Saturday, March 29, 2008

Protecting Your Search Engine Rankings

Your website's ranking on search engines is a vital element of your overall marketing campaign, and there are ways to improve your link popularity through legitimate methods.
Unfortunately, the Internet is populated by bands of dishonest webmasters seeking to improve their link popularity by faking out search engines.

The good news is that search engines have figured this out, and are now on guard for "spam" pages and sites that have increased their rankings by artificial methods. When a search engines tracks down such a site, that site is demoted in ranking or completely removed from the search
engine's index.

The bad news is that some high quality, completely above-board sites are being mistaken for these web page criminals. Your page may be in danger of being caught up in the "spam" net and tossed from a search engine's index, even though you have done nothing to deserve such harsh
treatment. But there are things you can do - and things you should be sure NOT to do - which will prevent this kind of misperception.

Link popularity is mostly based on the quality of sites you are linked to. Google pioneered this criteria for assigning website ranking, and virtually all search engines on the Internet now use it. There are legitimate ways to go about increasing your link popularity, but at the same time, you
must be scrupulously careful about which sites you choose to link to. Google frequently imposes penalties on sites that have linked to other sites solely for the purpose of artificially boosting their link popularity. They have actually labeled these links "bad neighborhoods."

You can raise a toast to the fact that you cannot be penalized when a bad neighborhood links to your site; penalty happens only when you are the one sending out the link to a bad neighborhood. But you must check, and double-check, all the links that are active on your links
page to make sure you haven't linked to a bad neighborhood.

The first thing to check out is whether or not the pages you have linked to have been penalized. The most direct way to do this is to download the Google toolbar at You will then see that most pages are given a "Pagerank" which is represented by a sliding green scale on the Google toolbar.

Do not link to any site that shows no green at all on the scale. This is especially important when the scale is completely gray. It is more than likely that these pages have been penalized. If you are linked to these pages, you may catch their penalty, and like the flu, it may be difficult to recover from the infection.

There is no need to be afraid of linking to sites whose scale shows only a tiny sliver of green on their scale. These sites have not been penalized, and their links may grow in value and popularity. However, do make sure that you closely monitor these kind of links to ascertain that
at some point they do not sustain a penalty once you have linked up to them from your links page.

Another evil trick that illicit webmasters use to artificially boost their link popularity is the use of
hidden text. Search engines usually use the words on web pages as a factor in forming their rankings, which means that if the text on your page contains your keywords, you have more of an opportunity to increase your search engine ranking than a page that does not contain text inclusive of keywords.

Some webmasters have gotten around this formula by hiding their keywords in such a way so that they are invisible to any visitors to their site. For example, they have used the keywords but made them the same color as the background color of the page, such as a plethora of white keywords on a white background. You cannot see these words with the human eye - but the eye of search engine spider can spot them easily! A spider is the program search engines use to index web pages, and when it sees these invisible words, it goes back and boosts that page's link ranking.

Webmasters may be brilliant and sometimes devious, but search engines have figured these tricks out. As soon as a search engine perceive the use of hidden text - splat! the page is penalized.

The downside of this is that sometimes the spider is a bit overzealous and will penalize a page by mistake. For example, if the background color of your page is gray, and you have placed gray text inside a black box, the spider will only take note of the gray text and assume you are employing hidden text. To avoid any risk of false penalty, simply direct your webmaster not to assign the same color to text as the background color of the page - ever!

Another potential problem that can result in a penalty is called "keyword stuffing." It is important to have your keywords appear in the text on your page, but sometimes you can go a little overboard in your enthusiasm to please those spiders. A search engine uses what is called
"Keyphrase Density" to determine if a site is trying to artificially boost their ranking. This is the ratio of keywords to the rest of the words on the page. Search engines assign a limit to the number of times you can use a keyword before it decides you have overdone it and penalizes your site.

This ratio is quite high, so it is difficult to surpass without sounding as if you are stuttering - unless your keyword is part of your company name. If this is the case, it is easy for keyword density to soar. So, if your keyword is "renters insurance," be sure you don't use this phrase
in every sentence. Carefully edit the text on your site so that the copy flows naturally and the keyword is not repeated incessantly. A good rule of thumb is your keyword should never appear in more than half the sentences on the page.

The final potential risk factor is known as "cloaking." To those of you who are diligent Trekkies, this concept should be easy to understand. For the rest of you?cloaking is when the server directs a visitor to one page and a search engine spider to a different page. The page the spider sees is "cloaked" because it is invisible to regular traffic, and deliberately set-up to raise the site's search engine ranking. A cloaked page tries to feed the spider everything it needs to rocket that page's ranking to the top of the list.

It is natural that search engines have responded to this act of deception with extreme enmity, imposing steep penalties on these sites. The problem on your end is that sometimes pages are cloaked for legitimate reasons, such as prevention against the theft of code, often referred to as
"pagejacking." This kind of shielding is unnecessary these days due to the use of "off page" elements, such as link popularity, that cannot be stolen.

To be on the safe side, be sure that your webmaster is aware that absolutely no cloaking is acceptable. Make sure the webmaster understands that cloaking of any kind will put your website at great risk.

Just as you must be diligent in increasing your link popularity and your ranking, you must be equally diligent to avoid being unfairly penalized. So be sure to monitor your site closely and avoid any appearance of artificially boosting your rankings.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How to improve your Website Traffic

Analyzing your web traffic statistics can be an invaluable tool for a number of different reasons. But before you can make full use of this tool, you need to understand how to interpret the data.

Most web hosting companies will provide you with basic web traffic information that you then have to interpret and make pertinent use of. However, the data you receive fromyour host company can be overwhelming if you don't understand how to apply it to your particular business and website. Let's start by examining the most basic data - theaverage visitors to your site on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

These figures are the most accurate measure of your website's activity. It would appear on the surface that the more traffic you see recorded, the better you can assume your website is doing, but this is an inaccurate perception. You must also look at the behavior of your visitors once they come to your website to accurately gauge the effectiveness of your site.

There is often a great misconception about what is commonly known as "hits" and what is really effective, quality traffic to your site. Hits simply means the number of information requests received by the server. If you think about the fact that a hit can simply equate to the number
of graphics per page, you will get an idea of how overblown the concept of hits can be. For example, if your homepage has 15 graphics on it, the server records this as 15 hits, when in reality we are talking about a single visitor checking out a single page on your site. As you can see, hits are not useful in analyzing your website traffic.

The more visitors that come to your website, the more accurate your interpretation will become. The greater the traffic is to your website, the more precise your analysis will be of overall trends in visitor behavior. The smaller the number of visitors, the more a few anomalous visitors
can distort the analysis.

The aim is to use the web traffic statistics to figure out how well or how poorly your site is working for your visitors. One way to determine this is to find out how long on average your visitors spend on your site. If the time spent is relatively brief, it usually indicates an underlying problem. Then the challenge is to figure out what that problem is.

It could be that your keywords are directing the wrong type of visitors to your website, or that your graphics are confusing or intimidating, causing the visitor to exit rapidly. Use the knowledge of how much time visitors are spending on your site to pinpoint specific problems, and
after you fix those problems, continue to use time spent as a gauge of how effective your fix has been.

Additionally, web traffic stats can help you determine effective and ineffective areas of your website. If you have a page that you believe is important, but visitors are exiting it rapidly, that page needs attention. You could, for example, consider improving the link to this page by
making the link more noticeable and enticing, or you could improve the look of the page or the ease that your visitors can access the necessary information on that page.

If, on the other hand, you notice that visitors are spending a lot of time on pages that you think are less important, you might consider moving some of your sales copy and marketing focus to that particular page.

As you can see, these statistics will reveal vital information about the effectiveness of individual pages, and visitor habits and motivation. This is essential information to any successful Internet marketing campaign.

Your website undoubtedly has exit pages, such as a final order or contact form. This is a page you can expect your visitor to exit rapidly. However, not every visitor to your site is going to find exactly what he or she is looking for, so statistics may show you a number of different exit
pages. This is normal unless you notice a exit trend on a particular page that is not intended as an exit page. In the case that a significant percentage of visitors are exiting your website on a page not designed for that purpose, you must closely examine that particular page to discern what the problem is. Once you pinpoint potential weaknesses on that page, minor modifications in content or graphic may have a significant impact on the keeping visitors moving through your site instead of exiting at the wrong page.

After you have analyzed your visitor statistics, it's time to turn to your keywords and phrases. Notice if particular keywords are directing a specific type of visitor to your site. The more targeted the visitor - meaning that they find what they are looking for on your site, and even
better, fill out your contact form or make a purchase - the more valuable that keyword is.

However, if you find a large number of visitors are being directed - or should I say misdirected - to your site by a particular keyword or phrase, that keyword demands adjustment. Keywords are vital to bringing quality visitors to your site who are ready to do business with you. Close
analysis of the keywords your visitors are using to find your site will give you a vital understanding of your visitor's needs and motivations.

Traffic exchanges can be useful. I like Traffic Swarm. You can set them up as your home page to earn points every time you open your browser.

Finally, if you notice that users are finding your website by typing in your company name, break open the champagne! It means you have achieved a significant level of brand recognition, and this is a sure sign of burgeoning success.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Increasing Your Search Engine Ranking

The methods employed to increase your search engine rankings may seem like rocket science to you, so you have probably avoided dealing with this issue. I am here to tell you - the time has come to face your website! A high search engine ranking for your website is so essential that if you have the slightest desire to actually succeed in your business, there is no way you can continue to avoid this issue.

At least 85% of people looking for goods and services on the Internet find websites through search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN. The idea of optimizing your pages for high search engine rankings is to attract targeted customers to your site who will be more than likely to make a purchase. The higher your page comes up in search engine results, the greater the traffic that is directed to your website. That's what search engine optimization is about.

You can immerse yourself in all the technical information available online to figure out how to optimize your web pages to achieve higher rankings. Or you can look at a few simple items on your pages, make some small adjustments, and most likely see improved rankings quite rapidly. The first item you should examine is the title bar on your homepage.

The title bar is the colored bar at the top of the page. Look at the words that appear there when you access your home page. To increase search engine rankings, the words on your homepage's title bar should include the most important keywords or phrases, one of which would include your company name.

Then click on all your links and examine the title bars on the pages you access. Each title bar on every single page of your site should contain the most important keywords and phrases taken from the page itself. However, avoid very long strings of keywords, keeping them to six words or
less. Avoid repeating keywords more than once in the title bars, and make sure that identical words are not next to each other.

The next item to put under your microscope is your website content. Search engines generally list sites that contain quality content rather than scintillating graphics. The text on your site must contain the most important keywords - the words that potential customers will be typing into search engines to find your site.

Aim to have around 250 words on each page, but if this is not desirable due to your design, aim for at least 100 carefully chosen words. If you want to achieve a high ranking on search engines, this text is essential. However, the search engines must be able to read the text, meaning
that the text must be in HTML and not graphic format.

To find out if your text is in HTML format, take your cursor and try to highlight a word or two. If you are able to do this, the text is HTML. If the text will not highlight, it is probably in graphic form. In this case, ask your webmaster to change the text into HTML format in order to increase your search engine rankings.

Next we come to what is called meta tags. I know this sounds like something out of science fiction, but it is really just simple code. Many people believe that meta tags are the key to high search engine rankings, but in reality, they only have a limited effect. Still, it's worth adding
them in the event that a search engine will use meta tags in their ranking formula.

To find out if your page is set up with meta tags, you must access the code. To do this, click the "view" button on the browser menu bar, and select "source." This will pull up a window revealing the underlying code that created the page. If there are meta tags, they usually appear near the top of the window. For example, a meta tag would read: meta name="keywords" content=. If you do not find code that reads like this, ask your webmaster to put them in. This may not do much for your search engine rankings, but any little boost helps.

Lastly, we come to the issue of link popularity. This is a factor that is extremely important in terms of search engine rankings. Almost all search engines use link popularity to rank your website. Link popularity is based on the quality of the sites you have linked to from your links page.

If you type in "free link popularity check" in a popular search engine, the search engine will then show you what sites are linked to your site. In the case that there aren't many sites linked up to yours, or that the sites that are linked up have low search engine rankings, consider launching a link popularity campaign. Essentially, this entails contacting quality sites and requesting that
they exchange links with your site. Of course, this requires checking out the rankings of the websites you want to link up with. Linking to popular, quality sites not only boosts your search engine ranking, but it also directs more quality traffic to your website.

Search engine rankings are extremely important for a successful Internet marketing campaign. Before you go out and hire a search engine optimization company, try taking some of the simple steps listed above, and see if you can't boost your rankings yourself. Don't ever ignore this
all-important factor in Internet marketing. Remember, the higher your search engine ranking, the more quality customers will be directed your way.

What is the forecast for Internet marketing?

The Internet marketing space is getting increasingly crowded. Ebooks, courses, webinars and software programs are flooding the market. One viewer asks "What is the forecast for Internet marketing?" Watch Joel Comm's reply here...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

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