Thursday, May 24, 2007

You Scratch My Back…

(Search Engine Optimization, Back to Basics, Part 6)

In the world of business, it’s not very often that you can help your competition and still benefit by it. Usually, the environment is described as “cutthroat”, or “dog-eat-dog”. These aren’t exactly friendly terms.

Even though this is often the case, there are circumstances where it can be helpful to work “Win-win” with other companies on the ‘net. One of these is in reciprocal linking.

The basic idea behind reciprocal linking is simple. Find other similar websites, contact their owners, and set up a set of links back and forth. “I link to you, and you link to me.” Both sites benefit.

Let’s look at how the sites benefit.

1. The foremost reason is simple: Traffic. Anytime someone out on the ‘net establishes a link to your website, whatever the reason, their visitors have the opportunity to click to your site. If the two sites are relevant, and your site is valuable, many of them will. These clicks come to your site independent of search engine ranking. Don’t underestimate the value of this. On any given week, as much as 20% of my traffic comes to me directly from my reciprocal links.
2. The search engines (especially google) provide a secondary, though often less impactful reason. The more other sites link to you, the higher you rank. Inbound links are equated (by the search engines) with popularity and value. Hence, more links means a higher ranking. Now, granted, there are many other ways to get other sites to link to you besides swapping, and most of these give higher search engine value. Still, one of the simplest ways to convince someone to link to you is to link to them first.
3. If you’re effectively linked with lots of other sites, not only will you rank higher, but you will also get indexed and spidered faster, and re-indexed and re-spidered more often. This is because as the search engines spider the other guy’s site, the spider program will crawl across the link to your site and index it as well. I’ve seen people get on yahoo in under a week this way.

How do you do it?

First, you want to find other sites to exchange links with. Think of your audience. Who are they? What sorts of things are they looking for on the ‘net? What websites would they be visiting? Look for these sites. I want to caution you against the temptation to think that the whole world is your audience, and you should swap links with everyone. That won’t help you. Focus in on a more targeted audience, and you’ll be more successful. Links should always be relevant.

When you find a site that’s relevant, contact them. Tell them how cool their site is. Invite them to your site. Ask them to exchange links. It’s simple. No need for fancy agreements or lawyers. No money is changing hands. It’s not an arms treaty you’re negotiating or anything.

Finally, create a page on your site for links, and add a link to their site on it. That way, when they come to check out your site, they’ll see that they’re already on your site, and they’ll be more likely to reciprocate. When they respond to your message, they’ll set up the link back to you.

Every once in a while, go through your links and check to make sure that you’re receiving inbound links from everyone. If so, great! If not, send them a friendly reminder. If they don’t respond, you can remove them from your list.

It’s not difficult, and it doesn’t cost money. It does cost time, however. Keep at it. Build this links list up over time. Before you know it, you’ll be bringing in a steady stream of valuable targeted traffic!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What to do With Your Search Terms

Search Engine Optimization, Back to Basics, Part 5

When I was growing up, my father would often go off on rants.

Well, “rants” is probably not a correct word. Maybe, “lectures” could work. “Sermons” is another option. Probably, “Pontifications” is the best one, really.

I would do something wrong, and he would impose the cruelest and most unusual of punishments. He would drone on and on about what I’d done wrong, why it’s wrong, what I should have done better, and any other perceived flaw I had displayed or injustice I had also committed.

I ended up wishing he would have just beaten me and gotten it over with.

Sometimes, I would try to shorten the ordeal by telling him, “I know, Dad, I know”. That was a big mistake, because, of course, if I truly had known, I wouldn’t have done the thing in the first place. Of course, that would be what he would lecture me on next. That particular lecture usually wound up with this quote from Proverbs, chapter: Dad, verse: Dad, which reads, “It’s not what you know that counts, it’s what you do with what you know.”

So, here I am, many years later, applying the wisdom of my father to the task at hand. And the task at hand is search engine optimization, specifically, keywords.

If you read the last part in this article series, you’ll have a list of 4-8 good, strong keywords or keyword phrases. You’ll have a good working knowledge of what your audience is searching for, and what your competition is using.

Still, it’s not what you know that counts; it’s what you do with what you know.

These words need to be included in your site in order to hit as search matches, and bring you up in the results list. They need to be included in the right places, in the right ways, so that you’re not only in the list, but you’re ranking well. How do you do that? Here’s where they go:

  1. In the body text of the pages

This is by far, the most important part of the website for keyword matching. This is the actual, visible text on the page. Include as many of the strong keywords as you can here. The key is to put them into the sentences. That means that you just don’t pile them into a list at the bottom of your page, but rather, you create good text that includes these words. Some of the stronger words, you’ll want to include many times. Some you will include three, four, five or more times, depending on how well you can write them in. Remember, your audience will still be reading it, and you don’t want to distract them or turn them away.

  1. In the first few paragraphs

Words that are toward the top of the page carry a little more weight than words at the bottom. Keep that in mind as you lay out your site and prepare your text.

  1. In Header Tags

Words that appear in “header” HTML tags also carry more weight. The search engine assumes that these are headlines, and more important. Now, don’t do your whole site in header text, or it’ll all get thrown out.

If you don’t understand HTML, often, like the ClickSiteBuilder, you can use your web editor to place text in the proper header tags.

  1. In the title tags

There’s a part of the site that doesn’t appear on the page itself, but rather in the title bar at the top of the web browser. This is, in HTML, called the “title” tag. If you can write your title so that it carries one or two of your stronger keywords, it will help your ranking.

If you’re working in the ClickSiteBuilder, or some other web editor, you can find the “Web Page Title” spot for editing on each page.

  1. In the META description

The META tags have been the source of some controversy for a long time. The META Keywords tag is no longer used by the search engines to find matches. But the META description is. For those working in the ClickSiteBuilder, you can find the META Description under the “Promote” button, in the “Keywords” area.

  1. In link text

When you create links from one page to another within your website, make sure that the text you put in the link includes a keyword. That will carry a little bit more weight that plain text.

  1. In the ALT TEXT of your graphics

As you install pictures into your website, you’ll see places where you can enter what’s called “Alt Text”. In pure HTML, this is called the “ALT” attribute to an “IMG” tag. The original purpose for this space was to display some descriptive text in place of the picture if it didn’t load. This is a good place to put some keywords, but not just big lists. Write a phrase or two that contains a keyword and describes the picture.

Remember: You could know all there is to know about keywords, but if you don’t do anything with that knowledge, it won’t help you!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

How to test your search terms

Search Engine Optimization, Back to Basics, Part 4

Your website, in order to rank well on the search engines, has to have the right words in it. It has to have them in the right number, and in the right places. But most of all, those words have to be the right ones.

What determines “the right ones” is understanding the value of a given word. A word is valuable when it fits three basic criteria:

  1. It is relevant to your site. Using irrelevant keywords just irritates your customers.
  2. It is in demand. This means that there are relatively high numbers of people searching for that word. If nobody’s looking for it, then there’s no point worrying about it, right?
  3. It is not so much in supply. This means that there aren’t so many (relatively) other web pages using that same word or phrase.

If a keyword (or a keyword phrase) fits these three criteria, then it’s something you can use in your site, and, with some effort, get some good clickthrough results with.

It’s good to begin this process by creating a table (either in a word processor, or by simply dividing lined paper into three columns), like this:

Search Term

Overture test (demand)

Google test (supply)

Start brainstorming a list of possible search terms. If someone were to go to Google or Yahoo and search for a site like yours, what would they type into the search bar? Make a big list, and put these words in the “Search Term” column of your table.

Then, we want to test the demand, the searches. There are a number of places that you can go to check this. One is, and another is Either one will get you to a good testing tool, both based on the Overture/Yahoo search system. I recommend testing in the demand first, because these tools will suggest more terms to check, that you might not have though of yet.

So, at one of these tools, type in one of the words on your list and click the button. It will return a list of words and numbers. The first one on the list will probably be the closest to what you typed, and the rest will be suggestions of similar words and phrases.

The numbers represent how many searches were done for a particular search term in the month at the top of the list. Look at the number near the word you tested, and write it next to the word in the “Overture test (demand)” column. Now you know how “in demand” a particular word is. That’s great info, but only half the equation. A word like “music” might have 900,000+ searches. Wow! That’s great! But as you’ll see below, that might not be so cool.

While you’re in this window, scroll through the list, and add to your own list any other words that are relevant to your site. Copy their numbers, too. Then, repeat this test for each word in your list.

For the numbers in the next column, I go to Type in one of the words that you have in the other column, spelled exactly the same way, and do a search.

At the top of the search results page will be a blue bar, and on the right side of that it will say, “results 1-10 of (some ridiculously high number, probably in the millions)”. Write this number in the “Google test (supply)” column. Go on and do the test for the other words. Don’t be afraid to think of more terms and flip back and forth between Overture and Google to test them.

Finally, the numbers need to be analyzed to make any sense. So far, they’re just raw numbers right? What do they mean?

Well, let’s look at that example above: “music”. You could look at the initial search and see that there were 900,000 searches. You might be excited by that. That means that this word is in demand, and in demand big. I have to caution you, though, that the demand is only half the picture. Type it into Google, and you’ll see the full picture. That is, that there are 1.1 billion pages using the word “music”.

Let me say that again:


It will be extremely difficult to compete with that many web pages for a good ranking. In this, it would be a good idea to introduce some qualifiers to the initial keyword. Maybe use things like “rock music” or “indie rock music” to temper the numbers some.

Each industry, subject area, and product line is different, so making a definite rule about what numbers are good is difficult. Even still, as a general rule, a keyword or phrase is good if there are more than 750-1000 in Overture searches AND at the same time, less than 3-4 million in Google results. The more extreme in either of these, the better. For example, a search term with 8000 overture results AND 750,000 Google results would be an excellent term.

Keep testing, back and forth, from Google to Overture and back again, until you find 4-6 good strong words or phrases. These will be the words that will help your website to soar.

Finally, use those words in the sentences and paragraphs of your site. Repeat them as you can, sensibly. That way, when someone searches for that word or phrase, you’ll get picked up, and ranked higher.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.