Friday, April 20, 2007

Two Sides to Every Story

Search Engine Optimization, Back to Basics, Part 3

There are at least two ways to look at everything. Most of those are opposites: Dark and light, healthy or sick, smile or frown… Sometimes, the two sides of an issue support each other: Spaghetti and meatballs, hamburger and fries, rock and roll, that sort of thing…Well, it’s that second category that suits the search engine optimization world, and the topic of our conversation today.

In order for your website to rank well on the search engines, it has to effectively use two factors. These are: On-Page Factors, and Off-Page Factors.

The on-page factors are the elements that are on your site directly, built into it’s visible and invisible coding that can impact your effectiveness. Usually, this means having strong keywords and keyword phrases scattered throughout your website. These keywords need to be relevant to your content, sought after by your audience, and not as common out on the ‘net. They have to be used in the right places in your site. With the on-page factors, what you’re essentially doing is building your site so that it works.

How do you do that?

  1. First of all, do some research and discover what keywords to use in your site. Imagine one of your customers. He’s sitting at, and wants to search for something your website has. So, he types it in, and hits the “Search” button. What would this imaginary guy type, if he was looking for your products? The words you use for search engine effectiveness MUST be relevant to your site.
  2. Then, you’ll want to test them. Do a search with the words you’ve imagined. How many other sites use that same word? It’ll be a lot, trust me. But by narrowing your searches, you can get that to a relatively low level. Use sites like to test which words are being sought, so you’ll know which words are in demand.
  3. Third, make a site that’s full of good content. Information is what people are looking for, so provide it. Search engines will appreciate having some good substance to index. And, if that substance happens to have good keywords in it, well…
  4. Finally, stir the keywords into the content. Just like too much pepper can spoil a soup, too many keywords and too many repetitions can ruin the flow of your text. Still, it’s good to mix it up.

The off-page factors are the elements that are not on your site. Most of all, this involves linking. Specifically, it involves getting other sites to link to your site. This can be a challenge, since you can’t just log into someone else’s website account and add your site to his “Favorite Links” page. You have to show them that there’s a reason for them to do it for you. You have to be able to offer them something of value.

How do you get people to link to you?

  1. The easiest way I’ve ever seen to get an inbound link (someone linking to you) is a reciprocal link. That’s a win-win, you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of arrangement, where you contact the owner of another site (relevant to yours), and tell them you’ll link to them if they link to you. In addition to helping with search engine ranking, it also benefits by bringing direct clicks. That means traffic.
  2. Share your content. As you write articles and information to put on your site, offer it up to other site owners. Tell them that you’ll let them reprint it for free, as long as they link back to your site. They get good content for free, you get a linkback. Another win-win!
  3. Contact bloggers and see if you can’t get them to write about you in their blogs. To do that, you have to have something of interest to the blogger, and more importantly, their audience. Usually, that’s something more than just a catalog of products.
  4. On some blogs, if you post comment on someone else’s writing, you can leave a URL which gets converted into a link. Be careful, though. Make sure that your comment is relevant to their blog, and something insightful. Otherwise, it’ll just be seen as blogspam and deleted.
  5. There’s no reason why the other site linking to your main site can’t be one of your own. Set up some other sites, and link them back and forth. Each one counts.

Balancing both of these factors can be challenging. But as you work your site, it will rank better and better, and soon you’ll be at the top of the list!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome (

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Whole World in Their Hands


Search Engine Optimization, Back to Basics, Part 2

First of all, let’s clarify something: When we say “Search Engine Optimization”: We’re really NOT optimizing any search engines. They couldn’t care less what we do. There are a million other websites to index. In reality, what we’re doing is optimizing our site to be more effective with the search engines. And the first step to doing that is to understand how that works.

Imagine I’m sitting in front of my computer, and I’ve got or (or any of thousands of others) up on my screen. I want to learn about “Underwater Basket Weaving”, because I saw it on Letterman in the “Silly Human Tricks” segment. So, I type “Underwater Basket Weaving” and I hit the search button.

What happens next? Well, some think that the search engine immediately launches out on a world-wide search, through servers and hosts all across our fair planet looking for websites that relate to “Underwater Basket Weaving”. That’s not quite the case. If it were, each search that anyone would do would take days. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to do a search if I have to come back tomorrow for my results.

So, what the search engines REALLY do is to search databases. Each of the big engines has a big database full of information about literally billions of web pages. It’s like they have information on the whole World Wide Web. See, a local database can be searched in a fraction of a second. The whole world takes days. Some search engines, like Yahoo and Google, have databases so vast that other search engines will lease them.

So, the search engine will pull up every page in its database that matches “Underwater”, “Basket”, and “Weaving”.

Now, it has to show me, the user, the results of that search. And, it has to show it to me in a simple and useful way. Why? Because if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll go somewhere else. If I try again later and end up going somewhere else again, then I’m probably not coming back. And that means fewer eyes on the pages, and that means fewer eyes on the ads there at the search engine. And fewer ads mean less money. So, it’s in the search engine’s best interest to provide good, usable and fast results.

That means that the engine has to guess which site, out of possibly millions or even billions, is most likely to match what I, the searcher, want. I’m looking for Underwater Basket Weaving. So I don’t want to see sites about Sports Cars.

Now, machines are notoriously bad at guessing what humans want. How can they be good at it? Most humans don’t even know what they want! But over the years, the people that program the search engines have created some pretty effective systems (they call them “algorithms”) to check the “relevancy” of a page.

Most of that process is done by checking the content of the page. Is the search word or words featured prominently in the text of the page? How many times do the search words appear? Are they more toward the top of the page, or buried at the bottom? Are they in big bold headlines? Are they in the links? The answers to these questions have a big impact on how high a page with rank in the final search engine results.

In addition to that, there are other factors that play into your ranking as well. How old is your site? How prominent or well-liked is your site (this is judged based on the number of other sites that link to yours)? Is your site isolated and poorly assembled, or is it “in the loop”?

What these things all add up to is this:

First of all, you’ve got to get in the databases. Go to the big search engines. Find the link to click in and submit your site. If your site isn’t listed, you won’t come up on any searches, no matter how many keywords you have or where you’ve stuffed them.

Second, You have to make your site so that it’s full of content, and so that content is rich with the best keywords for your topics.

And finally, you’ve got to get social and get connected. Your site can’t succeed if it’s an island without bridges.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome (

Monday, April 09, 2007

Want Some Pie?


Search Engine Optimization, Back to Basics, Part 1

Getting your website ranking well on the search engines is a tough task. You try to research and learn the techniques, but who do you believe? Everybody seems to contradict each other. Rumors and innuendoes fly, stories and secrets dance from blogs and message boards, advertisements and promotions scream out, “Don’t waste your time with the others, we can help you!” It all seems a jumble of confusion.

As a beginner in the world of website entrepreneurship, how can you sort it all out? How can you know if this company or that company can really help you? Of all the information out there, what’s up to date, and what’s obsolete? Who can you trust, when you just don’t know?

Well, it’s that last part that’s the key. If you gather some real information, then you’ll be in a better position to know who to trust with the future of your website. Knowledge is power. With that kinda power, you can talk sensibly with potential ad companies and nail it down right the first time. With that kinda power, you could even learn how to do it yourself.

So, with that in mind, these next few articles are designed to introduce you to the world of search engines, and to help you understand how to fit them into your overall website marketing plan.

Before we get too deep into the technical aspects of SEO, we need to establish some core principles. If you understand these core principles, then the techniques we talk about in the future will make much, much more sense.

A Slice of the Pie

First of all, take a minute and imagine your favorite kind of pie. What is it? Pumpkin? Key Lime? Apple? Mine is Chocolate Cream. Go ahead, and let your mind run wild with it. Mine is a thick, mousse-y chocolate with a thick crust made of crumbled Oreos. It’s got at least an inch and a half of whipped Cream on top, with chocolate sprinkles and Hershey’s shavings on top.


Now I’m hungry…

So, have you got your picture in your mind? I want it to be tempting to you, because that’s going to help motivate you. Imagine that you’ve got a whole pie there in front of you, just waiting to be sliced up and served.

Now here’s the question:

Are you going to eat one slice of that pie and throw the rest of it away?


I didn’t think so. That’s actually a pretty silly question, isn’t it?

OK, here’s the analogy: This pie represents your total website traffic, or at least your site’s potential. It’s big and beautiful and delicious. Traffic in the beginning equals customers at the end, right?

You might also notice that your pie has several slices. That’s also true of your internet pie. You have a slice that represents your search engine efforts. Another slice represents link exchanging. Another is for blogging, and another is for forums and email efforts.

I’ve worked with people before who seem to think that all they have to do to have a successful internet business is to put it up on the net, submit it to the search engines, and then watch people pound a virtual path to their door. It’s true that the search engines are a vital part of your marketing strategy, one that you should put a lot of thought and effort toward. Search engines are possibly the biggest “slice” of your internet pie. But they are only one slice. There are many other ways to bring traffic to your site, and you should try all of them. Many of them actually enhance your search engine ranking, in addition to bringing you direct traffic.

Don’t just taste one slice of the pie. Eat it all!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome.