Monday, October 30, 2006

Open SEO Questions

I was drawn to an seo firm's site by a comment on a recent post. I started to write her some questions. Here they are. I'll give her a few days and if no response, Imight put this out into the forums....

1. page name - I'm hoping in the next few months to do well on the search term: homeschool. Should I use this page: I have finally gotten this page onto the first page for google "homeschool curriculum". It has the advantage that it already has alot of links. It has the disadvantage of having the name: "homeschool-curriculum" Or, should I create a new page with name: ?

2. SEO tool. So far, I've done all of my seo work using free tools on the web (check out the free SEO tools article) but I'm finding keeping track of the hundreds of terms to be a little overwhelming.

3. Webanalytics. I'm about to install some sort of analytics beyond the free stuff that my host provides to help me track where people go and which term or referrer gives the best conversions. Is Google analytics the way to go? I just wrote them for an invite and then told me that it was too late. No more invites. (ie It's free for all now).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Link Power - New terms & measures needed

We spend so much time on SEO and trying to build our position, I think we need a better vocabulary for the essense of what we are building and transmitting.

Page rank is a weak term. Are there better terms? Has anyone yet come up with an industry standard for measuring it?

I saw a post where the question was about whether 301 redirects transmit their "SEO Juice". Its better than page rank but not catchy enough.

What about?

- SEO Force
- Page Rank Power
- SEO PowerUps
- SEO Kharma (does have the idea of passing on....)
- Its a type of link energy - a food
- Link calories.
- Link Power.

We could have a way of measuring a page's Link Power (say, put up a standard test page about on a website with a single link from a page. That page's link power could be defined as the inverse of your rank on google for the test page after 45 days)

This post sponsored by those goofy people providing homeschool resources over at Time4Learning.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Is a feeder site clever or wasteful?

I have posted variations of this question onto two seo forums. No answers so far....

I have a major site that I am trying to promote in the search engines, it's for home education.

Time4Learning is the site that I'm trying to primarily promote. It's a kids education site with lessons and a playground (for recess after studying).

To support with traffic and links, I created what I think of as a "feeder site", It is made up of a few of the learning games that make up the "playground" of the primary site.

I created it as a free site since I felt that I could get more websites to link to it since many of them will only link to "free" sites. [Never mind that "free" usually means advertising-based or something full of to-play-the-second-part-of-this-game-click-here-to-accept-a-few-special-downloads" triggering an installation of crud which will take years to clean out and which is somehow justified by yahooligians as "but you clicked yes on a contract attached to the middle of a game intended for 8 year olds but now I'll get off my high horse and back to business].

I could put these activities on a page on my primary site as an example of the playground activities. I would probably get less websites to link to it but it would be directly on my main site.

Given that I am primarily interested in building Time4Learning's position in the search engines, I have 3 questions:

Question 1 - If the feeder site only has outgoing links to my primary site (which will shortly be the case), is there any SEO disadvantage to having the links coming into the feeder site?

Question 2 - If you look at, you'll notice that the games (some of them) are hosted elsewhere. Should I mark those links with some sort of "spiders, do not follow" to not "waste" any page rank that I'm trying to transmit to my primary site?

Question 3 - Is this whole strategy clever or misguided?

Top Ten SEO Factors

I quote this article in its entirety since I keep giving it to new staff members and friends. It's a great simple collection of the basics of SEO. There is a statement that image links just don't count which surprises me.....

About the Author: Scott Hendison is an internet consultant that specializes in search engine optimization and internet marketing. He has written over 100 articles that are available on his website. He has also developed a tutorial area for beginning search engine optimization, at 'SEO101'.

These are what I believe to be the top 10 most important things (not necessarily in order) that you need, in order to get your website found in the search engines.

There are many other factors as well, but if you follow these guidelines, you'll stand a much better chance, and you'll be off to a good start.

1. Title Meta Tag. The title tag is what displays as the headline in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). It's also what displays in the top blue band of Internet Explorer when your site is displayed.
Your title tag of your website should be easy to read and designed to bring in traffic. By that, I mean that your main keyword phrase should be used toward the beginning of the tag. True there are websites being found now that do not use the phrase in the title, but the vast majority still do as of this writing.

Don't make the mistake of putting your company name first, unless you are already a household name, like Nascar or HBO. People are likely searching for what you have to offer, not your name.
Your title tag should be written with a capital letter starting the tag, and followed by all lowercase letters, unless you're using proper nouns. Some people prefer to capitalize every word, too.

2. Description Meta Tag. The description tag is the paragraph that people will see when your page comes up in the search results.
Your description tag should be captivating and designed to attract business. It should be easy to read, and compel the reader to act right now and follow your link. Without a description tag, search engines will frequently display the first text on your page. Is yours appropriate as a description of the page?
A proper description tag is what people will see below your title. You should make proper use of punctuation, and with readability, use your subject and geographical references.

3. Keywords Meta Tag. The importance of Meta keyword tags fluctuates from month to month among different search engines. There is a debate in the SEO community as to whether or not they help at all on certain search engines. In fact, in the summer of 2004 it appeared as if they were losing importance altogether.
However, you'll NEVER be penalized on any search engines for using relevant targeted keywords in moderation, and they can only help you with most, especially Yahoo.
Avoid stuffing your keyword metatags with too many keywords. Just use relevant tags that apply directly to the content of that particular page, and don't overdo it.

4. Alt Tags. The small yellow box that comes up when your mouse cursor is placed over an image is called the ALT tag. Every relevant image should have an alt tag with your key words or phrases mentioned in the tag.
A proper ALT tag goes after the file name, and before the Align indicator. * - The ALT tag is no longer being considered for ranking purposes by some search engines. That said, it still cannot HURT you, and will still help you with some engines. My recommendation is to continue to use them, but be sure to avoid keyword stuffing. Besides, who nows when the pendulum will swing back the other way?

5. Header Tags. The text of each page is given more weight by the search engines if you make use of header tags and then use descriptive body text below those headers. Bullet points work well too. It is not enough to merely BOLD or enlarge your text headlines.

6. Link Text. Search engine spiders cannot follow image links. In addition to having image links or buttons on your web pages, you should have text links at the bottom or elsewhere. The text that the user sees when looking at the link is called the link text. A link that displays products does not carry as much weight to the search engines as a link called oregon widgets. Link text is very important, and is actually one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of web design that I've seen. {NOTE - is it true that spiders don't follow image links? I had thought that image links counted and if you used alt text, it filled the same function as anchor text?)

7. Site Map. Using a site map not only makes it easy for your users to see the entire structure of your website, but it also makes it easier for the search engines to spider your site. When the search engine spiders come to visit, they will follow all of the text links from your main index page. If one of those links is to a site map, then the spiders will go right to the sitemap, and consequently visit every page you have text linked to from that site map. On the site map page, try to have a sentence or two describing each page, and not just a page of links.

8. Relevant Inbound Links. By relevant, I mean similar industry or subject related sites. Right now, no single strategy can get your site ranked higher faster than being linked to by dozens of other relevant websites. It used to be that the quantity of incoming links mattered most, but today, it's much better to have three highly relevant links to you from other popular related websites than 30 links from unrelated low ranked sites. If there are other businesses in your industry that you can trade links with, it will help your site enormously. Link to others, and have them link to you. It's proven, and it works. To see who's linking to you, in Google type the following...links:

9. Your Content. Not to be forgotten of course, is the actual content of your webpage. It must be relevant helpful information that people want to read. These days, each webpage should be laser focused on one specific product or subject, in order to rank highly for that search phrase. The days of writing one webpage to appeal to dozens of search terms are long gone. Ideally, each page should have between 400 to 650 words on it. Too few, and the search engines won't consider it to be relevant enough. Too many words and the search engine spiders may have a hard time determining the actual subject or focus of the page.
Use your keywords or phrases often, and use them at the beginning of your paragraphs wherever possible. Don't overuse them and make the page sound phony, but don't write a page about a certain subject, and not mention that subject repeatedly either. Reading it out loud to yourself is a great way to judge how natural your text sounds.
Concentrate on writing quality pages that actually appeal to the human reader. Write pages that provide the reader with exactly what they are looking for; that is, information about the exact search phrase they've entered.

10. Avoid Cheating. With all of these tidbits of information, it's tempting to think that you can stuff 100 keywords into your title, or create a page with the phrase oregon widget company being used 100 times in headers, text links, ALT tags, bullet points etc. but that cannot help you. In fact, it can penalize you, and get your website banned from certain search engines.

About the Author: Scott Hendison is an internet consultant that specializes in search engine optimization and internet marketing. He has written over 100 articles that are available on his website. He has also developed a tutorial area for beginning search engine optimization, at 'SEO101'. And of course, this blog is supported by those kind people providing great resources for homeschooling online .

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

SEO Progress - Homes School Keyphrases

Hot news.
Time4Learning is 4th for homeschool online with google, 8th for homeschool curriculum on google. And, we are 18th for homeschool on google.

There is about 5 times more traffic on homeschool curriculum than homeschool online.
And perhaps 5 times more on homeschool than homeschool curriculum. Per the overture search phrase tool

I only wish I know how many people were clicking thru to me from google having searched on homeschool curriculum. I guess its time for some real analytics.

Plan :
- pick a seo package that can track my progress on the search engines for 100s of terms, track my traffic in by those same terms, and track customer conversions by those same terms and their path. Does such a tool exist? Would google analytics do it?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Better Business Bureau or Who can you trust?

Online trust is tough to build.

My site is a real "soft sell". We never make outlandish promises such as "better grades in 6 weeks" or "learn to read in month" (BTW - the initial Hooked on Phonics bankruptcy was due to the first Bush administration cracking down on their irresponsible claims). While I ask for an email on one of my major landing pages, I don't force them to give it to me to see the demos. My follow-up emails to visitors provide a broad number of ways to help their children (only one of which is Time4Learning). When people sign up, I don't ask for any commitment. They can cancel at any time and even have a two week money-back gurantee (an option that about 18% of the people exercise). We now answer the phone 6 days a week and email 7 days a week with superior member support. In short, my business strategy is about having a long-term relationship with the homeschool market and relying primarily on repeat users and word of mouth. It's working.

One way of measuring trust is the question of shopping cart abandons. My payment page used to have a 90% abandon rate but through alot of fiddling with the page and changing the process by which people get into it, I'm down to 65% abandons. My 90% rate was within industry norms, my 65% abandon rate is considered pretty good by people "in the know".

One reason that people abandon is that they don't yet trust us. The visa, amex, mastercard, and discovery logos help people having confidence. I also have a logo from "XRamp SSL secured" which is hotlinked to their site which is supposed to provide confidence to my users. But since their name is unknown, I'm not sure it helps. I have yet to fiddle with using variations on their logo (there are a number to try) but I wonder if that will help.

I'd like to add the verisign and paypal logos since they seem respected and build confidence but I don't work with them. Maybe I should. I think I'll look into putting a paypal payment option right on the payment page.

Many sites have the BBB - Better Business Bureau logo. Or the Better Business Bureau Online logo. I feel that this is respected and so I have started to look into getting one..

1. First sad observation on the Better Business Bureau. To contact BBB, I go to their site and put in my company info and that I would like to be contacted to get signed up. I eventually get a call from a "sales rep" who claims that they have had customer inquiries about me and I get a hard sell from him about why I need BBB to convince customers. He's a jerk. Their internal communication is so bad that he is not given the message that I submitted in their box. Although I tell him that I was the one who put the info into their system (we even confirm the date), he keeps trying to tell me that a customer asked about me on that date. He doesn't seem to understand that I'm an online business and don't have a window to post their sticker onto although I think I explain it clearly. Clearly he's commissioned, clueless and perhaps deaf. I won't mention his name but it discourages me so much that I decide to drop the better business bureau online idea.

2. I continue to note that many online businesses use the BBB logo. Some just copy it and its not a live link. It's unclear to me that BBB ever finds and attacks them. I actually make inquiries about this and find that they do send "cease and desist letters". Sounds expensive and old fashioned and ineffective. Why don't they follow the letters by creating a blacklist of sites illicitly using their logo and aggressive provide the info to people who matter (credit card companies, search engine companies , john q public etc) that they are sleazeballs and get some cooperation in getting real penalties put to them (sites banned in the search engines

3. This month I decided to make another run at BBB and put my name in their box again. New person called. Ruth. Much nicer. Not rude. Actually listens!!!! But, their structure is still silly. She has no computer and cannot look at my site. It seems that I need to go thru their local approval process (local being the Better Business Bureau that oversees from Vero Beach down the East Coast of Florida to the Keys). Then, I can deal with their national Better Business Bureau. I'm working on it.

For my BBB BBBOnline update...

PS - I'd like their to be a BBB-type online service that checks compliance with Coppa, Privacy, SPAM, customer service, refund policy etc etc so that people really had some help distinguishing the truly compliant businesses

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Word of Mouth & Referrals

Time4Learning gets alot of referrals from parents. We rely on it. We encourage it. Our encouragement is through our homeschool curriculum review program.

As I research this, I realize that word of mouth can be studied and encouraged:

- Professor Carl Walters
Word of Mouth Marketing Association

Time4Learning is an example of a small company that is at the cutting edge junction of two cutting edge phenomenons: online marketing & word-of-mouth marketing.

Anybody want to put some students to work helping us and studying us?

While conceptually, we are cutting edge, we are held back by inhouse technical expertise. I guess I can and will fix this.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Doubling my link count?

My approach to building links is to use lots of elbow grease. No tricks. Just work.

I have no automated systems for exchanging links and mostly I ignore the automated reciprocal link requests. I mostly just email and fill in forms for directories, invite my members to link to us from their sites, write articles and offer them for publication, and pay for advertising. I also have created a few of my own sites: Lavalle's Karate site, homeschooling online, gifted students, California home school, Florida home school, and homeschool curriculum review.

Its safe (nothing tricky or black-hatty) and very time-consuming. I think I'll have someone else to do it for awhile.

How is my link-count doing? I only wish I had better tools and was more organized. I don't really have a consistent measure of my link count or positon over time except for the few terms that I count (ie homeschool curriculum)

The neato tool - - today gives me a total count of 764 links. Notes indicate that they gave me only 309 on 12/27/2005. My goals: 1k on halloween of this year. 2K by Christmas. BTW - i wonder what the neato tool counts?