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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

SEO Workshop with Jill Whalen in Walnut Creek

I've often been asked by clients (and recently by corporate headhunters) how I learned so much about search engine optimization and marketing. The simplest answer for me is - passion for the topic. But the truth is that I started by attending every conference, workshop and tutorial, while voraciously reading every search engine newsletter, trolling search engine forums and now reading every search related blog I can find.

After reading Jill Whalen's excellent search engine marketing newsletter this week, I contacted her to ask about using one of her articles on my own site. She told me about her workshop coming to California and offered my readers a 25% discount on the cost of that two day event.

I highly recommend that you go if you are anywhere near San Francisco or can convince the boss to send you there. They've arranged for a great hotel room rate if you mention the event as you check in at the workshop venue.

The High Rankings® Search Engine Marketing Seminar
Thursday March 30 and Friday March 31, 2006
The Holiday Inn Walnut Creek, CA
Cost for both days is $1395 (25% discount if you contact or call for the discount code at 562-572-9702)

Here's a promotional blurb from the HighRankings Site:

"World-renowned search engine marketing experts Jill Whalen, Scottie Claiborne, Karon Thackston, Christine Churchill, Matt Bailey and Diane Aull put the technical stuff into words you can understand. These SEO/SEM consultants will provide you with the information and proven methods to bring highly targeted search engine traffic to your Websites. Each of our speakers have obtained hundreds of top-10 search engine rankings for their sites and those of their clients, helping them double, triple and even quadruple their sales! Now you can benefit from their collective expertise and experience on your own sites -- for a fraction of what it would cost to hire any one of them."

Agenda and registration here:

If you would like to be an event sponsor, go here

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Google Sued Over Page Ranking

Google Sued Over Page Ranking according to this Reuters story from This will be an interesting one to watch for what it means to the search industry and especially for whether Google, or any search engines for that matter, owe anything at all to companies indexed by those search engines.

There is a longstanding debate among business owners about whether Google must include a business web site in their index and whether, once a high ranking has been achieved for a particular keyword phrase by any company, Google owes them some method of protecting that ranking or some explanation (and/or solution) for drops in their search positions.

The plaintiff claims 10 million page views monthly prior to some alleged Google penalization in rankings (causing an 80% drop in revenue and 70% decline in audience). The site in question is itself a search engine called KinderStart™ with an interesting trademarked tag line, "Because kids don't come with instructions™."

Currently the Google query "" shows 44,800 pages indexed, but the results appear to be almost entirely "supplemental" results. The site claims to have been banned from Google, when in fact they are still in the Google index - although one would expect even a small vertical search site to have quite a bit more pages indexed than they do.

In the best commentary I've seen - in yesterday - Kevin Lee, the chair of the SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), is quoted as saying,

“It’s as if a movie producer or director sued a reviewer for a bad review,” he said. “If they decide your site is not worthy of high rank—it doesn’t matter why—the third party service decides the rank of the site. If they stop being relevant, their business model is dead. If Roger Ebert started saying that mediocre movies are good [in his reviews], no one’s going to read them.”
The idea that Google owes any site anything is absurd and should be dismissed without comment by the judge hearing the case. If the case qualifies as a class action, the resulting lather will be nothing if not interesting. Ongoing argument could expose Google to reduced popularity and require exposing at least pieces of their ranking algorithm. I hope the judge gets some good advice and drops the case as he should.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Search Results Go Supplemental - Drop in Traffic and Sales Noted

This past week many webmasters noticed a dramatic dip in traffic and consequently sales. This is far from definitive, but I can point to some clues to the traffic and sales woes. The following are quoted from the SEM2 discussion list, a Pay-per-click professionals group.

One of my clients is seeing a 10% decrease in traffic this month. 

I too, have noticed a drop in traffic and sales on all my PPC accounts for various vendors in the past two weeks. In most cases the CTR (click through ratio) is the same.

We observed a drop in visits from week 9 (80,000) to week 10 (67,000) too.

I'd like to propose that all list members with easy access to web stats or to traffic logs of clients check that traffic (along with your own) for the last week in February and first week of March, where I believe every single one are quite likely to show a significant drop in traffic within that time frame.

It's being discussed at WebMasterWorld and in other forums as well - where most are attributing the drop to the Google BigDaddy update. Everyone is looking at pages dropping from the index and going "supplemental" in result sets, which appears to have caused about a 10 day ripple in traffic numbers. GoogleGuy chimes in on March 5th page 20, post #195, saying

"It may take a week or so to sort this out and be sure, but I do expect these pages to come back to the main index."

I had several clients contact me for explanations of drops in traffic and sales this past week, when each of them experienced that same, very noticeable drop in traffic & sales numbers.

My own sites experienced a drop of 30% or more in traffic. But the good news is that today those numbers appear to be back to normal, and so do client sites. It appears GoogleGuy knows his stuff. ;-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Search Forums, Newsletters, Blogs & Discussion Lists

I have a suggestion for those who have restricted budgets and are unable to pay necessarily high fees charged by a top flight SEO firms to optimize their web site. Subscribe to top SEO newsletters, forums and blogs. I won't list all them here as there are too many, but what follows is a sampling of some of the best.

Axandra Search Engine News
SearchReturn Discussion List
Pandia Search Engine News
ClickZ SEO Columnists
Search Engine Guide
HighRankings Forum
SearchEngineWatch Search Day

Then there are dozens of webmaster forums and blogs where SEO is regularly discussed - most prominently the SearchengineWatch Blog.

But I *can't stand* trolling forums and just forget to return to blogs as often as I should, so I rely on a single site to send me filtered and important news of ALL the SEO forums in a single daily email in which well known SEO Barry Schwartz culls the best daily info from all the relevant SEO forums and posts concise recaps and links to those forum threads of highest interest. Just input your email address in the "subscribe" form at the top of the home page.

How about hearing SEO news from the head Google Software engineer? Try Matt Cutts blog where he posts regular SEO tips and commentary.

The information is out there (and easily accessible) to allow anyone to become their own in-house SEO. Happy reading! ;-)

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Simple Truth About Optimized Web Content

It's nice to see some intelligent commentary and advice on search engine optimized content. Too many SEO's are required to apply aggressive, strongarm tactics to rank client web sites well. Trish Andrews argues for sensible optimzation while keeping web site visitors foremost in content development.

The Simple Truth About Optimized Web Content

To rank well in any search engine, the words you write should never be a second thought. They must be your absolute first thought. Give careful attention to the words on your web pages right from the very beginning of planning and designing your website.

Content development experts know the one thing that causes websites to win or lose in the search engines is Words. The words you use and how you use them to create your content is your best asset to naturally market your website in the search engines.

Why is that?

Website content that is "optimized" for the search engines deliberately aims right at the very words and phrases people are typing as search terms as they hunt for information or products.


There is nothing mystical about it... it's as black-and-white and sensible as it gets! Readers of web pages need to be immediately assured that the page they land on is what they're after. The page needs to be clear and on point.

It's the same for the major search engines. Just like people, the search engines need to identify right away what a web page is about. They need definite pointers and clues to guide how and where they will list your web page in their reports.

This is done with the use of keywords. Targeting the best words and phrases is done through keyword research. Research digs up the niche words that people really do use; words that have a good demand and low supply! Your website development must begin here, to be a contender for high-ranking pages.

With well-designed, keyword-rich content pages that are linked together using keywords, search engines are more likely to index your web pages on Page One of their listing.


Think of writing SEO content not as a ploy or a trick to get better rankings. Think of it as it really should be, and that is simply to help the search engines list your web pages in the best possible way.

Search engine technology is advancing rapidly too. Shallow repetition of keywords throughout the text will become a thing of the past. Search engines will be looking harder and smarter for relevance and meaning to be woven throughout a site's pages.

Why? So they can bring the most accurate and fulfilling web pages back to the searcher. Period. Because without this pinpoint accuracy, advertisers will not reap the benefits of paid advertising. This one trend will motivate webmasters to improve the relevance and resourcefulness of their web content.


People will continue to demand refreshing, informative content - which is "who" the content is really and truly for. After all, we only write a web page according to the search engines' demands so people will find it.

It will be no coincidence when someone types a search phrase and your website is either absent from view or is indexed highly on the results page.

It will also be no coincidence that when someone lands on your web page, they either click away from your highly ranked page because the content is worthless, or they stay with you and engage because the content is important and meaningful to them.

Just remember: Don't get "number bound" when you do keyword research. Use common sense in keyword selection. Find the easier words to market, words with a smaller audience. Then let nature take its course to the bigger rankings.

It all happens because the content is built to tell a search engine exactly what it wants to know. What is this page about? All the rest is then for people!

Copyright 2006 Trish Andrews

About The Author: Trish Andrews helps freelance writers and businesses grow and profit through writing and search engine optimization. To discover how to prosper from SEO web content in your business, or to hire a writer that will make your site come alive ... visit her website at

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Search Engine Relationships

I've written extensively on search engines for years and wrote a fun article equating search enigne mergers and updates to an earthquake (coining the word "SearchQuake") in 2003 with an article titled, "AltaVista Overture Fast AllTheWeb Yahoo Searchquake", then in 2003 wrote another article comparing those mergers to loving marriages, emotional love triangles and even incestuous relationships. That article got a lot of play three years ago, but I just received a note this week which follows in part:
I read an article that I saved from several years ago that you wrote. I am hoping beyond hope that you have updated this hysterical article that was so informative to many. It was Search Engine Marriages and Scandal in a Summer of Love - Obviously much has happened since you wrote this article ...

... (I) want to educate my clients that SEO is important and to show just how complicated from this side of the fence it can be for SEO specialists. If you have an updated article about the dysfunctional family of search engines I would love to read it and with your permission put it on my SEO page.

My response was:

Thank you so much for the wonderful praise for that silly article. Although I've made a few other attempts at humor, I've not attempted another search engine relationship article.

You may know that Bruce Clay offers a search engine relationship chart And, truth be known, not much of substance has changed in those search engine relationships since 2003. Obviously, Google has gone public, Yahoo has purchased a bunch more companies and MSN has officially launched its own search engine.

But what it comes down to for me is that Google now refers about 65% of all search engine traffic to client sites and Yahoo refers about 10% to 15%, with MSN sending an average of no more than 5% of referred traffic. This applies regardless of ranking! Even if ranked poorly on Google, visitors find those sites at about the same percentages! Obviously traffic increases overall as ranking goes up, but visitors are still referred at similar percentages.

For me that means that optimizing for Google is paramount. The other search engines seem to rank sites well if the same site ranks well on Google. No other search engines send significant traffic with the possible exception of, which sends between 1% and 3% of traffic to all client sites.

As for articles on search engines, you are welcome to put any of my articles on your site if you include a live link back to the sites linked from my resource boxes. You can see my entire selection of about 200 SEO articles listed by most recent to oldest. There are a few on other topics sprinkled in there, but most are about search engines and optimization related issues.

I recently wrote another article using the term "SearchQuake" in the title, but that one is about the currently ongoing Google Bigdaddy update. I think that search engine updates and relationships will have less effect on ranking in the future, and as stated above, work to rank well on Google now and let the others fall where they may. I advise clients to do the same.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Click Fraud Gets Smarter

Click Fraud Gets Smarter but the national media clearly needs smarter technology reporters who actually understand what they are reporting on. BusinessWeek reporter Burt Heim confuses the issue of click fraud and cleary misunderstands an issue he is struggling to explain to a large audience.

His subhead is correct enough, "Internet ad-traffic scams could be ripping off as much as $1 billion annually. Are Web companies like Google doing enough to foil them?" But his analysis garbles the players in the click fraud drama.

In the first paragraph he equates views of ads with clicks on those ads from Google search result pages and fails to explain how actual clicks on those ads cost advertisers money. Then later, confuses that issue by stating:

Attention to online fraud will only increase as advertisers devote more of their budgets to the Net, where the cost of ads varies by frequency of clicks.
No Mr Heim, the cost of ads doesn't "vary" based on how frequently they are clicked. The price is the same per click and ads that same figure to the total for every single click. Frequency does not affect the cost of the ads, but the total cost of the ad campaign.
Some search consultants say click fraud accounts for upwards of 20% of all traffic, and may generate more than $1 billion in dubious sales a year.
Huh? "Click fraud accounts for 20% of all traffic" would have to apply to 20% of traffic to ADVERTISERS due to clicks on those ads, but the "$1 billion in dubious sales a year" would apply to Google or Yahoo sales of those ads.

While it is clear (to those of us who do understand the terms) what Heim is trying to get across, he is probably confusing the readers, who know even less than he does and rely on his analysis to clear it all up for them.Here is a clear analysis from a July 2004 C|Net story on click fraud

So down to the meat of the matter here - Click fraud is a huge problem, as evidenced by the entry of publicly traded companies (Fair Isaac) entering the click fraud fray. And it is apparent when multiple class action suits are in progress against Google Adwords for click fraud that the issue is reaching a boiling point.

Now when "Standard & Poor's equity analyst Scott Kessler downgraded Google stock in part because he considers click fraud a "notable risk" (see BusinessWeek Online, 1/17/06, "S&P Downgrades Google to Sell") this echoes the worried comment in Google's own SEC filing

"If we are unable to stop this fraudulent activity, these refunds may increase ... If we find new evidence of past fraudulent clicks we may have to issue refunds retroactively of amounts previously paid to our Google Network members."
Clearly Google knew it was a problem long ago, but has failed to mollify advertisers or publicly address the issue to calm concerns of investors.

Now, thanks to the voiciferous protestations of long-time click fraud bulldog Jesse Strichiola, of Alchemist Media - Google may see those fears come to haunt their profitable dreams. She speaks frequently at conferences on click fraud and how to combat it and joined with with previously mentioned company, Fair Isaac to help beat back this threatening beast that could seriously maul the pay-per-click industry.

Fair Isaac and Strichiola announced their anti-click fraud campaign at the Search Engine Strategies Conference and show in New York. Both Google and Yahoo have got to be seriously frightened of this looming threat to their largest income sources.