The Complete SEO Conversations With Dan Thies

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Dear Dan,

I’d like to submit a couple questions that seem relevant to me regarding search engines. I read a lot of information on SEO, but it’s hard to get a bead for such a moving target. I’d guess about 50% of what you can find on the web on this topic is, in fact, completely obsolete and misleading. Then there’s another 20-30% that will only lead you into the very trouble described in the article. Out of the “wheat” that’s left, I don’t really see any straightforward answers to these questions:

1. With so many consolidations and affiliate relationships now in place between major search engine players, here’s a dilemma for me as an advertiser. I have a completely legitimate web site. I am not the least bit interested in being perceived as a spammer, or engaging in any spamming practices. From my perspective as the person in charge of all marketing for the company, our brand, and the integrity associated with it, is the most important property we own. So I’ve spent a great deal of time lately trying to decide how to market our brand via SE’s without making any of them mad, and without entering the “bid for placement” wars. But it seems impossible to figure out. Let’s take something as simple as alltheweb.com, powered by FAST. FAST claims relationships with AT&T, BroadVision, CareerBuilder, Chordiant, Freeserve, IBM, InfoSpace, Reed Elsevier (Scirus.com), Reuters, T-Online, Tiscali, and Terra Lycos (and there are obviously others they don’t claim to be associated with, for example, alltheweb is not listed, though it has a presence on the fastsearch home page and alltheweb claims to be powered by FAST, and I’m sure the list changes daily). So if I submit my site (for free) to alltheweb.com, and then pay to submit via Lycos InSite, then go to InfoSpace only to find they claim to be associated with Webcrawler (and several others), but I’ve already submitted myself to Webcrawler in the past, etc., etc., etc., am I going to be perceived as spamming at FAST?

2. Along the same lines, this article, and many others I get from WebProNews, Search Engine Watch, and other related sources are all full of ads to buy this, that or the other SEO software and/or services that will submit me to anywhere from 200 to 2,000 search engines. If I do this, am I cutting my own throat? Will I be perceived as an SE spammer?

3. And in a somewhat-related question, what about the Open Directory? Several engines now claim to be driven by this “non-profit” directory, in part or in total (yet it appears to be owned by Netscape, now). My site used to be listed there. In fact, two years ago, my site was the only one of its kind listed there (as I remember). I submitted the site, and within a couple of days we were there. Yet, sometime in those last two years, we were removed. I have no idea why. My best guess is that the site used to be frames-based, because it made our user experience better and easier. Each frame contained some redirection script to be sure you couldn’t accidentally land on a “partial” display, as well as to handle renamed and obsoleted pages as the site evolved. Even though the users really liked and appreciated this effort, I feared search engines felt I was trying to mislead them, as my rankings began to fall, so I rewrote the site to remove framesets. In the meantime, most of our competitors are now listed in the Open Directory, and I am not, despite several attempts to get reinstated. I’ve followed all the rules, and all but begged to be put back, but it’s like talking to a dial tone — never a reply, and never a listing. So just how “open” is the open directory, and who does one have to bribe for inclusion? Any ideas?

If you’ve already dealt with these topics recently, please direct me to the information. If not, maybe these are topics worth consideration for future articles.

Thank you for your time.

Curtis Gray


Curtis is mostly concerned about submissions – it’s really too detailed to give a short response that addresses all the questions. I have an article on submissions that may be helpful as well.

The “short” answers for Curtis are:

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.


Dear Dan,

I’d like to know the latest on key word recommendations. Does one need to use the plural as well as the singular for a word? Do phrases count as key words? Can a site have too many key words? How does one decide which words should be listed as key words? Is it OK to use the same list of key words on different web pages? Is the choice of “description” important? Can the description be too long or short? And so on.

Thanx for asking for questions.

Emily Duffy


Emily’s 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 at http://www.adwords.com. 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.


Dear Dan,

I have been working for a “mom & pop” antique store now for a year and have got their page views up to over 2000 a day. The only thing is that I wish that the search engines updated more often. We have a pretty high turn over rate and I would rather sell the item through a search result from google than a search result from ebay. Are there any ways to increase the frequency of indexing? Also, what are the index time frames of the major engines now? Also could you speak to the ways of turning surfers to sales? Thanks for any help you can give.

Darin (Webmaster)


Finally, Darin’s 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

The Complete SEO Conversations With Dan Thies
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