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.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Search Engine Optimum discovers Google

There's plenty of other useful SEO resources on the web, apart from Search Engine Optimum, and we'll be highlighting some of them from time to time. For instance, here's Google's guide to SEO (PDF). We'll assume that they know what they're talking about, since they tend to rank pretty highly on most site ranking tables.

(To Bing, Yahoo! etcetera: Don't worry, you'll get your turn.)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

DIY SEO and discrepancies

There are companies which will work hard on SEO for you, but there is also a lot you can do on your own just using browser extensions. For instance there's one called Chrome SEO. Can you guess which browser it's for?

Anyway, pointing it at this blog, I discover that Ask, Bing, Google and Yahoo all currently have zero pages indexed here. But wait - MajesticSEO has 3,576,791,630! Wow, I didn't even know I'd written that many! ... Oh, never mind, that's just the number of pages they've indexed on the whole of blogger / blogspot. There's no backlink information and no ranking information to be had either, again with the exception of MajesticSEO, and the only social activity is a couple of tweets, probably both by me.

Let's compare that with an established and popular blog. For convenience, I'll stick with the one I mentioned yesterday. has 66 pages indexed by Bing, 462 by Google, and 13,664 by MajesticSEO. There are 76 backlinks according to Alexa, and 49,594 according to MajesticSEO. Her PageRank (which you may remember had inexplicably gone down from 4 to 2) is now 3, and her Alexa ranking is 83,292 (meaning that Alexa reckon her site is the 83,292nd most popular in the world). Overall, quite impressive! Rather than try to match that, I think that for now I'll stick with my existing goal of getting this blog on Google's front page for its name.

One thing that's worth mentioning is the discrepancies. 462 vs. 13,664 for instance is a big difference. I can't imagine how MajesticSEO gets such large figures - no doubt there'll be an explanation on their website, which I'll look into, but for now I don't see how there can be 13,664 pages to be indexed in a blog that has just 309 posts. That's something for a future blog entry.

Similarly, there's a big difference between Adrienne's Alexa ranking (83,292) and her Compete rank (2,294,583).

Why does this happen? These rankings are based on estimates of site traffic, and different services have different methods of estimating. They have to do a lot of extrapolating based on the little information that they do know. And that's another reason not to get too hung up on Google's PageRank. PageRank is supposed to be a measure of a site's "authority" rather than its popularity, but volume of traffic should surely have at least some bearing on that; and while Google probably have a better idea than most, nobody, not even Google, has a complete worldwide picture of how many hits there are each day to each site. Their guesses might be more informed than most, but they're still guesses.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Too much me, not enough PageRank

While I think this blog has got off to a reasonable start, I do notice a couple of obvious flaws. First, the blog entries are far too long; short and sweet should be the rule; and secondly, that's probably because I'm mentioning myself too much.

To alleviate these problems, I've launched yet another blog,"Martin Gradwell's Blog". You should go there if you're really here to find out all about me. So, if you're still here, I'll assume it's for the SEO. Let's plough on, and maybe mention someone else for a change.

Adrienne Smith has what looks to be a very good blog about SEO. I discovered it because one of her pages is about "10 tips for getting your name on the first page of Google", which coincidentally is the target that I have set for the name of this blog (and the target which @seogoogleexperts say they can achieve in six months or your money back. Seriously, there seems to be a lot of attention paid to that first page on Google for some reason :-) ).

Anyway, there are some good points among her ten. but she's talking about how to get your own personal site or blog into the top ten if you have a name that happens to be common. That may be relevant for my newly created personal blog, but it could only be used for a special-purpose blog like this one with some modification. I'll produce my own top ten list in a future blog entry, which may well be based on hers (with suitable acknowledgments if that is the case and sufficient differences to make it unique, of course).

One other thing that caught my eye was "Wow, Google doesn't like me any more", an article about how Adrienne's blog recently went down from PageRank 4 to PageRank 2. There doesn't seem to be any good reason for that, or at least Adrienne couldn't see one and at first glance I can't see one; but she accepts it stoically and won't let it stop her from doing what she is doing.

I think the lesson to be learned from that is that SEO isn't an exact science. Even people who have been steadily building up their ranking for years can suddenly find it reduced and be at a loss to understand why. But that's okay, because PageRank isn't everything. In fact, it isn't anything tangible at all. It's just a number. Having it reduced won't make an interesting blog any less interesting. It won't impact the experience of the average visitor to a site in any way. So, what does it actually mean?

That can be the subject of a future blog entry, since on its own it could probably fill quite a few entries. Short and sweet is the rule. Bookmark this space.

Friday, 22 July 2011

More baseline and more Fregobo

More Baseline.

Yesterday I did a Google search for "search engine optimum" and checked if this blog was in the first three pages. As expected, it wasn't. I've just checked again and it still isn't, but again that's expected. Rome wasn't built in a day. SEO is something that really needs to be worked at for months in order to show good results, and besides there's hardly been any SEO here yet. All I've done so far is uploaded a couple of posts here and mentioned them on Twitter and Google Plus.

Anyway, checking for mentions on Google and other search engines is just part of establishing a baseline. If we want to know exactly where we are starting from, there are a few other things we can check, things like Alexa ranking. We can also use analytics, such as those provided by Google, to keep track of things such as how many visitors we get, where they come from and how long they stay for.

Another thing that we can do is to install a browser add-on, such as SEOpen or Swoosty SEO tools or Chrome SEO, which will allow us to quickly and easily check things such as backlinks, Pagerank and Alexa Rank not just for our own site but for others too. is a site that measures or estimates the traffic going to a site. It has no data on this blog yet. provides a similar service, and there are others.

As for analytics, there are those which are provided as part of the blogger service. They tell me for instance that this blog had 16 visits yesterday, and an all-time total of 31 visits. mainly from the United States and the United Kingdom, with one from Germany. To get more details, or to get analytics on a site which isn't a blogger blog, you can use Google Analytics, I set that up for this blog a short while ago, but it hasn't had enough time to gather any data yet. Again, there are other sites that provide a similar service.

All the things I've just touched on here will be covered in more detail later. Bookmark this space|

Maybe there isn't much happening yet with regard to the ranking of this blog, but elsewhere things are definitely looking up. For instance, my peerindex has just tripled, from 1 yesterday to 3 now. How many other people can say that their peerindex has tripled overnight? Not many, I'd guess! My activity and authority are still both listed as zero, but I suppose we can't have everything.

More Fregobo: Fregobo - The Next Facebook Killer?

Yesterday I pulled the name Fregobo out of the air, and speculated about whether it could be "the next "Facebook killer". It was just a throwaway remark about a randomly chosen collection of syllables, but afterwards I though "why not start a blog about it"? You can see the result at If you do, please make sure you read the kicker in the sixth paragraph.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Establishing a baseline: What's in a name?

Before we get started in earnest, let's try to establish a baseline, so that when we look back in six months or a year, say, then we can see just where we started from.

How successful is this blog already? After just one post the answer is probably "not very", but how can we check? One way is to search for the title of the blog. Firing up Google, with "search engine optimum" (in quotes, to let Google know we are interested in that exact phrase and not in any cases where the words just happen to all fall on the same page) we get "About 6,850 results".

"About 6,850 results" is about 685 pages. We're not in the first page, or in the first three. I'll not bother to search through all 685 or so pages, since it's a fairly safe guess that if we're in there at all it's somewhere near position 6850. But take a look at what does make it onto the coveted first page: In some cases, even though the words are together and in the right order, it seems to be just by chance. The inserted punctuation is a dead giveaway: "Website for Visitor or Search Engine, Optimum SEO Optimization", "... not attract attention of search engine, Optimum frequency is 5-7%  ...", and so on.

By the way, notice that in giving these examples I'm just happening to mention a couple of times the phrase that I've chosen to focus on. I'm doing this in order to make points which are valid and, I hope, interesting to the reader. I could have quoted all ten of the examples on Google's first page, and more, but that would have been a huge mistake. It's called "keyword stuffing", and search engines don't like it. Site visitors don't like it. Search engines don't like it BECAUSE site visitors don't like it. So, make sure you don't ever do it. Even if it worked, in the sense of bringing visitors to your site (which it doesn't), what's the point of bringing visitors to your site just in order to annoy them and drive them away again? If you take only one lesson away from this post, it should be "don't do keyword stuffing". Mention a phrase a couple of times by all means, in order to emphasize your point and make sure that it sticks both in the mind of your reader and in the algorithm of the search engine, but don't get carried away.

Anyway, to get back to what I was saying, some of the entries on Google's first page seem to be there by accident. This suggests that there isn't a lot of competition for the phrase "search engine optimum" and so getting onto the first page for that phrase, even without any financial expenditure, ought to be a realistic, achievable task. Great! Let's do it!

"Wait!", you may say, "what's the point of getting onto the first page for a phrase that hardly anyone searches for?"

Well, consider this: Spotify launched in Sweden in October 2008. If in 2007 you had been offered the opportunity  to appear in the first page of any search for "spotify", would you have snapped it up, or would you have laughed? Similarly for "Twitter" in 2005, or "Facebook" in 2003, or "Fregobo" in 2011 (I just made that last one up, so don't bother searching for it. Or on second thoughts why not? 8 hits. Turning Fregobo into the next Facebook beater is something I might attempt as a future exercise, unless one of those eight beats me to it).

In other words, it's up to you to take a word, or a phrase, or a jumbled collection of syllables, whatever it is that you have to work with, and MAKE it memorable. And tweetable. And Mashable, and so on. You can do that with any random group of letters, but it isn't easy. If people have never heard of your site, and the name tells them nothing about what it actually does, they have no incentive to click on it. It's only after the initial traction has been gained that a weirdly memorable name can be an asset. Having a phrase that isn't so generic and well known that it's endlessly fought over by millions, but which is nevertheless descriptive enough to let people know what the site or blog is about, I'd say that has to be some kind of optimum.

A special "above and beyond" badge goes to @seogoogleexperts. I made my first post on this blog at 3am yesterday, and by 7am they were following me on twitter. I've followed them back, as a matter of courtesy, but please note that I'm not affiliated with them in any way. I don't know how good or bad they are at SEO, but I have to admit they're on the ball.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hello World!

If you sneaked a peek at my profile, you'll have seen that I've been "On Blogger since June 2008". That's when I signed up, but I've let things languish since then. Similarly with Twitter, Facebook, and so on. I signed up, because that's what everyone else was doing, but I didn't see, for instance, how you could say anything meaningful in just 140 characters, or how you could follow what was going on in Twitter. Browsing someone's stream seemed to me like listening in on a phone conversation where you only hear half of it. As for Facebook, back then you didn't even have the fun of waiting for imaginary seeds to grow. What did people actually DO there?

Consequently, I currently have a "PeerIndex" of Zero (don't worry if that means nothing to you, I intend to cover it in a later post, and in the meantime you can head over to to see how you score. If you want to see how I'm progressing while you're there, I'm MTGradwell.) My score would probably be less, if allowed negative scores.

I still can't say that I completely "get" social media, but things are starting to fall into place. Which is just as well, because my latest job involves working for a "relationship marketing" company, one which specialises in building up corporate reputation using social sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Something tells me I'd better get up to speed on this stuff, even though my work is more on the tech side of things.

If you've arrived here because you were searching for information about SEO, you may be wondering why on Earth you should stay. Why consult a blog about which reports "no data", maintained by a person who, PeerIndex reliably informs me, has "Activity 0" and "Authority 0"?

There's a couple of reasons. First of all, because of all the above, you're probably a time traveller from the future, Welcome! Please comment, because as a Sci-Fi buff I've always wanted to know what the future is like.

Seriously, this message is being written on the 20th of July 2011, but the chance that you're reading it on that date is negligible. And if my guess is right then, depending on when you are reading it, my PeerIndex should be significantly greater than zero, and this blog should be at least a blip and hopefully much more than that on traffic ranking sites such as Alexa. If you think about it, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, for most readers if not for all. The vast majority of people who see this post must necessarily do so when the blog is at the peak of its popularity, whatever and whenever that might be. And unless I close it down tomorrow, that peak is bound to be higher than the current ranking.

Of course, my ambition is not merely to do better than a zero. I see this blog as an interesting experiment. "White Hat" SEO (again, more about that later, and about "Black Hat" too) is about growing a site organically. What better way can there be to test it out than starting from scratch, with an empty site and no online reputation to speak of?

I'm aware that links can be bought, Twitter followers can be bought, almost anything can be bought. But Wikipedia's definition of SEO begins with 'Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results.' I agree with that. There'll be no buying of anything here, because that would skew the results and spoil the experiment. Besides, "almost anything" isn't the same as "anything". I think the Beatles got it right with "Can't Buy Me Love", for instance.

The first rule of getting "natural" results must surely be "be natural yourself"; and that's my plan here. That's not to say that there aren't any useful tricks or tips to be found and passed on. If there weren't, then this would be a very short lived blog. Maybe it will be anyway. Want to find out? Bookmark this space.

Martin Gradwell.