How Small Websites Can Still Rank Well in Google Search

 This article is contributed by Theresa Moyer.

Google has changed the search engine landscape drastically. Since their introduction of Panda and Penguin, many businesses were hit hard and no longer rank on Google. The purpose of Panda and Penguin were to eliminate people that ranked their sites by spamming. Continue reading

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Always On The Alert

geese computer shih tzu

What do these three images have in common?  All three have been used by man as ‘watchmen’ or guardians. The sacred geese alerted the Romans when the invading Gauls were trying to sneak into the city.  Despite their size, the Tibetan lion dogs or Shih Tzu acted as watchdogs for the temples. .. and finally many main frame computers act as sentinels against unwanted intruders.

Standing on guard is a thankless and boring task.  Given the monotony, it can be difficult to stay alert.  Where the task can be delegated to a computer, it will be done much more efficiently.  Thankfully there are a number of programs now available that can monitor the Internet and signal when something unusual has happened..

google alerts

Google Alerts is one such program.  It can provide e-mail messages whenever particular keywords, like the company name, are detected in new web pages.  It is an easy way of monitoring publicity efforts or competitive activity.

tweetbeep

Many people are now Microblogging on Twitter.  Luckily it is possible now to get Twitter alerts. TweetBeep is like Google Alerts for Twitter! Put in a keyword or website, and get emails when others tweet it!

exact factor

Monitoring how well a website is doing in search engine rankings would be another good area for SEO tools that would provide such alerts.  The problem with the search engines is that there is far too much data.  Expert SEO’s can spend the time involved in crunching all the numbers that describe how web pages are ranking with the search engines.  Now webmasters who have much less time can use a new program, Exact Factor, to provide alerts on how well web pages are ranking for particular keywords in different search engines.  Limited results are available without signing up, but registering for a free account gives access to all the services.

As with Google alerts or TweetBeep alerts, e-mail messages can be sent when particular results surface.  The following screenshots show some of the choices that are available in Exact Factor.  Results can be seen either on the screen or via e-mail alerts. The first is a simple choice of an alert for a particular keyword or keywords in a number of search engines.

add alert

Another possibility is to compare your own website against a competitor for particular keywords.

add competitor alert

The next image shows just a small fraction of what is available after such an analysis is done. There is a good deal of flexibility in what is shown on the screen and results can also be downloaded. For example a weekly report can be produced that summarizes relative positions for a range of keywords.

compare results

The advantage of this process is that it can be made completely automatic. Expert SEO’s who are prepared to dive into complex analyses may well not find this an important advantage. However many other webmasters will find assurance in the continuing surveillance of their website so as to spot when results may be deteriorating. Such early warning systems give the best opportunity of identifying what may be the problems and correcting them promptly.

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Knols, Knols, Decisions, Decisions

.. or as Tiffany Monhollon so deftly put it in the words of the bard, To Knol or Not to Knol? Her post is well worth reading since it summarizes much of the present decision problem many of us are facing:

That is the question of the day, isn’t it? With so much talk about whether or not this new service is the Wikipedia-killer or a threat to Squidoo, thought-leaders (and potential experts) everywhere have to be turning that question over in their minds.

The problem is, Knol is such a new tool, even though Google’s done an admirable job trying to define how the process works and what a good product looks like, no one really knows what to do with it yet, much less what to think of it. That’s because what will really define Knol is user involvement. And you better believe Google knows that.

In a world where content is king, Google’s new service simply can’t survive much less become a threat to anything without thoughtful participation from a crowd of established experts. The reason for this is simple: That’s the added value Knol supposedly brings to users – expertise.

knol

write a knol

If you take what Google is saying at face value, that is certainly a fair assessment. However I believe the reality is very much simpler. Knol will never be a place to go to check out information. Google has now already in the Beta phase created a mountain of lucrative web pages that will bring appreciable Adword revenues as these web pages turn up in keyword searches.

If you are surprised by that just check out some of the topics in the Plain old bag o’ knols section of the Knol home page.

Multiple Myeloma, Normal Pregnancy, Interstitial Lung Disease and Pulmonary Fibrosis, Conjunctivitis, Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck), Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Diverticulitis, Libido Problems in Women, Seasonal Allergies, Liposuction, Hypothyroidism, Anxiety Disorders, An Overview of Rectal Surgery, Osteoarthritis, Basal Cell Carcinoma, AIDS, Family Planning with Hormonal Contraception, Urticaria, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Patient Safety, High Risk Pregnancy, Hemorrhoids, Decreased Hearing, Specific Information about the Four Major Leukemias, HDL-Cholesterol, Dyslexia, Croup, Coronary Bypass Surgery, Central Sleep Apnea, Malaria, Female Sexual Function and Dysfunction, The Quality of Healthcare, Hematuria, Tinea Versicolor (Pityriasis Versicolor), Prostate Cancer, Menopause – What Is It?, Perioral Dermatitis (Periorificial Dermatitis), Common Cold, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Acute Renal Failure, Nasal Polyps

Since these topics are on the Knol homepage, which is now receiving an incredible number of links from everyone trying to understand the Knol, it is quite clear that these Knol pages will naturally dominate the keyword query search pages. Although some question whether Google will wish to continue with Knols, they will probably find it too attractive in revenue terms to kill off.

For others of us dealing with topics which are less ad-rich, Knol presents a real dilemma. Will Knol become the place to be seen? That will be true only if regular Knol pages turn out to have natural high rankings in keyword query searches. Although a Knol page gives only minor returns to its author, if you are number one in a marketplace, can you afford to let your competitor be the one who writes the important Knol page in your field.

On present indications, you probably can let the competitor do the work. It seems quite clear that Google cannot give an unnatural advantage to its Knol pages in its search algorithms. If it did, the distinction between its natural listings and its paid advertising would become very fuzzy. That would be something that many would certainly encourage the FTC to check out with vigor.

.. and of course if the competitor does write a knol that seems to be gaining traction, your choice is clear. Just go out and write a better Knol on the same subject. If yours gets better reviews then presumably like cream it will float to the top.

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Headlines Are For Humans, Titles Are For Robots

 
For good SEO, choose the right title.

As we all spend more time in social media, such as Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon or Sphinn, the ability to write catchy headlines becomes as important as it ever was. If someone skimming through a list of possible topics is intrigued by your headline, then they may dip in to find out what it’s all about. That’s why Brian Clark suggested you should be writing Magnetic Headlines. If you were using WordPress to write your blog, then you would presumably put that catchy headline in that field labelled Title. It all seems so easy, but in fact it’s a little too easy. In what follows to avoid confusion, we’ll call what appears in that WordPress Title field the Headline.

Although your Headline may be written to attract human beings, it may not work well in a search engine keyword ranking. Since the largest proportion of the traffic to your website will come via search engines, it may be worth using something that the search engine robots will find attractive. The problem is that WordPress uses the expression in that Title field in a number of different ways. It is of course used as the headline in the < H1 > heading for your blog. It is also used as the Title element in the head of your blog page. This is the text that appears in the bar across the top of the screen. If you have nominated Pretty Permalinks, then the WordPress will also use the same text to develop the URL for the post.

Creating Optimal Titles

This is where the dilemma arises. The Title in the head of the blog page is very important in search engine rankings. The URL may also have a slight effect on these rankings. Optimizing the text for search engine robots will likely produce something, which is not necessarily one of those Magnetic Headlines that was being suggested.

Luckily help is at hand from a variety of sources. For example, Stephan Spencer and his colleagues have developed SEO Title Tag 2.1.3, which allows you to specify a Title for the blog post, which can be different from the headline. A more complete solution is provided by the All in One SEO Pack PlugIn from Uberdose. This not only allows an independent title but also has a number of other useful features. Even used ‘out of the box’ with default settings the PlugIn will achieve a good part of what is needed to optimize your blog posts for the Search Engines. Katy Castro has a good description of how to use it.

Getting the Meta Description Right

An equally important element in getting search engine traffic to your blog post is the text in the Meta Description for the blog post. The All in One SEO Pack allows you to prepare a separate description for each page. If you don’t, the default is that it will take the first 155 or so characters from the start of the post and use that. That avoids a problem Google has in indexing blog posts that all have the same Meta Description. Checking your website with the Google Webmaster Tools website will tell you whether duplicate descriptions is a problem for your blog.

By writing the most engaging description of your blog post in 155 or less characters, you increase the chance that this is what Google will show in its search engine report pages (SERPs). Most such snippets are a jumble of words that Google selects to try to show that its selection may be relevant to the keyword search. A well-crafted sentence will encourage many more visitors to click through to your blog post.

Although the Keywords MetaTag is of limited value nowadays, the plug-in does allow you to specify what keywords are most appropriate. Again if you do not specify keywords, the plug-in will select keywords by default from either the categories or from any tags that post may have.

The URL Of The Blog Post

A secondary factor in the optimization of the blog post is the URL for the blog post. Selecting the Pretty Permalinks option is one important step here for a WordPress blog. Unfortunately as mentioned above, this is again derived from the Headline of the blog post. You will find the text used in the Post Slug element in the right hand column of the Edit screen. It is derived by taking the Headline of the Post, putting all letters in lower case and adding hyphens between the words. This is not something where the All in One SEO Pack PlugIn helps. However as the WordPress Codex recommends, if you want to create a more memorable URL, then you can create such a one using lower case words and hyphens. Often taking the Title you have derived for the All in One SEO Pack PlugIn and converting it will be a good way to go.

Conclusion

Users of the All in One SEO Pack PlugIn are effusive in their praise of how well it works, even using it ‘out of the box’. If at least for your more worthy blog posts, you go the extra mile by crafting individual entries for the PlugIn, then you will see a significant increase in your visitor traffic. If you want to see how such a post appears, you can check this post. The headline was of course, Headlines Are For Humans, Titles Are For Robots. However in the Title bar at the top of the screen, note the Title of the post, Write SEO Titles For High Rankings. A version of that also appears in the URL. Check the description by viewing the source code. It’s all extra effort but a very good use of your time.

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