Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Google Adwords

"Lets be honest here, Google is certainly one of the biggest players as far as search engines go. The results returned by Google are fairly accurate, and while we take them for granted we cannot forget about all the days of work that must have gone into the algorithms that sort the wheat from the chaf. As this must have cost them some serious money, it would have been unfair to expect Google to keep paid advertisers from their site and it was only a matter of time before paid advertising became an option.

Getting the Balance Right

One of the problems associated with adding paid for listings to search results is that you can't simply hide the paid for links into the results of a search term. In the early days of cost per click searches it was often the companies with the deepest pockets that were guaranteed top spot for a term. The only thing such companies had to prove was that the keyword was relevant to the term, if of course the advert had to be reviewed before going live.

Search engines that offer paid for and free listings should really differentiate between the two types of link. I know that whenever I've used a traditional pay per click search engine the top few paid for terms aren't always relevant to what I was looking for, so I like to know before I click on a link if it was paid for or not.

Paid for results are fine, so long as visitors are aware they are paid for. Any pay per click engine that clearly makes the distinction between the two keeps some of its credibility by declaring its interest in a particular link.

Google Adwords Select

I'll admit I wasn't surprised when I heard that Google was offering a new cost per click program (Adwords Select); it was only a matter of time. However, having read through the way the program works, I was pleasantly surprised. Go"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

All in the Domain Name

The domain you use for a particular site can have a huge impact in the way that humans and search engine spiders perceive it. Domain names were once so expensive that only those wanting to protect a brand or who could afford them owned them, now they are commonplace and if you know where to look, you can pick up a domain name for free.

Now that they are much easier to obtain, it is hard to take any site that does not have it's own domain name very seriously. Without a domain name, a company is likely to be passed off as amateurish or seen to want to cut corners to save money. If you have a company site and you still haven't got a domain name for your website, then you might want to think about getting one!

Make it Memorable
The best domain names are those that people can remember, because if your visitors can remember it, they are more likely to come back. If you do not already have a company or other name selected for your site, then it is often a good idea to make your domain name the brand for the site. Tying your site name to the domain is just one way you can help your visitors remember how to find you again.

Tips for choosing the most memorable domain name.

keep it short and easy to spell.
make use of keywords or popular search terms whenever possible.
generic terms are like gold dust if you can get them.
the more unusual but familiar sounding a domain, the better.
add a twist, some domain names are remembered for being different to what you would expect to find there (e.g. monster.co.uk)

One of the major problems of trying to promote a specific domain name is that in general, people (or sometimes browsers) assume that they end in a .com. If your site uses a domain other than a .com, then you may want to make the domain your site identity, otherwise you could have your visitors remembering the domain name but not the extension and going to related site that isn't your own!

Domain Branding
If you purchase your domain with the intention that it will become the brand that you promote, then it is worth taking into account the specifics of the domain. Keywords can play an important part in your brand, particularly if it is specific to your industry, as they will help to make your domain name memorable while improving your search engine rankings.

In the case of directories such as Yahoo and DMOZ sites are usually listed in alphabetical order, so anything starting with A, B or C has a much better chance of being higher on the list than those starting with X, Y or Z, and so is more likely to be noticed. Don't however be tempted to use a domain that has been "padded out" to get a high position in an alphabetically sorted list; not only will it look tacky and amateurish, but most directories use human editors who would pick up this obvious trick and either correct it or ignore the site altogether.

Take me Seriously
If you own a business and you want to have an online presence then your choice for suitable domain names is usually limited to some variant of the company name. It is probably worth pointing out that some extensions have been devalued because of the way they have been used in the past; so extensions such as .vu, .to and .it could make your business site feel more like a personal homepage.

Another thing to avoid is the use of "cool" domains; using numbers or letters to replace words is only going to confuse anyone who wants to find your site by typing in your domain. If you really must register such a domain, then be sure to register the expanded form and point it to the same site so as to pick up any visitors that were unsure which to use.

Don't Leave It too Late
Competition for domain names is higher than ever since the average price of a domain fell, and so there is a chance that your ideal domain name has been taken. The longer you wait before buying your domain name, the more difficult it will be to make the changes later on down the line.

A case in point is that of a small firm in my area that used the free web space that came with their dailup account. Rather than paying for a domain name (which was about £75 at the time), they opted to use a sub-domain with their ISP and promoted their URL on their vans and letterheads. For a year or so, they looked professional since there weren't many local businesses on the web, but when the prices for domain names started to crash, the URL suddenly looked tacky and amateurish. If they had got their domain name when they first developed their site, they could have saved the extra time and cost they spent to fix the problem.

Fortunately most paid hosting will require you to either use a registered domain name with the account or to register one through them; which will help to minimize these sorts of problems in the future.

Webmaster Articles

Webmaster Articles: "Building Relevant Links"

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Link Popularity

It's no longer enough for us as site owner's to say that we are popular with our visitors, if we want to earn and keep the top rankings at the search engines we now have to prove it. All of a sudden the links back to your site are important as they can affect your link popularity, but it isn't a simple numbers game. It's not just a case of how many sites are linking to you, but more of what sites they are!

There is little doubt as to the importance of link popularity at the search engines, and there are several ways you can go about boosting your rankings. Some of the techniques that are touted to improve link popularity can actually do more harm than good, while others offer a poor return on your investment of time.

Building Relevant Links

The links that will make the biggest difference to your link popularity are those from sites that are relevant to your site's topic. The more sites similar to your own you can get to link to you, the better it will be, particularly if you manage to get a prominent link at a busy site.

How you go about getting links from such a site is another matter. You could always do some research to find out details of sites that may link to you and ask if they would like to exchange links; but it is a long and laborious task that is unlikely to bring much benefit unless you get lucky. You'd need a lot of time to plan your link exchanges and follow them up if you want them to work.

Writing quality content can do wonders for your search rankings, but if you allow other sites to use the content on the understanding that they link back to your site, it can benefit the both of you. It helps them rank better in the search engines while providing content they otherwise wouldn't have the time or knowledge to write. It helps you because you get more exposure to your work while improving your link popularity.

If you are really desperate to have other sites link to you, you could start your own affiliate program or link contest. Both of these ideas will give other webmasters an incentive to link back to you but could mean a lot of work to sustain interest and to make the links more permanent.

Get Involved

If you are the sort of person who doesn't mind helping others out, then you can use this to your advantage. There are many discussion boards and newsgroups around where you can help people while making them aware that your site exists. So long as you keep people's respect by promoting your site discretely in your signature (always follow the rules of the forum or newsgroup), you can leave your mark on all sorts of discussions that relate to your site content. If this content is archived and regularly spidered then you could improve your link popularity just by being actively helpful.

Another way you can be helpful while improving your link popularity is to become an editor at one (or more) of the directories such as Zeal or DMOZ. Getting your site listed in these directories will help to boost your search rankings, but if you can make it in as an editor you will have the opportunity to look for sites to approach with link exchanges while helping to improve the directories.

Don't Waste your Time

Free For All (FFA) link pages are only good for one thing, collecting email addresses to send a one time mailing to. Many of these pages are full of links that few people (mainly other webmasters that are submitting manually) will see. The average lifespan of a link on a FFA link page is too short to be useful, particularly if it has been picked up by the submission programs that are out there.

A link farm is a reciprocal link service where everyone that takes part agrees to link to each other, but usually in a way that is not obvious to their visitors. They work by creating a page of links that lists all the participating members of the scheme; this page then has to be linked to from the main page of the site so that the spiders and bots can easily find them.

Link farms are not generally a good idea. Not only are they likely to create links between many totally unrelated sites, but also most of the search engines are aware of them and look out for duplicate pages across multiple domains. At best, all you can hope for is slight improvement in your link popularity, is it really worth the risk of getting yourself banned from the major search engines if they catch on?

Which Links Affect my Link Popularity?
The only links to your site that can have any sort of impact on your rankings are those that the search engines are aware of. It has been known for site owners to submit other pages to a search engine purely to help improve their own link popularity, particularly if the link is related to the topic of their own sites.

It is worth mentioning that most search engine spiders will take note of the words used to link documents together, and so you should suggest a format for your links whenever possible. A well-worded link on a highly relevant site will do more for your ranking than the same link on a larger unrelated site.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Visitors are Human!

I hate to state the obvious, but the real visitors to your site will always be human. It may seem like a strange statement to make, but I feel it sums up well a point that is often overlooked by Webmasters who are permanently in "promote" mode.

Don't get Carried Away...<br>
The algorithms used by the search engines are constantly being tested and improved, thus the techniques needed to keep a good ranking are constantly being tweaked. If you don't keep up to speed you could loose the number one spot to a competitor, and they will get all that traffic you worked hard for.

While it is nice to be ranked in the top ten resources for a particular keyword, you shouldn't become obsessive with your position in the search engines. If you are tweaking your pages even once a week then that is probably too much, and isn't really worth your time. The problem is, once you get serious about search engine optimisation purely for better rankings, it can be hard to stop!

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back...

Some of the tricks employed by search engine optimisers are just a waste of time. That's not to say that they won't work, as there are some ingenious tricks used to deceive the search engines, but the search engines and the optimisers are in constant battle in an effort to stay "one step ahead" of each other.

Just because you can get your site a high ranking through the use of sneaky optimisation tricks, doesn't mean that it deserves to be there! Only the visitors to your site can decide if your site is relevant to their search terms, and they will be able to recognise a site that doesn't belong in their particular search results.

If a search engine becomes too polluted with sites that have little relevance to the keywords being searched for then everyone loses!

The visitors will find their searches return fewer relevant results and go elsewhere.
The search engine will earn less revenue as visitor numbers dwindle.
The site owners will get fewer and fewer visitors to their sites.

Sites that try to achieve higher rankings by deceiving the search engines not only run the risk of getting poor quality traffic, but also of earning themselves a bad reputation with those who were "tricked" into going to the site. Nothing can be more damaging to your reputation than an unhappy customer, particularly one with access to the Internet!

Real Search Engine Optimisation
If you are about to embark on a bit of search engine optimisation, then remember your reasons for doing so. Search engine optimisation should be about getting your pages listed for the most relevant searches, not about how many people you can get to visit!

The problem with a lot of the optimisation tricks is that they do little, if anything, to improve the experience of visitors coming to your site. Keyword rich content is often difficult to read, becoming more like a shopping list of synonyms than a readable article. The information people are looking for could be hidden underneath all those words, but extracting anything useful could take some time and a lot of perseverance! Even when a technique doesn't make it more difficult to read a page, it will often add to the download time of a site.

If you really want to optimise your site for better visibility, then forget about applying the latest scripting or HTML techniques for achieving top rankings. You don't need them! Good text copy will use the right mix of keywords for the topic while keeping it readable and useful; get it right and your content will rank naturally high in the search engines without having to resort to other promotional techniques.

I know you are constantly reminded of the fact, but content really is the key to a good site. Various search engine bots visit to try to understand and categorise it. The real visitors come to utilise it!

Quality, not Quantity
Don't become obsessed with visitor numbers, particularly if you are running a business! Just because you can demand the attention of the search engines and other media doesn't guarantee that you will make money from your visitors. The owners of Boo.com learn that lesson the hard way!

Large volumes of traffic are not always desirable anyway, particularly when you are not prepared for a sudden surge in "popularity". With such large volumes of traffic the chances are you will make a sale or two, but once you've paid for all the extra costs of getting that traffic, you are unlikely to make much of a profit!

If you let your site rank "naturally" you may not get a vast number of visitors to your site, but you will get a higher percentage of interested visitors as most will have actively searched for what you offer. It is much easier to convert the interested visitors into paying customers than those with no interest in what you are offering.

Getting visitors to your site is easy. Getting them interested in what you have to offer is not. Making them loyal is harder still!

Community Building
Your visitors will appreciate any special attention you can give them with a particular problem they may be having. They will also value the effort you put into improving their experience at your site, particularly if they are able to see the changes being suggested by others being implemented when appropriate.

Offering your visitors the opportunity to interact with other like-minded individuals who may be interested in your site, can also make your visitors feel that they are welcome and important. Features as simple as allowing the posting of comments to articles or a chance to email something interesting to a friend can add a community feel to a site.

It is not necessary to have your own message board to build up a community of people that are interested in your site. You could bring people together by offering your own ezine, or simply offer help whenever you can by becoming a regular at established message boards frequented by your target audience.

Time you spend building your relationship with your real visitors is time well spent. Loyal visitors to your site are often loyal because they believe in what you do and want to see you succeed. Some will even adopt the site and think of it as their own, doing whatever they can to promote and protect it without you having to ask them to do so! Look after your visitors, and they will look after you!

So, the next time you feel like optimising your web site for the search engines, don't forget... your real visitors are human (and robots don't carry credit cards)!

get Traffic with Expired Domains

Each day 20,000 plus domain names expire and become available for anyone to register. This is valuable if you are seeking a domain to help you boost yourtraffic, or are looking to resell the names for a profit.

Expiring domain names have been owned by at least one person in the past. This owner may have built a website, advertised, submitted to the search engines, or traded links with another website owner.

So why would anyone who made any kind of effort with a domain simply let it expire? Well, here are just a few:

- The Author lost interest

- A company went out of business

- Simply forgot to renew the registration

- Could not afford the fees

For whatever reason, that domain is now available for the taking; and you cantake advantage of all that work. You could point it at your existing domain orbuild a new site.

So, how do you know if a domain name even has expired traffic?

While you can never tell the amount of traffic that is going to an expireddomain name, there are some factors you can use to gauge this. Here are a few:

Link Popularity

Link popularity tells you the number of URL’s or pages that link to aspecific domain name. Basically, the more links coming to a domain name thehigher the link popularity and the higher chance of generating traffic.Additionally, a domain name with high link popularity has a better chance ofreceiving better quality traffic.

Use our free link popularity tool

Alexa Rank

The Alexa rank is a measurement of a domain’s unique visitor traffic and page views. The Alexa toolbar tracks how many users visit a domain and grades those visits as rank. Alexa will normally drop an expired domain name after seeing no page view traffic for 3 months. So, if there happens to be a related Alexa rank, this is a definitive resource for traffic.

Now if that Alexa rank is 1,000,000 or higher, then the domain is really not receiving any traffic. You should look for a domain with at least 100,000 that should translate into at least 2 visitors a day.

Google PageRank

Google pagerank is a value from 1 to 10 that expresses the popularity of a domain name based upon how many quality web pages are linking into a particular domain name. Pagerank can be used for two main reasons when acquiring an expiring domain name.

1. Building a website to boost your main website’s pagerank

2. Take advantage of the traffic coming from the inbound links

If you have the Google toolbar installed, you can discover an expired domain’s pagerank by typing the URL into your web browsers address bar and looking for the pagerank to appear.

Try using this tool as well

Yahoo and Dmoz Listings

The previous domain owner may have been approved by a Dmoz editor or even paid for inclusion into a search engine like Yahoo or Looksmart. When you acquire a domain name that is expiring, you inherit these listings as well. Do the research and search the directory for the name by simply typing in the full URL for the domain.

A listing in any of the top ten search engines will not guarantee traffic, but will give you a better chance of receiving quality traffic. At the very least you can usually turn these domains around and sell them for the value of the directory listings.

We have published a list of daily expiring domains names that have the tools in place for you to conduct all of this research for free.

As you can see, this is a very affordable way to gain near instant traffic for your website. Try to purchase domain names that are related to what kind of traffic you need. As an example; if you need webmaster traffic, purchase domain names that have keywords that are appealing to a webmaster not a cook.