Natural Search Blog


Attending SES Chicago 06

I’ll be attending the Search Engine Strategies Chicago 2006 conference next week, and I’ll be speaking on the panel on Images & Search Engines, for anyone interested.

My part of the presentation will be on “Optimizing Through Image Sharing Sites”. I’ve written here previously about optimizing images for both image search and web search, but some of the material in next week’s presentation will be completely new, and hopefully worthwhile for anyone looking for new organic traffic opportunities to exploit. I’ve been sweating to complete some of the research for this for the past few weeks, and I think the resultant info will be pretty cool!

I’m planning to drop a handful of my bizcards off at the Superpages.com booth in the exhibit hall, for anyone interested in contacting me while at the conference. I understand that our booth will also be sharing space with our compatriots from Inceptor (a company we acquired earlier this year). I’ll be interested in seeing how this hybridized booth thing works out, along with any new Idearc branding that might start showing up on it.

Mike Sack from Inceptor will also be speaking later the same day as myself, on the panel for Converting Visitors Into Buyers.

Finally, I should also mention that Stephan Spencer, who graciously invited me to guest blog on here many months ago, will also be speaking that same day on the panel for Blog & Feed Search SEO. I’ve heard Stephan speak on this subject previously, along with Rick Klau from FeedBurner, and I found it very interesting/worthwhile.

Questions for SEOs

A few weeks ago Stephan invited me to their motley crew and though I start with great enthusiasm, I’ve had many sleepless nights considering how to make a first impression. I’m Paul O’Brien and while I, as do many, write a blog of my own at seobrien.com, I am grateful for the opportunity to share, amongst the tremendous SEO experience that Chris, Stephan, and Brian bring to the table, my natural search perspective and experience from Yahoo! and HP. My background lies in advertising, paid search, comparison shopping, and brand and demand gen advertising; SEO is only a part though it consistently remains the most beneficial. I’m a practical SEO, heavy in analytics and science, dependant on resources and support, and light on the technology; hopefully, I can share with you something of value.

At the risk of not delivering to your expectations, or perhaps merely my own, I thought I’d start simple. I noticed that over a year ago Stephan posted a great series of questions for SEOs, questions about the industry, the practice of SEO, and our future. Missing from NaturalSearchBlog is a discussion of the appropriate questions to ask an SEO when seeking support. Here are my thoughts:

Look for a company that understands your business, marketing, technology, and the internet extensively.  Most importantly, do not shop around based on price. You don’t want a deal as you need expertise while at the same time, SEO isn’t really expensive rocket science (it is alien for most people but not rocket science).

Find a professional that meets your needs, start with these questions, let us know what works for you, and what you look for from an SEO.

Want to optimize? Don’t use Trackback Submitter

For a number of weeks now, we’ve seen a real spike in comment spam submitted to NaturalSearchBlog. We have a nice, heuristic-based module that keeps this out, and we moderate comments. I normally review the filtered comments, and they’re usually just tons of crappy spamlinks for sex, drugs, and gambling. Today I found a number of bona-fide comments that got aggressively filtered out with the deluge of spam, so I resurrected those and approved them. If you’ve commented here recently, we apologize for the delay in approving the comments — but they just got sucked in with the bulk of crap.

One of the 5,000-plus spam comments was from a vile company called “Trackback Submitter”. I knew what this was, of course, but I went to their site anyway in order to see what they say about themselves, and found unsurprisingly that they LIE, LIE, and LIE! If you’re a webmaster wanting to build traffic, avoid this software or you could damage yourself. Read on and I’ll explain…

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So-called Expert Claims Internet Yellow Pages “Overrated”

In the title of a transparently self-serving press release, Barry Maher claims that “online yellow pages advertising (is) often overrated”. Maher says in the release, “It may be the wave of the future, but the dull, old-fashioned, low-tech print directories are still the wave of the present. Businesses do need to be online. Just not at the expense of what’s driving in the dollars today.”

He goes on to say that “For most local companies, there’s still far, far more potential business in the print directories than in anything they might do online.”

(Before I go further, I should disclose that I work for arguably the biggest combined print and online yellow pages company in the US. My comments on this matter are merely my own opinion, though, and not any sort of official stance from my company.)

It seems to me that the headline title of the PR was intended to be controversy-provoking in order to attract more attention than an announcement about the publication of a book on how to advertise in yellow pages would otherwise be (yawn!). The intention was to promote Maher’s book on optimizing print YP ads, So, I really hesitated about rewarding this sort of thing with yet more attention than it merits. Yet, I believe that this claim is pretty irresponsible, so I’m going to address it. I don’t think that Maher can possibly understand IYP nor general internet advertising or he could not have said that “there’s… more potential business in the print directories… than… online” (paraphrased).

Read on and I’ll explain why I think this was not reasonable.

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KFC Ad Targeting Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, and MSN Earth

KFC just constructed a giant ad of their logo/mascot, Colonel Saunders, out in the Nevada desert, in order to “make it viewable from space”. The ad was intentionally constructed near Area 51, the secretive military site that many UFO conspiracy theorists claim to be a hotbed for military testing of alien technologies. Their press release states:

“The Colonel Sanders ‘astrovertisement’ was built in Rachel, Nevada, the ‘UFO Capital of the World’, just off the world’s only extraterrestrial Highway, in the infamous Area 51.”

Here’s a Google video of its construction.

KFC space logo
(click to enlarge)

Aside from all their jokes about advertising to space aliens, KFC has actually constructed something that will show up in the satellite pix that many are viewing through Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, and MSN Live Maps.

For a fun bit of linkbait, the ad’s website allows one to search around for a hidden message by zooming in and panning around. Finding the message allows one to win a free sandwich.

Now, I’ve joked before about optimizing roof ads for Google Maps, but this gargantuan Colonel ad is no joke — this took some serious money to construct! One of my friends who works for Yum! Brands’ corporate offices remarked that she could now see why their executives were pushing so heavily for cost-cutting — they’re spending tons on marketing to space aliens!

Jokes aside, this type of advertisement may become increasingly serious business as more and more businesses target people who are browsing around viewing satellite pictures through Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, and MSN Live Maps. This sort of thing is being called “mapvertising” or “roofvertising”.

Google, Yahoo & MicroSoft to Cooperate on Sitemaps

I was delighted today that the Google and Yahoo search engines announced at PubCon that they would jointly support and collaborate upon one protocol for webmasters to use for submitting their site URLs for potential inclusion. View the video of the announcement here. MicroSoft has also apparently agreed to use the same protocol as well.

To support this initiative, they will jointly support sitemaps.org. If you recall, “sitemaps” was the product name that Google had been using, and which became deprecated just a few months ago in favor of “Google Webmaster Tools”. Obviously, the wheels had already begun turning to repurpose the “Sitemaps” brand name into a jointly-operated service.

Now when Sitemaps are generated to follow the common protocol, webmasters will still need to submit the link feeds to each of the SEs via their existing managment tools such as in Google Webmaster Tools and in Yahoo! Site Explorer.

If you recall, I was one of a number of webmasters out there who had requested that they collaborate on a common protocol, such as in a blog post I wrote back in September:

“Hopefully each of the major search engines will try to employ identical or compatible formats for site URLs, because it will be a hassle to have to keep up with multiple formats. This is an area where the SEs really ought to cooperate with one another for “pro bono publicoâ€? – for the common good. Currently, Yahoo seems to be just defensively immitating Google in this arena, and no one’s showing signs of collaborating.”

Kudos to Google and Yahoo for overcoming traditional corporate competitiveness to do something that mutually benefits website owners as well as the search engines!

 

SEO May Be Eclipsed by User-Centered Design

I’ve been seeing indications that Google has shifted their weighting of the ~200 various signals they use in their ranking soup over the past couple of years. It used to be that PageRank along with the number of keyword references on a page were some of the strongest signals used for what page comes up highest in the search results, but I’ve seen more and more cases where PageRank and keyword density seem relatively weaker than they once were. I see a lot of reasons to believe that quality ratings have become weighted more heavily for rankings, particularly among more popular search keywords. Google continues to lead the pack in the search marketplace, so their evolution will likely influence their competitors in similar directions, too.

So, what is my evidence that Google’s development of Quality criteria is becoming more influential in their rankings than PageRank and other classic optimization elements? Read on and I’ll explain. (more…)

“Search Master” teaches SEO101 but needs SEM101 himself

Was surfing an SEO blog and this Google ad caught my eye:

Google ad for an SEO seminar in Auckland

I’m pretty up to speed with the SEO experts in New Zealand, being based here and all, and I hadn’t heard of any SEO training being given by any master optimizer in Auckland. I was intrigued to learn more about this self-proclaimed “Search Master”. So I clicked. Guess what I got! Yep, a nasty error instead of a landing page!

The page you requested could not be found. Please click here to return to the homepage

Methinks this “Search Master” with his SEO101 and SEO201 courses needs to go back to school himself for SEM101. ;-)

Lesson #1 in SEM101: If you’re going to pay for clicks, make sure your landing page works!

We all make mistakes, but this seminar is in 3 days and you’d think he’d be watching the online registrations pretty closely right about now…

Nike.com gets taken to task over its search mistakes

This article just out on MarketingProfs.com is an entertaining rant about Nike.com’s search marketing mistakes, which include…

As I was perusing the article and the included screen captures, I couldn’t help but think that a critique like this would be well-suited to being produced as a screencast, using Camtasia Studio or similar.

Maybe I should produce my monthly SEO Report Card column as screencasts? Would that be valuable to you folks?

where can I buy relafen

Nouveau Meta Tags for SEO

Back in the earliest days of search optimization, meta tags were a great channel for placing keywords for the search engines to associate with your pages. A meta tag does just what it sounds like — they are the html tags built to hold metadata (or, “data describing the data”) about pages. In terms of SEO, the main meta tags people refer to are the Keywords and Description meta tags. Meta tags are not visible to endusers looking at the page, but the meta tag content would be collected by search engines and used to rank a page — it was really convenient if you wanted to pass synonyms, misspellings, and various term stems along with the specific keywords.

Classic Meta Tags - people used to pack keywords into metatags

Immediately after people realized that meta tags could allow a page to be found more relevant in the major search engines, unscrupulous people began abusing the tags by passing keywords that had little or nothing to do with the content of their sites, and the search engines began to reduce using that content for a keyword association ranking factor because it couldn’t be trusted. Eventually, search engines pretty well dropped using them for ranking altogether and newer search engines didn’t bother to use them at all, leading Danny Sullivan to declare the death of the metatags in 2002.

Fast forward to 2006, and the situation has changed yet again. Your meta tag content can once again directly affect your pages’ rankings in the SERPs!

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