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SEO Advice from Dan Thies

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The first questioner is mostly concerned about submissions – it’s really too detailed to give a short response that addresses all the questions.

The “short” answers for Curtis are:

First question

1. There are only four major crawling search engines: Altavista, FAST, Google, and Inktomi. Of these, you can submit for free to Altavista, FAST, and Google – only submit your home page, don’t submit more than once a month, and don’t submit if they already have your site indexed (just search for your URL, for example www.cannedbooks.com – if your site shows up, you’re already in).

Altavista, FAST, and Inktomi offer paid inclusion. For a company that wants to guarantee that their home page is always listed, it may be worth paying. All four of them crawl the web, though, so getting other websites to link to yours virtually guarantees that your site will be included, even if you don’t pay. I’ve never paid, and I’ve never had a site that didn’t get listed within a short time of launch. An ongoing links campaign (at least an hour a week) is essential to website promotion; in fact it’s the most basic aspect of promoting a site.

2. “Search engine submission” software and services are horrible. For starters, there aren’t 200 search engines to submit to. There are the four majors, and a few minor players (Wisenut, Teoma, ScrubTheWeb), but you can submit by hand in less than 5 minutes. It would take longer to install the software. What this software will do is submit your email address to several hundred spammers, and the address that you use will be bombarded with junk mail that will never stop.

3. The best place to ask this question is the “Open Directory Public Forum,” which is a volunteer effort run by ODP editors. Read the welcome messages, post in the right place, and you should see your problem fixed in very short order. They can tell you what (if anything) is wrong with your site, which category it belongs in now (ODP is reorganizing), etc. Since there’s nothing visibly wrong with the site, it’s probably just a matter of getting someone’s attention, which asking for advice in this forum will accomplish.

Speaking of free directories, don’t ignore the two new ones – GoGuides.Org and JoeAnt.com, both of which are operated by former editors from the “Go.com” directory. They do generate traffic, and they’re easy to work with. Remember that editors are volunteers, and may disappear for weeks at a time – polite requests for consideration, sent to the most active editor in the next category up, may yield results as well.

The second question(s) may be best answered with a little “how to:”
Yes, you do need to consider singular and plural as separate words. In fact, all variations are considered separate by Google. Since Google is so dominant right now, they will probably drive keyword strategy for most websites. You have to do both singular and plural to be effective, but one of them will naturally have priority on your home page.

I use Google’s Adwords (you can “preview” an ad campaign without registering or buying anything) to determine which of the two choices is more important on Google, and that’s the one that becomes the top priority.

How to get keyword click-through rankings on Google:

To get started, grab a pen and paper (or your favorite digital equivalent), and visit Google’s “Adwords” site here . Once you get there, click on the button in the upper right corner of the page, where it says “Try Adwords Select.” On the next screen, select “English Language, United States,” or whatever language is appropriate for your site, then click “Save & Continue.”

Type in an ad for your website. If you like, you can make one up, since we aren’t actually placing an ad today – you can just put a single character into each of the form fields – the URL doesn’t need to be a real website or anything like that. Click the button that says “Create Ad And Continue.”

On the next screen, enter any search terms you think may apply to you, one per line. If you need help deciding what they are, click on the “Keyword Suggestion Tool” link. You can copy and paste from the Keyword Suggestion Tool results directly into the keyword entry box.

For this quick demonstration, I researched four search terms: “web hosting,” “website hosting,” “web site hosting,” and “site hosting.” After entering your keywords, click “Save Keywords.”

This will brings up a screen with your keywords listed in a table. Click the button above this table that says “Calculate Estimates” and record the “Clicks Per Day” for each search term. For my search terms, the totals are:

  • web hosting: 370 clicks/day

  • website hosting: 40 clicks/day

  • web site hosting: 20 clicks/day

  • site hosting: 6 clicks/day
Now you know which search terms are the most valuable on Google (at least, those which are delivering the most clicks on sponsored listings). This is a pretty good indication of which search terms are going to deliver the most traffic.

Finally, the third question.

I can answer the first part, on getting indexed more frequently. As far as converting more sales, that’s a huge question. I like to see a combination of good product, good site design, good copywriting, and good customer care before and after the sale.

There is one guaranteed way to get indexed more often, and that’s to pay for it. Unfortunately, most mom and pop shops can’t afford to pay for their whole site to be included, and Google doesn’t have a paid inclusion program.

We do know that search engines will tend to revisit more often when the following conditions are met:

  • A popular site, with lots of links pointing to it. Linking is fundamental to website promotion, and it also contributes to good search engine positioning.

  • A site that changes frequently – if your home page is different every time they visit, they’ll be more likely to return sooner.

  • A “robots” META tag that tells the spider how often to revisit. The format is: -==-, just replace X with the number of days.

  • A site that’s listed in major directories (this is related to the first point). Being in the Open Directory appears to increase the likelihood of more frequent Google visits.
Keep in mind that most search engines don’t deliver results from a “live” database, and they may only update monthly, or less. Only sites that meet the above criteria will stand much of a chance of having their content indexed more often than that, but it is possible.

Dan Thies is a well-known writer and teacher on search engine marketing. He offers consulting, training, and coaching for webmasters, business owners, SEO/SEM consultants, and other marketing professionals through his company, SEO Research Labs. His next online class will be a link building clinic beginning March 22

SEO Advice from Dan Thies
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