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SEO Website Audit

High Rankings Advisor: Must-read SEO Secrets - Issue No. 149

September 28, 2005
~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Must-read SEO Secrets

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Should I Add HTML Pages to a PHP Site?

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   RedAlkemi
---->   IBP 8.1 Web Promotion Tool
---->   SEO Copywriting Combo

*Guest Article:
---->   How To Write Persuasive Subject Lines

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   High Rankings Seminar in Philadelphia

*High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week:
---->   SEO Dilemma

*This Week's Sound Advice:
---->   How Many Words Do You Need for High Rankings?

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Secrets Revealed
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

So did my subject line "Must-read SEO Secrets" get you to open today's
newsletter when you may not have otherwise? I was just testing out
Karon Thackston's advice in today's guest article!  I don't want to
disappoint you now that you clicked it open, though, so I'm going to
wrack my brain to think of some SEO secrets to tell you here.  Just
give me a few minutes...hmmm...

I think we'd better get straight to the good stuff, and my hope is
that the secrets will just start flowing...


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Should I Add HTML Pages to a PHP Site?++

Hi Jill,

Following your guidelines, I have had excellent results optimizing
regular html pages. Thank you!

I am currently doing an associate's site that is written in php with a
content-management type of program. The pages are in php and not html.
The program offers a way of adding in meta & title information for
each page but it also has something that it calls "gateway html" and
they designate it as being for search engine optimization. It is
located in the same area that you will add specific title and meta
data for a given page.

I believe that what it does is write out an html page of content that
you input, but it is associated with the php page. It will share the
same name, title and meta attributes, but you can input different html
there than will be viewed in the php page. It will have the same name
as the original page, but will be .html instead of .php.

My question is, does this fall foul of "cloaking" whereby you are
showing different content via the php and html versions of the same
basic page? I have never done anything like this before and I am
afraid of having problems with the search engines for fear of
cloaking.

Could you please give me your opinion on this?

Thanks very much.

Mark


++Jill's Response++

Hi Mark,

If I understand you correctly, creating that extra HTML page through
your content management system is not something that you need to do.
It may have been worthwhile many years ago (back in the age of the
dinosaur) when the search engines avoided reading dynamic-looking web
pages and adding them to their databases.  However, this is no longer
a problem.

Let's discuss what used to happen in the Stone Age of the Internet for
a moment, so that you can have a better understanding of this whole
dynamic-website issue that plagues so many people.

Many years ago, when search engine spiders saw a URL that seemed like
it went to a dynamically generated site (because it had a bunch of
parameters in it like question marks, equal signs, etc.), they
wouldn't attempt to crawl it.

One of the reasons for this was that with dynamic sites, you would
often find the same content delivered to the user (or browser or
spider) under multiple URLs.  So for instance, on an ecommerce site
that sold hats, you might be able to get to the black ten-gallon
cowboy hat that you had your eye on through a URL that was something
like this:

www.MyAwesomelyCoolHatShop.com/index.php?category=cowboy&color=black&t
ype=tengallon.php

This user may have browsed for cowboy hats, then chose the color
black, and then the ten-gallon type.

You might also get to the same exact hat page through another URL like
this:

www.MyAwesomelyCoolHatShop.com/index.php?color=black&type=10gallon&cat
egory=cowboy

This user may have been looking for a black hat to start out, and then
decided on the 10 gallon cowboy type.

These are similar but different URLs that both have the potential for
being added to a search engine's database.  When that happens it
creates a whole pile of URLs for exactly the same content, which is
one of the reasons the search engines would avoid them.  Another
reason for their avoidance was that the search engine spiders had the
potential for getting stuck in a sort of infinite loop while they were
trying to gather up all the pages.  With so many different ways to
categorize the products, and so many ways for a user to land at the
same page, the spider might end up going around in circles.  Search
engines and website owners don't like that because it can eat up
server resources.

Years ago it was easier for the search engines to simply avoid those
types of sites, as they were few and far between.  Since site owners
still wanted to get their sites into the search engines, savvy
programmers learned how to create URLs and pages that were friendlier
to the search spiders.  Some figured out how to make dynamic-looking
URLs into static-looking ones by rewriting the URLs so that they
didn't use parameters.  Others created workarounds whereby the content
management system would spit out HTML files that were more
crawler-friendly, such as the system Mark was talking about in his
question.

Fast-forward a few years.

As websites and businesses began to grow, more and more site owners
turned to content management systems to dynamically generate the pages
of their websites.  It was a whole lot easier and faster and just made
sense.  Dynamically generated pages were definitely not going to go
away, so of course it was in the search engines' best interests to
figure out how they could index the information contained on them.

And so they did.

Today's search engines generally have no problem with dynamically
generated pages.  They don't scurry away as fast as they can when they
see a .php or an .asp or a .cfm extension in a URL.  They don't even
flee when they see parameters in the URLs.  Question marks and equal
signs have no spider-repelling powers anymore. While I don't
understand all the programming behind it, I do know for a fact that
the search engines definitely index *most* dynamic-looking URLs just
fine.

Notice that I said *most* -- not *all*.

Some believe that if you have more than 3 parameters in the URL, you
may have less of a chance at getting those URLs indexed.  I've seen
some of those in the search engines' databases, however, so it's not a
hard-and-fast rule.

Another problem for the search engines is when you require session IDs
in your URL.  The engines still try to avoid this type of URL because
every spider visit to the site might create a completely different ID
number and thus a new URL.  The engines still  prefer to keep hundreds
of the same page out of their databases, so they have learned to look
for the telltale signs of session-ID URLs in order to avoid indexing
them.  Because of this you should avoid using "SID=whatever" in your
URLs if you want your pages indexed.  Plus, Google has stated on their
FAQ page for webmasters that they don't index URLs that have "&id" in
them, so definitely stay away from those as well.

In answer to the original question posed by Mark regarding cloaking:
From how he described it, creating those pages wouldn't be considered
cloaking, just unnecessary. There's no reason to create duplicate
pages of the same content that's most likely already being indexed by
the search engines.

If you do choose to use the extra pages, then you'll probably want to
exclude the dynamically-generated PHP URLs via the robots.txt
exclusion file and allow the engines to index only your .html/.htm
files.  But again, you'll be much better off to just ignore that
function of your CMS.  If for some reason you start noticing that none
 of your dynamic pages are getting into the search databases, you may
wish to rethink this, but I doubt you will have any indexing problems.

Hope this helps!

Jill


(P.S. If anyone would like to republish the above Q&A article, 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.)


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~~~Guest Article~~~

++How To Write Persuasive Subject Lines++

Copywriting queen Karon Thackston writes today's guest article on
subject lines.  You can learn from and meet Karon in person at our
High Rankings™ seminar on Nov. 3-4 in Philadelphia, where she will be
discussing how to write copy that speaks to your target audience as
well as to the search engines.

Without further ado...here's Karon! - Jill

How To Write Persuasive Subject Lines
By Karon Thackston

Three seconds and 40 characters.  That's all you usually have to work
with when trying to get and hold the attention of someone reading
email.  And with user behavior changing so much in response to
overwhelming amounts of spam, the attention spans of email readers are
getting shorter.  Needless to say, it's vital to make the most of your
introduction via the email subject line.

Email marketing powerhouse DoubleClick.com conducts annual surveys
with regard to user behavior when it comes to email.  A couple of the
statistics from their latest findings are interesting.  The
second-biggest motivator in opening email is the subject line.  (The
first is the "from" line.)

Because subject lines are often truncated at around 40 characters --
and because email readers usually have their index fingers poised over
the delete button -- we're left with about three seconds and
approximately six words to make an impression.  So what works?  Which
types of subject lines have proven to be successful?  Here are my top
three:

1. Make An Offer

It's an old sales cliché that still holds true in the fast-paced world
of cyberspace:  Lead with your best offer.  Whether a product,
service, or proposal, you want to tell people up front about your
deepest discounts, your fastest delivery, or your grandest idea.  Get
their attention right off the bat, and you'll likely have your message
read.  (It's even better if your offer happens to be time-sensitive.)
Examples include:

"Half Off Leather Boots Until March 1st"

"Top 10 Reasons To Attend [Whatever]"

"Your Link on High-ranking Web Pages"

2. State a Benefit

Since the majority of consumer and B2B customers live in the "what's
in it for me" world, benefits always make powerful subject lines.
Telling the readers what the end results of their actions will be
helps them visualize the need for your product or service.  Here are a
few examples based on the subject lines above:

"Wear Fall's Hottest Trends for 50% Off"

"Learn [Whatever] in Only Two Days"

"Build Link Popularity & Traffic for Your Site"

3. Evoke Curiosity

We're all nosy to a point.  Our curiosity gets the best of us, and we
want to know more.  That's not only true when it comes to watching
movie previews on TV.  It's also true for email as well.  Some of the
best subject lines hook readers by piquing their curiosity, and then
reel them in to read the entire message.

"Are You Still Wearing These Fashion "Don'ts"?"

"The Secrets to [Whatever] Never Before Revealed"

"Link-popularity Scams You Should Avoid"

Of course, the key to writing the best subject lines is knowing your
target customers, making the topic relevant, and testing, testing,
testing.

The other interesting fact from the DoubleClick email survey is that
relevancy is a major player.  Over 55% of respondents said they
deleted email that wasn't relevant because they considered it spam.
DoubleClick also reported that the average open rate was 27.5% (for
text or HTML messages).  That gives you a baseline to gauge your
success.

Not every type of subject line will work for every campaign.  Testing
is vital.  And it's easy enough to do.  One of my favorite ways is to
set up a Google AdWords campaign and judge the clickthrough rates.
This quickly (and cheaply) tells you which subject lines will work and
which won't.  You can also test your subject lines by sending your
emails to a smaller test list before broadcasting to the entire group.

Whichever styles of subject lines you choose, make sure you know your
target audience so you can develop relevant subject lines.  Then test
and test again until you've created subjects that are highly
persuasive and deliver record-breaking open rates.

Karon Thackston
Copywriting Course: http://www.copywritingcourse.com
How To Increase Your Keyword Saturation:
http://www.copywritingcourse.com/keyword



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~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++High Rankings™ Seminar in Philadelphia++

We're getting a good response so far to our Nov. 3-4 search marketing
seminar in Philadelphia!  Please remember that in order to save money
with the early registration, you'll need to register by Oct. 6th.  If
you missed last issue's top 10 reasons why you need to attend this
seminar, you can read them here:
</issue148.htm#stuff>.

We should have more info by the next newsletter on the cocktail
reception for the night of Nov. 3rd.  This will be open to the public,
so even if you somehow decide you can't make it to the seminar, we'd
still love to meet you at the reception!

To learn more about everything that is included in the seminar, i.e.,
usability, keyword research, SEO copywriting for your target audience,
writing and maintaining PPC ads, tracking traffic and conversions,
advanced link-building, spotting search engine spam, and more, please
visit the seminar page here: </seminar>.


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

++SEO Dilemma++

Forum member "Clueless" wonders how he could possibly optimize a
poetry site without compromising it for his site visitors.  In the
process Clueless became a little more clued-in and learned a whole lot
about how categorizing stuff is not only a great SEO technique, but
usually makes sites much more user-friendly.

Read the thread and share your own thoughts here:
</forum/index.php?showtopic=17053>.


_________Powerful SEO Copywriting Combo______________

Your site's only as good as its writing. You need the "write" skills.
__________________________________________________

If your site is poorly written, your sales will be slow.  You *must*
speak to your target audience with each and every word you write.
At the same time, keeping your keywords featured prominently is
a bit of a juggling act.

Save $10 on the most powerful copywriting combo available today!

Karon Thackston's Step-By-Step Copywriting Course & Jill Whalen's
Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines.
</combo.htm>
__________________________________________________


~~~Sound Advice~~~

++How Many Words Do You Need for High Rankings?++

</soundadvice>
(This audio recording changes each week.)


~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

That's it for today!

Oh wait, I still didn't provide you with your "must-read SEO secrets"
did I?  (Raise your hand if you scrolled down here first when you saw
"secrets revealed" in the table of contents!)

Hmm...well...umm...you're not gonna like this very much, but I have to
be honest with you as that's my nature.  The real secret, and the full
truth of the matter is...that there are NO secrets when it comes to
SEO.  There's no magic formula, no special trick all the top SEOs know
but that they won't tell anyone else. Nothing to it but hard work,
love for your site, and the dream of making it the best it can be for
your users and the search engines.  In 10 years of doing this, I've
learned that you don't have to get bogged down in the details in this
business.  You might easily be fooled into thinking that you do, but
in reality you don't.  Amazingly enough, the details often make no
difference whatsoever to your rankings. It's always the big-picture
stuff that provides the most astounding results.

So if you want to learn all the big-picture stuff, continue to read
this newsletter, the forum, and -- if you can possibly swing it --
come to our seminar in November.  One day it will all just "click" for
you and you will know exactly what I mean when I say there *are* no
SEO secrets.

Catch you next time! - Jill
 
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