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High Rankings Advisor: In the Wake of Florida - Issue No. 082

December 31, 2003



*Introductory Comments:
---->   What Are You Doing in 2004?

*Guest Article:
---->   In the Wake of the "Florida" Update

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   Nitty-gritty SEO Writing Handbook
---->   Wordtracker

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   The HRA Year in Review

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   Search Engine Yearbook 2004

*High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week:
---->   HTML vs. PHP Pages

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   See You Next Year

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Welcome to the last Advisor issue of 2003.  It's been a great year for
me over here in Advisorland (oops, I mean Ashland), both personally
and professionally.  I've made many new online friends and have had
the opportunity to meet most of them in real life.  I've been able to
travel the world to spread the word about common-sense SEO to any and
all who would listen!

Once this newsletter is put to bed and sent out to cyberspace, I'm
planning to reevaluate how I currently do business in order to better
focus on doing more of the things I really enjoy, i.e., teaching SEO,
consulting with companies about SEO, hanging out in my SEO forum, and
answering your email SEO questions.  (Do you sense an SEO theme
there?)  As time permits, I'd love to write another ebook to
complement my Nitty-gritty guide.  We'll see.  It depends on what kind
of plan I finally come up with for myself!

So what are you doing in 2004? - Jill

~~~Guest Article~~~

++In the Wake of the "Florida" Update++

Normally I place my guest article second, but since Karon is pretty
much summing up my own feelings about the latest Google changes and
how they affect SEO copywriting, I thought it would make sense to be
first, followed by my "year in review" article.  Enjoy! -- Jill

In the Wake of the "Florida" Update
By Karon Thackston

After Google's most recent update, those in the search engine
optimization (SEO) field seem to be standing at attention.  As sites
that have held long-standing positions in the top 10 flounder and bob
around in the search results like a fishing cork in a pond, many are
scrambling for answers about what to do next.  I've been asked for my
opinions about changes in search engine copywriting, so I thought I'd
share some of my insights.

Just like the SEOs whose editorials and interviews you've recently
read, I too am expressing opinions here.  Nobody knows for sure what
has happened or what Google plans to do in the future.  However, based
on what I've seen so far, I do have some observations to share in
response to a few commonly asked questions.

"Many are saying that 'over-optimized' sites are being penalized.
Should I reduce the keyword saturation on my pages?"

The changes at Google this go-'round have nothing to do with a
penalty; it's simply an algorithm change.  No penalties, no
punishments, etc.  Over-saturation of keywords has always been bad;
however, many were getting away with it pre-"Florida."  I have never
been a fan of "shoving" keywords into your copy wherever you have an
extra syllable. Keeping an acceptable level of keyword saturation is
still important.  Just don't overdo it.  Remember, your ultimate goal
should be to write for your human visitors... not the search engine

Case in point: Do a Google search for the term "website design."  At
the time of this article, I clicked through to many of the sites
returned in the top 10.  As I read through the home pages of these
sites, I noticed how often they repeated the keyphrase "website
design."  These pages had a good level of saturation.  Not too heavy,
not too light.

Unless yours is one of those sites where every third word is a
keyword/phrase, I would not recommend changing the level of keyword
saturation at this point.

"There have been reports of Google moving to a semantic-based system.
Does this mean keywords will no longer be used?"

The reports are true... Google IS moving to a semantic-type system.
But that doesn't mean keywords are on their way out at all.  After the
changes are made, Google will be going beyond *just* looking for
keywords on your page.  They'll want well-written copy... actual
language that speaks to your site visitors.  That means your copy will
take on a more important role than ever before.  And that's great

For those of us who have been focusing on search engine copywriting
that appeals to both the engines and the site visitors, Google's
upcoming changes should be very exciting.

Searchers will continue to type in search strings that bring up what
they are looking for.  While I have noticed the keyphrases getting
longer over time, I have not read any research that states searchers
have begun typing "wood, nails and glass" when they are actually
hoping to find mirrors.

Common sense tells me that keyphrases will always be a determining
factor in generating accurate search results.

The other common-sense aspect that comes to mind is that when Google
moves to semantic search results, keyword saturation will become even
more important.  How will the spiders know what to gauge their
semantic results by if there are no keywords included in your copy?
Yes, semantics means that other types of verbiage need to be included,
too...but -- as I said earlier -- hasn't that always been the case?

"Some people have said that Google is now favoring information sites
and information pages.  Should I write more information-based copy for
my site?"

While *some* search results for *some* keyphrases do seem to be filled
primarily with information-based directory sites (those that do not
attempt to sell), it is not the norm.  Google understands that over
85% of people looking to make a purchase turn to search engines.
While information-filled pages definitely satisfy a need for the first
part of the buying process, they don't replace retail sites.

People will continue to research and make purchases online.  This
means they'll want to see retail and other business sites returned in
their search results.  If they don't get what they're looking for,
they'll simply use another search engine.

So, to answer the question, I've always thought (and so has Google)
you should include information pages on your site.  Gathering
information was, is and will always be a part of the buying process.
If you currently don't have information pages on your site, yes, add
some.  But not because you think Google might approve... because your
visitors will.

Just like the demise of most META tags, and just like Google
practically ignoring ALT/image tags, "tricks" come and go.  Write your
copy primarily to impress your site visitors.  Making drastic
changes -- unless they are based on a need by your target audience --
is not a move I recommend.

Overall, it will take some time for any definite/solid information to
filter down about the true effects of the "Florida" update.  Theories
will continue to swirl around the 'Net.  So will rankings!  But the
fact remains that "common-sense" SEO copywriting wins out in the long

Karon Thackston
How To Increase Keyword Saturation
(Without Destroying the Flow of Your Copy)

__________Nitty-gritty SEO Writing Handbook______________

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!

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++The High Rankings Advisor Year in Review++

January of 2003 started the Advisor newsletter year out with a bang,
when I published my friend Alan Perkins' article, "Why Cloaking Is
Always a Bad Idea" back in issue 041
</issue041.htm#guest>.  As you have
probably figured out by now, I love stirring up controversy in the
search engine marketing world; however, I never imagined that the
article would create quite the firestorm that it ultimately produced.

To me, Alan's thoughts were common sense and right on the money, but
the world at large did not agree!  Even Search Engine Watch editor
Danny Sullivan entered the fray when he commented that paid XML feeds
to search engines were indeed cloaking.  Personally, I could go either
way on that one, but he and Alan agreed to disagree (after numerous
emails between the three of us!).  I ended up writing a follow-up to
the firestorm in the next Advisor newsletter in order to further
discuss the issue: </issue042.htm#intro>.

In February, I finally published my handy-dandy SEO writing guide,
"The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines," and announced it
to the world in issue 043:
</issue043.htm#stuff>.  I haven't kept an
exact count of how many I've sold since then, but looking at my PayPal
and ClickBank records for the year, I'm guessing it's somewhere
between 600 and 700 copies!  While flying home from Florida earlier
this week, I decided to read through the handbook to make sure it was
still up to date in light of Google's most recent changes.  Good
news -- it is!  There might be a few words here and there that I could
edit, but there's nothing major that wouldn't apply to today's SEO

In March, Yahoo finalized its purchase of Inktomi.  Interesting that
after all this time, they're still not actively using it.  I also ran
a wonderful article by my friend Debra O'Neil-Mastaler regarding her
experience with copyright infringers.  Throughout the year I have
referred that article to hundreds of people who've had their own copy
stolen.  The article explains how to check whether your content has
been stolen and how you can request that Google stop displaying the
infringing pages.  If you missed it the first time around, you can
read it here: </issue048.htm#guest>.

In April I ran usability expert (and superwoman!) Kim Krause's 5-part
series on "Being Tops with Your Users and the Search Engines." (Part
One begins here: </issue049.htm#guest>.)
This series is highly recommended if you're finally ready to make the
usability of your site a priority in 2004.  (And if you're not, you
should be!)

In May, I gave out the "magic secret to Google"
</issue056.htm#seo>.  'Nuff said. <grin>

Another article I refer people to often is the one I wrote in June
explaining how to permanently redirect your multiple domain names to
your main site.  This is a must-read for anyone with numerous domain
names: </issue060.htm#seo>.

In July, my SEO copywriting buddy Karon Thackston solved the "I Get
Tons of Traffic but No Sales" Mystery:
</issue062.htm#guest>.  Then at the end of
July I announced my brand-new High Rankings Search Engine Optimization
Forum.  Time sure does fly! (If you're nostalgic, you can read the
original announcement here:

Back in September, I ran an interview that my fellow forum
administrator Scottie Claiborne (aka my right-hand "man" and/or
"all-around good egg") had with Mike Grehan at the San Jose SES
conference: </issue069.htm#guest>.

In October, I was starting to be somewhat disillusioned with Google
when I wrote "Are the Bad Guys Winning at Google?" in issue 077:
</issue077.htm#seo>.  This was a few weeks
before their big "Florida" update where they attempted to address some
of the problems.  It's good to see that Google hasn't given up
fighting the bad guys, but it's certainly strange the way they've gone
about it!

Much of November was consumed with talk of "Florida" due to the Google
changes, and also because my SEO seminar was held in Tampa, FL that
month.  (In fact, at the recent Chicago conference when people would
ask me how I did in Florida, some were talking about the Google update
and others meant my seminar.  I was soooo confused!)  "Florida" was
discussed right through December of course (especially since I just
returned from there on vacation!) bringing us to the end of 2003.

So what's in store for 2004?  You know, I've been thinking about this
for the past few weeks, and I'm simply stumped!  The search engines
continue to surprise me all the time, and I'm really not sure what
they have up their sleeves for the upcoming year.  I guess we'll just
have to wait and see.

Happy New Year everyone!


__________Just Say No to Guinea Pig SEO!_______________adv.

"I don't know how I did my job before Wordtracker!" - Jill Whalen

Think you know the best keyword phrases for your site?

Don't be so sure.

Brainstorm...make a them through Wordtracker.

Don't be another guinea pig SEO.

Sign up for Wordtracker: </wordtracker>.

~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Search Engine Yearbook 2004++

Right on schedule as always, André le Roux has just uploaded his
updated Search Engine Yearbook for 2004.

I browsed through a review copy this morning, and it's as good as
ever. If you love all things about search engines, SEO, SEM and
whatever other acronyms are cropping up, you'll want a copy of this
reference ebook.  At just $39.95, this monster 300-page guide is worth
every penny.

Learn more or purchase it for your favorite search engine marketer
through my affiliate link here: </sey>.

As always, André provides a money-back guarantee and free updates
throughout the year.

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

++HTML vs. PHP Pages++

Wondering if your spiffy new PHP Website can be spidered and indexed
by the search engines?  Our helpful High Rankings forum mates provide
the answer here:

~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

I had a nice relaxing time in Florida last week.  My 95-year-old
grandmother is still going strong.  Every morning she goes down to the
pool for her exercises, plus to keep her mind sharp she continues to
play cards, etc. with her multitude of friends.  She did have to give
up golf a few years ago, but I guess you can't have everything!

So, are you staying up for New Years?  I'll be up, but I'm always up
that late.  Most likely I'll even be online!  The kids are old enough
that they like to stay up these days too.  The hubby will probably get
to bed before the clock strikes 12, but we'll see.  He's well rested
from vacation, so maybe he'll decide to stay up.

Have a great one, and I'll see you next year! - Jill

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