February 11, 2004
~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~
*Search Engine Marketing:
----> The Evolution of a Search Engine Marketer
*This Week's Sponsors:
----> GlobalServers Virtual Private Servers
----> The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines
----> Accessibility Issues Make a Difference
*Stuff You Might Like:
----> High Rankings SEM Seminar and Audio CD
*High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week:
----> Getting to Yes
*This Week's Sound Advice:
----> Using Duplicate Content and Mirror Sites for SEO
----> Off to Disney!
Hey everyone! It's a big newsletter today, so let's get right to the
good stuff. - Jill
~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~
Today I thought it might be fun to look at the stages people go
through in their quest for SEO knowledge.
As with anything you set out to learn in life, you don't get from
point A to point Z without touching upon all those letters in between.
This is why every day for the past 7 or 8 years I see the same search
engine optimization questions asked over and over again by people in
the various stages of learning. The search engines may change through
the years, but people just finding out about SEO all tend to go
through a similar growth process.
The Submittal Stage
Generally you get interested in search engine marketing after you have
a Website created; you've got something looking good and open for
business. You pay your designer, and suddenly it hits you...now what?
How do I get people to actually find and use my site? So you turn to
your designer who directs you to your server control panel, which
comes with an automated search engine submit button.
The Meta Tag Stage
The next day <grin> you wake up and still have no visitors. So you do
some research and find out that you need to add keywords to something
called Meta tags. You find some automated Meta tag generator online,
add its output to your site, and then crank up the automated
Then you wait, and wait, and wait some more.
Hmm...you still have no hits to the ole hit counter (except the daily
one from your checking it, and the one from when you sent your old
college roommate to see what a great site you have), let alone any
sales. So you email your designer again with more questions.
The "It's Impossible" Stage
Now the designer starts to get all defensive and says, "Oh....you
wanted high rankings in the search engines? Well sorry, that's just
impossible, and out of the scope of my services."
You are nearly ready to give up at that point, but you're no quitter.
You decide it can't really be impossible since somebody's gotta rank
highly in the engines; so you begin your quest for more information.
You look up "meta tags" and "submitting to search engines" at Google
(because you figured you probably just did yours wrong), and find all
kinds of articles that talk about something called "search engine
optimization," aka SEO.
The Confusion Stage
Problem is, you have no idea what these articles are telling you. One
of them says you need to make sure you use Meta tags, and another one
says that Meta tags are dead. You read that you need high-quality
links to your site, but you don't even know what that means or how you
can get them. One article says you need keyword-rich content, but
that means about as much to you as the linking thing. Some advice
says you absolutely have to pay to be found in the engines, other
stuff says it doesn't cost a thing.
The Trick-the-search-engines Stage
The more you read, the more you start to think that there must be some
sort of trick to this whole thing SEO thing. Somehow you have to
force the search engines into pulling your site up. You have learned
that you need to think about keyword phrases as opposed to keywords,
but you're still not clear about what to do with these phrases.
You remember reading about "keyword-rich content" and suddenly it
clicks that you need to actually put your phrases on the page
somewhere. But you have found so many phrases that you want to rank
highly for, and can't quite figure out how you can get them all on
your home page. You wonder if you should just list them somewhere.
At the top? At the bottom? In a tiny font size, perhaps? Maybe you
should make them blend in with the background of the site, because you
really don't like the way it looks with all those phrases listed like
At this point, you're starting to think you're pretty smart for
figuring that little trick out, and decide to tell some people you met
on an SEO forum. Ouch! Apparently, you were not the first to think
of this trick, and you got called all sorts of names, like "spammer"!
You didn't even know there was such a thing as search engine spam, but
you know that spamming anything can't be a very good thing to do!
So you start thinking that maybe tricking the search engines isn't the
best way to attack things.
The Learning Stage
You decide to brave the forum again, to see if you can learn what
other people do if they're not tricking the engines. By now, you've
become intimately familiar with many of the terms people use, and some
of the stuff they tell you is beginning to actually make some sense.
What you learn at this point is that you don't need to put all 50
phrases on the home page, just two or three! Now that seems doable.
You also learn that you should use your phrases "naturally" when
writing about what you do on every page of your site. Slowly but
surely, things start making more sense, and each new tidbit you learn
builds on the last one. You learn that the Title tag is also a good
place for keyword phrases, and are embarrassed when you look at yours
and see that it says, "Welcome to Our Home Page."
The Quick-fix Stage
You also learn that the search engines prefer to rank the most
"popular" sites before the least popular ones, and you learn that they
figure out which sites are the most popular by how many sites are
linking to them. It makes perfect sense!
You really have no idea how you will get other sites to want to link
to yours in order for it to be popular, but you know you're going to
have to come up with some sort of a plan for this. You're a bit
disheartened to think about how much time and effort it's going to
take to become a popular site, so you ask your forum friends if
there's a way to speed things along a bit...like maybe you can all
link to each other's sites?
Ackk...they yell at you again and call you a link farmer.
The Hard-work Phase
Eventually, you reconcile with the fact that you're gonna have to work
hard, just like you did when you first built your business offline.
So off you go to make your site the best it can be for the search
engines as well as your visitors, and a mature search engine marketer
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++Accessibility Issues Make a Difference++
Today we have an article from my friend Scottie Claiborne, who
incidentally has just launched a newsletter of her own called
Successful Sites <http://www.successful-sites.com>. She's put out two
issues so far, so if you sign up quickly, you haven't missed too much.
Scottie's newsletter isn't an SEO one, per se, but takes a closer look
at overall site issues like usability, content, marketing, tracking
and more. It comes out every other week, and I know you'll like the
easy-to-understand articles. This will probably keep Scottie too busy
to write for the Advisor as much as she has in the past, so if you
need your Scottie fix, you better sign up! (You can also easily find
her hanging out at the forum at all hours of the day and night!) -
Accessibility Issues Make a Difference
By Scottie Claiborne
You often read advice from industry experts along the lines of "using
tags as they were meant to be used" and limiting your use of advanced
programming techniques in order to make your site accessible. Why?
Well, the standard answer is that it's important for people who access
the web with images turned off, have older browsers or use
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever.
Now, I do believe in making sites accessible but I never really bought
into the reasons why. I don't know anyone who surfs with images off
or who uses a text-to-speech reader so that must be a pretty small
group, right? Wrong!
Below are a few accessibility issues I've encountered in the past few
Laptop Monitors and Contrast
I'm a big proponent of high-contrast color schemes: colors that stand
out from each other (i.e., black text on a white background) and are
easy to differentiate. The widely accepted reasons to have a
high-contrast color scheme include an aging population who can't see
like they used to and older, lower-resolution monitors that may still
be in use.
However, an even more compelling reason to think about a high-contrast
color scheme is the fact that there are more laptops being used than
ever before. Most of the ultra-cool flat monitors use technology
similar to laptop screens and display fewer colors in lower contrast
when compared to a CRT monitor, as per a quote from
"The contrast on LCD screens runs from 150:1 to 450:1 while CRT
screens range from 350:1 to 700:1. The color range still is not
comparable on LCD screens."
My laptop screen seems pretty clear to me, so I didn't immediately buy
into the contrast issue. However, I was working on a newer laptop at
a conference doing a site review and happened to glance over at the
big projection screen that the audience could see. I was surprised to
see a whole line of light blue text on the big screen that was
virtually invisible against the white background on the laptop screen.
I actually had the site owner come up and take a look at the laptop
screen after the session so he could see the difference.
The light blue text was a very convincing testimonial -- something
that customers definitely ought to see! Although it was a very
sophisticated look for the page, the site owner agreed the color
scheme wasn't as important as getting the customer to buy. They would
rather be sure people were reading the glowing praise of their product
than appreciating the soft colors of the design.
When checking a new color scheme, be sure to look at it on a few
laptop monitors. If you are working with pale colors or closely
related colors, you may be amazed at the detail that can be lost on
even the newest LCD displays. While you may not necessarily be
targeting an older audience, most audiences today include laptop
Alt Attributes and Using Images as Links
Most site builders today know that alt attributes SHOULD be used to
describe an image or offer a short description of the page being
linked to if the image is being used as a link. And yet, people still
stuff them with keyword phrases or don't use them at all.
But, come on, who really surfs with their images turned off? No one
*really* sees those alt attributes, do they?
Yes, they do!
Recently, on a trip out of town, I found myself with no local access
numbers for the dial-up service I use while traveling. After trying
several different solutions, I bought a prepaid Internet access
service that connected me to the Internet at a blazing 26.4 kps.
Since every minute was being ticked off my available time, I turned
off everything non-essential in the browser, including images and
The world of the Internet was suddenly a very different place. I
found myself unable to navigate and totally confused by several sites,
even ones I visit regularly. I truly appreciated the sites that used
alt attributes properly for their image links, but even more than
that, I loved sites that utilize text links for their main navigation.
When text links were included in the footer, it allowed me to use
still pretty rare, but think again. Mobile devices are growing in
popularity and have similar issues with the inability to show
graphic-intensive pages and utilize third-party plug-ins.
Accessibility Issues Within Your Site
The reality is that many companies don't realize the impact their
design decisions have on the usability and basic functionality of
their site. You may not be able to convince the marketing department
to change that background image that makes your site hard to read, or
convince the CEO that the cool flyover menus are preventing some
people from accessing your site. Solving accessibility problems can
improve the overall experience for all users, so it is worth making
The first step is to identify the issues that may be causing
difficulties for users. When building or checking a site, don't just
check it on different browsers. Check it on a slow dial-up connection
using a laptop, then turn the images off and see if you can still use
the site. If you want a comprehensive analysis of issues with your
site, consider having a usability report done. This can help identify
many other obstacles in addition to accessibility issues.
At the very least, consider adding a text-friendly version of your
site for people who have accessibility issues. (Be sure to exclude
the duplicate site from search engine spiders using your robots.txt
file.) The number of users (and potential customers) who are not able
to navigate your site may be higher than you realize!
__________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!
~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~
++High Rankings SEM Seminar and Audio CD++
Registration is open for the April 23rd all-day seminar in Chicago!
You can learn more and click to the registration form from here:
It's important to note that we are limited to only 50 people at this
seminar, so be sure to register early.
Also, we're reviewing only 3 attendees' sites this time around, and
will be cutting off site submissions once we receive 10. What we'll
do is choose 3 out of those 10, and they will each get a 15-minute
site analysis from our expert SEO speakers. (There is an additional
$99 charge if your site is chosen and reviewed.) If you're interested
in getting a review, make sure you fill out that section of the
The early price for the seminar is $575, which includes a continental
breakfast, lunch and snacks.
And again, if you can't take the time off, or don't like to travel (or
just don't like to go out!) you can order the audio CD from the
previous seminar. Here's where you'll find more info about that:
~~~High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week~~~
++Getting to Yes++
Talk to lots of potential SEO clients, but sometimes have trouble
getting them to sign the dotted line? This High Rankings forum thread
has comments and suggestions from some seasoned business pros (and
'lil ole me!).
Getting your SEO prospects to make a decision:
Please feel free to register and post your thoughts to that thread or
any of the others we have going at the moment.
How To Prevent Articles from Getting Copied
Can I have my own spider?
Does Google Penalize Sites for Anchor Text?
The forum home page is here: </forum>.
++Using Duplicate Content and Mirror Sites for SEO++
That's it for today! I'm skipping next week because the family is
heading down to Florida for a Disney Cruise and Park vacation. We'll
spend a few days at Disney World, and then head out to the Bahamas on
the cruise. The kids have never been on a cruise before, so we're
hoping they enjoy it. Hopefully they aren't too "big" for Mickey
these days! (Is anyone ever too big for Mickey?)
I will be back the week after that, then it's off to NYC in the first
week of March for the Search Engine Strategies conference. I should
have a free pass available for this event, so if you're sure you can
attend, please let me know if you're interested in the pass, and I'll
put you into the "lottery." Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and
tell me why you are my ONLY choice for the pass.
Catch you in two weeks! - Jill