Long tail vs fat head optimization strategies – Part 3

snakeandsign2.jpgThis is the final post in the long tail vs fat head optimization strategies series. The focus of this post is to expand on the optimization strategy for highly competitive keywords. We are going to leverage our insights from the link analysis explained in Part 2 to build better and smarter links.

The purpose of link analysis is to identify the link sources that are providing the ranking boost to your competitor. I explained several principles that are very important when evaluating links. Ideally you will try to get the same link sources that are linking your chosen web authority to link to you (at least the most important or more authoritative ones). You will also want to make sure the links come with similar anchor text or textual context (text surrounding the anchor) and complement all this effort with some traditional and out-of-the-box link-building tactics. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

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Long tail vs fat head optimization strategies – Part 2

bigheadsnake1.pngIn my previous post, I explored how to assess the competitive level of your keywords and I shared my strategy for optimizing non-competitive keywords. As promised, here is my strategy for optimizing highly competitive ones.

As this is a rather dense topic I will split it in two. This post will explain how to use link analysis to understand your competitor’s rank, and the following post will explain how to leverage that information in your own link-building efforts.

Not all links are created equal

At the moment, we need lots of links to our sites. My strategy is to study the link structure of my chosen web authority carefully, as well as their incoming link text in order to build a similar relevance profile for my site. If I can get similar links and anchor texts, chances are that I will be ranking right next to my competitor.

Unfortunately just getting links to your site is not enough; you need to look for the right links. No link is measured exactly the same. As I explained before, the more pages that match for a targeted query, the more the search engine needs to know about those pages to rank them properly. It is very important to understand this concept. It is the single most important reason why on-page optimization is not enough to compete for very popular keywords.

Just like on-page metrics, there are several metrics search engines use to evaluate links. Before you set out to perform link analysis and build links, there are some basic principles you need to learn. Read more

Long tail vs fat head optimization strategies – Part 1

snakes.jpgOptimizing for highly competitive keywords requires a completely different strategy than optimizing for non-competitive ones. First, let’s clarify a few points. When I talk about long tail or fat head keywords, I am talking in relation to the search demand for those particular keywords. I am not talking about the offer (the number of sites competing for those keywords). Although demand and competition are generally in direct proportion, there are cases where this is not the case, such as unexploited niches.

In this post, let’s just explore the simple case where you are targeting non-competitive keywords. They have decent demand but not a lot of competition. You may be asking yourself how you can tell the competitive and non-competitive keywords apart. Read more

Lessons from Childhood: How to search for things that are hard to find

tennisball.jpgIn my teen years in the Dominican Republic, I used to play a game my friends called playball. The game followed more or less the same rules of baseball; we setup bases, hit the ball and ran to score. The main difference was that we played in the middle of the street and we used no bats or pitchers. We threw the ball up into the air ourselves and hit it with our bare hands.

Obviously we didn't use real baseballs, which would have been incredibly painful, but rather bright green tennis balls. It wasn’t uncommon to hit the ball hard enough that it will land in a monte—the scrubby woodland areas nearby. In no time at all the ball would grow dirty enough from our monte homeruns that it would turn a dark green color. You always had to pay close attention to the trajectory in order to find where it landed. We lost many balls over the years.

Why was it so difficult? The dark green balls blended in with the bushes so well that it was very hard for us to tell them apart. The balls had no distinctive features to make them stand out. Later, we used bright orange balls and those were really hard to miss. Search engines face a similar challenge… Read more

Adolescent Search Engines: They are growing up so fast!

teens.jpgSearch engines are just like teenagers. Don’t believe me? Consider this analogy.

Let's say you have a teenage kid with a handful of friends. He knows them very well and even remembers their phone numbers by heart. He’s bright and it doesn’t take him long to become very popular at school. Now, he has dozens of friends. While extremely intelligent, he doesn’t have the memory to recall all his new friends’ contact info. Now he uses a paper address book to keep track of them, looking them up by their initials.

Later, he discovers social media sites on the Internet and gets addicted. He gains hundreds of friends all around the world. He genuinely wants to stay in touch with them but his paper address book is no good and he upgrades to a web-based electronic one. Now he can find any friend by simply typing in the first or last name. After joining several social networks and starting his own blog, he has several thousand friends. Suddenly he is faced with another unforeseen challenge: many friends have the same name! He needs to use a differentiating piece of information, their country or city for example, to tell them apart. But in several cases even this fails; he has three friends in Korea named John Kim, and two of them in Seoul! He has to tell them apart by age.

Now imagine that this kid is a search engine and his friends are our web pages. Instead of a few thousand listings, search engines have to sort through billions to find what is being searched for. This is when things get really interesting. :-) Read more

Grade School Blogger: Seeking attention through controversy

fight.jpgFor marketers, branding is an easy concept. For me, as a technical guy, it took me a while to get it.

The more people aware that you or your product exists, the better the chance that they will buy from you. Simple, right?

But how do you get people to notice you in the first place? One of the most cost-effective ways is to get people to talk about you naturally. That is what is known as “word of mouth,” or in a broader sense, viral marketing. Link baiting could easily be called viral link-building because the concept is the same: get people to link to you naturally.

Expert marketers are well aware that the best way to get attention is to appeal to others’ emotions. Get others to stand up from their chairs and they will write about you, link to you, and so on. What happens when, instead of appealing to others’ positive emotions, you appeal to their negative ones? Like calling them names, ridiculing them, getting personal. Most of the time you get a lot of attention, but is it worth it?

Let me share a childhood experience that illustrates my point… Read more

Google brings back the Search API … Sort of

college.jpgI found an interesting bit of information that has been missed by most of the SEO community. As quietly as Google dropped the Google Search API at the end of last year, they decided to bring it back—but only to the research community.

It’s now called the University Research Program for Search and brings with it the following limitations:

  •  The research program is open to faculty members and their research teams at colleges and universities, by registration only.
  • The program may be used exclusively for academic research, and research results must be made available to the public.
  • The program must not be used to display or retrieve interactive search results for end users.
  • The program may be used only by registered researchers and their teams, and access may not be shared with others.

Getting the information you need

As an advanced SEO you are no doubt aware that in order to test many ideas, theories and routines, you need to create custom tools and scripts that automate most of the work for you. The most crucial information resides in the search engines space, and gaining access to it is critical. Read more

The Truth About Sitelinks: Site structure is splendid, it seems

There has been a heated debate on Sphinn about a controversial post by Rand Fishkin of Seomoz. There is a lot to learn from that discussion, but instead of focusing on the debate, I want to talk about something that keeps coming up: Google's Sitelinks.

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Google doesn't provide a lot of information, but this is what they say about the matter:

  1. Sitelinks are presented if they are found to be somehow useful.

  2. A site’s structure allows Google to find good Sitelinks.

  3. The process of selection, creation and presentation of Sitelinks is fully automated.

Let's forget the technical details for the moment and focus on what Google's purpose is here: they want to save users some clicks by pointing them to the right page directly in the search results. Sitelinks appear only for the first result, and only for sites with meaningful traffic. (Google uses the toolbar data of visitor frequency to make this determination.)

I decided to dig deeper and study the sources, try some examples of my own and make my own conclusions. I'd definitely like to have Sitelinks when people search for my blog, and I'm sure many of my readers here would like the same. Here’s what I learned… Read more

Freakonomics: How to lose money by saving

saving.jpgI am never going to understand why some people don't value their time properly. If you work for yourself, or if you plan to do so in the future, one of the first things you need to learn is to charge yourself an hourly rate—the higher the better. Why? Because affording yourself the maximum rate will prevent you from wasting your precious time on things that are not worth it.

Let me give you a recent example. My top developer, Harold, was hired by a big local telecom here in the Dominican Republic for a freelance programming gig. While working for another company as a consultant he had created a piece of code and now that code needed maintenance. He quoted them a few thousand dollars for the whole project and they went back and forth for several months trying to get the lowest possible price. In the end, their relentless penny pinching saved them the astonishing amount of $800.

I have to say that saving is good and I like to save as much as possible, but read the rest of the story to learn when you lose by saving. Read more

Reclaiming What’s Yours: Getting your feed back from FeedBurner while still tracking subscribers

feed-icon.jpgAs you are probably aware, FeedBurner's way of tracking subscriptions is a little bit unreliable. You've probably seen your subscription numbers drop significantly during the weekends and during the days when you have no new posts or little activity. If you’re like me, you want to know your actual subscriber numbers.

There isn’t a straightforward solution, but I have a couple of ideas I'd like to test. One of the easiest involves using FeedBurner’s Awareness API to gain access to the raw data collected and interpreting the data myself in a more useful way. The other idea takes a little bit more time and involves parsing the RSS hits from the web server log file. I explained my idea for the log file in this comment.

The API idea has the disadvantage that depends on FeedBurner, and my hands would be tied later if I wanted to create a competing product. On the other hand, the log file idea is complicated by the fact that, once you’ve moved your feed to FeedBurner, your RSS hits no longer go to your website. You only get the RSS hits from FeedBurner. That is major obstacle. Read more