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Archive for the ‘Google Best Practices’ Category

The Wrong Stuff: The danger of keyword stuffing

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

I love stuffing. My Thanksgiving turkey will be packed with it this weekend. But keyword stuffing – also known as keyword spamming – makes you a turkey in the eyes of Google and other search engines.

Any overzealous SEO Copywriter or website owner can easily make this mistake. It’s common that we think we’re doing ourselves a huge favor by stuffing our pages with as many keywords as possible. Unfortunately, doing so often hurts more than it helps. Here are three key reasons why keyword stuffing can hurt your bottom line.

1. It kills your readability. Last week, we discussed the “aural test” and how readability is crucial to your site’s success. A page overloaded with keywords has no shot of passing the aural test! Overstuffed copy is nonsensical, overly dense, totally unnatural and extremely unappealing to the eye.

Content overstuffed with keywords turns off readers, confuses them, and sends them running. In theory, the keywords may help you in search engine results and increase your traffic, but that traffic will rarely convert. Too many keywords means lower conversion rates and higher bounce rates. Keyword-saturated content may look overly robotic, less human, and will make it harder for potential customers to trust you. Looking “spammy” kills your readability.

2. Google isn’t stupid. The funny thing about keyword stuffing: in the modern search-engine landscape, it may not even increase your traffic. Search engines like Google care more and more about quality content these days, including relevant, authoritative and engaging content. There’s nothing engaging about nonsensical copy loaded with keywords. Coming across like a robot will hurt you in the rankings, not help you.

3. Time is money – and keyword stuffing takes time. Bloating your site with keywords means spending far more time and capital on SEO. Since the excess keyword research and work won’t even help your site in the long run, committing oodles of time and resources to keyword stuffing may make you lose money.

In a nutshell, don’t sacrifice readability for possible search engine rankings.  That said, being too conservative, as in using too few keywords, does you no favors. So, what’s an SEO to do? A good rule of thumb to follow: try for no more than one keyword phrase for every 100 words of web content.  Use synonyms, singular and plural instances of your keywords. Focus on sounding ‘natural.’  Doing so will keep your keyword total healthy and relevant while also preventing you from alienating your audience.

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based content and website copywriting expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

 

If you can publish it on the web, you can optimize it

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Arguably, most people with a decent understanding of search engine optimization associate the process primarily with “typical” web content. To improve your PageRank, you embed relevant keywords in your web copy, you work on your title tags, you engage in link building campaigns, and so on.

But, sometimes, we forget that anything publishable online can be optimized. Because these types of files – like PDFs – are more difficult to manipulate than others, we often overlook them when it comes to SEO. Don’t! Using PDFs as an example, let’s explore how and why you can make any publishable web file work for you in the search results.

As Google explains, though it encounters non-HTML files like PDFS (or spreadsheets), it still incorporates them into its algorithms. The modern incarnation of Google is more about finding relevant, engaging content than anything else. Even if it takes more effort, Google will seek out any quality content – even from alternative sources like PDFs.

So how do those robots do it? As Google explains, “The general rule of thumb is that if you can copy and paste the text from a PDF document into a standard text document, we should be able to index that text.” Any PDF without password protection or encrypted copy can be indexed.

Though images in PDF files aren’t indexed, links are. The algorithms treat links in PDF just like HTML links and factor them into PageRank.

To maximize your PDFs’ effectiveness in optimizing your site, I recommend that you:

1. Avoid duplicate content between PDF and HTML. Google much prefers a single copy of a given piece of content. Naturally, some sites or businesses need two copies to cater to different types of readers. If so, it’s a good idea to at least include a preferred URL in your Sitemap.

2. Work to influence the title shown for your document. Make sure the metadata pertaining to the PDF and any anchor text pointing to it are up to date and reflecting the title you want shown with your PDF in search results.

Make non-HTML files like PDFs and PowerPoint part of your web content strategy! Understand that they can be your friend, not your enemy, and they can help your SEO just as much as any content.

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based content and website copywriter expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

Google ‘Design & Content Writing Guidelines’: Part 10

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

In this post, we will be looking at Guideline #10 from ‘Google’s Design and Content Guidelines.’

Google Design and Content Guideline #10: “Review our image guidelines for best practices on publishing images.”

Don’t embed text inside images

Search engines can’t read text inside of images!  If you want the bot to find your text, keep it in HTML.

Tell us as much as you can about the image

-Use detailed, informative filenames that can give Google clues about the image.

-Create great alt text.

-Make sure that anchor text (the text other websites use to link to your page) is descriptive and informative.  “Pictures of our Family Christmas 2009” would be good anchor text for photos about that.

Provide good context for your image

Make sure that you use pictures that are relevant to the text around it.  If you’re talking about snowboarding, a picture of food is not a good idea.

Think about the best ways to protect your images

Google recommends allowing other people to use your images and requiring attribution, as limiting use of images reduces your audience and discoverability on search engines.  Try making your image available under a license such as Creative Commons or providing an HTML snippet with your image and credit.  You can also use a watermark or copyright.

If you don’t want your image to be found on a search engine, use a robots.txt file to block access to that image.

Create a great user experience

Follow these tips to create a great user experience with your images:

–         Host good-quality photos

–         Create a standalone landing page for each image

–         Put your photos high up on the page, where they can be immediately seen

–         Structure directories so that all similar photos are saved together

–         Specify the height and width of each image

This brings us to the end of our blog series on Google’s Design and Content Guidelines.  Hopefully you found it informative and have learned a few things about improving the SEO performance of your website.

Stay tuned for our new series: “Tips to Blogging Bliss.”

Writing Web Words Inc:
We are full service Content Writers in Toronto that helps small and mid-sized businesses  maximize their online potential via SEO Copywriting, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing services.

Google ‘Design & Content Writing Guidelines’: Part 9

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

In this post, we will be looking at Guideline #9 from ‘Google’s Design and Content Guidelines.’  Guideline number 9 stresses the importance of limiting the number of links on a web page.

Google Design and Content Guideline #9: “Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).”  Why should you limit your links to less than 100 per web page?

Good question:  Fewer links make it easier for visitors and search engine bots to navigate your web page(s).

As a rule, visitors don’t like having to search through hundreds of links in order to find what they’re looking for.

The more links you have on a web page, the more confusing it is for the visitor to determine what is and what is not important.  Pages with multiple and randomly placed links often frustrate visitors and aesthetically may result in what some refer to as ‘link splatter.’

Organized web pages, and links, are easier for visitors and search engine bots to use.

Having too many links on a web page, especially outbound links, can also impact search results.  For instance, some webmasters take part in link exchanges and/or build partner pages for the express purpose of cross-linking, resulting in low quality links.  Abusing these practices violates Google’s webmaster guidelines and, as Google says, “Can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.”

When linking, think ‘quality’ and ‘relevance.’

For our final blog on the Google Design and Content Guidelines, we will be looking at Google’s image guidelines.  Stay tuned!

Writing Web Words Inc:
We are  full service Web Content Writers in Toronto, the GTA and Ontario that helps small and mid-sized businesses maximize their online potential via Web Content Development, SEO Copywriting,  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing services.

Google ‘Design & Content Guidelines’: Part 8

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

In this segment on ‘Google’s Design and Content Guidelines,’ we will be chatting about dynamic pages and ensuring that they can be found by search engines.

Google Design and Content Guideline #8: “If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a “?” character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.”

First and foremost, if your website only has static pages, this guideline does not apply to you.

Static pages are web pages that only display information found in a pre-formatted file, such as pages written in HTML.  If your web page relies on a database for some of its information, it is a dynamic page.  Dynamic pages are automatically created from PHP or another technology, and generally have a “?” in the URL.

Search engine bots are able to index dynamic web pages; but they take longer to find than static pages.  Although search engines are evolving to become friendlier towards dynamic pages, there are a few ways to ensure that the bots find your dynamic pages.

First, rewriting dynamic page URLs with large parameters into more user-friendly versions is a good idea.  Parameters are something like “OrderBy=avail” or “&PropType=”, are found in the page’s URL, and are designed to input the visitor’s request.  Simplifying web page URLs allows the bots to find them more easily.

Second, by limiting the parameters on your dynamic web page URLS to only 1 or 2 per URL, it will increase your chances that the search engine bots will find the web pages.

Third, it is possible to create static copies of your dynamic web pages.  This is a slightly more advanced technique, which involves “telling” the search engine that the static web page is a copy through the use of a robot.txt file.  A Google search on this topic will lead you to more information about how to do that.

Lastly, consider using mod_rewrite, which allows you to create rules for rewriting URLs on the fly, be they static or dynamic.  This means you can present simple, clean, easy to read  and SEO-friendly URLs that are easily read by search engines and visitors alike.

Mod_rewrite is becoming more commonplace among the better Content Management Systems (CMS) out there and is the best solution for those that don’t have the time or tech-savvy to do it manually.

Writing Web Words Inc:
We are full Web Content Writers in Toronto, Ontario, that help small and mid-sized companies maximize their online potential via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEO Copywriting and Social Media Marketing.

Google ‘Design & Content Guidelines’: Part 7

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

This week, we will be continuing our discussion of ‘Google’s Design and Content Guidelines,’ looking at the importance of fixing broken links and correcting HTML errors.

Google Design and Content Guideline #7: “Check for broken links and correct HTML.”

Following our recurring theme of search engine optimization, broken links and incorrect HTML could have a negative impact on your website’s performance in search engines, the user experience, your image and your bottom line.

Consider Search Engines: Broken links within your site (internal links) prevent search engines from finding and indexing all of your web pages.  The inability of search engine bots to find your web pages and index them can negatively affect your website ranking.

Consider Users: If your website has broken links, links that do not lead anywhere, your visitor’s will not be able to find all of your web pages, oftentimes causing them to abandon your website in frustration.

Consider Image:  In addition to causing frustration, broken links will hurt the usefulness and professionalism of your website and business image.  They may even cause visitors to question your credibility.

Consider The Bottom Line: Broken links to landing, product and/or service pages can cost you time and money.  Imagine investing in a SEO or Pay-Per-Click campaign, all the while sending prospects to a non-existent page.  Or worse, your prospect has hand on wallet and is ready to make a purchase:  The only problem?  Your checkout link is broken.  Ouch!

Common Causes of Broken Links:
• You rename a page(s) and forget to change your internal links
• Another website links to an old or relocated page
• A search engine continues to rank a deleted page
• Someone has bookmarked a deleted or moved page
• Someone links to your page but misspells the link URL

You have little control over how external links (other websites/bookmarks) are managed and created.  But you do have control over your internal links.

Check Links Periodically:
Links can be checked either manually or by using software.  Manual checks involve clicking through all the links on your website and making sure that they load properly. 

You can also use software such as The W3C Link Checker and Xenu Link Sleuth to check links on larger websites.

Ensure HTML is Correct:
Although HTML can have errors, it may still appear to load normally in a browser.  Ensuring that your HTML is correct has a few benefits that make it worth the extra effort. 

For example, correct HTML allows search engine bots to find and index all your web pages.  HTML that is error-free also loads faster than incorrect HTML, leading to a better experience for your visitors.  Finally, correct HTML ensures that your website will load correctly on all browsers, now and in the future.

In order to check if your HTML is correct, you can use The W3C Markup Validation Service.

Happy Linking!

Writing Web Words Inc:
Based in Toronto, Ontario, we are a full service Web Writing and Content Development Company that helps small and mid-sized companies maximize their online potential via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEO Copywriting and Social Media Marketing.

Google ‘Design & Content Guidelines’: Part 6

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

In this blog post, we will be expanding further on our discussion of text descriptions and their role in search engine optimization.  This blog series in based on ‘Google’s Design and Content Guidelines,’ and we will be looking at Guideline #6.

Google Design and Content Guideline #6: “Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.”

From our previous post on Google Design and Content Guideline #5, we know that ALT attributes are written to describe and provide a textual context for images.  They also help search engines find and identify images on a website.

Ensuring that all ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate will assist search bots in finding and correctly indexing your web pages.  ALT attributes are not needed for all images, but they are essential for important images, such as your company’s logo, products, etc.

<Title> elements do the same thing for web pages that ALT attributes do for images.  Using <title> properly in HTML provides an accurate description of your webpages.  What you write between <title>Insert Text Here</title> tags will appear in a web browser’s title bar, bookmark lists, and as a hyperlink to your website in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

As a result, it is important to pick a clear and focused title that accurately reflects the content of your web page(s).  Titles that are short and unfocused such as “Part One” are ineffective.  “Part One” provides no context or sense of what the web page is about.  However, most windows, menus, and bookmark lists only allow 60-80 characters, so your title cannot be too long.   “How to Play the Guitar” is an example of a good title, especially if your website teaches people how to play the guitar.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog posts, in which we will be discussing links and HTML.

Writing Web Words Inc:
Based in Toronto, Ontario, we are a full service Web Writing and Content Development Company that helps small and mid-sized companies maximize their online potential via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEO Copywriting, Social Media Marketing and other leading edge interactive marketing services.

Google ‘Design & Content Guidelines’: Part 5

Monday, November 30th, 2009

This installment of our series on Google’s ‘Design and Content Guidelines’ focuses on the importance of using text with images, so that Google’s search engine bot can easily find and index your web pages.

Google Design and Content Guideline #5: “Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the “ALT” attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.”

The first part of guideline 5 is pretty straightforward – use text on your web pages as much as possible!  Although images are always more visually appealing for the visitor than text, search bots cannot process images, nor can they process text within images.  Using text ensures that your web pages will be found.

If you need to use an image on a web page in lieu of text, you can place an ALT attribute along with the image.  For a visitor, an ALT attribute will appear as a description of the image if it does not load.  For a search bot, it will provide a textual description of the image that allows it to be found by a search engine.

ALT attributes are written in HTML or XHTML and specify what should be on the web page if the image or item does not load.  When loading a web page with pictures, you will often see text descriptions appear briefly, before the images load.  These are the ALT attributes for those images.

Not all images on your website need ALT attributes, but the most important images should have them.  When writing an ALT attribute, keep the description clear and brief, loading it down with keywords is not necessary and can appear as spam to search engines.

In addition to helping search engines and visitors, ALT attributes also help to make content accessible to visually impaired visitors to your website.  

Now you know a little bit more about the importance of text and ALT attributes.  These tips are just another way to ensure that your web pages are found and understood.

Writing Web Words Inc:
Based in Toronto, Ontario, we are a full service Web Writing and Content Development Company that helps small and mid-sized companies maximize their online potential via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEO Copywriting, Social Media Marketing and other leading edge interactive marketing services.

Google ‘Design & Content Guidelines’: Part 4

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

When we last discussed Google’s ‘Design and Content Guidelines,‘ we looked at the importance of information-rich content on your website.  This week, we’ll be discussing the importance of keywords.

Google Design and Content Guideline #4: “Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.”

This guideline refers to On-Page SEO, or SEO writing.  SEO, as we learned earlier, refers to search engine optimization, a process that enhances a websites chance of being found and ranked by search engines.

The backbone of On-Page SEO, or SEO writing, is ‘writing with keywords.’

Web writing is different than print writing because it is focused on structuring information so that it is easy to find and easy to read online.  Shorter and simpler sentences, focused language, and the effective use of keywords are the most basic ways to implement On-Page SEO techniques.

As we learned in the first part of this blog series, search bots are like pacman; they follow links and pages, digesting relevant information about your web pages in order to index and rank them.  Keywords are another tool that allow search engines to find your web pages and to determine relevance.

For the best results, choose and use keywords that clearly describe the subject of your website, as well as synonyms that visitors might also use to find your website.  For example, a website about training for a half-marathon would have keywords such as training, half-marathon, running, half-marathon training, etc.

Google’s Keyword Suggestion Tool allows you to choose keywords based on popularity and relevance.  It is widely used by web professionals and helpful for generating keyword ideas.  Like most Google applications, it’s free.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Google’s Design and Content Guidelines, in which we look at guideline #5!

Writing Web Words Inc:
Based in Toronto, Ontario, we are a full service Web Writing and Content Development Company that helps small and mid-sized companies maximize their online potential via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEO Copywriting, Social Media Marketing and other leading edge interactive marketing services.

Google ‘Design & Content Guidelines’: Part 3

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

When we last discussed Google’s ‘Design and Content Guidelines,’ we looked at the role that sitemaps play on your website.  This week, we’re going to be talking about the importance of an information-rich website with well-written content.

Google Design and Content Guideline #3: “Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.”

Creating a website with high-quality, useful and original content is one of the best ways to garner traffic and rank well in search engines. A useful website informs, is easy to use, and gives your visitor’s a reason to take the next logical step.

No other method (a clean hierarchy, sitemap, or keywords) will be as effective as a well-written, information-rich website – the backbone of any long term SEO Strategy.

A unique and information-rich website that is frequently updated also ensures return visitors and links from other webmasters, resulting in more organic (natural) traffic and higher search engine rankings.

Writing web pages that clearly and accurately describes your content is essential in order for both visitors and search engines to find you online.  It is a skill that anyone serious about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) needs to know.

When writing web page content, keep these tips in mind:
•    Keywords: If your website is about knitting, the word knitting should appear in your content.  As well, keywords related to knitting (synonyms) should also appear throughout your site.
•    Paragraphs: Short and well-organized paragraphs that cleanly layout your content are essential for readability and viewer enjoyment.
•    Plain language: Now is not the time to sound like a dead English poet.  Use clear, commonly used, and accurate language.  It’s not poetry, it’s utilitarian and it should be written that way.

Up next, we’ll be tackling Google’s design and content guideline on keywords.  Read on!

Writing Web Words Inc:
Based in Toronto, Ontario, we are a full service Web Writing and Content Development Company that helps small and mid-sized companies maximize their online potential via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEO Copywriting, Social Media Marketing and other leading edge interactive marketing services.

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