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Friday, September 28th, 2007

How to Optimize for MSN

Last week I discussed the best tactics for achieving rankings in Yahoo, the web’s number 2 most popular search engine. Now it is time to pick on the third most used search property – MSN, which has 6.6% of the search market (src: Hitwise) and is currently found at www.live.com. MSN’s ranking algorithm has its own nuances which will be noted in this article but in many cases the rules of optimization may be the same as Yahoo’s in which case I will occasionally duplicate information from my “How to Optimize for Yahoo” article or source it for more information. Read more…

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Saturday, September 15th, 2007

How to Optimize for Yahoo!

With a reported 22.1% of search traffic Yahoo is second only to Google’s 64.4% (src: Hitwise) for search user volume so it is extremely important not to forget that attaining a top ranking in Yahoo can be a big boon to the bottom line. As a result, I decided to write this update on how to attain superior rankings in Yahoo using today’s useful tools and tactics.

OVERVIEW: Optimizing for Yahoo!
Algorithmically Yahoo is Google’s much younger sibling. I say this because many of the requirements for a successful ranking mirror Google’s requirement about 4 years ago and they sum up to one distinct fact; optimize your content boldly on Yahoo and you will be rewarded. When I say “boldly” I do not mean use SPAM; by nature SPAM and optimization do not mix… they are two entirely separate concepts (black and white in fact).

The following are the current generalized specifications for achieving solid rankings in Yahoo.

WEB SITE OPTIMIZATION
SEO tactics have not changed a great deal over the past 10 years I have been an SEO. In general terms the only effect time has had on SEO is to vary the intensity of the optimization for particular page elements. That is the rub of course; some search engines appreciate the optimization of particular page elements over others. In the case of Yahoo, this old property with a relatively young algorithm tends to favour the following elements:

Title Tag: Keep your title tag as short as 5 small-medium sized words and include one complete incidence of your keyphrase. Yahoo! blatantly favours sites that include the keyphrase in the title tag. For an example check out “car sales” or for that matter any phrase. Within the top 10 results you will notice that the majority of sites listed will include at least one incidence of the keyphrase or a crucial portion of it (i.e. “cars”). The ones that do not include the keyphrase tend to be sites that have are extremely popular so even basic title tag optimization is not required to attain a top ranking.

Meta Description Tag: Start this tag with an incidence of your keyphrase and then produce a short 15 – 18 small-medium sized word sentence clearly describing your site. Include one more incidence of your keyphrase in the sentence. Keep in mind that the description tag is often utilized as the description for any rankings you achieve so it is best to make it alluring.

Meta Keyword Tag: Keyword tags have long been considered ineffective and no longer have any importance on Google; however Yahoo does still consider the keyword tag so it cannot hurt to include it. The keyword tag should start with the keyphrase and then all following words or phrases should be ordered according to their relevance to your website; place the most important ones up front. The max size of a keyword tag should be 250 characters – comma-delimited. Do not over repeat words; no more than 3 repetitions of a single word within the tag.

Keywords in URL: Create keyword-based filenames that closely represent the content within the file. Yahoo rewards keyword-based filenames a small amount – perhaps enough to push past your competition.

Headings: Heading 1 and 2 tags should be applied on every page where appropriate to embolden the relevance of the page. In other words, use the page’s keyphrase within a Heading 1 tag to further enhance the visibility of the keyphrase on the page.

Alt text for images: Don’t forget to provide appropriate ALT text for each image on your website. The ALT text must not provide information that is already written on the website. ALT text is supposed to provide a clear and concise description of what the image is. Fortunately this means that adding an incidence of the keyphrase or a portion of the keyphrase is totally appropriate which can add slightly more credibility to your page score when Yahoo’s crawler (Slurp) indexes the page.

Inline Links: In the midst of your page it is beneficial to include links to related pages from related content. These links will apply relevance to the linked page; which is optimized for the same keyphrase you linked from.

Site Structure: Site structure is a vital component to ranking success on Yahoo; especially in competitive marketplaces where every advantage is required to reach the top. One method that would be successful at Yahoo (and happens to work as well on the other major search engines) is a tried and true technique that revolves around the linear progression of related content throughout the website; it is commonly known as Themeing. The following example should shed some light on this subject:

Your site is a car sales site focused on Audi. In order to create a linear site structure you would focus each section of the site on an individual relevancy. Say you pick “Audi A5” as the relevant topic (see Figure 1.0). As you move deeper into the Audi A5 section you only see A5 relevant content. The search engine spider and your users will not be distracted by links to other vehicles – only information on the A5. This progresses as you proceed deeper into this arm of the website and because this section of the site is utterly focused on the subject “Audi A5” the odds of achieving a ranking for that term increase considerably.

LINKS
When building links for Yahoo concentrate on quality not quantity. Quality links would be one way links from sites that specialize in content directly relevant to the content on your own website. Building these links can be done by creating content and syndicating it to your own industry for link love and to build credibility. In addition, if your website is a worthwhile resource it is entirely reasonable to tell the world about your site in order to build links; hopefully they will link to you because they like your site so much.

Finally, there is another tactic that has mixed results; send out press releases once a month using PRWeb or an associated press release agency. A good press release can easily build the links you need in no time at all. Unfortunately the mixed results I noted occur when press releases inevitably become archived, at which point the link relevance will fade. As a result, link building with press releases is only useful as an ongoing practice and should be considered a small facet of a robust link building campaign.

SITE EXPLORER SETTINGS
Yahoo’s Site Explorer is a fantastic tool for monitoring your website(s) and running basic link reports. If you have not already done so you should create an account at Site Explorer and then validate your website (prove you own it) so that you can manage the information Yahoo has for your website. Once you have validated your website I have noted some Site Explorer functionality that may help your website perform on Yahoo:

  • Make certain to create a sitemap and submit it to Yahoo:
    If you haven’t already done so use a XML sitemap generator to create a sitemap for your website and then submit it to Yahoo using the “Add Feed” form within your website’s Site Explorer profile.
  • Removing unnecessary dynamic content from your URLs with new add-on within Site Explorer:
    Does your URLs content session ID’s or other dynamic content that is unnecessary within the URL? If so, this information can be indexed by the search engines and ultimately can cause havoc with your rankings. Thankfully Yahoo has implemented a new tool within the Site Explorer domain management section called “Dynamic URLs Beta”. Here are the instructions to use the Dynamic URLs tool.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
After reviewing our notes from current and previous Yahoo promotions and taking a look at a variety of top 10 results the following points appeared noteworthy:

  • Ensure open indexing by using Robots.txt wisely
  • A lot of our client’s older content appears to be sticking to top rankings with little or no monthly tweaking. As a result, I think it is fair to assume that fresh content is not currently gaining much weight in the Yahoo algorithm.
  • In many cases top ranking sites have pushed the envelope and their sites border on SPAM. Considering the top ranking these sites have it appears Yahoo’s SPAM filters are far less sensitive than Google’s. I expect Yahoo will change this in the near future but then again I have been surprised how long this has been the status quo.
  • One common claim throughout forums is that achieving a placement in the Yahoo Directory provides an instant boost to Yahoo rankings. Unfortunately we have not seen conclusive evidence that the annual $299 fee will increase rankings dramatically in the short term. That said, I strongly believe that a Yahoo Directory placement is a very reputable incoming link that does pay dividends in the long run at any search engine that weighs incoming links (the ones that count).
  • Yahoo Search Submit was re-introduced back in February 2007 to significant criticism due to the potential favouritism to those who pay to get into the Yahoo index. Despite the negative feedback there appears to be some potential benefits to paying for submission. For one, in July I noted an interesting story where a website was banned from Yahoo and the webmaster got the site back into Yahoo’s index by paying for inclusion (“Banned from Yahoo?”). A second reason Search Submit may be worthwhile is the guarantee that your site will be indexed. Furthermore, the Yahoo’s Search Submit Pro service allows you to recommend your own title and description tags for each page submitted and to submit pages that may not normally be indexed by Slurp.
by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.
Celebrating 10 Years of Web Marketing Excellence
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Thursday, August 16th, 2007

SEO is More Important Than Ever

I do my fair share of web marketing reading on a daily basis and lately I have noticed more and more writers stating that search engine optimization (SEO) is no longer as important for online success. This spin may make sense to those writers (and their financial goals) as they try to push industry cash flow away from SEO but I disagree wholeheartedly and throughout this posting I will explain why. And I assure you that despite my own inherent bias it will all be very logical and undeniable. Read more…

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Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Keyword Research for Organic SEO

So you have decided to venture out into the world of SEO. The first thing you will need to do is determine the direction of your campaign in relation to the key phrases you are choosing to target. This article will focus on how to find keywords for your organic campaign, as the process is slightly different for PPC.

Many site owners know immediately what phrases they want. If you feel like you know what you want, before you start take a brief step back and assess if this really is the best phrase for your site. Yes, it just may very well be the perfect phrase, but if it isn’t, you could wind up spending a lot of time and money pursuing a ranking that either will never happen, or will provide very little value to your site. Read more…

SEO Meet SMM (Social Media Marketing) was the most information-dense seminar that I attended at SMX Advanced, a multi-day conference geared for advanced web marketing professionals. As a result, it has taken a while to view my footage and pick out all of the best tips to share with you. The SEO Meet SMM seminar was paneled with an all-star cast of Rand Fishkin, Neil Patel and Cindy Krum. Between these three incredibly bright people, and my own experience and research I have put together this whitepaper on how to use social media marketing (SMM) to your advantage. I believe this is the most current (timely), accurate and cutting edge information available for those who want to start marketing in this field. Read more…

Blogs 101 is a resource to provide our clients and readers with a clear concept of what a blog is, why a blog might be a positive addition to their website or marketing campaign, and how to implement, optimize and promote a blog. In Part 1 of this series I discussed the basics of a blog and some of the necessary steps to take before starting one. In Part 2, I explained blog feeds and how to optimize a blog. Now in Part 3, I will explain social media marketing and outline a selection of strategies for socially marketing your blog. Read more…

Blogs 101 is a resource to provide our clients and readers with a clear concept of what a blog is, why a blog might be a positive addition to their website or marketing campaign, and how to implement, optimize and promote a blog. In Part 1 of this series I discussed the basics of a blog and some of the necessary steps to take before starting one. In Part 2, I will explain blog feeds and how to optimize a blog. Read more…

StepForth’s Blogs 101 is a resource to provide our clients and readers with a clear concept of what a blog is, why a blog might be a positive addition to their website or marketing campaign, and how to implement, optimize and promote a blog. In Part 1 of this series I will discuss the basics of a blog and some of the necessary steps to take before starting one. Read more…

Written by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth SEO Services

Credits: (Continued from Part 1)
The following is Part 2 of the coverage of the Search Engine Strategies (SES) New York presentation called “Mobile Search Optimization” by Cindy Krum of Blue Moon Works, Gregory Markel, President of Infuse Creative LLC and Rachel Pasqua, Director of Mobile Marketing at iCrossing. Read more…

Okay, so I said it all in the title. Perhaps you need not even read this article as you may start off not believing it.

Today I read an article written by an unknown name in the SEO industry (at least unknown to me). It had a number of points focused on improving search rankings and provided a bunch of tips on how to improve the overall standings for a site. Sounds like a useful article, and for many who read it, I am sure it was – or at least seemed that way. Read more…

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