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See No Evil: Google’s Transformation into Alphabet

Starting today, Google will fully report to its parent company Alphabet, a move that while being administrative in nature could be a sign of changes on the horizon for the search engine behemoth and the internet as a whole. Google itself still exists as an individual company; Alphabet will essentially be the parent company overseeing both Google and the more experimental projects formerly housed by the search engine. While the companies have been gearing up for the organizational changes, a report by The Verge reveals an interesting finding: Google’s famous “Don’t Be Evil” saying is conspicuously absent from Alphabet’s employee code of conduct. Changes such as the name and conduct policy in a normal company wouldn’t set off reports, but Google is no ordinary company. And as Google/Alphabet seeks to further expand its horizons and beat back the advances of Apple, Microsoft and Facebook into its market share, it’s changes like these that the world watches in order to divine the future of our online lives.

Given Google’s absolute dominance of the search engine field, the name change is likely to catch some people off guard. After all, Google is a verb, and its brand has achieved a level among Coca-Cola, Kleenex and Nike that is a marketer’s dream come true. The problem for the company came with its attempts to expand its portfolio of services beyond being just a search engine. Google has a well-earned reputation for being forward thinking, and with its financial success has the power to develop technologies that may not make total sense to investors back on Wall Street who are looking for additional profits. By reorganizing under the Alphabet banner, shareholders are able to keep their investments in Google while Alphabet is able to move forward with its experimental initiatives.

Google has always had a complicated relationship with power. The company has full access to over a billion search histories and the capability to link the far-reaching elements of the internet together, and along with its world-beating brand name and technology help it remain one of the overwhelming forces of the internet. Google’s motto, “Don’t Be Evil,” while being on one level tongue-in-cheek, also felt completely appropriate given its wealth of accumulated power. So for Alphabet to change the policy to a more neutered wording—employees are encouraged to “do the right thing,” but the right thing for who, the company or the consumer?—the company has to give up the moral authority that helped make Google feel like an ally to its employees, shareholders and users.

Another powerful pop cultural force has also coincidentally changed its name around the same time as Google. Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is now featuring South African comedian Trevor Noah as Jon Stewart’s replacement at the head anchor’s chair. On his opening monologue this past Monday, Noah addressed the change in true sarcastic Daily Show fashion, saying that “[Stewart] was often our voice, our refuge. In many ways, our dad. And now it’s weird because Dad has left.” In many ways, Google also has a father-like presence over its domain of the internet. And while the company remains, it is likely to feel different somehow as its umbrella company ultimately answers for it. Whether these changes are truly just administrative, or a sign of things to come, is still unknown. For now Google is still the go-to search engine worldwide, and that is something that is unlikely to be changed.

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Facebook Passes Google in Driving Web Traffic for Media Providers

According to a new set of data from Parse.ly, a major web analytics firm, Facebook has emerged as the strongest driver of website referrals among the firm’s partnering media companies, beating out Google for this notable distinction. The Parse.ly data is comprised from over 400 companies, including large media firms such as Wired and The Atlantic. Facebook was responsible for 43% of the group’s website referrals, while Google, who had reigned as the champion for the previous three years of recorded data, came in at 38%. Website referrals are considered the links that direct a user or consumer to the company’s website. The report points to a shift in a way people are finding out about news and trends, as they rely more on social media as opposed to the once dominant search engines.

The change in online behavior could come down to a difference of function. Search engines such as Google require users to enter data directly themselves before returning relevant results. This allows users to customize their search to find precisely what they’re looking for, while still relying on active input from the user. Facebook works from the user’s network of friends and  its own “Like” system to populate trending content into the user’s feed. News stories posted by friends arrive among pictures and notifications, creating a customizable buffet of information options for the social media user. So while Google may still be the go-to search engine method for targeted results (apologies to Bing, responsible for only 3% for Parse.ly’s reported traffic), social media has become integrated into user’s lives to the point where it has become an undeniable powerhouse, with Facebook leading the way.

As both Facebook and Google account for 81% of Parse.ly’s traffic, companies need to modify their business practices to reflect the changing dynamic. While before it may have been sufficient to create a website that handled search engine users, companies must now also create and monitor content that caters to an audience that is being referred to them via friends and colleagues. This new category of visitors may not have even realized they were interested before their network notified them of the content. This is a boon to companies who are able to capture attention in an engaging way, and the opportunity is there for those who wish to ride this new trend that looks as though will change the online landscape for the long term.

Source: Nandita Mathur, Livemint

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The Mozilla-Yahoo Partnership and what that means for you…

The Mozilla-Yahoo Partnership and what that means for you…Mozilla-Yahoo-Artwork

When you think of the term “search” in reference to an online search, what is the first word that pops into your head? Yes, probably Google- but with the recent Mozilla-Yahoo partnership this may change the way you, the end user search the web.

Mozilla Firefox accounts for about 10% of the browser market, with Yahoo now being their default search engine, this means a likely increase for Yahoo as well. But, why the switch? Mozilla broke off its nearly one decade partnership with Google to tie the knot with Yahoo- in a recent interview with the CEO of Mozilla, Chris Beard, he says “In evaluating our search partnerships, our primary consideration was to ensure our strategy aligned with our values of choice and independence, and positions us to innovate and advance our mission in ways that best serve our users and the Web.” Mozilla has asked Yahoo as part of their partnership to stand behind their beliefs in the “DO NOT TRACK” feature which privatizes searches for the user. This news is hugely important for all of the users that search via Google as they are well known for their tracking feature and “stalker ads.” Ever noticed when you search a specific store or product via Google, those ads begin popping up every time you search? Well, Mozilla and Yahoo are taking the opposite approach and looking to offer privacy and not track users every step. So, with all of this hype about Mozilla and Yahoo, you might be asking yourself, so what does this mean for me? This means you have a choice!

Of course, Yahoo and Google search results are similar, but it really relies heavily upon personal preference. With evolving search tactics including voice search as well as geographical tie-ins used to keep users within Yahoo or Google’s page it will be interesting to see what is to come of this newly formed partnership and the way we search. You’ll notice if you search for a newly released movie on Google, it not only displays the movie information to the right, but also gives you the times at which its playing at cinemas closest to you. The point being- keep the user within Google instead of redirecting them to another page.

Mozilla is choosing to keep their company values alive while also proving to remain completely independent of Google, their new approach with Yahoo has so far been fairly successful especially with Yahoo’s improved search functionality. Should Google be concerned? Perhaps a little, losing 10% of the market could be fairly impactful on this well known search engine- but only time will tell. So if you’re still wondering, who does this partnership impact the most? The answer is YOU. You have the choice how of you wish to search, do you want to be tracked or do you want private search options?  The choice is yours! If you’re finding that you are unfamiliar with the recent changes or even wondering what this may mean for you as a business and your search rankings and whether or not this will impact where, when and how you are found- let us help you. Sun Sign Designs specializes specifically in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We understand just how search engines work and what people are searching for. We know the ins and the outs of keywords and choosing ones that will be effective in search engines such as Yahoo, Google or Bing. Call us today! We are ready to help…570-594-4216

 

Alexa Rankings, Are they Really Accurate?

I have recently been asked by a client to explain what Alexa is, the ranking system and is it worth worrying about how you rank with them.

Lets start from the top, Alexa is a web analytics company and it’s rating system is based on how much traffic you get. Sounds very similar to the Google model, until to get down and dirty with the facts. Alexa uses a tool bar to help rank traffic. If a user does not have an Alexa tool bar installed then when they visit a site, the site’s traffic does not get reported to Alexa. The work around is to add a piece of code to the header of your website that allows Alexa to count a visit to your site. With regards to the ranking system the lower the ranking number then the better your site is doing.

So is it worth it? Personally I feel that Alexa is a bit communist with how they generate their rank. If the rank was based on ALL sites and All visits to said site, then I would say yes Alexa is part of the big three. However, the ranking number is skewed since you either have to have code on your site or a user has to have a Alexa tool bar installed on their browser. I personally do not have any extra tool bars installed and I think that the mass of internet users follow suite with that statement. So the mere fact that the web community entertains such partial data as a whole picture is erroneous.

In conclusion, I am not doubting the power that Alexa does have with helping make marketing decisions, but as in future news articles will show, to get a true picture you can not rely on one search engine/ analytics system, you have to rely on a few and make a traffic analysis on your own. The other option is to hire a firm like us that specializes in data and traffic models and builds a close to true picture of what traffic your really getting.

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Bounce Rate Explaination

Below is the very technical reason to describe bounce rate. If you look at the landing pages, your point of entry has become more specific as time has progressed. Point being that if you take my philosophy that every page is a home page, when a person lands on the page they are looking for, first, then leave it counts as a bounce. They may have gotten the information they were looking for with out having to hunt around on the site, which again is a plus. See the info below.

Bounce rate is the percentage of visits that go only one page before exiting a site.

There are a number of factors that contribute to your bounce rate. For example, visitors might leave your site from the entrance page if there are site design or usability issues. Alternatively, visitors might also leave the site after viewing a single page if they’ve found the information they need on that one page, and had no need or interest in visiting other pages.

Other factors may be solely attributed to visitor behavior. For example, if a user bookmarks a page on your site, visits it, and leaves, then that’s considered a bounce.

To understand the difference between exit and bounce rates for a particular page in your site, keep in mind three things:

  1. For all pageviews to the page, the exit rate is the percentage that were the last in the session.
  2. For all sessions that start with the page, bounce rate is the percentage that were the only one of the session.
  3. The bounce rate calculation for a page is based only on visits that start with that page.

Let’s clarify this last point with a simple example. Your site has pages A through C, and only one session per day exists, with the following pageview order:

  • Monday: Page A > Page B > Page C
  • Tuesday: Page B > Page A > Page C
  • Wednesday: Page A > exit

The content report for Page A would show 3 pageviews and a 50% bounce rate.  You might have guessed that the bounce rate would be 33%, but the Tuesday pageview granted to Page A is not considered in its bounce rate calculation. Consider that a bounce is the notion of a session with only one interaction from the visitor, and the session-centric analysis answers a simple yes/no question: “Did this session contain more than one pageview?” If the answer to that question is “no,” then it’s important to consider which page was involved in the bounce.  If the answer is “yes,” then it only matters that the initial page in the session lead to other pageviews.  For that reason, bounce rate for a page is only meaningful when it initiates the session.

Now let’s extend this example to explore the Exit rate and Bounce rate metrics for a series of single-session days on your site.

  • Monday: Page B > Page A > Page C
  • Tuesday:  Page B > Exit
  • Wednesday:  Page A > Page C > Page B
  • Thursday:  Page C > Exit
  • Friday: Page B > Page C > Page A

The % Exit and Bounce rate calculations are:

Exit Rate:

  • Page A: 33% (only 3 of 5 sessions included Page A)
  • Page B: 50% (only 4 of 5 sessions included Page B)
  • Page C: 50% (only 4 of 5 sessions included Page C)

Bounce Rate:

  • Page A: 0% (no sessions began with Page A, so it has no bounce rate)
  • Page B: 33% (bounce rate is higher than exit rate, because 3 sessions started with Page B, with one leading to a bounce)
  • Page C: 100% (one session started with Page C, and it lead to a bounce)

(Sourced from Google)

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Optimizing Images

SEO your images. Yes, you can optimize your images for image search. Having images from your site place well in an image search can bring quality traffic to your site. While it is true that search engine spiders cannot read the content of images, such as embedded text, they can read the code used to place them there. And they do use “imageBots” which crawl the index searching for images to include in its image search results. It’s important to know that when an imageBot looks for images, it looks for the same sorts of things that the usual search engine spiders look for: keywords in prominent positions (within the image tag and elsewhere).

Only images from cached web pages can be included in Google’s image search, and pictures that are by themselves irrelevant to your site’s content (a scenic background, e.g.) will not bring the kind of traffic you want. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then two pictures are worth two thousand words, and having several pictures of your products place high in an image search is worth money. Do not overlook this often overlooked opportunity to promote your product or service and bring tons of quality traffic to your site. The SEO team at Sun Sign Designs knows how to do this. Give us a call, and we’ll show you!

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Link Building Tips & Strategies

A few ground rules:

Any links you get need to be from pages that are already indexed. Links from non-indexed pages will not help your PageRank. This is per search engine.

Links from highly ranked pages are worth more than links from poorly ranked pages. This is what it means to say that a link is a high “quality” link. High quality, high value links are good. Low quality links are not as good.

Links from sites related to yours are more valuable than links from non-related sites. This is not a personal opinion of Google’s. Search engines don’t have opinons, but there is a contextual relationship between related sites that Google would be silly to ignore.

Low quality links from unrelated sites are still links. That is, the number of links pointing to your site is every bit as important as the quality of those links. Of course, you will need quite a few low quality links to equal the punch and the PR of one good, high quality link, but I wouldn’t look a gift link in the mouth.

When creating link text remember to include keywords related to the target page. “Click here” doesn’t contribute to PageRank as much as “Keyword here” does because search engines (and people) will get a better idea of what is on the other side of that link if it contains descriptive text. You won’t always have complete control over what your links will say or what they will look like. You will be working with other webmasters who may have strict rules concerning outbound links. They may even be too lax in that regard, but do your best to control your links as best you can.

One way to control your links is to provide a “Link to Us” page on your site. Provide the complete html code for the link so any visitor to your site who would like to link to you can simply copy and paste the code directly into their site.

Also, be vigilant and keep track of who is linking to you. There are several tools available on the web which can show you who is linking to you. Use them. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes when you see a link that could be better, and don’t be afraid to ask for the removal of a link if you feel that it may be hazardous to your PR (this should only happen in the rare case that you find yourself linked to a site that is known to be infected with malware or spam).

NOTE: Beware of canonical issues [link to upcoming post here]. Canonical issues occur when a search engine has indexed both the non-www version of your site and the www version. Google considers example.com and www.example.com to be two separate sites with duplicate content. This essentially splits your PR between two sites and hurts your position in the SERPs. Channeling all your links to one or the other will instantly affect the PR of one or the other. So, choose which version you would like to use and then be consistent when backlinking. (This may or may not require a 301 redirect to let the search engines know which version they should be using.)

How to get links

As I said in a previous post about the importance of increasing your PageRank to stay on top of your competitors, there are several approaches to link building. Which ones you use and when is a measure of how aggressive your link-building campaign will be. Not every approach will work for you, but find what works and start there. The amount of time, money, and effort involved is entirely up to you, because these strategies run the full range from free and easy to not quite so free and easy.

Ask around…

This is probably the first and the easiest thing you can do. Ask everyone you know who has a website to consider adding your link to their site. Friends, family, even your cousin’s friends may have a place on their site for an extra link or two.

And not just personal acquaintances but business associates as well–employees, groups and associations you belong to, companies you do business with, clients, social networks, etc.

Ask your employees to mention your company in their travels around the web. Some employees might be using social networking software such as Facebook, et al and blogging. Maybe they will mention who they work for and mention your website.

Belong to any groups or clubs? Do they have a website? Are you selling someone else’s products on your site? Maybe the product manufacturer will link to you. Are you on someone else’s client list? On a website? That’s good. Ask to be a “featured client.”

Join search directories

This could be an important next step in your link building campaign. Beyond search engines such as Google and Yahoo! which index millions and billions of web pages, there are other engines which index sites by category or product type. These are smaller and more focused. Several of these “specialty” directories exist on the web. There are directories specifically for blogs, for restaurants, hotels, storage facilities, and more. Find one that suits you and submit your url.

Search “add url”

A simple method for finding sites to link to yours is to search any search engine for the phrase “add url”. Any sites which allow or encourage you to add your url to a list will most likely use the phrase “add your url here” or simply “add url”. You can also try “add a link”, “suggest url”, “suggest a link”, “suggest a site”, “add a site”, etc.

Of course, that phrase alone is too broad. You would prefer to find sites that are related to yours, so search for “add url” + “clothing” if you own a clothing site or “add your site” + “zoology” if your site is about zoology. Google will return any web page that contains the word “zoology” and the phrase “add your site”. That’s just what you want.

This method is simple and a good way to get links, but links you get in this manner probably won’t be of very high quality. Look out for link farms and scams (I wouldn’t pay for links like these), but remember that a link is a link is a link. I am of the opinion that “link farms” will not negatively affect your site’s ranking, they just won’t increase it very much (if at all). If “link farms” could hurt you, then anyone could easily destroy your site’s ranking by simply adding your url to a bunch of bad sites. That’s illogical. This is still a good way to get lots of links, and lots of links is good no matter where they come from. We all want high quality links from pages with huge PageRanks, and if you have the resources you should definitely concentrate on getting high quality links, but in the meantime I wouldn’t look a gift link in the mouth just because it was free and easy to get. Lots of lower quality links will add up eventually and every link helps. They may even bring traffic, if not PR. Google Maps and Yahoo! Local are perfect examples of this. Just get your site out there.

If this sounds tedious, you don’t have to do it by hand. Several programs will scour the web for appropriate sites and auto submit forms for you. A search for “free link building software” on Google will return several options for you to try. SEO Elite comes highly recommended. It’s well worth the money ($167) considering all it can do. You can get a free trial from their website.

Press releases, announcement sites, newletters

Depending on the nature of your service or product these might be good options for you. If you feel you’ve got something especially unique, a well written press release could be just the thing to create a buzz. How about an official “announcement”? Press release distribution services and announcement sites exist in all price ranges.

You may not have thought about writing a newsletter. Maybe you don’t consider the fact that you have a website “news”. So, create some news. Offer a new product or a special deal that’s only good for a limited time. Did you lower your prices? That’s news. Did you get a press release published somewhere? That’s news. Take the time to write a newsletter, solicit subscribers, and distribute it. It may start a conversation about your site, generate a buzz, bring traffic. If you don’t have a newsletter, try to get mentioned in someone else’s newsletter. That works, too.

Find competitor’s links

Several “link popularity” tools and techniques exist for finding out who is linking to your competitors and for analyzing those links. Chances are, if a site is willing to link to your competitor, they might be willing to link to you as well. For that matter, you should always be on the look out for sites that may be appropriate places for you to promote your site.

When you find an appropriate site, the next step is to ask the webmaster or site owner to link to you. Do this in an informal email. Sell yourself the way you would to any partner. Offer a reciprocal link. One way links are better, of course. That is, convincing someone to link to you simply because it would be in their interest or their custmomer’s interest would be great, but don’t be afraid to offer a reciprocal link when appropriate. You can even link to them first, then send them an email informing them that you have linked to their site, and ask for a link in return. Again, you don’t have to do any of this by hand. Several software programs are available which will automate the tasks of link building for you, from finding relevant sites, to analyzing backlinks, to filling out and sending forms and emails to site owners and webmasters. These are invaluable when it comes to keeping track of all your link building efforts (so you know where your links are, the age and the PageRank of said links, what they say, how they perform, who you’ve contacted, who’s contacted you, etc., etc.).

Social networking

Search engines love blogs. Start a blog, participate in blogs. Be a blogger. This is an ever popular way to get your url scattered about the web. Unfortunately, everyone knows it and so many blogs won’t let you leave a link, or they instruct the search engines not to consider any outgoing links in their ranking algorithms (yes, you can do that). If you own a blog, you may need to take steps to prevent people from participating simply for the chance to leave their link behind. Some less scrupulous site owners use “auto-bloggers” just for that purpose.

The social area of the web is growing all the time. MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. No need for me to get into all of it here. Suffice it to say that Social Media Optimization (SMO) has become a branch of marketing all its own.

Buy links

It is possible to simply pay for links. Countless services exist on the web for this purpose, in all price ranges. You can buy links with a specific PR, in a specific category, one way or two way, with term limits or without.

Think of link building as simply another way to advertise. Use the same advertising dollars you would spend on banner ads and pay-per-click ads, and the like. And don’t neglect offline (multimedia and print) advertising as another way to advertise your site and generate interest. Print ads could very well lead to inbound links on the web.

Link building can be as big a project as you make it. The more aggressive you are in your link building campaign, the more links you will get. It’s that’s simple. High quality links are worth money because they will increase your PageRank. That’s a fact. Money spent on purchasing links with PR 4 or higher (for example) are worth the money and possibly all you need, depending on your goals and your competition. Any marketing service you use to promote your site should offer link building as way to optimize your site, place better in the search engines, promote your product, and raise your traffic and sales.

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Importance of a SEO Transition Plan

Many business do not realize that their existing websites holds a level of value. Value in this context is any traffic brought to the site via a search engine that converts to sales. Truth be known, even a one page website holds a level of value for a business owner.

With that said, as you may start thinking about having a new website developed, it is important to build a transition plan to funnel traffic from your existing site to a new site. There are a few techniques for accomplishing such a task but we like to take a more artful approach. We suggest to handle/view each page on your website as a potential landing page. Since search engines take you to the part of the website that has the most relevant information based on a search term. The idea that the home page is the only entry point is thrown out the window. During a transition, each page on the old site should have a corresponding forward to a page on the new site. What this allows is for indexed traffic to flow to the new site while the search engines take their time to index your new site.

Following this very simple plan can take a bit of time to do on larger sites but the results you will find will be very much your effort.

,

Link Building Tips & Strategies

A few ground rules:

Any links you get need to be from pages that are already indexed. Links from non-indexed pages will not help your PageRank. This is per search engine.

Links from highly ranked pages are worth more than links from poorly ranked pages. This is what it means to say that a link is a high “quality” link. High quality, high value links are good. Low quality links are not as good.

Links from sites related to yours are more valuable than links from non-related sites. This is not a personal opinion of Google’s. Search engines don’t have opinons, but there is a contextual relationship between related sites that Google would be silly to ignore.

Low quality links from unrelated sites are still links. That is, the number of links pointing to your site is every bit as important as the quality of those links. Of course, you will need quite a few low quality links to equal the punch and the PR of one good, high quality link, but I wouldn’t look a gift link in the mouth.

When creating link text remember to include keywords related to the target page. “Click here” doesn’t contribute to PageRank as much as “Keyword here” does because search engines (and people) will get a better idea of what is on the other side of that link if it contains descriptive text. You won’t always have complete control over what your links will say or what they will look like. You will be working with other webmasters who may have strict rules concerning outbound links. They may even be too lax in that regard, but do your best to control your links as best you can.

One way to control your links is to provide a “Link to Us” page on your site. Provide the complete html code for the link so any visitor to your site who would like to link to you can simply copy and paste the code directly into their site.

Also, be vigilant and keep track of who is linking to you. There are several tools available on the web which can show you who is linking to you. Use them. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes when you see a link that could be better, and don’t be afraid to ask for the removal of a link if you feel that it may be hazardous to your PR (this should only happen in the rare case that you find yourself linked to a site that is known to be infected with malware or spam).

NOTE: Beware of canonical issues [link to upcoming post here]. Canonical issues occur when a search engine has indexed both the non-www version of your site and the www version. Google considers example.com and www.example.com to be two separate sites with duplicate content. This essentially splits your PR between two sites and hurts your position in the SERPs. Channeling all your links to one or the other will instantly affect the PR of one or the other. So, choose which version you would like to use and then be consistent when backlinking. (This may or may not require a 301 redirect to let the search engines know which version they should be using.)

How to get links

As I said in a previous post about the importance of increasing your PageRank to stay on top of your competitors, there are several approaches to link building. Which ones you use and when is a measure of how aggressive your link-building campaign will be. Not every approach will work for you, but find what works and start there. The amount of time, money, and effort involved is entirely up to you, because these strategies run the full range from free and easy to not quite so free and easy.

Ask around…

This is probably the first and the easiest thing you can do. Ask everyone you know who has a website to consider adding your link to their site. Friends, family, even your cousin’s friends may have a place on their site for an extra link or two.

And not just personal acquaintances but business associates as well–employees, groups and associations you belong to, companies you do business with, clients, social networks, etc.

Ask your employees to mention your company in their travels around the web. Some employees might be using social networking software such as Facebook, et al and blogging. Maybe they will mention who they work for and mention your website.

Belong to any groups or clubs? Do they have a website? Are you selling someone else’s products on your site? Maybe the product manufacturer will link to you. Are you on someone else’s client list? On a website? That’s good. Ask to be a “featured client.”

Join search directories

This could be an important next step in your link building campaign. Beyond search engines such as Google and Yahoo! which index millions and billions of web pages, there are other engines which index sites by category or product type. These are smaller and more focused. Several of these “specialty” directories exist on the web. There are directories specifically for blogs, for restaurants, hotels, storage facilities, and more. Find one that suits you and submit your url.

Search “add url”

A simple method for finding sites to link to yours is to search any search engine for the phrase “add url”. Any sites which allow or encourage you to add your url to a list will most likely use the phrase “add your url here” or simply “add url”. You can also try “add a link”, “suggest url”, “suggest a link”, “suggest a site”, “add a site”, etc.

Of course, that phrase alone is too broad. You would prefer to find sites that are related to yours, so search for “add url” + “clothing” if you own a clothing site or “add your site” + “zoology” if your site is about zoology. Google will return any web page that contains the word “zoology” and the phrase “add your site”. That’s just what you want.

This method is simple and a good way to get links, but links you get in this manner probably won’t be of very high quality. Look out for link farms and scams (I wouldn’t pay for links like these), but remember that a link is a link is a link. I am of the opinion that “link farms” will not negatively affect your site’s ranking, they just won’t increase it very much (if at all). If “link farms” could hurt you, then anyone could easily destroy your site’s ranking by simply adding your url to a bunch of bad sites. That’s illogical. This is still a good way to get lots of links, and lots of links is good no matter where they come from. We all want high quality links from pages with huge PageRanks, and if you have the resources you should definitely concentrate on getting high quality links, but in the meantime I wouldn’t look a gift link in the mouth just because it was free and easy to get. Lots of lower quality links will add up eventually and every link helps. They may even bring traffic, if not PR. Google Maps and Yahoo! Local are perfect examples of this. Just get your site out there.

If this sounds tedious, you don’t have to do it by hand. Several programs will scour the web for appropriate sites and auto submit forms for you. A search for “free link building software” on Google will return several options for you to try. SEO Elite comes highly recommended. It’s well worth the money ($167) considering all it can do. You can get a free trial from their website.

Press releases, announcement sites, newletters

Depending on the nature of your service or product these might be good options for you. If you feel you’ve got something especially unique, a well written press release could be just the thing to create a buzz. How about an official “announcement”? Press release distribution services and announcement sites exist in all price ranges.

You may not have thought about writing a newsletter. Maybe you don’t consider the fact that you have a website “news”. So, create some news. Offer a new product or a special deal that’s only good for a limited time. Did you lower your prices? That’s news. Did you get a press release published somewhere? That’s news. Take the time to write a newsletter, solicit subscribers, and distribute it. It may start a conversation about your site, generate a buzz, bring traffic. If you don’t have a newsletter, try to get mentioned in someone else’s newsletter. That works, too.

Find competitor’s links

Several “link popularity” tools and techniques exist for finding out who is linking to your competitors and for analyzing those links. Chances are, if a site is willing to link to your competitor, they might be willing to link to you as well. For that matter, you should always be on the look out for sites that may be appropriate places for you to promote your site.

When you find an appropriate site, the next step is to ask the webmaster or site owner to link to you. Do this in an informal email. Sell yourself the way you would to any partner. Offer a reciprocal link. One way links are better, of course. That is, convincing someone to link to you simply because it would be in their interest or their custmomer’s interest would be great, but don’t be afraid to offer a reciprocal link when appropriate. You can even link to them first, then send them an email informing them that you have linked to their site, and ask for a link in return. Again, you don’t have to do any of this by hand. Several software programs are available which will automate the tasks of link building for you, from finding relevant sites, to analyzing backlinks, to filling out and sending forms and emails to site owners and webmasters. These are invaluable when it comes to keeping track of all your link building efforts (so you know where your links are, the age and the PageRank of said links, what they say, how they perform, who you’ve contacted, who’s contacted you, etc., etc.).

Social networking

Search engines love blogs. Start a blog, participate in blogs. Be a blogger. This is an ever popular way to get your url scattered about the web. Unfortunately, everyone knows it and so many blogs won’t let you leave a link, or they instruct the search engines not to consider any outgoing links in their ranking algorithms (yes, you can do that). If you own a blog, you may need to take steps to prevent people from participating simply for the chance to leave their link behind. Some less scrupulous site owners use “auto-bloggers” just for that purpose.

The social area of the web is growing all the time. MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. No need for me to get into all of it here. Suffice it to say that Social Media Optimization (SMO) has become a branch of marketing all its own.

Buy links

It is possible to simply pay for links. Countless services exist on the web for this purpose, in all price ranges. You can buy links with a specific PR, in a specific category, one way or two way, with term limits or without.

Think of link building as simply another way to advertise. Use the same advertising dollars you would spend on banner ads and pay-per-click ads, and the like. And don’t neglect offline (multimedia and print) advertising as another way to advertise your site and generate interest. Print ads could very well lead to inbound links on the web.

Link building can be as big a project as you make it. The more aggressive you are in your link building campaign, the more links you will get. It’s that’s simple. High quality links are worth money because they will increase your PageRank. That’s a fact. Money spent on purchasing links with PR 4 or higher (for example) are worth the money and possibly all you need, depending on your goals and your competition. Any marketing service you use to promote your site should offer link building as way to optimize your site, place better in the search engines, promote your product, and raise your traffic and sales.

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The PageRank(PR) Algorithm

The PageRank(PR) Algorithm

A typical SEO strategy begins with basic tags, titles, and descriptions. You optimize your tags and fill your pages with juicy content and then submit your site to the search engines. Before long you see they have indexed and cached all of your site’s pages. But then nothing much happens. Sure, your site is included in the search engines, and it shows up in the results pages for certain keywords, but there is plenty of room for improvement. You are not where you want to be. But you’ve chosen the perfect combination of keywords and content, so what else can you do? Answer: improve your PageRank (PR).

The most important factor in determining where your site will appear in the search engines in relation to your competitor’s site is PageRank. This is Google’s term for how many inbound links you have. Other engines use other terms, but they all mean the same thing.

Here’s a quote from Google:

The heart of our software is PageRank™, a system for ranking web pages developed by our founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University. And while we have dozens of engineers working to improve every aspect of Google on a daily basis, PageRank continues to provide the basis for all of our web search tools.

Google wasn’t always called Google. The original name for the most important search engine ever built was BackRub, so named for its ability to crawl and analyze backlinks. It’s what they do. The PageRank algorithm, the formula Google uses to calculate PR, is based mostly on the number of inbound links:

PR(A) = (1 – d) + d (PR (t1) / C (t1) + … + PR (tn) / C (tn))

Where:

PR = PageRank

A = Web page A

d = A damping factor, usually set to 0.85

t1…tn = Pages linking to Web page A

C = The number of outbound links from page tn

This is not as complicated as it looks. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see that the more inbound links you have, the higher your PR. Also, your PR will decrease with every increase in C which is a valid argument against link farms and link schemes.

So, now that you know how important inbound links are to your PageRank, the next question is how important is PageRank to your overall success? I’ll you refer you back to the indented quote above and repeat the key points here: “The heart of our software is PageRank” and “PageRank continues to provide the basis for all our web search tools.” According to Google, PageRank is the heart and soul of everything they do.

Q: So, how do I get more inbound links so I can raise my PR?

A: There are several approaches, but that will be the subject of my next post.