Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Server Outage?A Clear Negative Signal Telling Search Engines Of Your Bad Reputation

I'm sure all webmaster have already experienced server outage - be it planned or unplanned.

As SEOs,we surely will rethink its impact on the SERP of the site.

Not long ago,at Google Webmaster Central Forum,a debate attracted a lot of attentions of SEO professionals and webmasters.

The focus of the debate is whether a server downtime or outage that lasts several hours may have negative impact on the site's SERP.
Server outages to me is quite often seen.And each time I saw drastic drop of rankings for almost all optimized keywords of my site(s).By then,I just sense the connection between the outage and ranking drop.But I have no evident proof.

Today,Google published a post,How to deal with planned site downtime,tell we webmasters what possible impact a server outage may have and the suggested solution.

In the article,Tomer Honen and Kaspar Szymanski clearly stated:

Sometimes downtime is unavoidable: a webmaster might decide to take a site down due to ongoing site maintenance, or legal or cultural requirements. Outages that are not clearly marked as such can negatively affect a site’s reputation
Note this:"Outages...can negatively affect a site's reputation".This is a clear signal and a proof of my ranking drop experience.

Previously,SEOmoz.org has had this article,giving the advices from top SEO experts on search ranking factors.In this article server problem was pinned as the top 5 NEGATIVE ranking factor.I think Google's post today is a solid back up to the experts' prediction which they should be proud of.

Google,after comparing different counter-measure for server outages,suggested us using a 503 HTTP result code (Service Unavailable).This code will tell the spider that the downtime is temporary and it can come back later.

This,however,will require at least one backup server to serve this code.But I think the cost is acceptable for most business.For personal bloggers/site owners (especially start-ups),a stable hosting provider may be the first thing to consider when starting blogging or making money.

Google also warned a permanent 503 may still cause reputation fall.So,do make sure that your outage is short and the site is coming back soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

SEO:Dare To Use Your Competitor's Brand Name?

Ok guys,it's been quite a time since my last post.I have been really busy in the field and rarely had time to update (Blah blah blah...).

One of the greatest fun doing SEO or online marketing is that you always find some thing new and inspiring.And the findings are almost every day.

The other day I was doing keyword research using Wordtracker.Out of curiosity I wanted to know what other people say about this fantastic tool and searched for it.

I typed in Google search box the phrase "wordtracker" and got below result:

Wordtracker's home page is No 1.This is typical,right?I then checked the rest of the 9 results,just to look some thing fun.And I found Wordtracker's twitter page,Searchegineguide talking about it,Digitalpoint forum discussing it,etc,nothing unexpected.

But wait!What is this?

Wordstream?What is it doing here,being one of Wordtracker's big competitors?It squeezed into top 10 of the search results for phrase "wordtracker"?What the what?

In its title,it read:

Wordtracker: Need a Free Wordtracker Alternative? Try WordStream ...

This is a little bit risky (putting a brand name that does not belong to it in its title) and...clever.Wordstream here posed itself as Wordtracker's "alternative" and (most appealingly) "free".

The description stated:

WordTracker does keyword research, but where do you go from there? Our Wordtracker alternative offers advanced keyword research. Try WordStream FREE today!

Very well written copy!I've been a long time user of Wordtracker and could quickly understand the meaning.Wordtracker DOES stop at keyword research (although it does provide advanced keyword research tool,Wordtracker Strategizer,but it requires extra subscription fee).

When I clicked,it took me to a landing page that gave further explanation and information on Wordtracker alternative.

This is something new and a refreshing SEO tactic.

We all understand it:when doing keyword study,choose relevant and less competitive phrases to quickly gain ranking.What I do is to firstly choose KWs directly relate to the product/service,and then complement with related KWs that does not contain the product/service name.

For example,if we are selling boots,we can then create a list containing all phrases that include the word "boots",such as "mens boots","womens boots".And then we can go further by including phrases like "mens footwear","men's shoes",etc.Doing this will increase your search market share and drive more relevant traffic to your site.

But using competitor's brand name?This is a declare wars against them.And I could never think of it.

But Wordstream did it and well done.

And the tactic is almost effortless.

Using SEOmoz's Opensiteexplorer tool,we can see that Wordstream only built links from 8 domains,with main anchor texts of "wordtracker" and "wordtracker alternative".And most links are from its own domain (wordstream.com).

To conclude,what did Wordstream do to rank on page 1 for competitor's brand name?Only the use of the brand name as KW on title tag,description tag and page copy,plus a few inbound links with the anchor text of that name.

I am really shocked.

Dare you use your competitors brand name?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Google Analytics:Visualize

I have been a internet marketer for more than seven years now.One of my daily work (or life) is to go online and log into my Google Analytics account and other SEO Tools......and.....see.

So today I didn't expect anything different.Same routine,same mindless key stroking.And suddenly my eyes are wide shut.

Actually it was not.The beginning is a joke.Yes,Google has added a small function to Analytics.But it is not so big deal.

What did they add?See below.

Ok,not good enough to see?Let me zoom it a little in.

So now you can clearly see yourself.Visualize.

The reason why I said one of my daily job is to check my GA account is that by doing so I can be 100% certain that this feature was only added today.Not couple of hours before my logging in.

Let's explore a little further inside.

When I click Visualize,I am taken to a page like this.

This is a typical dot chart,as we all can tell.The horizontal axis says Pages/Visit.And there is a little grey triangle at the bottom right of the chart.So I can tell this must be a drop down menu.And it is.

So I know this is used to control the chart above.And very naturally I can know the vertical axis controls other metrics.When I click it,I find these:

Using the horizontal and vertical axis,I can create whatever chart I like by comparing two metrics.

Let's have an example.I set the horizontal axis to Pages/Visit (I am in Traffic Srouce section),and the vertical to Vsit.Then the colorful dots move to their places.And now I can see that the more visit one traffic source sent,and the more Page Views each visit has been done,its representing dot goes further to the top right position of the chart.And traffice sources that sent fewer visits and each visit has fewer PVs,the dots of those sources go nearer to the bottom left corner.

Apparently this chart helps us to quicker and better find out which traffic source is sending more and better visits,or in other cases,which metrics are better.

And the dot chart can be turned into a bar chart.

To the right of the chart there is a list,on which I can choose which metrics to hilight.And I can even set the transparency of the bars or dots.

And even the color of the bar can be changed.

If you choose to use different colors,they are working just like a heat map,changings are based on numbers.

So,now we can all tell that this is a dummy feature for bosses of us marketers.Isn't it?No qualified marketers will need such a childish charts.We are all trained to stare at numbers,all kinds of numbers.

Surely we also trained ourselves to create and read charts,but that's for demonstration,to bosses and clients.

GA has made this to help us a lot in creating charts,which are more visible and easily understandable.GA wants us to better convince our bosses and clients,and quicker.

Now log on to your GA and take a tour.

Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics, 2nd Edition

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Google Indexing Nofollow Links,Again

First,this is no news because back in June,2009,Matt had clearly stated that Google had already abandoned the No-follow,No-vote mechanism.Check his post:PageRank sculpting.

The Nofollow attribute of links were invented by Google in 2005 as an anti-spam approach to stop spam comments to blogs.This was used by major Search Engines.

Clearly this had helped reducing blog spamming.When those spam SEOs realised that what they were spamming will not be index by Google (or other search engines) and gain authorities,they just quit.

But blades have two sharp edges.When search engine use this weapon to terminate spams,they were hit by this weapon too.

When webmaster know that if they don't trust a site or don't want to vouch for it,they could use nofollow attribute to tell Google (or other search engines) that they don't want them to index the link (pass page rank,that is).And certainly,clever webmasters might well conceive a "good" way to exploit this attribute.

Since every page has been assigned a certain points of rank (Page Rank),and if webmasters can control which sites to (not) pass the rank,then why not pass all page ranks to my own pages (within the site)?

This became a problem because everybody is abusing it.And when we say abuse,it won't be good.

Consider there are a country of 10 people and they need a president.If everybody only vote for him/herself,there can never be a president.

Same is true for the web.Google is fearing that this kind of abuse will keep good quality sites that are fresh and new from being found (indexed).

So in late 2008,G had decided to index nofollow links,again.Though it did not terminate the nofollow attribute.

This is good news for the SEOs.But may be bad news for bloggers - spams are coming.

 Further reading:
Google's PageRank and Beyond: The Science of Search Engine Rankings

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

SocialSpark:A New Way to Write for Money

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.


Writing for money is not new to everyone of us.Finding a good platform where bloggers and advertisers can trade offers,however,may be a little hard for some.

There are big players like Elance and other sites that broker (freelance) writers and sponsors.But most of the may be picky and dificult to use for writers.Some of them require very professional and authoritative verifications or qualifications,which is very painstaking.

SocialSpark,on the other hand is new and very convenient.It is more easy to use for both publishers and advertisers.

Register for either pubilsher or advertiser is very simple at Social Park.Just user name,email address and password,as well as some of your personal information are required.And you are done.

The next thing you should do is to verify your blog(s).It is similar to any of the verification processes,such as Google Analytics tracking code,Google's Webmasters Tool verification,etc.Just copy and past a series of unique code into your blog,and click Claim.You may add more than one blog to your profile.

Before you begin to take opportunities you should first offer your Paypal account to SP.They seem to pay only via Paypal.

For publishers,however,credit card info must be provided to add funds (they call points).

The offer and bid is through a system called Opportunity.Publishers claim opportunities.Advertisers create and offer opportunities.Each opportunity comes with an offer of dollars.At the moment I do not know if there is a minimum here,but,feel free to comment if you know.

When publishers claim an oppotunity or more,they must write articles in their claimed blogs (mentioned above),following the advertisers requirements in the opportunities.Requirements are often link codes,badges,etc.

You must finish your article within 5 days of claiming an opportunity.

For advertisers,the benefits of using Social Park is three fold:

1.Easily to pay someone to write for you
2.Blog posts writen in the for of sponsored articles create permanant back links to the sites
3.Get traffic from quality blogs (which you can choose)

For publishers,the benefit is simple:easy money making.

Surprisingly,I saw Chris Brogan joined Social Park.Interesting.

Code of Ethics
Sign up for SocialSpark

Visit my sponsor: I Signed Up for SocialSpark!

Google's Celebrating For Womens Right To Vote in a New Way

Today I found Google was using a new way to celebrate public holiday/big events.Instead of changing its Goooogle logo,it added a line below the search box reading:

Celebrating 90 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote

While this is not very creative,G has never been witnessed using similar way of celebrating.This is interesting.

By the way,happy 90 years anniversary to Women's Right to Vote.

This morning G has a new line replaced.It reads:

90th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

What Would Google Do?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Make Your Website Unbeatable In SEO


Sun Zi (or Sun Wu), who was a great military strategist some 2,500 years ago in China, once said in his world famous book, The Art of War:

One army can not make its enemy vulnerable, but it can make itself invulnerable.

This may appear to someone confusing. What Sun Zi really said here is, an army's vulnerability is at its own hand and not others; you can do nothing to make your enemy weak and beatable.

Why? Because they are your enemies and they are same people as you and you have no such magic spell as to turn them into your prey.

So in order to achieve victory, you have to do every thing (combat training, weaponry, time and place to battle, terrain, etc.) to ensure your own invulnerability or invincibility.

In SEO, especially in Link Building, in a world 2,500 years after the great ancient Chinese strategist, the situation is pretty much the same. Quite weird, isn't it?

In SEO, you can not make Google, or Yahoo or Bing, to place your site at the top 10 of any SERP of any search query.

And in Link Building, you have no control over others as to make them link to you. Even if they agree to link to you, still you can not just tell them what Anchor Text should be used (exceptions: link buying and link bait, but that's not what I am talking about in this post).

What you can do here are:

Follow the SE guideline and known SEO best practices, use all kinds of SEO Tools to ensure that your site is optimized for both SE and internet users, so that the SEs may index you and gradually increase your rankings.

And create wonderful and appealing original contents to engage people to link to you.

In SEO, you should take Search Engines as your enemies. And to conquer your enemies, you must make yourself unbeatable.

To do that as a General of SEO:

  • You will need to know what SEO is, so here are what you should read (SEO Basics):



  • You will need to know what factors affect the outcome of the battle of SEO, so read (SEO Factors):



  • You will need to choose your battlefield on which to fight your enemy, so you will need (Keyword Tools):



  • You will need to improve your combat skill, so try these (More Tools):



  • You will need military information, so send out your scout (Back Link and Competition Info):






  • You will need staff officers to help you make right decisions, so go to (SEO Forums):



  • You will need centurions, so follow these (SEO Bloggers):




  • You will Definitely know more about who you are fighting with, so constantly go to (Official Google Blogs):



There are more you will need to make yourself invincible in SEO. So keep searching and researching and never stop.

Whenever you feel lost, and no other contemporary SEOs can aid you, buy a copy of The Art of War and seek consultancy from Sun Zi, the great mind from ancient China.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Seamless Marketing:How Hard Is It To Achieve?

A couple of days ago, wrote this article:
How Important Is Seamless Marketing, and discussed the current biggest challenge that is imposing marketers:"Integrating and tracking multiple channels".
The challenge is real and felt by 100 Chief Marketing Officers. However, this is not enough because 100 CMOs are only a small number. There are quite a lot marketers maybe even CMOs out there who have not felt it.
Today I received an email newsletter from National Geographic for a campaign they called Field Expedition:Mongolia
And same thing happened!
They sent an email to me asking me to join their campaign. And the strange thing is they were asking for my email address!
Why can't they just let me be automatically signed in because I'm already one of their registered member and subscribed to their newsletter?
Or if they were worrying about privacy issue and wanted my approval before they sign me in, why can't they pre-fill my email address?
We are all well aware of that in the internet world, one more step means one more annoying obstacle that is keeping potential customers away from us.
Story was not ended here. After I registered (again), I was redirected to previous landing page. And guess what! I saw the big SIGN UP box still hanging out there!
And right above the box was my name. This was another big gap and frustration. And it could be very confusing.
Why join again? Didn't I just signed up?
Fortunately for National Geographic the immediate Call to Action was not sales. And fortunately NG has a big name. Supposedly NG was a nobody, I could have abandoned at any stage of the campaign.
The buzz is, how hard on earth is seamless marketing? Are we too big to care of this? Or are we too lazy? With the booming of technology, each part of the marketing mix has become more powerful than ever. However, seen as a whole, are we really that powerful and perfect?

Marketing Strategy

Monday, July 5, 2010

How To Use Wordtracker To Start Your Own Business

Article first published as How To Use Wordtracker To Start Your Own Business on Blogcritics.

Wordtracker is generally known as the best keyword generator and manager in the SEO world. Its grand database as well as convenient user interface attracts thousands of SEOers.

There are very detailed instructions and guides provided by Wordtracker on how to build a correct keyword strategy and maintain a highly targeted keyword base. However, what I am going to say here is a little bit different, based on my own experience.

As stated above, Wordtracker is a powerful keyword tool – but few know that it is also a powerful tool to help you start your own business.

As an SEOer, I am employed by a small company to help them grow in the Internet, and the company is too small to decide its own business: whether it is retail or wholesale, shoes or bags, U.S. or U.K., etc.

So I started by asking them what resource they had and what goals they wanted to achieve. And I got a few simple words that could best describe the business and goal. Let’s say they are the following words (to protect this company, the words I’m giving are not what I chose for them):

Chocolate stencils
Chocolate bar

I then turned to Wordtracker and queried said keywords. I got a bunch of keywords as an initial list. I sorted those keywords by KEI (Keyword Efficiency Index, a metric Wordtracker used to help SEO to chose the best keywords) and then by KEI3 to pick out the ones with highest possible ROI (high search, low competition, let’s call them Seeds, as Ken McGaffin of Wordtracker calls it). Up till now, the work is much the same as building a right keyword strategy. The following work is, however, different.

Now, instead of just choosing the right keywords, I looked into the business opportunities that were hiding behind them.

Firstly I dug into the Seeds and find out which different niches were inside. I had seen that chocolate chip and chocolate cake were highly competed for. With considerations to current situations that my company was in, it is not a good idea to squeeze into the said niche and fight with big players.

So the work was to look further and find out the most suitable niche for the company.

Keywords with high search volume are generally intensely competed for. However, there are always exceptions. And those exceptions are where our best business opportunities lie.

In my project, I then found below keywords(which means niche for me) with good search volume (“good” is relatively used here, how to decide a search volume is “good” is highly dependent on the industry) and relatively low competition (same as “good”, the term “low” is also a relative one. I suggest you look back to your previous SEO projects to feel the two terms).

Chocolate transfers
chocolate transfer sheets

The above two words had already a combined daily search of 1,742. And their combined competition (In Anchor And Title, which means how many back links to your competitors are elaborately created including the keyword as anchor and title) was only 64, compared with chocolate’s 1,115,904. Very easy, right? And they had very well indicated the most suitable niche: good search and not many people that were serving such needs.

So I gave my advice to my company and said they should invest their money and resource in the chocolate transfer business to get the highest ROI with lowest cost and least efforts.

So far this business has been doing well and proved right.

This is my story and it is true. If any of you have not been able to see the difference (of what I was doing from typical keyword strategy building), I would like to conclude as follows:

Instead of finding the correct keywords for your existing business, put your money and resource into the best niche that is hiding behind the keywords.

Web Statistics