News From StepForth Search Engine Placement Inc.
Wednesday, March 24th, 2004
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of the Week: STABILITY! For Now at Least...
From Florida to
Austin, Redmond Wa to Sunnyvale Ca :: What a long, strange
trip it's been...
Ask any expectant parent how long they feel nine months
is. Nine months is approximately 270 days which makes 3/4
of a year. That's a fairly long time in our lives. Fortunes
have been made in shorter times. As survivors of the tech-meltdown
of 2000 remember, fortunes have also been lost in less time.
The past nine months have been extremely frustrating for many
webmasters and businesses dependent on search engine advertising.
Since the beginning of 2003 the search engine world has been
redrawn with mergers, new technologies, new fee structures
and, most impactfully, new ranking algorithms. Many of the
changes in the industry have come without any warning, the
most relevant example being Google's November Florida Update.
The impact on the sector and those relying on the sector has
been enormous but, aside from news we know is coming, it looks
like we've seen the bulk of changes for the next few months!
Before a collective sigh of relief can be heard from professionals
in the SEO industry, we need to remember, this time is more
like the eye of a hurricane than a beautiful sunny day. In
other words, we may be on the plateau but there's still an
ever changing mountain to climb. A topic we've been tackling
over the past week involves how to plan for future changes
today in order to best position our clients. While we maintain
a fairly well polished crystal ball, there's no way to really
know how change will effect the business of SEO. The best
way to insulate clients from a tidal wave of change is to
provide a buffer of information. Here's what we know is coming
in the future...
MSN to introduce its own search
engine in July 2004!
It's big. It's powerful. It has been one of the prime focuses
of the world's most powerful corporation. As of July, it will
be in your office, school and living room. Microsoft has announced
that as of July 2004, it will be using its own search engine
to power results found at MSN.Com/. Claiming to be "much
further along in relevancy", MSN product manager, Karen
Redetzki told Forbes magazine last week, "MSN was making
steady progress and that July's launch will reflect results
driven by a revamped search engine with better algorithms."
We know that Bill Gates dislikes anything that presents a
challenge to Microsoft supremacy in any field, especially
those fields covering gold mines. He was quoted at the World
Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland saying "Google kicked
our butts". We know that MSN has a highly active spider
known as MSN-bot that has been visibly compiling information
by visiting websites multiple times per month. We also know
that the new search tool was supposed to be introduced in
conjunction with the new operating system code-named "Longhorn".
Longhorn's release date was originally scheduled for late
2004 but was pushed to June of 2005. Most recent rumours say
Longhorn will not be ready until mid-2006! Clearly a decision
was made in Redmond to push the development of MSN-Search
forward over the development of the new O/S. In their competition
with Google and Yahoo, MSN is about to show us what an 800lb
gorilla looks like.
Google improves search relevancy
and starts to challenge Yahoo on Local Search
Google has appeared stable for over four weeks now! Since
July 2003, Google had been presenting somewhat questionable
results, a problem that seemed to cascade on them until November's
Florida Update when the entire index turned itself upside
down. Google has greatly improved the relevancy of its results
over the past two months. While there are still thousands
of webmasters who might disagree with me, based on the continued
poor performance of their sites in Google, for the most part,
Google's results are almost as good as they were before the
infamous Florida update of November. Google is still making
minor tweaks to its ranking algorithm, at least one of which
is obviously designed to limit the power of Bloggers to "Google-Bomb",
or game Google's results by getting 20,000 of your closest
friends to put a common link with common anchor text on their
sites. Google also appears to be experimenting with the value
of other incoming links but it is still too soon to tell exactly
what they are doing here as we have only seen one major update
of Google's database this month.
Yahoo shows Yahoo! WebRank
Yahoo has named its algorithm and introduced a toolbar
to go with it. Yahoo is calling its algorithm "WebRank",
(not to be confused with Google's "PageRank"). WebRank
seems similar to PageRank in more ways than the name. Yahoo
is said to be measuring the value of incoming links, the time
spent on a site by visitors, visitor traffic through a site,
and the arrangement and ratio of keywords appearing on a page
or site. Exactly how Yahoo measures the value of an incoming
link is still an unknown quantity but it is likely safe to
assume Yahoo will value site elements in a similar fashion
to Google. We know that Yahoo-Slurp will operate much like
Google-Bot by following links and recording information found
on pages it comes across. It is not known if paid-inclusion
through Yahoo Site-Match will have an overt effect on WebRank
but the increased frequency of spidering given to a URL that
has paid for inclusion should, logically, make a huge difference.
Search Engine Advertising in General
We know that revenue generation is the leading driver of search
engine development among the biggest players in the sector.
MSN, Yahoo and Google are all trying to position themselves
to capture as much of this rapidly growing revenue as they
possible can. Google and Yahoo accomplish this primarily through
the sale of contextual advertising opportunities such as AdWords
and Overture. MSN will continue to display contextual advertising
on its search tool as well but it is not known if or when
they will develop an in-house contextual advertising program.
Currently, MSN is pulling its contextual ads from Overture.
Many of the smaller players in the search engine world are
also introducing contextual advertising programs including
Lycos, Looksmart and Kanoodle. Unless something major happens
in the next seven days, we'll look at contextual advertising
and the impact on search engine marketing in next week's edition.
The Eye is Quite
As an industry, search is growing up and, like most adolescents,
is defining itself through decisions and actions taken during
its adolescent phase. Search is the second most used application
on the Internet, (after Email), and the only way to make any
sort of sense of an environment that now has more unique URLs
than the planet has people. The industry will continue to
change as time goes on but for now, it looks like we might
have a short break in the rapidity of change. Somewhat like
the eye of a hurricane.
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Player Updates: Microsoft Feels the
Teeth of the EU's Judicial System
The European Commission (EC) just smacked Microsoft with a fine
worthy of a tabloid. $613Million is the fine-to-date that the EC
served Microsoft as it branded the huge corporation an abusive monopolist.
Believe it or not, this fine was not even near the mid-way point
on the EC's maximum fine of 10% of the annual earnings for the target
company. In the case of Microsoft, this could have meant over $3.5Billion
Is this the end of troubles for Microsoft? Hardly! Here is a list
of some serious outstanding litigation facing the software giant:
(The following is an excerpt from the Associated Press in an article
- MORE FROM THE EU: EU officials still are investigating competitors'
charges that Windows XP is designed to extend Microsoft's dominance
into new markets such as instant messaging and mobile phones.
- STATE CASE: A lawsuit in Minnesota alleges Microsoft overcharged
about 1 million people or businesses in the state between 1994
and 2001. Microsoft has settled similar antitrust cases in nine
states and Washington, D.C., for $1.5 billion.
- NATIONAL ANTITRUST CASE: Microsoft awaits a U.S. appeals court
ruling on whether sanctions in the federal settlement were adequate.
Massachusetts is pressing for tougher penalties.
- PRIVATE SUITS: Microsoft's Seattle-based rival RealNetworks
Inc. has sued the company, alleging it illegally monopolized the
field of digital media by including its Windows Media Player with
its Windows operating system. Microsoft denies it.
- JAPANESE PROBE: In February, officials from Japan's fair trade
watchdog raided Microsoft offices on suspicion of monopoly law
violations - in particular, whether Microsoft attached overly
restrictive conditions to deals with computer makers. Microsoft
said it had already dropped a controversial provision of those
contracts but was cooperating with authorities.
- LINUX: Governments and companies are increasingly eyeing the
open-source operating system as a less expensive and more secure
alternative to Windows.
(end of excerpt from Mercury News)
So what does this mean for you and your future Microsoft software?
At this point everything we have heard seems to be conjecture, however,
you can bet that when Microsoft launches its new subscription-based
software there will be some very 'healthy' annual fees.
Tip: What is a strong click through rate?
I recently read in Search
Engine Forums a question about Click Through Rates (CTR). The
question was regarding whether or not a CTR of 8.1% is good or bad.
In another thread someone was asking about average CTR’s.
Here’s my take on it. Lets use the all so popular widget
example, lets say widgets are the Furby of 2004 and everyone wants
one. Naturally, among others, you may want to target ‘widget’
for your PPC Campaign (along with every other retailer). Chances
are your ad will be diluted among many others, which will result
in a lower CTR. (lets say 1.5%). If the competition is fierce, 1.5%
could be a very acceptable rate, especially if there are tens of
thousands of searches a day.
But lets say you decide to target ‘blue widget with red stripe,’
and your ad has absolutely no competition for this term. If this
is the case, chances are there will be very few searches, maybe
only one or two a day. If your ad is all by itself, chances are
you will draw much more attention, it will stand out, and you will
get a much higher CTR. I have seen examples of this where highly
targeted terms generate as high as 88%. Keep in mind this does not
mean they are getting hundreds of clicks a day, most likely only
16 impressions a month with a total of 12 clicks.
So when it comes down to it, there really is no good, bad, or average,
it’s all relative. The successful measure of a good CTR, is
totally dependant on how competitive, and how targeted the keyword.
The important thing is to keep above that 1.0% mark.
Not to Miss!
|In the Client Spotlight
this Week: Avianation - Pilot Jobs and
If you are looking for employment in the Aeronautics industry,
have we got the website for you!
"Tired of spending hours each day looking for a job within
the aviation industry? Is your aviation
career at a standstill? Let us help! AviaNation.com is a single
source of aviation employment information with many exciting and
hard to find jobs posted every day. We list jobs for pilots, flight
attendants, mechanics, airline training and ground operations, and
many more aviation professions." (from avianation.com)
Visit Avianation.Com if you are looking for aviation jobs and employment
opportunities around the world. Jobs for pilots, mechanics, flight
attendants, and many other professions.
Quick Tip: How To Set A Table For Company
When you are designing (or redesigning) your
website, one of the first things you will do is create your
table structure. This structure, upon which the look, feel,
and design will be based, is arguably one of the most important
aspects of your site and will set the stage for its optimization.
The importance of the table structure comes from how the
search engine spiders crawl your site. Basically they will
enter your site and read it like you are reading this tip,
from top to bottom, left to right. This sounds fairly straightforward
however when we get into the real world, with tables inside
tables, images, scripts, etc thrown in it can become a bit
more difficult than it might first appear.
In a very basic website structure you would have a table
with 4 cells. It would look like:
In this case the spider would come to your site and read
cell 1. This cell would traditionally have the header image
and little else. Make sure to at least put an alt tag on your
header so the spider has something to see in its first stop
on your page.
Next the spider would see cell 2, the navigation bar. If
you have an image based navigation bar you have once again
left the spider very little to “eat” in its second
stop. Text links in this area can help (if properly worded)
but may not be possible while maintaining the look and feel
of your site. Any tables inside this cell will be read before
the spider moves on to cell 3.
Finally, the spider will get to cell 3 where the “meat”
of the page lies (i.e. the content). The search engine considers
where on a page the key content lies. The higher up on the
page that your relevant text lies, the greater the weight
it is given. When we make a spider work to get to that content,
the weight it is given drops.
And lastly, the spider will get to the footer (cell 4). The
fact that this content is the last thing the spider will see
is fine and makes this a useful spot. This is where you can
place text-links to internal pages (for ease of spidering),
copyright information, and other content that you want to
have on your page but which isn’t of high important
from a content priority perspective.
If your site is designed with roughly the above-noted structure
you are in the majority. This is good as the structure can
be improved upon to attain an advantage over those who are
not reading this and who don’t know that a couple simple
changes to the structure can give you that little advantage
that will push you higher in the rankings.
For a site with the above-noted table structure, the simple
addition of an extra cell can give you just that push. Rather
than using the structure indicated slight modifications will
give you a structure similar to:
With this structure we have simply added a cell above the
navigation bar. This may seem small but the effect on how
the spider reads your site can be significant.
The first thing the spider will see will still be the header.
This is the case in the vast majority of sites. You can certainly
add a bit of text here as well, though most webmasters don’t
as this can negatively affect the look and feel of the site.
If possible it is recommended, however if it’s not possible
you only have a simple image, Flash file, or the such and
this won’t hider you in any significant manner.
When the spider gets to the second cell it will find it blank
(probably with a simple blank image). Nothing significant
and so the spider will move on. Rather than proceeding to
the navigation bar the spider will travel to the cell to the
right of it, which is … your content. You have now cut
down significantly the amount of information that the spider
will be reading before it gets to this extremely important
cell. This has now moved the priority placed on the content
up. The content itself will still have to be well optimized
however, all else being equal, you will win a ranking competition
based solely on the fact that your content will be read as
more significant (higher on the page) that that of your competition.
The spider will then move on to the navigation (cell 4) and
down to cell 5, the footer.
These may seem like simple changes and they are. That said,
if this gives your site the extra 1% difference that takes
it from #7 to #4 or from #11 to #9 then wasn’t it well
worth the few minutes that it took to apply this change to
It isn’t possible to give examples of all the various
table structures here in this tip however the above noted
examples should give you a good idea of how tables can used
to maximize the effectiveness of your content for search engine
rankings. If you have any questions about your site specifically
please feel free to email me by clicking on my name, below
Net Reality: Goofy Guy Goes to Jail for trying
to Extort Google
They say time is money but in this case, I think Michael Anthony
Bradley would rather have money as opposed to the time he is likely
to earn in one of California's penal institutions. (more like
a time-share with overcrowding. - JH)
Michael Anthony Bradley is a sorry man today. He thought he would
make a good deal of money threatening Google but, instead, he
got a good deal of trouble. Bradley, aged 32, developed a program
called "Google Clique" which was designed to surf ads
displayed through Google AdSense and click them in order to thwart
the accuracy of Google's click-counters. If used by a webmaster
who's site shows ads drawn from AdSense, Bradley's website stated
that Google Clique could generate revenues of up to $3,000 per
The Wall St. Journal reported that Bradley met with Google engineers
in March and demanded $100,000. If Google did not pay, Bradley
threatened to release his software live on the web for use of
spammers and other malicious users.
The US Secret Service, which deals with interstate mail and wire
fraud, recorded the March meeting and arrested Bradley earlier
this week. He has been released on $50,000 bail under conditions
that keep him far away from computers, the Internet and Google
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