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SEO Website Audit

High Rankings Advisor: SEM vs. SEO - Issue No. 058

June 11, 2003



*Introductory Comments:
---->   Back from London

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   SEM vs. SEO

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   Dead Meta Keywords

*Guest Article:
---->   Google Gets Tough(er) on Spam

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   Ergonomic Computer Chair

*Other SEO News:
---->   Where Should I Go?

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Goofing Off with No Electricity


~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!  I'm back from London where I met a whole slew of UK
subscribers at the SES Conference.  Hope you all learned a lot and had
a good time.  I still haven't caught up on my sleep, so if this
newsletter makes no sense, let's just blame it on that.   ;-)

Be sure to check out my guest article today by Christine Churchill.
It may help you understand *some* of the weird things going on with
Google these days.

Okay, let's get right to the good stuff! - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

From: Bill Treloar

Jill --

In a recent newsletter, you said:

"As you know, the advertising side of search engine marketing isn't
really my forte, since I concentrate my efforts and knowledge on the
optimization side of things."

I do the same, but I'm sure you're better at articulating "why." I'd
be very interested to learn about that.  Good topic for the



~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Bill,

Yes, good topic!

Before I can explain my reasons for concentrating on the optimization
side of things, I should probably discuss the differences between
search engine marketing (SEM) as a whole, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and
search engine optimization (SEO).   So here's my take on things...

SEM is the broad industry that encompasses all marketing that involves
search engines including:

* buying and maintaining PPC ads,
* search engine submissions through paid-inclusion and trusted feeds,
* traditional SEO work.

One piece of the puzzle that transcends all aspects of SEM is
understanding how to choose the appropriate keyword phrases for your
campaign.  Whether you concentrate on SEO, PPC or trusted feeds,
keywords are key.  There are other aspects of SEO that use overlapping
skills, but working with PPC ads and working on SEO can be two very
different animals.

Buying and maintaining PPC ads is advertising.  It's very similar to
advertising in a newspaper or a magazine.  It doesn't take much in the
way of technical skills, but relies heavily on understanding target
audiences, demographics, conversion rates and return on investment,
along with having the appropriate ad-writing skills.

SEO is a bit more on the technical side.  These days we do have to
have a knowledge of target audiences and all that, but traditionally
SEO involves understanding how search engines work, as well as having
some knowledge of HTML coding and Web site design.  You don't
necessarily need those skills to be good at PPC.

Most of the good SEOs out there today started out as site designers
and/or programmers and have been doing SEO for many years now.  Having
learned things gradually over time, it seems easy to me so I'm happy
doing things the way I've always done them.  By concentrating only on
SEO and not trying to figure out all the intricate details of PPC, I
have the opportunity to learn every nuance there is to know about SEO
and I still learn new things every day.  It's my feeling that if I
tried to branch out to PPC also, I'd have to split my energy and my
brain power which would probably make me less effective in my work
overall.  It's already a lot of work to keep up with traditional SEO
and to also master the art of running a business, managing clients and
contractors, paying the bills and trying to keep some semblance of
having a family life!

I guess the bottom line for me is that whatever I do these days I want
to be the best at it and know everything there is to know about it.
And I just don't have the time or inclination to do that with the
other aspects of SEM, so I leave it up to others.  But ask me anything
about SEO, and I betcha I'll have an answer for you (or know how to
find it).


Ding-dong!  Meta Keywords are DEAD!

So where do I place my pesky keyword phrases?

In the copy, silly!

Purchase the "Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines"
by High Rankings Advisor editor Jill Whalen.
Only $49 </nittyhra57>.

~~~Guest Article~~~

++Google Gets Tough(er) on Spam++

Today's guest article by my friend Christine Churchill from Key Relevance is a timely one
about the changes Google is undergoing right now.  You may be familiar
with Chris from my stories (which still aren't completed!) of my
Atlanta trip -- or more likely because she was one of the founders of
NetMechanic.  In fact, her SEO expertise was instrumental in moving
NetMechanic from an obscure start-up into a well-respected company
that was eventually acquired.  She now runs her own search engine
marketing firm, Key Relevance  and
offers custom site promotion packages that include everything from PPC
to SEO.

Enjoy! - Jill

Google Gets Tough(er) on Spam
By Christine Churchill

Search engine spammers beware -- Google is out to get you.  Sources
inside Google report that the search engine is stepping up its efforts
to catch spammers.

Google has always taken a strong position against people who try to
artificially boost their rankings. Historically, though, Google did
not use widespread automation as a way of checking for spam tactics,
but instead primarily relied on other Webmasters reporting spam sites
through their spam report page

Google has recently made changes to automatically check for common
spam techniques while indexing pages, which greatly increases their
ability to catch and penalize the spammers.

One thing they're starting to catch automatically is invisible text on
the page. This old spam technique is used to artificially boost a
page's relevance for keywords by repeating them over and over again.
To hide this repetition from human visitors, spammers place the text
in the same color as the page background, rendering it "invisible" to
the user.  That's obviously a big no-no, and no credible SEO would
ever use such a tactic.

I recently worked with a client who took a do-it-yourself approach to
search engine optimization.  While I encourage my clients to learn
about search engine optimization, and always communicate what I'm
doing with their sites, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
In this case, my client (on her own and against my recommendations)
decided to go beyond professional optimization techniques and added
invisible text and hidden links to her home page.  The result?  Within
a week the site dropped from a top-10 ranking to no ranking at all.

So what should you do if you or an unprofessional SEO company you
hired has used improper SEO techniques on your site?  Well, the first
thing is to clean up the spam!  If you immediately correct the
problem, Google generally penalizes the site for 30 days, although it
can be longer.  However, if you did a really bad thing (like cloaking)
your site might be permanently banned.

Overall, I think Google's changes are good.  But I have to admit I'm a
little nervous about their detecting spam through automated programs
and not by hand.  From my time at NetMechanic, I learned a lot about
the pros and cons of using automated programs to review Web pages.
Automated programs follow a rigid set of rules that may not adequately
reproduce the common sense we humans use when reviewing a page. There
are some techniques that are completely innocent that may be
vulnerable to Google's automated spam-checking method.

One situation that worries me is Google declaring all hidden links as
bad and automatically checking every page for them.  I agree that most
invisible links do fall into the spam category, but not all.  If you
look at you will find an invisible GIF link
telling you to "Click here to skip to main content."  Is this spam?
Absolutely not.  What CNN is doing is an accessibility technique
called "skip navigation" to make their site friendlier to people with

This handy technique allows people using a page reader to jump past
endless lists of navigation and jump directly to content.  This is a
good use of a hidden link.  I believe that Google would support this
use and would encourage Web accessibility.  It would be nice if Google
could provide some reassurance to Webmasters that these "good use"
techniques won't accidentally be penalized.  Or maybe Google could
provide instructions on how to use skip navigation in such a way as to
not get into trouble.  (Google, are you listening?)

Another automated spam check looks for duplicate pages (or near
duplicate content) on a site.  Google has gone on record as saying
"Don't have duplicate pages."

Google's stance on duplicate content is justified.  Some conniving
individuals make "doorway" pages that have duplicate content, but
different keywords on each page.  When found through the automated
tools, these sites may now be penalized.

Most companies don't purposely duplicate content on their site, but it
could be happening without their realizing it.  For example, many
marketing departments create specialized "landing pages" for their PPC
ads to test different messages or to track their ads on different
properties.  Creating custom landing pages for ads is an effective way
to improve conversions - you can create a custom page that reinforces
the message in your ad and moves the visitor to the next step in the
buying cycle.  I wholeheartedly support these custom landing pages.

The problem is that many landing pages contain content nearly
identical to other pages on the site.  If a company isn't aware that
Google frowns on duplicate content, this widespread practice could be
hurting the company's site.

You can be smart about using your landing pages by making sure you
place them in a separate directory on your server and exclude them
through the robots.txt file so that Google won't try to index them by
mistake.  (See <> for
detailed instructions.)

[Jill's comment: In my experience, since there are so many legitimate
reasons why there could be duplicate content on pages, Google
generally ignores it rather than penalizes for it.  However, like
Chris, I also recommend that it be excluded through the robots.txt
file to be on the safe side.]

Google's move to automated spam checking puts the burden on the
Webmaster to know whether they are doing something that might be
construed as spam. It's smart to know which things the search engines
frown upon, and stay away from anything that might get you tarred with
the spammer label.

Basically, if you follow the advice Jill and other professional SEOs
provide, you should have no problems.  If you don't know what to look
for or don't have the time, hire a professional SEO to review your
site for potential problems.

If Google does mistake you for a spammer, what can you do?  Your best
bet is to double-check your site for possible spam and then try

Christine Churchill
Key Relevance

~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Ergonomic Computer Chair++

Do you sit at your computer all day like I do?  At one point I was
having major problems with my legs going numb and my neck getting sore
due to so much sitting over the years.  My chiropractor helped a ton
and relieved most of the symptoms over time, but after prolonged
periods of sitting, the symptoms would often reappear.

When my computer chair started falling apart a few months ago, I
decided to check out the ergonomic computer chair invented by fellow
Ihelpyou forum member Greg, aka "Kneelsit."  I read all about it on
his site, and it definitely sounded like something I could use.
Although it was fairly expensive, I decided that the money saved on
chiropractic visits (plus the tax deduction!) would make it worthwhile
if it was as good as it sounded, so I ordered a nice leather tan one.

Now, these get custom manufactured in Australia, but Greg is able to
get them built and shipped within a week or two, which is pretty cool!

I've had mine for a few months now, and I love it!  I must admit that
I sometimes "cheat" and put my feet up on the part of the chair that's
for your knees, but I'm trying to use it correctly more and more.  It
really is comfortable, but my body is so used to sitting incorrectly
that it doesn't want to do what's right.  One of these days I'll sit
correctly all the time!


~~~Other SEO News~~~

++Where Should I Go?++

I forgot to ask you last time if you had any ideas about where to hold
my next "Search Engine Optimization Basics" seminar.  Since most of
the people who come to these are Advisor subscribers, I figured you
guys would be the best ones to ask.  I can't decide if I should stay
on the East Coast or venture out to the West Coast.  Or perhaps
somewhere in between.  So let me know your preferences.  I chose
Atlanta last time because that's the one place more than one person
requested, so your votes *do* count!  Right now I'm wondering about
Boston again, Baltimore or Washington DC, San Francisco or...?

The format will be similar to the past seminars, with a complete
overview of SEO in the morning.  In the afternoon I'm thinking of
tacking on some additional time for hands-on site reviews for a select
number of audience members.  I may also bring some of my expert SEO
friends to help out with that part of the day so that you'll get to
hear more than just my thoughts.

Email me at with your suggestions.

~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

Well, our electricity went out for a few hours today, right while I
was in the middle of writing the newsletter.  So if this is late,
that's today's excuse!  Luckily, I've learned to push the save button
after nearly every thought, so I don't think I even lost a word.  I
was even able to get on my laptop and use my spare dialup connection
to check email and chat with my friend Debra.  I couldn't retrieve my
newsletter from my desktop computer, but my smart son Timmy reminded
me that I could just type what I needed on the laptop and transfer it
over later.  I did that with the section above about the seminar...and
I should have done it for this wrap-up section too, but was having too
much fun goofing off with Debra!  She got to finally see me on my new
Web cam too.  Alas...the electricity came back on and it was back to
the grindstone for both of us.  And no...I won't be making my Web cam
publicly available anytime soon, so don't ask!

Catch you next week!  - Jill

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