Spam Whackers

Exposing Various Types of Spam – Offering SEO & Webmaster Tips

January 31, 2007

Finding Key Words

Filed under: SEO General — Connie @ 12:04 am

Researching keywords is important to anyone who is interested in success on the web. There are a lot of ways to search for key words, but Wordtracker is one tool that a lot of people recommend.

Aaron Wall (aka SEOBook) just reported that Wordtracker has “Launched a New Free Keyword Tool“.

I think one of the best ways to gather key words, is to ask people you know what words they would type into a search box when looking for your product.

Another source for keywords is your log files. Admittedly you will need to get some traffic for a key word, but your log file may help you in optimizing a page to get even more traffic.

I think every one wants to rank for generic terms like widgets. Personally I would rather rank for terms like red wood widgets, than the generic term widgets. Why? If I offer red wood widgets on my site, and someone searches for red wood widgets, I have a better chance of making a sale.

On the other hand, If I’m ranking for widgets, who knows what the searcher is looking for. They may be looking for Stainless Steel Widgets, and I only have Wood Widgets.
I think any keyword suggestion tool, is going to give limited results at best.

Keyword suggestion tools can be helpful, but don’t get locked into them. Don’t worry about ranking for terms that might bring you the most traffic. Try to rank for terms (or phrases) that will bring you sales.

January 30, 2007

Who is Dave Pasternack?

Filed under: General — Connie @ 6:22 pm

As far as I can tell he is a marketer who begin taking pot shots at the Search Engine Optimization community a few weeks ago. I don’t do SEO for hire, so I consider myself immune to his comments. If he made his post for link bait, I for one am not going to help him.

OK ThreadWatch is now sponsoring a contest in regard to Dave Pasternack, “Whoever ranks #1 in Google for Dave Pasternack at noon Eastern on March 1st, 2007 wins $1,000 from Threadwatch“.

I’m not in the contest, but IncrediBILL is so hopefully I can help him a little.

Dave Pasternack: Crafty or Cunning or Controversy?

Dave Pasternack: Yahoo Ranking

Dave Pasternack: Did- It-Doing-It-Sort Of

As far as I can tell I think Dave Pasternack is a dick head. Please feel free to express your opinion.

Is Andy Beal a Spammer?

Filed under: General — Connie @ 5:43 pm

Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo raised the issue today with this blog post. Andy has replied to Jeremy’s accusation in this post Get a Damn Clue.
Additionally Jeremy Schoemaker (aka ShoeMoney) has posted J-Z Chill Your Dill .

Seems to me this has to do with a social networking site “mybloglog” which I think is a social networking site owned by Yahoo. Here are the Google Search results for mybloglog.

Personally I have problems with social network blogs (sites). Obviously they do open a door to be misused by Spammers. At the same time they can provide a good resource for a webmaster to network.

Not sure that Andy Beal is guilty in this case.

I think Jeremy Zawodny may have jumped the gun in this situation.

What Makes a Good Search Engine Optimiser?

Filed under: Articles by Irony,SEO General — Irony @ 6:29 am
The date of the first publication: July 10, 2006

SEO is believed to be an easy profession. At first glance, it really is, which is probably why the number of various SEO specialists, SEO professionals and SEO experts is growing daily at a tremendous rate. Being a moderator on one of the major SEO forums, though, I know very well how many of these self-proclaimed experts offer their services first and come to forums asking the most basic questions later. For these people, the apparent simplicity of SEO works like a trap.

So, what actually makes a good SE optimiser these days? What knowledge and skills should an ideal SEO possess? What approach to the profession will ensure success?

SEO copywriting – what does it actually mean?

SEO copywriting is not stuffing good web copy with keywords until it becomes bad web copy, often to the point of being unreadable. SEO copywriting is copywriting first, and the SEO part second. This means you need to be fluent in the language of the website you are optimising. You also need to know how to be persuasive, which suggests being a psychologist, if only on an intuitive level. Only after you have achieved this can you start playing with keywords, but you must still never, ever forget that your primary readers are still humans, not the engines. So, be subtle when inserting keywords. They need to be prominent, but not annoying. And don’t forget about the titles and other meta information. They need a lot of attention, and certain language skills, too.

Of course, you can always outsource the copywriting part, or at least hire an editor who will take care of your grammar and style, but we are now talking about an ideal SE optimiser, i.e. a hypothetical person capable of handling the whole SEO process all by him/herself.

Directories will keep you busy

Submitting to directories is mostly a routine task, which requires a lot of patience; it suits a hard worker. But, apart from this, certain knowledge and experience is required to tell a good directory from a spammy one, and to craft good, attractive titles/descriptions for the site you are promoting. Of course, if you are acting as a full-scale SEO for this website, you already know everything about its business goals and niche by the time you get to directory submissions, but if you are hired to do submissions only, make sure you have read and understood the site’s content really well prior to starting. A short briefing with the client is a good idea, too.

The techie part

SEO involves a lot of design, programming and server administration issues, which you can’t afford to neglect. An ideal SEO has to be a high-class PHP, ASP and Java programmer, an experienced server administrator and a perfect HTML coder. In real life, it’s often enough to be able to explain the tasks (in depth) to the administrator/programmer, so you have to at least be fluent and convincing in their jargon, because they will often ask you: “Why do I have to do this?”, “Are you sure it’s so necessary?”, and say “Methinks you’re just making it up!”

How do you turn session IDs off for spiders? How do you implement the 301 redirect? What if the redirect has to be done using ASP on IIS? How do you use mod_rewrite? How do you make sure the HTML page with a Flash object embedded into it validates for the W3C standards and displays properly in all browsers? These are just a few questions out of many more you will have to find answers for if you want your SEO work to meet high standards of quality.

HTML itself presents a lot of problems, and a good optimiser is expected to be able to handle them all. A general code cleanup (removing unnecessary tags, moving JavaScripts and CSS styles to separate files, W3C validation and getting rid of unnecessary nested tables to reduce the code bloat) is a painstaking job; but according to the newest standards it’s not enough any more. If you wish to be respected by your fellow SEOs as a really high class specialist, you need to be able to handle CSS-controlled layouts created without a single <table> tag.

Been there. Done that. If you think it’s easy, I have to disappoint you: it is not. At least when it is your first time, be ready for a lot of sweat and tears, as well as a few moments of total desperation. Cross-browser compatibility is going to be the hardest part.

Marketing considerations

Offering pure old-fashioned SEO as a separate service is not the best idea these days. Your client needs to be able to estimate the ROI of the whole promotion campaign to make sure the start-up budget won’t be wasted while waiting for the first results of the SEO campaign. Expenses on PPC and other marketing efforts should be carefully planned from the start and combined with the SEO expenses, otherwise the business is at risk of being ruined right after being born. So, if you offer SEO, you need to be able to offer SEM, too.

What’s more, you need to be able to measure and analyse the results of the ongoing SEO/SEM efforts using various statistics packages and customised tracking software. You should be able to provide a well-grounded usability advice aiming at the improvement of conversion rates. You should be the best.

Marketing your own service will be a never-ending effort you need to be ready for. The Internet is crowded; the competition in the SEO industry has become staggering. You will have to use all the opportunities the Net offers for businesses, to continuously market yourself, and to look for more. Let yourself relax just for a day and you will probably find yourself unemployed, even if you are a well established practitioner.

Professional ethics

There is no such thing as a widely acknowledged professional code of ethics in the SEO industry. All efforts aimed at creating one have so far been in vain. But it doesn’t mean that all SEO practitioners/companies shouldn’t have their own codes of ethics. It’s just as important for an SEO as it is for every other representative of any legitimate industry existing in the world.

Apart from the importance of an ethical approach to SEO techniques as such (no blackhat techniques or strategies, no matter how tempted you might be), it’s just as important that you never rip your client off. Your services should be worth the money paid for them, so make sure you always estimate the outcome of your campaign correctly. Don’t overestimate. If you underestimate and over-deliver, it will create a much better impression, and your grateful clients will soon start referring their contacts and partners to you.

In regard to blackhat tactics, another issue arises. Even though you should stay away from them at all costs, you absolutely need to know what they are, and be able to spot them and evaluate potential consequences. When you start working on your client’s site, you are often not the first person who has tried to optimise it. Often, your actual SEO work starts with cleaning up the mess created by your predecessor, and like the rest of the work, you have to do this part well.

What else?

A good SEO has to stay on the cutting edge of the industry’s latest trends and changes. When you deal with the search engines and the Net as a whole, everything changes so fast that you have to continuously monitor forums and read newsletters and articles to maintain your touch with your profession. There is no other way.

A good SEO has to be patient and diplomatic, to communicate well with clients/partners and keep the relationships mutually beneficial.

And last but not least, a good SEO has to be realistic. Remember, you can spend the rest of your life trying to get #1 in all engines for a tough term like “SEO” – and never get there. Don’t do this. Instead, concentrate on real goals, on something you can – and will – achieve.

Why the best SEOs work in teams

The number of skills an ideal SEO has to possess looks a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it? Actually, the task of finding one person who can do all the things mentioned above (and some others) is close to impossible. That’s why most SEO shops, even if they are small, usually consist of several people, not just one person wearing 15 or so hats. It seems reasonable. But as the industry develops and grows, we should expect the SEO companies to drift towards specialisation and partnerships. While larger companies will still be able to handle the whole range of SEO-related tasks by themselves, smaller ones will have no choice but to get more and more niche-specific, and form partnerships to outsource the work to and fill in the gaps. This way we’re all doing what we do best.

To be continued…

January 27, 2007

Humorous E-Mail Subject

Filed under: E-Mail Spam — Connie @ 5:03 am

Like many of you I get a lot of spam e-mail. Using MailWasher I quickly view the subject an mark the spam for deletion.

I got one today that was really different. The subject was “spam”. The only readable text according to MailWasher was “No viewable text was found in this HTML email. Would you like to view the source?”

I just thought it was humorous that someone would send out a spam e-mail, with the word spam as the subject.

I would say that is one of the most honest spam e-mails that I have ever received.

January 24, 2007

Duplicate Content

Filed under: General — Connie @ 6:38 pm

People refer to a duplicate content penalty over and over in forums. Personally I do not think there is a penalty for duplicate content.

I do think the SEs filter duplicate content, and they should. If you have two or more pages that have near identical content, the SEs will likely pick one page and ignore the other. Many people call that a penalty. I don’t.

For a e-commerce site, duplicate content is a curse that is hard to avoid. There are only so many ways you can describe a round widget.

Sometimes people get caught in regard to duplicate content due to a lack of knowledge.

you can access the domain by:

domain.com
domain.com/index.htm

www.domain.com
www.domain.com/index.htm

That’s 4 ways to access the same page with the same content. You need to redirect either domain.com or www.domain.com. I always suggest redirecting domain.com to www.domain.com because most people that link to you naturally will link to the www version. On internal links back to the home page use the absolute path. do not link back using index.htm or whatever.

On the other hand a lot of people think they can build different web sites, with near duplicate content. Doesn’t work most of the time. It might for a little while, but at sometime the SEs will pick one page of the site, and drop the duplicate page on the other site.

Although duplicate content on the same site may be hard to avoid, there is no reason to build different sites, with duplicate, or similar content.

When someone builds more than one site with the same content, they are probably doing that to game the SEs. If the SEs figure that out, and they probably will, then you might get a penalty for duplicate content. I think when you try to game the SEs you deserve a penalty when you get caught.

January 23, 2007

SEO and Usability

Filed under: Articles by Irony,SEO General — Irony @ 6:17 am
The date of the first publication: June 22, 2006

SEO, as we know, is the science of making sites the best they can be for the search engines. Usability is all about making sites the best they can be for human visitors. Consequently, to make sites the best they can be for both types of visitors, we need to combine usability and SEO and work out a set of rules that works in both cases. Following these rules will take us in the right direction from both the usability and the SEO point of view. Neglecting them will hurt both users’ experiences and the search engine success of our websites.

Working out this set of rules is not as hard as it may seem. The engines were designed with their users in mind, so they would bring the best – from the human point of view – websites to the top. That’s why they tend to see quality where a human being would also see it, and thus SEO and usability often turn out to be the same thing.

Navigation

The most important aspect of the usability of a website is navigation, which is how the pages within the site are linked to each other to provide paths to users browsing it.

Even if we leave the “information foraging theory” aside for a while and concentrate on basic usability, it’s still quite obvious that navigation does need to be as user-friendly as possible.

The fewer the clicks it takes to find a page, the more the chances there are that users will find and read it. Having sitemaps and breadcrumbs are a good way to make sure nobody gets lost while surfing; the most important pages should be just one click away from the home page and featured most prominently (preferably from the main menu bar).

So what does this have to do with SEO?

As we know, the navigation links are followed by the search engine spiders, ensuring deep crawling of the site (as most of the incoming links from the outside usually point to the home page). The shallow navigation increases the chances of the website being completely indexed (though after the latest BigDaddy Google update, complete indexing is a rare case, but this can change over time). Sitemaps and breadcrumbs help indexing, as well; besides, they offer us an excellent opportunity to include our important keywords in the link text, which is one of the most important SEO factors.

Links from within the context of the page copy play their role in both usability and SEO, too. Both usability and SEO dictate we don’t use “click here” as the anchor text for such links, but link descriptive words (often the same as targeted keywords, e.g. the name of the product) to the corresponding page instead.

Example: “See more of our digital cameras” rather than “Click here to see more of our digital cameras”.

Headings

The <h1> – <h6> tags used to mark headings/subheadings within the text of a page are a huge usability factor. Without them, long and even medium-sized content pages (e.g. articles) would never be read further than the second paragraph. The sub-headings increase scanability of a page and at the same time work like “teasers”, impelling the readers to proceed to the end.

To work successfully, the headings should give general information about what sort of material the next portion of the text contains; at the same time they should “ask questions”, not contain the answers, in order to keep the reader intrigued and interested.

In order to be specific and play their role well, they often need to have keywords in them; here we have yet another case of an SEO improvement derived naturally from improved usability.

More examples of how SEO and Usability integrate

There are a lot of other factors that work fine to achieve both goals. These include, but are not limited to, meaningful page URLs, title tags, avoidance of frames and JavaScript-based navigation (some users prefer to browse the Net with scripts turned off and need static HTML-based navigation for that purpose), fast loading pages and valid, cross-browser compatible code. Some of the implications are explained in detail in The secret benefit of search engine optimisation: Increased usability, an article by Trenton Moss, which is a must-read.

The spiders are picky…

The search engines of today are not the same as they used to be, and are much harder to please. There are more and more facts proving (even if indirectly) that Google’s ranking of pages in the SERPs now involves sophisticated semantic analysis of the content, which leaves us with no other options but to write well. The engines also look at the overall site structure, HTML code, linking patterns and other factors that, when taken together, define quality, but make the task of pleasing the spiders much harder to achieve.

Quick SEO success is becoming a thing of the past; long-term expectations and careful planning is today’s SEO reality. The overall website optimisation (as opposed to just search engine optimisation) is now the only path to online success, and it most definitely includes usability, which explains why the most far-sighted SEO companies are shifting towards usability research.

… but humans are pickier

If the task of getting websites to the top of the SERPs has become a very tricky one these days, it doesn’t look hard when compared to the task of making a website perfect from a human’s point of view.

Jakob Nielsen, in the above-mentioned article on Information Foraging, describes how patterns of Net users’ behaviour has changed over time, pointing out that “the better search engines get at highlighting quality sites, the less time users will spend on any one site“. In other words, the greater the number of sites that are properly optimised for the engines, the more effort you will need to put into the usability factor to maintain competitiveness with others for your visitors’ affection.

Advanced research that is currently being carried out on web usability is continuously leading to higher standards. To be successful on the web, you need to know all about such things as “information scent trails”, various types of online behaviour in conjunction with the different types of websites (what works for an e-shop, doesn’t work for a hobby blog or an online library), read numerous reports on the latest usability research (often conflicting with each other), and improve, improve, improve your website continuously. The good news though is that “information scent trails” also work fine for SEO purposes, as they are nothing but navigation links with keyword-rich anchor text. But overall, usability involves a lot more consideration than does SEO.

Search engine marketing, as mentioned in some of my previous articles, is impossible without usability and includes it as one of the disciplines. Sites that are bad from the usability point of view show very low ROI, which means no matter how highly they rank in the engines, they will never be really successful and profitable.

January 16, 2007

Building Trust

Filed under: General — Connie @ 5:48 pm

I think everyone would agree that trust is an important part of the success of a website. This is particularly important with a e-commerce site. People that don’t trust your site are not going to spend their dollars with you. I think the issue of trust is equally important with blogs, and forums.

Why should you trust what I have to say? I’m not an expert on anything. The only reason I can give is that I’m honest in what I say. I will tell you what I think based upon my limited experience and knowledge.

I believe that all web-sites including blogs and forums should be honest and have integrity with their customers or visitors.

Yes this is another rant in regard to HR Forums. Sorry but I’m really pi**ed in the way that HR has dealt with a recent thread. I think it has been dishonest, and shows a lack of integrity.

The Post that Started it.

About 3 weeks ago we moved content from our old URL to a new URL because of a corporate restructure etc.

As per Scotty’s advice, I set up a 302 redirect exactly as described and all went well until about a week ago. Google saw fit to remove all of the pages that were 302’d from the search results. The pages are still indexed, but they aren’t even on page 10,000 of results that we used to rank #1 for.

My competition is having a heyday because of this and I’m wondering if I should update up my resume…

I don’t understand how this happened? I understand Google went though an update recently; has Google finally caught on to the 302 redirect trick?

I replied at some point with this

I disagree with the 302 redirect. IMHO that is just an attempt to hopefully fool the SEs. A 302redirect should be for a temporary change. In this case the change will be permanent so a 301 redirect should be used. If your going to change a domain name do it correctly with a 301 redirect.

Personally if I had a domain named cats.com, and shifted the emphasis to dogs I would still use cats.com if it were established. The domain name has little if anything to do with ranking.

Google does appear to have a aging delay. Even though the site is not ranking well it is 9 months old. Changing the domain name may well mean you are starting over again.

A 302 or even a 301 may or may not work. Personally I would not take that gamble just for a domain name.

Note that my comments were moved from the original thread to make it appear that I had started a new thread on the subject. As far as I can tell my comments were in line with the question the original poster had asked. Now my comment to the original poster does not make as much sense as it would if you read the comment in context.

Doug Heil posted in the original thread. Guess what happened? His comment was moved to the thread that I supposedly started.

What’s going on here? Is everyone at HR afraid to disagree with Scottie? Does Scottie have some magic knowledge in regard to SEs, that no one can disagree with? Is Scottie infallible?

The story gets better. The thread that I supposedly started was locked. Then moderators who could post in a locked thread started to attack me. The thread is locked so I can’t reply.

As far as I’m concerned HR is a forum that can’t be trusted. High Rankings manipulates information posted to suit their own agenda.

Changing Domain Names

Filed under: General — Connie @ 1:04 am

One question that comes up in SEO forums from time to time is about changing Domain names. Sometimes the person is just considering the change. Sometimes they have already taken the plunge, and changed the name. In either case they are looking for information.

My first question is Why?

Why do you want to change your domain name? Do you think it will help you with your ranking with the SEs? Do you think it is more user friendly?

What is the motivation here? Personally I do not think a domain name has anything to do with SE ranking. So if that is your motivation forget it.

Is the new name more user friendly? If so how?
Akin to this is your domain extension, if your interested in country results. I think this is a different issue. You have a .uk extension but you want to rank for world wide searches.
Other than the country specific issue, I would ask how old is the current domain name? Is that domain being indexed by the SEs?

If the domain is several months old, and being indexed I would advise against changing names or extensions. I think you have a lot to lose and not much (if anything) to gain.

Potential problems when changing a domain name.

With Google specifically, you may be starting over again. Google seems to have some kind of aging filter in regard to new domains.

How to change domain names.

If your hell bent to change the domain, then you need to use 301 redirects from the existing domain to the new domain.

Some SEOs will tell you to use a 302 redirect, but I disagree with that approach. A 302 redirect may get you into trouble. A 302 redirect tells the SE that the domain has temporally moved. A 301 redirect will tell the SEs that the site has permanently moved to this new location.

I have written about this before. I will write about this again. I’m somewhat P**ed right now. I expressed my opinion on this topic at HR in this thread.

My comments were moved out of the original thread to make it appear that I had started a thread on the subject of 302 redirects. I did not start a thread on the subject of 302 redirects. I only gave my opinion to someone who had used 302 redirects according to the advise they had received at HR and had problems.

My advise was split out of the original thread. When my comments were put into a new thread they were completely out of context. Doug Heil of IHY commented in the original thread. They incorporated his comments into the thread which appears that I started.

What P**es me of more than anything, is the thread has been locked. I have been insulted by an Admin at HR, as well as challenged but I can’t respond to either because the thread at this time is locked.

January 9, 2007

CSS & Hidden Text

Filed under: Search Engine Spam — Connie @ 1:38 pm

Do Search Engines read CSS files? This is a question I have seen asked in various forums several times over the last couple of years. I believe the consensus of opinions that I have read would be no, or people did not know because they had not seen any evidence in their log files that a spider had requested their CSS file.

Michael Martinez posted today at the Spider Food Forums about a site that had recently been delisted in Google due to hidden text. The site in question was The Disney Blog. Matt Cutts told the blog owner why The Disney Blog had been dropped from Google. According to Matt the blog was dropped because of hidden text.  A couple of days after the hidden text was removed the site was reincluded in Google.

I had read about the incident in at least two other blogs. I believe Michael is the only one that pointed out the text was hidden using CSS. So, it appears that Google at least is reading your CSS files. If Google is reading them I think it is a safe to say that the other SEs are reading them too, or will not be far behind.

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