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White Hat Vs Black Hat SEO August 24, 2008

Posted by simarprit in Blogging, Internet, Search Engines, SEO, SES 2008, websites.
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Which hat do you wear, Black, White, Grey, Red or None?

The question should rather be:

Which kind of head do you carry over your shoulder – Black, White, Grey or Red?

It looks like everyone has been changing/ exchanging hats. If it is the color of head we talk about, it would be more exciting and entertaining ūüôā

Continuing with my series on SES 2008, San Jose, this post incorporates the Gyan acquired during the session – Black Hat, White Hat: Playing Dirty with SEO

Let us define:

Black Hat: You do whatever it takes to be on top of SERPs. Good. Bad. Ugly. Whatever. Period.

White Hat: You do whatever search engine (read Google) guidelines for webmasters tell you to, you don’t try to outsmart search engines.

Grey Hat: You are the border guy, you know the stretch, and you think you know what you would getaway with, you live white, but you know black and you use it on the side.

Red Hat: You know what it takes to hurt your competitor and you know how to getaway with it.

No Hat: If you don’t wear any and you are still an SEO, maybe you an incompetent SEO. Don’t worry, you are not alone 95% of the SEOs within the industry are plain incompetent.

The session was to debate Black Hat vs. White Hat, but the debate didn’t happen. it looked like the whole panel was wearing Grey Hat and tended to remain on the border and just didn’t want to be drawn to the controversy. Important observation were made:

  1. Established sites have much more restrictions, they can’t risk exclusion from SERPs.
  2. Just made for adsense is crap. Content needs to be good. Nobody wants trash, and for sure not the search engines.
  3. Searcher needs good results and most of the top results very close to each other, if Search Engines intermix the top 5 results, it wouldn’t;t matter to the surfer.
  4. Buying excessive links can hurt, it is Red Hat.
  5. Good SEO to me is Knowledge about Search engines and the subject.
  6. Meta Keyword stuffing hurts.
  7. Everything in the title hurts too.
  8. Hidden content is black.
  9. Short and focused titles are good.
  10. Paid unrealted blogging can hurts.
  11. Vague and self promoting descriptions with repeat words hurts
  12. Paid link buying from link farms hurts badly.
  13. Search engines hate doorway or gatway pages, they hate being misled
  14. Serach engines hate carse optimization: They are bound to hate something like this – www.example.com/HOTEL/hotel/googleCityNameHotel.html – Which may go with the title <title>CityName Hotels | Hotels in¬†CityName |Budget¬†CityName Hotels| Luxury¬†CityName Hotel| Cheap¬†CityName Hotel| Discount¬†CityName Hotels</title> This is a live example of carse black hat, “We will do anything even put Google’s name in¬†our URLs, hundreds of them but we need to get on the top, we don’t care what happens to¬†our site if Google doesn’t like it.” I picked up this example as it was succeeding in ranking high up. I have kept the URL intact except removing the site name and substituting it with example.com and substituting the actual city name with CityName.
  15. Great generic domain name helps

More to come…

SEO Best Practices – Content Issues August 24, 2008

Posted by simarprit in Blogging, Content, Internet, Search Engines, SEO, SES 2008, Spamming, Uncategorized, websites.
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Content Duplication Issues and SEO Best Practices

Continuing on my series on SES 2008 San Jose, this White paper is again a hybrid of what was shared and what I have learnt over a decade on search engines.

If I give you 10 pages to read, you would scan through, start reading and if what you are reading is “new to you”¬† may be you would read all ten of them at one go.

Bingo.

Now, if I give you 10 pages to read and when you scan through you find that “you’ve read it before” or “only one page is unique”, you may not even read my one unique page and trash all, worse, you would remember me as guy who tricked you by giving 10 pages to read when he had just information for one page. You would make a note¬† “not so nice man to know.”

To me this is content duplication and so it is to search engines, so here we go.

  1. Search engines job is to satisfy the searcher, they want to grow and be seen as credible.
  2. Search engines have no favorites.
  3. They trust you unless you betray them, they work with a basic premise that what you are feeding them is your own and unique.
  4. So when you feed search engines anything they “Scan”, if you are “New”¬† they may read whole of it.
  5. If you are not “New” they’ll trash you and “remember” you as “not a good site to know”.

So what are your choices, simple choice is to always provide “New content”, but this choice is expensive and restrictive to many, so what do these many do:

  1. Put same content on many pages on the same site as it is.
  2. Put same content on many pages of the same site with minor modifications, disguising it as new content.
  3. Put same content on many different sites under the same ownership.
  4. Put same content on many different sites with minor modifications but the sites are under the same ownership.
  5. Put same content on many different sites under many different ownerships, in many different servers, in many different data centers with or without minor modifications.

They all presume that they would be able to manipulate their way around, some do succeed, but issue is how hard are you working to do something which is wrong anyway. Search engines are becoming smarter by every passing day, they are scanning better, they are storing better and they are recalling better. The best case scenario is don’t duplicate your content and don’t manipulate content of others and put the same on your site, remember sooner or later you would be caught and become “Not a Good Site to Know”, and search engines would drop you out, as we all do.

This leaves us with the issue of what if someone does this to me. Yes, this is the issue!

So if you are original source of the content, your worry is – How does search engine know that I am the original? Search engines are working very hard to reach the original, in case they don;t make them aware.

Do what you will do with your assets: Protect them, be vigilant and act if someone breaches your copyrights. A related issue is when you syndicate your original content, I will cover this subsequently.

Some common inadvertent content duplication mistakes and issues:

  1. When spiders read your content four times:  http://example.com,  http://www.example.com, http://www.example.com/index.html or http://example.com/index.html. Most of the spiders know how to circumvent it, but it will help to put 301 re-directions in place and route everything to http://www.example.com
  2. When you change platform
  3. When you change URL structures, remove the old one and  deploy 301 redirects
  4. When you create test folders, remove your test folders
  5. When you shift to a sub domain, clear the content permanently from your servers
  6. Disclaimers and privacy policies running across sites and copyright statements running across site. put non-crawlable JS functions or connect them centrally.
  7. Check your landing pages, if you have multiple landing pages make them unique
  8. Check your meta titles, and meta descriptions, they need to be unique
  9. Be careful on mirrored sites
  10. Content in multiple languages with common attributes or language strings is a no no
  11. Use exclude protocol in robots.txt where-ever you need to share the same content, within the same site or at different domains
  12. Check out and remove any hidden link.
  13. Use password protection where you need to carry duplicate content
  14. Permanent deletion of duplicate content is better than redirection

The above can form some of the best practices SEO’s can follow.

more to come…

SES 2008 Site Clinic August 22, 2008

Posted by simarprit in Blogging, Internet, Search Engines, SEO, SES 2008, websites.
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So what is a website clinic? As per Search Engine Strategies 2008, San Jose organizers, a website clinic is a one to tow hour session where a panel of “Website Gurus” evaluate your site publicly.

They allow you to explain what your site does briefly. Each site review takes about 15 minutes, I attended three sessions on this subject today:

My random thoughts:

  1. Try to stick to one coder or a style of coding
  2. Ensure your site supports the resolution your customer group generally work on
  3. Maybe it is a good idea to give relative links from your homepage to internal server
  4. Seeing what you are looking for in the URL makes sense
  5. Dynamic Menus can create a problem, they may confuse the spider, robots and whatever
  6. JS is best avoided in all sorts of navigation.
  7. JS also adds to overheads
  8. It may be good idea to tackle multiple coder issue by rewriting the code for your top pages (top pages and not all pages) in one style from time to time.
  9. Hyphens are better than underscores in the path and on the page.
  10. Wisely use SEO products and be open to adopting them.
  11. All upper case usage is not good
  12. Ensure your sitemap is there and update it regularly
  13. Define your 20 second elevator pitch and put it prominently
  14. 404 hurts, avoid Not Found Errors
  15. Avoid denial of service errors, they hurt
  16. Bring up Page 2 and Page 3 words
  17. Try MSN funnel tool
  18. Use KML
  19. Provide data dircetly to search engines
  20. Try layering image over text, but don’t go overboard

 

More to come..

SES 2008 SEO August 21, 2008

Posted by simarprit in Blogging, Internet, Search Engines, SEO, SES 2008, websites.
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SEO Through Blogs and Feeds

Continuing on my blogging the SES 2008 at San Jose I must admit I am not the fastest blogger and neither do I do “Live Blogging”, my blogs are aimed to be educative executive summaries for myself and for all those who care. They are focused session on what all I have attended and express my opinion alongside those who are the knowledge givers.

Rebecca Lieb did a good job of moderating the session, her knowledge about the subject and her apt comments made the session lively, Chris Boggs, Lee Odden, Amanda Watlington and Daron Babin formed the speakers panel.

It is important to self qualify your blog and understand your objectives of blogging. The qualifications you must answer be:

  1. Is your blog official or personal?
  2. Is your blog residing on a sub-domain or is it a separate domain in itself?
  3. Does your blog carry your corporate signatures or it has a personal touch about it?
  4. Are you the lone blogger or there are are multiple bloggers who would work working on the blog?

Choosing your platform is very important. WordPress looked like the preferred platform for most around.

Some quick takeaways (includes my own interpretations and learning)

  1. When writing a blog remember Steven Covey, begin with the end in mind.
  2. You should know precisely what you want to write on and what you want to gain by that writing.
  3. You should make a note of the keywords you want that post/blog to cover and ensure that they find a place in your title.
  4. The panel also recommended that you should do some research on the tags you would like your post to be covered under.
  5. Socializing and creating  community around the log helps
  6. Customize and optimize your blog and feeds
  7. Use blog widgets or bligets wisely, don’t be obsessed
  8. Acknowledge and link to others liberally, develop credibility for your blog
  9. Links are currency, work towards them
  10. Try to become a top referrer on the topic of your choice
  11. Twitter, Flickr, Stumbleupon you need all of them at some stage or another
  12. Goals should drive your content on the blog
  13. Refine your blog
  14. Use Auto Discovery Tag of blog feeds
  15. Use trust rank inside your blog to increase credibility

More to come

SES 2008 Domain Auction August 21, 2008

Posted by simarprit in Domain Names, Internet, SES 2008, websites.
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Yesterday the domainer Simarprit Singh saw himself in action once again. The auction had less than 100 in attendance, most of them freeloaders who had come for free drinks and food. I thin there were about 5 – 10 committed buyers who were there to pick-up whatever they liked at reasonable prices.

I picked up 6 domains in the auction two on SEO, recognizing my firm acceptance and current stance of the SEO industry, one on vehicles, two generic .org domains, one on baseball and one on Jobs.

The experience was good, most of the domains below $1000.00 got sold, there were hardly any takers for big domains. The auctioner with due respect was not very good as he had no clue about the subject. There was no passion and no involvement in it, the auctioneer in Domain Round Table in SFO was far better. Good for me, had he been good I would have landed spending far more than I did.

Why am I investing in domains, simple, I see a huge upside in it. I am picking up these domain names to complete my portfolio and be in a position to release my list so that anyone serious finds something worthwhile.

Do I have four letter domains? Yes! Do I have generic domains? Yes! Do I have two words logical domains? Yes! My story is getting complete.

Do I recommend domain name investments? Yes! I think it is good to have a domain portfolio as an investment option. Like all other portfolios you should build it up part by part.

SEO Best Practices August 20, 2008

Posted by simarprit in Blogging, Internet, Search Engines, SEO, websites.
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The most important takeaway for me from the SES 2008, San Jose is that I have come to accept SEO as an integral part of doing business on the net. I must put a quick rejoinder, Ethical SEO is good and it must center around the concept that Search Engines need you more than you eed the search engines. Search engines main stay is good content and high degree of relevant top quality results.

This post is going to be an ever evolving post on SEO Best Practices, this would be an extension of my own own learning and growth as an SEO practitioner.

Search Engine Optimization is good and is here to stay, it all depends on you as an SEO practitioner on how strongly you define your best practices and how religiously you follow them and live the guidelines.

So what is the rule of thumb, and the most critical best practice:

Make your site in a form that it enhances the search engines usage experience. In other words, Search Engines should need you at the least as much as you need them, preferably they should need you more than you need them.

Much more to come, it has just begun…

SES 2008 – Landing Pages August 20, 2008

Posted by simarprit in Blogging, Internet, Search Engines, websites.
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Landing Pages and Science of Online Business

This write-up is inspired by the two sessions I attended on Landing Pages at SES 2008, San Jose. I must add a disclaimer that this write-up includes certain parts of my own “random gyan” beyond the framework of the sessions attended by me:

Sage Lewis is good at introducing and setting pace for the speaker, Tim Ash did a good job of not ony talking candidly but also did a good job of letting people know that he is an accomplished expert by encouraging them to buy his book “Landing Page Optimization – The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversion”.

The second session – Landing Page Utopia: Expert Roundtable – was a half ‘n half session. Half knowledge and half sales pitch. Moderator was Ron Belnager from Yahoo ad speakers were Scott Brinker from Ion Interactive, Frans Keylard from Widemile, Alissa Ruehl from Apogge Search and Jonathan Mendez from RAMP digital.

  1. Landing Page – The page where your visitor arrives/ lands. It can be any page and in today’s world of deep diving every page is a landing page. However in this context, landing page(s) is a term referred to those pages which have to run the kitchen and pay for the ¬†mortgage, and pay for the gas, and pay for the fee of attending conferences and seminars like this one 8)
  2. Landing Page Testing – The act of experimenting (real life/ live) on a large data set to reach to the most suitable, appropriate and optimized landing page, tweaking and tuning on the way
  3. Define your Landing Pages
  4. Define the goals and expectations from he landing pages
  5. Set measurable targets
  6. Let the visitor determine and have the final say on how your landing page should look like
  7. Keep it above the fold/ envelope to the extent possible
  8. Your visitor is a smart customer/ don’t waste his time
  9. Define the size of your test
  10. Business expectations and your PPC or other spending should point to the test size and techniques you would like to implement/ deploy
  11. Focus on test Data Collection and detail methodologies to be adopted for the same
  12. Plan quick and precise Data Analysis
  13. Use optimization tools effectively including Google Optimizer
  14. Always challenge between the wireframes, which is better
  15. Being minimalist is good
  16. Don’t confuse when closing
  17. Basics of conventional sale apply to your landing page
  18. Give the same respect to your unknown visitor as you give to the potential standing across you
  19. You’ve got him, now convert -eliminate choices, unclutter what remains and focus on on your goal
  20. Be at your best and cut the chase at this stage
  21. Always tell yourself and anyone who matters “Less is Better” when it comes to landing pages
  22. No shortchanging, give him what you promised him on the “click to me” page
  23. Deploy as many confidence building measures (CBMs) in a discreete manner but above the envelope as you can to break the ice. Use risk reducers or CBMS across your pages, don’t create doubt
  24. Customer recommendations on landing pages help, customer references, logos and recommendations on Landing Pages push the envelope little more
  25. Smart transaction interaction could help, avoid re-entry at all stages, avoid useless or unnecessary entry, every data entry beyond stage one pains and pains a lot
  26. No surprises should be your motto with the customers
  27. Measure, maintain and monitor your conversion rate (CR)
  28. Be normal with your error messages, error messages as and when they come should be non intrusive
  29. Having a consistent landing page for a customer helps, use cookies if required.
  30. Plan effective follow-up. Put your phone number at all convenient positions
  31. Make measurement easy, plan micro-sites for your landing pages (where ever possible)
  32. Net is going local, local is critical to your game plan
  33. Search engines can do their job only if you have the data
  34. Make lead generation forms simple, simple, simple.
  35. Seek opinion on your cruical landing pages from all quarters
  36. Design your landing page to meet the goal of the individual even if it doesn;t meet the prefernces of the individual
  37. Testing is continual, just keep testing

SES 2008 – Beyond Google August 20, 2008

Posted by simarprit in Bay Area, Blogging, Search Engines.
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If you don’t do SEO on Google and you don’t buy clicks on Google, what do you do to increase your traffic? This session said a lot can be done and at presumably significantly lower costs. The session excluded Yahoo and Microsoft too, and essentially became a session on “Beyond top 3 Search Engines”

So here we go…

  1. Pay bloggers to post (PPP – Pay Per Post)
  2. Try to ignite social spark
  3. Remember pay per post may fail if what you are looking at is a niche
  4. Ask.com РAsk claims to be number 4 and promises to deliver higher yields ad relevancy
  5. Superpages.com
  6. Facebook Business Solutions
  7. Looksmart.com
  8. Quigo services
  9. Yellowpages.com
  10. Local.com
  11. Travel Ad Network (TAN)
  12. Tribal Fusion

While buying alterantive advertising to the top three

  1. Define clear goal of the campaign
  2. Allocate 10% to 25% of your budget to testing
  3. Keep your focus, just work with “what works for you”
  4. Content Networks get 95% of surfer time, search engines get 5% – important actionable point to remember
  5. Allocate your budget between content and search
  6. Remember homepage maybe yet another page, we all do deep diving and reach anywhere on the site
  7. If you can build your own ad network, build it now
  8. Online advertising spend is growing, it has already overtaken Television in UK, US is few years away
  9. Dynamic titling of insertion codes can help
  10. Make keyword prospecting reports
  11. Don’t club networks, each has their independent life, treat them differently
  12. Do category targeting where possible
  13. Use targeting and optimizations tools effectively. Lots of tools are available
  14. Create your own Document on Best Practices, and follow it in letter and spirit
  15. Always keep your eyes open for cheap and quality clicks, a click is a click
  16. Audience profiling and its continuous updating can help
  17. Never ignore social traffic and social notworks
  18. Be watchful on negative blogging
  19. Tags and synopsis can help
  20. Prefer plug and play solutions for all your needs

SES 2008 San Jose August 18, 2008

Posted by simarprit in Bay Area, Blogging, Internet, Marketing, Search Engines.
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For all my posts on SES 2008: https://simarprit.wordpress.com/category/ses-2008/ 

Long Tail of Search & Semantic Search

It is my first time at Search Engine Strategies 2008 – San Jose, California (SES 2008, San Jose), two sessions down and currently attending the panel discussion here are my early thoughts on what’s going on:

Random Gyan:

Long Tail of Search

  1. Long tail can count to about 30% of the organic search
  2. Use blogs to harvest long tail traffic
  3. Use local long tail terms in local listings
  4. Use attributes in Google Maps
  5. Look for the “very Long Tail” and not just the long tail
  6. Weigh your advertising options
  7. Smaller Niche sites maybe a cheaper option, and may give great results at fraction of cost
  8. Links with navigation can help
  9. SEO’s have a role in online search market
  10. Mind your Traffic vs. Bounce rate
  11. Three phrases per page maybe the most optimum and effective targeting
  12. Live out of logs, they hold he key
  13. Shoot upto 20 “me too”: terms per key phrase
  14. Make sure your pages get indexed, search engines are busy, they may miss you.
  15. Divide your site into Key Phrase Zones
  16. SEO is no longer dead, it is making a comeback, and a big comeback
  17. PPC is becoming expensive
  18. Understand your Page Yield
  19. Account for your bottom 100 pages, analyzing them may help
  20. Attack your freeloaders
  21. Plan your SEO Dashboard, ensure it has everything you need, right under your mouse
  22. Measurement is critical, Measure visitors per page
  23. Know the lifetime value of your customers
  24. Search friendly URLs are important, but there is also life beyond them.
  25. Use “No Follow” effectively to increase your page rank
  26. Slicing and Dicing the content is critical
  27. Ideal length of the URL is a very subjective thought
  28. Anchors within the documents help
  29. Rate your keywords and assess your value
  30. Optimize Pagination
  31. Re-look at your internal linking structure
  32. Surrogate sites can help
  33. Getting high value back-links remains critical

Semantic Search:

  1. Let us talk to search engine and forget abstract codes and mono syllables
  2. Semantic Search engines attempt to understand underlying structured data
  3. Semantic search engines tend to eliminate ambiguous queries
  4. Search monkey project by Yahoo is an attempt to open up Yahoo Search platform for further development, based on semantic qualities and natural language expressions.
  5. Boorah claims that semantic search is happening. A quick 20 word analysis revealed little and exposed lots of limitations to the project.
  6. Google is implementing high degree of behind the scene semantics
  7. Hakia is a full blown version of Semantic Search (Beta), some of the attempts looked to be right, results are coincidentally close to Yahoo
  8. Powerset claims to have extreme semantic capabilities, which were not visible when I gave a set of questions to the website
  9. Ask.com claims to be amongst the best semantic search engines around with best results in Natural Language Query processing
  10. Generalization Vs. Specialization, Parallelization, Question Type, Categorization, Compressions, Content Characterization, ontology science applications are amongst some of the terms introduced.
  11. Inside the page semantic results could be another deliverable.
  12. Semantic Search has a lot to do with Aggregation of facts
  13. Improving relevance would remain a challenge
  14. Linguistic capabilities aided in ample measure with AI can deliver a great product over couple of years.