In the shoes of your customers: Improve your site architecture and find the path to success

If you want to have a successful web site, build it with conversion in mind from the start. Many site owners worry more about creating link paths that are easy to follow by search engine robots. Conversion is an afterthought, and this is one of the reasons why optimizing conversion rates can become extremely difficult and time consuming.

Search engine visitors can land on any page of your site and with completely different expectations. It is not only important to make sure they land on the right page, but also that the page they land on leads them naturally one step closer to the ultimate goal of the site – an RSS subscription, a download, a sale, an e-mail, and so on. Read more

Much Ado about Anchor Text

As SEOs, I feel like we often focus too much on specific ranking factors to the detriment of other factors that might be equally important. One particular case I want to point out is the obsession with incoming link texts, also known as anchor text.

Thanks to some very successful Google bombings, it is almost general knowledge among site owners that getting enough links with the desired keyword in the link text is a surefire way to get high rankings for a site in Google. This also applies to any search engine that relies on link analysis. And while Google has devised advanced filters to reduce this vulnerability, I think that as long as link analysis plays a fundamental role in their ranking algorithms, the practice of Google bombing will always have some effect.

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A detailed look at what can (and can’t) be automated in SEO

robot_flower.jpgIn my post about SEO automation, SEO expert Halfdeck expressed concern about the possibility of customers preferring a sophisticated SEO tool over a highly-trained SEO professional. I am sure many of my peers had the same thought running through their heads when they saw my post on Sphinn. The post even made it to the front page!

The reality is that we should embrace software progress in our field. We should look at software improvements and innovations as tools that can help us scale our own business and be more successful. Is it bad to use SEO software that does all the tedious work and helps us serve 20 clients per month instead of 10?

Man vs. Machine

If we look at the last 100 years, man has achieved an incredible amount of progress. Every invention brings a new level of comfort. You can do many things far easier, faster and more efficiently than before. There is an irreversible momentum in this direction.

The fear of computers replacing the work we do is not unfounded, of course. Machines are replacing human labor everyday. The more repetitive the work, the easier it is to get a machine to do it for you. On the other hand, the more creative and more social the task is, the harder it is for a computer to replicate.

There is software for almost any professional activity that we do, yet we (the professionals) are still in high demand. Nobody is going to trust his or her business to a computer blindly, after all. If something goes wrong, who would they complain to? ;-)

So the question becomes: do we resist change, or adapt and thrive? Read more

Making the world (and your site) flat—via a Reverse Proxy

flat_world.jpgIn order to protect some of the inventions in our software, I’ve been working with a law firm that specializes in IP protection. I’ve learned a lot from them, but I’ve learned far more from reviewing the patent applications they sent me back as possible ‘prior art.’ Let me share one of the most interesting ones I’ve seen so far, Patent Application 20070143283. Here is the abstract:

A system and method for optimizing the rankings of web pages of a commercial website within search engine keyword search results. A proxy website is created based on the content on the commercial website. When a search engine spider reaches the commercial website, the commercial website directs the search engine spider to the proxy website. The proxy website includes a series of proxy web pages that correspond to web pages on the commercial website along with modifications that enhance the rankings of the pages by the search engines. However, hyperlinks containing complex, dynamic URLs are replaced with spider-friendly versions. When a human visitor selects a proxy web page listing on the search engine results page, that visitor is directed to the proxy web page. The proxy server delivers the same content to the human visitor as to the search engine spider, only with simplified URLs for the latter.

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Giving it away – Advanced Link-Building Strategies through Viral Marketing

trophy.jpgAs the Web keeps growing, search phrases become more competitive, and the demand for links increases, the art of link building becomes far more difficult. It’s that much more difficult if you only know traditional link-building tactics. As we move forward, it’s going to be increasingly important to think outside the box and use our creativity to come up with new link-building ideas. Fortunately, as a regular reader of my blog, you won’t have such a problem. ;-)

David Hopkins, a loyal reader, asked me last week if I had some advanced link-building strategies up my sleeve. As a matter of fact I do and, as you know by now, when a loyal reader asks I deliver. I have been overwhelmed lately, but luckily Paul sent me an e-mail yesterday unwittingly reminding me about this topic. Here is what he wrote:

Hi Hamlet,
I was reading about mingle2.com on SEOMoz and I was wondering how did Mike [Matt] managed to have so many visitors in such a short period? High position on ‘free dating online’? What do you think?

Regards
Paul

The post he is referring to is the one in which Matt says he is leaving SEOmoz. I had read the post too and found the numbers truly amazing. I also read an interview that provides more background information about Matt’s phenomenal success, but instead of explaining how he did it (Matt explains this in the interview) I think it would be more useful to generalize the concept and provide a solid framework so that you can build off of the idea.

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Thanks for your encouraging comments

techcrunch401.jpgFor the last few weeks my posting rate has slowed as we prepared to launch our new product at TechCrunch40, and it was taking more than my normal 10- to 12-hour workday. Looking at the ratings on our TechCrunch page, we’re happy to report extremely positive feedback. We brought home several solid leads from potential strategic partners (Intuit and AOL Business, among others) and several VCs. Last Wednesday we were contacted by an investment bank, so it seems they too liked our product and would like to see more customers using it.

After all is said and done, however, we don’t feel that RankSense is ready to leave private beta just yet. So far it has been tested thoroughly only by our technical writer, who has been using the product since it was in alpha. He’s done a fantastic job and seen great results. Pretty soon we hope to have many more success stories to share!

I want to personally thank you all for your kind words and comments. When delivered, I am sure RankSense will provide the most value of any SEO suite out there. We truly have a bright future ahead of us, so keep checking back here and I’ll keep you updated. Thanks again!

A Tribute to Sphinn

sphinn.jpgWhile I don’t participate on Sphinn as much as I should, it’s an awesome site. I have already discovered some really useful blogs I was not aware of previously, and recently the author of one of them tagged me. Sebastian, like me and many of my readers, enjoys the deeply technical stuff. I highly recommend subscribing to his feed, as his topics are very entertaining and along the same lines as mine.

I am sure I would not have found Sebastian’s blog without Sphinn. With that thought in mind, let me share a few more useful blogs that Sphinn has turned me on to:

Ralph, aka Phantomaster. While I followed his blog a couple of years ago, he had stopped for awhile and it was only through Sphinn that I learned he was back. Ralph helps us see Google from a different angle—an angle they definitely don’t want us to see! Subscribe to his feed to find out what I mean.

Michael VanDeMar. I have to believe his FeedBurner counter must be broken: it says he has only 2 readers! I came across his blog when he was ranting about Rand’s post involving Aviva’s directory. He covers some really interesting and controversial stuff. Check out his blog and subscribe to his feed. Let’s move that FeedBurner counter up!

Greg Boser. I recently found his blog via a post asking Danny to include a Dumbass button! I have to say it is hard not to follow a link with such a title.Check him out (and subscribe to his feed while you’re at it!).

SEO can be automated!

rs_scsmall.jpg … partially

Loren Baker has asked a thought-provoking question: “Can SEO be automated?” Coincidentally he asks the question just a day after we released a product at TechCrunch40 with just such a goal.

It seems that the folks at Commerce360 are working to build a product similar to our RankSense. There is a fundamental difference in approach, however. We are not trying to replace the human element; we are trying to make humans work far easier and simpler. Truthfully, I don’t even think their goal of fully-automated SEO is possible. In many ways search engine optimization is plain old marketing—and marketing is driven by creativity. No machine can quite claim to be creative just yet. Read more

Success is about not giving up

boxer.jpgOne of the most important lessons in life I learned in college. My grades were high enough to qualify for honors, but I was too confident in my abilities at times. I did not study much and even failed one of my classes, which incidentally disqualified me automatically from graduating with honors. I remember how that affected me and how it affected my performance for the rest of my college career. When I realized that I might fail that same course during my “second round” at it, I grew what you might call a pessimistic attitude. At this point, I sat myself down, reflected about my attitude, and decided to turn the tables around. I made a commitment to never give up. In hindsight, I am glad I had this experience because it taught me that in order to succeed you need to fail—and to try again until you reach your goal. Read more

Why you should target the most competitive keywords

competition.jpgEverybody writing about SEO will tell you that it is not a good idea to optimize your site for the most popular keywords in your niche. What are your chances of success if you tried to rank for “internet marketing, where there are about half a million websites ranking for that term and most likely many savvy competitors?” I want to tell you why I chose to ignore such advice years ago, and how I was able to reach heights I couldn't have dream of by doing so. Of course it is also clear why the guys at the top are so eager to give such advice—nobody likes to face more competition. ;-)

I remember reading such advice five years ago when Sumantra Roy's KEI was a key ratio to identify keyword opportunities. I similarly recall an earlier period when I was still working on salary and planning to branch out on my own. I used to ask my friends and colleagues, mostly engineers, whether they thought that starting a business was a good idea. Their answer was always that they didn't think so. “Why leave the security and comfort of a paycheck every two weeks?” “Why take unnecessary risks?” After a while I realized that I was asking advice from the wrong people. How could they provide advice for something they didn't have any experience with? I decided to trust my instincts instead, and put my confidence in taking calculated risks. Read more