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High Rankings Advisor: Writing for the Search Engines - Issue No. 043

February 12, 2003
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Full Issue

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Additional Domains for Extra Rankings

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   Too Full for Sponsors!

*Guest Article:
---->   Making Sales on the Internet

*Stuff You Might Like
---->   Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines

*Other Search Engine News
---->   Yahoo! UK! admits! scam!
---->   Overture Doubles Minimum Bid Amount

*Search Engine Strategies Conference Requests:
---->   Send In Your Directory Questions
---->   Free Books to Session Attendees

*This Week's Sound Advice
---->   Using Duplicate Content and Mirror Sites

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Gotta Run!
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!  Today's issue is filled to the brim with good stuff.
Make sure you read all the way through to the end so you don't miss
anything.  Pay special attention to the fact that my "Nitty-gritty of
Writing for the Search Engines" special report is finally done and
ready for you to purchase.  It was fun writing a review of my own
report, after having written so many for other people's stuff.  I'll
have an affiliate program in place shortly in case you're interested
in reselling it on your own sites.  Zip me a quick email if you fit
into that category.

Let's get right to the good stuff! - Jill


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Additional Domains for Extra Rankings++

From: Paul B.

Dear Jill,

First, I must commend you on your excellent and consistent work that
you provide in each newsletter. It's one of the few emails that I look
forward to getting each week.

Our company in Pittsburgh offers many different services. Right now we
have top-ten rankings in Google, MSN, etc. for our regional keywords.

So, what we have done is bought some domain names
(pittsburghkeyword1.com, pittsburghkeyword2.com,
pittsburghkeyword3.com, etc.) and we are going to make these sites
content-specific to their URLs. The goal is to now go after national
rankings for certain keywords. I have a few questions about all of
this:

1.) Since we already have a top-ten ranking for the keywords, are we
hurting our main site by creating a "sister site" that hopefully would
become the highest ranked site for that phrase?

2.) Will the search engines consider these sites as spam since these
"sister sites" all refer to our main site?

3.) Is it realistic to think that we can attack the general keywords
(without Pittsburgh) to get high rankings even though the URL is
pittsburghkeyword.com? (Since Pittsburgh precedes the keyword, will
the search engine disregard it?)

Anything that you can refer me to would be great.

Thanks again,

Paul

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Paul,

It seems to me that you'd be treading in dangerous waters to do what
you are thinking about doing.  The reason is because it sounds as if
you're thinking about creating new sites for the sole purpose of
gaining extra exposure in the search engines.  This is *exactly* the
kind of thing that the engines (most specifically Google) would prefer
that you DON'T do.  It doesn't sound as if you believe your users
would be best served by having multiple sites, or anything like that.
It appears to be strictly a search engine strategy, and one that I
would heartily recommend against using.

So with the above in mind, let me answer your individual questions:

1.) Would you be hurting your main site?

There would definitely be a chance that you would be hurting it.  For
one thing, you'd be competing with yourself on the same keyword
phrases.  That's not necessarily bad, as you probably don't mind which
site you get found under.  However, the risk of Google banning all of
your sites is real, which of course would hurt your main site!  Google
is getting better at analyzing sites that are in their own little
cluster.  The sites generally all link to each other, but have very
few outside links.  This is a huge tip-off that they are all owned by
one company who's trying to gain extra search engine exposure through
multiple domains.  It's really one of the oldest SEO tricks in the
book, and it's taken the search engines a long time to develop ways of
fighting against it.  Google seems to have found a way, and sites are
getting penalized every month for this sort of thing.

2.) Would the sites be considered spam?

Yes, as stated in my answer to #1, if they did indeed analyze the
situation, it would probably be deemed spam by most engines,
especially Google.  One of the biggest tip-offs would be the fact that
they all pointed to the main site.  But even if you figured out a good
way to do it so they didn't all point to the main site, it would be
considered spam once it was brought to their attention.  More and more
Web site owners are snitching on their competitors these days, so you
really have to watch your back!

3.) Could you attack the general keywords with a Pittsburgh URL?

Since words in the URL have very little to do with how you rank in the
search engines (if all else is equal), then sure, you could attack any
keyword phrases you want to attack.  However, anytime you attempt to
optimize for general keywords (as opposed to specific keyword phrases)
you will make your job more difficult.  If you're thinking about
optimizing for one word such as "multimedia," for instance, you
probably won't have a shot regardless of the URL you're using.  Not
only that, but someone searching for "multimedia" or nearly any
single-word keyword could be looking for something totally different
than what you offer.

Search engine optimization is about targeting keywords that describe
exactly what you have to offer.  This almost always means that you
should be optimizing for multiple-keyword phrases, not single
keywords.  They will be easier to get ranked with, and they will
generally convert your visitors into buyers more easily.

This week's Sound Advice (see below) just happens to be on this topic
also!

Jill


~~~Guest Article~~~

++Making Sales on the Internet++

Today's guest article is about something I bet most of you are
after...making more sales!  It's more common sense information from
our moonwalk friend, Scottie Claiborne.  (See her previous guest
article "Links Are Good for Business" here:
</issue035.htm#guest>.)  Along with being
the moonwalk queen, Scottie has performed usability and web
application design for several years and strongly believes in using
the Internet as a tool to reach people.  I couldn't agree more!

So without further ado, here's Scottie.

Guest Article
Making Sales on the Internet
Scottie Claiborne

The Internet has changed our buying habits. From deciding on which
movie to see, selecting a new car, or buying ink for your printer,
many people turn to the Internet to get answers and to make purchases.
Historically, the company with the biggest marketing budget and best
location was able to gain the largest share of their market through
traditional marketing spends.

A Level Playing Field

You can set up a business today and be taking orders tomorrow. Google
and DMOZ are the key players in creating this equilibrium because they
don't rank companies by how much they can pay. They judge on the
quality of your site's content and its "reputation" or backward links.
Sounds great, doesn't it?

It IS great, but it is not as easy as many hucksters on TV and the
Internet would have you believe. In order to get great traffic and
sales, your site must be *better* than the rest!  Why would someone
buy from your site when there are likely to be many sites out there
selling similar products or services?  What is your unique selling
proposition (USP)?

The following concepts can help you to succeed, even if your site
exists solely to support a bricks-and-mortar business.

Usability and Design

If you appeal to your target audience and design for their likes and
dislikes, they are more likely to buy from you.  If you sell used
video games, your look and feel should be different than if you sell
scented candles.  One size does not fit all!  Think carefully about
the "voice" of your site, and carry that over into the graphics and
copy.  Think about the type of hardware and software your customers
are likely to have.  Are they using AOL?  Do they have older browsers?
Or perhaps they have state-of-the-art equipment.  Not all target
markets are alike.

Build Trust

Buying something on the Internet is still a scary thing for many
people.  Always use secure pages for transactions and have a privacy
policy -- then STICK TO IT.  Testimonials are another powerful way to
instill trust, as long as they are sincere and believable.

An "About Us" page is always a great idea; people typically want to
know who they are buying from.  Avoid personal information here unless
your customers need to know more about you personally.  If you are an
artist selling your work or an individual providing services, personal
information can help build trust.  However, if you are reselling
software, people really don't need to know that you are a major Star
Wars fan who likes to dress up like Darth Vader and scare the pizza
delivery guy!

Add Benefits

If a customer can get MORE at your site -- whether it is a wider
selection or a special offer -- they are likely to hang around.  Offer
free advice, sample downloads, tutorials, or anything else that would
be useful to your customer.  Don't fill a page up with junk just to
have more content; only add things that will be useful to your
targeted audience.  For example, a news feed with SEO articles would
be a useful thing to have if you sell Web-building software, but a
general news feed on a site that sells sunglasses would be a
distraction.

Add Informational Content

Often, when faced with the unknown, people will assume a feature is
not present unless the copy clearly states that it is. The more
information you provide about your product or service, the better.
People and search engines like to learn more about what you have to
offer.

Consider adding a forum! Forums are a great way to build a community
around your products and also get valuable feedback.

Long-term Proposition

All of these things take time and ongoing work to keep up-to-date.
You can't simply expect to link to a product database and get high
rankings and lots of orders. You certainly can't get into DMOZ that
way, nor can you expect high rankings in the other search engines. As
with any business, if you build a better company than the other guys
you can come out ahead. With lots of unique and useful content and a
design that appeals to your audience, you can rank well with a
commercial site and build a good business while you're at it.

**A word of caution: anyone who builds their business by being
dependent upon free search engine traffic is building a house on sand.
The sand can shift at any minute.  If you absolutely must have traffic
to your site to survive, make sure you invest in alternate marketing
strategies such as pay-per-click, online advertising, and traditional
media.  Even if you achieve great rankings with your site today, when
you are dealing with free search results there are no guarantees that
these will last.**

Scottie Claiborne
Right Click Web Services
http://www.rightclickwebs.com/


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines++

You've begged and pleaded with me to finish my special report.
Well...I finally got off my butt and did it!  I'm very pleased with
the results, and I think you will be too.

So what exactly is this special report?

Well, it's called "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search
Engines," and it costs $49.  It's not hundreds of pages -- just 27.
They are 27 pages of pure content and real-life examples -- no fluff.
Which means you can probably read it in an hour or two.

As with everything I write, it's nothing tricky or confusing or even
anything that you couldn't have thought of yourself (if you chose to
think about it for awhile).  In fact, you're gonna read it and say,
"Sheesh...this is soooooo obvious and such common sense."  You'll
probably even kick yourself for not having thought of it all yourself.

So why should you buy something that's all common sense?  Good
question!  Let me ask you another one.  When you read this newsletter,
do you often find yourself saying, "DUH! Why didn't I think of that?"
C'mon...you know you do.  It'll be the same thing when you read my
special report.  You will definitely have some "duh" moments.

What I bring to the table with this report (and what you probably
don't have), is my many years of training copywriters to write for the
search engines.  Not to mention all of my own SEO copyediting
experience for client sites.

To be clear, this report is definitely *not* a copywriting guide.  If
you want to learn copywriting in general, please purchase Karon
Thackston's Step-By-Step Copywriting Course:
</copywritingcourse>.  (Between her course
and this special report you will have all your copywriting bases
covered!)

My report assumes you already have some copywriting ability.  In fact,
I believe those that can benefit most from it are copywriters who
already have their craft down to an art but want to start taking on
some "writing for the search engines" work for clients.  After all,
that's where the money is.  Spend $49 on this report, and with a
little practice, you'll be able to start charging folks a whole lot
more for SEO copywriting as opposed to your usual plain-vanilla
writing.  Seriously.  Ask any current SEO copywriter and they will
confirm to you that they charge more for SEO writing because it is a
specialized skill.

It's not just copywriters who should purchase this report though.  Any
SEO consultant who has to edit his or her clients' pages to better
utilize their targeted keyword phrases will also want to read it.  If
you're a consultant who thinks you simply have to stick the keyword
phrases into a header tag, or place them randomly throughout the copy,
you *definitely* need this book!  Ever wonder why your SEO clients
fight your copywriting changes tooth and nail?  It's because they
stink!  You're probably thinking only about the search engines and not
your clients' site visitors.  That just won't cut it anymore.  My
techniques will not only help your clients' sites in the search
engines, but their site visitors as well.  This makes for a happy
client!

Now, if you've heard my "Writing for the Search Engines" session at
conferences, the report will be familiar to you.  It's basically the
same stuff I talk about there, only fleshed out into more words and
some additional examples.  If you forget what you heard me say at a
conference, you may certainly want a copy of the report to jog the old
memory.  However, if you took good notes, you may not need the report.
You'd have to decide that for yourself.

If you've never heard me speak, you will find that the information and
ideas presented in the report have never been published anywhere by
anyone else.  Not in any of my articles, not in anyone's articles.
It's not often one can say that about stuff having to do with search
engine optimization these days.  However, I'm confident that this is
true in this case.  (At least for now, until someone comes along and
steals my stuff as inevitably happens!)

At any rate, I've babbled on long enough about this.  You can learn
more and purchase the special report here:
</seo-writing.htm>. (Assuming I get it all
up and running by the time you receive this -- wish me luck!)


~~~Other SEO News~~~

++Yahoo! UK! admits! scam!++

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I told you about the Yahoo UK scam
email that was going around?  (Here's the link:
</issue041.htm#seonews1>.)  Apparently my
mentioning it did some good!  See this article in The Register, a UK
news and information site:
<http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/29281.html>.  Thanks again to
those who forwarded me their scam emails and to Barry Lloyd of
MakeMeTop for providing me with his company's additional research into
the matter.


++Overture Doubles Minimum Bid Amount++

If you're an advertiser on Overture, you've probably already heard
that they doubled the minimum amount you can bid from 5 cents to 10
cents.  Obviously, many small businesses are not happy about the
increase.

For those of us (like me!) who concentrate on traditional search
engine optimization -- as opposed to pay-per-click (PPC) ads -- this
is actually a good thing.  The more expensive PPC gets, the more
people will need to optimize their sites to show up in the regular
results.  As bad as I feel for those of you who've been squeezed out
by the new prices, I can't help hoping that Overture keeps on raising
the prices through the roof!

By the way, remember my New Year's prediction regarding PPC?  Let me
refresh your memory:

"PPC will continue to grow in popularity, but so will the price tag.
Bids for keywords on Overture and Google AdWords are already out of
reach for many sites, and this will only get worse.  This in turn will
make 'organic' search engine optimization more popular than it
currently is (and it's pretty darn popular)."

Score one for me!


~~~Search Engine Strategies Conference Requests~~~

++Directory Submission Questions++

The Boston Search Engine Strategies Conference
<http://www.searchenginestrategies.com> is coming up in a few weeks
and I need your help!  I'll be speaking once again in the "Dealing
With Directories" session and am looking for some specific questions
you may have about directory submissions.  They can be questions for
the directory reps or for me (or Elisabeth O., who is a DMOZ editor
and SEO consultant).  Hopefully we'll have time to run through some of
your questions, and I'll report back to you later with the answers!


++Free SEO Books++

Another session I'll be presenting in is a new one that I dreamed up
called "From Start to Finish."  This is the one I mentioned a few
weeks ago, where Shari Thurow and I will take an audience member's Web
site and optimize it right before your eyes.

Shari and I wanted to announce ahead of time that we will be giving
out a free copy of her new book, Search Engine Visibility
</searchenginevisibility> to one lucky
attendee of our session.  And not to be outdone by Shari, I will also
give out a copy of my new special report, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing
for the Search Engines," to another attendee!  All the more reason to
attend the conference and particularly this new, informative session.


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

++Using Duplicate Content and Mirror Sites++

Listen to this week's audio tip here:
<http://www.whatsworking.biz/gfx/audio/sa-se12.asx?hra>.
View the complete list of SEO audio tips here:
</soundadvice>.


~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

No room or time to write any more.  I need to test my report download
page.  If you purchase the report and have any problems downloading it
or opening it, please be patient with me.  Just send me an email and
I'll make sure you get your copy ASAP!

Catch you later! - Jill
 
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