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High Rankings Advisor - Cost-effective SEO - Issue No. 045

February 26, 2003
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Happy Anniversary, HR Advisor!

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Cost-Effectiveness of Learning SEO

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines

*Guest Article:
---->   Accessible Sites Help Search Engine Rankings

*Other SEO News:
---->   Greedy Overture Gobbles Up Part of FAST
---->   Espotting Takes a Swipe at Overture
---->   JoeAnt Still Allows Free Submissions
---->   Jill's Atlanta Seminar

*Stuff You Might Like
---->   PayPal Companion

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Conference Next Week
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

++Happy anniversary, High Rankings Advisor++

Holy moly! I just realized that next week (March 6) is the one-year
anniversary of this newsletter.  I can't believe I've been doing this
one for just about a year now.  It really went by quickly.  The first
issue was after last year's Boston conference, and the first issue of
my second year will be at the same time.  Pretty cool.

Thanks go to you guys for reading and subscribing!  I can't believe
that the subscriber list is now growing at a rate of 200-300 per week,
and I recently passed the 17,000 mark.  Look out 25,000!

Enough of that.  Let's get to the stuff you came here for. - Jill


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Cost-Effectiveness of Learning SEO++

From: Colleen Pelliccia

Hi Jill,

I'm glad I've found your website, it seems to be a great resource.
I'm about to begin the development stages for my website.  I can't
figure out if learning to do SEO and copywriting would be the most
cost and time efficient for me.  There is so much involved in this
that I'd rather pay someone else to do it, but how do I know who to
trust?  I've seen some SEO firms charging a minimum of $5k.  That's
twice as much as I can pay.  Would it be best to pay for good
copywriting and then do the SEO on my own? How do I select the right
copywriter?

Thanks very much,

Colleen Pelliccia

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Colleen,

Thanks for your questions.  I was just trying to figure out what to
write about today when I received your email.  (Tip for others that
want their questions answered in the newsletter...send them in on Wed.
morning while I'm procrastinating!)

SEO firms are charging a minimum of $5k?  Egad!  Oh wait, you probably
saw that on my site!  Yes, I do charge a minimum of $5k, which seems
to be in the middle range these days.  Companies who charge a lot less
tell me I'm gouging the customers, and companies who charge a whole
lot more ($5k per month and up) tell me I should stop giving away my
services.  Ya just can't please everyone, except hopefully the client
who finds the price to be just about right.  It's important to note
that the amount you pay to an SEO firm isn't always going to be a
factor in how good a job they'll do for your site.  I'm quite sure
there are numerous small SEO firms that may charge you under $1k and
do a perfectly good job.  I'm also sure that some companies may charge
thousands of dollars a month, and get you nothing but banned in the
search engines.

So what's a small business to do?

If you have no interest in learning SEO (or simply don't have any
spare time on your hands), I would suggest that you head on over to
SEO Consultants and browse through the
directory of pre-screened companies.  You can be fairly certain that
the companies listed there use only search-engine-approved techniques
to get high rankings.  It would be up to you to check references and
some of their client ranking reports to make sure they don't simply
rank highly for keyword phrases nobody is searching for.

If you're a hands-on kinda person and you're interested in search
engine optimization, you might want to give it a whirl yourself.  If
you're designing your own Web site, you've already got a good start
since you (hopefully) know some of the fundamentals of HTML and
design.  These are critical to the search engine optimization process,
because there's no way to obtain high rankings for a site that does
not have some search engine friendliness built into it.

SEO isn't hard.  You've heard me say that a million times.  If it was
hard, do you think I'd be doing it?  There's enough information in my
articles and my archived newsletters to teach anyone how to get high
rankings.  But you gotta be willing to spend time on it and practice,
practice, practice.

You asked if it would be best to hire someone to do the copywriting
and then do the SEO yourself.  Since so much of SEO is in the copy,
this may work for you.  However, before anyone can write copy for you,
you need to understand how to do keyword research.  Without knowing
the best keyword phrases to optimize for, your copywriter will not be
able to write keyword-rich copy.  Don't assume that you know which
keyword phrases are best for your site.  Either hire someone to do
that part for you, or sign up for a WordTracker subscription
</wordtracker>.

Once you're armed with a good list of highly relevant and specific
keyword phrases, you'll be ready to have the copy written or to write
it yourself.  Make sure you hire a copywriter who really and truly
understands how to write for the search engines and the readers.  (You
or they should probably read my Nitty-gritty report!)  When you
finally do get the keyword research, the friendly design and the copy
all set then you're ready to do the tags.  It's funny how people think
doing the tags is the optimization when in reality, that's actually
the easiest part of all!  It's coordinating everything else to create
a search-engine-friendly site that is the hard part.

Not sure if I directly answered your question, but hopefully this will
give you some food for thought!

Jill

__________________________________________

Are you one of those who can't figure out where to
place those pesky keywords?
__________________________________________

You can stick 'em in the Title tag.
You can stick 'em in the Meta tags.
You can even stick 'em in Alt tags.
But you won't see high rankings, unless you
stick 'em in the copy.

You need "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the
Search Engines"
</seo-writing.htm>.
__________________________________________


~~~Guest Article~~~

++Accessible Sites Help Search Engine Rankings++

Today's guest article is from Mary Kay Jerige.  Mary Kay is
President/CEO of Sunesis Marketing, Inc.
<http://www.sunesismarketing.com>, a marketing consulting firm for
marketers.  She has over 15 years' experience in marketing and direct
marketing in high tech and business-to-business environments.  Mary
Kay also teaches Marketing and Electronic commerce at Boston
University.

Let's have a warm Advisor welcome for Mary Kay!

Guest Article
Accessible Sites Help Search Engine Rankings
By Mary Kay Jerige

In 1998, Congress modified the Rehabilitation Act to include Section
508 <http://www.section508.gov/>, which requires Federal Agencies to
make their electronic and information technology accessible to people
with disabilities.  This law applies to Web sites for Federal Agencies
and municipalities.

You're probably asking, "How could this be important to my company and
how will it help me in optimizing our Web site?"  While the commercial
world has no such requirements, a site designed for maximum
accessibility will broaden your potential audience, increase your
overall market share and help you facilitate your ranking in the
search engines.

Not only will your site be more usable to users with disabilities, but
you will also be extending your audience to include a fast-growing
number of potential customers with PDAs or other electronic devices
using Wireless Application Protocol (WAP).

Below are some other reasons why your company should consider
enhancing your site for users with disabilities:

* Recent statistics from Media Matrix show that the number of 45- to
64-year-olds accessing the Internet grew more than 18 percent last
year, making this demographic group the fastest-growing population on
the Internet.  These users have a greater tendency to struggle with
failing eyesight or other age-related issues that could impede their
ability to use Web sites.  Baby boomers currently use cell phones and
PDAs with small fixed fonts that can be hard to read.

* Graphics cannot be viewed by everyone.  The user may have a slow
connection or an older browser. This necessitates the use of the "alt"
or "longdesc" attribute with keyword-rich descriptions of graphics.

* The growth of the mobile-device segment will become an accessibility
challenge as more and more people use them to access the Internet.

* Any given environment can impact accessibility. Poor lighting
conditions or being in loud settings can negatively affect
accessibility.

Designing Web sites for users with disabilities works in tandem with
good user interface engineering (UIE) design and search engine
optimization.  Jill Whalen and others tout the benefits of optimized,
relevant-keyword-rich content embedded in a solid, functional,
spider-friendly page layout.

The standards for Section 508 were adopted from the World Wide Web
Consortium's (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative. Below are some
general guidelines:

1. Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content.
2. Don't rely on color alone.
3. Use markup and style sheets and do so properly.
4. Clarify natural language usage.
5. Create tables that transform gracefully.
6. Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully.
7. Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes.
8. Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces.
9. Design for device-independence.
10. Use interim solutions.
11. Use W3C technologies and guidelines.
12. Provide context and orientation information.
13. Provide clear navigation mechanisms.
14. Ensure that documents are clear and simple.

An in-depth presentation of the general content guidelines above can
be found at <http://www.w3.org/WAI/Resources/#gl>.  WC3 goes so far as
to provide checklists and technique documents detailing code and best
practices for accessible design.

The Priority 1 checkpoints include:

* Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element (e.g., via
"alt," "longdesc," or in element content). This includes: images,
graphical representations of text (including symbols), image map
regions, animations (e.g., animated GIFs), applets and programmatic
objects, ASCII art, frames, scripts, images used as list bullets,
spacers, graphical buttons, sounds (played with or without user
interaction), stand-alone audio files, audio tracks of video, and
video.

* Ensure that all information conveyed with color is also available
without color, for example from context or markup.

* Clearly identify changes in the natural language of a document's
text and any text equivalents (e.g., captions).

* Organize documents so they may be read without style sheets. For
example, when an HTML document is rendered without associated style
sheets, it must still be possible to read the document.

* Ensure that equivalents for dynamic content are updated when the
dynamic content changes.

* Until user agents allow users to control flickering, avoid causing
the screen to flicker.

* Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site's
content.

If you use images and image maps:

* Provide redundant text links for each active region of a server-side
image map.
* Provide client-side image maps instead of server-side image maps
except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric
shape.

If you use tables:

* For data tables, identify row and column headers.
* For data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or
column headers, use markup to associate data cells and header cells.

For more specifics, view the entire checklist at
<http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html>.

Clearly, designing Web sites for users with disabilities expands your
audience, increases your market share and enhances search engine
optimization. It's good for users and search engines.

Other Resources:

Designing More Usable Web Sites: <http://trace.wisc.edu/world/web>.

WatchFire's free online seminar series:
<http://www.watchfire.com/news/seminars.asp>.

Designing for Users with Disabilities:
<http://www.nngroup.com/reports/accessibility/>.

The Usable Web: <http://usableweb.com/>.

Weblogs on Usability:
<http://www.webword.com/>
<http://www.anitrapavka.com/>
<http://www.usewisdom.com/home/webmaster/section508.html>
<http://weblog.delacour.net/archives/000600.html>
<http://www.builder.com.com/article.jhtml?id=u00220020607KXH01.htm&pag
e=1&vf=tt>
<http://jarmin.com/demos/>


~~~Other SEO News~~~

++Greedy Overture Gobbles Up Part of FAST++

I guess AltaVista couldn't satisfy Overture's hunger for some search
engine meat.  Yesterday, Overture announced it will be acquiring
FAST's Internet business unit assets, which include FAST WebSearch,
FAST PartnerSite and FAST's popular search site, AlltheWeb.com.

Don't feel sorry for FAST, though; they've made out like a bandit with
$70 million in cash and additional bonuses on top of that!  And the
best part is that this acquisition enables FAST to focus specifically
on its enterprise search business, which powers the search for
corporations such as IBM, Dell, Reuters, CareerBuilder, CIGNA,
FirstGov.gov (GSA), and Freeserve. Peter Gorman, FAST's Director of
Corporate Communications, tells me that over 75% of FAST's revenues
come from the enterprise search business and that they believe there
is great potential for them in this space.

As for what Overture is up to, it beats me.  Perhaps they'll use
AltaVista as a place to have all Overture ads all the time since AV
still gets some traffic.  And then maybe they'll sell or lease FAST's
algorithmic results along with their own PPC results to their portal
partners such as MSN.  It's really hard to say.  For all we know
they'll kill them both off. It wouldn't be the first time a company
bought out other companies just to kill them in the end.

The only thing we know for sure is that the search space is definitely
shrinking.  Time for some new players to come out of the woodwork,
perhaps?


++Espotting Takes a Swipe at Overture++

Apparently Espotting isn't thrilled with Overture's recent takeovers,
as evidenced by the "press release" I just received from them.  It was
pretty negative, and in my opinion, kinda nasty!

I've noticed a trend with this sort of thing lately.  One company does
something and suddenly their competitors are putting out press
releases giving their opinion of the situation in an obvious attempt
to sway public opinion.  Is this normal?  I've just recently started
receiving press releases, so I'm not familiar with proper protocol,
but this just seems weird.

Now that I've got you curious, the gist of Espotting's "news" is that
they want to let everyone know that Overture is now in direct
competition with their distribution partners and that Espotting is the
only truly independent pay-per-click player in Europe. They go on to
say that they've already received calls from companies who are fearful
about continuing their working relationship with Overture.  Huh? What
are they fearful of?  That AltaVista demons might scare them? <grin>

If that wasn't enough, Espotting made a point to mention that market
reaction to the news has been negative. Apparently, Overture's shares
tumbled yesterday after the announcement of their agreement to acquire
the Web search unit of FAST.  Thanks for the info, Espotting, but
what's this have to do with you?

Seems to me that companies would be smarter to talk about what *they*
offer and not worry about what their competitors are up to.  Well, I
guess they should worry about it but is there really any reason to
whine about it?  They should really leave the whining to people like
me who write about search engine news, and get on with their business
at hand.


++JoeAnt Still Allows Free Submissions++

Last week </issue044.htm#seonews2>, I
mentioned the JoeAnt directory (among others) as a great place to get
a listing.  No sooner had the newsletter gone out when I heard from a
number of annoyed readers who tried to submit there only to think that
they'd have to pay to be listed.  The way the submission link was set
up, it definitely did seem that way.  What wasn't clear was that
anyone can still submit sites for free as long as they apply to be an
editor.  Luckily, signing up as an editor is a very simple process; no
major hoops to jump through, or IQ tests, or whatever.

I was hoping they would have clarified things a bit more by now, as I
mentioned the confusion to them in this thread at the Ihelpyou forums:
<http://www.ihelpyouservices.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=716
7>; however, when I visited JoeAnt just a few minutes ago, it still
appeared to be somewhat confusing.  At any rate, you can be certain
that you can definitely still submit to JoeAnt for free, as long as
you apply (and are accepted) to be an editor.  Looks like they just
added their 1000th editor today.  Congrats to them!  Bet they'll have
lots more after this newsletter goes out!

News flash!  While writing this, I see that they just made changes to
better clarify things on the JoeAnt submit page.  Yay!


++Jill's Atlanta Seminar++

Registration isn't set up yet, but we do finally have the date, time
and place for my half-day Atlanta seminar!  Mark your calendar for
Friday, May 16, 2003 at the Sheraton Colony Square Hotel.  The
early-bird price will be $249, and I'll be presenting from 9:00-11:45
AM, with an optional lunch for the first 25 participants who are
interested.  (Price for lunch is yet to be determined.)

Once everything is finalized I'll set up the registration on my site.
Feel free to email me at mailto:seminar@highrankings.com if you want
to be notified when online registration is up and running.


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++PayPal Companion++

After putting my special report up for sale on my site a few weeks
ago, there were many more downloads of the report than people who had
purchased it.  And I mean TONS more, according to my log files!  Many
people had warned me that when you sell digital stuff using PayPal as
your credit card processor, it's easy as pie for any savvy hacker to
download your stuff for free.  Now, it's possible that I was reading
my logs incorrectly, but I set out to search for a secure solution.

I found some software that could encrypt code, and I found some PHP
solutions, but nothing I tried actually worked very well.  The idea of
paying $20 or $30 for a few lines of code didn't really appeal to me
either, especially when I wasn't sure how hack-proof it was.

Then I stumbled across PayPal Companion.  I didn't realize it at the
time, but it is a fairly new service that had been in the testing
phase.  This is a third-party-hosted service as opposed to software.
They store all the information about your download page in their
database on their server, and there's no way for a hacker to gain
access to it.  You just fill in a bit of information and they
automatically generate the tiny bit of code you need to place on your
site (which replaces the normal PayPal code).  I like the fact that
it's a service, although it means you have to pay on a yearly basis.
It just gives me more peace of mind knowing that someone else is
watching out for my data, rather than having to rely on my skills (or
lack thereof) to encrypt my pages.  I figure if you want something
done right, you should hire the experts.

The expert in this case is a programmer named Dean Brenner.  He's been
selling tons of stuff on PayPal for years and has the process down
pat.  His support was great!  We had some very late-night emails in
order to make sure I got set up okay, and he answered my questions and
solved my problems even over the weekend.  To me, that's worth paying
a few extra bucks for!  The good news is that it's not very expensive
to use.  If you've only got one product and want to set it up for one
quarter, the price is only $15.  Depending on what your needs are,
Dean's got a whole bunch of different pricing options.

I've had PayPal Companion up and running for close to a week now, and
my stats are not showing any unauthorized downloads. So far, so good!
If you have a need for this sort of thing, I highly recommend you
check them out here: </paypalcompanion45>.
(That's my affiliate link.  I liked the product so much that I signed
up!)


~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

Next week is the Search Engine Strategies conference in Boston.  Shari
Thurow and I have been hard at work to make a great "From Start to
Finish" session for the third day.  At this point, I still have no
idea how it's all going to turn out.  It could be pretty amusing, as
some of it will surely be off the cuff.  We've got two sites that
we'll be dealing with, and we should have all the kinks ironed out by
next week.  There will be plenty to go over during the session, as
we're finding all sorts of interesting dilemmas cropping up along the
way. So be sure to stop by the session.  Don't forget that Shari and I
will also be giving out a free copy of each of our respective books to
some lucky audience members.  (The ones who bring the most chocolate,
perhaps? <g>)

All this to let you know that most likely there will be no newsletter
next week.  I'm still debating whether I might head home on Wednesday
since I'm not doing any sessions that day. But either way, I probably
won't have time for the newsletter.  All the more reason to catch me
at the conference!

See you in Boston, or in two weeks! - Jill
 
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