Commercial websites are getting larger. Driven by the rapid evolution of content management systems, shopping carts and e-biz facilitation, and by the increasing sophistication of Internet retailers, “small” business sites averaging 500+ pages have become common.

Some large sites are very well focused and present relatively few problems for SEOs. Most larger sites however list a wide array of products, services and information. The optimization of large retail sites presents multiple issues for SEOs to work through. Achieving product-specific placements for sites featuring numerous products is much more difficult than achieving placements for smaller, more focused sites. Fortunately, good SEOs are good problem solvers and almost every technical problem has a solution. Read more…

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

Developing a Marketing Budget for 2005

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” (Edwin Louis Cole)

What does the timing of Columbus Day (US), Thanksgiving Weekend (Canada), baseball playoffs, and corn roasts typically signify? For many of us it is the beginning of a process to focus and formulate our company’s priorities for the New Year. Specifically, businesses that operate on a calendar fiscal year start about this time to prepare their new budget. Ideally we take extra time to analyze the current expenses and revenues. We dust off our microscope and try to objectively evaluate how each account has performed. How do they fit in with our short and long-term goals? What would you do differently? Read more…

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

Algo Update? Don't Panic

There has been a great deal of speculation about a shift coming in Google’s ranking algorithms over the past few weeks. Several recent pieces of evidence point to a coming shift however it is very difficult to predict what, if anything will happen. It’s pretty much a given that there will be some form of update to the way Google reads and ranks sites. Google actually makes minor adjustments on a regular basis. There are rare occasions however when major changes are introduced. I suspect this is one of those times. Read more…

Once upon a time in a search engine long ago, content was king and little else mattered. Then along came the links in an attempt overthrew the king – now everything is messed.

Back links are very important in placing well in the SERP’s especially for highly competitive keywords, however content is still the king, and without it your sites are as good as lost! So what is a site owner to do when you’ve expressed and said all there is to say and are left with only a 5 page website? Read more…

Q. Where can I find the ranking of search engines?

A. Some of the latest stats on search engine user frequencies are done by Nielsen NetRatings. In his July 14 article “Neilson NetRatings Search Engine Ratings” Danny Sullivan, Editor of SearchEngineWatch discusses the June 2004 results. To read the report, please click here.

Q. Is it possible to “infect” a search engine?

A. As Jim Hedger, StepForth Senior SEO, reported in a July 28 news article Google, Yahoo, Lycos and AltaVista went weird, evidently. “They were all temporarily offline across much of the globe on Monday following a massive direct assault from the MyDoom.O worm virus. Effectively creating a denial of service (DOS) attack, MyDoom.O prevented search results from being displayed across most of Canada, the United States, UK, Europe and Asia.

Q. I am trying to find the Alexa address that will show how often a particular search term is used.

A. Owned by, Alexa uses the Google index for its searches. Alexa offers information on site traffic and links. You can find data on such topics as traffic ranking, links to related sites and back link statistics. It also allows for keyword searching. Check out their free toolbar. You can find it at:

Q. If I were to use paid per click advertising, how much would these terms cost me per month and approximately how many hits could I expect? Are the number of times these phrases are searched by the search engines in the paid per click price?

A. The answers you seek are too lengthy for the scope of this column. Scott Van Achte, StepForth SEO wrote two articles last December and January called “PCP for Dummies Part 1” and “PCP for Dummies Part 2”. I highly recommend them. Here are the links: ·

Q. My understanding is that keyword suggestion tools provide only a listing of the number of times someone has come to that particular address and searched for that term. Do they indicate if there is any connection to the number of times a phrase is searched on all search engines?

A. Keyword suggestion tools vary in the manner of how and where they collect information. They can provide results on how often keywords are used as search terms. It is important to note these tools may utilize a particular search engine. As can be expected several programs use either Google or Yahoo. The end result is called ‘search term popularity’ or ‘keyword effectiveness index’.

When researching keywords there are three main factors that must be considered:

· the number of searches for each phrase,

· the targeted nature of a specific phrase, and

· the competition for that phrase online.

The number of searches will indicate the amount of traffic you will get from top placement. Generally speaking, any phrase with more than 100 – 150 searches per day is considered relatively highly searched. That said one must also consider how targeted a phrase is. An untargeted or general phrase with 200 searches per day may be less valuable that a targeted phrase with only 30 searches per day. Armed with this information we must then look at the competition. If a phrase with 150 searches per day has a very high competition level but a phrase with only 10 searches per day has a low competition level, the less competitive phrase may produce a better return on investment.

Q. My current site is written in MS FrontPage, has keywords repeating too often on each page, and the pages are not as relevant as they could be. Now, I have an entirely new site with the pages designed in Dreamweaver. I can’t afford to spend too much money, but need to get this done quickly. What would be the best way to take the text from my current web pages and rewrite each page, using correct SEO technique not repeating keywords too often, and as well, keeping the pages strictly on topic?

A. As you seem to be familiar with web design, hire an SEO company on a consultancy basis to assist you in optimizing your website. Find an SEO company with a solid track record, is respected within the industry, has longevity, and has a published code of ethics. (To view StepForth’s SEO Code of Ethics please click on

Last week our CEO Ross Dunn wrote about the Ten Worst SEO Tactics. Today, I will cover the most difficult technologies and techniques to work with. While each of these technologies, techniques and designs have a useful purpose for web-designers, webmasters and general office staff tasked with keeping the site up to date, they each also present problems for search engine spiders and/or SEO practitioners. While reading, please keep in mind that the search engines are aware of these issues and may be in the process of creating work-around solutions. Similarly, the creators of many of the technologies mentioned here are also aware of these issues and in some cases are working to present webmasters and site designers with solutions. Topping the list is FLASH. Read more…

Internet advertising has evolved significantly over the years. In the beginning pop-ups were just that – pop-ups. When they open, you close them and move on. The original pop-ups are still there, but they have also evolved into interstitial ads – you know, those annoying versions that require some level of interaction to make them go away. Some times it’s a video, sometimes a static ad, but it’s always right in your face.

When PPC ads started appearing in search engines they were simple text ads separated by the non-paid listings – they were non-intrusive and un-offending to the searcher. Over the years they have significantly evolved, but to the searcher they, for the most part, remained the same. Most of the changes have been in the realm of the advertiser in terms of ad management and specific targeting abilities, in particular local targeting.

Google has its Local Targeting Options and Overture has its Local Match. A variety of other pay per click engines are offering Geo Targeting based on country, and soon, will likely offer very targeted city and precise searching by radius.

Now both Google and Overture offer the ability to target very specific locations, within 20 miles from a specific point by using the physical address or longitude and latitude. This precise method of targeted PPC advertising is still quite new, but will likely shift over to the second tier engines in time if it proves to be beneficial to both advertisers and searchers.

Such local targeting gives localized business the chances to advertise online with the chance of receiving qualified business. A small craft shop in Vancouver that does not offer online sales, can now place an ad online that will be directed to only local qualified traffic – no more wasted leads from searchers in Toronto.

Hacking The Locals

In Many cases, creating a successful Ad Campaign requires a look at the competitor’s ads. If you are targeting specific countries outside of your own, in many cases it is either near impossible, or extremely difficult to view the competition – until now.

If you are an advertiser in the US and also place ads targeting the UK, it is difficult to see your direct competition unless you are located in the UK. Although it may have been around for a long time, today I just learned of a Google hack that gets you around this.

After you perform your search in Google, go up to the address bar and at the end of the URL add the text ‘gl=uk’; (or instead of uk, any applicable country code), hit enter and you will now see a listing of AdWords ads that are targeted towards the UK.


Have you have an experience with Local Targeting for any of your PPC campaigns? I would love to hear about your positive and negative experiences! Email me at

“Thank you so much for your willingness to help and for your time supporting the beginners”. (Michael from Australia) Over the last few weeks I have received several emails like this – from interesting people with inquiring minds all over the world. They have a broad range of experience, from beginners to advanced in their knowledge base of search engine placement and optimization. Each are seeking, in as layman terms as possible, answers to many basic and fundamental questions. To wit:

Q. Is it really important for visibility to have my own domain name?

A. Absolutely. To maximize impact, consider a domain name including your specific keyword(s). As well, you should develop a keyword-enriched title for the page.

Q. Please shed some light regarding keyword phrases?

A. Keyword phrases are particular combinations of relevant or unique words that users search on. What is the wording you want to promote? Focus on this. For example, a few unique and descriptive keywords for StepForth Placement would be: search engine placement, seo services, sep, sem, S.E.O., search,engine, optimization, StepForth, ranking, optimisation, optimize, top10, website,marketing, etc.

Q. For my site would it not be better to have three instead of four pages by combining two pages in order to increase the size of the small Home Page?

A. It all depends. Certainly you want the Home page to offer sufficient enriched keyword text. The text used in this section should be descriptive of your business, its products, and your potential customers. In addition, for each page, remember to use unique and descriptive titles, Keyword and Description META Tags. Also, consider creating text-based navigation map and Site Map at the bottom of each page.

Q. I can understand the importance of links to my site, however, why should I offer my link to other services that my potential clients may go to.

A. It is good practice to develop a link page on your site. To increase site relevance, popularity, and visibility, link your site to complimentary business, service, or information sites. As a rule, obtain meaningful reciprocal links with related and relevant associations, on-line publications, manufacturers, suppliers, etc. Search engines would consider this link as a vote of confidence that the target web site is about your keywords or keyphrase and thus your site would have a better chance of achieving a top placement under that phrase.

Q. I have a limited budget. What can I do to get the best return for a minimal investment?

A. Everyone has a different concept on what is ‘a best return’ and ‘a minimal investment’. How fast do you need it and how much work needs to be done? And who is going to do the work? Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. Our small company package starts at $2000. To many business owners this is viewed as a small price to pay for marketing their business. Many companies setup an annual budget for web design yet remarkably they neglect to set aside funds for necessary search engine placement, optimization and maintenance.

Sometimes there is a relatively quick fix. If you have a advertising or promotion line in your financial statement appropriate some the funds from there. Many SEO companies can offer flexible payment plans, spreading out the payments. See your finance department for advice. Depending on your fiscal year-end he/she may suggest monies could be used from the current fiscal year with the balance paid from the next annual budget. Another route many of our technically minded clients lean toward is our $150 per hour consultancy fee.

If you depend on a successful Christmas/Chanukah selling campaign the only way the reap the benefits of marketing your site now may be to just bite the bullet and set aside the necessary financial resources. Or wait until next season’s campaign.

Q. Should I put into my Meta Tag “Keywords” my selected keyword phrase, which may be exactly the same phrase a user might type into a search engine box? Also, should they be in the same order in the text body AND as in the SE user’s box

A. For an excellent explanation of Meta Tags, please read “10 Minute Search Engine Optimization”, by Ross Dunn, StepForth CEO. The link is

For years we have been warning that unethical SEO techniques that violate Google’s SEO guidelines could result in a site being banned from the Google index. In the past week, Google made a fairly major ranking update that appears to have wiped clients of Traffic Power, from the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Read more…

Every few months it is a good idea to review SEO techniques in light of changes in the ranking algorithms used by the major search engines. As of today, there are only two major organic search tools we worry about, Google, and Yahoo. Both of these search tools look at different elements of your website when considering where to rank the site in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). While considered one of the “Big Three”, MSN continues to receive results from the Yahoo/Inktomi database with LookSmart listings being displayed from time to time. MSN is likely to release its own algorithmic search engine in the coming months. What works for Yahoo tends to work with MSN. Please note, these basic rules for rankings may change at any given moment. That’s one of the things that make this job so much fun… Read more…