These days, as more and more companies come to the conclusion that their 1990’s built websites with the animated gifs, static backgrounds, and auto-playing midi files have seen their prime, they begin to enter into a world of redesign. While creating these new websites with the sleeker look, and cleaner file structure is a smart move for the future, the risk and complications caused by changing URL’s and the impact this has on search engine rankings is very real.

This is where redirects come in. Using the correct redirect, in most cases a permanent 301, is key to helping maintain your existing rankings, whether your site is undergoing a complete face lift, or if you simply want to move a few pages around.

While Permanent 301 Redirects are the most common there are valid situations where either 301’s or 302’s may be the most appropriate. This article will discuss what these redirects do, common and less common uses, implementation, and how to check that you have set them up correctly Read more…

Google Webmaster Central Blog logoSusan Moskwa and Trever Voucher from Google’s Webmaster Tools Team published a synopsis of the questions they received at Chicago’s recent Search Engine Strategies Conference. If you have ever had a question about Google Sitemaps and the effect they may or may not have on your site, this is a helpful read.

Get the answers to the following questions:

  • I submitted a Sitemap, but my URLs haven’t been [crawled/indexed] yet. Isn’t that what a Sitemap is for?
  • If it doesn’t get me automatically crawled and indexed, what does a Sitemap do?
  • Will a Sitemap help me rank better?
  • If I set all of my pages to have priority 1.0, will that make them rank higher (or get crawled faster) than someone else’s pages that have priority 0.8?
  • Is there any point in submitting a Sitemap if all the metadata (, , etc.) is the same for each URL, or if I’m not sure it’s accurate?
  • I’ve heard about people who submitted a Sitemap and got penalized shortly afterward. Can a Sitemap hurt you?
  • Where can I put my Sitemap? Does it have to be at the root of my site?
  • Can I just submit the site map that my webmaster made of my site? I don’t get this whole XML thing.
  • Which Sitemap format is the best?
  • If I have multiple URLs that point to the same content, can I use my Sitemap to indicate my preferred URL for that content?
  • Does the placement of a URL within a Sitemap file matter? Will the URLs at the beginning of the file get better treatment than the URLs near the end?
  • If my site has multiple sections (e.g. a blog, a forum, and a photo gallery), should I submit one Sitemap for the site, or multiple Sitemaps (one for each section)?

Again here is the link to the Google sitemaps Q&A.

Are you baffled about a recent drop in your search engine rankings? Do you know where to start and get a handle on what the problem might be and how to remedy it? One option to consider is using search engine forums as a resource. They are full of questions from people who have experienced similar situations and are great resources for an answer or two. But let’s say you really want to get to the bottom of the problem and you want to do it yourself. The following are some of the beginning steps StepForth takes when evaluating dropped rankings. Read more…

Mike McDonald of WebProNews conducted a great, very informative interview with Live Webmaster Tool’s Product Manager, Jeremiah Andrick.

Jeremiah discusses paid links, cloaking, the backlink function at Live Search and my special favorite – the incident where Adwords ads got indexed. Check it out, I think you will appreciate the frankness of Jeremiah’s answers. You can certainly tell that Microsoft has finally figured out that Webmasters need to feel the love. Read more…

The following interview was conducted at PubCon Las Vegas and it focused on StepForth competitor analysis/competitor intelligence services. In hindsight I didn’t give much away in the terms of competitive analysis and frankly the interview could have gone better (what with the sun glare and a lil’memory loss). So feel free to view this and then follow it up with my notes below where I will provide a couple examples of the strategies/resources used in our basic and advanced competitor intelligence reports. Read more…

The canvas I have outlined for successful web marketing is taking shape. The first article looked at the necessary stages we need to develop. We started with market research and analysis of our competitors and now armed with this information we can proceed to perhaps the most critical component of all, developing our keyword targets and creating supporting text for them.

What’s In a Word?

It has been often said that content is king. The choice and expression of these words is what makes the connection to the visitors and helps determine user behaviour. If the message is clear the visitor will know if they are at the website they want (or need) to be at and start the exploring process. Visitor attraction is influenced by a myriad of aspects such as site design, choice of colour, and ease of navigation. Visitor confidence is bolstered in large part through your use of words. Similarly much the same can be said for the search engine spiders; the higher their confidence rating of your website the higher your visibility in their index. And this rating of confidence all begins with how you choose your keyword targets. Read more…

I am often reminded how important it is to develop a well thought out business plan. I speak with numerous clients each day, each having a passion to promote their service, information or product and yet although they may be experts in their field, they do not have the expertise or foresight on how to market the site. Often times the website is destined to stay in the closet and never get the online exposure they need and are hoping for. And often times the client lacks an objective perspective, sort of being amongst trees in a forest and not being able to see to whole picture.

The internet audience has matured and become more sophisticated in its expectations and delivery of information. No longer can one just throw up a site and expect to immediately generate business. Website readiness for online marketing can take many forms. In this and the articles that follow in the next few weeks, we will examine the building blocks to successful web marketing. Read more…

Picture of a dictionaryA large part of my time at StepForth as a search engine optimization consultant is spent conducting competitor research on behalf of our clientele. This service is focused on deconstructing the marketing campaigns of each competitor while identifying the tactics that appear to have fundamentally contributed to their search engine success. As you might imagine I come across many intriguing techniques that work and many that don’t. In this article I will account for a couple of techniques that appear to be overlooked by many but have proven time and time again to work; the creation of an on-site glossary and frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.

Read more…

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

PPC Success in Five Steps

There are a number factors involved in having a successful PPC campaign. These include everything from keyword selection, bid management, and campaign setup to your destination website. This article will discuss five of the most important areas: Keywords, Ad Copy, Destination URL’s, Organization, and Analysis.

1. Keywords
Having a successful PPC campaign starts off with keywords. While your keyword list will likely change and evolve over time, it is important to start with something that makes sense.

Base Keywords
First you will want to start off with your base keywords. These are any words you feel are relevant to your site. You may not end up using all of these in your PPC campaign but they will act as a stepping stone to finding other related phrases. Let’s say you own a camera shop. A few relevant keywords may include “digital camera” or “digital SLR”. Read more…

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

How to Optimize for Ask

Ask’s portion of the search market is a mere 4.3% (src. Hitwise) so it is understandable that optimizing for Ask is a low priority in the eyes of many webmasters. That said, despite the company’s rather infamous advertising campaigns Ask has some incredible and unique features that I believe will slowly but surely steal search share from its more popular brethren. Consequently, it seems appropriate to provide some tips on how to optimize for Ask without sacrificing rankings on the other search engines. To that end the following instructions are supplementary to the recommendations provided in my “How to Optimize for Yahoo” article. Read more…