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Can You Over-SEO Your Website?

By | Analytics, Google News, Internet News, Search News | No Comments

Matt Cutts, the Google employee who regularly speaks on SEO and the Google algorithm, has released yet another Youtube video answering questions from the public.

The question was basically – can you over-optimise a website? The example the questioner gave was excessive use of No-follow tags.

I thought the question of over-optimising was a great one, and was excited to hear Matt’s response. But like many of his video’s before, the answers were vague, not giving away corporate secrets, which is of course understandable, but didn’t satisfy my curiosity.

His one concrete statement was that you can put as many no-follow tags on your own site as you want – this will incur no penalty.

As for other SEO practices, he only seemed to discuss a couple.

The first was keyword stuffing – which is certainly an SEO strategy, but not a highly regarded one. Keywords are almost a necessity on a page, if you want it to rank highly. Some people take this to the extreme, and ‘stuff’ their keywords on there. Which means, that they put excessive amounts in – more than necessary for a human reader. As Matt said in his video, this can render a page spammy, make it unreadable or unpleasant to read, and does not make for a good user experience. He did not say though, that Google will penalise a site with keyword stuffing.

The other strategy, which is related to keyword stuffing, is to cloak keywords, or make them the same colour as the background. This means that human readers can’t see the keywords (and therefore their user experience isn’t affected by them), but the Google robot can. Surprisingly, Matt didn’t dwell on this for more than a second and didn’t say that it was a bad thing to do. Which is so wierd, because it is widely considered a black hat technique.

There was zero discussion of offsite SEO or structural SEO in his answer. Offsite SEO in particular is a huge one, and there are so many pitfalls, and ways in which you CAN over-optimise, that I actually thought this would be an obvious part of the answer.

Matt’s discussion seemed concerned solely with the user experience, insinuating that we webmasters could do whatever we liked to the site as long as the user wouldn’t be adversely affected. SEO practitioners would know that this hasn’t seemed to be true in the past, with black hat SEO techniques occassionaly being punished.

Bing – The Love Affair Continues

By | Search News | No Comments

I still love Bing. Even though it is very different to the promo’s. I really didn’t like the ‘online-shopping’ appearance of the Bing Promo’s but the Beta Bing has turned out to be not much like what that portrayed, and I love it.

Why?

I love the cheery background pics which change everyday. They got me on Day 1 with Santorini – the most beautiful island on earth. I felt national pride when they had an Echidna on the weekend. Yesterday I think it was Huang Shan in China, and when I landed there I just felt a familiarity, I have been there! And finally, today, it is a pic of two super-cute otters. For a travel-lover like me, who also has an appreciation for all things nature, the new background pics are a simple but intriguing addition. A lot more interesting than the boring white background of Google.

But lets get off the aesthetics – what about the search results? I love them too. They don’t seem to be as spammed as Google, (and I am not just saying this because my clients are totally smashing it on Bing). The top 10 seem to me to be invariably relevant, and high quality sites.

In Google lately, there seem to be more than 10 entries, sometimes up to 12, because of blog, news and video entries. I don’t like them being all mixed up in the top 10. If I wanted those, then I would do a Youtube, blog or news search. Bing seems to keep it to a simple top 10.

Yes the layout is similar to Google, but it is prettier, simpler and less spammy. Taking all the best features of Google, and improving on it.

But I have been so institutionalised by Google, I feel that if I Bing something, I might miss out on something in Google. I need to break this dependence.

New (more positive) thoughts on Twitter

By | Twitter, Uncategorized | No Comments

The other day, I finally (and accidentally) discovered how Twitter can be useful for me personally. It all started on a cold, blustery Tuesday….

I was anxious, because my new addiction, Master Chef, was clashing timetable-wise with my pre-paid tickets to the Lily Allen concert in Sydney. I wanted to get to Lily Allen fairly early, because with no assigned seats, I needed to ensure I could sit down and wouldn’t have to stand with the teeny boppers.
Problem was, it was celebrity chef night on Master Chef – I didn’t want to miss it! Would Lucas get through?
Sitting in my seats at the Hordern pavillion at 7:30 I was glad I got there early to bags seats with the other ‘adults’, but I was also dying to know who won Masterchef. A quick look on my friends iPhone solved all my worries, as people were tweeting just seconds after Lucas’s victory.
Admittedly I could have waited till it got onto the MasterChef website, which would not have taken much longer, but such is the ‘youth’ of today. We want it all, we want it now, and in two seconds it will be old news. In such an environment, ‘real-time’ search engines like Twitter might just have a place. Since I am the most impatient of all, I have found a happy use for Twitter.

Sure you can’t see the most up to date news unless you know what to search for, but you can see what the zeitgeist is, by looking at the twitter trends. Right now for example, 2 of the 3 most popular twitter threads include Iran (democracy debate), which is heartening, and shows that maybe Twitterers aren’t as shallow as the non-converts might think. This pride diminishes, when you see that the second most popular thread, and the eighth as well, are on ‘John and Kate’. If you aren’t familiar (and I only am because I just stayed with my friend in the US) this is a couple from the US show John and Kate Plus Eight, and they are apparently splitting up. The fact that this gets two spots in the top 10 might insinuate a very large proportion of US users.

Another positive thing about Twitter? I only just noticed the new ability to erase Tweets you have written…great addition for those impetuous people out there (like me…).

Track Your Email Marketing Campaigns With Google Analytics

By | Analytics | No Comments

If you send out any emails with links to your site in it, you should think about using Google Analytics tags to track them. Whether you are emailing regular clients, sending out flyers, or have the link in your signature block, you might want to know if people are ever clicking.

Maybe you thought Google Analytics already told you thinks like this, because you have traffic from Gmail and Yahoo in your referrers? Well, this is because they are web based email. Desktop email subscribers will be lumped in with all your direct users. As for the web based email – there is no way to differentiate what kind of email or link they arrived from.

By simply setting some parameters on the end of your URLs, you can track visitors from the various forms of emails. To track email visitors, you need to tag the links on which they will be clicking.

Say you send out a link in an email to people that sends them to http://www.mysite.com/redpage.php

To track who arrived from your email campaign in Google analytics you need to append the URL with some parameters identifying the source. These parameters are then removed by Google analytics when you arrive on the site, and stored in a cookie on your computer so all your subsequent onsite actions can be attributed to the correct origins.

The parameters you need to include are:
Campaign – e.g. February newsletter
Medium – for this it will be email (medium can also mean other kinds of pay per click marketing, banner ads, etc. Link tagging can be used for identifying lots of different types of online ads).
Source – This could be the provider who sends your emails, or more descriptively, it could be the name of the particular email list you are using, or the segment of email users the email went to.
Content – if there are multiple links in your email, you might want to track them separately. You can use different campaign content tags to do this.

To write the tags onto your URL, it will look like this:

http://www.mysite.com/redpage.php?utm_campaign=February-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=mysite

Of course, this is a very ugly link, so you need to make sure that it is replaceable with anchor text.

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