August 31, 2005
~~~High Rankings™ Advisor - Issue No. 147~~~
Your Host: Jill Whalen [firstname.lastname@example.org]
~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~
----> Jill's SEO Mailbag Bonanza
*This Week's Sponsors:
----> 2ndSite Invoicing Service
----> IBP 8.1 Web Promotion Tool
----> SEO Copywriting Combo
*Search Engine Marketing:
----> Alexa Ranking
----> Length of Meta Description Tag
----> Online Course for Understanding SEO
----> Yahoo Directory
----> Spilling the Beans
----> Does CSS Affect SEO?
----> Triangular Link Exchanges
*Stuff You Might Like:
----> PowerHouse Linking Seminar
----> High Rankings™ SEM / SEO Seminar
*High Rankings™ Forum Threads of the Week:
----> Can You Get Good Rankings Following All the Rules?
----> Paying for Links
*This Week's Sound Advice:
----> Optimizing a Framed Site for High Rankings
----> School Updates
Hey everyone! It's been a long time since I've had a mailbag bonanza
newsletter for you, so I thought I'd give you one today. It worked
out nicely for me, because all I had to do was gather up a pile of
emails I've answered over the past few weeks and pop 'em in the
newsletter template. Don't let the various topics in the table of
contents scare you. Most of the questions and my answers are fairly
short and to the point.
So let's get straight to the good stuff! - Jill
~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~
Why is it that one can have a higher traffic rank (according to
alexa.com) than a competitor, yet the competitor has a higher ranking
This could be for a couple of reasons. First, Alexa numbers are
fairly inaccurate as they come only from people who have the Alexa
toolbar installed on their browsers. And secondly, sites get traffic
in hundreds of ways besides Google.
So even if the Alexa numbers were 100% accurate, it wouldn't be
surprising to see a site with higher rankings in Google receiving less
traffic. The site receiving more traffic could be doing all different
forms of marketing that might bring it traffic.
Remember, search engines are just one place from which to receive
traffic. Never neglect other forms of advertising, publicity, and
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++Length of Meta Description Tag++
Is there any limit either in total words or characters that you should
use for the meta description? Someone within the company is looking
to use the first paragraph of an article or 300 words, whichever is
shorter. This seems excessive to me. Any guidelines?
There are certainly guidelines for this sort of thing, but no, there
is really no limit. One of the biggest mistakes people make when
thinking about SEO is that they believe there are certain hard and
fast rules and if you don't follow them you will either get penalized
or never see high rankings. Let me be the first to tell you that
there are no real rules. No formulas. No magic words.
But as to the meta description tag, first know that most likely the
words you put in that tag won't actually help you gain rankings in the
search engines. This tag does serve a purpose, however. It's often a
way to get a nice description of your page to show up in the search
results if your page does rank highly. Your best bet is to write a
succinct sentence or 2 which use the keyword phrases that sum up the
article. If the first paragraph does that nicely, you could certainly
put that into your meta description tag, but you wouldn't really gain
any benefit from that, as the engines would probably pick up that
"snippet" anyway, assuming it is using the keyword phrases people
might find the page for in the engines.
For more info on this tag, please read my past newsletter article
"Getting a Great Description"
++Online Course for Understanding SEO++
Good Morning Jill:
First let me thank you for the great newsletter you publish weekly. It
is both informative and insightful.
As we both know this industry seems to change on a dime. What I am
referring to are the changes in rules along with best practices, of
course without cheating or using shortcuts, to satisfy the search
engines. Top rankings are the ultimate goal but also maintaining a
good ranking along with a good informative website is an ongoing
battle. Although I read several newsletters and articles I find it
difficult to keep up with all the changes.
Could you recommend some online courses that would be a good starting
ground for understanding search engines' likes and dislikes along with
some marketing information? I feel I have a good understanding of the
basics of SEO work but would like to fine-tune the skills I already
You can reply by email....no need to call me....I know how you love
Thank you for the kind words regarding the newsletter.
I'm one of the few who really don't believe that the search engines
change very often. To me, it seems that the engines want the same
stuff today as they wanted in the past: that is, a great site that
fits the search query at hand, that other sites also recommend. Of
course I live, breathe, and eat SEO 24/7 so I don't notice all the
minor changes that happen, as they just seem natural to me. Remember
that most changes the search engines make are simply spam-fighting
measures. So if you're not setting out to deceive them somehow, any
changes they make algorithmically shouldn't really affect your site.
(Yes, it's true that every now and then they throw the baby out with
the bathwater, but it's not as often as others would have you
That said, you sound like a great candidate for Dan Thies's online SEO
coaching classes. You can learn more about them (through my affiliate
link) here: <http://www.seoresearchlabs.com/hr>. (Dan's also a
speaker at our High Rankings seminar in Nov. if you decide to go with
an offline course.)
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++Is the Yahoo Directory Worth $299/yr?++
I have a question that others might also be asking. My site (up 2
years, PR4) ranks well in Google for many of my search phrases (even
though the PR dropped from PR5), but not very well in Yahoo. I pay
literally nothing for Google and $300 a year (2 years now) for Yahoo
From time to time, I check the sites that do come up at the top of
Yahoo and most of them are not in the directory. I can't help but
wonder if the directory is actually doing more harm than good as far
as Yahoo ranking, and have thought about dropping it since our volume
is fairly good now and getting better (we have great word of mouth).
What's your take on this?
The only harm your Yahoo directory listing might be doing is that it
gives you an icky directory title instead of using your title tag in
the search results. The former are usually less descriptive and may
cause you to receive fewer clicks to your site if/when it does show up
in the Yahoo search results. That said, it does appear that sites
listed in the Yahoo directory still get the weighting of their
keyword-rich title tags, so I don't think the directory listing is
harming you in any way.
Whether it's worth $299 each year is difficult to say. If you really
dislike the title they give you, it probably wouldn't hurt to not
renew your listing. You'll never know for sure until you simply don't
renew. These days, I generally recommend against paying for a listing
with Yahoo because of the title thing. Sure, it's a nice link to
have, but there are a lot of cheaper links you could have that would
be just as nice.
The good thing is that you can test whether your Yahoo directory
listing is worthwhile by simply not renewing it and waiting a few
months to see if there are any negative (or positive) effects from
this. Worst-case scenario is that you simply resubmit it and pay the
$299 again. Since Yahoo charges the same for a new listing as they do
for renewing the old listing, you don't have much to lose. I haven't
personally tried this yet, so do so at your own risk!
++Spilling the Beans++
Before you built your forum </forum> did
you ever worry about it being so information-rich that you'd lose out
on sales? I notice that a lot of your forum users offer their
services as well; did you have reservations about that before
starting? Do you have some sort of financial cushion so you don't
have to worry about money?
For me, I can build a site that's so much better than everyone else's
in my niche, but I just feel that it's like "spilling the beans" and I
won't make any money at all. Maybe I can make Google ad money but
that's peanuts that you cannot live off of to survive. I'm just
curious about your thoughts about all of this.
I absolutely NEVER have worried about giving away too much info for
free. In fact, it's my business model. Plus, there's always enough
business to go around, so I have no problem promoting others in the
industry (at least the ones I know that can actually do what they say
they can do). I don't really feel like I have any competitors because
I have my own way of working with clients, just as others in the biz
have their own way. My way may be right for some clients and not for
others, and I have no desire to try to make a client fit into my way.
I'd much prefer to send them to a trusted colleague who is a better
Please read "Why do you give away the SEO farm?"
</issue121.htm#seo> for more on my feelings
regarding this topic, as it has come up before.
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++Does CSS Affect SEO?++
I am just starting to get into CSS and was wondering if it would
affect my optimization if I was to change a well ranked site from
basic HTML to CSS?
No, CSS shouldn't affect your optimization. However, if your current
site is doing well, any changes you make may or may not affect your
rankings. Just know that you can do fine in the engines using CSS or
not using CSS; it really doesn't matter as far as I can tell.
If you do use CSS, your best bet is to keep the style sheets in a
separate .css file that is called up on each page as necessary. This
isn't an SEO technique, it's just a way to keep your file size and
load time lower. If you can't do this for some reason, it's nothing
to worry about. The old wives' tale about helping the search engine
spiders find the "meat" is really just that, an old wives' tale.
++Triangular Link Exchanges++
I've been getting a bunch of requests for triangular link exchanges
and wanted to know what you thought about this. I think it's a way to
fool Google by showing more one-way links (inbound) than reciprocal
I'm not a big fan of anything that is an attempt to fool the search
engines, as it is a short-term solution at best. There's nothing
inherently wrong with "you link to me, then I'll link to site A and
site A will link to you," but when its purpose is to pull the wool
over a search engine's eyes, then it's not a smart thing to do, in my
For what it's worth, there's no evidence that the search engines have
a problem with reciprocal links if those are the type you're most
comfortable obtaining. But there are tons of creative forms of
link-building that don't have anything to do with reciprocals or
triangulars or whatever the buzzword of the day may be.
You may wish to read the link-popularity articles here:
</forum/index.php?showtopic=5941>. Or if
you want some personal, in-depth link-building training, you may want
to look into Debra Mastaler's link-building seminar, which I discuss
below in the Stuff You Might Like section.
(P.S. If anyone would like to republish any or all of the above Q&A
please email me your request and where it will reside, and I'll send
you a short bio you can use with it for your site.)
~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~
++PowerHouse Linking Seminar++
Everyone knows that they need to build links in order to rank well in
the search engines. Unfortunately, most people become paralyzed by
the very thought of it. They have this vague notion that they're
supposed to send out some sort of automated email to their competitors
and ask them to exchange links.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Learn real-world, creative link-building techniques that get results
at Debra Mastaler and Eric Ward's PowerHouse Linking Seminar being
held in Charlotte, NC on Oct. 27th and 28th. You can learn more and
register here: <http://www.powerhouselinking.com/>.
~~~More Stuff You Might Like~~~
++High Rankings™ SEM / SEO Seminar++
If you're looking for *more* than just link-building advice, you may
want to meet the High Rankings
crew in Philadelphia, PA at the Crowne Plaza Valley Forge hotel on
Nov. 3rd and 4th for our 2-day search engine marketing and search
engine optimization seminar/workshops.
Speakers include Scottie Claiborne (usability), Dan Thies (keyword
research), Matt Bailey (analytics and conversions), Christine
Churchill (pay-per-click advertising), Karon Thackston (copywriting),
Debra Mastaler (link popularity), and me (SEO basics and running an
Why pay thousands or tens of thousands for a search engine marketing
consultant when you can learn how to achieve high rankings yourself?
Learn from the best SEO, SEM and Copywriters and Link Building
consultants in the business and save money for your company in the
process, in this informative search engine marketing event hosted by
Save the dates and learn more here:
</seminar>. Registration will be open in
the next week or 2, so be sure to check back often so you don't lose
out. We're expanding this latest seminar to be able to include more
attendees, but we do expect seats to fill up fast.
If you have a number of people in your company that you'd like to
send, please email me about group rates.
~~~High Rankings™ Forum Threads of the Week~~~
++Can You Get Good Rankings Following All the Rules?++
Forum member "Cosita" asks whether a website can have a good ranking
on Google by following all the rules, or if one must do some sneaky
stuff to get ahead.
Read member comments and post your own here:
++Paying for Links++
Forum moderator Randy asks the members their opinions on the following
At what point does paid advertising -- that is out of control of
course -- actually start to hurt the linking site's reputation in
their own field? Or should they be able to get away with it, simply by
the search engine devaluing selected outgoing links, but leaving
everything else untouched? Is it an immediate thing, or should it be,
ala the old Link Farm debate where the entire site gets hosed if even
a fraction of the pages are participating in a Link Farm?
Read and participate in the full discussion here:
++Optimizing a Framed Site for High Rankings++
(This audio recording changes each week.)
That's all for today!
I have to say that I'm glad to see August put to bed as it's been a
crazy month. We drove Corie to NYC last week to get her settled in
her dorm room for her freshman year of college. It was a little eerie
that the music which was blaring from someone's dorm window was
actually music from the late 70's/early 80's when my husband and I
went to college. The more things change the more they stay the same,
perhaps? At least it appears that she has a nice, compatible
roommate, which is always a relief. Of course, last night she IM'd me
something to the effect of, "It's too bad that classes really ruin the
whole college experience." ! That was a little scary, but I'm quite
sure she was just kidding...I think...
My other 2 don't start school until the 6th, so we have a few extra
days to prepare. We're very excited about Timmy's new charter school
for 7th grade, the Advanced Science and Math Academy. I'm sure it
will be quite a change from his laid-back Montessori school that he
attended since preschool, but I'm also sure that if anyone is up for
the challenge, it's Timmy! Turns out they were able to get a bus
route that stops not too far from us, so we were glad to find that out
as well. And all the lawsuits against the charter school were dropped
(or lost I guess) so that's more good news. It boggles my mind that
towns love to hate charter schools. Go figure.
Jamie is preparing for her junior year at her school, which
specializes in teaching kids with different learning styles in the
ways that are best for them. It's really been a lifesaver for Jamie,
as she's learned and grown so much while attending there. To me,
there's nothing as important in life as treating and teaching each
child as an individual. Most kids don't fit into any specific mold,
and if you force them into one, they will grow up not understanding
how to think and act creatively. They may be good, productive
citizens, but they'll always be looking for what rules they need to
follow next, instead of intrinsically applying their own common sense
to the situation at hand.
Catch you in 2 weeks! - Jill