Posted on Friday, 5th November 2010 by bruce

A listing in Google Maps offers two key benefits for businesses.

Firstly, Google Maps results can appear in the Google web results. So a Google Maps listing is a second opportunity to appear on Google’s main results page – and to push your competitors on step further down the page.

Secondly, Google Maps is widely used for location-based searches and mobile search. If you have a physical presence as well as an online one, Google Maps can deliver footfall to your business as well as driving visitors to your web site.

To get listed, you need to submit your business details to Google Places. You will be asked first for your business phone number. If not, you can register as a new business.

To make sure you appear in relevant searches, you need to optimise your listing by providing as much information as possible:

  • Use the most important two or three keywords in your Company/Organization name, eg ‘Sweeney Todd Hairdressing and Hair Care’, not just ‘Sweeney Todd’
  • Enter up to five appropriate categories, eg ‘Hairdresser’, ‘Hairdressing’, ‘Hair Care’, ‘Salon’
  • You must provide a full valid postcode, so that Google can locate you
  • Enter your county as well. It’s not mandatory, but it is something that people will search on
  • Provide a plain English description incorporating your most important key search phrases. Include relevant geographical descriptors that won’t fit in the address, eg ‘NE London’.
  • Don’t forget your web site address – remember, these results can appear in Google Web search as well
  • Fill in all other relevant information
  • Do include a photo, it will make your listing stand out more. You can also link up to five videos that you may have on YouTube.

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Posted on Tuesday, 26th October 2010 by bruce

As well as its web search portals, Google has a number of other search properties where it’s useful for a business to be listed, and which may also generate listings in web search. Over the next couple of weeks I will provide some tips for getting listed in these, starting with Google News, http://news.google.co.uk.

You cannot submit direct to Google News, and unless you get a mention on one of the major news sites you are unlikely to be listed there incidentally. However there are a number of reputable online press release distributors whose listings do get included, and submitting a release to one of those is the best way for a small business to be listed.

The following all accept free submissions:

OpenPR, www.openpr.com
ClickPress, www.clickpress.co.uk
PR Log, www.prlog.org

These require either a subscription or a payment per release, but may be more proactive in promoting your stories:

PRWeb, www.prweb.com
24-7pressrelease.com, www.24-7pressrelease.com
PRLeap, www.prleap.com

In order to be listed, your release must meet the requirements of whichever site(s) you submit it to. It must be a newsworthy story, not just a commercial promotion; and it will need to include a byline and your contact details.

Include the most important keywords in the article title and text to ensure that it appears in Google News searches for those keywords.

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Posted on Tuesday, 28th September 2010 by bruce

The text in the main body of a web page is perhaps the hardest element to optimise for the search engines, but also one of the most important.

On the one hand the body text, along with any associated media, constitutes the main substantive content of your site, which your site visitors will read and respond to either positively or negatively.

On the other hand, search engines both index it and rank it. It helps them determine which words and phrases the page should be indexed for – in other words, whether that page will appear anywhere in the listings for a given search. And also the degree of relevance – which contributes to deciding where in the listings it will rank.

Of all the factors used by search engines, the body text is the most complex, and a number of different elements are taken into account in determining the relevance of a page to any given search.

  1. Keyword frequency is the number of times the keyword or phrase occurs on the page. For best results the phrase being optimised for should appear at least 3-4 times in the body of the page.
  2. Keyword density is the proportion of the overall body text represented by the search word or phrase. For example, if a phrase containing 3 keywords appears 3 times in a page of 300 words, the density of that phrase is calculated as 3 x 3 / 300, or 3%. If the keyword density is low, the page will be regarded as of low importance. If it is too high, it may be regarded as spamming. Different authorities recommend slightly different target densities, and the optimum probably varies between search engines, but something in the range of 3-5% is generally recommended.
  3. Keyword prominence measures the position of the keyword on the page. A keyword at the start of a page will have a prominence of 100%, in the middle, 50%, and at the end, 0%. Higher prominence is generally more beneficial.
  4. Keyword spread. A page may be regarded as more important if the keyword or phrase occurs throughout the page, rather than just in one small paragraph within the page. On the other hand, a broad spread reduces the overall prominence. So for best results the key phrase should be spread throughout the page, but with greater emphasis on the first paragraph or two.
  5. Keyword proximity. In searches for a particular phrase, search engines will assign greater importance where the words in the phrase occur closer together. For example, in optimising for ‘pink apple ipod’, the phrase ‘I love my apple ipod  because it’s pink’ has more value than ‘I love my apple ipod in spite of the fact that it’s pink’, because the key words are closer together.
  6. Keyword order. Other things being equal, a page that uses the term ‘short fat and hairy’ will rank higher in searches for ‘short fat hairy’ than one that uses the term ‘short hairy and fat’ (and is a stop word and is ignored by the search engines).

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Posted on Tuesday, 7th September 2010 by bruce

When optimising your web site to achieve good search engine rankings, it’s as important to avoid useless activities as it is to concentrate on the most effective. Here are four of the most popular ineffective SEO activities which are well worth avoiding.

1) Link Farming

Links are important and there are many ways to achieve them. Among them are so-called ‘link farms’ and ‘link exchanges’. Link farms are sites that have no useful content of their own, but exist solely for the purpose of multiplying links. Some such sites may be of high page rank. However, the page rank they pass on is divided between all their outgoing links – which number thousands, or even tens of thousands. Consequently, each individual link has low value.

Link exchanges are schemes that facilitate reciprocal linking between large numbers of other sites. They may offer the promise a significant number of links delivered relatively quickly and easily. However, most will be from sites that have both low page rank and low relevance to your own. These links, too, have little value.

In general, a site needs thousands or even tens of thousands of such links to compete with sites that have 2-300 high value, uncontrived links from well ranking and relevant sites.

2) Meta keywords

The meta keywords tag was designed to enable site owners to provide a list of search keywords that they believe are relevant to each page. Unfortunately because it is invisible to human visitors it is very easily abused, and quickly became the target of spammers. As a result, Google dropped support for this tag and now ignores it completely. Other search engines may still pay it some regard. But at the time of writing, almost 90% of UK search traffic passes through Google. Consequently, the meta keywords tag now has little value in helping to drive traffic to web sites.

3) Optimising the title attribute

As well as the <title> tag in the HTML <head> section, which is a vital element in search engine optimisation, many tags in the page body can also accept a title attribute. These include image and table tags; eg <table title=”apple ipod prices”>. Some site owners and SEO companies have taken to optimising this attribute with relevant keywords in the belief or hope that it will help their search rankings.

At the present time, however, there is no evidence this information is used, at least by Google, in determining rankings. And it’s unlikely that it ever will be, because it suffers exactly the same vulnerability to spam as the meta keywords tag.

4) Domain spam

A popular technique among some site owners is to buy up lots of keyword-stuffed domain names like ‘pink-apple-ipod.com’ and point them to pages on their site, in the hope that this will improve their search engine rankings. The problem is that a back link from a domain only has value if it has some page rank to pass on. And no page can generate its own page rank, it can only inherit page rank from others via links. So multiple domains only have value if you can build up a worthwhile set of links to each. In practice this just means you dilute your link building and end up with lots of invisible sites with few links and low page rank, when you could have had one strong site with many links and high page rank.

Better to concentrate initially on generating links to one main site, and building up a decent page rank for that site. Once you’ve done that, you can move into adjacent niches by setting up new domains for each one, and linking to them from your main site. But don’t try to do it the other way round.

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Posted on Tuesday, 31st August 2010 by bruce

Which are the top three most important things to do when optimising your web site for search engines?

Google uses a complicated mathematical algorithm to decide the order in which it ranks pages in its search results. Altogether it is reckoned to take around 100 different factors into account. However, three in particular have more impact than any of the others. Unless you get these three right, you will never achieve good rankings on Google, no matter how much effort you invest in all the others. On the other hand, if you get these right you can almost always achieve worthwhile rankings, provided you avoid doing anything that the search engines regard as spam.

In reverse order, the three most important ranking factors are these:

3) Page Text

The textual content of a page is extremely important to search engines when deciding the relevance of a page to a particular search phrase, and its overall importance. Firstly, search engines don’t currently have the ability to interpret images or other media – the text is all they can read. Secondly, it’s accessible to all users, including the blind and partially-sited, who can have it read out to them by special software. So it’s of prime importance. When optimising a web page for a particular phrase, work the exact phrase naturally at least once or twice into the page, and least three of four times in longer pages.

2) Links

Google regards the web as a democracy, and each link as a vote. Links pass page rank, which is an indicator of the overall importance of each page. You cannot generate your own page rank, you can only inherit it from other sites via links. In most markets, you need around 2-300 incoming links from good quality and relevant pages in order to achieve good rankings on Gogle. The best kind of links are text links containing the keywords you are optimising for.

Links are the single most important factor in optimising your site, but they are also the hardest to achieve. For this reason, the top position goes to a the single most influential factor on your own pages, and one of the easiest to optimise.

1) Title tag

The page title tag appears in the title bar of the browser, and is the title of the page that appears at the head of each search listing. Any keywords in are highlighted in bold. In any given search, the top ranking pages almost always have the main keywords in their title tags.

The title tag does not need to read as a sentence, but it should read as a meaningful title and not just a keyword list. It should be no more than 8-9 words long. In practise this factor alone makes it difficult to optimise any one page effectively for more than 3-4 related phrases.

So there you have it – the top performing optimisation factors on the SEO podium. Have you taken them all into consideration in your web site design and search engine optimisation?

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