Thursday, July 28, 2005

How Not To Rank Well On The Search Engines


Forget What You’ve Heard

The world of search engines has changed a lot over the years. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of changes in as little as the last 4 months.

But in spite of that rapid change, there are some things that, sadly, stay the same. How does that saying go? “The more things change, the more they stay the same…”? And one of the things that never changes, and never ceases to amaze me, is how long misinformation (and out-of-date information) lingers.

So, in an effort to stem the tide of old and inaccurate articles, I offer this up. I realize that in many ways, it’s like trying to stop a flood with a bailing pail, but here goes, nonetheless:

1. META Tag Keyword List – A long, long, time ago, the META keyword list was king. This was where the search engines found out what your site was all about, and discovered how to reference it for searches. Very quickly, it was abused. People began repeating the keywords here, and these lists quickly expanded to hundreds and hundreds of words. The search engines retaliated by limiting the number of repetitions that would be effective. Finally, the search engines stopped paying attention to it at all, preferring to pull keyword and key phrase matches from the visible text on the website itself.

2. Irrelevant Keywords –Again, back in the days when the META tag ruled, a lot of sites would include irrelevant keywords in the tag. The thought that if you came up on more searches, that’s more chances for people to find you, right? Wrong. Instead, you became more clutter that they weren’t searching for, and, while you might have gotten more initial click-ins, when those people arrived at your site, they were angry and confused. Those kind of customers rarely buy, or come back.

3. Visible Keyword Lists –Once it became clear that the search engines were paying more attention to the text in the page itself, then people began moving the keyword lists to the page. So, you started seeing these huge lists of keywords at the bottom of websites, usually with lots of repetition. The initial problem with this is obvious. Your customers will see this gibberish at the bottom of your site. Soon, the search engines began checking for sentence structure, and so the lists began fading in value.

4. Color Matching –In an attempt to make the big lists at the bottom of the page invisible, one trick for a while was to make the text color match the background color, rendering it invisible. Of course, you still had a huge blank space at the bottom of the page, because the text still took up space, but at least it was hidden. Of course, once the engines started checking for grammar and content, this strategy also faded.

5. Misspelling Keywords –While there may well be some circumstances where this might play still, as the META tag influence faded, so did the strategy of including misspelled keywords. The theory was that some people just don’t know how to spel. Oops, I mean “spell”. So, if you included some mistyped versions of your keywords, you would catch those people that would also mistype the word as they were searching. The problem is, now that the Keywords META tag is no longer used, you’d have to include the misspellings in the visible text of your site. That can make people question your credibility.

6. Doorway/Gateway/Magic Pages –This was an interesting approach. The idea was to create separate pages that would either redirect or link to your main page. You could make each of these pages uniquely optimized for the requirements of a particular search engine, then visitors would click through to the real site. Not only was this a lot of additional work, but the search engines started to kill these pretty soon after the strategy developed. These pages just end up cluttering the search engines’ databases, and cluttering up the search results. Still, there persist SEO companies to this day that will tout this method of search engine ranking, and will also sell you software that will autogenerate the doorway pages.

7. Link Farming –When Google, and later, Yahoo, began figuring inbound links into the equation, other things began changing in the SEO wars. The idea was that if lots of other sites link to you, your site must be more popular, and hence, deserves a better ranking. It makes some sense, and done right, it still carries a lot of weight. The problem is that a lot of webmasters think that ANY link is a good link, and that’s not really the case. They set up link exchange programs where hundreds or even thousands of irrelevant sites automatically link back and forth to each other. These are called link farms. They don’t help, and in some cases, they can actually hurt.

8. Automatic Submission Programs –These are programs that will submit your site to hundreds or even thousands of search engines in one shot. What a timesaver, right? And it is. However, the vast majority of those search engines are minor, and not that impactful. There are four main search engines that are valuable to be listed in, and those should be registered manually. By that I mean, you should go to their site, find the submission page, and sign up. Why four? Because other, smaller websites draw their results from these databases, so getting listed here will automatically get you listed in the others as well. The four are,,, and An autosubmit program won’t hurt you, and as long as the price is low, can get you in some of the minor search engines with little or no effort. Still, register with these big four by hand, and you’ll get where you need to be.

So, now that all of these old-school SEO gimmicks are faded and debunked, what do you do to get a good ranking?

1. Prepare a website with good, informational content, full of relevant and well-researched search term matches. Include those search terms in the text of the site in natural and grammatically correct ways. Optimize your sub pages the same way, choosing terms relevant to the content of those pages.
2. Find good, relevant sites to exchange links with. Quantity is good, but quality is also important. Don’t link with link farms. Remember that SEO is only a part of the reason to exchange links. Links can also bring targeted clickthroughs on their own.
3. Work to get others to link to your site without exchanging links. Post relevant comments on message boards and blogs with your web address in your signature. Provide content articles to relevant websites with a link back to your site.
4. Update and add to your site frequently.

In short, running a good website will get you good rankings. Playing the tricks is played out.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Scanning the Horizon: Podcasting

As you’re steering the ship of your business out on the ecommerce ocean, it pays to pull out a pair of binoculars and scan the horizon. What will you see there? You might see some storm clouds beginning to form, or some waves starting to pitch. You might see an island or a port of opportunity.

Sometimes, you’ll see things that, at first glance, might not seem to bear much impact on you or your web business. What should you do about those things? Should you ignore them? If they don’t seem to make a difference to you now, why should you bother? There’s plenty enough on your plate already, right?

Well, you should ignore the distant objects and storms at your own peril. While you’re sailing along, asleep on the deck, that far-away storm can swing close. That Island of opportunity might pass you by. In other words, just because it doesn’t touch you right now, doesn’t mean it won’t ever. And the more you know now, the better you can steer clear of the storms, and straight to the most fruitful of islands and ports.

So, from time to time, I’ll be introducing you to some news items that might well be off on your horizon, but bear closer scrutiny. Learn of these things, be aware of them, and you’ll be better able to adapt to them when they’re closer to you.

One of these things right now is Podcasting.

What is it? In essence, it’s like blogging, but using downloaded audio, instead of reading text. In other words, people and companies are preparing short audio programs that listeners can download and play on their computers, or on their handheld listening devices, like an iPod. The Podcasters create this listenable content on a regular basis, putting out “shows” full of interviews, news, opinions, and music. And, of course, ads (we’ll talk more about that later).

Just like the word “blog” is a blending and shortening of the term “web log”, so is the word “podcasting”. Take the words “iPod” and “broadcasting”, shorten and blend them, and you get “podcasting”.

First, just take a few minutes to explore the podcasting world. You might start at, which has some links to great articles describing what podcasting is. You might want to read the Wikipedia article all about podcasting. That’ll help explain what it is, but to really get the flavor, it’s best to finds and spin some ‘casts! There are a number of sites that host or help share the actual podcast episode files. and are just a couple. You can also go to any ordinary search engine and search for “(topic) podcast”, then start downloading and listening.

Podcasting has only been around a couple of years, and has only barely begun to make an impact on popular culture. There is some talk (full of hype, granted) of podcasting ultimately taking the place of radio. I don’t know that it will take that extreme, but this is a trend that is definitely making itself heard in our popular culture.

And right now, as the explosion is only beginning, there’s a lot of opportunity to get involved. How? In two ways:

One, create and share your own podcast. This is still a very technical option, requiring some skill with audio recording software and RSS feed hosting. It would take a beginner some time to research, or they would need to hire the work out. Ultimately, as your podcast builds audience, this could draw more visitors to your website.

To do a podcast, you would approach it the same way you would a blog. Find a theme, a focus. Find and set up a hosting/feed system. Create the content by writing and recording you podcast. Send it out regularly, to build an audience.

Two, find current podcasts that are targeting your audience and purchase advertising, both as an audio ad (much like current radio ads), and banners on the podcast homepage.

Whether or not Podcasting becomes anything more than a passing fad remains to be seen. For now, it’s an island out on the horizon that we need to watch.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Story...

I just recently discovered an incredible resource for a guy like me in the Indie Music Promotion Blog by Bob Baker. What a wealth of information and encouragement it carries for a musician facing the daunting task of making his/her name known in a sea of musicians.

See, the Internet has changed everything about the music industry, and it will yet drive even more change. One of the ways it has changed things is in opportunity. Let me tell you a little story…

Ten years ago—No, twelve—I recorded and released an independent cassette called, “A Joyful Noise”. It had ten songs, and I was really proud of it. I managed to sell a few of them, but most of them I gave away. I don’t think it got more than a few miles from my Salt Lake City home. Actually, now that I think of it, I remember giving a copy to a friend from my home town in Indiana.

The internet was in its infancy then, and I hadn’t even heard of it.

Fast forward a few years, to the later ‘90’s. I had discovered the ‘net, and had learned how to make web pages, and had been doing them for others and teaching them how to promote them for a few years. A good friend of mine convinced me to start promoting my music on the web again. I was looking for a way to share samples of that cassette, plus the newer songs I was writing. That was the time just before when mp3’s were starting to break out into the popular culture. I set up my site, and posted up a couple of songs. Gradually adding more as I recorded them, building up my fan base, and my mailing list.

Fast forward to now. I’ve got a CD out that’s selling from my website. I’ve had over 15,000 downloads of my various songs. I’ve gotten emails from fans from all over the world, from as far away as India, Europe, and Indonesia. And I’ve never signed a record contract with a label, small or otherwise.

My point? That without the Internet, my music would have never gone much farther than my immediate circle of family and friends. With the Internet, I am worldwide. It’s not a question of whether or not the ‘Net helped me do things “better”. It allowed me to do things that were IMPOSSIBLE without it.

But that’s also the problem.

Because along with me discovering that the Internet was a great place to promote my independent music, millions of other indies also were discovering the same thing. Go to and type “Music”. You’ll get, on any given day, anywhere between 300 and 500 MILLION results.

That brings me back to the blog at hand. It’s all about how to find your audience and connect with that audience so that in their minds you rise above those 300 to 500 million to become the one they turn to first.


Sounds to me like what any business should be doing, right?

The similarities are amazing. As you go out and do searches on the ‘Net, don’t you find there are millions of others doing the same kinds of businesses? There is nothing new under the sun. There is always going to be competition. How do you rise above it to become the one that your audience turns to?

Well, first of all, you have to identify your audience. Trying to be all things to everyone is a great way to become nothing to anyone. Who do you really want to come to your store?

Second of all, you have to reach out to them. Here’s an excerpt from one of Bob’s recent posts:

“Every day, do something to promote your music (read: “your business”). Reply to an e-mail from a fan. Send a review copy of your CD to a new media source. Call a club owner to set up a gig. Talk to another artist about a cross-promotion idea. Search online for new Internet opportunities.

”The activity doesn't have to be earth shaking. As long as the actions you take are focused on connecting with more fans, doing something simple every day will reap huge rewards just three to six months from now. I guarantee it.”

I guarantee it, too. It’s happened to me. It’s happening to me. Make it happen for you.