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This week the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog announced an addition to Google’s spam reporting form for people to report sites that appear to be buying paid links in order to influence search engine rankings. This addition ties in with Matt Cutt’s none-too-subtle warning at a recent SMX Advanced interview with Danny Sullivan. Matt essentially reinforced to the audience that buying links is against Google’s guidelines and that those who are buying links may feel the heat soon as Google tries to patch this chink in its armor (see the video below).

Ever since Google stopped showing accurate backlink (aka incoming link) counts to websites webmasters and SEOs have been forced to turn to other, more accurate tools like Yahoo. This hasn’t really been all that bad in my opinion but it is refreshing to hear that Google has finally launched a new backlinks analysis tool within Google Webmaster Central.

I have to say, it rocks! The system allows you to navigate a Google-generated sitemap of your website where at the right side of each page a number appears which denotes the number of backlinks to that page. Then, if you want more information on those backlinks you have only to click on it and a comprehensive list appears; very slick indeed. The list is even downloadable in .csv format.

For more information here is Google’s blog post regarding this update. I hope you enjoy this tool as much as I will. Just keep in mind that Matt Cutts noted the tool is not quite 100% accurate.

Repeatedly my sales and consulting staff find themselves explaining that using duplicate content can and will negatively affect search engine rankings and it is heartbreaking to see clients having to rebuild rankings due to such a simple mistake. As a result, I felt it was time to write this article and hopefully dispel many misled website owners.

Why write an entire article on something as simple as duplicate content? Well probably because it is not as simple as it sounds and many website owners find themselves in the grey area of duplication; where they don’t know for sure whether they are risking rankings or not. Read more…

QUESTION: When a high PR page within a 3rd party website links to a page within my website where is the benefit placed… on my home page or my page that was linked to? – Jose U.

ANSWER: The home page and the linked page benefit from the link… but to different degrees. The majority of the weight is applied to the linked page because it is the page that effectively deserved the vote of confidence but it also counts positively towards the integrity and credibility of your whole website; which in essence is represented by your home page.

Please note, this answer is totally dependent upon the quality of the backlink you received. For example, links from websites that are unrelated or have poor credibility will offer little or no benefit. For more information on what constitutes a ‘good’ backlink see my answer to a recent question from a reader: “What exactly are good backlinks?”.

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Thursday, January 4th, 2007

StepForth’s Predictions for 2007

Another New Years has come and gone and over the past few weeks search industry professionals have been releasing their search market predictions for 2007. I have steered clear of reading them because it is time for me to write down StepForth’s predictions and the last thing I want to worry about is duplication. Without further adieu, here are the predictions my staff and I put together for 2007. Read more…

Three SEO questions are answered in this Q&A article:

  1. Do search engines ignore stop words in domain names?
  2. I created a duplicate website to target my services to a different state. My intention is not to dupe Google but I don’t know what else to do. How would you approach this?
  3. What can I do to increase the number of backlinks I am getting from articles?

Question 1) ” I know search engines ignore stop words in meta tags and title tags. Do search engines ignore stop or common words in domain names? Example www.therealestate.com or www.arealestate.com ” – Corey M.

Answer: Yes, to the degree in which the keywords have any effect the more common words within a domain name would be ignored. It is, however, important to keep in mind that search engines only place a limited amount of weight on keywords in a domain name. In my opinion the only time where a site keyword within a domain name wins a ranking war is when all other elements are equal between you and near-ranked competitor.

Additional Info: I like to do my due diligence before answering any question because frankly I need to be sure the rules have not changed overnight. Here are a couple links to pages that relate to this question:

Question 2) “ Hi Ross – I just finished reading your blog… “SEO Answers #7: ” What Determines Duplicate Content SPAM? “and I have a question for you. Allow me to give you a little background: One of my clients has expanded their business into another state with a different name, but it is ultimately the same business. In order to develop a Web presence for this new, duplicate company in a new area, we created a second Website that has its own unique design, etc, but is ultimately a take off on the original site, using the same content, just minor differences to allow for the new name, geographic area, etc. The original site is optimized and of course contains the original content. The duplicate site is not optimized. In no way is our intention to “dupe” anything, but will this cause problems with the engines? We are not trying to get mileage off of the content by duplicating it… this is simply a second company that offers the same services, just in a different state. Each site is in its own domain and has its own URL. Your input? Your suggestions for a different solution? Thanks for your time.”

Answer: Simply put if you are truly not looking to get any mileage out of the content then you do not want rankings for it which implies that the site should be blocked to the search engines. I would recommend using your robots.txt file to block the spiders entirely to that website so you do not negatively affect your rankings on the original site. The fact is that duplicate content, good intentions or not, is frowned upon by the search engines and you are gambling by having the site available for spidering.

If, however, you do want the search engines to spider the content then you must rewrite it to avoid duplicate content penalties.

As a final note I would like to pose a question; did your client absolutely have to create a secondary website? In many cases I find that a client need not have created a second site; they just needed to add a new section to their site to manage the new target marketplace. The other option, which may have been appropriate in this case, is to add a subdomain to enjoy the benefits of a secondary home page on a pre-branded domain and fresh marketable URL; nearly the same benefits of having a secondary domain without the headache of marketing an entirely new website. Even in this case, however, you would not be able to use duplicate content so you would be faced with the same issues; either rewrite the content or block it from spiders.

Question 3) “Ross, in an attempt to improve my ranking in the search engines, I have been writing articles for article directories in the hopes of receiving quality backlinks. Recently I came across a site mypagerank.net, which I decided to check on my link popularity. The result indicated that I only had 18 backlinks. What can I do to increase the number of backlinks I am getting? I would have expected more as I have written many more articles and submitted my URL to many directories. Thanks, enjoy reading your articles” – Peter

Answer: First, good work making the effort to write articles, they are an excellent medium for promotion and I commend you for dedicating the time to writing. I certainly understand the significant commitment to time and research required to write usable content. Fortunately, there are a few techniques that may help you squeeze some extra benefits from your hard work:

  1. Be Clear – Request Credit
    Are you being very clear to those republishing your content that you expect a linked credit for the copy? Simply stating that you allow syndication but request credit laid out in a particular linked format will do wonders. At StepForth we clearly request credit and we occasionally troll Google looking for those who have republished our content without credit; it is usually a simple matter to have the content removed or the appropriate link added. Hence, if you see this article does not give credit and provide a link to StepForth.com then please drop me a note, ross@stepforth.com :-)
  2. Pick a Powerful, Timely Topic
    Have you noticed a topic coming up regularly in forums? Perhaps a question that appears to be asked regularly? This is usually a good indication that an article discussing the topic would do well. Remember that many of the syndication networks online are looking for topics that will get readers and ultimately provide impressions for their advertisers. As a result, picking a hot topic will make a world of difference in how widely your article will get picked up.
  3. Optimize the Title
    The title of your article needs to clearly relay the topic and should engage readers and editors alike. The title can make or break a story if it is too vague or boring.
  4. Refer to Your Own Content
    It helps to provide inline links from your article to relevant previous articles or pages on your website. With practice and once you have built up a healthy reservoir of linkable articles it will soon be second nature to refer to links in a manner that is crucial to the article; so that editors note that the backlinks are relevant and play a legitimate role in the purpose of the article. Legitimacy of backlinks is crucial to make the ‘cut’ because editors are more likely to remove a link than keep one if it appears merely promotional.
  5. Give Praise Where it is Due
    Within an article don’t be afraid to link to other sources where you have noted particularly good information, particularly other small business blogs. The fact is that some bloggers take a real shine to those who syndicate or give credit to their content and may just link back to you in thanks.
  6. Put RSS On Your Side
    If you have not already done so ensure that your articles are syndicated on your website in RSS format as well. This can be easily accomplished by using a blog to publish your articles because most blog systems include automated feed creation. Many of the article syndication networks use articles solely through RSS. So as soon as you get a RSS feed you should go out and tell the world about it. Try using Google and search for “submit feed” or ” add blog ” and you are certain to find some great sites to submit your syndication feed.

There is a lot more information on this topic so I will provide some links that should help you further:

After all this work is done, keep in mind not every proper (credited) use of your article will deliver the benefits of a backlink. The search engines are frankly too smart to give credit to every article link because of the obvious duplication and the unfortunate proliferation of article scraping sites (sites that republish articles to try and make their sites appear authoritative). That said, the links acquired from truly authoritative sites would pay off as backlinks and hopefully with the more important benefit – direct traffic.

As a final note remember that articles are meant for human consumption so be sure to proofread your work and ensure that the topic is either timely or originally written enough to be useful. I am not saying this applies to you, however, it is important that the quality of the content is high enough to merit wide spread syndication.

by Ross Dunn – CEO, StepForth Search Engine Placement Inc.
Permalink to this Article: SEO Questions #9

The following question was sent in using StepForth’s SEO question submission form . If you have a question that you don’t mind being answered publicly please send it in and we might just use it in our next SEO newsletter.

QUESTION: “When do inbound links dictate ranking?”

“We have been told by an SEO consultant that, once the number of inbound links becomes significant, this rather than any SEO optimisation of the site itself dictates ranking for search terms. How true? If so, it implies that, to make any changes in rankings and search terms, we need to devote effort to links and link text from appropriate sites (authority etc). It implies time spent on adjusting title tags, keyword density etc, is fruitless.” Paul C. Read more…

I just have a second for a quick tip but this is a good one for those of you new to link building. If you have ever done a backlink search on a competitor to find out where they have their links from you often find that a large majority of the links are from their own site. It can be a real pain separating the wheat from the chaffe so here is a little trick on Yahoo (the best place to do link building).

Conduct the following search in Yahoo replacing “domain.com” with your competitor’s address:

http://www.domain.com -site:domain.com

The result is a listing of all the sites your competitor has gotten links from minus your competitor’s own pages. This is a handy little tool. Now if you want to do this faster you can always pick up OptiLink – a program that we use religiously when we are conducting link building campaigns. Visit our recommended SEO tools section of the SEO Blog for this one and much more.

Thank you to those that sent in their SEO questions from the last few search engine newsletters. I would also like to again request that you take a moment and submit your own questions; it is paramount that I answer the questions that are important to you. Just email me your question, it is that simple! Read more…

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Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Dirk Johnson on Post-Jagger Recip. Links

Dirk Johnson from DomainDrivers.com provides link-building services. Over the past year, Dirk’s firm has helped a number of our clients acquire the relevant incoming links necessary to achieve strong Google placements. These are not purchased links though clients do pay for the time it takes to find and get them. Read more…

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