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SEO Website Audit

High Rankings Advisor: Make Your Site Crawler-friendly - Issue No. 075

October 15, 2003
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Making Sure Your Site is Crawler-friendly

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   High Rankings Seminar with Jill and the Gang
---->   Step-By-Step(tm) Copywriting Course

*Guest Article:
---->   It's Not About YOU

*Other SEO News:
---->   MarketingSherpa Guide to SEO Firms
---->   AdWords Adds Conversion Tracking

*High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week:
---->   Singular or Plural Keywords

*This Week's Sound Advice:
---->   Using Keywords in Link Text

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Drag Racing in Neenah
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey guys, it's hard to believe we're up to issue 75 already!
Whoo-hoo!  I've got 2 great articles for you today, along with a few
other tidbits that I hope you will find interesting.  Let's get
straight to it! - Jill


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Making Sure Your Site is Crawler-friendly++

I couldn't find any "meaty" questions for this week's newsletter, so I
thought I'd just talk generally about what makes a site
"crawler-friendly."  I used to call this "search-engine-friendly" but
my friend Mike Grehan convinced me that the more accurate phrase was
"crawler-friendly" because it's the search engine crawlers (or
spiders) that your site needs to buddy-up to, as opposed to the search
engine itself.

So, how do you make sure your site is on good terms with the crawlers?
Well, it always helps to first buy it a few drinks. <grin> But, since
that's not usually possible, your next-best bet is to design your site
with the crawlers in mind.  The search engine spiders are primitive
beings, and although they are constantly being improved, for best
results you should always choose simplicity over complexity.

What this means is that cutting-edge designs are generally not the
best way to go.  Interestingly enough, your site visitors may agree.
Even though we SEO geeks have cable modems and DSL, our site visitors
probably don't.  Slow-loading Flash sites, for example, may stop the
search engine spiders right in their tracks.  There's nothing of
interest on the average Flash site to a search engine spider anyway,
so they're certainly not going to wait for it to download!

Besides Flash, there are a number of "helpful" features being thrown
into site designs these days that can sadly be the kiss of death to
its overall spiderability.  For instance, sites that require a session
ID to track visitors may never receive any visitors to begin with --
at least not from the search engines.  If your site or shopping cart
requires session IDs, check Google right now to see if your pages are
indexed.  (Do an allinurl:yourdomainhere.com in Google's search box
and see what shows up.) If you see that Google only has one or two
pages indexed, your session IDs may be the culprit.  There are
workarounds for this, as I have seen many sites that use session IDs
get indexed; however, the average programmer/designer may not even
know this is a problem.

Another source of grief towards getting your pages thoroughly crawled
is the use of the exact same Title tags on every page of your site.
This sometimes happens because of Webmaster laziness, but often it's
done because a default Title tag is automatically pulled up through a
content management system (CMS).  If you have this problem it's well
worth taking the time to fix it.

Most CMS's have workarounds where you can add a unique Title tag as
opposed to pulling up the same one for each page.  Usually the
programmers simply never realized it was important, so it was never
done.  The cool thing is that with dynamically generated pages you can
often set your templates to pull a particular sentence from each page
and plug it into your Title field.  A nice little "trick" is to make
sure each page has a headline at the top of the page that is utilizing
your most important keyword phrases.  Once you've got that, you can
set your CMS to pull it out and use it for your Titles also.

Another reason I've seen for pages not being crawled is because they
are set to require a cookie when a visitor gets to the page.  Well
guess what, folks?  Spiders don't eat cookies! (Sure, they like beer,
but they hate cookies!)  No, you don't have to remove your cookies to
get crawled.  Just don't force-feed them to anyone and everyone.  As
long as they're not required, your pages should be crawled just fine.

What about the use of JavaScript?  We've often heard that JavaScript
is unfriendly to the crawlers.  This is partly true, and partly false.
Nearly every site I look at these days uses some sort of JavaScript
within the code.  It's certainly not bad in and of itself.  As a rule
of thumb, if you're using JavaScript for mouseover effects and that
sort of thing, just check to make sure that the HTML code for the
links also uses the traditional <a href> tag.  As long as that's
there, you'll most likely be fine.  For extra insurance, you can place
any JavaScript links into the <noscript> tag, put text links at the
bottom of your pages, and create a visible link to a sitemap page
which contains links to all your other important pages.  It's
definitely not overkill to do *all* of those things!

There are plenty more things you can worry about where your site's
crawlability is concerned, but those are the main ones I've been
seeing lately.  One day, I'm sure that any type of page under the sun
will be crawler-friendly, but for now, we've still gotta give our
little arachnid friends some help.

One tool I use to help me view any potential crawler problems is the
Lynx browser tool that can be found here:
<http://www.delorie.com/web/lynxview.html>.  Generally, if your pages
can be viewed and clicked through in a Lynx browser (which came before
our graphical browsers of today), then a search engine spider should
also be able to make its way around.  That isn't written in stone, but
it's at least one way of discovering potential problems that you may
be having.  It's not foolproof, however. I just checked my forum in
the Lynx browser and it shows a blank page, yet the forum gets
spidered and indexed by the search engines without a problem.

This is a good time to remind you that when you think your site isn't
getting spidered completely, check out lots of things before jumping
to any conclusions.

Jill

__________High Rankings Seminar Tampa________________

Don't miss out -- November 7th will be here in just a few weeks!
__________________________________________________

Learn SEO copywriting, Titles and Meta tags, search engine no-nos,
choosing keywords, link pop., PPC, measuring success and more!

                     Sign up now, before it's too late!
              </75seminar>
__________________________________________________


~~~Guest Article~~~

++It's Not About YOU, It's About Them++

In site after site I keep seeing "we do this, we do that."  And this
even from people who purport to be copywriters.  Why is it that people
can't seem to NOT talk about themselves?  Yes, your site has to say
what you do, but you really and truly can write it in such a way that
stresses the benefit to your potential customers.

After surfing to the zillionth site the other day that refused to
emphasize benefits, I fired off an email to my copywriting buddy,
Karon Thackston, who not only gets it, but also wrote a whole course
on it.  As luck would have it, she had an article in the works on this
very subject and allowed me to have first dibs on it.  Enjoy! - Jill


It's Not About YOU, It's About Them
By Karon Thackston

I've always loved scented candles.  They help create a cozy
atmosphere.  They give you a relaxed feeling.  And -- most
importantly -- they make your home smell wonderful!  So, naturally, I
was excited when I was approached to rewrite the home page for an
online retailer who made specialty scented candles.

The goals of the copywriting rewrite were to increase sales and
improve search engine positioning.  The copy definitely needed some
work.  It wasn't "bad," but it had one major thing holding it back: it
violated one of the primary rules of copywriting.  "It's not about
you... it's about them."

An additional problem was that the information -- while definitely
necessary -- was presented as more of a list of nuts and bolts.  It
needed a boost to create a "feeling" about the candles for sale and to
highlight the benefits to the customer instead of just the features.

The Problem

As you can see from the original version,
<http://www.copywritingcourse.com/IlluminousTimes-BEFORE.doc>, the
copy either focused on the company or the candles.  Very little of the
copy focused on the customer.

Another element that was "off" in the copy was the lack of the
"experience."  Site owner Dan Fehn had done some fabulous research
about scented candle buyers; however, he did not know how to include
that information in his writing.

Lastly, while Illuminous Times had fairly good search engine rankings,
there was room for improvement.

The Solution

The data I received included the following information from the
National Candle Association:

Candle industry research indicates that the most important factors
affecting candle sales are scent, color, cost and shape. Fragrance is
by far the most important characteristic, with 75% of candle
purchasers saying it is "extremely important" or "very important" in
their selection of a candle for the home.

Candle manufacturers' surveys show that women buy 96% of all candles
purchased.

Nine out of ten candle users say they use candles to make a room feel
comfortable or cozy.

This was the basis for the copywriting makeover.  As a scented-candle
lover myself, I knew for a fact what women wanted from candles.  I
understood the candle-buying experience and played on that knowledge
to create copy that "romanced" the site visitor and increased her
desire to buy.

The search engine optimization (SEO) aspect of the copy came easily.
The keyword phrases the client selected flowed naturally as I created
the copy, so my primary goal was to use them in power positions (like
the headline and subheads).  I also placed them as often as I could in
the body copy without making the text sound stiff or forced.

The Rewrite

You can view the new copy here <http://www.illuminous-times.com>.  As
you will see, the new version immediately begins to entice the site
visitor.  Everything she wants from a scented candle is laid out
before her...and even some things she might not have known she wanted.

I began to pique interest in soy candles (as opposed to traditional
wax candles found in stores) by immediately outlining the advantages
(i.e., benefits) soy candles offer.  From there I played on the
fragrance (the most important characteristic according to the National
Candle Association).

I led the customer through a mental tour of their home -- lighting
candles for a special dinner, enjoying the glow as they snuggled with
a good book, and having the unmistakable fragrances offered only by
soy candles wafting through their homes.

A final keyphrase-rich benefits list of why soy candles are superior
to traditional wax candles and an emotional call to action wrapped up
the copy.

Features vs. Benefits

Throughout the copy I focused on the benefits of soy scented candles.
While the "features vs. benefits" speech may be old, it is often not
put into practice.  Many people can quote the differences between
features and benefits, but for some reason they forget to use the
benefits when they are writing.

Discussing benefits was very important for this particular piece of
copy.  I had to understand what a woman wanted -- REALLY wanted --
from scented candles.  Then I had to act as a translator of sorts.
Let me give you some examples.

One feature of the scented candles is that they provide light.  Well,
so what?  Big deal.  They don't provide that much light, so who cares?
However, the benefit of this light is that it is low, soft, and
glowing.  Again, I asked myself, "So what?"  This subtle glow creates
a wonderfully relaxing and romantic atmosphere in any room.  It is
soothing...even therapeutic.  Ta-da!  There are your benefits.

Another example is the scent of the candles.  Candles smell.  That's a
feature.  So what?  The scents evoke feelings; they wash over you and
fill your room with a wonderful aroma that is pleasing and (again)
therapeutic.  There are your benefits.

By understanding your target customer and knowing what she wants from
the candles, you can easily develop copy that clearly tells her these
soy candles offer everything she wants and more.

The Results

The results of the copywriting makeover are best stated by Dan
himself:

"Sales have increased even before the holiday season and my rankings
have improved, too. Right now I am #1 for one of my keyphrases
(previously ranked at #4), and I'm at #7 for the other...a huge jump
up from #17!"

So, as you can see, taking the focus off the product or company and
putting it on the customer makes a tremendous difference.  Sales
naturally increase when the customer feels he/she is the reason for
your existence.

Take some time right now to look back over your copy.  Is it too
company-focused?  If so, learning to write specifically for your
customers can turn your sales around almost immediately.

-----------------------------------------------
Karon Thackston
Step-By-Step(tm) Copywriting Course
http://www.copywritingcourse.com/



__________Step-By-Step(tm) Copywriting Course__________adv.

Which words make *your* customers buy?  Let Karon show you.
_________________________________________________

Boost your sales and your search engine positioning by learning to
write strategically created copy that hits a nerve and makes the sale.

Learn more: </copywritingcourse>.

(If you want to learn copywriting, you need this course! - Jill)
_________________________________________________


~~~Other SEO News~~~

++MarketingSherpa Guide to SEO Firms++

...is coming soon!  Next week, in fact.

I'm excited because this year Marketing Sherpa's publisher and
managing editor, Anne Holland, asked me to help them write some of the
content.  They needed someone who knew SEO inside and out, plus
someone who was able explain it to their target audience in words they
would understand.

You'll find tons of info on what to look for when choosing an SEO
company, as well as an extensive list of firms and the various
services they offer.

I'm looking forward to seeing the final draft, and will hopefully have
time to discuss it more next week when it's ready for prime time. -
Jill


~~~High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week~~~

++Singular or Plural Keywords++

By the time you read this newsletter, the High Rankings Forum may just
have registered its 1000th member!  (It's at 994 as I'm writing this.)
Not bad, considering we officially opened for business at the very end
of July.  Not bad at all!

Take a look at our forum thread of the week, and stop by to say "hi"
while you're there. You'll almost always find me and/or Scottie and
the other experts ready and waiting to answer your SEO questions.

This week, new forum member "flasht75" asks whether she should use the
plural or singular form of her keyword phrases.  The thread moves on
to discuss the use of specific keyword phrases over more general ones.

Join the discussion here:
</forum/index.php?showtopic=1362>.


~~~Sound Advice~~~

++Using Keywords in Link Text++

</soundadvice>


~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

That's it for the SEO stuff. Did you read it all, or just skip down to
this part to read the continuing saga of my pretty boring life?
(Hmm...what does that say about both of us? <grin>)

First off, I'm running out of chocolate.  That's a bad thing, as I'm
getting ready to break into the kids' supply.  Hmm...it is getting
close to Halloween at least!

My consulting trip to Wisconsin last week went well.  Met some nice
people, had some good food and drinks, was in the winning car during a
drag race...the usual business kinda things!

Oh yeah, and remember how my daughter Corie went to the Jason Mraz
concert last week?  Well, she actually got to meet him when it was
over!  She called me up all excited after the show to tell me.  I
guess they hung out by the back door and caught him on the way out.
Sounded like a lot of fun.  Still, it couldn't have been as fun as
drag racing in Neenah! ;-)

And no, I'm not in my new office yet.  There was a little cable snafu
that still hasn't been worked out.  My builder guy is not on my A-list
at the moment...grrrr!

Maybe next week! - Jill

 
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