Thursday, January 26, 2006

Site Architecture - Internal Linking - Open Questions

List of Questions

- Best practice on what to do with home page links to admin pages such as privacy policy? Can they be made non followable for spiders? Should I add internal links to my privacy policy? Should I add as many as possible or just to key pages?

Are non-spiderable internal or external links a legit useful tool? Search engine robots can only follow generic HTML href links, meaning Flash links, JavaScript links, dropdown menus and submit buttons will all be inaccessible to robots. etc

Is there an optimal number of internal links per page? If I have 50 pages, should each page link to all 50?

Do server side includes work well as a tool or do they have any negative SEO impact? This could be from delay or worse, being treated as frames.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Whats the difference between a "SEO Consultant" and

Whats the difference between a "SEO Consultant" and a used car salesman? Answer: The used car salesman knows when he's lying. First, let me apologize to those of you have have taken offense at that seo joke. Many used car salesman have been calling to complain ..... (be da ding!) Yes, that second seo joke was bad. Sadly, the seo industry includes many bad jokes.... (be da ding! be da ding!) Seriously folks, I've receive alot of calls from SEO sales people and frankly, it would be hard to find a more-misguided group of people. And it's not that they mean to lie, its' just that they "get confused" and carried away and don't seem to really understand much. My impression is that many of them were part of a SEO effort that resulted in some site coming out number one on some search engine for some keyphrase at some time. At the time, they might have just been the secretary at the advertising agency that worked with the client. But, in the course of time, these details got lost. Through the course of exxageration and confusion, they lost track of what their actual role was and what was actually accomplished. Many of them are now boasting: "My last client used this technique and got to number 1 in 3 days!!!!" When they explain to me what they are planning to do, it seems to me to be very unlikely. And now, they are "SEO Consultants" (salepeople) peddling long term contracts with monthly payments. They act like that they really do know how to do SEO cost-effectively, that they really can take any site and make it do well in all the search engines, and that we should be gratified that they "prepared a customer analysis for you for free" (ie ran a few keyphrases thru some sort of analysis). Then, this is a true recent story, I found myself at a lunch with the firm president (saleguy) pushing for a signature on a contract for $5,000 month with no cancellation clause and no "level of effort" commitment or reporting by the contractor?" If you think I'm exaggerating, I'll show you such a contract. The SEO company that I was meeting with was the one pushed by a hosting firm(Webstream) at that time and they were promoting them on the phone and across their site. The company pushed the contract to me repeatedly and really expected me to sign. yick.... ***** In reality, there are really only two people who actually understand how the search engines work. Of course, they disagree....(yes, thats part of the show....) ******* My directory of SEO Jokes, Jokes about SEO, and Jokes about Search Engine Optimizers (OK. That one was a subtle. Did you miss the keyphrase threepeat? Are you paying attention?) Here's a few that I've found from around the web...with bylines and links.... including: - SEOs are safe from the threat of automation taking over their professions. No one would build a robot to do nothing. - If it weren’t for SEOs, we wouldn’t need them. - Talk is cheap…until SEOs get involved. ba ba bing... they just keep coming... Do you know an SEO's definition of SPAM? (thanks to S = SITES P = PLACED A = ABOVE M = MINE sad - this seo joke made me laugh out loud - from SEO Anonymous Meeting Hi, My name is Michael and in the past 5 years the longest I've gone without checking stats or email messages is 3 days ..

Link Importance

What criteria determine what links can really help you? Here is my understanding of what links matter, in some order of importance....

Weight - Very roughly, the importance of a link is derived by looking at the page and calculating the page's incoming links minus its outgoing links. There are free tools (note tools 5 & 6) that will give you a count of the incoming and outgoing links. Of course, its the Importance (see this article) of the incoming links, not the raw amount that matters. And outgoing links to Junk sites count very negatively whereas links to authority sites actually don't hurt or count positively. Page rank is an extremely rough estimate of incoming links.

The relevance of the page that links to you. After much searching, I've found an article on relevance on Jim Boykin's amazingly informative SEO blog. He has much to teach including the fact that google itself is the Great Free SEO tool. For instance, want to understand google's concept of relevance, do a search on google and then look at the similar pages link that google provides. Puzzle - Is relevance done on a per page or per domain basis?

.edu and .gov sites count more than .coms. They are "trusted" or "authority" sites. And, oddly, outgoing links to them can also help your page. Any articles / sources / or research on this?

Placement on the page. Google prefers in body content links to blatant advertisements. How they determine it is a mystery.

Summary - To understand broadly what google is looking for in terms of distinguishing quality links, put yourself in their shoes....

How would you tell what sites are very popular by looking at links?

Would you allow a page to do well if they had a hundred links but they call come from the same page? No you wouldn't. What if all the links came from the same domain? Again, you would count that as maybe more than one link but not as 100 links if they all came from the same domain? Would you discount the links if they all came from the same hosting company? Or if they all came from articles which all read the same or had identical anchor text? Google has seen all of these patterns and is screening for it so they are not fooled.

They are also screening for suspicious patterns of new links - too many too fast means you are either a hot fad or spending alot on advertising, I'm sure they have an alogrithm for distinguishing between them.

Google is screening for common ownership of sites in different domains. (again, see Jim Boykins' blog).

My assumption is that google is smarter than me and has systems in place or coming online to spot any short cuts I take to getting popular. I need to build links as organically as possible and any short-cuts that I take, I do at my own risk.

Google is actually pretty open about their plan. Its in their patent filings. Read all about it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Time4Learning - the brand

Inspired by Jennifer's blog entry on writing a Brand Manifesto, I thought I would revisit my basic branding questions. As background, two years ago, I gave myself (and a part-time designer) 2 weeks to answer the question: What will my brand be?

Vision: Market and develop online educational software. Educational software that really teaches, that is really interesting. Not just game software which is fun and teaches some random items but real education that deals with scope, sequence, assessment, learning styles and takes responsibility for learning.

Also, Time4Learning was initially conceived as a type of "safe internet" for younger children which managed time on the computer and provided a comprehensive approach to online safety and navigation for younger children.

Goal: Create a brand and name that will be the company's name, the service's name, and the name of the character. Build into the marketing the concept of school, fun, computers, and time. Pick names that are not already taken, are protectable, and for which the domains are available. etc

Result: I selected a company and service name of Time4Learning which featured Ed Mouse, the Educational Mouse . He has a clock built into him. He morphs initially from the computer mouse into a fun animated mouse. His transformation is triggered by a school bell. And he is constantly reminding us: "It's Time 4 Learning. And Fun!"

During those two weeks, we came up with the initial character design and storyboard....

Meet Ed Mouse, the Educational Mouse

(Be sure to have your speakers on!)

Self-evaluation: A-. It would have been better if the character's and company's name were the same. I had a few concepts (eg "Learning Ligers") but found that the Time4Learning and EdMouse names worked best. The Mouse has turned out to be very popular and my acquisition of and solved the name confusion problems.

by john edelson

Friday, January 20, 2006

Press Release

Press release - I am drafting a release designed to build links & visibility. I just read an article on the subject: - Here is the latest draft

Key message:
News: Time4Learning extends online learning service to Middle School students.

Categories for PRWeb
Education Homeschool
Education K12


Title - Time4Learning launches Middle School online learning service

Time4Learning now offers online learning for Middle School students for homeschool, enrichment tutoring, remedial, or special needs. Time4Learning, the fast-growing online learning service for preschool and elementary school, now provides online education for students in preschool, elementary school, and middle school.

Time4Learning was launched in 2004 with preschool and early elementary programs for math and reading. The online learning is used for homeschool education, supplementary, remedial, and special needs. Based on feedback from parents, Time4Learning has now added a full middle school and 4th and 5th grades to its offering. The online service provides a complete math curriculum and language arts curriculum with science and social studies provided as a bonus.

The middle school language arts program teaches advanced reading comprehension, literary analysis, critical thinking, vocabularly, grammar and punctuation, and writing skills. These are the skills which are so important to success in skill including doing well on the increasingly important NCLB tests. The math program covers number sense (fractions, real and imaginary numbers etc), prealgebra, algebra, geometry, data analysis, probability, word problems, estimation, and measurement.

Time4Learning features self-paced learning which combines animated lessons, interactive multimedia exercises, printable worksheets, and tests in one integrated systems. Time4Learning includes reports for parents and provides a fun entertaining learning environment. Around half of our families are homeschooling. Around a third of our families have children with special education needs. For instance, many parents with special needs children are finding that the children do better in homeschool.

Time4Learning initially focused on the preschool and elementary school area but were quickly pressured by parents to provide additional grades. Parents requested a middle school learning program for several reasons. Some were kids who liked the system and were moving up. More often, it was families with multiple children where the other children grew jealous of Time4Learning.

In the program for younger children, the children first do their lessons, then get to go the Online Playground. The lesson time and play time are managed by Time4Learning. Time4Learning, like AOL with its parental controls, is helping parents find ways of managing the children's computer time .

[], used for homeschool education [}] and as a supplement to traditional education, is a new approach that takes advantage of today's technology through learn to read programs and kids math games. Time4Learning is a HomeSchool dot com top choice. A recent review in The Old School Magazine said: "My son absolutely loved the site". Time4Learning is popular with gifted, special needs, homeschool, or children who just want academic enrichment. Tour Time4Learning's educational teaching games now. Time4Learning provides language arts, math, science and social for preschool learning, elementary school, and middle school.

1 - Optimal length? 500 words? 700 words? - currently at 476
2 - Optimal number of links to main site? 7? Do links to other sites, either authority or related to mine (ie - my blog on member communication could be worked in)

Keywords to work in with anchor text
Learn Reading Math Online
Educational Teaching Games
Learning to Read Online
Math Online

Special Needs Learning
Middle School
Preschool Learning Online

Build Reading Comprehension
The Reading Skills Pyramid
Build phonics skills
Learn the Math Facts

Homeschool Online
Homeschool Math Curriculum
Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Business Planning for 2006

This new years, I listed the 4 ways to improve (as a business) my kids online learning service:
1. Get more traffic to my site
2. Convert traffic into customers better
3. Retain members longer
4. Sell more to members.

These points, heavily intertwined, are my plan. For instance, a better conversion rate is possible if I get more refined traffic. Or if the traffic arrives in a segmented fashion, I can "talk" more directly to each set of parents particular interests, example, I could talk to the middleschool parents about their issues, the preschool parents about theirs, and so on for the gifted, special needs, remedial, homeschoolers, etc etc

I'm often asked to give business talks (I have run corporations, done IPOs, am a Havard MBA etc etc) and a common great question is how to set priorities.

In my business, working with limited resources, I tend to work on those issues that I know how to progress. That is, I focus where progress is certain. I stay away from issues which, while really important, are not currently within my means or know-how to do much about.

The exception is improving the quality of the experience for existing members. As an ethical and business principle, I put this highest effort the highest on the list. (Just behind my staff's health and needs.)

Monday, January 16, 2006


At one point(Q1 2005), I made a bundle from Adsense. Then I wondered if it was hurting my general conversion rate. so I removed them. I lost the revenue, my conversion rate did not change, and I've never been able to recreate the same revenue stream. Why? I can't get the same CTR or $/click.

I'm trying again. Questions:
- is it possible to get adsense windows to open in a new window?
- Are ad units superior? Can they be used to open in a new window?
- Isn't it possible to do your own ad-unit type pages with a page that opens only to display ads?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Free Online SEO Tools Review

Here's my favorite free online seo tools ....They each have a distinguishing or unique feature to make this list....

1. Find out the number of searches on a keyphrase - Yahoo-Overture Tool

2. Find out how a page does for a certain keyphrase. Plus who is doing well and why. Amazing!!!!! . Jim's company has the BEST free tools. For instance: see the list of backlinks with anchor text

3. Tells you how many links a domain has totalling the different engines. Has the additive feature of tracking history and "categorizing you" (unknown vs 900 lb gorilla - great marketing!)

4. Start with a phrase and find out which pages on your website are doing the best:

5. A range of tools that highlight the source of page rank and how its "used" across the number of outgoing links

6. A great tool that reminds you of your outgoing (and internal) links - . My new favorite link/html checker is:

7. Find out the number of .edu or .gov links (considered to be "authority" sites) . go to yahoo search - and search for:

8. Want some keywords to consider? Put in your phrase and get a list of choices:

Note that the google search engine - - itself is perhaps the greatest free seo tool. To find out how recently google spidered a site, search on google in a way that finds the site (if you must, you can always put the url into google) and then clicked on "cached" to see when it was last spidered. Do this regularly and see what schedule you are on. To see how google is viewing your keywords on a page, search with those keywords so that it comes up and look at the cached version for the highlighting (example: to see whether google recognizes homeschool on a search for home school, type into google: home school domain name and look at the results. Lastly, the "similiar sites" choice in google reveals google's concept of relevance. And, google is pretty upfront about their approach, you can read their summary or their actual patent filings)

To find out your page rank, if you don't want to install toolbars, use for google page rank (a primitive view of your incoming links, the higher the better, 1-10) or for alexa page rank (a ranking of user time on the site measured by users with the alexa toolbar instatlled, the lower the better, starting at 3.5M and working down to the most popular site which is #1 - its yahoo followed by google.

Paid tools - This is not the focus of this article but of note....
- - Great site for info on searches, they have a repeatable "2 hour" free trial.
- Web position Gold - Great software that automates alot of the above. Its also full of "BS" in terms of suggesting that you follow the formula for word density etc that the leaders in your category are doing.
Below - some details & feedback on a few of these tools and some other near-favorites:

2. Find out how a page does for a certain keyphrase. Plus who is doing well and why. Amazing!!!!!
- enter a page and a keyphrase to find out how and why that page does well on the phrase.
- On a single chart, you get the top 10 sites for that phrase for google, msn, yahoo compaged with your page in terms of:
- rank, Pages Indexed (google/yahoo), Backlinks to that page, backlinks to the domain, Allinanchor rank, Domain Age, & Phrase count
- Desired features: add in the Yahoo analysis of number of searches for that term last month

- Provides for up to 3 domains at once, a "total" count of links from google, msn, yahoo, hotbot.- Has the very addictive feature of maintaining your history of searches so you can see progress.
- Also a very motivating but silly set of categories: Limited, average, above average, contender, player, 900 pound gorilla.
Should I admist that I celebrated when I became "average" and then "above average"

- For a single word or phrase at time, provides which page (or pages) on your site are in the top 50
- the good feature is finding multiple pages which are doing well for a given term
- Request: it would be great if we could submit multiple phrases at once

6. I started with this tool while I was checking my site for dead links. Amongst other great features, for SEO purposes, it analyses the links out of each page. also a reciprocal link checker.

What other free tools do you find useful?
WOW - jsut found the motherload - try a google search on free seo tools.....

Also of note: This is a great collection of cool stuff, some too sophisticated for me to appreciate yet. I did find out how to get my dns number and other useful free info.....

Heres one that evaluates the "quality" of your links - - another link popularity check. this one gives, for a keyphrase, your rank on google, the leaders, plus the link count (G&Y), Google PR, and allinanchor for you and the leaders...Not as good as cooloh has a buncho tools but nothing special has jumped out at me... they have a tool which searches the Yahoo tool and another which supposedly will run a batch thru yahoo...but it didn't work for me.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Site Stats Showing Visitors or Impressions?

In the last month, a relatively minor link that I put up has turned out to be my number two producer of traffic (after google, before msn).

Heres the question. Are these really unique visitors? Or could it be that my stats program (livestats.xsp) is reporting each time their page with my graphic on it (which is pulled from my site) is viewed?

Heres how they show it on their site (ie pulled realtime from mine)...


Heres the data - sort-of - from my reporting program.

Anybody know?

Report Description LiveStats.xsp
Report Description:
Referring Domains that Visitors came from during the week of Jan 8th, 2006
Report Range: Week of Jan 8th, 2006
Report Scope: Live Data (forecasted values)
List Size: 25 of 384
Activity Breakdown

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hyphens Keyphrases Page Names

My question is how do hyphens in web site page names affect page rank?

I was just looking at my page naming convention, for instance: I have created a page which is supposed to do well for "special needs learning". Its called:

Would I do better to name the page: ?

This is a hard question to test, harder than just how hyphens affect the search terms put into google. Anyone have any expertise on hypens impact on keyphrases used in page names? I would expect that any answer (on the difference between separating words by spaces or hyphens) would have a similiar impact on metanames, metatags, keyphrases and seo in general.

As background, I tested and found that google treats these three seaches differently despite identical words (the only diference is spaces and hypens): Time For Learning vs TimeForLearning vs Time-For-Learning/ .

Google's results are very different: Time-For-Learning vs TimeForLearning vs Time For Learning

Friday, January 06, 2006

SEO Plan - Some Help

I found a blog called new millenium minds which complements this one nicely. I wrote the author bob the following:

I think we are working and asking the same questions. Take a look at my blog. Perhaps we can cooperate and trade stories, links, contacts etc. BTW - some of the best stuff that I've learned I have not posted.

My main focus is an online homeschool and supplementary education service. While doing the marketing for this online service, i have started keeping a blog (this one) of my marketing questions and experiences.

My blog of online marketing questions is:
Next week I'm going to try to upgrade the blog so the table of contents appears at the top.
Plus, I think i'll put in a list of my:

Unanswered Questions - of which there are many
Simple SEO "How Tos" - such as Search - How to do well - On Page Issues - Google
But, being practically-illiterate in html , i will need some help even for this....

In fact, now that I've written this little paragraph - I think I'll put it in the blog


Who thinks that google would produce similiar results for these searches? Timeforlearning vs time for learning vs time-for-learning ? The answer is .....

Time For Learning - My main domain and the proper name - - shows up 4th
TimeForLearning - - A domain that I recently acquired - shows up first (which redirects to Time4Learning).
Time-For-Learning - I don't even show up. How best to make sure that these searches, which are surely for me, find me. Any ideas?

Its also interesting to note that increasing number of PPC ads that show up against these searches. When I start time4learning, nobody used this expression and there were no searches. Now there are a regular number of searches for:

Time 4 Learning
time for learning
time four learning

Now, "about", amazon, ebay, seem to have algorithms that have detected that there is traffic or searches or whatever and are placing PPC ads next to those searches.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

SEO and Typos

Curriculua? Curriculm? - Fumbling your way to success? Or should I say fumbeling?

Do you know how to spell Kindergarten? According to the overture tool, the people typing in kindergarten misspelled as kindergarden are only slightly in the minority. And don't think this fact has been lost on the advertisers. It is just as competitive to bid on kindergarden as kindergarten. I know, I have spent alot on both and I can state that while the traffic volume is similiar on each word, the percent that converts to traffic does differ!!!

Go to google and misspell the plural of curriculum as curriculua. Guess who comes in first? Yes, its my site.

Also, if you spell it as curriculm - I'm hoping to place well there too.

I just notice a webring of home educators who all had 5-6 PR rank on google. I wonder what I can do to get accepted in such an elite group? Do you think they'll be impressed by the infact that I sent an email to one today telling her that she "rights well"?

oh vei - Ed Mouse - teach me something please -

Monday, January 02, 2006

Search - How to do well - On Page Issues - Google

There are three categories of issues to do well on the google search engine.

- on page factors - which I discuss below
- site architecture and technology factors - not discussed here but take a look at Site Architecture & Link Structure.
- links to the target page which I only mention in passing (points 5 & 6 below).

This is a simple beginners/intermediate level discussion which does not touch on relevancy and hordes of other stuff....It only lists free tools which any beginner will be able to use. In 20 minutes, if you use each tool listed for your own website (your keywords, your web pages), you will will get a total overview of the SEO issues in their simplest form. Feel free to comment. Better yet, reference this site on your blog with an appropriate link (best yet, take a look at, try out, and LINK TO my online kids education site, my real passion). I'll respond. Personally (ie there really is a John Edelson who really does look at and answer his comments and emails). We'll have links. Do lunch...

1. Find out what people are searching for. The volume matters. I'll start with a personal annecdote. I initially optimized my website for "Learn Reading & Math Online". I was so proud to see that after not that many months, I was Number 1 on google for that phrase. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that there were, on a monthly basis, ZERO searches for that term. So, be wiser than me. Beforeyou optimize, check on what searches the public is actually doing in what volume. will tell you for the previous month what the number of searches were for a given key phrase in the US on the yahoo search engine. Also, it suggests all the minor variations. so if you put in GIS, it might suggest: "gis software", "gis tools", "gis consulting" etc. Many people say that Overture/Yahoo is about 20% of the search market so multiply by 5 to get the entire number of searches for that month.

2. Track how you are doing by the keyphrases that interest you. This will also give you a sense of what it take to do well on the terms that you are targetting. . This type of tool took me a long time to understand since I got all confused about whether a website does well or whether a page does well in the search engines. The answer is, for google, pages do well but are affected by the website. Simple, each page is an individual contender for a term. For Special Needs Learning , each page on my site that has those terms is a contender and the page that does best for that term will be my lead contender. My result is not the sum of all of my pages that do well in that area, my top listing is the result of the strength of my single best contender in that area.

3. More specific (ie multiword) combinations are generally lower volume and more targetted than single words. For instance, take the word READING. It turns out that most people who type in the word reading are looking for the something astrological. Also, many are interested in a town called Reading. Then there are those who are interested in education or literacy (which is my area of interest). Try to avoid using a broad term which can be very competitive, focus on more specific terms. Generally, longer phrases have smaller volume than shorter ones. Exceptions are interesting and you will note them when you look at the overture tool. Exceptions: "first grade math" was searched more often than "first grade" and "school girls" was typed in more than "school". Both are interesting insights which I'll refrain from discussing here.

4. Rewrite your pages or create pages that use the targetted keyphrases or parts of the keyphrases alot. How much? Not clear but alot. Maybe 10-20 times on the page. Also, be prepared for google to change their mind about how much is too much. BTW, as you go to try and do well in SEO, start with the attitude that the google people are really smart and are trying to build technology that finds sites that are full of content and which are relevent and are trying to not prioritize people who take short-cuts. So, putting "Third Grade Third Grade Third Grade" on your page is probably pretty easy for google to detect. And google will someday give you penalty points for spelling errors and bad grammar and programming errors and dead links (maybe they already do) since these are all reasonable indicators of quality. Also:
- put it (ie the keyphrase) in the page url if possible
- put it in the meta name, description, and list of keywords (surrounded by commas)
- put it in the title and in the H1 and H2 phrases
- use it as alt tag for pictures
- use it in the body - More at the beginning. Terms together is good but apart but close together also helps. For the expression, "white elephant", I believe "white elephants" counts less than "white elephant" or "elephant white". "whitish gray elephant" counts the same as "yada yada elephant yada". " "Elefant" does not count at all.

5. Use your keyphrase text on other pages as "anchor text" pointing to pages optimized for those keyphrases. Example:

Educational Teaching Games - Number 1 (on a good day)
Homeschool Curriculum
Homeschool Education - Number 26 & counting
Special Needs
Online Math
Learning to Read
PreReading Skills
Reading Skills Phonics
Reading Comprehension
Building Vocabulary
Reading Fluency
GIS Education
GIS School

6. To see how Google reads your keyphrases, type in your keyphrase to google and then click on the "cached" version of the page. If you page is not coming up for your phrase in the first few pages of google, then enter your target keyphrase and something else whch is somewhat unique to your page. For instance, while the page does not show up in the first 100 when I type "homeschool math" into google, I can find the page easily by typing in "homeschool math time4learning". The cached version in this case will have three words highlighted.

This article is copyright 2005, Time4Learning, Kids Learning Online. You have our permission (in fact, please do) to reprint this article online or put it newsletters online or in print so long as the links stay stay active and this copyright notice stays here. The original (which gets updated) can be found at: Search - Onpage Issues