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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dirty Little Secret of Search - Google Refers More Traffic

For several years I've ranted about a key metric that most in the search industry seem to either ignore or keep mum about its consequences. That is - search REFERRAL percentages (tracked by server logs or software). Can we bring this dark secret into the light for 2006?

I just saw the news on the "PEW Internet and American Life Project" study, released Wednesday, which looks at gender differences in web use. That reminded me of the regular comScore Media Metrix reports on "Searches Performed" at each of the major SE's and the similar "Higher conversion percentages from MSN Search" reports which we hear routinely. "Searches Performed" at Yahoo and MSN are relevant only to the ad sales staff at MSN and Yahoo and almost entirely irrelevant to the rest of us. What matters above all is "Searches Referred and Delivered" to our client sites from all of those searches performed.

It matters not at all to a webmaster if 99% of his search referrals from MSN convert to sales if MSN sends only one in a hundred of his search referrals - which means that Google could send only a tiny percentage who CONVERT to buyers, yet still ultimately refer FAR more buyers than MSN - because Google sends vastly more traffic to the webmaster. Smaller percentages of MUCH larger numbers of visitors still buy far more stuff.

EVERY client I monitor traffic for shows between 60% and 90% of their traffic coming from Google searches and only between 5% and 15% coming from either Yahoo or MSN searches. I've asked search engine reps from Yahoo why this is and get no meaningful responses. (MSN seems not to send reps to the conferences I've been able to attend.)

Is it any wonder everyone is focused on Google when it comes to SEO? They deliver traffic while the others seem to hold on to those searchers - No matter how highly ranked a site is! My own sites are ranked better on MSN and Yahoo than on Google - yet Google sends as much as ten times the traffic on many profitable search phrases. How is that possible? Why do so few pay attention to this detail and fail to discuss it?

Is it possible that some of those referrals are somehow stripped of their "referrer" through some multiple bounce clickthru mechanism at Yahoo and MSN - so that those referrals show up as "No Referrer" or "Blocked Referrer" or "Direct Access" or "Bookmarked" in log files? If that is going on - to what end?

Will 2006 see some meaningful discussion of this dirty little secret of search?

Mike Banks Valentine

Monday, December 12, 2005

Googling Google - Blog at ZDnet

This new blog at ZDnet is wonderful for SEO's and others interested in the goings-on at the big G. Garett Rogers is acting as an official Google-watcher, looking at new domain name registrations by Google, being the first to notice and comment on new developments at Google and looking under rocks to discover the worms without apparent bias for, or against, Google.

I'm going to keep my eye on this one as it appears to be very useful to keeping an eye on a company that moves too fast to keep tabs on most times. Keep it up Garett. If you keep coming up with as much as I've seen in the first few weeks, this could be a treasure trove of Google trivia as well as the serious stuff of business development and new Google labs action.

Hotwiring Your Search Engine Rankings

The article linked from the headline above is a brief Newsweek piece discussing and comparing Black Hat SEO with White Hat SEO and what the search engines think of each. The idea that search engines even tolerate SEO's is a rather new development, since most news in the major media tends to focus only on Black Hat SEO's and warn everyone to stay away from companies that perform any type of search engine optimization for online companies.

Since this story notes quite correctly that an in-house SEO is becoming increasingly necessary for corporations that do business online, it is clearly getting to be more acceptable to be an SEO. There are roadblocks to ranking that companies put up without realizing they've done so and the job of an SEO is to open up the search engine freeway by removing the traffic cones narrowing web traffic to a crawl. (Of course we repair the potholes and re-paint the lane markers first.)

I've advertised my "White Hat" stance on search engines for years with an email signature line that reads "ETHICAL search engine optimization specialist" along with my site contact form URL. While this seems to calm many of my contacts concerned about doing SEO with accepted methods that won't get them banned from the search engines, there are still clients who fear hiring me for fear they'll be banned for useing SEO techniques to rank their site better.

Perhaps now that the major media is seeing a few "Good Guys" in the business, we'll avoid that fear from clients. Unfortunately there are still some "Bad Guys" out there doing Black Hat SEO that give us all a bad name.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Jagger Update, Google Analytics, Future of Search & SEO

I recently wrote a short article outlining how a client lost their ranking after the Google Jagger Update and was considering writing a longer piece detailing reasons when I ran across the following article by Glenn Murray. Since he has said everything I planned on saying (and more) I'll leave it to Glenn to tell the story instead. (Thanks for saving me several hours of writing Glenn ;-) It's all yours:

Jagger, Google Analytics, and the Future of Search & SEO

By Glenn Murray | SEO Copywriter & Article PR specialist *

Two big things have just happened in Google-land: Jagger and Google Analytics. Together, these two events may have changed the face of search forever.


First, let's discuss Jagger... Just like hurricanes, Google updates have names. (A Google update is a change to the way Google determines its rankings. Google makes these changes periodically, and they're universally feared because they can impact dramatically on a website's ranking.) The latest update is called Jagger, and it has search engine optimizers (SEOs) all around the world in a state of panic.

Why was Jagger such a fearful update? Simple... With Jagger, Google once again outsmarted huge numbers of SEOs. You see, many/most SEOs spend their time (and their clients' money) trying to trick Google into thinking that their websites are more relevant and important than they really are. They do this mostly by swapping links, buying cheap links, and placing links on free directories. While there's nothing wrong with these sorts of links (i.e. they're not considered 'black-hat'), they don't really show that the site is relevant or important. All they really show is that the site owner has made a deal with another site owner. In these deals, the incentive for the linking site owner is a reciprocal link, money, or increased link volume. Google much prefers it when the linking site adds the link simply to enhance the value of their content or to increase their own credibility and authority.

In other words, Google wants its search results to contain relevant, important sites, not sites that merely appear to be relevant and important. To this end, Google invests millions of dollars and employs the world's smartest mathematicians to create algorithms which identify sites that are trying to trick them. And that's exactly what Jagger did; and when it found those sites, it simply adjusted their ranking to more accurately reflect their true importance. (Unfortunately, it also demoted some sites which actually deserve a high ranking. It is hoped that these mistakes will be ironed out with future minor updates, but that's a topic for another article...)

From a technical standpoint, Jagger was well described by Ken Webster in his article, 'Google's Jagger Update - Dust Begins To Settle?' - . To summarize, Jagger:

  1. Increased importance placed on IBL (Inbound Links) Relevancy?
  2. Increased importance placed on OBL (Outbound Links) Relevancy?
  3. Promotion of relevant Niche Directories (related to #1 & #2)?
  4. More weight thrown back to PR @ top domain?
  5. Increased importance on AdSense placement relevancy?
  6. Possible introduction of CSS Spam filtering?
  7. Overall Blog demotions?
  8. New and unresolved "canonical" issues?

Some more interesting effects were reported by WG Moore ( who runs a number of test sites for SEO purposes. By monitoring the links to his test sites as reported by Google, he established that:

"all reciprocal links had vanished. We think that this is because Google is down-grading or eliminating reciprocal links as a measure of popularity. This does make sense, actually. Reciprocal links are a method of falsifying popularity. Sort of a cheap method of buying a link, if you want to think of it that way... During the second week of the Jagger Update, a few of our reciprocal links did come back up. However, we also noticed that these were from places where we had highly relevant content. They came from articles where we discussed our area of expertise: Web Analytics, or from forums where we had relevant threads. So we feel that these links came back because of content, not linking.

The other group that came back up was one-way inbound text links, regardless of the originating web site. These links also had strong relevance to our web analytics business. In other words, they contained keywords and/or phrases related to our site and its business."

In short, Jagger undid the hard work of thousands - if not millions - of people! As a result, hard-won high rankings and revenues plummeted.

Interestingly, article PR (article submission) came through Jagger seemingly unscathed. My SEO copywriting website , for example, went from no.4 to no.1 worldwide for "copywriter", and I've employed article PR almost exclusively. Whether it was promoted or the sites around it were demoted, one thing is clear: article PR is one of the best ways to obtain a high ranking.


The second monumental event to occur recently was Google Analytics - . Google Analytics is a free web-stats solution which not only reports all the regular site stats, but also integrates directly with Google AdWords giving webmasters and insight into the ROI of their pay-per-click ads. According to Google, " Google Analytics tells you everything you want to know about how your visitors found you and how they interact with your site."

Why is this such a landmark move? Because for the first time ever, Google will have access to your real web stats. And these stats will be far more accurate than those provided by Alexa - . Furthermore, Google's privacy statement says: " We may also use personal information for auditing, research and analysis to operate and improve Google technologies and services." - . Now let's put two and two together:
  1. Google is 'giving' every webmaster in the world free access to quality web-stats.
  2. Millions of webmasters will accept this 'gift', if only because it integrates directly with their Google AdWords campaigns.
  3. Google will then have full access to the actual web stats of millions of commercial websites.
  4. Google will have the right to use these stats to develop new technologies.
  5. What's the next logical step? Google will use these statistics to help determine its rankings, of course!

It should come as no surprise. It's been on the cards - and frequently discussed - for a long time. For example, Jayde Online CEO, Mel Strocen, recently published an article on this very topic, ' The Future of WebSite Ranking' - . She quite rightly asserts that:

"Google's "democratic" vision of the Web will never be achieved by manipulating algorithm criteria based on content. It will only be achieved by factoring in what is important to people, and people will always remain the best judge of what that is. The true challenge for search engines in the future is how to incorporate web searcher input and preferences into their ranking algorithms."

In fact, the Jayde Online network already owns and operates a search engine, ExactSeek ( which incorporates user popularity statistics in its rankings.


To date, ExactSeek is the only search engine which uses visitor stats as criteria for its rankings. But Google isn't far behind. We all know that Google specializes in taking a good idea and implementing and adapting it brilliantly. This is exactly what we'll see in this case. By combining link popularity and user popularity statistics, Google will be the only major search engine to consider both what other sites think of your website and what your visitors think of your website. And because they have the most advanced algorithms for assessing link popularity, and will soon have access to the farthest reaching, most accurate web stats to assess user popularity, its competitors will be a long time catching up.

    So if that's the future of search, what's the future of SEO? The future of SEO is undoubtedly one where:
  • one-way text links from relevant pages continue to be the most valuable links
  • reciprocal linking continue to decline
  • the 'shotgun' approach to link buying declines
  • mass email link requests decline
  • free directory submission declines
  • niche directory submission increases
  • article PR (article submission) increases
  • article submission sites (e.g. EzineArticles - , GoArticles - , and ArticleBlast - ) play a much bigger and more important role in helping online publishers locate quality articles (due to the increasing article volume)
  • user popularity is just as important as link popularity, which means:
  • the quality of article PR improves in order to increase site traffic, credibility, and loyalty
  • the quality of website content improves in order to convert traffic and encourage repeat visits
    Clearly, the choices for SEOs will be pretty much limited to paying for links at niche sites and/or engaging in article PR. Being an SEO copywriter, I may be a little biased, but for mine, article PR is the hands-down winner in this comparison:
  • It satisfies Google's criteria for relevance and importance. Linking site owners include your article and link because, in doing so, their site becomes more useful to visitors, and their business gains credibility and authority.
  • It generates hundreds of free links quickly enough to make it worth your while, but not so quickly as to raise red flags at Google (in the form of link dampening).
  • Links are permanent and you don't have to pay to keep them there.
  • You get a lot of qualified referred traffic who already trust you and your expertise. This satisfies Google's visitor popularity criteria, while at the same time bringing you a lot of extra customers.

For more information on article PR, read ' How to Top Google with Article PR' -


The lesson from Jagger is, don't try and trick Google! They've got more money and more brains than virtually any company in the world. It'll only end in tears! Don't spend time and money trying to make your site look important and relevant. Instead, spend that time and money actually making it important and relevant! Content - the real content behind the optimization - is the answer. After all, whether it's an article or a web page, it's the content that keeps 'eyes on paper', and that's what it's all about.

Happy optimizing!

* Glenn Murray is a director of SEO copywriting studio, Divine Write and article PR company, Article PR. He is a renowned SEO copywriter and an article PR and article submission specialist. For more information, please visit or . Glenn can be contacted on Sydney +612 4334 6222 or at

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Blogging Chocolate Purses, Counterfeit Handbags & Purse Riots for SEO

Copyright Mike Banks Valentine © December 2005

Chocolate purses? Did I read that correctly? Back alley bags & terrorism funding with fake couture? Designer purse riots in a fashion boutique?! They can't be true! But wait, the news is true, it absolutely is! And what is this? A diamond thief snatches a designer handbag from a sexy starlet! And then comes a story about designer cell phones to carry in that fashionable handbag! This is what I love about web marketing and my work as a search engine optimization specialist - the fun and novelty of research.

Let's take a step back here and clarify. Why would a web site owner seeking increased search engine visibility care about news related to their products? In a word, CONTENT. I always recommend to new clients that they start a blog discussing their industry and their products and post to it several times a week. Post what? Anything and everything about their product or service belongs in their blog. Content is king and blogs are a great place to routinely add relevant, interesting, search engine friendly content. But my clients wonder where I come up with this stuff - It's in the news.

The day I signed on to increase the search visibility of an online retailer of designer handbags and fashion accessories, I went to Google news and typed "Designer Handbags" into the search box. As I scrolled down the page of resulting stories, I saw a link to a press release discussing the new pink Juicy Couture Sidekick phone and PDA from T-Mobile. Bingo! First blog entry at the client blog (recommended to the client that day) where I recapped the story and posted a photo.

Then I scrolled to the bottom of that Google News page to look for the link that says, " New! Track new stories about designer handbags – create an email alert" I clicked the link under "create an email alert" and entered my email address for this "Designer Handbags" news search, just like I do with each new client and their product. Every day I receive a list of news stories that turned up in a news search for "Designer Handbags" to discuss on the client blog.

Within a few days I got my daily email alert from Google News that talked about, I kid you not, Chocolate Designer Handbags! So I clicked the link in the email to land on a news story about a high end chocolatier that makes tiny little replicas of designer purses in rich, flavored chocolate, complete with tiny bows and straps! There's the next post to the client designer handbag blog. What fun! But this can't go on, really - how much news can there be about trendy, high priced purses?

Next comes an email news alert about sexy starlet Tara Reid, who was robbed in a Spain airport of her Balenciaga designer handbag filled with over $180,000 in jewels! The news seems filled with stories about haute couture bags, but really, can this continue at this rate? Yes, indeed it can. Next day brings news of a shop proprietor on the lamb after he is caught running a fake designer handbag boutique in Brownsville, Texas. He disappeared after his wife died, on the run to avoid prison time.

Just incredible, there really can't be more, can there? Yes, it seemingly never ends, as I got a news alert in the email the next morning about a RIOT by ravenous customers hungry for limited numbers of designer handbags on steep discount at a Maryland boutique! Police had to stop as many as 1000 women fighting over the bags when the boutique owner couldn't stop them from wrecking the store.

There's more! Here's a story about the size of the fake couture market, currently estimated to be approximately $450 BILLION yearly! That is some sizable change carried by a lot of fake purses. It is estimated that in New York alone, losses run $500 million a year to designer knockoffs. This booty attracts organized crime and it is suspected that substantial terrorism funding is raised by designer handbag counterfeiting.

Clearly I've made my point here. If you seek higher search engine ranking for your products and services and are willing to post some comments regularly to your company blog on news in your industry, there are no shortage of topics to discuss. A headline like "$1.4 Million Designer Handbag Counterfeit Scam - Four Arrested" doesn't appear every single day does it? That one ran recently at and was in an email alert.

But what if it's a slow news day and there are no headlines on your product today to discuss on your blog? OK, it does happen, especially if you are in the software industry or industrial supply or if you deal in some other esoteric minutia. Then what to blog about? Your clients, vendors, suppliers or customers make for excellent content and in some cases may happily provide you with their latest news release to post on your blog. You can detail business or sales trips, discuss jobs in your industry, or even put up copies of your own latest email promotions, press releases, or even your office decorating plans.

Sale promotions, coupon codes, and specials for blog readers only - all contribute to a popular and visible blog in your industry. If you post often, use keyword phrases liberally in your text and hyperlink that keyword text to relevant information or sales pages of your products from the blog, you will increase the search engine ranking of your main site over time.

As a male with little interest in designer purses and handbags, I knew I could effectively market this client simply by signing up for "Designer Handbags" Google News alerts and gathering those news headlines and commenting on the client blog. I never thought that Gucci, Prada, Hermes, Vuitton, Furla, Fendi and Ferragamo handbags would become an item of interest to me - and they're still not - so Google News alerts comes to the rescue.

Clients however, often find that they become extremely interested in those news alerts, have no trouble commenting about them on their blog, and soon come to enjoy the process and happily take it on as a regular task in their web marketing. They are already experts on their product and hearing more about their industry in daily news stories and commenting about it in their blog becomes a pleasant daily task.

Did you know you could buy designer handbags at Walmart's Sam's Club stores? "Regional Manager Matt Lindsey said "They don't come into Sam's Club looking for affordable luxuries, but once they see it and they can afford it, they're happy with it." Coach, Prada, Kate Spade, and Fendi handbags are available in (Sam's Club) stores."

From Rochester, NY TV news station WHAM channel 13 web site. I couldn't make this stuff up!

Mike Banks Valentine is a search engine optimization specialist increasing the visibility of Designer Handbag Retailer through article marketing, press releases and blogging. He also runs Small Business Ecommerece Tutorial - Contact Mike at