July 9, 2003
~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~
----> Another Busy Issue
*Search Engine Marketing:
----> The Line Between SEO and Spam
*This Week's Sponsor:
----> Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines
----> Tons of Traffic but No Sales
*Stuff You Might Like:
----> ConversionRuler Continued
*Other SEO News:
----> Search Engine Guide Members' Area
----> Lycos/LookSmart Deal
----> Back from Virginia
Hey everyone! I've got another full issue for you today. There's yet
one more *rant* about search engine spamming, with a little twist this
time because I'm getting tired of reading articles from big-name SEO
types who *still* teach people to trick the search engines, after all
You'll also not want to miss the guest article by my SEO copywriter,
Karon Thackston, nor my additional ConversionRuler tips!
Let's get right to the good stuff! - Jill
~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~
++The Line Between SEO and Spam++
Your advice to Joshua was very helpful in your last newsletter
</issue061>, but I wish you had gone into
more detail. It's hard to know where to draw the line between keyword
prominence and spam when the number one site for your keyword has 40%
keyword density and about a hundred links to itself in comment text,
etc. Then the number two site has a <noframes> tag stuffed full of
How far is too far?
You are correct that it's sometimes difficult to know where to draw
the line between optimizing your site for high rankings, and spamming
the search engines. However, I've found that you can pretty much use
your own common sense to know the difference.
In the old days, the name of the game was trying to trick the engines,
and to basically stick your keyword phrases any place you could on
your site, as many times as you could. Thankfully, this generally
doesn't work any more (with Google at least), and could possibly hurt
your site more than help it.
That said, there are definitely "spammy" pages in Google right now,
and it's very disheartening, to say the least. It can be very
frustrating to a new site owner to see all sorts of spammy sites
listed ahead of theirs in the search results. And yes, it can be very
tempting to follow suit. After all, if it's working for them, won't
it work for you too? Well, sure, it might -- for a while at least.
Maybe even a long while. But do you really want to go there?
Let's take keyword-stuffed image alt attributes (aka alt tags) for a
moment. Like many who optimized in the late 90's, stuffing keywords
into alt tags was a common SEO technique that seemed to help with the
rankings. In fact, I believe I may have even recommended doing this
very thing in one of my old RankWrite newsletters. When I think about
it now, it makes me cringe. I have to wonder what the heck I was
thinking! There are numerous sites I've optimized throughout the
years that still have these alt tags in use, and the sites are still
ranking highly. However, I don't believe for a second that the alt
tags are in any way, shape, or form helping the sites' rankings, and
in fact, I believe the sites would probably rank even higher if the
keyword-laden alt tags were removed.
Let me tell you a little story about why I believe this to be true.
One of my very old client sites was recently missing from Google when
searching for its keyword phrases, and its backlinks also weren't
showing up. The site still had PageRank (3), but something definitely
didn't seem right with the results. Tons of totally irrelevant sites
were ranking for the targeted keyword phrases, but this site was
nowhere to be found. (It had done wonderfully for many, many years,
and was still doing great in all the other search engines.) The
client asked me to see what might be done to get their rankings back
in Google. So I took a look at the site, and was amazed at the crazy
alt tags I had used in my original optimization. Yes, I was
embarrassed at my practices and myself. Here I am chastising search
engine spammers nearly every day, and darned if I wasn't one of them
(if only in the past).
So I cleaned up the alt tags, edited the Title tags slightly and
re-uploaded the files to the server. Then we waited. And waited, and
waited and waited. It took a few months for Google to reindex the
site, which surprised me because they're pretty quick these days for
most sites. Apparently, they're not in any hurry to reindex pages
that tried to trick them in the past.
Recently, I did a check on the main keyword phrase for this site, and
guess what? It was number 1 (#2 at the moment). Just from removing
spam. This tells you a lot!
I believe that many sites we see which are spam-laden are there
despite their spamminess, not because of it. If you still have sites
that have old 90's SEO techniques on them, clean them up and see what
happens. You might be surprised in a few months when your rankings
begin to soar!
So, back to the original comments. How does someone know when they've
gone too far with their SEO?
The easiest way to know is to decide if something makes sense for a
human visitor. Does your alt tag accurately describe the image it's
attached to, or is it simply a list of keywords? A good rule of thumb
is to only use your HTML tags as they were intended to be used. If
you do that, you won't run into any problems or penalties. It would
For instance, let's take comment tags. Their intended purpose is to
give clues to the Web designer about where certain things go on a
page. They are not now, nor have they ever been, a place where
keywords belong. Don't use them for this purpose. It won't help you,
and could hurt you. Remember my golden rule -- think like a search
engine. What's the easiest way for a search engine to find spam pages
automatically? Check which pages have comment tags stuffed with
keywords. Chances are, the site will be full of all kinds of other
And what's all this crazy talk I've heard lately about using a
noframes tag to put keywords or content in (for a site that is not
even in a frameset)? You've got to be kidding me! There was an
article recently written by a well-known SEO consultant (one who
teaches SEO, in fact) that said you could use the noframes tag on a
site that is NOT a framed site. That is absolutely wrong, wrong,
wrong and more wrong. You know, I read the same thing in this
consultant's book that was published many years ago, and I chalked it
up to the fact that the book was old and outdated. When I saw this
same thing published just a couple of weeks ago, I was totally and
utterly floored (and disgusted).
Here's the thing, guys...you don't put one thing on your page for your
site visitors and another thing on your page for the search engines.
That is the ultimate definition of search engine spam. There are no
ifs, ands or buts about it. It's spam, through and through. It
always has been and always will be. And anyone who recommends this
technique, regardless of their stature in the SEO world, is
recommending that you spam the search engines. If you have no problem
spamming the search engines, then feel free to go for it and listen to
the people who teach spamming techniques. The truly sad part is that
many new SEO consultants are graduating from classes that teach this
sort of thing. Which gives professional SEOs (those who know better
than to trick the search engines) a whole new generation of SEOs to
retrain. Think about all the clients who will get burned by this at
some point, or who will never see the high rankings they could
otherwise be enjoying if they did things right to start out with.
Personally, I don't want to go back through my old clients' sites ever
again to remove the shady techniques I once thought were good. It's
much better and easier to not have to worry about that sort of thing
by making your site the best it can be for your site visitors and the
search engines. There are no excuses for doing it any other way. If
you have an all-graphical site, then change it. If you are using all
Flash, then change it. NO EXCUSES! No shortcuts. No spam.
Want to learn how to write for high rankings in the search engines?
If you don't have the time or money to see Jill's Writing for the
Search Engines presentation at conferences or seminars, for
only $49 you can learn it all in her informative, quick-read report.
Download the Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines today!
++Tons of Traffic but No Sales++
My friend and copywriter, Karon Thackston, wrote today's guest
article. I'm sure you all remember her from the tons of praise I've
given her copywriting course. (Read my review here:
</issue009.htm#stuff>.) It's one thing to
stick your keywords into your copy for the search engines, but that's
not what's gonna sell your product. This is why I always recommend
that if you purchase my Nitty-gritty report and are not a copywriter,
you should also purchase Karon's copywriting course to go with it.
In this article Karon helps us figure out why our SEO copy might not
be making the sales we hoped it would, and what you can do about it.
Solving the "I Get Tons of Traffic but No Sales" Mystery
By Karon Thackston
I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've heard the
statement, "I get tons of traffic, but no sales." It's normally
followed by comments like: "My site is highly optimized for the
engines and my rankings are great. I don't understand why no one is
buying." Let me shed some light on this mystery.
Most often, when site owners (or professional copywriters for that
matter) write "search engine optimized" copy, they develop tunnel
vision. They are so focused on the placement of keyphrases throughout
the copy that they neglect something very important...the customer!
Because the immediate task at hand "seems" to be getting the site
ranked high, the writer neglects to take out his or her crystal ball
and gaze into the future. What should you be asking the crystal ball?
"What happens when the customer gets to my site?"
Oops! Didn't think of that? Don't feel embarrassed. Many people
don't. Developing SEO (search engine optimized) copy is like creating
a complete circle. You have to have good keyword saturation in order
to get ranked in those prime spots. You have to have keyword-rich
title and description tags (mostly the title tag) to land in the top
10. Once you achieve that your site starts drawing in surfers. Now
that they've clicked to your site, what happens? The copy has to give
them what they want/need. That's the missing piece to the puzzle and
the factor that causes so many people to scratch their heads in
When writing SEO copy, you have to think of the beginning AND the end
of the process. You have to create copy that satisfies both the
engine and the customer. Once you do, you'll not only have boatloads
of traffic, but you'll have the sales that go along with it. So
there...mystery solved! Or at least part of it.
We've covered the "why" -- now let's look at the "how."
1. Know Your Target Audience
In order to give someone what he/she wants, you have to know what that
want is. Take the time to research your target audience (also called
target customer, perfect customer, or ideal customer). Find out as
much as you can about them including who they are, what they do, how
they use your product/service, how old they are, what problems they
have, and how they prefer to receive information.
2. Stop Selling and Start Solving
So many people are pushing to get that almighty dollar (or euro or
pound) that they forget something. Customers don't like to be sold
to. What they really want is someone to solve their problems. Once
you show that your product/service can, in fact, solve the problems
your customers face, sales will come on their own.
3. Appeal to Emotions
Most buying decisions are emotional so it makes sense that your copy
should be, too. While your customer's need may be logical, the actual
buying decision is anything but. Think about it. When you bought
your last car, did you go for the "logical" choice? Did you pick the
ugly, shapeless, "no personality" car that had the best gas mileage
and the highest safety rating? I doubt you did.
You most likely took a look at all the options and -- taking some
logic into account -- bought the car that suited you best within your
price range. Emotion sells!
No, I'm not talking about getting mushy. What I AM talking about is
touching the emotional chord that draws customers to your product or
service. Those problems you found out about when doing steps #1 and
#2 above... use them to add emotion to your copy.
With these three vital elements in your forethoughts, you can sit down
and write your copy - with your keyphrases in mind - for tremendous
results. When you understand the entire process and take the time to
learn to write emotional, sales-oriented SEO copy, you will keep your
traffic count high and your checkbook balance higher.
Targeted SEO Copy
~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~
++ ConversionRuler Continued++
Hope you liked last week's review of ConversionRuler. In case you
missed it, you can read it here:
</issue061.htm#stuff>. After I sent that
issue out, I remembered a whole bunch of other ways I have figured out
to use ConversionRuler, and thought I'd share some more of them with
you this week.
I already mentioned that I use it to track my AdWords campaigns, and
the ads for my Nitty-gritty report in the newsletter. I also told you
that I use it to track new subscribers when I can. To do that, I
have special tracking codes on the "signatures" (sigs) I have at the
couple of forums where I am an administrator. In my forum sigs I link
to my report and also the newsletter sign-up page. Each link is given
a tracking code that tells me how many clicks I get and whether the
visitor signed up for my newsletter or purchased my report.
Since I've been tracking this I've found that I've received 90
visitors from my Ihelpyou Forum link to my newsletter, with 19 of
those subscribing, for a 21% conversion rate. My Cre8asite Forum sig
to my newsletter has achieved 31 clickthroughs, with 5 of them
subscribing to my newsletter, for a 16% conversion rate. (I don't
post as much at Cre8, which is why I have fewer clickthroughs.) My
forum sig links to the Nitty-gritty report haven't resulted in any
sales, but have given rise to a few newsletter sign-ups. Since these
links don't cost me anything (except my time to make intelligent and
interesting posts), anything I get from them is gravy.
Another interesting thing I've done is to place a tracking link on the
auto-response email message you get when you sign up for my
newsletter. I threw in a tracking link for my report and have had 219
clickthroughs that resulted in 4 sales (a 1.8% conversion rate).
Translated into dollars, that's close to $200! Had I not put that
link in my welcome letter, I may have missed out on those 4 sales, and
had I not tracked them, I would never have known where they came from.
The other cool thing I thought of doing was to add a link to my report
in my regular email signature. I get a ton of mail. Tons and tons of
SEO questions every day. And I answer a good portion of them. I'm
smart enough to know to put a signature in my email with a link to my
Web site and services, etc., but those are generally ignored by
people. So one day when answering my 50th question on a Thursday
morning after my newsletter came out, I thought about putting in a
P.S. type of signature. It was something like, "P.S. You could
probably use my report, The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search
Engines." Well, lo and behold, the first person who got that link in
the reply went right out and purchased the report! So I created a
permanent signature link that I could use, and added a ConversionRuler
I found that when you help people for free by answering their direct
questions, they are definitely predisposed to buying from you! Since
tracking the PS link, I've had 99 clickthroughs with 6 sales.
(Oops...there was another one just a moment ago...making it 100
clickthroughs and 7 sales! That's now a 7% conversion rate.) And
again, I would have been answering those emails anyway, regardless of
whether they purchased my book. (I know I'm an idiot for telling you
that those PS's are not actually a personal response to you, but
I guess what I'm trying to tell you is that in order to use a product
like ConversionRuler to its fullest extent, you've got to start
thinking of interesting ways to link to your stuff. ConversionRuler
hasn't made me any more sales, but my creativity in how to present my
products, etc., has. ConversionRuler just lets me know if my ideas
are any good!
You can sign up for a free trial here:
~~~Other SEO News~~~
++Search Engine Guide Members Area++
Robert Clough has just announced the pre-launch of his Search Engine
Guide members' area.
Robert was a bit vague in his announcement of what would be included
in the members' area, so I decided to ask him what benefits you guys
would get if you paid to belong. I asked him if there would be stuff
there that you couldn't get anywhere else, or was there some other
benefit? I know that you guys are not ones to easily part with your
hard-earned cash, so I wanted to see if he was going to make it worth
Here's what he told me:
"Actually, the approach that I'm taking is that I'm telling my readers
that they CAN get the information elsewhere (with the exception of my
new site case study) -- IF they want to invest the time to find it.
I'm acting as an *information service* that does the grunt work of
finding information that is critical to growing a business online.
I'll deliver it in a format that is quickly digested and will allow
small business people to stay current without investing huge amounts
of time to do so."
Ahh, now I get it. Putting everything in one place so it's organized
and easy to find. That's definitely worth a lot to busy people these
Here's what else Robert said would be there:
"New Website Case Study - You will get an insider's view as I launch a
brand new site and walk through every step of building, optimizing,
and promoting it. Learn what tools I use, see the decisions I make,
and, most importantly, learn from my successes and failures.
"Information Aggregator - A critical factor in my success building
Search Engine Guide has been the amount of time I've invested in
learning from others. To help you do the same, I will hunt down
articles that will help you improve your business by also learning
from others. In the same way I find search engine marketing articles
for Search Engine Guide's weekly newsletter, I will point to
information on topics such as:
"Business Profiles - Articles about the people who run small
businesses. Time and Money Savers - Tools that will boost your
productivity. Ideas and Trends - What's ahead and what you can use to
help you succeed.
"Member Discounts - I'll seek out quality partners to offer discounts
to our members. For example, SEO Research Labs has committed to
becoming a partner in this respect. Also, a discount on Andrew
Pay-Per-Click Advertising Buyer's Guide will be provided.
"In a nutshell, the Search Engine Guide Members' Area will be an
information service where I'll share my years of experience working on
the Internet and help you find the information you need to succeed."
If you subscribe now, you'll pay the low pre-launch price of $20 for a
6-month membership. The price will go up once it launches on July
23rd. Once it's up and running I'll do a full review of what you can
find there. But remember, you can only get the pre-launch price
*before* the launch!
You can sign up here: <http://www.searchengineguide.com/honors.html>.
From a Lycos press release I just received...
"...LookSmart will provide its new high-relevance, high-value
commercial search product to Lycos beginning late in the third quarter
of 2003. LookSmart will become the primary provider of general Web
search results for a large number of high-value commercial terms. In
addition, Lycos will have the option to resell LookSmart's
LookListings(TM) to thousands of Lycos InSite(TM) customers, Lycos's
successful paid-inclusion and paid-placement search engine marketing
Does it make anyone else laugh to read "high-relevance" in the same
sentence with LookSmart?
Good luck, Lycos, this definitely doesn't sound like the smartest
thing you've ever done. Hope they treat you better than they treat
their individual customers.
That wraps ups the SEO stuff for today!
My family and I had a great time in Virginia last week visiting my
friend Debra and her family. Even though her kids are younger than
mine, they all got along great. She's got two really beautiful and
smart kids, along with a nice hubby and home! A good time was had by
all. Thanks, Debra!
We visited Water Country and Jamestown, plus saw a neat fireworks
display courtesy of Busch Gardens. We also had a nice Crab Shack
dinner with my brother, Neil. It was just like old times seeing him
over the 4th of July weekend like we used to when my parents lived in
Catch you next time! - Jill