when 301 redirects do funny things

we’ve put a number of 301 redirects in place for our new games site (please excuse gratuitous linking:)).

what should happen is that google should see the old domain as no longer existing and redirect all traffic back to the new domain. however that isn’t happening here; it is still picking up both domains, however the meta tags that its picking up are the same for both pages and the links are going to the new site.

i’d expect that this is a blip in their indexing and would be remedied pretty soon, but it has me a little perplexed

KRD- keyword rich domains

I love an acronym more than most, and this is a good one
Google has an inordinate focus on domain name(and a difficulty in concatenating).What concatenate means is that brendan-mcnulty is a better domain about me that brendanmcnulty as Google has a way of differentiating where one word ends and the other starts.

As Google has a preference for the keyword in the domain, this gives you an opportunity to ran highly if you have the keyword in your domain. However if it is a highly trafficked term then you will struggle to get the domains. Which is where this tactic comes in. the theory is to build a number of simple websites with second or third tier keyword domains with a lot of interlinking between them. No need to create fancy sites, blogs will do, as long as you obey all the usual rules (h1’s, alt tags, keyword density etc)

I’ll explain how you would put it into practice; you want your Michael Jackson memorabilia site to rank highly, but all the good domains are gone (mjtribute etc). So you buy ilovethriller.com, billiejeanismylover.com (I’m being facetious, but things like thriller or associated terms around this would be useful, the yahoo keyword suggestion tool will help you with this). Put up relevant content about mj, and link cleverly between them (and with a link going back to your main memorabilia site from each of the pages), as well as putting your shop onto each of these pages.

Google views the domains that you have as being in the same interest group, so therefore relevant, and the number of sites builds an interlinked web of interest about a specific topic. The search volume on them is significantly less than on the more generic terms (which is a mixed blessing- the domains are still available, but you need more of them)

I wouldn’t put this topic as the first step in your SEO approach, but once you have exhausted your initial optimization on your site, it’s a good one to begin
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link bait

I was chatting to someone about creative link building and this example came up.
They wanted to create more World Cup focused traffic during the World Cup, but it’s a pricy time to buy search traffic. They came up with a plan to create the “Anti- World Cup Association”- women who feel abandoned by their husbands and boyfriends during the World Cup and wanted to protest again it. They created a page, sent some pretty girls with t-shirts and banners down to where the Dutch team was training to stage a protest. “Coincidentally” there was a lot of press covering the team, and their story got picked up and was syndicated worldwide. The result; they got a huge volume of links, and correspondingly rose in the natural search rankings. Clever, fun and effective. One caveat is that Google normally penalizes significant increases in links over a short time period, however if they come from news, then its OK.

the dark art of link building

I understand why link building is so crucial; it gives Google an idea of how important a page is with regards to the number, quality and context of links that are linking to a the site.
However I still find it a bit of a dark art; why would people want to link to you? how do you keep it ongoing? Reciprocal vs one-way links?

In order to demystify it, here are some key points;
1. have the right ratio of qualitative vs quantitative links. You do need a lot of links, but err on the side of fewer links from sites with some sort of authority (Google pagerank of 6 and 1,000 inlinks). Ideally these should be within your industry; so if it’s a cooking site don’t link from a car site.
2. Wikipedia is great. If you can link to your site from Wikipedia/write an article about your industry- do so. Google gives Wikipedia a lot of clout (the second click phenomena)
3. Good anchor text– ideally someone should link to your site and the text next to the link (underlined) should say “cooking tips” (or whatever you want to optimize for), rather than saying e.g. click here. This gives Google some context about what the site is about if the link has a description.
4. don’t limit yourself; put relevant links back from blogs, forums, video sites, anywhere where there is a “follow” on the link (which means that Google will give it credence)
5. PR is a great way to get more links. News sites are usually authority sites, if you can get a well optimized release on to a news site it will help.
6. Link bait is an interesting opportunity. Do a zany stunt to get people interested and linking to you. once the newspapers start linking to you, sit bank and watch your pagerank rise.
7. Be persistent. Get a couple of interns in, and get them to get a spreadsheet going with prospects. This involves going through the sites that link to sites that are optimized for the keywords that you want to optimize for. put them all on a list and send them a personalized e-mail. be persistent with unanswered mails and buy your interns lunch every now and again. This is a fairly monotonous task.
8. Don’t buy links- it’ll cost you and it isn’t a sustainable strategy
9. The best way is to have good content that people want to link to. Sort of a no-brainer, but this is the quickest, most effective and guaranteed return method of getting links.

These are some tips to improve your links (concentrate on the bottom one and you’ll go far). Get busy.
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SEO is a commodity

September 11th 2008 - It's not great art unles...Image by Stephen Poff via Flickr

I had 3 interesting search meetings recently, 1 with Google and two with SEO consultants. As a result of these I’ve written a few search related posts over the last week or so. The title of this post was a comment that someone made in one of the meetings and I thought it was a great (if contentious statement). Basically what he was saying is that the nuts and bolts of SEO; making sure that you’re in the right directories, ensuring that your on-page optimization (H1, alt tags, keyword density etc) is a must-have and that this isn’t the area to differentiate yourself.

So what is?
1. Powerful analytics- look at what works
2. watch typos- these are about 5% of all type-ins
3. get your domain names
4. optimize and tweak
5. be creative in link building

I will go into some further detail on the ones I haven’t already covered in upcoming posts.
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Change your life, create your personal brand

There is a lot of talk about your personal brand, but the reason for it is that it makes sense. A personal brand is an essential way to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
This is unfortunately not something that you can do overnight, but there is no time like the present to do it. In order to develop your brand you need a positioning statement, a short précis of who you are and what you do. Concentrate on your skills and what you’re good at, and make sure that your career for a viable niche (writing for the newspaper is maybe not a good idea, but online publishing is). For example at the top of this blog I’ve summarized my areas of interest as search, social media and online trends.

The first channel that someone is going to use to find you is Google. So make sure you own your page for your name (or at least ensure that the content that is found about you is what you want to be found about you). This is the example for my name;

The listings are as follows
1.The first thing people see is my Google Adwords link (you can own what you say here- I try and show that I know/understand the web, as well as being a little irreverent/fun).
2. My profile on Linkedin.
3. This blog
4. One of the most read posts on this blog
5. A presentation that I did
6. My Facebook page

I’m pretty lucky as my name isn’t Brad Pitt, so it isn’t too difficult to get found, but if you persevere you will rank better. For your blog it’s a matter of SEO, good linking (even from comments) creates better ranking, and eventually you will achieve decent rankings.

This is how to create your personal brand;
1) set up a blog using your name as a domain. This is a key method, you can manage the entire relationship with your site; look & feel, content and tone. Google loves the exact term in the domain, so your name will drive search from people looking for your site (see andrew chen, peter kim, chris brogan etc). Also be consistent, try and blog as regularly as possible (I aim for three times a week, but daily is preferable). If it’s less than that make it impactful.
2) communicate with other people in your field; comment on blogs, follow them on twitter, be “part of the conversation”. This will drive traffic back to your site, but it will ultimately have you become smarter in your field. You’ll be participating in discussions about pertinent areas of interest for you.
3) make sure you have a Linkedin (one of the first natural search listings for your name). take some care in creating your profile, potential employers/associates will see this first, so you want to showcase yourself as well as you can. Add everyone you meet to your network. Ask people you’ve worked with to recommend you. this is kinda tough because reciprocal recommendations don’t mean a hell of a lot to me, and most people kinda expect it.
4) make those embarrassing photos of you drinking tequila on the weekend on Facebook private
5) buy the Google terms for your name and redirect them to your blog
6) Crosspromote from service to service (put your blog on Facebook, twitter, Linkedin etc) this will do good things for your search rankings, as well as giving you an easy opportunity for people to find out more about you..
7) Try and speak at industry functions about your speciality, showcase yourself and your knowledge.
8) Network offline (crazy concept I know ), go to dinners, industry meetings and conferences. I’m less good at this, but its imperative to actually make the connection and get to know people personally.
9) Track your blog on mybloglog and Google Analytics. What are your most popular posts, what are people returning, what organic search terms are important for Google for you. Write more posts about these, people are interested.

Building your personal brand isn’t about being a braggart, its about showcasing your strengths and finding a way to leverage them. Its more about having your CV ready before you need it, and at the same time becoming better at what you do. Chris Brogan has a lot more great tips about this.


i have been a fan of etsy for a while, and my wife is even more of a fan. she buys all presents for friends, and we buy presents from there too, as you get a whole range of home made exciting stuff (e.g. i got some interesting prints for my birthday, handbags for friends and monogrammed pillow cases)

she has just open a shop selling african fabrics (go there and buy some nice african fabrics for christmas), and it was an interesting experience for me to help set up the store. its pretty painless to get it up and running, they have pre-ordained fields and images that you need to fill in in order to get up and running, all pretty standard stuff. the costs are reasonable too, $0.20 to list something and 3.5% of the sales price.

my google attuned brain came on overdrive when i thought of how best to optimise your page for the most traffic. i had a look online and there isnt anyone who gives an overview about which are the topics that get most searched for and the algorithm that gets used to get you best noticed. there are a couple of paid services which you can use to profile your shop or products but it would be great to find a way to push as much relevant traffic your way as possible. the one workaround is to list on a regular basis, so that your items are pushed to the top, but this isnt a sustainable solution. any ideas to use the semantic side of this?

6 tips for using Google Insight

Search-Engine-MarketingImage by Danard Vincente via Flickr Google Insights for search has just been released, offering a whole wealth of data that previously was not available. For your SEO and PPC campaigns there are a lot of words that can be targeted based on this. However if you are looking at this from an industry perspective and want to gauge yourself and how you rank it is also extremely valuable. Having played around with it a little recently these are some skews I would advise;
1) Look at your category
It may be difficult to find the exact niche that you inhabit, but drill down to as close to it as you can. What is the trend in terms of searches, is it seasonal, is their growth in the category, what are the top keywords. Then look how much share you get proportionally of the big terms, this is illuminating because it gives you an idea of the size of the opportunity, can you optimize your page better, should you bid more on this area.

2) look at your brand
how have the searches for your brand been performing (as marketing person you hope that your brand becomes even better known). Can you tie in bigger peaks in spend with promotions that you undertook. Can you see what is working to get your name out, and what isn’t. Are there cycles on how people look (time of the year/month/week), is there some way that you can optimize based on this (this ties into how you manage your campaigns and the information you have about customer behaviour- day/week parting, bidding more round payday etc)

3) Look at different geographies
Start off on worldwide for all your searches and then split them into different countries. Look at these and see if you have some large market share in an unknown geo (that’s the joy of having an online business, no borders). Is your site big in Norway, why is your site big in Norway, should you start adding localized payment systems and structures? This can isolate areas where you should focus, similarly it may outline areas that you’re underperforming.(as this is based on IP address I wouldn’t take the extremely local/city perspective too seriously)

4) major searches
look at what the core search terms are around your brand and in your category. Are you bidding on them, maybe if you drill further into this they will give you some interesting phenomena. E.g. marketing in other languages you may not know what the up-to-date slang terms are and these may be reflected in the upcoming terms.

5) segment over time
this I think is one of the more interesting functions. You can find out how things developed with your brand/category/search term. How the geographic makeup changes over time, and what happens with related terms. If you have made specific promotions around a time, how did people react to it, did they search for you for terms related to it. Where do you experience the most organic growth, also look at your share of the search, how does this change over time. Looking at the matrix of marketing spend, competition and time and try to figure out how it fits together.

6) competitors popular search terms
are a mine of information. What is their positioning, what are the major terms that people are searching for around their brand, what should you be bidding on, what are the major traffic drivers from a seo perspective. See what share they have of the top terms. In most industries/categories there are a few key terms which drive the majority of the traffic (good old 80/20 rule). We call these the k10 (for our top 10 keywords). Who owns the largest share of these and how does it change.

These are a couple of things that you can do with Google Insight that should give some more beef to understanding your market and where you sit within itRelated articles by Zemanta

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search update

SUNNYVALE, CA - JULY 18, 2006:  (FILE) A sign ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
I saw a couple of interesting search things this weekend

– whilst reading a blog favourite of mine I saw that Microsoft have started actively started advertising that you can get cash back by using their search engine. This is a pretty aggressive way of gaining market share, not only are they paying people a portion of their money to purchase through their engine (a whiff of desperation perchance?), but they’re then spending even more on acquiring customers through it. Its still early days, but it will be difficult for them to change this inbuilt consumer behavior that Google is the default (Google’s US market share in the US is growing and in western Europe its almost insurmountable, whereas MSN/Longhorn has as yet only launched in France and the UK).

Microsoft also acquired Powerset this week which may be another arrow in the quiver in developing a better search engine. Powerset is focused on developing a more intuitive way of you searching the web, which mirrors natural language. This means you don’t have to search in a search engine friendly manner but as how you would speak to a friend or communicate in that way. I can understand that it’s a great way to query, but as a result of it you have to understand (as they used in their example) that cancer is both a disease and a star sign, and understanding the context is a crucial element. They’re apparently integrating this into the Microsoft search technology by the end of the year, but the real challenge is to get people to use the service rather than how innovative the model is.

You can innovate in search from a querying perspective as above, from an indexing perspective or from a display perspective. With regards to display people are trying to innovate from numerous different ways (and I quite like what Ask is doing with mixing video, commercial and text links in a clean looking display) I’m less enamoured with searchme, it displays the search sites in a page where you can scroll through the pages kind of like Apple’s coverflow for iTunes. It looks very slick and sexy, but it doesn’t display the content as I like to process it; looking at a full webpage doesn’t give me the ability to scan the text and find out if it contains what I’m looking for. however shuffling through pages is easier to use than tabbing through pages, so you can see a lot of pages in a short space of time.

I think the display are of search si the easier area within which to innovate, creating a good gui that is easy to navigate is easier to do than finding a new way of indexing the web or developing a new algorithm to search in amore relevant manner. It will be interesting to see how all of these (and other) technologies fit together to create the next generation of search.

In other news, if you’re thinking of quitting Yahoo! (and it seems like many people are), here is easy to use resource for creating your resignation letter… (its multiple choice, so you can choose the tone)Related articles by Zemanta

UPDATE: it seems that implementing Live Cashback has had a positive effect on Microsoft’s market share in search

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search for your affiliate program

We have been having an interesting conversation about how you should structure the relationship with your affiliate program and whether or not you should allow them to bid on your search terms. The overall objective is to get more cost effective traffic to your site. On one hand allowing affiliates to search makes perfect sense, Google only allows you to bid on a term once, and with a highly competitive term you can then be in the rankings on a couple of places in order to receive a larger proportion of the available search share. However if it is on a brand term or on a term where there isn’t much competition affiliates could end up taking some of your search share, and then you end up paying more for the same traffic.

After speaking to a number of people and arguing around our sites we came up with the following best practises;
1) only allow a couple of search affiliates
2) Don’t allow them to bid on brand terms
3) No overbidding or outranking us
4) They need to send their keyword list for approval
5) Google doesn’t allow you to link to the same domain, so they have to create an interstitial page (which will be a huge decrease in clicks)

Essentially you want it in areas when there will be more competition and it gives you an opportunity for further traffic.