also makes some very good points.  The most compelling to me
is that the search engines themselves (except for Google) don't
currently have any standard definitions (although Alan will debate you
about this one for hours!).  I believe that the other search engines
are waffling on this issue because they now allow so much stuff that
used to be called spam -- as long as you pay for it.  They don't want
to sound like hypocrites, so instead they waffle.  Danny and Alan are
attempting to at least pin down Inktomi to give a definition, but
we'll see what it comes out to be.  Something tells me it will be
clear as mud!

At any rate, please read Danny's excellent article, "Ending The Debate
Over Cloaking" here:
<>.  Plus, if
you're a member of Search Engine Watch, you can read "Doorways Are Not
Always Bad, At Inktomi" here:
(If you're not a member of Search Engine Watch, what's wrong with
you? <grin> You can sign up for a membership through my affiliate link
here: </sew>.)

Okay, now that this rather long intro is out of the way, let's move on
to the rest of the newsletter! - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++All Lowercase or Initial Caps?++

From: Karon

Hi Jill,

You may have covered this in your newsletter, but I've never seen it
and could not find anything about it in your archives.  I have a
client who is telling me her SEO company says we should include the
phrase "alaskan pipeline" just as I've typed it there (with the
incorrect lowercase "a") because most people will type a search term
into the engine in lowercase letters.  However, from my experience,
I've found that it doesn't matter one way or the other.  To make sure
nothing's changed, I thought I'd better check with "the pro" (a.k.a.

Can you tell me if it matters if search terms include capital letters
or not?


Karon Thackston

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hey Karon,

None of the major search engines are currently case-specific, so you
can type it the correct way with the initial cap and it will be read
the same as lowercase by the search engines.  In the old days it did
matter, especially with Altavista -- but not anymore.

Even if the engines were case-specific, I wouldn't recommend using the
incorrect format within your visible body copy. It would look like a
typo, making people think you were just dumb!  Search engine
optimization, and especially search engine optimization writing (as
Karon well knows!), don't have to ruin a site.  It's just the
opposite, in fact.  SEO should be about helping people have a better
site, certainly not a worse site.

Unfortunately, many SEOs still don't get that part of it (and won't
hire a professional copywriter), and they place keywords at the top or
the bottom of the page where they float around for no good reason.  Or
they do something like your client wanted, and try to get you to write
proper nouns incorrectly because they *thought* that's what the
engines want -- essentially ruining their site.

If in the future a major search engine becomes case-specific again, I
would recommend using the all-lowercase version of your keywords in
your Title tag (but definitely not in the body copy).

Hope this helps!



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~~~Guest Article~~~

++Best Practices for Multilingual Web Sites++

Today's guest article is by Luc-Rock Paquin, Web Technical Producer
for Industry Canada.  I get many emails from marketers wondering how
to market their Web sites to international audiences.  My usual answer
is "Translate it"; however, it's really not all that simple. Luc-Rock
knows much more about this than I do, so I'll hand over the podium to
him! - Jill

Guest Article
Best Practices for Multilingual Web Sites
By Luc-Rock Paquin

The Cost of Translation

Before you embark on your translation project, you should make sure
that you can afford to do it right. A poor-quality translation is
often worse than having no translation at all; it says that you don't
really care about those visitors. You should never use free online
translation tools to make an official translation of your site.

The cost of translation varies greatly depending on the region, the
competition, the language pairs and the type of document. In Canada,
the cost of translation can easily reach CA$0.40 per word for a
technical translation.

Choosing A Translator

If you are outsourcing your translation, verify that the translator
you choose has a good knowledge of the subject and, ideally, that she
is a native speaker of the target language. There are several sites
that offer a searchable database of translators, such as

If you want to save some money, ask if the translator is using a
translation memory (such as Trados or Déjà Vu). A translation memory
(TM) is a database of previous translations that have been done for
your company or your industry. This allows translators to reuse
previous translations of identical or very similar phrases and
sentences, thus saving you time. Usually, translators that use a TM
will charge you a lower rate for the phrases that were recognized by
the system. As time passes, the TM for your company gets bigger and
you save more and more money. You should also ask if you retain the
ownership of the TM, which would allow you to later change

Designing a multilingual Web site requires a lot of thought and
preparation. A poorly planned multilingual site can easily become a
nightmare to update.

Choosing A Home Page

If your audience is evenly split amongst the different languages you
offer, you should consider a language selection page as your default
home page (you can add a cookie to remember the visitor's preferred
language). If your audience predominantly speaks one language, you can
have that language as your home page with a link to the other

Allowing Your Users To Switch Languages

Ideally, every page of your site should have a way to switch to
another language. If you only have two languages, you can use a simple
link to the other language, but if you have three or more languages, a
drop-down menu is usually more appropriate. Make sure that each
language name is spelled in its own language: "Français" for French,
"Español" for Spanish, etc. The link should point to the equivalent
page, not to the home page for that language.

If you are converting an existing unilingual site into a multilingual
site, you will most likely need to restructure it. Nobody likes to do
this, but it will pay off in the long run.

Directory and File Naming

There are several ways to set up your structure, but few that are
practical. The best solution - by far - is to have directories for the
various languages and to use consistent names across languages for the


This method allows you to keep all the links intact in the HTML (as
long as they are relative) and does not require any file renaming.
However, you have to be careful when you are uploading files because
you could easily upload to the wrong directory.

Another popular method is to have the language code as part of the
file name, usually preceded by an underscore or a hyphen:


This method will protect you against overwriting files by mistake, but
it requires a lot of file renaming and you will also need to change
the links in the HTML.

The third option is to translate the file names into each language,
with or without a directory for each language:


While this method may help your visitors guess what a page is about by
looking at the URL, the management of such a site soon becomes a
nightmare. A conversion chart has to be kept up to date and all links
will need to be changed.  The drawbacks far outweigh any advantage.

Structuring Images and Other Files

All your non-HTML files should be structured in a similarly logical
manner. The only difference is that some of your non-HTML files will
be language-independent, such as images with no text, as well as
external CSS and JavaScript files.

I recommend having a directory for each file type in the root, with
sub-directories for each language (if there are several files of that
type). For language-independent files, I prefer to create an "xx"
directory, but this is a personal preference.

The structure of the site could look something like this:




Using Standard Language Codes

It is preferable to use standard language codes for the directory or
file names. The two most popular standards are ISO639-1 and ISO639-2,
which use two- and three-letter abbreviations, respectively. The
Library of Congress offers more information about these standards:

Standard Character Encoding

While we're on the subject of language codes, you should always use a
valid character-encoding label on your pages, so that they will
display properly for every visitor. The fact that a page is displayed
correctly on your computer is no guarantee that it will do so for
everyone around the world! Check out the W3C's page about character
encoding: <>.

Keeping Your Site Up to Date

Getting your site translated is great, but it's worthless if you don't
translate the updates as you go. You should keep a record of what has
been changed and send the updates to your translator(s) on a regular

Luc-Rock Paquin
Web Technical Producer
Industry Canada

~~~Other SEO News~~~

++Cloaking, Doorway Pages and XML Feeds++

Want to cloak?  Want to use doorway pages? Just pay the engines a fee,
and you're all set.

The stuff I've been telling people for years to avoid doing (because
it isn't good for the search engines or the users) is being done more
than ever -- only it's the search engines who are condoning it.

How many times have you heard me say not to use doorway pages because
they clutter the search engine databases?  Lots!  And yet, if you have
enough money, the search engines will not only look the other way, but
will help you clutter their databases through what are known as XML

Well, not all search engines.

Ever wonder why Google is so far ahead of the pack when it comes to
relevancy?  The above scenario is just one of the many reasons.
Google is the only major search engine that doesn't  put pages into
their database for money.  Not only that, but Google actively removes
and bans  junk pages forever.  By doing so, they encourage us to
create high-quality sites.

So while the other engines are more interested in how much you'll pay
per click for your doorway pages instead of how much junk you're
filling their databases with, Google continues to widen the gap with
high-quality content pages.  As you probably know, the reason why
people like to use Google is because its results are far superior to
the other search engines'.  Gee...I wonder why?

The next time you feel like crying about how Google won't allow pages
that you slapped together in five minutes to remain in their database,
get out your checkbook and pay the other engines -- they'll be only
too happy to index them.

Goodbye other engines...obviously, your fate is sealed.


~~~This Week's SEO Sound Advice~~~

++SEO for Local Companies++


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Revisiting Past Stuff++

Here's a quick rundown of some past "stuff" with links to my reviews:

"Search Engine Yearbook 2003" by André le Roux - an attempt to
compress the entire search engine world into a book

"21 Techniques to Maximize your Profits on Google AdWords Select" by
Andrew Goodman - a special report that shows how to do exactly that

"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:

"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

"Step-By-Step(tm) Copywriting Course" by Karon Thackston - a
full-blown copywriting course disguised as a PDF file

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

~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

I had a great time speaking at the meeting last night in
Hopkinton, MA.  I was totally shocked to see that a good percentage of
the people who showed up were newsletter subscribers.  Everyone seemed
really interested, and I think they learned a lot.  I'm still amazed
at how much SEO info I can squeeze into an hour!  The audience also
had some really good questions, too.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to
answer them all, or I would have been there all night!

Because my nearly 16-year-old daughter Corie doesn't usually get a
chance to hear me speak, the best part was that she got to come with
me.  She's definitely my biggest critic and if she thought I sucked,
she would have no problem telling me that.  I looked over at her a few
times while I was speaking, and she was still awake...which I took as
a good sign!  So on the way home, I asked her what she thought of it.
She gave me a 90 on my PowerPoint, and a 97 on my presentation/speech.
Not too shabby coming from Corie! <grin>  (And certainly better than
any grades I got when I was in school!)

I also wanted to let you know that I'm closer and closer to having my
"Nitty-gritty of Search Engine Writing" special report finished!  I
just have to do a little bit of reformatting so that it will be in
perfect shape for those of you who like to print stuff.  (I usually
read off the screen, but I've been told most people print these
things.)  It will probably sell for approximately $49, so start saving
your pennies.  Hopefully, by next week's newsletter, you'll be able to
purchase it.

Until then! - Jill
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