Tag Archives: seo

Social SEO is Here

7 Oct
Google Plus might not be popular with people, but it's important to SEO.

Google Plus might not be popular with people, but it’s important for SEO.

Social 101 for the SEO-minded Company

SEO practitioners have seen the writing on the wall for years. If you really care about ranking well in Google, now it’s past time to pay attention to social. Almost two months ago we learned empirically that more +1 on Google+ means better ranking in Google.

I’ve spent a couple of years hinting to my clients that they should pay more attention to social; now I’m *strongly* suggesting it by outlining a few simple steps they can take (or I can take for them) in the social realm.

Step 1: More Social Outlets

Google Plus is a must. People don’t use it, but Google relies on it for organic rankings, so your organization should use it. If you want to pick your battles and only use three outlets, pick Facebook and Twitter too. But why stop there? It’s so easy to work once and have it propagate to multiple outlets.

Step 2: Maximize Social Efforts

Use Hootsuite or similar services to make social management easy. Type once and your words post on all of your social sites at once. With tools like this there’s no excuse for not also posting on sites like LinkedIn, YouTube and the like.

You can even schedule your content to post at specific times allowing you to compress a portion of your social time investment while taking advantage of peak social interaction times to get your message seen more. Hootsuite is free, and if you’re lucky enough to outgrow the gratis version, it’s only nine bucks a month to upgrade.

Step 3: Encourage Website Visitors to Share

While many sites already sport social icons linking to their Facebook page, that’s not enough. We want a more usable page that enables our web audience to use their social networks to vote and share. Employ action icons like Google’s “+1″ to let visitors make note of your specific content. Some might use a +1 as a social bookmark, others as an endorsement. Either way, we like it because Google uses it to rate webpages.

Step 4: Search for Social Engagement #

Hashtags (#) are your friend. Naturally, you should use them in your social posts to tag and categorize your content, but there’s more! Type “#hashtag” (without the quotes) into Facebook’s search bar and you’ll get a list of all posts tagged with #hashtag. But how is that useful?

An acting school might search for #audition and then comment on a post or two every week. A luggage shipping company might search for #lostluggage. A local business might search for people discussing an upcoming local event totally unrelated to their business and then share excitement about it. Etc.

Step 5: Follow for Social Engagement

Have you ever heard of the reward theory of attraction? You can follow that link, or trust me when I say that if you follow others, they might follow you too. This ties in well with hashtag searching. You can’t comment on EVERY related post you find, because that looks spammy, creepy and annoying. Instead, follow people and businesses who are posting about stuff relevant to you. …They’ll be more likely to follow you. Wikipedia says so.

Don’t lay it on too thick

Finally, the overlying/underlying philosophy here is that while social is going to help your other marketing efforts, most of the time, you should not wear your traditional marketing cap while you’re engaging with social networks. When you meet somebody on the street and they try to sell you something, how do you feel? Who wants to follow somebody who’s always talking about themselves? Well, some people do, but you’ll find the people with the most engagement aren’t exclusively self-promoting. Sometimes replying, “ugh!” or “I know, right?!” to share frustration, or asking a question, “How do you find out about _____?” or “Why?” will be more valuable than posting about something more related to your business. Remember: your business name is next to everything you post, so you can just lean on that!

This article only scratches the surface of social best practices, but follow these instructions and your social efforts will be well on their way to helping your search engine optimization.

Dan Dreifort consults on usability, SEO, and now social. If you ask nicely, he might let you subscribe to his private and otherwise unadvertised SEO/usability/social tips email list. …But maybe not.

Looking for the best Hawaii digital marketing agency

8 Jul

I fired a Hawaii marketing agency a couple of months ago. I was not a client. I’d been providing usability and SEO services to their clients since 2007. (Does that mean I quit?) I grew online business for a few of their big-name clients and received decent money for it. Everybody at the agency was polite and skilled. So why did I fire them? Throughout the six-year engagement they paid several hundred invoices, but rarely on time. I fired them because they regularly forced me to act as an accountant and a collections agent.

Glutton For Digital Media Agency Punishment

Hawaii Destination Marketing SEO and a Beach

I heart Hawaii !

A few weeks later I was approached by another Hawaii digital marketing outfit. I’m not hungry for work now, but with so much SEO and usability experience in the Hawaii destination and hospitality verticals, part of me wants to put that knowledge to good use. So when this new agency reached out to me, I engaged.

I insist on signing a mutual non-disclosure agreement with all clients. The NDA serves to protect any private information and ostensibly allows us to discuss anything without worry of public eyes and ears. After a month of wasting my time, this new agency today tells me, “We can’t sign this.” I tried to identify and fix the perceived problem, but after receiving a couple more obtuse emails, I eventually jabbed, “I take my clients’ privacy very seriously. If [Agency] doesn’t respect that, we’re obviously not a good match.” I sent a friendly “goodbye” note to his partner.

I assure you I won’t be communicating with them again unless we agree about privacy.

What I’ve learned:

  • Fool me once, shame on, um… how does that go, George Bush? Fire clients more quickly if/when they’re late with payments.
  • Don’t invest too much speculative time with clients until they agree to protect privacy.
  • I’d again like to help a Hawaii company or agency with search engine optimization and user experience.
  • I *still* don’t like time-wasters.
Dan Dreifort‘s current clients include: Product recommendation SaaS company, Plastic container manufacturer/retailer, Adjustable air-mattress retailer/manufacturer, Memory foam mattress manufacturer/retailer, Specialty shipping company, Brazilian jiu jitsu franchises, Tourist magazine, Childcare franchises, Acting school, Real estate brokers, Lawyer, Fence manufacturer/retailer, Online drug rehab center and a couple more. Dan is busy and can’t accept new work until January, 2014.

How is responsive design connected to SEO? It’s mobile.

3 May
the long tail of search

Image by Victoria Jones

Follow the money and you’ll find that hot trends in design and search engine optimization are tied to our shrinking technology.  What’s in your pocket?

For more, check out my latest article on the Geekly Group blog. It’s all about mobile, responsive design, SEO and the long tail. (Thanks, Archive.org for the save!)

Keyword Research Alternatives to SEOmoz and Wordtracker?

7 Mar

Research is the smart first step when starting a new SEO campaign or growing an existing SEO effort. I talk with clients to brainstorm a few keyword ideas and then feed those seed keywords into tools to find related keywords. Then, ideally, I look at  traffic and competition metrics to identify low hanging fruit of the long tail and other gems in the rough. (Per previous whiny posts,) Wordtracker (wordtracker.com) lost my business a while ago, but SEOmoz (seomoz.org) is just as frustrating.

Every single bit of keyword research I’ve done on SEOmoz returns “unavailable” for these metrics:

  • Local Search Volume (Exact Match)
  • Global Monthly Search Volume (Exact Match)
  • Local Search Volume (Broad Match)
  • Global Monthly Search Volume (Broad Match)

…Leaving only one SEOmoz metric, “Keyword Difficulty” which also often returns the dreaded “unavailable” result.

Obfuscating Valuable SEO Metrics is a Poor (But Popular) Business Model

SEOmoz results

SEOmoz – Close to Useless.

What’s worse, this “Keyword Difficulty” metric is dumbed down so as to hide any real value. While I’m sure the two-digit SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty score (or the nearly identical two-digit “Competition” score from Wordtracker) in some fashion represents IAAT and other competition metrics, I am more than hesitant to base important keyword decisions on these vague scores. While I’m sure their scoring algorithms consider many factors, I’m accustomed to crafting my own meta-metrics. But pretend for a second that we do trust their “scores” – exactly how are we supposed to make intelligent decisions without good traffic data?

More frustrating still is the fact that SEOmoz limits us to five keywords at a time and always takes several minutes to return results. There’s nothing less satisfying that twiddling your thumbs waiting for a screen full of “unavailable”. Oh wait, there is – try paying $99 per month for the privilege. Yeah, it burns.

What Does SEOmoz Have to Say?

I posed these conundrums to SEOmoz and received a few responses.

Load times in the Keyword Difficulty tool can vary depending on the keyword(s) and time of day but generally, this shouldn’t be more that a minute or so. Cutting down on load times is also why we limit individual searches to 5 terms.

Sounds like a crappy Band-Aid to me. I ran into slow load times regardless of time of day and keywords.

Search volumes were pulled from the tool several months ago due to problems we were having with accuracy. So instead of taking the entire tool offline, we removed search volumes while we work on new metrics that we hope provide more valuable data. In the interim, I’d recommend checking out Google’s Keyword tool if you’re looking for search volumes.

What are the chances that somebody using SEOmoz doesn’t already know about the Google Keyword tool? And why did it take a trouble ticket for me to find out that this is a known issue? Ugh.

Although we don’t have a solid ETA at the moment for a release on the new metrics, we’ll definitely let everyone know via the community and blog.

I’ll ask them if they can just send me a note when they get it in gear. I don’t want to have to follow them on Twitter for five months to figure out that their ducks are all finally in a row. I asked if I could have a second free trial whenever they fix their tools, you know, so I don’t have to pay a hundred bucks to play with broken toys:

Unfortunately I can’t promise that since we don’t have an actual ETA on when the new metrics will be updated but I’d be happy to add a credit to the account for half off your next month if you’d like.

Paying $50 to test their patches wouldn’t be as bad, but it’s hardly ideal customer service.

What’s the best SEO Keyword Research Tool?

And just to be clear, I’m asking you. Sure, I can get all the data I need directly from Google, but it’s a time-consuming boondoggle. That’s why SEO professionals like me used to pay thousands of dollars every year to the likes of Wordtracker and SEOmoz. Alas, no more.

If I’m going to spend a couple grand a year for competition and traffic metrics, I expect better. What SEO tools do you recommend? If you know a coder looking to make a buck on a new creation, I’ll help him/her design a killer app for keyword research. All I ask in return? Please let me use it.

When not whining on this blog Dan Dreifort consults on Search Engine Optimization and Usability from his home. An avid musician, Dreifort is currently performing with four different bands and trying to form a fifth. Dan Dreifort is for scuba.

SEO Usability Vacuum

5 Nov

That SEO and usability don’t flourish in a vacuum has been on my mind lately. Sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum. If there’s nobody to hear your pearls of SEO wisdom do they make a sound? The sound of silence sends no sales. Four cases of constructive complaining follow.

Case #1 – Hire Experts + Stop Listening = Profit? No!

I helped grow a startup e-retailer from nothing to three million in annual sales. The company sold to new owners who kept me on for SEO services but took away my keys to the site because they wanted to do all web work in-house. No problem- I work this way (via intermediary) sometimes. Though I’d informed them of redesign best practices, they chose to ignore it all;  the hasty series of redesigns and half-rebrands erased years of SEO and usability progress. I spent a few months frantically trying to implement remedial measures but they heeded nothing I said or sent. We parted ways less than a year after the company switched hands. In a few short months they went from hero to zero in Google. Why would you spend good money on a company and then tank it? Conversely, the people who sold the company hired me to do SEO and usability work for a new endeavor. Its sales are growing. SEO and usability are processes, not events; they don’t exist in a vacuum.

Case #2 – Second Verse, Similar to the First, But Better Outcome!

seo results graph

SERP trends: often cyclical over longer periods

The chart to the right shows long-term cycles of a  different SEO effort, underfunded and unfortunately not paired with a good usability effort.  The company rakes in millions every year and would hugely benefit from doubling, tripling or quadrupling their SEO spend. I tell them this every year and sometimes spend time cobbling together metrics to back it up. …Which led to a smart realignment of the campaign scope a few years ago. The effort went from about 10% funding to 25% funding, but we’re still overreaching the budget. Part of the problem is the size of the company; they’re huge. Big boats don’t turn on a dime. A properly funded campaign would smooth out those valleys, and the peaks would be, literally, off the charts.

Because of a third-party payment solution, this client is also unable to give me ideal, actionable analytics data tying actual sales to each keyword. I’m left measuring the ranking of SERP listings, a comparatively bush-league measure of success. I’m also sometimes unable to appropriately geo-target longer tail search phrases (usually a good tactic in underfunded efforts) because most of the campaign consists of more competitive generic keywords. (They have their reasons, but it’s still frustrating. Good thing I like a challenge, and complaining!) I have neither budget nor latitude to increase the usability of landing pages so some of the most trafficked pages on the site lack a cohesive design with calls to action and good user direction. Though I know it’s not true, sometimes this client’s actions tell me they’re happier with countless second and third SERP rankings instead of focusing on the first SERP. My voice is necessarily muddled by the relative vacuum, but it’s getting better all the time and I’m still able to do some good work. I am optimistic.

Google SEO vs Bing and Yahoo SEO

SERP ranks different in Google Bing Yahoo

Eating crow in Bing and Yahoo is fine if you’re doing well in Google

This other graph for the same client, though only tenuously related, needed a place to live in the blogosphere. Many of the campaign’s most broad metrics have been sluggish, flat or even slowly tanking over the past year because they cover all three major search engines as a whole. The chart at right (click it for a larger version) shows that SERP listings have been tanking in Bing and Yahoo, while Google’s doing alright. My SEO work will often please Google more than Bing and Yahoo, and this account exhibits the extreme of that trend. Because Google is responsible for the vast majority of searches performed in the US, I’ve never wasted much effort focusing on the other search engines. So while I likely won’t get more budget to play with, I have a Q1 2013 plan to address some of the issues. Ping me in six months if you want an update.

Case #3 – SEO & Usability Are Processes, Not Events.

There’s a reason SEO practitioners display results in charts with various metrics in one axis and time in the other; SEO is a process, not an event. This next tale bit of complaining deals with the one-night stand of SEO gigs. It’s my first one and I feel dirty – too ashamed to post a picture because a filthy picture is worth a thousand guilty words.  Because of stipulations tied to the funding of this project I was informed that I had to complete all SEO work and training in one month. I interjected, “But….” Nope. One month. I could not get keys to the server so I sent over a long list of Drupal modules essential for SEO like nodewords, xml sitemap, seo-friendly urls, etc. After a month I was still left with a CMS that wouldn’t even allow me to insert title tags or descriptions. It’s been over three months and I’m just now getting close to the finish line. It would have been a huge payday for one month’s work, but I knew better. It’s still a decent payout for a third of a year, so I’m happy. I’ve educated and empowered the client enough to ensure continued SEO success in the future.

Case #4 – SEO & Usability Success!

Google Experiments

A/B/X Testing and Google Experiments = More Bang For Your Buck

Most of my clients do listen, especially those I hand pick (vs. clients from agencies.) Case in point, to compliment SEO efforts I’ve really been leaning on A/B/X testing and Google Experiments. I try to convey that people should not be making decisions about design, SEO, brand, etc. when we can actually measure our audience and do what works best for them. After all isn’t that what any organization wants? The results (and data) speak for themselves.

If you have a very usable site with poor SEO, people won’t find your site. If I use SEO to build your audience, but your website sucks, you’re not going to get as much bang for your SEO buck. Usability is the science of making things not suck. SEO makes search robots happy. Usability makes people happy. The marriage of the two equals high ROI. This last image (above) shows how one little four week experiment caused visitors to be twice as likely to convert into customers. It cost very little to run that experiment and it paid for itself in one day. The rest is gravy. That it’s difficult to convince companies to invest in SEO and usability never ceases to amaze me, but I won’t stop trying (or complaining.) Thanks for reading.

Dan Dreifort makes money for companies and reads. If people paid him to read more he might stop helping companies make so much money. He’s currently proofreading (and loving) a book called When the Biomass Hits The Wind Turbine. It’s available in self-published form from Amazon for a few more months before its re-released and becomes all famous and stuff on the Daily Show and whatever awful show Oprah’s doing these days.

xCommenter Bad for SEO – Bad for your site

25 Jul
spinning top

Spun content will inevitably tumble and fall.

Got an email from one of my contract coders today about a supposed SEO plugin for WordPress called xCommenter:

Hey Dan –
Ever heard of xCommenter wp-plugin?

Just wondering what your opinion is on these sort of tools.

What is xCommenter? Will it help my site’s SEO?

xCommenter parses your post’s tags, title and content and then searches Yahoo Answers to find related questions. In an effort to improve your SEO, these questions are then periodically posted as comments to your blog post. Though it integrates with a popular article spinning service, my guess is this plugin will do more harm than good once Google catches up, if they haven’t already.

Here’s my reply:

Yikes! It’s fed by Yahoo Answers?! Have you SEEN Yahoo Answers? Garbage. Here’s a dramatization of my favorite Yahoo Answers content.

I suppose xCommenter *could* help SEO in the short term, but you should google “duplicate content penalty” to see how Google says this sort of thing can wreck you.

“There are some penalties that are related to the idea of having the same content as another site—for example, if you’re scraping content from other sites and republishing it, or if you republish content without adding any additional value. These tactics are clearly outlined (and discouraged) in our [Google] Webmaster Guidelines:” (source)

I suppose that when you pay the $77/yr fee and check the box next to “Spin comments with your TheBestSpinner.com account” in the xCommenter settings, in effect rewriting some content phrases, it might not be as big a deal, but something tells me Google is on the lookout for this sort of thing and will soon penalize the funk out of sites using xCommenter.

xCommenter is not the future of SEO

I will not be using xCommenter. Not only is it frowned upon by Google, (and will inevitably be penalized when Google figures out how to spot it, if they haven’t already,) xCommenter also cheapens your site. Use it if you’re a tripe peddler. I will scorn thee.

-

When he’s not making music, riding a bike, or dreaming about great food, Dan Dreifort consults on SEO and usability.

Advanced Web Ranking Here I Come

1 Dec

Scott Goodyear at the Indianapolis Motor Speed...

Image via Wikipedia – Not the Scott Goodyear I’m talking about, but it’s a Scott Goodyear nonetheless.

WebPosition’s old standalone version finally stopped querying Google correctly. I’m now in the process of switching to Advanced Web Ranking (AWR). Per my earlier post about finding a WebPosition replacement and some followup in the comments, AWR is the only solution to meet all of the critical SEO software criteria. I’m still apprehensive; it’s always a pain to switch to unfamiliar software, but my confidence is buoyed by the great email responses I’ve received from Robert at AWR support.

A few years ago, when I still had an SEO boner for WebPosition, that happy feeling was largely because of Scott Goodyear’s great support. Scott disappeared when infospace acquired WebPosition. That’s when the WP FAIL began.

I’ll write a more thorough review of Advanced Web Ranking after I run and customize a few AWR reports. Specifically, I’ll document precisely how I overcome what at first blush appears to be a cluttered interface to accomplish specific SEO reporting customization tasks. If you have any questions you’d like me to discuss in the review, let me know and I’ll try to abide. I know AWR does search engine submission, and also offers tools for keyword research, but those are features I wouldn’t usually comment on unless somebody specifically asked for a review.

SEO Blogging Best Practices

22 Nov
Image representing WordPress as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

(WARNING! This article is several years old now. The world of SEO changes often. Take this and any other SEO advice with a grain of salt and an eye for the contemporary.) This article assumes your web team has already configured your blog on a good blogging platform like WordPress with all the best SEO plugins installed and configured. It also assumes that you’ve gone through the complex decision of deciding where to put your blog: e.g. mysite.com/blog vs. myblog.com

Let me know if you need help or want further discussion on any of those prerequisites.

SEO Blogging Basics

  • Write often.
  • Know your keywords.
  • Focus all page and post elements.
  • Leverage links.
  • Embrace community.

Content is King

When done well, blogging benefits your brand, customer community and valuable search rankings.

Write well and often. Avoid blogger burnout by using multiple bloggers. Invite guest bloggers who will give you great content and buzz in exchange for a link to their site in the byline. Do whatever it takes to get content flowing regularly. There’s no upper limit to quantity but you want to make sure you’re cranking the quality too.

Your audience is twofold and you should write for both humans and robots. We’ll assume you know how to connect with those humans but the pesky search engine spiders are a little different. If you blog a lot, you don’t need to always pander to the bots. But…

All in-house bloggers should be aware of your SEO campaign’s keywords and should be updated as the list changes. If it’s ever convenient to fit a keyword phrase into your blog post, and it sounds natural, do it.

Page Elements and Agreement

But sometimes you’ll want to take it a step further. The best SEO blog entries have some sense of agreement throughout disparate page elements. These elements are opportunities for us to convey semantic information to Google. Some of these elements:

  • title (appears in the very top left of the browser and often is the top bolded part of the Google search engine result page (SERP) listing)
  • description (not visible on page, but often used by Google in SERP listings, below the title)
  • body content – copy in your paragraphs – the beef
  • Headlines – your primary headline on almost any blog entry is the Blog name. it’s the h1. You then define a headline specific to your entry (h2). And break up your text with tertiary (h3) and sometimes other sub-headlines (h4, h5) These headlines help both humans and robots to better understand what’s important.
  • alt tags – any time you use an image you have the ability to specify an alt tag to tell search engines and accessibility devices (screen readers) some info about the image.
  • page name / entry name / headline / title – in WordPress, the “Enter title here” field is often used to populate several fields including
  • the first, primary headline in your post
  • the page name
  • the page title (see above)

For example in this post:
http://dandreifort.com/2010/10/08/the-fall-of-uncool/
I entered “The Fall of Uncool” into that field.

  • Which was used verbatim as the main headline of the post
  • hyphenated in the page name /the-fall-of-uncool/
  • and prefixed to the blog title to create the title

The Fall of Uncool << Dan Dreifort

  • WordPress SEO plugins like Platinum SEO Pack, allow you to specify unique page  titles, page names, descriptions, etc.  apart from what you enter into the “Enter Title Here” field. You should use these fields to your advantage as specified below.

Titles – Should be no more than 65 characters in length including spaces. Anything more than that and you’ll be wasting energy; Google won’t display >65 characters in the headline of the listing and won’t pay attention to the additional characters for indexing. (Use Title Case for Titles) They’ll often be similar and sometimes even identical to the main headline of your blog post.

Description – Keep them under 165 characters. Use sentence case for descriptions. This is your opportunity to suggest to Google what they should put under the search engine result page (SERP) headline.

Google uses these various bits of info you provide to create an outline of your page and they toss it into the algorithm and do the ranking magic. We don’t want to miss out on these easy opportunities to tell Google what’s what. It’ll become second nature in no time.

Back to the concept of agreement, try to avoid stuffing important SEO keywords in the title, description, alt, etc. while NOT also using the phrase in the plain body content too. Or put positively, if you use a keyword phrase in the title and headline, it should appear at least once in the body too.

Your ideal Keyword Density for a campaign keyphrase should be between 1% and 3%. Don’t go too much higher or you risk retribution. Ideally, at least half of that keyword density will come from your plain sentence/paragraph body text. Err on the side of caution; if you’re copy starts to sound unnatural, don’t fret about low keyword density.

I’ll use another example:

http://dandreifort.com/2010/09/07/wordtracker-kei-fail-wordtracker-alternatives-seo-news/

Take 15 seconds to scan it.

Notice that there’s a theme? (No, it’s not ‘whining’. That’s just the modus operandi, not the theme.) How did you notice the theme? Some will mention the headlines. Some will mention the images and the captions. Others might have scanned the body content. Regardless, it’s easy for both humans AND bots to figure out the big pic of what this article is trying to say. When you google some phrases about this entry, many show up first SERP on Google.

“wordtracker alternatives”

“wordtracker kei”

etc.

What if I’d used the same “Wordtracker” headlines and images but my body text was about something totally different like cooking? While most humans wouldn’t be able to notice the incongruity (or lack of agreement) at first blush, it takes Google a fraction of a second to judge every detail of your content. If you stuff a keyword into important fields like title, headline, alt, etc. but don’t also use it in your body content, Google knows you’re stuffing keywords to try to game the system.

Post tags and categories

Whether or not you choose to make them visible on the page, you have the ability to tag and categorize your posts.

Develop a main taxonomy of your content to establish your main categories. If you start writing about new content, add a new category. A post can be in more than one category. You can leave a post uncategorized but why? Put it where it belongs!

Use several words and concepts to tag your post. A tag is usually a great place for the SEO keyword on which you’ve focused for the post. Choose several tags. There’s no hard upper limit, but use common sense. Don’t overdo it. There are also WordPress plugins that will suggest tags for you.

Linking

Linking to relevant sites can add value to your post. Your readers might benefit, and it lets you tell Google more about your content via association. You can also use linking to help your main (non-blog) site’s SEO.

There are two main elements of a link. The target URL is the page the link points to. The anchor text is the text that is the link. I.e. in the web’s early days webmasters regularly employed “Click Here!” as the anchor text for most links. Click Here tells neither human nor bot anything about the content on the other side of that link. We can do better.

Linking to third-party sites

When you link to a site you’re letting Google’s algorithm know that you’re sort of voting for that site. We can greatly diminish the vote by using a trick called “nofollow”. Nofollow instructs Google that the link is censured and should be ignored vis-à-vis their index.

Unless you’re feeling generous, always specify nofollow and never use an SEO keyphrase as the anchor when you link to a site you don’t control.  The WordPress plugin “nofollow post”  allows you to select “nofollow” when creating a link. (See my earlier post about the best WordPress SEO plugins for more.)

Linking to your own site

Just like linking to your competitors’ sites, but 100% opposite! Always try to use a relevant SEO keyword phrase to link to your own pages. Never use nofollow. Furthermore, you should use Google’s guidance to decide which of your pages gets the incoming link.

First determine which of your pages already ranks best for your keyword phrase.

If you type this into Google

site:dandreifort.com seo

You’ll get a list of the highest ranking dandreifort.com pages for the phrase “seo”

The page on top has the best foothold (highest rank) and is a great candidate for some SEO love.  I.e. the page on top would be the ideal target URL for a link with anchor text “seo”.

Unless it’s your policy to only link to your own site, don’t overdo the links to your own site. Try to link to your own site less than half the time. I.e. for every link in a post to your site you should include at least one nofollow link to different sites. There are arguments for and against excessive self-linking.

Links to your site from third-party sites

Encourage others (readers, friends, etc.) to link to your site. Getting a quality incoming link (“ backlink”) to your site is SEO gold. What is a quality link?

The BEST incoming links:

  • Link from another site to yours
  • Are on a page that has high Google PageRank (PR)
  • …on a page with content closely related to yours
  • …on a page with only a few or no other links to external sites
  • …hosted on a different server, different domain registrar info, etc.
  • Use relevant anchor text (“[good keyword]” vs “Click here!”)
  • without reciprocity (i.e. you don’t link back)

How do we get links?

  • Ask nicely (ultra low success rate)
  • Offer to trade links (also pretty low)
  • Rent them (expensive and frowned upon by Google)
  • Do some press releases (hope for links)
  • Befriend bloggers (hope for links and/or a review)
  • Other networking (hope for / trade for links)
  • Etc.

Syndication and Community

Encourage syndication of your content via RSS. Provide multiple opportunities for readers to subscribe to your RSS feed.

Use a plugin to enable easy liking/sharing of your content on popular social networks.

Enable comments. Always reply to comments. Using keywords in comments is smart too.

Spelling

Last but not least, always run a spell check before publishing!

Dan Dreifort consults on usability and search. Contact him… if you can figure out how!

Wordtracker KEI Fail, Wordtracker Alternatives & SEO News

7 Sep
Wordtracker keywords

Wordtracker keywords (Photo credit: Matthew Burpee)

I recently reluctantly renewed my subscription to Wordtracker, a keyword research tool and database. Why was I so reluctant? (And why am I considering asking for a refund?)

Wordtracker provides poor documentation and regularly switches the formulas they use for data they offer without notifying its customers.

Wordtracker Changes the Meaning of “Searches”

In 2009 Wordtracker completely changed the way they calculate the data they provide under the column labeled “Searches”. How they get away with redefining “searches” is beyond me. I contributed to a Wordtracker support discussion about this problem, but somebody else summed it up better. “The fact that a so-called provider of data like Wordtracker does not clearly and expressly explain two critical factors relating to their data is appalling.”

One day “searches” means one thing. The next day it means something else. I got no apology from Wordtracker. I had to eat crow and throw out a few mea culpas to my clients when I realized that Wordtracker had pulled the rug out from under me. Boo. But it gets worse.

Wordtracker Changes KEI Formula

New Wordtracker KEI Formula Sucks

My $329/yr subscription just expired so I renewed. It had been a while since I used the service and Wordtracker neglected to tell me that since the last time I’d used their service they changed the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) formula. I thought I was buying one thing and Wordtracker delivered another.

KEI used to be a great metric to find low hanging fruit or “keyword gems in the rough” if you will. But the metric is now useless for that. Click the image above for a larger version. You can see that the most generic, high traffic, high competition phrases now have the highest “KEI” – and yes, “KEI” should always appear in quotes from now on until… well, maybe forever.

Though they offer great verbiage about what an improvement it is, Wordtracker’s new “KEI” borders on meaningless. Surely somebody at Wordtracker should know that when you combine data inconsistencies with poor communication and terrible documentation, usability will suffer. Apparently the usability and branding experts at Wordtracker haven’t been speaking up.

Comparison of KEI Formulas

Wondering how to determine KEI? Me too.

Typically KEI is the the ratio of the square of the searches upon a particular keyword in a day divided by the number of websites that are listed for that keyword. For example, a keyword that has 100 searches a day and for which Google shows 5000 websites would have a KEI of 2. (100 * 100 / 5000)
- web1marketing.com

So they’re saying: KEI = (daily searches)^2 / Search Engine (SE) listings

Suppose the number of searches for a keyword is 486 per month and Google displays 214,234 results for that keyword. Then the ratio between the popularity and competitiveness for that keyword is 486 divided by 214,234. In this case, the KEI 0.002.
-searchenginepromotionhelp.com

For that one, the formula is: KEI = monthly searches / SE listings

Suppose the number of searches for a keyword is 821 per day and Google displays 224,234 results (pages) for that keyword. Then the ratio between the popularity and competitiveness for that keyword is: 224,234 divided by 821. In this case, the KEI is 273.
-bestpracticemarketing.com

And those jokers say that: KEI = daily searches / SE listings

Those are the first three definitions I found. I’ll bet there are more. Clearly the jury’s out on KEI. But while contradiction abounds, there’s a common thread in defining KEI. It has always related to the quantity of searches and the number of search engine listings.

So what’s the new Wordtracker definition for KEI?

Maybe we should start with the old Wordtracker definition of KEI

KEI compares the Count result with the number of Competing Web pages

Yep. That seems to be in line with what everybody else says about KEI. In case you were wondering, “count” is,  “The number of times the search phrase has been used in Wordtracker’s partner search engines.” And “competing” means, “The number of Web pages the search engine says it has in its index that match the search phrase.” So more specifically the old Wordtracker formula for KEI was

KEI = (daily searches)^2 / Search Engine (SE) listings

Here’s the new Wordtracker KEI definition

KEI = (Searches ^ 2) / In Anchor

Is that searches per day? Per month? Who knows? The only other information Wordtracker provides on its data results pages about its new KEI equation is

KEI compares the number of times a keyword has been searched for with competition (the number of pages that contain the exact keyword phrase within at least one of its incoming links, known as ‘All in Anchor’).

Does the “In Anchor” include only external pages? Or will a page with an internal “In Anchor” link make the cut too? Tough to say. Wordtracker regularly defines things their own way. While I’ll not poo poo innovation, I take umbrage with my data providers when they skirt industry norms. If Google defines a metric a certain way, clearly it is beneficial to follow the leader. Note to Wordtracker: Don’t confuse your users by regularly creating new definitions for established industry terms. Your poor usability is a disservice to your paying customers.

In Anchor And Title IAAT

Wordtracker founder and CTO Mike Mindel says

‘In Anchor and Title’ is a count of the number of pages for which the keyword appears in both the title tag and the anchor text of at least one backlink to the page (not domain).

Understandably this metric is used to help identify serious competitors. But Google measures parts of this metric differently. Back to Mike Mindel

There are two reasons why [Wordtracker] and Google show different numbers of links for seemingly similar searches. The first is that the [Wordtracker] In Anchor metric shows a count of external anchor text (from other websites), whereas Google includes internal anchor text as well (from within a website).

Google search market share

Google Market Share – Image from Wikipedia

‹rant› If internal In Anchor links are good enough for Google they should be a sufficient metric for Wordtracker.  Wordtracker tries to sell you on why its better to use their more specific metric, but aren’t all search engine optimizers essentially trying to play Google’s game?! Why wouldn’t Wordtracker emulate Google metrics as much as possible? Clearly they’re meaningful. Something more specific isn’t always better. Furthermore, why would you use the same terminology to discuss two separate things? ‹/rant›

Wordtracker’s Mr. Midel goes on to say,

The second reason is that Google’s AllInAnchor returns broad matches by default (the words mcdonalds, nutrition, and facts in any order), whereas Wordtracker uses the In Anchor phrase match count (mcdonalds nutrition facts somewhere within the anchor text).

(See previous ‹rant› .) Mike Mindel continues,

I hope you can see now that bigger numbers clearly do not mean better numbers.

Well, Mike, I hope you can see now that I’m not sold on your new (bigger) KEIs being better than the older, smaller KEI figures. And doesn’t Wordtracker try to sell us on bigger numbers being better? (See next paragraph.) Now I’m confused(er).

Back to Low Hanging Fruit

This new KEI formula doesn’t do much to help SEOs find keyword phrases with low competition and reasonably high traffic. It’s more tailored to high traffic phrases. Mark Nunney of Wordtracker says,

“KEI squares Searches because otherwise if both Searches and Competition (whatever metric is used for this) go up at the same rate then the KEI value remains the same and that will not take into account the increased opportunity that more Searches offers.”

I don’t know… I always thought that popularity proved only popularity itself. (Think: MC Hammer.) I also always thought that KEI was to represent some notion of ROI. Big returns aren’t valuable if the investment doesn’t make sense. Even my largest clients benefit from low hanging fruit and the small investments required to conquer them. Just because one has the deep pockets necessary to go after high traffic keywords doesn’t mean that it’s the most effective path. Mull it over. Easy pickings are more valuable to me than the garbage these new Wordtracker metrics provide.

Wordtracker Alternatives

I wrote an email to Wordtracker explaining that I want a refund. But I haven’t sent it yet. I looked for wordtracker replacements. There are a few that are too expensive for me to even consider. (We’re talking $1000 per client per year.) But I found a few tools that provide good data. They are:

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

http://www.keywordeye.co.uk

http://www.google.com/insights/search/#

I’ve also heard decent things about marketsamurai.com/ but I haven’t tried them yet, so no endorsement or link out.

The sad truth is that I think I might get enough value from Wordtracker to warrant sticking with it. After all, I can dump all of the data to CSV and make my own versions of KEI to get the data I want. That’s nice, but that’s not the point.

Wordtracker sucks. They keep changing the definitions without notifying customers which causes Wordtracker’s usability to suffer. I am searching for Wordtracker alternatives. Let me know when you find a good one. I’m willing to pay for a wordtracker replacement.

Dan Dreifort consults on SEO and usability for companies large and small. He whines a lot on this blog. Sorry.

Need Help Finding a WebPosition Replacement

7 Jul
webposition alternative

The all new, (all suck) webPosition!

WebPosition was pretty great until Infospace bought them in 2009. What was once a wonderfully supported suite of SEO SERP tools turned into a nightmare. The newly released Webposition is a web-only interface (vs. software you install on your computer.) Whereas you used to pay a few hundred bucks to own the program outright you now have to pay WebPosition a steep monthly fee to use this website.

What’s wrong with the new WebPosition?

It’s costly. $499 per year.

Poor security. Because it’s online-only, all of your clients’ campaign data is on their servers. No doubt they’re selling it to somebody.

Missing features. And more! My friend reports that he’s…

having trouble exporting their reports into excel.
They don’t give any details on how many keywords
rank #1, 2-10, 11-20, etc (only shows a bar graph)
There’s no report email function, and I don’t see an option to FTP/upload reports.
The reports look really sloppy compared to the WP4 reports.
WP support is still no good.

WebPosition Alternatives

Advanced Web Ranking

That same friend and fellow SEO says,

I’m trying AWR because I’ve heard a lot of good
things from prominent SEOs and larger agencies who use it.
AWR has custom reports and lots of bells and whistles.
I couldn’t get anyone to answer their customer service line…I believe the
company is in another country… I never tried emailing them.

So far Advanced Web Ranking is at the top of my list to try. It’s $399 to buy and then $119 per year after the first 12 months.

Web CEO

I’m on the advisory board for the e-business program at a college. They use Web CEO for their SEO classes. So it’s number two on my list. WebCEO costs $389.

Addweb

Costs $299 but their website is an unholy mess. I can only imagine how terrible their program’s usability is.

SEOmoz

$79 per MONTH ?! Wow. My friend says,

Seomoz’s rank tracker isn’t very robust and you need to enter each keyword
and URL individually. Lame.

Wikipedia’s List of Web Ranking Software

As if this wasn’t already complex and challenging, Wikipedia offers a longer list of SERP software options. And dmoz has a category full of website promotion possibilities.

SEO Software Help

As you can see, this blog post isn’t informative as much as it’s a cry for help. If you have a non-shill comment on your experience with SEO ranking software, please comment. Here are the most important criteria

  • >20 sites
  • sftp upload of reports
  • brandable/customizable reports
  • data export (csv or ods or xls)
  • easy backup AND restore from backup
  • easy revert (e.g. if my evdo internet connection dies during querying and I need to re-run a report.)
  • imports WP4 campaigns (this might be a pipe dream)
  • no monthly fee
  • no sensitive data stored on third-party servers
  • etc.

What do you think?

 

Dan Dreifort whines about SEO, efficiency and usability on this blog and IRL.
Swine Flu Tracker

Swine Flu News and Information

Grown Up Book Reports

Book reviews with a healthy dollop of snark

Ethan McCarty

Digital strategy | Social business | People-centric biznology

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 34 other followers

%d bloggers like this: