SEO or PPC – The Choice Is Yours

This article is contributed by Cory Collins

Often in the search engine optimization (SEO) world, people assume we should have an abiding hatred of pay per click (PPC) advertisements, twirling our moustaches and plotting its inevitable downfall. However, this isn’t at all true. Continue reading

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Blogging For Maximum Google Visibility

Blogs versus websites

If you are concerned to bring lots of traffic to your online property, then there’s no discussion about which is the better choice.  A blog will perform very much more strongly than a website for reasons we will shortly discuss. Indeed if blogs had come along before websites, there would now only be a small fraction of the websites we see on the Internet.

Blogging is Proactive

The biggest reason why blogs outperform websites is that blogs are proactive while regular websites are reactive.  A blog can signal to Google or the other search engines the instant that new material has been added.  On the other hand, if you change a web page,  Google will only be aware of the change the next time one of their spiders happens to check out that specific  blog post.  That factor alone has an enormous impact on the search engine visibility of blog posts.  However the specific visibility of any particular blog can be improved or diminished by more detailed decisions on particular features of the blog.

By observation, this search-engine visibility of blog posts is greatly speeded up now with the adoption by Google of its new search infrastructure, ‘caffeine’, during the summer.  You can check this by doing Google Alerts on keywords in your post and seeing how rapidly these are triggered. It really is most impressive.

Ways to improve your blog visibility

Two particular practices can materially improve blog posts visibility.

  • Regular blog posts, even if short
  • Add links to blog posts to interconnect

Regular blog posts have a number of important benefits, all of which ratchet up the search engine visibility:

  • The RSS news feeds are pinging the search engines more frequently
  • Web pages that change more frequently encourage the search engine spiders to crawl the web pages more frequently

The other useful way of strengthening important blog posts is to add links to them from other blog posts.  Although internal links are probably not as important as external links, they do provide paths for spiders to follow and will encourage more thorough indexing.

What to avoid with your blog

Although blogs do have this inherent search engine visibility, it is possible to severely handicap how visible the individual blog posts will be.  The key parameter here is the number of times a new blog post appears on the blog front page.  It turns out that the extremes reduce the impact of individual blog posts.

  • Having a static ‘Home page’
  • Having too many blog posts on the ‘front page’

With a static home page, new individual blog posts only appear as singles or as entries within category or tag pages.  Although they may be no less visible to humans or search engine spiders that follow the news feeds, general readers visiting ‘the blog’ may never click on a link to spot the latest web page.

If one goes with the default home page of a blog, where say 5 or 10  blog posts may appear in sequence, then again the potential search engine visibility of the individual blog posts is reduced.  By showing only say 3 or even only the latest blog post, that content gets the added advantage of recency coupled with the greater ‘PageRank’ strength of the home page.

Conclusion

Sometimes these ‘big picture’ questions about the basic blog site architecture get forgotten,  However by making some right choices, the overall search engine visibility of the total blog content can be significantly improved.  That is something no blog owner should casually overlook.

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Google, Apple In Conflict While Microsoft, Yahoo Agree

All the headlines this morning confirm that Microsoft, Yahoo agree on long-sought search deal:

Microsoft Corp. has finally roped Yahoo Inc. into an Internet search partnership, capping a convoluted pursuit that dragged on for years and finally setting the stage for them to make a joint assault against the dominance of Google Inc.

The 10-year deal announced Wednesday gives Microsoft access to the Internet’s second-largest search engine audience, adding a potentially potent weapon to the software maker’s Internet arsenal as it tries to better confront Google, which is by far the leader in online search and advertising. Microsoft didn’t have to give Yahoo an upfront payment to make it happen, as many Yahoo investors had hoped.

It will take up to 2 years to get put in place, so don’t expect sudden changes. It’s the kind of headline to yawn about.

There’s another headline that really should be getting all the attention: Google Pulls Apple from Search Results. Since it is the kind of headline that cool thought may attempt to bury, here is the start of the story:

Google Apple Fight

Perhaps the final paragraph of the story, although humorous, may correctly indicate the seriousness of this item:

Some industry analysts think the retaliatory moves could result in all-out war like back in 1939, when a Polish sausage company stopped using pork from Germany. In response Germany invaded. “We don’t want another situation like that,” said Bank of America’s George Pendry.

It all confirms that the company which has set as its high ideal to catalogue all knowledge while doing no evil is driven by the advertising bottom line. Relevancy of results takes second place to that.

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Search Engine Olympics – a Gold Medal for ?

Which Search Engine wins the Medals?

Today’s headline suggests that Yahoo Wins Gold Medal for Online Olympic Traffic.

As U.S. workers continue to check out the Olympics online during the work week, Yahoo is beating the competition in drawing eyes to its Olympic content. But if you are in management, don’t freak out. Peak time for your employees’ daily Olympic fix is lunch time.

That can hardly be regarded as a complete answer to the question that David “Doc” Searls posed, “Is Yahoo a better search engine than Google?

One of the commenters pointed out that Jeff Jonas had already suggested How to Beat Google! (At Search). Another contender was said to be Clusty.

Clusty got its start in Pittsburgh, PA in 2004 when the search software company Vivísimo decided to take its award-winning search technology to the web.

Vivísimo was founded in 2000 by three Carnegie Mellon University scientists who decided to tackle the problem of information overload in web search. Rather than focusing just on search engine result ranking, we realized that grouping results into topics, or “clustering,” made for better search and discovery. As search became a necessity for web users, Vivísimo developed a service robust enough to handle the variety of information the everyday web user was after. The result was Clusty: an innovative way to get more out of every search.

Doc Searls had checked a few searches for old blog items in affirming the superiority of Yahoo. It is an intriguing question. Clearly a well-founded answer would require much testing. However a quick check might confirm whether he was on to something. I therefore checked out the performance of the three, Yahoo, Google and Clusty, on some of my old blog posts. The blog posts were all present in the databases for Yahoo and Google, so this was a measure of how well they could deliver results from their databases.

To provide a topical summary measure, I decided to award gold, silver and bronze medals in each event. The gold medal was worth three points, the silver medal two points and the bronze one point. Here are the detailed results for searches for these phrases. They were done without quotes. The phrases were chosen at random so although the sample is small, it should be representative. NF indicates that the blog post was not found in the first 100 results

Performance has a whole host of associations that work well, particularly considering the sports analogy.
#1 Yahoo #1 Clusty #4 Google (61,000 entries)
Does UPS own Brown as part of its brand?
NF Yahoo #6 Clusty #3 Google (365,000 entries)
This is because the use of Frames in web design causes all sorts of problems so that most savvy web designers do not use them.
NF Yahoo #1 Clusty #3 Google (314,000 entries)
They’re even talking about a place for bludgers.
#7 Yahoo #1 Clusty NF Google (65,500 entries)
It’s intriguing to think of the Internet as an Open Space as in Open Space Technology.
NF Yahoo NF Clusty #8 Google (87,100 entries)
ReCellular has more than half the U.S. phone recycling business.
#23 Yahoo #23 Clusty NF Google (714 entries)

Which search engine had the best medal standing? As mentioned, Medal Scores were assigned as follows:
3 for Gold, 2 for Silver, 1 for Bronze.
This gave the following results.
        Yahoo 10.5 | Clusty 14.5 | Google 11
The minimum medal score would be 6 and the maximum 18.

… and the winner is Clusty. If these results were substantiated in more extensive testing, then the major search engines might have to take Clusty seriously. Google of course has a huge advance on the rest of the field. However if Yahoo’s possible superiority opens up the question, then questioners may possibly become aware of the little search engine that could.

If you would like to see a short video summary of this, then you can play the following:

The video itself, Is Yahoo Beating Google, can be found on YouTube.

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Make Your Website Search Engine Robot-Friendly

 
Search Engine Robots Read Site Maps Too

In November 2006, all the major search engines for once agreed on new Sitemap standards. Sitemaps.org set out the rules for sitemap files that all the major search engines would follow.

If you use a program such as GSiteCrawler, you can produce a full listing of all the web pages on your website in an XML file: the standard name for this file is sitemap.xml. The search engines do prefer a G-zipped version of this file, usually named sitemap.xml.gz. The GSiteCrawler program produces both versions. Although even Microsoft’s MSN/Live subscribed to this standard, as yet they have not indicated how they wish to implement the standard. The other majors have been more helpful.

A good way to start is via the website for Google’s Webmaster Tools. Once you have loaded your sitemap file to your domain, you can submit this to Google. An advantage of this approach is that Google will then in due course evaluate the sitemap file and indicate any errors therein.

The real news came up last week when Google, Yahoo! and Ask indicated that another route to inform them of the sitemap file is to include a reference to the precise URL for the sitemap file in the robots.txt file. Every domain should have a robots.txt file, even if it is an empty file. Search engine robots (or spiders) will sometimes visit a domain and check only the robots.txt file. This confirms that the domain is live. Without such a file, an error is recorded. Now you can add anywhere in the file, say at the bottom, an additional line that reads as follows:
Sitemap: http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.gz

The robots.txt file is normally checked often by search engine spiders. By doing the above, you should quickly get the new file picked up. Ask, Google and Yahoo! are all using this robots.txt file approach.

If you have just loaded up a sitemaps file and want to be sure that the sitemap file is picked up ASAP, you can ping the search engines directly. The following hyperlinks are the appropriate way to do this.

Ask:
http://submissions.ask.com/ping? sitemap=http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.gz
Google:
http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/ping? sitemap=http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.gz
Yahoo:
http://search.yahooapis.com/SiteExplorerService/V1/ping? sitemap=http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.gz

NOTE: The space after ping? should be removed. It is included here to improve the formatting of the blog post.

This should provide all the information you need on the sitemap file and how to alert the search engine robots that you have one. If there are additional points, hopefully someone will add them in the comments.

Related:
What’s new with Sitemaps.org? – Official Google Webmaster Central Blog
Use Your Robots.txt To Publish Your Sitemaps Xml File – Cre8asite Forums Discussion

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