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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Your site is optimized, now what?

Michael JacksonMichael Jackson (via last.fm)

So you’ve done it. The checklist is done;
1. site is in all the directories.
2. Everything on the page is looking good; canonical domains, H1’s et al ()
3. you’ve got a load of inlinks

time to sit back and watch the traffic pour in, right? Nope, now its time to start optimizing. The first thing you need to do get a good perspective of all the possible words in your area, and the potential volume on them. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and look at what terms they would be using. Google Insights and your own PPC search campaigns can help in determining volumes.

Once you have the list you need to start prioritizing;
1) what is the volume of searches on each term
2) how much competition is on each term
3) what data do you have from PPC to assist (CTR and conversion)

The ideal scenario is that you find words with a hell of a lot of people looking for them, which no one else is optimized for and you know that people will buy loads from you as a result of it. Lets assume you have a dental health website. All of a sudden Michael Jackson sings the praises of plastic toothpicks and it becomes a hot trend. The searches for “plastic toothpick” are going crazy on your paid search campaign, and you can see them going off the chart in Google Insights too. With each successive picture of MJ sucking a toothpick, more and more people are looking for this must-have summer accessory. You would want your product page for plastic toothpicks to rank well for this, because you know (from your PPC campaigns) that people who search for plastic toothpicks usually end up buying them, and you make a fortune on each toothpick

Start tweaking your site accordingly. You’ll need to change your domain structure to account for this, e.g. create a page that has plastic toothpicks in the domain name, as close as possible to the root (e.g. dentalhealth.com/plastictoothpick) or even better, buy platictoothpick.com and put up a site there. Ensure that the content that you write has a high keyword density around plastic toothpicks, this means that you have a couple of paragraphs that talk exclusively about the teeth cleaning benefits of these toothpicks and mention the words “plastic toothpick” as often as possible. Then you need to get some links into the domain and you will be printing money. Show celebrity magazines where to buy these lovely toothpicks, and ask people to link to your cool content. Link building for this page is not too difficult when it is within your own domain, because your other links will do the heavy lifting.

Now you’ve increased traffic to your site of more relevant people who spend lots. Just hope that Michael doesn’t bring out his own brand of floss.

search engine DE-optimisation

MOUTAIN VIEW, CA - MAY 4:  Employees of Google...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It seems like a stupid question when you think of it. If you want to optimize your site for search engines, you would always want to end up on top, wouldn’t you? That’s where all the traffic is, and more traffic equals more revenues. Some statistics I read say that position 1 = 56%, position 2=13%, position 3= 10% and position 4= 4% of search volume, which means that there is a huge premium on being number 1.

But then I think of my own search behaviour, if I search for something you need to acquaint yourself with the data a little better before you can make a purchase decision. So, the first click tells you about the space, the second click gives you an idea about competition and by the third click you’re ready to convert. I don’t think it’s as simplistic as that (and I’m sure this varies significantly within industries), but it does take into account that you shouldn’t only steer on traffic, you should look at your conversions too.

To add a further layer of complexity it depends on the nature of the search how exhaustive the search will be, and which position is the best to aim for. For navigational searches its fairly immaterial, if someone is looking for you they will find you. For informational searches top 3 is good, depending on how high involvement the issue is (buying a car would be high involvement and would require a lot of searching around a topic). With transactional I’d go with my advice from above.

I’d love to know if anyone has experience with de-optimising their website to get a lower ranking and more conversions