Support Bloggers' Rights!
Support Bloggers' Rights!

How to Videos & Articles:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Danny Sullivan Decade Of Search Engines

A Decade Of Writing About Search Engines by Danny Sullivan When it comes to the internet, there are a lot of firsts. It's indisputable that Danny Sullivan was the first to write consistently about the search industry and he reviews his pick of the top stories over the past eight years (with two more years referenced without links) in a nearly 150 point list with links to his original stories. He twice apologizes for the incomplete nature of his story picks.

As a much less frequent and prolific writer on search, I considered doing a similar recap of my own, but I find that my interests vary dramatically from traditional media - and Danny Sullivan. I find the day to day developments in the search industry to be nothing short of mind numbingly uninteresting and find that I'm entirely unable to force myself to pay attention to things that have little to no effect on my clients and their search ranking.

Commentary on stuff that reaches into search referrals and how to improve visibility will always gain my attention. So I applaud Danny Sullivan for looking at the minutia of search for ten years and focusing our attention on the things that really matter - even when it was dull.

Interestingly, I couldn't even bring myself to go to any of the over 140 links that Sullivan posted to search milestones in his blog entry. They're over, done, finished, history - and that is how I see much of what makes news in search. Sullivans links to search engine mergers and acquisitions stories and to the Google IPO story seem like a great resource to cover this aspect of the history of the web and that's the biggest reason to pay attention to it.

I prefer looking at things that others tend to ignore, because they have more of an impact on my clients and how they rank. I've been on and on for years about how referred search engine traffic matters far more than anything. I talk about spammers and cheaters a fair amount.

But looking at what interests me by reviewing my blog entries is informative of my thought process. I write about things when they make discussion forums and discussion lists and blogs.

I find that if clients ask questions or refuse my advice, I'll blog about that as well. This seems what blogs are about to me - a place to comment on industry issues of interest. I'll avoid discussing those things that bore me because I assume that they bore everyone else. ;-)

But congrats to Danny Sullivan on ten years of covering the search world.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Google SEO Sleeping Pill - Yawning at News Headlines

This Boring Headline Is Written for Google - New York Times This story is causing a lot of buzz in webmaster forums and search engine discussions as though it were not previously common knowledge in the SEO community how important headlines can be. Somehow people seem surprised at the need to use important descriptive words and phrases in headlines.

I'm stunned that anyone who professes any knowledge about search engines can actually still question the value of headlines to search ranking. Have any of those surprised by the need for descriptive (rather than creative / cute / ironic/ type headlines) ever done an actual web search? I do this all day long most days. It is how I earn my living, so it doesn't surprise me - but still, aren't you far more likely to click on search results links that clearly include your searched phrase in the search results page at Google, versus one that doesn't include what you searched for in the page title in that search engine results list? (For those who aren't aware, your TITLE metatag is what shows up as the link in search engine results lists.)

You will always see the keywords you searched for in the TITLE tags of the top ranked sites on search result pages. Not sometimes - ALWAYS. Maybe the words are not in exact order you searched for them, and maybe not every word you used is in that top result, but the more words the site has in that title and the closer they are to the way you searched for them, the more likely that page will turn up among the top results.

Clearly, there are other "off page" factors, like how other sites link to that page, text included on the body of the page, internal links on the page and site theme all factor into this. But the New York Times having reporters and editors write factual, descriptive headlines is solid proof that keywords in titles and headlines are critical to ranking - or the Times wouldn't be admitting the need for a change to descriptive headlines for Google. Because on news sites, the headline is used verbatim in the TITLE metatag. If for some reason the words you searched are NOT in the titles, it is only because lots of sites have linked to those top ranked pages using the keywords you searched for.

You can test this by clicking that "Cached" link you see below the results Google shows. The keywords you searched with will be highlighted on that cached page. If one or more of the words you searched don't actually appear on the page anywhere, you'll see an explanation on the Google cached page header above the Google cached version of the page: I did a search for "Boring News Headlines" at Google and clicked on the "Cached" link below the number one result, which was actually Yahoo news. ;-) There are a couple of lines in that Google header which read,

"These search terms have been highlighted: news"
"These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: boring headline"
(Results like this make me wonder sometimes if Google is manually messing with results to poke fun at their competitor.)

So back to my point here - Use of the headline at news sites in the TITLE tags, combined with the fact that search results ALWAYS have the words you searched for included in that TITLE tag and in the headline on that page, probably using H1 tags (HTML tag intended for headlines or titles on visible page text) emphasize the importance of the headline used.

This story reveals that the New York Times is admitting openly that they are now using descriptive headlines instead of cute, ironic or fanciful headlines that have little meaning if they are viewed in a list of headlines and out of context, minus accompanying photos or illustrations. This is how many RSS news readers present headlines, in a plain text list, linked to the news page.

But if the New York Times is writing boring headlines, that is nobody's fault but their own. It is still possible to write dramatic, interesting and even shocking headlines which still include keywords within the 5 to 7 words used for the headline. I do it routinely in articles I write on search engine optimization. As a matter of fact, I pride myself on my creative headlines on SEO related articles - while still using the most important keywords in that same headline

I invite you to search for the following headlines and I guarantee that you'll end up on one of my articles.

Keyword Voodoo! Invisible Metatag Mumbo Jumbo
Important words "Keyword Metatag"
Linking Psychosis is Treatable Link Obsession & PageRank
Important keywords "Linking, link, PageRank"
Google Big Daddy searchquake about to rock your ranking?
Important keywords "Google BigDaddy Ranking"

Now I am very aware that it is unlikely that anyone will search for and find my articles using ONLY the important keywords, but the point here is that descriptive and important keywords can be included in a headline without that headline being boring. It also makes it extremely easy to find my articles online since most sites that use them put the title or headline in the TITLE metatags and it shows up in search results.

Operating an article archive for the past six and a half years, I've seen how authors will submit titles, that viewed out of context or without a text snippet, the titles appear to be intended to be cute or funny, or maybe dramatic, or even incendiary. But those titles should be seen as critical to search engine ranking above all. If they don't inlcude descriptive, important keywords related to the article topic, they are as good as invisible to the search engines when used in the TITLE tag and H1 title tags on any page.

Many sites will use free content articles by submitting them through an automated CMS system which inserts common HTML tags, hyperlinks URL's and format the text to reflect site design standards. These automated systems often take the title and place it in the TITLE metatag on the page and in an H1 tag in the page text. Those places on any web page where headlines are used are critical to search engine ranking and when they DON'T include important keywords, the page will rarely rank well for the topic of the article due to that one oversight by an author attempting to be creative.

When a cute, catchy article title is used without including descriptive and on-topic keywords, it is guaranteed that the article will not show up in most searches. If a news site uses only plain descriptive text, it is still likely that a search won't reveal the article in searches. But if a little creativity is applied to that headline title, then you are guaranteed to at least be able to find that article in a search, because you'll remember both the topic and the important keywords. Just try searching for "Google SEO Sleeping Pill" after April 20 (after search engines index it) and NOT seeing this article in top search results.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Frequent Search Engine Crawler Activity

I have noticed in my statistics now for three days, that Google does not spider my site It still gets referals from Google. So the site is searchable in Google.
Baruch Avraham LED #2133

Baruch, a search for your site shows Google has indexed 156 pages and you turn up ranked relatively well for many of your important search phrases (#14 for "Titanium Jewelry"). Once those pages are indexed and ranked by the engines, there is very little reason for the spiders to return and re-index them unless you are routinely changing them or adding new products.
"Has anyone else seen anything like this? What should I do about it."
Why do anyting about it unless you have new content you want crawled? This is entirely normal for a mature (domain reserved December 3, 2001 according to Whois records) and stable site without frequent updates. What would be the point? With billions of pages online, the search engines need to conserve resources. Repeatedly crawling millions of mature sites that rarely change would be a waste of crawler time when they could be discovering new and fresh content added daily. Take a look at your site record at the web archive project.

The WayBack Machine at shows only 8 changes in the past two years for your site (look for asterisks beside the dates on the list at the link above). This "last changed" number is not to be considered highly accurate as the web archive project doesn't crawl that often either. It does note any changes to your pages on its' infrequent visits.

But the point is that unless you have new content which changes often, there is very little reason for search engine crawlers to visit your site more often than you make changes. This is one reason that I counsel clients to consistently add new content in the form of blogs about their products, articles discussing history, unique facts, and any interesting stuff about your industry, designs, materials, etc. I always suggest that they NEVER stop adding new material and NEVER consider their site finished.

Do a search for "Blogging Chocolate Purses" and you'll find an article I wrote about a client site. If you are interested in seeing frequent crawler activity and want to know how to easily blog about your products or services, that article is very helpful.

If you simply enjoy seeing the crawler and don't want to add content, try changing a sentence on your home page, watch for the crawler in your logs, then change another sentence and watch for the crawler to return, change another sentence, etc. If you want the crawlers to visit more pages, simply make that sentence you change link to one of your interior pages and you'll see the crawler visit that interior page soon after.

Once you do that and build up the frequency of those changes, you'll see the crawlers return much more frequently. If your site changes as often as the crawler visits, it will return more often.

Clearly though, it makes no sense to have frequent crawler visits unless you add textual content or new products. Frequent updates can lead to better ranking and varied, interesting background material on your industry leads to more keyword combinations ranking well for your site.

I'm adding this post to my blog and I'll bet you see the Google crawler visit when it sees my link to your site. If you have changed anything on the home page, you can bet that the crawler will return within a few days to see if it changed again. If you don't want to start your own blog, try getting others to blog about you and you'll also see crawler activity increase.

When it comes to crawler activity, change is good. But you may as well make the changes substantive and actually serve your visitors with valuable and informative information rather than change for the sake of change.