Monday, 1 August 2011

Incoming vs. Outgoing links

On earlier today I encountered a question, part of which included the statement

"I know that having links to other sites is one of the keys to a higher SEO ranking."

I suspect that this illustrates a fairly common misconception, so for the benefit of readers here I'll repeat what I said there in answer to that part.

"... That said, outgoing links are not the key to high SEO rankings. Bad links (i,e, links to unhelpful, possibly virus-infested sites) can bring your ranking crashing down, but links to good sites usually have only a marginal effect on ranking, at best, and can take traffic away from your site and to the linked-to site.

The two things that matter most are 1) having good INCOMING links, i.e. links from highly-rated sites which people following the links will find relevant, and 2) Having good content which provides just what the visitors want and makes them want to explore the rest of your site, and to bookmark it and come back again and again.

Outgoing links are relevant for just two reasons: 1) the good sites linking to you might want you to reciprocate. You scratch their back, they'll scratch yours. That's OK, but you must be sure that they are good sites; and 2) An important part of good customer service is directing them elsewhere if you don't have what they want. That is how Google became great. Instead of trying to keep people on their own page, they made a business out of directing people elsewhere. The more people get directed elsewhere, provided the dedirection is to something relevant, the more they will want to come back."

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Going meta

A big part of SEO is getting the contents of your site just right, and a big part of that is the text of the articles and other pages. If you want visitors searching for a particular phrase to find your site, make sure the phrase is actually present on the relevant page - but only two or three times unless the context specifically demands more than that (i.e. it would be difficult for a page comparing twenty different search engines to avoid using the phrase 'search engine' several times, but don't overdo it.

Another big part of the local site SEO is the 'meta' information that you can place in the headers of very page you serve up, invisible to the reader but very visible and helpful to the search engines.

The relevant meta information consists of a description, keywords, and maybe an author name. This information is placed in the header area of your HTML, one good place for it being just before the closing </head> tag.

To do it on Blogger, from the dashboard you go to 'design' then 'edit HTML'. Make sure you make a backup copy of the template by clicking on 'Download Full Template'. Then scroll down until you find the </HTML> and add something like the following just before it:

<meta name="DESCRIPTION" content="All about SEO - Search Engine Optimization." />
<meta name="KEYWORDS" content="SEO, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Optimisation" />

Obviously, your actual wording will vary depending on what you want to promote. Also, on an actual website you may have the option to vary the keywords from page to page, whereas with blogger using a common tempate the tags will be the same on every page in the blog.

Click on 'preview' to check that it works, use the 'view source' facility of your browser if you wnat to check that the meta information really is in there, then click on 'Save Template' to save it. Done!

Note that because blogger uses XML, the meta tags need to end with />, or be paired with </meta> ending tags. On a site which uses just HTML, the meta tags can end with just >. Also, becareful not to put your tags before a </script> tag, say, or your browser will mistake them for Javascript with possibly disastrous results.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Other engines, and submitting your site

Following the success at getting this blog onto Google's first page, let's see how we're doing with other search engines.

Bing: not there.
Yahoo: not there.

Dogpile: Yes! At the time of this writing, in positions 6 and 7 for this blog, and in position 11 for the website.

That last result can be put down to the fact that dogpile is a meta-search-engine. It scours Google and Yahoo! and Bing, and serves up results from all three. It finds us because Google finds us.

So, why aren't we there on Yahoo! and Bing yet? It might be more relevant to ask why we're there on Google. We haven't explicitly told any of the search engines about either the blog or the website. Bear in mind, though that blogger/blogspot is a Google property. Anything that gets posted there, they will know about instantly. How they knew about the website before I mentioned it on the blog is a bit harder to explain, but it should suffice to say that Google are very good at finding new content on the web.

Yahoo! and Bing should find us eventually. Should we hurry things along by explicitly informing them? I won't in this case, because I don't want to draw too much attention to the website before there is some worthwhile content there, but if you find that the search engines are being slow about finding your site, and you want to hurry things along, the thing to do is let them know about you by giving them your URL.

To submit a site to Google, use For Bing, the place to go to is For Yahoo! use

For all the others, to cut a long story short, Yahoo have a good directory of site submission links:

If you use these facilities, try to provide a URL from which search engines can navigate and discover all the rest of your site that you want to be made public. Usually the home page should be OK.

And why not let us know how your DIY SEO went? That's what the comments box is for. How long did it take for the search engines to discover your new site?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

What a Week! Search Engine Optimum First, Second, Third and Fourth!

Just a week ago, in "Establishing a baseline: What's in a name", I wrote about how this blog wasn't anywhere in the first few pages of Google's results, and how this wasn't surprising given that the blog was only a day old at the time. Well, what a difference a week makes: Not only does this blog show up on the first page in a search for "search engine optimum" now, but also it shows up in the very top position. And in the second position too!

Furthermore, on the 23rd, just 5 days ago, I registered the domain name "", and the next day,just 4 days ago, I posted a holding page to it. That page occupies positions 3 and 4 (it's essentially the same page, under two different names). So that's gold, silver, bronze and runner-up, all at once!

On top of that, now ranks this blog at position 9,797,390. Being 9,797,390th in the world might not be the most impressive thing ever, but it's better than millions of sites which have been around for longer. Speaking of which,, which was unranked a week ago, now ranks 15,342,486th. It also has 222 backlinks according to MajesticSEO, presumably a legacy of the previous ownership, though the last time that it was indexed by was in July 2007.

So, the target of getting this blog into the first page on Google for its name has been met, and comfortably exceeded, in just a week.

Is there any general lesson to be learned from this? I think there are a couple. First, I think it shows that Google attaches a lot of importance to the site name. If you want to rank highly for a certain phrase, it definitely helps a lot if your name is that phrase.

Second, it definitely helps if there isn't too much competition for the phrase you are trying to promote. Going for low-hanging fruit such as "search engine optimum" probably makes a lot more sense than going for "search engine optimization", at least to start with (besides, the latter is split between those who spell it with a "z" and those who spell it with an "s"). And if "search engine optimum" doesn't bring in enough hits, there's lots of other long-tail key phrases that we could add to it.

I suppose what I should do now is build up I have a few ideas for what to put there, but it'll take a few days to put it all together. In the meantime - watch this space. When there's something to see there. I'll mention it here.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Keep good company

The visibility of your site quite often can depend on its context rather than its contents. For instance, if it is a subdomain then it can depend on the other subdomains sharing the same main domain.

As a concrete example, if your site is then you probably won't have much luck getting it indexed on Google. Last week Google said they wouldn't be indexing any more - too much spam, phishing and other dubious activity is associated with it. This will come as a shock to many subscribers who maybe thought it was a country-level domain like It isn't. The country-level is just the .cc part, which belongs to the Cocos islands, is a privately held domain like is. When Google de-index the entire domain, together with its many thousands of subdomains, they are just consistently applying the same rules that they would apply to any other domain that's notorious for spam and phishing, or so they say. On the other hand, it's a safe bet that if this blog gets de-indexed, it won't be because of the general level of dubious activity on other blogs.

Another way that your site can be penalized for the faults of others is if you share an IP address with those others. With shared hosting, many sites typically share the same IP address, and if just one of them is bad then it can cause the blocking of all the others. This mainly affects the ability to get email past spam filters, but can affect search engine rank too.  That is why it can be worthwhile to pay a bit extra to have your own dedicated IP address.

Finally, linking to bad sites is a good way to have the authority of your own site dragged down. That is one reason why it doesn't always make sense to increase the inbound links to your site using mutual linking schemes (and another reason is that search engines see such schemes as attempts to artificially boost ranking rather than as genuine indicators of popularity, and adjust accordingly whenever they detect them). Not every link is a good link.

If you feel that you must reference a bad site, for instance in order to explain just how bad it is, then either use nofollow (which I'll go into in the future, for now you can look it up using your favourite search engine) or just use plain text instead of a link, which your readers can cut and paste into their browser address bar if they want to.