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Unknown Search Results Make SEO Harder

October 6, 2014 1 comment

unknownresultsGoogle has been encrypting keyword searches for several years now. That makes web searching more private for users, but a lot more complicated for web marketers. In a blog post from 2011, Google claimed,

Over the next few weeks, many of you will find yourselves redirected to https://www.google.com (note the extra “s”) when you’re signed in to your Google Account. This change encrypts your search queries and Google’s results page. This is especially important when you’re using an unsecured Internet connection, such as a WiFi hotspot in an Internet cafe.

Some controversy developed at the time, but as secured browsing has grown, I hardly see search keywords in my reports any more. Part of the controversy has to do with the fact Google continues to display specific keyword searches for its ad program; AdWords. It makes sense to use secured browsing when surfing on a public connection. I’m just not sure I can buy into allowing paid advertisers access when website operators typically keep their organic search reports private.

Unfortunately for small businesses, it’s changes like this where having a professional working for you can be of benefit. There are some pretty complicated solutions detailed here that I won’t go into in this article.

What I will go into are two straightforward workarounds that can still provide the information you’re looking for.

The first is to examine user behavior on your site’s pages. Pages that get traffic are typically ranked. Digging a little will tell you which keywords are on that page and you can have a general idea of which keywords are bringing visitors to your site.

But what if you have a campaign or publicized link out there? Could that skew your results? Yes it could! Which leads me to step two…

ALWAYS use a tracking code for links you promote. What’s a tracking code? It’s a simple bit of php you put on the end of a URL. For example this is the link to the Guide I’m promoting:

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf

This is the same link with tracking code:

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=test

It’s the “?” that initiates the code. You can put whatever you want after that. I use src to indicate a source and test can be anything you want. If I posted this to Facebook I could use –

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=fb

For Twitter –

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=tw

If you use multiple posts to the same source you can track them in more detail by adding a numeric code or date like this –

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=fb1

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=fb100614

BEFORE you publish the tracking code be sure to test it! You don’t want to spend time or money publicizing a link for it to go to your 404 not found page.

I have been an advocate of tracking codes for a very long time. Google’s encryption of keywords is going to force smart marketers to have to use them 100% of the time. Or you can just buy ads…

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Utah’s Top Bloggers

October 1, 2009 10 comments

top modelsWho are Utah’s top bloggers?

That’s the question I’m asking you…the blog reading public.

Yes, this is a popularity contest, but I want to try and keep it fair.  So, while you’ll have your favorite, please make your vote based on these conditions:

How often does your favorite blogger update?

How good are their posts?

How well does this blogger develop a sense of community?

Once you’ve answered those questions, please vote for one of the following top blogger nominees.

Who are the nominees?

In no particular order, the nominees are:

Mainstream Media Blogs

Deseret News Blogs

Ogden Standard Examiner

Salt Lake Tribune

In a league of their own (good)

In a league of their own (bad)

Real Estate Blogs

Uncategorized Blogs


What was the selection criteria?

If I could find the site on a search engine or one of my other nominees linked to you and you had a recent update and some sense of community (comments) I included you.

Why was my site excluded?

I couldn’t find you or I did find you and your blog didn’t meet my criteria.  To those newspapers in St. George, Provo and Logan I did see your blogs.  They were crap and won’t be included.

Can I still be included?

Sure.  Send me your name and the URL by email and I’ll take a look.  You’ve got until October 10, 2009 to have a fair shot with the competition.  If I like your site and it meets the judging criteria, I’ll add you to the poll.

Where can I vote?

Right here.  This isn’t American Idol, so repeat votes by the same person won’t be counted.

I’ve been nominated for Utah’s top blogger, what do I do next?

Ummm, nothing…if you want to lose!  Tell everyone to come vote for you here!  You’ll be able to download a nifty graphic to promote your prestigious nomination in a couple days, so please come back.

I’ve been nominated for Utah’s top blogger, so what?

On Friday, October 2,  a pretty widespread press release is going to hit the media.  You may get some pretty cool exposure.  Plus, do you notice who you’re stacked against here?  There are some pretty important people who get a lot of traffic.  You might be able to get some yourself.

Is there a prize?

Traffic, inbound links and widespread admiration.  What do you want?  Money?  Maybe next year we’ll find a sponsor.

Three Ways to Out Rank Your Competitors on Google

September 28, 2009 10 comments

head to headTaking on the big dogs is always hard to do.  That’s what I did when I started optimizing for “Salt Lake City SEO.”

One of the fundamentals of SEO is established sites tend to out rank new sites because they have more links and more content.

While researching for that post, I found I could easily out rank my competition on the blog side, but out ranking on the website side would be much more difficult.  That’s OK.  I have a plan.

Use established sites to gain search engine ranking

There are probably a million sites to leverage to get a good ranking, but I like to submit to sites that will duplicate my work through RSS.

Article Directories

The easiest way to do this is submit content to article sites.  Article sites have been around a lot longer than any new websites, so they’ll show up in search engine results higher and sooner than anything else.  They also act as a filter for the visitor because if someone reads my article, then comes to my site for more information, it seems they are becoming a pretty well qualified prospect.  I only submit to article sites that allow anchor text so I am maximizing my time.  Other websites that use syndicated content take those feeds as is, so my anchor text gets duplicated all over the web.  I can even submit older articles from this site verbatim without worrying about a duplicate content penalty.

I am currently submitting articles to three of my favorite directories.  I will let you know how that turns out.

Press Releases

Press releases are one of my favorite ways to generate buzz, branding and inbound links.  They are great for new sites because the fact you’re launching a site is newsworthy in itself.  Press release sites not only distribute to major news sites, they also utilize RSS so blogs and other news aggregators scrape and publish your content.  To get the best distribution and the ability to use anchor text, it will cost you money, but the exposure is well worth it.

The key to writing a successful press release is making it newsworthy.  While it’s worth the money spent just for the links and the distribution, ideally you want to generate a release that will create press.  Too many web marketers submit press releases that are poorly written or just plain spam.  By taking the time to write something newsworthy, you will create something worth your effort.

I have not submitted any press releases yet, but I came up with two newsworthy ideas I think will generate some press.  I’m still working on some details, but plan to have idea one fully implemented this week.

Directory Sites

While doing some research on my targeted key words, I found some localized directory sites I thought would be worth submitting to.  Besides Blogtopsites and Blogtoplist which I always submit to, I found Blogcatalog and MerchantCircle.  Much to my surprise, I found the following for my key phrase a couple days ago:

Hi front page of Google!

Hi front page of Google!

Over time and after implementing some of my other strategies, I believe this site will rank in the top ten, but for now I’m pretty pleased.  Look out big dogs, I’m nipping at your heels!

If you want a hint about the future of SEO, this is it.  Other sites are the place you want to be; Facebook, Twitter, Directories, Google Maps, etc.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Seth Godin.  He’s launching Brands in Public, a content aggregator for companies.  For $400 a month you can get some pretty cheap SEO, but the idea has its detractors.  No matter how much people hate it, it’s going to happen.

Embrace change.

Blog Carnival Recap – 09-27-09

September 28, 2009 Leave a comment

carnival recapIt’s time for a new feature here at SEO by Swaby…the weekly blog carnival recap.

As I’ve told you, a blog carnival is a great way to get strong inbound links for content you’ve already written.  Now that I’ve got a few articles written, it’s time to promote again.  Carnivals are one of the best and easiest ways to do that.

Since my topic focus is quite wide, I’ve been fortunate to submit to nearly a dozen carnivals last week.  Because they don’t all publish at the same time, here’s what I’ve got so far:

Carnival of Social Media – Looks like a new one.  Could be good.

Working at Home Carnival – Been around for a while.  Lot’s of different subjects.

Blogging Blog Carnival – Still waiting to achieve maximum potential.

Blog it and Earn it Carnival – One of the better carnivals I’ve seen so far.

More carnivals will be coming your way next week.  Did you notice that some articles listed have a summary paragraph?  This was submitted by the author and can be a way to make your article stand out from the others.

I’ve got a lot of great articles coming out this week on this blog including:

Luxury car dealer completely messes up email campaign

and

Three ways to outrank your competition on Google.

Plus we’re looking for Utah’s top blogger.  Stay tuned!

Blog Carnivals as an Easy Inbound Link Source

September 25, 2009 5 comments

carnival clownsWhat the hell is a blog carnival?  That’s the question I found myself asking three years ago when I started my real estate blog.  What should I expect?  Do they work?  Will I get traffic?  Links?

Don’t worry, I will give you the answers to all of these questions and more.

A blog carnival is a kind of review of posts from other blogs, hosted by one site.  Depending on the structure of the carnival, there may be some commentary by the host, there may be judging or there may be just a list.  Those sites that get listed in the carnival are supposed to link back to the host, thus giving them added incentive for taking the time to review the submissions.

Sounds good right?  You get exposure on someone else’s site with an audience of your blog peers.  The first time I participated, I thought I would get a ton of traffic for my infant blog.  I didn’t.  The first time I hosted I thought traffic would be swarming.  It wasn’t.  What it did do was give me very solid inbound links and put me in touch with my fellow real estate bloggers.  From that standpoint blog carnivals are very beneficial and I highly recommend submitting and hosting one yourself.

I’ve been blogging here for a little over a month now.  I think I’ve got some great content.  Time to share.  So I headed over to the blog carnival directory.  Here is the place to find your niche and submit.  Back when I was a real estate blogger, there were about four or five carnivals I could legitimately submit.  You don’t want to spam the carnival.  There was one on personal finance, one on real estate investing and the grand daddy of them all…the Carnival of Real Estate.  After a little practice writing I got to the point where I could pretty much get listed for whatever article I submitted, but that meant I had to think of these audiences when I wrote.  Any lending advice for individuals was a good fit for the personal finance carnival, while I had to think more about real estate investors for the other one.  For the big one, an article on Salt Lake real estate wouldn’t usually do.  I had to have a more generic real estate or mortgage article.

Being an SEO blogger is so much broader that I can submit to a number of different carnivals.  Anything small business, technology, social media, blogging, etc. will work and I’ve got a pretty wide range of articles in the archives to submit.

I wait to really turn on the promotion engine until I have content.

Whenever you submit to a new carnival, it’s a good idea to look at the last one.  Then you can get an idea of what the submission criteria is, who’s been hosting, how many competitor articles there are and whether the hosts will just publish anything.  Usually they’re a bit selective.

So I honed my list last week and started submitting.  I don’t know whether this is new, but the blog carnival directory now allows you to save carnivals and you can use the saved list as a dashboard to quickly submit.  When I was doing this before, I had to go down their huge list each week.  Well the first article was published on a carnival called “blogging.”  Can anybody guess what it’s about?

If I may be blunt, this was a ho-hum carnival.  It was a list.  Boooring.  My apologies to the host.  The real estate carnivals used to be so much fun!  Most hosts would have a theme and then the main page of the carnival would do a special post for the host.  Look at the most recent carnival of real estate.  The host didn’t have a theme, but he did do a review of the posts and pointed out what caught his eye for the “winners.”  Plus he’s got quite a few comments showing the sense of community amongst that group of bloggers.

So what can you expect from participating in a blog carnival?  Not much in terms of traffic, but quite a bit in terms of inbound links and connections within your community.

Blog Carnival Submission Tips:

Don’t submit the same article to all the carnivals.  Mix it up.  Some of them actually require exclusive submissions.

Do read the rules before you submit.

Don’t spam!

Don’t submit poorly written articles.  You’re wasting your time and the host’s.

Do thank the host.

Do participate in the conversation that occurs on the thread.  Some of your new link partners will come from that community.

Do provide a link back to the carnival.  Provide a link even if your article didn’t get selected this week.

Do pay attention to submission deadlines.  Each carnival is different and each one can publish on a different day.

Do start a carnival of your own if you can’t find one in your topic area.

Link Building – Avoid the Bad Neighborhoods

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

bad neighborhoodIn my last two articles on link building, I’ve mentioned the bad neighborhood concept, but not really explained it fully.

I’d like to discuss the concept and share a tool you can use to avoid Internet bad neighborhoods.

Everybody has stumbled across an Internet bad neighborhood at some point in their surfing.  Sites with multiple pop-up ads, link farms, pay per surf offers, safelists and others are types of bad neighborhood sites.  The search engines hate them because they try and game the system and typically don’t offer any quality content.

Google writes on their webmaster site

  • Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

Google wants search to be natural and will penalize sites that try to skirt the rules.

How do you avoid bad neighborhoods?

Don’t link to them.  If somebody asks me for a link, I look at the site.  Is it relevant to mine?  Does it offer value to my readers?  Is it full of ads and popups?  If these questions aren’t answered to my satisfaction, I don’t link to it.  I normally find sites I link to through Google searches.  Those are generally safe to link to.  Now that I’m getting pushed links from Twitter, Facebook and other social sites, I simply look at the site and ignore it if it doesn’t offer any value.  If it does, I bookmark it for later use.

What if you can’t tell you’re in a bad neighborhood?

There are a few occasions when this might happen.  While researching this article, I found a pretty cool tool to help.  This tool is useful on several levels just as a link checker so you can verify you don’t have any broken links on your page.  It’s also possible a domain you once linked to has expired and been taken over by some scam artist.  This tool will help you go through those old links to verify they still work!

Use links to your advantage, avoid Internet bad neighborhoods and enjoy good search engine rankings and visitors who are interested in your site.

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Link Building – How to Get Inbound Links

September 23, 2009 4 comments

link builder2Yesterday I wrote about how to create the perfect inbound link.  Some of you are probably thinking that how to get an inbound link might be a better topic.  So let’s take some time to discuss that today.

There are a lot of great suggestions out there for link building.  Some incorporate multiple steps, but in reality, there are only three types of inbound links.  This article will describe them and explain how you can start getting inbound links today.

1.  The links you ask for – This one of the oldest and best ways to get inbound links, but it can be very slow and other sites may turn you down.  The idea behind it is to find sites that are in your general topic area that will link back to you.  When I was writing my real estate blog, I would get these requests all the time.  Making a reciprocal link exchange is a good idea, so long as the site you’re trading with has good content and is in a “good neighborhood.”  I used to turn down many sites that didn’t fit this description.

Asking for links is certainly something worth doing, but it involves a lot of work to only get one link.  The key to being successful with it is being able to offer something of value to the target site.  No, I’m not talking about money.  When you’re first starting out, the only thing you have to offer is good content.  You’re not going to pay for a link and you’re not going to have a good Page rank…yet.  So, offering to provide an article to help the other site is a good idea.  Offering the other site to make a post on yours is also a good idea.  It’s good for SEO and it’s good for building a sense of community.

2.  The links you make – This is where I like to focus my efforts when link building.  It’s faster and you’ll see results immediately.  Be careful how you do it, because you don’t want to come across as a spammer.

Trackbacks – I think it’s very important to create links in every blog post.  When you’re writing you don’t want to just tell, you want to show.  By linking to a specific post in someone else’s blog, you’ll get a link back to your own site.  Here’s an example of what it looks like.  It appears on the top of the comments.  Not all of them do like this one:

pingbackexample

Most trackbacks have a “nofollow” tag in them so spiders won’t follow them.  However, people will follow.  Plus every time to link to someone’s site, the webmaster knows and they take note and you may very well get a link exchange on their blog roll.

News links – Use Sphere or Blog Burst to get links to your site just by linking to a news story.  My research tells me those links also have a “nofollow” tag in them, but you’ll get people.  You will also create the impression your site is important because it shows up on a major news site like CNN or the Wall Street Journal.

cnn

Blog carnivals and article submission sites are both great places to donate a little of your content to get a link back.  Blog carnivals are particularly useful in learning about your community and establishing relationships.  When you host a carnival, you’ll get dozens of inbound links at a time.  Article submission sites syndicate your content and you’ll also receive dozens if not hundreds of inbound links.

Press releases are another way to get inbound links from multiple sites.  Beware that submitting a release to PRWeb will cost you several hundred dollars to get those links.  You also need to submit something that is newsworthy.

Message boards and forums related to your topic are one of my favorite ways to get inbound links.  For instance, I found a board yesterday about blogging.  That’s a perfect place for me to sign up and review the threads.  No matter what your topic, there is a community out there talking about it.  Find that community and get involved.  The links will come both from you and from other members that review your site.

Directories, blogs and a million other sites are places you can get quality inbound links.  My point here is there are a lot more practical and efficient ways to get inbound links than asking.  Make your own.

3.  The links you earn – These are the very best inbound links you can get.  These are the links other people give you for seemingly no reason at all.  When you start getting these kinds of links it means you’re producing high quality content and putting yourself out in the community.

I’ll never forget the times my real estate blog received these kinds of links…because it meant traffic!  Sometimes it was a members only board I couldn’t access, sometimes it was a really popular blog, but those are the surprise links you earn by publishing great content.  Here’s an example of one from my old real estate blog.

I hear the question asked frequently, “how can I get traffic to my site?”   I think the better question to ask is “why should I get traffic to my site?”  Create that “why” and you’ll get the traffic.

There you have the three ways to get inbound links; ask for them, make them or earn them.  I promise that if you create quality content first, make plenty of outbound links and reach out to your community, you’ll never have to ask for them and you will earn plenty on your own.

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