Learn New Things in Digital Marketing Techniques

SEO Learning Notes

Advanced Internet Marketing Course

1. Introduction of SEO and Search Engines
    (What are SEO, Benefits of SEO, and Features of SEO?)

2. Types of SEO
    (How Many Types of SEO)
    (Off Page and On Page)
    (Off Page Description and On Page Description)

3. About Off Page
     Directory
     Article
     Blog
     Forum
     Social Bookmark
     Classified
     Network Creation

4. About On Page
     Meta Tag
     Content
     Anchor Text
     Alt Tag
     Error Checking and Solution
     Broken link Checking and Solution


5. Competitor Analysis

6. Keywords Research & Analysis

7. Content Copywriting & Optimization

8. Sitemap Creation & Submission

9. RSS Creation & Submission

10. About Robots.txt

11. Static & Dynamic Websites

12. Website Planning & Structure

13. About SMO

14. About SEM

15. About PPC

16. Social Media & Network Marketing

17. Website Analytics

18. About Google Penalty

19. Gorilla Marketing (Viral Marketing)

20. Email Marketing









Introduction of SEO and Search Engines

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often considered the more technical part of Web marketing. This is true because SEO does help in the promotion of sites and at the same time it requires some technical knowledge – at least familiarity with basic HTML. SEO is sometimes also called SEO copyrighting because most of the techniques that are used to promote sites in search engines deal with text. Generally, SEO can be defined as the activity of optimizing Web pages or whole sites in order to make them more search engine-friendly, thus getting higher positions in search results.

One of the basic truths in SEO is that even if you do all the things that are necessary to do, this does not automatically guarantee you top ratings but if you neglect basic rules, this certainly will not go unnoticed. Also, if you set realistic goals – i.e to get into the top 30 results in Google for a particular keyword, rather than be the number one for 10 keywords in 5 search engines, you will feel happier and more satisfied with your results.

Although SEO helps to increase the traffic to one's site, SEO is not advertising. Of course, you can be included in paid search results for given keywords but basically the idea behind the SEO techniques is to get top placement because your site is relevant to a particular search term, not because you pay.

SEO can be a 30-minute job or a permanent activity. Sometimes it is enough to do some generic SEO in order to get high in search engines – for instance, if you are a leader for rare keywords, then you do not have a lot to do in order to get decent placement. But in most cases, if you really want to be at the top, you need to pay special attention to SEO and devote significant amounts of time and effort to it. Even if you plan to do some basic SEO, it is essential that you understand how search engines work and which items are most important in SEO.

1. How Search Engines Work

The first basic truth you need to learn about SEO is that search engines are not humans. While this might be obvious for everybody, the differences between how humans and search engines view web pages aren't. Unlike humans, search engines are text-driven. Although technology advances rapidly, search engines are far from intelligent creatures that can feel the beauty of a cool design or enjoy the sounds and movement in movies. Instead, search engines crawl the Web, looking at particular site items (mainly text) to get an idea what a site is about. This brief explanation is not the most precise because as we will see next, search engines perform several activities in order to deliver search results – crawling, indexing, processing, calculating relevancy, and retrieving.

First, search engines crawl the Web to see what is there. This task is performed by e piece of software, called a crawler or a spider (or Googlebot, as is the case with Google). Spiders follow links from one page to another and index everything they find on their way. Having in mind the number of pages on the Web (over 20 billion), it is impossible for a spider to visit a site daily just to see if a new page has appeared or if an existing page has been modified. Sometimes crawlers will not visit your site for a month or two, so during this time your SEO efforts will not be rewarded. But there is nothing you can do about it, so just keep quiet.

What you can do is to check what a crawler sees from your site. As already mentioned, crawlers are not humans and they do not see images, Flash movies, JavaScript, frames, password-protected pages and directories, so if you have tons of these on your site, you'd better run the Spider Simulator below to see if these goodies are viewable by the spider. If they are not viewable, they will not be spidered, not indexed, not processed, etc. - in a word they will be non-existent for search engines.
After a page is crawled, the next step is to index its content. The indexed page is stored in a giant database, from where it can later be retrieved. Essentially, the process of indexing is identifying the words and expressions that best describe the page and assigning the page to particular keywords. For a human it will not be possible to process such amounts of information but generally search engines deal just fine with this task. Sometimes they might not get the meaning of a page right but if you help them by optimizing it, it will be easier for them to classify your pages correctly and for you – to get higher rankings.

When a search request comes, the search engine processes it – i.e. it compares the search string in the search request with the indexed pages in the database. Since it is likely that more than one page (practically it is millions of pages) contains the search string, the search engine starts calculating the relevancy of each of the pages in its index to the search string.

There are various algorithms to calculate relevancy. Each of these algorithms has different relative weights for common factors like keyword density, links, or metatags. That is why different search engines give different search results pages for the same search string. What is more, it is a known fact that all major search engines, like Yahoo!, Google, MSN, etc. periodically change their algorithms and if you want to keep at the top, you also need to adapt your pages to the latest changes. This is one reason (the other is your competitors) to devote permanent efforts to SEO, if you'd like to be at the top.

The last step in search engines' activity is retrieving the results. Basically, it is nothing more than simply displaying them in the browser – i.e. the endless pages of search results that are sorted from the most relevant to the least relevant sites.

2. Differences Between the Major Search Engines

Although the basic principle of operation of all search engines is the same, the minor differences between them lead to major changes in results relevancy. For different search engines different factors are important. There were times, when SEO experts joked that the algorithms of Bing are intentionally made just the opposite of those of Google. While this might have a grain of truth, it is a matter a fact that the major search engines like different stuff and if you plan to conquer more than one of them, you need to optimize carefully.

There are many examples of the differences between search engines. For instance, for Yahoo! and Bing, on-page keyword factors are of primary importance, while for Google links are very, very important. Also, for Google sites are like wine – the older, the better, while Yahoo! generally has no expressed preference towards sites and domains with tradition (i.e. older ones). Thus you might need more time till your site gets mature to be admitted to the top in Google, than in Yahoo!.

How many types of SEO

Many there are two types of SEO

White Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO, as the name suggests, is clean and wholesome, and the type of search engine optimization service most businesses would want for their website. To put it in more accessible terms, white hat SEO is to search engine marketing what organically grown food is to a healthy diet. It is not only wholesome and ethical, but is also sustainable. Of course, developing organic and sustainable rankings (just like organic food) requires a lot of time and care. Naturally, this is reflected in the cost of practicing white hat SEO, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. The good news is, however, that the initial higher cost of developing a sustainable SEO strategy, and implementation thereof, translates into cost savings in the long term.

White hat SEO tactics, techniques, and strategies are those which adhere to guidelines set by the search engines, and involve no deception. White hat search engine optimization merely seeks to provide the most search engine friendly presentation of useful content which is inherently valuable and specifically designed for human consumption.

Another important characteristic of white hat SEO is that it cannot generate great results for poor quality content.

Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO, as you may have already guessed (assuming you read the part about white hat SEO) is the evil brother. It is slick, talks a fast game, and can get you on the top ten lists for a while, but your website, and ultimately you, may end up paying a very high price for letting the evil brother be your guide. Going back tot he food reference, you can think of white hat SEO as the fat infused fast food, or the sugary treat full of high fructose corn syrup--it tastes so good and makes you crave more of it. Unfortunately, the goodness comes at a cost, which can be a debilitating and even life-threatening illness in the case of your body, and a penalized or banned website in the case of, well, your website.

Black hat SEO, unlike its wholesome kin, uses tricks, schemes, and games to circumvent the algorithmic barriers set up by the search engines to prevent bad content from gaining high rankings in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

Black hat SEO is not to be mistaken for plain bad search engine optimization which is the result of either lack of knowledge or cutting corners.

One New Addition is called Grey Hat SEO

Grey Hat SEO is mid-way between the two tools above and is all about the balance between risk and reward. There are actually a wide number of SEO services solutions categorized under this. Some Grey Hat SEO services may tend to use more dubious strategies and take even bigger risks to produce fast and high search engine rankings. While many Gray Hat SEO services methods obey search engine guidelines, others might put you at risk. If you opt for SEO services using Grey Hat, be sure about what you are exactly subjecting your online site to.

On Page Optimization

On-page optimization (on-page SEO) is what can be done on the pages of a website to maximize its performance in the search engines for target keywords related to the on-page content.
On-Page SEO Checklist

    * Always start with keyword selection, research and testing
    * Meta Description tag
    * ALT tags
    * H1 tags
    * URL structure
    * Internal linking strategy
    * Content
    * Keyword density
    * Site maps, both XML and user facing
    * Usability and accessibility
    * Track target keywords

Avoid common on-page SEO mistakes such as:

    * Duplicate content
    * URL variants of the same pages
    * Off-site images and content on-site
    * Duplicate title tags




Do not use on-page SEO spamming tactics such as:

    * Hidden text
    * Hidden links
    * Keyword repetition
    * Doorway pages
    * Mirror pages
    * Cloaking

Off-Page Optimization (SEO)

Defined: Off-page optimization (off-page SEO) is what can be done off the pages of a website to maximize its performance in the search engines for target keywords related to the on-page content and keywords in off-page direct-links.
Off-Page SEO Checklist

    * Always start with keyword research, testing and selection
    * Use Keywords in link anchor text
    * Obtain links from high ranking publisher sites
    * One-way inbound links (not link exchange or reciprocal links)
    * Different keywords in your link-ads from the same site
    * Gradual link building technology (no growth spikes)
    * Use relevant keywords near your inbound link (contextual relevance)
    * Deep linking (from multiple pages to multiple pages)
    * Target a large list of keywords (5-500+)
    * Link from sites with a variety of LinkRanks
    * Track active all keywords and refine strategy as required
    * Discontinue campaigns if ranking does not improve
    * Expect results in 1-2 months (Bing) 1-9 months (Google, Yahoo)

Avoid common off-page SEO mistakes:

    * Duplicate keywords in link avderts
    * Site-wide links causing link growth spikes
    * Using on-page SEOs to do the work of specialist off-page SEO's
    * Placing random links without keywords near your link adverts

Do not use off-page SEO spamming tactics such as:

    * Link farms (sites with 100+ outbound links per page)
    * Using irrelevant keywords in your link-ads
    * Garbage links
    * Link churning
    * Hidden inbound links





Off Page Optimization VS On Page SEO (Optimization)


You may have made sure that you picked one of the best on page optimization agencies in the industry, got references, asked for case studies then after risking it all with a 12 month contract, you invested all your expectations and large part of your internet marketing budget with the on-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) agency.
Months later with your patience worn through and no significant results delivered, you must be frustrated with the lack of returns on your investment and possibly even ready to give up on SEO all together.

We have been very surprised to see how many of the top SEO agencies in the UK have been very slow to change their optimization strategies; now that on page optimization has mostly lost all of its affect.

Is there any need for On Page Optimization?

There are some basic optimization issues that are critical to have in place and then there are more technical / advanced techniques that can improve your search engine rankings. You should not pay for basic SEO advice and you do not need to pay much for advanced optimization advice.

We disclose up to date SEO advice and tips to most of our clients at no charge.

After having the basics in place, creating masses of useful content is the main on-page optimization strategy that a webmaster should focus on, but without off-page SEO you will not see your website’s current ranking increase significantly.

More on off-page optimization…

Off page optimization or off-page SEO is basically controlling how the internet portrays your website.

A professional off-page SEO will be able to employ their own resources* to control how search engines view your website and thereby control your ranking. Most off-page SEO techniques done well will result in very high ROI and high ranking in MSN, Google and Yahoo!

One way links from their link publishing partners
Gradual link building technology
Your business partners and their link publishing resources
General internet resources: Powerful free directories, one way link brokering etc.
Online PR campaigns
News articles

Directory Submissions: Submitting your site URL to the relevant categories of popular directories like DMOZ, Best of the Web, etc can help you to get valuable back links.

Article Submission: An easy way to get link juice via back links is to submit unique articles to various popular article submission sites like EzineArticles.com, GoArticles.com, ArticleDashboard.com, iSnare.com, and ArticlesBase.com.

Forum: Set up your account on some popular forums, build your credibility there and soon you will be allowed to add your site URL in your signature, which will act as a backlink and help to lure your avid followers to your site.

Blogging: Whether you have a blog of your own or want to write as a contributing blogger for some popular blogging sites, this can prove to be an effective way of making people take notice of what you have to offer. RSS Feed generation and submission also help to keep your avid readers interested in your updates and news even when they don’t have the time to actually visit the site.

Social Bookmarking and Q and A Postings: You can also further your SEO interests by posting question and answers on Yahoo Answers, and via social bookmarking.

Social Networking: Networking on various social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn are the newest buzz in SEO tactics, which webmasters are using with a zeal. You too can join the bandwagon after some careful planning.

SEO Competitive Analysis

Many SEO clients are focused on receiving ranking reports for their keywords as a major deliverable associated with a properly managed SEO campaign.

But ranking reports don't mean nearly as much as they once did. Search engine rankings change regularly, are different on various data centers, and won't generate traffic to the Web site, much less generate leads and sales, especially if a site ranks well for keywords that aren't often searched.

So, I preach to my prospects and clients that they should be focused on analytics and measurement of SEO much like they would (try to) measure any form of marketing effort. Is the SEO program generating qualified traffic to the site? Is the SEO effort generating phone calls (yes, you can track this)? Is the SEO effort delivering a solid ROI (for what I'm spending on these efforts, either in internal resources or outsourcing)?

Now, that's not to say that a firm you've outsourced your SEO efforts to shouldn't be delivering reports. They absolutely should. But, let's try to focus on things that actually matter. These include things like solid keyword research, a competitive analysis, a site structure analysis and analytics reports that "mean something" (making sure that analytics programs are set up properly and tracking what matters).

Today, I'll touch upon one of the most overlooked aspects of a successful SEO effort: the competitive analysis.

Determine Who Your Competitors Are

Many CMOs are quick to list off a number of competitors (those that they think of as competitors in the traditional sense). In the SEO landscape, we lean towards those "keyword competitors" -- Web sites that are ranking for keywords we'd like our client to be found for.

A good example of this would be a client from my former life who sold "signs" (banners, billboards, etc.). One of their main keywords was (is) "signs." At the time, the movie "Signs," starring Mel Gibson, was released. Obviously, the movie isn't a direct competitor for this keyword, but a page devoted to this movie ranks number one in Google for "signs," and the movie still has several mentions in Google's top 10.

How to Compete for Various Keywords

Once you've determined the keyword competitors, you need to determine the factors that might be in play to help these Web sites to rank, while yours may not.

It's possible to get carried away with this type of analysis, as there are over 100 factors in play to determine why a Web site might rank, and the factors (and the weight of the factors) will fluctuate in the search engine's algorithms.

With that said, there are some pretty consistent things that you can look for to better compete for various keywords:

Age of Domain: Many people getting into business on the Web for the first time don't know this simple rule. Buying an aged domain saves you a great amount of time. While you're at it, buy a domain that already has links pointing to it (links from within your chosen industry, ideally). When you look at the Web sites that are ranking for your selected keywords, you'll most likely see a trend that those listed on the first page of the search results are many years old. This could be because it took that long to generate enough quality links/content, but an aged domain is certainly one of the most important factors that goes into getting a Web site to rank.

Pages Indexed: This is what I refer to as the "Wikipedia effect." Wikipedia is an extremely deep Web site, with only one page relevant to your search. Why does it keep showing up when you're searching? Because the search engines have determined that the Web site -- as a whole -- is an "authority" site. That is, it's deep with quality content (there are a number of other reasons why this Web site ranks, but the depth of the Web site is certainly key among those reasons). Wikipedia has more than 380 million pages indexed in Yahoo.

Linking: Through an easy "site:www.sitename.com" search on Yahoo, you can see the pages indexed and links indexed for any Web site that you're analyzing. Click on the "Inlinks" link and use the drop down to select "except from this domain," so that you aren't counting those internal links in your analysis.

By following these three simple steps, you'll gain a greater insight into what it takes to rank for the keywords you're interested in ranking for, and help you better understand the steps/tactics that you'll need to employ to compete with those that are showing up in the SERPs.

Keyword Research and Analysis

Keyword research is one of the most important parts of online marketing. Sometimes we don't realize just how much of a difference it can make in the overall success of a search engine marketing campaign or even the success of an online business. In fact, it's my belief that the keyword phrase the term that a searcher types into the search engine when they're searching  can make or break online business. Target the wrong keyword phrases and an online business is destined to fail.

Domain names by themselves are no longer the most valuable "location" on the internet keywords are. If you buy a domain name and put up a website, visitors won't automatically flock to your website and buy your products. The popular phrase "if you build it they will come" is not true when it comes to online businesses. You must market your website online, and one of the best forms of ROI for an online business is through search engine marketing. All search engine marketing campaigns need to start with a set of keywords. It's those keywords that are an online business' location, just as a traditional brick and mortar store's location is a physical street address.

Location

If you're considering opening a gas station, one of the most important decisions related to the success of the gas station is going to be its location. Selling gas near a busy highway where there is a large traffic count would be ideal. So, it's logical to get the traffic count data for several locations before deciding where to purchase land and build your gas station. In the online marketing world, we have the opportunity to get traffic counts as well the average number of searches per day for certain keyword phrases. By positioning your online business in the proper keyword "locations", your online business will thrive. Target the wrong keyword phrases and your online business won't get any search engine traffic, and no potential customers will visit your website.

If you're a brick and mortar business that sells power tools, proper keyword research can be a tremendous help even before you set up your online business. Keyword research can tell you exactly which power tools are more popular online which may be different than the best selling power tools in your retail store. Armed with this knowledge, you can focus on the more popular products that customers are looking for online. For example, did you know that more people search for portable generators online than any other type of power tool? Perhaps this is due to the recent weather-related disasters that have hit the United States or the pending winter weather, but focusing on selling portable generators online might be good for business. Keyword research using Word tracker (www.wordtracker.com) gives us this valuable information it can also give us the list of other power tools that are being searched for, which will be a good start for a list of keywords.

Keyword Research Tools

There many online keyword research tools, and many of them work differently and provide you with different data. Oftentimes there will be differences in the data, and that's primarily due to the actual source of the data. For example, according to Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com), one of the most popular keyword research tools, "All search terms are collected from the major metacrawlers - Dogpile and Metacrawler." Yahoo! Search Marketing, formerly Overture, still has the free Overture Keyword Selector Tool (http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/), whose data comes directly from their database the keyword data is usually one month old.

Content Copywriting & Optimization

Search engines love relevance. They live for relevance. Nothing pleases them more than finding the most informative, appropriate and useful website to match a query. The search engine companies spend millions of pounds and working hours in attempting to formulate ways by which the rubbish can be ignored and only the purest, most useful sites returned. It's a noble quest. They work tirelessly to out-tech, head off and second guess the engine manipulators, the spandexes, and the accident lists, those who would knowingly or otherwise abuse the integrity of search returns by working the system to return unhelpful and irrelevant pages against queries for their own ends.

The search engines are seeking the foremost authority on a given subject. They want the most reputable sites and those that know the most on a particular topic. The most rewarding approach when seeking to legitimately see your site at the top of the heap is not to ask what search engines can do for you, but what you can do for search engines. It's not up to the search engines to make your site relevant. That's the job of the site owner.

The way you do this is in principle, simple enough - through SEO Copywriting and text-related content. Engines can't read images or graphics; they cannot determine the relevance of Flash in relation to a search term. The two most important factors upon which they can determine relevance is on the site text and more importantly the links from authoritative sites inspired by that text.

The days of the Search Engine Optimization copywriter weaving their magic with perfect keyword selection, placement and Density to achieve wondrous top page rankings are long gone (despite what many will try to tell you). Of course, keywords are still important, especially in titles as engines prefer nice tight search return matches, but it's more a case of frequency rather than density that improves rankings.

There's a common consensus these days amongst Search Engine Optimization professionals that the major determinant of ranking position for any particular page is down to what happens off the page, in the form of links from other sites. Reputation built on authority bestowed by other reputable sites through sheer worth and relevance. Good is good is good. When Barack Obama recently quipped 'you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig' what he's saying (without wishing to be piggist) is that you can't properly disguise something ugly, something unappealing. By the same token quality will always out. Compelling content gains eyeballs, gains traction, gains authority, gains high search engine placement, gains eyeballs, gains traction and so it continues.

At SEO Consult we understand this clearly and work hard to get the wheels of virtuous search engine performance rolling.

Appreciating something is all well and good; it's acting on that knowledge that delivers results and at SEO Consult a great deal of our work is in partnering our clients to formulate and apply the maximum possible value into site Copy and Content.

Getting authoritative links has become the most difficult aspect of Search Engine Optimization, hence the emergence from 2006 of Social Media Marketing as a way to attract links with compelling content, hence the explosion in online articles and blogs.

The critical starting point before a word of Search Engine Optimization copywriting has been written is the project scope and definition stage.

It's at this point that business objectives need to be clearly defined through goal analysis. What are we aiming to achieve? This helps us measure campaign effectiveness and stay on track and focused.

We then define our ideal site visitors through audience analysis. Through research, surveys and the like we try to get inside the head of the prospective audience and define the campaign's semantic space. Content on the site will be directed specifically at them in a language they understand and appeals. Content needs to press the right emotional buttons to generate positive responses and ultimately inbound links. Similar emotional forces to those that prompt us to buy can also cause us to link, bookmark, Twitter and Digg. Compelling benefits in the form of content provide visitors the motivation to emotionally invest in a site by linking to it. At this stage of the Search Engine Optimization process we're simply defining an environment in which our audience might best relate to.

"Ask yourself what creates value for your users," Google says.

The audience analysis acts as the foundation for intelligent keyword selection - all part of the semantic space definition process.

We collaborate with clients to create a list of preferable keywords and phrases that, based on our research, present the best opportunities for attracting potential visitors, customers and links. We make a point of revisiting the keyword formulation step as part of campaign assessment so that we can hone and tweak as necessary.

It's impossible to repeat this too often or overstress - Content of value is the key and it's the inbound links that reflect its worth in the eyes of Internet users and therefore the search engines. Of course there are useful optimization techniques that should also be applied to the site to make it search friendly and at SEO Consult we expertly address optimization issues such as - site structure, site hierarchy, optimized and themed Tag Naming. In reality though, it's only worth pursuing additional optimization through tweaking once those all-important inbound links have been attracted to the site in the first place. Tweaking a page for higher rankings before the content has been established as compelling is largely futile. The site is 'all dressed up, with nowhere to go.'

As those search engine algorithms move further and further away from old school relevance measurements and increasingly assign site importance and authority to off page factors such as social media tagging and blog-driven links, so expert Search Engine Optimization copywriters armed with the ability and empathy to prompt inbound links and consequent conversions are finding themselves becoming vital components in search engine marketing campaigns.

SEO Consult offers passionate, professional and hugely experienced writers. Both creative and qualified our writers are committed to delivering the very best copy solutions to your campaigns.

SEO copywriting is the process of writing literal and utilitarian content for websites with the perfect blend of information and keywords. The SEO copywriting and content optimization services of a professional SEO company would achieve top ranking for your website. The skillfully crafted website content brings immense benefits to your business firm.

Quality Services ensure Better Rankings

SEO copywriting and optimization services of a SEO company help to make a website attractive and thus increase the number of visitors. They raise the client company’s online visibility, attracting increased traffic and leading to enhanced sales. Various SEO copywriting optimization services include:

• SEO press release writing services
• Case study writing and optimization
• SEO article writing
• Newsletter writing
• Travel writing
• Technical writing
• PPC Ad writing
• Ecommerce writing
• Web page copywriting services
• Blog copywriting services
• Article writing
• Writing research based articles

A premier SEO company offers professional services for SEO optimization and copywriting. If the content is highly optimized, it places your website in a top position on popular search engines. Optimized copywriting is achieved by employing advanced technology and search engine optimization tools. It is performed by highly skilled and trained copywriters. They analyze the target of a business firm and carry out productive copywriting. Copywriting is done in a easy-to-read, understandable and attractive style. Most searched keywords are placed in optimal format with a combination of title, keyword tags, headings, alt text, description and link anchor tags.

Utilize Services of a Top SEO Company

A leading SEO company is the best option if you need professional aid in copywriting and optimized content for your website. SEO copywriting and content optimization services of such a company maintains top search engine ranking on a regular basis, making your website profitable.

RSS Creation & Submission

How to Create RSS Feeds

Since any RSS-file is a specially formatted XML file, it can be edited with any XML-editor. And since XML-files are just plain text you can use any text editor, even Notepad, to create your first feed.

Step-by-Step guide to Creating an RSS Feed

Follow these steps to create a simple RSS feed manually.

1: Create an empty text file

Use Windows Notepad or any other text editor.

2: Add XML Declaration Tag

Since RSS is a dialect of XML, the first line in the feed must be the XML declaration.

<?xml version="1.0"?>

3: RSS Channel

Now it is time to add the rss XML tag, and the channel tag. All feed contents will go inside these two tags.

<rss version="2.0">
<channel>

4: RSS Feed Properties

Next step is to place information about the RSS feed such as it's title, it's description, it's language and a link to it's web-site. And finally add the lastBuildDate field which should be the date and time that the feed was last changed. This field is optional, but highly recommended.

<title>John Smith News</title>
<link>http://JohnSmithHomepage.com</link>
<description>Latest stories form John Smith</description>
<lastBuildDate>Mon, 12 Sep 2005 18:37:00 GMT</lastBuildDate>
<language>en-us</language>

5: Adding Items to your RSS Feed

Every RSS feed consists of items, and each item is an RSS Feed has a title, link, description, publication date, and (optionally) guid (unique identifier).

<item>
<title>My First Article</title>
<link>http://JohnSmithHomepage,com/Article1.html</link>
<guid>http://JohnSmithHomepage,com/Article1.html</guid>
<pubDate>Mon, 12 Sep 2005 18:37:00 GMT</pubDate>
<description>It's my first article. Hello World!</description>
</item>
<!-- insert more items here -->

6: Add closing tags for Channel and RSS.

</channel>
</rss>

7: Validate your new RSS feed

After you have created your RSS Feed, validate it

Sample feed

Here's a sample RSS file which can be used as a template for your first feed:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rss version="2.0">
  <channel>
    <title>John Smith News</title>
    <link>http://JohnSmithHomepage.com/</link>
    <description>Latest stories form John Smith</description>
    <language>en-us</language>
    <lastBuildDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 09:41:01 GMT</lastBuildDate>

    <item>
      <title>My First Article</title>
      <link>http://JohnSmithHomepage,com/Article1.html</link>
      <description>It's my first article. Hello World!</description>
      <pubDate>Tue, 03 Jun 2003 09:39:21 GMT</pubDate>
    </item>
   
    <item>
      <title>My Second Article - I have bought a cat</title>
      <link>http://JohnSmithHomepage,com/Article2.html</link>
      <description>I've boght a cat. Now I have a pet.</description>
      <pubDate>Tue, 17 Jan 2007 10:39:21 GMT</pubDate>
    </item>
           
  </channel>
</rss>

Robots exclusion standard

The Robot Exclusion Standard, also known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol or robots.txt protocol, is a convention to prevent cooperating web spiders and other web robots from accessing all or part of a website which is otherwise publicly viewable. Robots are often used by search engines to categorize and archive web sites, or by webmasters to proofread source code. The standard is unrelated to, but can be used in conjunction with, Sitemaps, a robot inclusion standard for websites.

About the standard

If a site owner wishes to give instructions to web robots they must place a text file called robots.txt in the root of the web site hierarchy (e.g. www.example.com/robots.txt). This text file should contain the instructions in a specific format (see examples below). Robots that choose to follow the instructions try to fetch this file and read the instructions before fetching any other file from the web site. If this file doesn't exist web robots assume that the web owner wishes to provide no specific instructions.

A robots.txt file on a website will function as a request that specified robots ignore specified files or directories in their search. This might be, for example, out of a preference for privacy from search engine results, or the belief that the content of the selected directories might be misleading or irrelevant to the categorization of the site as a whole, or out of a desire that an application only operate on certain data.

For websites with multiple sub domains, each sub domain must have its own robots.txt file. If example.com had a robots.txt file but a.example.com did not, the rules that would apply for example.com would not apply to a.example.com.

Disadvantages

The protocol is purely advisory. It relies on the cooperation of the web robot, so that marking an area of a site out of bounds with robots.txt does not guarantee privacy. Some web site administrators have tried to use the robots file to make private parts of a website invisible to the rest of the world, but the file is necessarily publicly available and its content is easily checked by anyone with a web browser.

There is no official standards body or RFC for the robots.txt protocol. It was created by consensus in June 1994 by members of the robots mailing list (robots-request@nexor.co.uk). The information specifying the parts that should not be accessed is specified in a file called robots.txt in the top-level directory of the website. The robots.txt patterns are matched by simple substring comparisons, so care should be taken to make sure that patterns matching directories have the final '/' character appended, otherwise all files with names starting with that substring will match, rather than just those in the directory intended.

Examples

This example allows all robots to visit all files because the wildcard "*" specifies all robots:

User-agent: *
Disallow:

This example keeps all robots out:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

The next is an example that tells all crawlers not to enter four directories of a website:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /images/
Disallow: /tmp/
Disallow: /private/

Example that tells a specific crawler not to enter one specific directory:

User-agent: BadBot # replace the 'BadBot' with the actual user-agent of the bot
Disallow: /private/

Example that tells all crawlers not to enter one specific file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /directory/file.html

Note that all other files in the specified directory will be processed.

Example demonstrating how comments can be used:

# Comments appear after the "#" symbol at the start of a line, or after a directive
User-agent: * # match all bots
Disallow: / # keep them out

[edit] Nonstandard extensions
[edit] Crawl-delay directive

Several major crawlers support a Crawl-delay parameter, set to the number of seconds to wait between successive requests to the same server:

User-agent: *
Crawl-delay: 10

[edit] Allow directive

Some major crawlers support an Allow directive which can counteract a following Disallow directive. This is useful when one disallows an entire directory but still wants some HTML documents in that directory crawled and indexed. While by standard implementation the first matching robots.txt pattern always wins, Google's implementation differs in that Allow patterns with equal or more characters in the directive path win over a matching Disallow pattern. Bing uses the Allow or Disallow directive which is the most specific.

In order to be compatible to all robots, if one wants to allow single files inside an otherwise disallowed directory, it is necessary to place the Allow directive(s) first, followed by the Disallow, for example:

Allow: /folder1/myfile.html
Disallow: /folder1/

This example will Disallow anything in /folder1/ except /folder1/myfile.html, since the latter will match first. In case of Google, though, the order is not important.
Sitemap

Some crawlers support a Sitemap directive, allowing multiple Sitemaps in the same robots.txt in the form:

Sitemap: http://www.gstatic.com/s2/sitemaps/profiles-sitemap.xml
Sitemap: http://www.google.com/hostednews/sitemap_index.xml

Static Vs Dynamic websites - what's the difference?

What are static and dynamic websites?

There are many static websites on the Internet, you won’t be able to tell immediately if it is static, but the chances are, if the site looks basic and is for a smaller company, and simply delivers information without any bells and whistles, it could be a static website. Static websites can only really be updated by someone with a knowledge of website development. Static websites are the cheapest to develop and host, and many smaller companies still use these to get a web presence.
Advantages of static websites

    * Quick to develop
    * Cheap to develop
    * Cheap to host

Disadvantages of static websites

    * Requires web development expertise to update site
    * Site not as useful for the user
    * Content can get stagnant

Dynamic sites on the other hand can be more expensive to develop initially, but the advantages are numerous. At a basic level, a dynamic website can give the website owner the ability to simply update and add new content to the site. For example, news and events could be posted to the site through a simple browser interface. Dynamic features of a site are only limited by imagination. Some examples of dynamic website features could be: content management system, e-commerce system, bulletin / discussion boards, intranet or extranet facilities, ability for clients or users to upload documents, ability for administrators or users to create content or add information to a site (dynamic publishing).
Advantages of dynamic websites

    * Much more functional website
    * Much easier to update
    * New content brings people back to the site and helps in the search engines
    * Can work as a system to allow staff or users to collaborate

Disadvantages of dynamic websites

    * Slower / more expensive to develop
    * Hosting costs a little more

Summary

Many sites from the last decade are static, but more and more people are realising the advantages of having a dynamic website. Dynamic websites can make the most of your site and either use it as a tool or create a professional, interesting experience for your visitors.

Structuring your website

Internet users are objective driven. That means that they arrive at your site because they are looking for specific information. The way you structure your website is therefore very important in retaining visitors.
Plan your structure on paper first

It’s a good idea to draw a structure chart on paper before you brief your web designer, and follow these tips:

    * Limit your site to between 6 and 8 main sections - any more and you risk creating information overload

    * Put important information as few clicks away as possible

    * Remember that people may be looking for different ways to get to the same content. Some enquiries are product brand driven, while other users will focus on the end use of a product

    * Not everyone will arrive at your site on the Home page. You should plan effective landing pages that will clearly route users directly into specific topic areas.


Social Media Optimization: 13 Rules of SMO

Here’s a summary of what they’ve put together to date:

1. Increase your link ability: Think blogs, content, aggregation & linkbait.

2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy: Include calls to action for users to tag, bookmark and Digg your stuff. I’d suggest the Sociable Plugin if you have a WordPress powered blog.

3. Reward inbound links: List blogs which link back to you via permalinks, trackbacks or recently linking blogs (like the Yahoo & Google blogs do).

4. Help your content travel: Content diversification can lead to mobility of your content beyond the browser.

5. Encourage the mashup: Let others use your content or tools to produce something a bit different or outside of the box with your stuff, even RSS.

6. Be a User Resource, even if it doesn’t help you: Add value and outbound links, even if it doesn’t help in the short term, it will in the long.

7. Reward helpful and valuable users: Give your contributors and readers the recognition they deserve.

8. Participate: Get in there and get involved in the discussions going on among the blogs and sites of others, and do it organically. Earn your rep on Digg.com, don’t try and force it.

9. Know how to target your audience: Understand your appeal and those people you wish to attract.

10. Create content: A little bit of rules 1 & 4 here, but the underlying message is know the form of content working for you.

11. Be real: Transparency pays off and no one likes a fake.

And mine:

12. Don’t forget your roots, be humble: Sometimes it can be easy to get carried away being a BlogStar or industry talking head. Remember those who helped you along the way, and that respect will help all involved.

13. Don’t be afraid to try new things, stay fresh: Social Media is changing and morphing by the minute, keep up on new tools, products and challenges in your social sphere.

Search engine marketing – opportunities and risks

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the single biggest opportunity in online marketing, which is unsurprising given the growing popularity of search engines for researching products, services and organizations. In this section we will set the scene…

Where are we at?
Search usage is continuing to rise among consumers and professionals who use search engines like Google and Yahoo to find what theyre looking for.

Comscore reported in February 2009 that there were 13.5B searches in the US alone (up from 6.5B searches in January 2008). According to estimates this is only 10% of a world total of 135B searches per month2.

So whats the big challenge?

Tapping into the searching behaviors of your audience and figuring out which keywords you need to focus on requires great tenacity. Not to mention securing top rankings for your chosen keywords. If you have tried SEO you’ll know how tricky this can be.

Constant innovations from the rival search engines, coupled with increased activity from your competitors, means that you have to identify the right approaches and deploy the right resources to rank well.

And the risks…?
You are probably aware of the risks of SEM. Since most search engine traffic typically originates from one source (typically „The big G, aka Google) there is a significant risk that algorithm changes can seriously dent your traffic.

Weve all heard the horror stories about being top one day and nowhere the next, but how do you ensure this doesnt happen to you?

On top of all that you also need to manage the risks of pages not being included in the search engine, or of being barred completely for infringing its guidelines.

Where do I start?
Youve already started. We created this guide to provide a super-comprehensive, hype-free compilation of best practice in SEM. Digest it in chunks, then act accordingly. And remember to educate agencies and colleagues along the way (no file-sharing though…!).

Most of this guide is aimed at helping you perform well in the organic search results, although there is some crossover with paid-search (which we will deal with in greater detail in a separate report).

By reading this guide you can maximize your opportunities from SEM while minimising your risks.

Why is search marketing so important?
Web users love to search. They use the main search engines like Google, Yahoo!, MSN Search and Ask to find one thing only – information.

What sort of information are they looking for?
Clearly this depends on the individual. They might be looking for entertainment3 news, or hunting for product reviews, or trying to compare vendors and services, or seeking their soul mate, or buying a second-hand car. All these goals can start with a simple search query.

The use of keywords or key phrases (combining several keywords) helps users find exactly what they want. Modern search engines are generally great at delivering relevant results to users.

Relevance (or relevancy if you are in the US) is the mantra of all search engine engineers.

A word from our resident lexicologist…
Understanding key phrases enables marketers at companies to target users showing intent or interest in their products.

Notice that we say ‘key phrase (short for ‘keyword phrase) rather than ‘keyword. This is because search engines such as Google attribute more relevance when there is an exact phrase match on a web page (a phrase that matches the user’s search term).

Search engines also assess other occurrences of the keywords and synonyms on the page, and also those websites / pages linking to a page. We’ll get onto that in due course…

So how big is search?
The number of searches by people trying to find information is still growing dramatically.
Nielsen//Net Ratings reported that there were 5.7 billion searches in the US in January 2006, a 39% year-on-year increase from 4.1 billion in January 20054. Furthermore, the number of searches in the US is more than 183 million per day.

Search Engine Results Page(s) (SERPs).

Within SEM, there are three main opportunities for organizations to get their message across, to gain visibility and to direct visitors to their sites. The first two opportunities are via the SERPs and the third is on third-party sites.

1. The Natural or Organic listings. The part of the pages listing results from a search engine query which are displayed in a sequence according to relevance of match between the keyword phrase typed into a search engine and a web page according to a ranking algorithm used by the search engine.

The method for achieving placement in this part of the page is called search engine optimization (SEO) and is the focus of this best practice guide.

2. The paid or sponsored listings. A relevant ad (typically a text ad) with a link to a destination page is displayed when the user of a search engine types in a specific phrase. A fee is charged for every click of each link, with the amount bid for the click the main factor determining its position.

The method for achieving placement in this part of the page is called paid-search (aka ‘pay per-click or PPC). Econsultancy publishes a dedicated best practice guide to paid-search marketing, to help you plan, launch and optimize PPC campaigns.

3. Content-network listings. These ads are displayed on third party sites that have an
Ad sense relationship with Google, or which display Yahoo or MIVA listings on their website. These actually account for a sizeable proportion of Google revenue8, but tend to have much lower click through rates.

On-page optimization

In this section we make recommendations on how you should create documents which the search engine will assess as being highly relevant to a particular search term a search user has entered as their query. The most basic test of relevance is the number of times the search phrase appears on the page. However, there are many factors which are also applied. In this section we will review:

Within page key phrase factors including keyword density, synonyms and position

Page markup key phrase factors including syntactical accuracy, <title> tags, <meta> tags, <a href=> hyperlink tags and <img> alt tags.

Document-level key phrase factors such as the inclusion of key phrases in the domain and document file name.

Competitor benchmarking

The first stage of competitor benchmarking is to identify your online competitor types for search traffic. Competitors for particular key phrases are not necessarily your traditional competitors. For example, for a mobile phone retailer, when someone searches for a product, you will be competing for search visibility with these types of websites:

 Retailers.
 Network providers.
 Handset manufacturers.
 Affiliates and partner sites.
 Media-owned sites.
 Blogs and personal sites about mobile phone technology.

To assess the extent that search strategy should focus on SEO and PPC (and also to be able to compete with these different types of content providers) it is necessary to assess the relative strength of these sources, as well as the various approaches to SEM they use. Try to identify competitors who have optimized their sites most effectively.

Retailers trying to compete on particular product phrases in the organic listings may find that it is very difficult, since handset and network providers will often feature prominently in the natural listings because of their scale (see also Mike Grehan’s „rich-get-richer argument, for explanations on why top Google results can become happily entrenched in their positions).

Meanwhile, many media-owned sites and blogs can feature highly in the natural listings, because content is king. This isnt at all surprising, given the search robots love of text. Retailers tend to display big conversion-friendly images and lists of features / specifications, which may be less attractive content as far as Googlebot is concerned, if more appealing to visitors.

With all this in mind, it seems obvious that many retail e-commerce managers favor PPC. More likely, it is about short-term (versus long-term) goals. Or, maybe it is just a case of easy versus difficult.

The second stage of competitor analysis is to compare their relative performance. Competitors can be compared in a number of ways using tools that are freely available within the search engines or using paid for software or services.
So how can I benchmark performance against competitors?

  1. Ranking Position report

Compare the relative performance in the natural listings for different keyphrase types, eg generic / qualified.

Pay per click (PPC)

Pay per click (PPC) is an Internet advertising model used on websites, where advertisers pay their host only when their ad is clicked. With search engines, advertisers typically bid on keyword phrases relevant to their target market. Content sites commonly charge a fixed price per click rather than use a bidding system.

Cost per click (CPC) is the sum paid by an advertiser to search engines and other Internet publishers for a single click on their advertisement which directs one visitor to the advertiser's website.

In contrast to the generalized portal, which seeks to drive a high volume of traffic to one site, PPC implements the so-called affiliate model, that provides purchase opportunities wherever people may be surfing. It does this by offering financial incentives (in the form of a percentage of revenue) to affiliated partner sites. The affiliates provide purchase-point click-through to the merchant. It is a pay-for-performance model: If an affiliate does not generate sales, it represents no cost to the merchant. Variations include banner exchange, pay-per-click, and revenue sharing programs.

Websites that utilize PPC ads will display an advertisement when a keyword query matches an advertiser's keyword list, or when a content site displays relevant content. Such advertisements are called sponsored links or sponsored ads, and appear adjacent to or above organic results on search engine results pages, or anywhere a web developer chooses on a content site.

Among PPC providers, Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Microsoft ad Center are the three largest network operators, and all three operate under a bid-based model. Cost per click (CPC) varies depending on the search engine and the level of competition for a particular keyword.

The PPC advertising model is open to abuse through click fraud, although Google and others have implemented automated systems to guard against abusive clicks by competitors or corrupt web developers.

Determining cost per click

There are two primary models for determining cost per click: flat-rate and bid-based. In both cases the advertiser must consider the potential value of a click from a given source. This value is based on the type of individual the advertiser is expecting to receive as a visitor to his or her website, and what the advertiser can gain from that visit, usually revenue, both in the short term as well as in the long term. As with other forms of advertising targeting is key, and factors that often play into PPC campaigns include the target's interest (often defined by a search term they have entered into a search engine, or the content of a page that they are browsing), intent (e.g., to purchase or not), location (for geo targeting), and the day and time that they are browsing.

Flat-rate PPC

In the flat-rate model, the advertiser and publisher agree upon a fixed amount that will be paid for each click. In many cases the publisher has a rate card that lists the CPC within different areas of their website or network. These various amounts are often related to the content on pages, with content that generally attracts more valuable visitors having a higher CPC than content that attracts less valuable visitors. However, in many cases advertisers can negotiate lower rates, especially when committing to a long-term or high-value contract.

The flat-rate model is particularly common to comparison shopping engines, which typically publish rate cards. However, these rates are sometimes minimal, and advertisers can pay more for greater visibility. These sites are usually neatly compartmentalized into product or service categories, allowing a high degree of targeting by advertisers. In many cases, the entire core content of these sites is paid ads

Bid-based PPC

In the bid-based model, the advertiser signs a contract that allows them to compete against other advertisers in a private auction hosted by a publisher or, more commonly, an advertising network. Each advertiser informs the host of the maximum amount that he or she is willing to pay for a given ad spot (often based on a keyword), usually using online tools to do so. The auction plays out in an automated fashion every time a visitor triggers the ad spot.

When the ad spot is part of a search engine results page (SERP), the automated auction takes place whenever a search for the keyword that is being bid upon occurs. All bids for the keyword that target the searcher's geo-location, the day and time of the search, etc. are then compared and the winner determined. In situations where there are multiple ad spots, a common occurrence on SERPs, there can be multiple winners whose positions on the page are influenced by the amount each has bid. The ad with the highest bid generally shows up first, though additional factors such as ad quality and relevance can sometimes come into play (see Quality Score).

In addition to ad spots on SERPs, the major advertising networks allow for contextual ads to be placed on the properties of 3rd-parties with whom they have partnered. These publishers sign up to host ads on behalf of the network. In return, they receive a portion of the ad revenue that the network generates, which can be anywhere from 50% to over 80% of the gross revenue paid by advertisers. These properties are often referred to as a content network and the ads on them as contextual ads because the ad spots are associated with keywords based on the context of the page on which they are found. In general, ads on content networks have a much lower click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CR) than ads found on SERPs and consequently are less highly valued. Content network properties can include websites, newsletters, and e-mails.

Advertisers pay for each click they receive, with the actual amount paid based on the amount bid. It is common practice amongst auction hosts to charge a winning bidder just slightly more (e.g. one penny) than the next highest bidder or the actual amount bid, whichever is lower. This avoids situations where bidders are constantly adjusting their bids by very small amounts to see if they can still win the auction while paying just a little bit less per click.

To maximize success and achieve scale, automated bid management systems can be deployed. These systems can be used directly by the advertiser, though they are more commonly used by advertising agencies that offer PPC bid management as a service. These tools generally allow for bid management at scale, with thousands or even millions of PPC bids controlled by a highly automated system. The system generally sets each bid based on the goal that has been set for it, such as maximize profit, maximize traffic at breakeven, and so forth. The system is usually tied into the advertiser's website and fed the results of each click, which then allows it to set bids. The effectiveness of these systems is directly related to the quality and quantity of the performance data that they have to work with - low-traffic ads can lead to a scarcity of data problem that renders many bid management tools useless at worst, or inefficient at best.

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is a recent addition to organizations’ integrated marketing communications plans. Integrated marketing communications is a principle organizations follow to connect with their targeted markets. Integrated marketing communications coordinates the elements of the promotional mix; advertising, personal selling, public relations, publicity, direct marketing, and sales promotion. In the traditional marketing communications model, the content, frequency, timing, and medium of communications by the organization is in collaboration with an external agent, i.e. advertising agencies, marketing research firms, and public relations firms. However, the growth of social media has impacted the way organizations communicate. With the emergence of Web 2.0, the internet provides a set of tools that allow people to build social and business connections, share information and collaborate on projects online.

Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. A corporate message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it is coming from a trusted source, as opposed to the brand or company itself.

Social media has become a platform that is easily accessible to anyone with internet access, opening doors for organizations to increase their brand awareness and facilitate conversations with the customer. Additionally, social media serves as a relatively inexpensive platform for organizations to implement marketing campaigns. With emergence of services like Twitter, the barrier to entry in social media is greatly reduced. Report from company Sysomos shows that half of the users using Twitter are located outside US demonstrating the global significance of social media marketing. Organizations can receive direct feedback from their customers and targeted markets.

Platforms

Social media marketing which is known as SMO Social Media Optimization benefits organizations and individuals by providing an additional channel for customer support, a means to gain customer and competitive insight, recruitment and retention of new customers/business partners, and a method of managing their reputation online. Key factors that ensure its success are its relevance to the customer, the value it provides them with and the strength of the foundation on which it is built. A strong foundation serves as a stand or platform in which the organization can centralize its information and direct customers on its recent developments via other social media channels, such as article and press release publications.

The most popular platforms include:

    * Blogs
    * Delicious
    * Facebook
    * Flickr
    * Hi5
    * LinkedIn
    * MySpace
    * Reddit
    * Tagged
    * Twitter
    * YouTube
* More...

Web analytics

Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage.

Web analytics is not just a tool for measuring website traffic but can be used as a tool for business research and market research. Web analytics applications can also help companies measure the results of traditional print advertising campaigns. It helps one to estimate how the traffic to the website changed after the launch of a new advertising campaign. Web analytics provides data on the number of visitors, page views, etc. to gauge the traffic and popularity trends which helps doing the market research.

There are two categories of web analytics; off-site and on-site web analytics.

Off-site web analytics refers to web measurement and analysis regardless of whether you own or maintain a website. It includes the measurement of a website's potential audience (opportunity), share of voice (visibility), and buzz (comments) that is happening on the Internet as a whole.

On-site web analytics measure a visitor's journey once on your website. This includes its drivers and conversions; for example, which landing pages encourage people to make a purchase. On-site web analytics measures the performance of your website in a commercial context. This data is typically compared against key performance indicators for performance, and used to improve a web site or marketing campaign's audience response.

Historically, web analytics has referred to on-site visitor measurement. However in recent years this has blurred, mainly because vendors are producing tools that span both categories.

On-site web analytics technologies

Many different vendors provide on-site web analytics software and services. There are two main technological approaches to collecting the data. The first method, logfile analysis, reads the logfiles in which the web server records all its transactions. The second method, page tagging, uses JavaScript on each page to notify a third-party server when a page is rendered by a web browser. Both collect data that can be processed to produce web traffic reports.

In addition other data sources may also be added to augment the data. For example; e-mail response rates, direct mail campaign data, sales and lead information, user performance data such as click heat mapping, or other custom metrics as needed.


Key definitions

There are no globally agreed definitions within web analytics as the industry bodies have been trying to agree definitions that are useful and definitive for some time. The main bodies who have had input in this area have been Jicwebs(Industry Committee for Web Standards)/ABCe (Auditing Bureau of Circulations electronic, UK and Europe), The WAA (Web Analytics Association, US) and to a lesser extent the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau). This does not prevent the following list from being a useful guide, suffering only slightly from ambiguity. Both the WAA and the ABCe provide more definitive lists for those who are declaring their statistics using the metrics defined by either.

    * Hit - A request for a file from the web server. Available only in log analysis. The number of hits received by a website is frequently cited to assert its popularity, but this number is extremely misleading and dramatically over-estimates popularity. A single web-page typically consists of multiple (often dozens) of discrete files, each of which is counted as a hit as the page is downloaded, so the number of hits is really an arbitrary number more reflective of the complexity of individual pages on the website than the website's actual popularity. The total number of visitors or page views provides a more realistic and accurate assessment of popularity.

    * Page view - A request for a file whose type is defined as a page in log analysis. An occurrence of the script being run in page tagging. In log analysis, a single page view may generate multiple hits as all the resources required to view the page (images, .js and .css files) are also requested from the web server.

    * Visit / Session - A visit is defined as a series of page requests from the same uniquely identified client with a time of no more than 30 minutes between each page request. A session is defined as a series of page requests from the same uniquely identified client with a time of no more than 30 minutes and no requests for pages from other domains intervening between page requests. In other words, a session ends when someone goes to another site, or 30 minutes elapse between page views, whichever comes first. A visit ends only after a 30 minute time delay. If someone leaves a site, then returns within 30 minutes, this will count as one visit but two sessions. In practice, most systems ignore sessions and many analysts use both terms for visits. Because time between pageviews is critical to the definition of visits and sessions, a single page view does not constitute a visit or a session (it is a "bounce").

    * First Visit / First Session - A visit from a visitor who has not made any previous visits.

    * Visitor / Unique Visitor / Unique User - The uniquely identified client generating requests on the web server (log analysis) or viewing pages (page tagging) within a defined time period (i.e. day, week or month). A Unique Visitor counts once within the timescale. A visitor can make multiple visits. Identification is made to the visitor's computer, not the person, usually via cookie and/or IP+User Agent. Thus the same person visiting from two different computers will count as two Unique Visitors. Increasingly visitors are uniquely identified by Flash LSO's (Local Shared Object), which are less susceptible to privacy enforcement.

    * Repeat Visitor - A visitor that has made at least one previous visit. The period between the last and current visit is called visitor regency and is measured in days.

    * New Visitor - A visitor that has not made any previous visits. This definition creates a certain amount of confusion (see common confusions below), and is sometimes substituted with analysis of first visits.

    * Impression - An impression is each time an advertisement loads on a user's screen. Anytime you see a banner, that is an impression.

    * Singletons - The number of visits where only a single page is viewed. While not a useful metric in and of itself the number of singletons is indicative of various forms of Click fraud as well as being used to calculate bounce rate and in some cases to identify automatons bots).

    * Bounce Rate - The percentage of visits where the visitor enters and exits at the same page without visiting any other pages on the site in between.

    * % Exit - The percentage of users who exit from a page.

    * Visibility time - The time a single page (or a blog, Ad Banner...) is viewed.

    * Session Duration - Average amount of time that visitors spend on the site each time they visit. This metric can be complicated by the fact that analytics programs can not measure the length of the final page view.

    * Page View Duration / Time on Page - Average amount of time that visitors spend on each page of the site. As with Session Duration, this metric is complicated by the fact that analytics programs can not measure the length of the final page view unless they record a page close event, such as on Unload().

    * Active Time / Engagement Time - Average amount of time that visitors spend actually interacting with content on a web page, based on mouse moves, clicks, hovers and scrolls. Unlike Session Duration and Page View Duration / Time on Page, this metric can accurately measure the length of engagement in the final page view.

    * Page Depth / Page Views per Session - Page Depth is the average number of page views a visitor consumes before ending their session. It is calculated by dividing total number of page views by total number of sessions and is also called Page Views per Session or PV/Session.

    * Frequency / Session per Unique - Frequency measures how often visitors come to a website. It is calculated by dividing the total number of sessions (or visits) by the total number of unique visitors. Sometimes it is used to measure the loyalty of your audience.

    * Click path - the sequence of hyperlinks one or more website visitors follows on a given site.

    * Click - "refers to a single instance of a user following a hyperlink from one page in a site to another". Some use click analytics to analyze their web sites.

    * Site Overlay is a technique in which graphical statistics are shown besides each link on the web page. These statistics represent the percentage of clicks on each link.

Google Penalty Advice

Finding the Causes of a Sudden Drop in Ranking

To check for Google penalties with any degree of certainty can be difficult. For example, if your website experiences a sudden reduction in ranking for its main keyword terms it can be caused solely by a Google algorithm change or search results (SERP) update.
Google penalty example using Analytics

When any algorithm change or Google SERP update is released, there are always winners and losers, and when a sudden drop in rankings is experienced Google penalties are often incorrectly blamed.

However, where the traffic reduction from Google non-paid search is very extreme, as pictured left (from Google Analytics data - traffic sources > search engines > Google) then a penalty is much more likely.

There are a growing number of Google filters now built into the Google algorithm which aim to detect violations of Google Webmaster Guidelines in order to help maintain the quality of Google's search results (SERP) for any given query. One such algorithmic filter is thought to have caused the massive drop on Google traffic pictured above.

Link Devaluation Effects

When considering the cause of a ranking reduction, its worth noting that Google continually applies link devaluation to links from various non-reputable sources that it considers spammers are exploiting to artificially raise the ranking of their sites. Hence continual Google algorithm tweaks are being made in an effort to combat link spam.

When link devaluation is applied, as it has with reciprocal links as well as links from many paid link advertisements, low quality web directories and link farms, reductions in Google ranking may occur affecting the recipient site of the links. The severity of ranking reductions is usually synonymous with the website's reliance on that particular type of linking.

There's no doubt that do-follow blog links and low quality web directory links have also been devalued and that this has lead to reduced website rankings for sites which got a significant number of backlinks or site wide links from do-follow blogs or directories. In addition, backlinks from unrelated theme sites are also experiencing Google devaluation - so if your site heavily relies on these links, then it too may experience a sudden drop in Google rankings.

If you suspect a Google penalty, it first makes sense to check whether any Google algorithm changes have been made which could be the cause of the problem. SEO Forum posts reflecting algorithm changes usually appear on the SEO Chat Forum soon after the effects of any update are felt.

That said, if your website suffers sudden and dramatic fall in ranking and no Google algorithm changes have been made, then a Google penalty or filter may be the cause, especially if you have been embarking on activities which might have contravened Google Webmaster Guidelines. The most severe Google penalties lead to total website de-indexing and where the SEO misdemeanour's is serious a site ban may be imposed by Google, accompanied by a Page Rank reduction to 0 and a greyed out Google Tool bar Page Rank indication. Google filters are less extreme, but can still be extremely damaging to a company's profits.

Whatever the cause, recovering from a Google penalty or filter is a challenge and our SEO checklist will help identify likely causes and reasons for a sudden reduction in Google ranking or an major drop in SERPS position for your main keywords.

Initial Test for a Penalty

When a penalty is suspected, start by checking with Google the number of URL's it has indexed. This can be accomplished by using the site: yourdomainname.com command within a Google search window. If no URL's are indexed and no backlinks show up when the link: yourdomain.com is entered then there is a high probability of a Google penalty, especially if your site used to be indexed and used to show backlinks.

Another indicator of a Google penalty is ceasing to rank for your own company name, where previously your ranked well for your own brand name. The exception to this rule is a new website with few backlinks, which may not be Google indexed since it is still waiting to be crawled. Such websites frequently show no backlinks, but this doesn't imply they have received a Google penalty!

Not all Google penalties result in a loss of Page Rank. For example, various Google filters can be triggered by unnatural irregularities in backlinks (detected by the clever Google algorithm) or by excessive reciprocal link exchange, particularly using similar keyword optimized anchor text in your links. The example (left) shows a typical reduction in website traffic caused by a Google SEO penalty.

Another good indication that a site is under penalty is to take a unique paragraph of text from a popular page on the affected site and searching for it in Google. If the page doesn't come back as #1 and the page is still showing as cached using cache:www.mydomain.com/page.htm, then this is a good indication that a penalty or filter has been placed on the domain.

To avoid a Google penalty or SERPS filter, take particular care when embarking on any link building program. In particular, avoid reciprocal link exchange becoming the main-stay of your SEO campaign.

If you suspect your website has received a Google penalty, you can contact Google by sending an e-mail to help@google.com to ask for help. They will usually check the spam report queue and offer some form of assistance.

Interestingly, in a recent move by Google, web sites which are in clear violation of Google's webmaster guidelines or terms of service may receive an e-mail from Google advising them to clean up their act, warning of a penalty and website de-indexing. When the breach of Google's terms (e.g. link spam or hidden text) is removed from the offending site, Google will usually automatically clear the penalty and re-index the site as many so-called penalties are actually 'filters' triggered by irregularities found by Google's algorithm.

Google Penalty Checklist

If your website has suffered a Google penalty, some free SEO advice to help identify the cause and solve the problem is provided below. Once you have identified the cause of the problem, we suggest watching the Google reconsideration tips video to help prepare a successful reconsideration request to Google.

For further assistance with Google penalties contact us for professional help.

Linking to banned sites

Run a test on all outbound links from your site to see if you are linking to any sites which have themselves been Google banned. These will be sites which are Google de-listed and show Page Rank 0 with a greyed out Toolbar Page Rank indicator.

Linking to bad neighborhoods

Check you are not linking to any bad neighbourhoods (neighborhoods - US spelling), link farms or doorway pages. Bad neighbourhoods include spam sites and doorway pages, whilst link farms are just pages of links to other sites, with no original or useful content.

If in doubt, we recommend quality checking all of your outbound links to external sites using the Bad Neighbourhood detection tool. Whilst this SEO tool isn't perfect, it may spot "problem sites". Another good tip is to do a Google search for the HTML homepage title of sites that you link to. If the sites don't come up in the top 20 of the Google SERPS, then they are almost certainly low trust domains and linking to them should be avoided.

Automated query penalty

Google penalties can sometimes be caused by using automated query tools which make use of Google's API, particularly when such queries are made from the same IP address that hosts your website. These tools break Google's terms of service (as laid out in their Webmaster Guidelines). Google allows certain automated queries into its database using its analytic tools and when accessing through a registered Google API account. Unauthorized types of automated query can cause problems, particularly when used excessively.

Over optimization penalties and Google filters

These can be triggered by poor SEO techniques such as aggressive link building using the same keywords in link anchor text. When managing link building campaigns, always vary the link text used and incorporate a variety of different keyword terms. Use a back link anchor text analyzer tool to check back links for sufficient keyword spread. Optimizing for high paying (often abused) keywords like "Viagra" can further elevate risk, so mix in some long tail keywords into the equation. For brand new domains, be sensible and add a few one way back links a week and use deep linking to website internal pages, rather than just homepage link building. Above all, always vary your link anchor text to incorporate different keywords, not variations on the same keyword!

There is strong evidence that Google has introduced some new automatic over optimization filters into their algorithm. These seem to have the effect of applying a penalty to a page which has been over optimized for the same keyword by link building. See Google filters for more information or contact KSL Consulting for assistance (fees apply).

Website cross linking & link schemes

If you run more than one website and the Google penalty hits all sites at the same time, check the interlinking (cross linking) between those sites. Extensive interlinking of websites, particularly if they are on the same C Class IP address (same ISP) can be viewed as "link schemes" by Google, breaking their terms of service. The risks are even higher where site A site wide links to site B and site B site wide links back to site A. In addition, link schemes offering paid link placement in the footer section of webpages (even on high Page Rank pages) are detectable search engine spam and are best avoided.

Site-wide links should also be avoided at all costs. The reality is that site wide links do little to increase site visibility in the Google SERPS, nor do they improve Page Rank more than a single link, as Google only counts one link from a site to another. KSL Consulting also believe that Yahoo! now applies a similar policy. There is some evidence that the extensive use of site-wide links can lower website Google trust value, which can subsequently reduce ranking.

Duplicate Content problems

Whilst duplicate content in its own right is not thought to trigger Google penalties, it can be responsible for the non-indexation of website content and for placing all duplicate web pages into Google's supplemental index, which results in pages not ranking in the Google SERP. This can result in significant traffic loss to a site, similar to that caused by a penalty.

Google will not index duplicate content and any site which utilizes large amounts of content (like news feeds/articles) featured elsewhere on the web will likely suffer as a result.

Hidden text or links

Remove any hidden text in your content and remove any hidden keywords. Such content may be hidden from view using CSS or alternatively, text may have been coded to be the same colour as the page background, rendering it invisible. These risky SEO techniques often lead to a Google penalty or web site ban and should be removed immediately. The same applies to hidden links, which Matt Cutts has openly stated break their webmaster guidelines.

Keyword stuffing (spamming)

Remove excessive keyword stuffing in your website content (unnatural repetitions of the same phrase in body text). Always use natural, well written web copywriting techniques.

Check for Malware Problems

It is worthwhile carrying out a check to see if Google has blacklisted your site as unsafe for browsing. To assess whether this is the case visit
      www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=mydomain.co.uk, replacing 'mydomain.co.uk' with your domain.

Automated page redirects

The use of automated browser re-directs in any of your pages. Meta Refresh and JavaScript automated re-directs often result in Google penalties as the pages using them are perceived to be doorway pages. This technique is especially dangerous if the refresh time is less than 5 seconds. To avoid Google penalties, use a 301 re-direct or Mod Rewrite technique instead of these methods. This involves setting up a .htaccess file on your web server.

Link buying or selling

Check for any paid links (I.E. buying text links from known link suppliers / companies). There is some evidence that buying links can hurt rankings and this was implied by comments from Matt Cutts (a Google engineer) on his Google SEO blog. Matt states that Google will also devalue links from companies selling text links, such that they offer zero value to the recipient in terms for improving website rankings or Page Rank. More recently, Google applied a Page Rank penalty to known link sellers and many low quality directories.

Reciprocal link building campaigns

Excessive reciprocal linking may trigger a Google penalty or cause a SERPS filter to be applied when the same or very similar link anchor text is used over and over again and large numbers of reciprocal links are added in a relatively short time.

The dangers are made worse by adding reciprocal links to low quality sites or websites which have an unrelated theme. This can lead to a back link over optimization penalty (known as a BLOOP to SEO experts!). a Google Back link Over Optimization Penalty causes a sudden drops in SERPS ranking (often severe). To avoid this problem, reciprocal link exchange should only be used as part of a more sustainable SEO strategy which also builds quality one way links to original website content.

Adding reciprocal links to unrelated sites is a risky SEO strategy, as is reciprocal link exchange with low quality websites. To help identify quality link exchange partners we use a simple but effective test - regardless of indicated Page Rank, if you can't find a website's homepage in the top 20 of the Google search results (SERPS) when you search for the first 4 words of a site's full HTML title (shown at the top of the Internet Explorer window) then undertaking reciprocal link exchange with that site may offer few advantages. Don't forget to check that prospective reciprocal link partners have a similar theme as your homepage too.

Paid links on Commercial Directories

Some leading online web directories offer paid placement for multiple regions where a link to your website appears on many pages of the directory with keyword optimized anchor text and these links are search engine accessible (I.E. they have no "nofollow" tag).

If you have optimized the same keyword elsewhere in your SEO campaign, adding hundreds of links from commercial directories with the same or similar anchor text in a short space of time can cause serious problems. In extreme cases we've seen these kinds of directory links trigger a Google filter.

Thin Affiliates and "Made for Adsense" sites

It's a well known fact that Google dislikes affiliate sites with thin content and the same applies to "made to Adsense" sites. Always make sure affiliate sites have quality original content if you don't want to get them filtered out of the search results when someone completes a Google spam report. We have had personal experience of affiliate sites acquiring a Google penalty, so don't spend time and money on SEO on such sites without the right content.

Content Feeds and I-Frames

Whilst content feeds (including RSS) are widely used on the web, there is some evidence that pulling in large amounts of duplicate content through such feeds may have an adverse effect on ranking and in extreme cases may trigger a Google penalty. In particular, the use of I-frames to pull in affiliate content should be avoided where possible. Consider the use of banners and text links as an alternative.

Same Registrant Domains

As Google has access to the WHOIS records for domains and is known to use this information, it is possible that a penalty applied to one website may reduce the ranking of other websites with the same registrant, although most filters only affect one domain.

Check Google Webmaster Guidelines

Read the Google Webmaster Guidelines and check website compliance in all respects. Since early 2007, Google may alert webmasters via the Google Webmaster Console who they feel might have unknowingly broken their guidelines to advise them that their site has been removed from Google for a set period of time due to breaking one or more of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

However, blatant spam or significant breaches of Google's rules will often result in a site being banned, with no Webmaster Console notification. Where notification of a violation of Google's guidelines is received, it usually encourages the webmaster to correct the problem/s and then submit a Google re-inclusion request (now referred to as a 'reconsideration request' in Webmaster Tools). From my experience, after this is done the website will usually regain its original ranking in around 14 days, assuming that all violations of Google's terms and conditions have been resolved.

Google Webmaster Tools

According to Matt Cutts's Blog, Google is improving webmaster communication with respect to banned sites and penalties. Google is now informing some (but not all) webmasters the cause of a website ban or penalty, via their excellent new Webmaster Console. In addition, a Google re-inclusion request can be made from the same interface. For this reason, if you've been hit by a web site ban or penalty, it is worthwhile signing up for Google Webmaster Tools and uploading an XML Sitemap onto your site and then to check site status in the Google Webmaster Console. This is an easy 15 minute job and may help to identify the cause and fix for the problem!

Preparing Your Site for Google Reconsideration

Google recently prepared a Google reconsideration video tutorial on how to create a good reconsideration request, including tips on what Google look for when assessing the reinclusion of any website. The video tutorial is presented by actual members of Google's reconsideration team and is very helpful to any webmaster looking to successfully prepare a reconsideration request.

Google SERP Filters

There is clear evidence that over-optimizing a single keyword through adding too many back links and site-wide links can result in triggering a Google filter whereby the recipient page of these links no longer ranks in the organic SERP for the keyword being optimized.

Affected page/s appear to still be Google indexed and cached. The Google Trust Rank of the website may be slightly affected leading to a ranking reduction for other keywords. Interestingly though, affected websites can retain ranking for other long tail keywords which have not been over optimized, particularly on pages which have not been subject to aggressive link building, but may have one or two decent natural links.

One other fact worth noting is that affected pages seem to have high keyword density to the point of being over-optimized. In some cases changes to increase page keyword density for the problem keyword may have been made shortly prior to the Google filter being applied.

In the cases observed, the websites still rank for their company name and pages still show in the Google index (using the site:domain.com command). However, picking a sentence of text from the affected page and searching for it in Google yielded no results. It is therefore fair to assume that the filtered page was all but removed from the index as far as its ability to rank - even for long-tail keywords, although it still showed as being Google cached (cache:domain.com/page).

To assess whether your website is affected by a Google SERP filter, do a site-wide back link anchor text analysis using Majestic SEO (free) or a paid SEO tool like SEO Moz Links cape and check the spread of keywords used in links to your page look natural. Check your keyword density too excluding Meta tags. Google is tightening up on link spam in a big way; be warned!

Check for a Total Google Website Ban

If you've used unethical black hat SEO techniques your website could be Google banned and consequently totally de-indexed. If your site no longer shows any pages indexed when the site: www.yourdomain.com command is used in Google (and it was previously indexed), then your site may have received the most extreme form of penalty - a total Google ban. Check for possible causes using the free SEO advice contained in our penalty checklist above.

Google Penalty Recovery Strategy

Recovering from a Google penalty normally involves fixing the cause of the problem and then waiting for Google to remove any over optimization penalties or SERPS filters. To fully recover Google ranking may take around 2-3 months after all website problems are corrected, although we have seen penalty recovery in a matter of weeks following full and thorough resolution of the Google Webmaster Guidelines infringements.

The Google algorithm can automatically remove penalties if the affected website is still Google indexed. To check whether a particular website is still Google indexed, refer to our Google indexing page. If your website has been Google de-indexed and lost Page Rank, then you will need to make a Google re-inclusion request. Where the reason for the penalty is clear, it helps to provide details of any changes you've made to correct violations of the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

The best recovery strategy from any Google penalty is to thoroughly familiarize yourself with Google Webmaster Guidelines and also check the SEO Chat Forum for threads surrounding any recent Google algorithm changes and to evaluate recent changes made to your website prior to the sudden drop in Google ranking. Don't forget to check your link building strategy as poor SEO often causes Google penalties. Start by removing any reciprocal links to low quality websites, or sites having no relevance to your website theme.

Preparing for a Google Re-Inclusion (Reconsideration) Request

We recommend you start by watching the Google reconsideration tips video.

If your site has been de-indexed due to a Google penalty, correct the problem and then apply to be re-included in the Google index by submitting a Google re-inclusion request from your Webmaster Tools account. More information about this is provided in Google Webmaster Help. Google refer to this process as making a "reconsideration request" which is now submitted from your Webmaster Tools login.

How long does site reconsideration take?

By submitting a reconsideration request to Google you enter the queue for the manual review process whereby your site is manually checked for violations of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This can take several weeks. At the end of the process, an Inbox message is usually sent to the Webmaster to confirm that the reconsideration has been processed. This will be visible by logging into Webmaster Tools and then checking your Inbox under 'Messages'.

Gorilla Marketing (Viral Marketing)

Viral marketing and viral advertising are buzzwords referring to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of virus or computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages.

The goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to identify individuals with high Social Networking Potential (SNP) and create viral messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being taken by another competitor.

The term "viral marketing" has also been used pejoratively to refer to stealth marketing campaigns—the unscrupulous use of astroturfing on-line combined with under market advertising in shopping centers to create the impression of spontaneous word of mouth enthusiasm. Viral marketing is a imitation which is by using social media and other channels of communication spreading the planned content aiming to reach the most efficient and friendly manner to the target audience. Briefly, the idea spread from person to person.

Email Marketing

E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fund-raising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every e-mail sent to a potential or current customer could be considered e-mail marketing. However, the term is usually used to refer to:

    * sending e-mails with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or previous customers, to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business,

    * sending e-mails with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately,

    * adding advertisements to e-mails sent by other companies to their customers, and

    * Sending e-mails over the Internet, as e-mail did and does exist outside the Internet (e.g., network e-mail and FIDO).
tags, <meta> tags, <a href=> hyperlink tags and <img> alt tags. Document-level key phrase factors such as the inclusion of key phrases in the domain and document file name. Competitor benchmarking The first stage of competitor benchmarking is to identify your online competitor types for search traffic. Competitors for particular key phrases are not necessarily your traditional competitors. For example, for a mobile phone retailer, when someone searches for a product, you will be competing for search visibility with these types of websites: Retailers. Network providers. Handset manufacturers. Affiliates and partner sites. Media-owned sites. Blogs and personal sites about mobile phone technology. To assess the extent that search strategy should focus on SEO and PPC (and also to be able to compete with these different types of content providers) it is necessary to assess the relative strength of these sources, as well as the various approaches to SEM they use. Try to identify competitors who have optimized their sites most effectively. Retailers trying to compete on particular product phrases in the organic listings may find that it is very difficult, since handset and network providers will often feature prominently in the natural listings because of their scale (see also Mike Grehan’s „rich-get-richer‟ argument, for explanations on why top Google results can become happily entrenched in their positions). Meanwhile, many media-owned sites and blogs can feature highly in the natural listings, because content is king. This isn’t at all surprising, given the search robots‟ love of text. Retailers tend to display big conversion-friendly images and lists of features / specifications, which may be less attractive content as far as Googlebot is concerned, if more appealing to visitors. With all this in mind, it seems obvious that many retail e-commerce managers favor PPC. More likely, it is about short-term (versus long-term) goals. Or, maybe it is just a case of easy versus difficult. The second stage of competitor analysis is to compare their relative performance. Competitors can be compared in a number of ways using tools that are freely available within the search engines or using paid for software or services. So how can I benchmark performance against competitors? 1. Ranking Position report Compare the relative performance in the natural listings for different keyphrase types, eg generic / qualified. Pay per click (PPC) Pay per click (PPC) is an Internet advertising model used on websites, where advertisers pay their host only when their ad is clicked. With search engines, advertisers typically bid on keyword phrases relevant to their target market. Content sites commonly charge a fixed price per click rather than use a bidding system. Cost per click (CPC) is the sum paid by an advertiser to search engines and other Internet publishers for a single click on their advertisement which directs one visitor to the advertiser's website. In contrast to the generalized portal, which seeks to drive a high volume of traffic to one site, PPC implements the so-called affiliate model, that provides purchase opportunities wherever people may be surfing. It does this by offering financial incentives (in the form of a percentage of revenue) to affiliated partner sites. The affiliates provide purchase-point click-through to the merchant. It is a pay-for-performance model: If an affiliate does not generate sales, it represents no cost to the merchant. Variations include banner exchange, pay-per-click, and revenue sharing programs. Websites that utilize PPC ads will display an advertisement when a keyword query matches an advertiser's keyword list, or when a content site displays relevant content. Such advertisements are called sponsored links or sponsored ads, and appear adjacent to or above organic results on search engine results pages, or anywhere a web developer chooses on a content site. Among PPC providers, Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Microsoft ad Center are the three largest network operators, and all three operate under a bid-based model. Cost per click (CPC) varies depending on the search engine and the level of competition for a particular keyword. The PPC advertising model is open to abuse through click fraud, although Google and others have implemented automated systems to guard against abusive clicks by competitors or corrupt web developers. Determining cost per click There are two primary models for determining cost per click: flat-rate and bid-based. In both cases the advertiser must consider the potential value of a click from a given source. This value is based on the type of individual the advertiser is expecting to receive as a visitor to his or her website, and what the advertiser can gain from that visit, usually revenue, both in the short term as well as in the long term. As with other forms of advertising targeting is key, and factors that often play into PPC campaigns include the target's interest (often defined by a search term they have entered into a search engine, or the content of a page that they are browsing), intent (e.g., to purchase or not), location (for geo targeting), and the day and time that they are browsing. Flat-rate PPC In the flat-rate model, the advertiser and publisher agree upon a fixed amount that will be paid for each click. In many cases the publisher has a rate card that lists the CPC within different areas of their website or network. These various amounts are often related to the content on pages, with content that generally attracts more valuable visitors having a higher CPC than content that attracts less valuable visitors. However, in many cases advertisers can negotiate lower rates, especially when committing to a long-term or high-value contract. The flat-rate model is particularly common to comparison shopping engines, which typically publish rate cards. However, these rates are sometimes minimal, and advertisers can pay more for greater visibility. These sites are usually neatly compartmentalized into product or service categories, allowing a high degree of targeting by advertisers. In many cases, the entire core content of these sites is paid ads Bid-based PPC In the bid-based model, the advertiser signs a contract that allows them to compete against other advertisers in a private auction hosted by a publisher or, more commonly, an advertising network. Each advertiser informs the host of the maximum amount that he or she is willing to pay for a given ad spot (often based on a keyword), usually using online tools to do so. The auction plays out in an automated fashion every time a visitor triggers the ad spot. When the ad spot is part of a search engine results page (SERP), the automated auction takes place whenever a search for the keyword that is being bid upon occurs. All bids for the keyword that target the searcher's geo-location, the day and time of the search, etc. are then compared and the winner determined. In situations where there are multiple ad spots, a common occurrence on SERPs, there can be multiple winners whose positions on the page are influenced by the amount each has bid. The ad with the highest bid generally shows up first, though additional factors such as ad quality and relevance can sometimes come into play (see Quality Score). In addition to ad spots on SERPs, the major advertising networks allow for contextual ads to be placed on the properties of 3rd-parties with whom they have partnered. These publishers sign up to host ads on behalf of the network. In return, they receive a portion of the ad revenue that the network generates, which can be anywhere from 50% to over 80% of the gross revenue paid by advertisers. These properties are often referred to as a content network and the ads on them as contextual ads because the ad spots are associated with keywords based on the context of the page on which they are found. In general, ads on content networks have a much lower click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CR) than ads found on SERPs and consequently are less highly valued. Content network properties can include websites, newsletters, and e-mails. Advertisers pay for each click they receive, with the actual amount paid based on the amount bid. It is common practice amongst auction hosts to charge a winning bidder just slightly more (e.g. one penny) than the next highest bidder or the actual amount bid, whichever is lower. This avoids situations where bidders are constantly adjusting their bids by very small amounts to see if they can still win the auction while paying just a little bit less per click. To maximize success and achieve scale, automated bid management systems can be deployed. These systems can be used directly by the advertiser, though they are more commonly used by advertising agencies that offer PPC bid management as a service. These tools generally allow for bid management at scale, with thousands or even millions of PPC bids controlled by a highly automated system. The system generally sets each bid based on the goal that has been set for it, such as maximize profit, maximize traffic at breakeven, and so forth. The system is usually tied into the advertiser's website and fed the results of each click, which then allows it to set bids. The effectiveness of these systems is directly related to the quality and quantity of the performance data that they have to work with - low-traffic ads can lead to a scarcity of data problem that renders many bid management tools useless at worst, or inefficient at best. Social media marketing Social media marketing is a recent addition to organizations’ integrated marketing communications plans. Integrated marketing communications is a principle organizations follow to connect with their targeted markets. Integrated marketing communications coordinates the elements of the promotional mix; advertising, personal selling, public relations, publicity, direct marketing, and sales promotion. In the traditional marketing communications model, the content, frequency, timing, and medium of communications by the organization is in collaboration with an external agent, i.e. advertising agencies, marketing research firms, and public relations firms. However, the growth of social media has impacted the way organizations communicate. With the emergence of Web 2.0, the internet provides a set of tools that allow people to build social and business connections, share information and collaborate on projects online. Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. A corporate message spreads from user to user and presumably resonates because it is coming from a trusted source, as opposed to the brand or company itself. Social media has become a platform that is easily accessible to anyone with internet access, opening doors for organizations to increase their brand awareness and facilitate conversations with the customer. Additionally, social media serves as a relatively inexpensive platform for organizations to implement marketing campaigns. With emergence of services like Twitter, the barrier to entry in social media is greatly reduced. Report from company Sysomos shows that half of the users using Twitter are located outside US demonstrating the global significance of social media marketing. Organizations can receive direct feedback from their customers and targeted markets. Platforms Social media marketing which is known as SMO Social Media Optimization benefits organizations and individuals by providing an additional channel for customer support, a means to gain customer and competitive insight, recruitment and retention of new customers/business partners, and a method of managing their reputation online. Key factors that ensure its success are its relevance to the customer, the value it provides them with and the strength of the foundation on which it is built. A strong foundation serves as a stand or platform in which the organization can centralize its information and direct customers on its recent developments via other social media channels, such as article and press release publications. The most popular platforms include: * Blogs * Delicious * Facebook * Flickr * Hi5 * LinkedIn * MySpace * Reddit * Tagged * Twitter * YouTube * More... Web analytics Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage. Web analytics is not just a tool for measuring website traffic but can be used as a tool for business research and market research. Web analytics applications can also help companies measure the results of traditional print advertising campaigns. It helps one to estimate how the traffic to the website changed after the launch of a new advertising campaign. Web analytics provides data on the number of visitors, page views, etc. to gauge the traffic and popularity trends which helps doing the market research. There are two categories of web analytics; off-site and on-site web analytics. Off-site web analytics refers to web measurement and analysis regardless of whether you own or maintain a website. It includes the measurement of a website's potential audience (opportunity), share of voice (visibility), and buzz (comments) that is happening on the Internet as a whole. On-site web analytics measure a visitor's journey once on your website. This includes its drivers and conversions; for example, which landing pages encourage people to make a purchase. On-site web analytics measures the performance of your website in a commercial context. This data is typically compared against key performance indicators for performance, and used to improve a web site or marketing campaign's audience response. Historically, web analytics has referred to on-site visitor measurement. However in recent years this has blurred, mainly because vendors are producing tools that span both categories. On-site web analytics technologies Many different vendors provide on-site web analytics software and services. There are two main technological approaches to collecting the data. The first method, logfile analysis, reads the logfiles in which the web server records all its transactions. The second method, page tagging, uses JavaScript on each page to notify a third-party server when a page is rendered by a web browser. Both collect data that can be processed to produce web traffic reports. In addition other data sources may also be added to augment the data. For example; e-mail response rates, direct mail campaign data, sales and lead information, user performance data such as click heat mapping, or other custom metrics as needed. Key definitions There are no globally agreed definitions within web analytics as the industry bodies have been trying to agree definitions that are useful and definitive for some time. The main bodies who have had input in this area have been Jicwebs(Industry Committee for Web Standards)/ABCe (Auditing Bureau of Circulations electronic, UK and Europe), The WAA (Web Analytics Association, US) and to a lesser extent the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau). This does not prevent the following list from being a useful guide, suffering only slightly from ambiguity. Both the WAA and the ABCe provide more definitive lists for those who are declaring their statistics using the metrics defined by either. * Hit - A request for a file from the web server. Available only in log analysis. The number of hits received by a website is frequently cited to assert its popularity, but this number is extremely misleading and dramatically over-estimates popularity. A single web-page typically consists of multiple (often dozens) of discrete files, each of which is counted as a hit as the page is downloaded, so the number of hits is really an arbitrary number more reflective of the complexity of individual pages on the website than the website's actual popularity. The total number of visitors or page views provides a more realistic and accurate assessment of popularity. * Page view - A request for a file whose type is defined as a page in log analysis. An occurrence of the script being run in page tagging. In log analysis, a single page view may generate multiple hits as all the resources required to view the page (images, .js and .css files) are also requested from the web server. * Visit / Session - A visit is defined as a series of page requests from the same uniquely identified client with a time of no more than 30 minutes between each page request. A session is defined as a series of page requests from the same uniquely identified client with a time of no more than 30 minutes and no requests for pages from other domains intervening between page requests. In other words, a session ends when someone goes to another site, or 30 minutes elapse between page views, whichever comes first. A visit ends only after a 30 minute time delay. If someone leaves a site, then returns within 30 minutes, this will count as one visit but two sessions. In practice, most systems ignore sessions and many analysts use both terms for visits. Because time between pageviews is critical to the definition of visits and sessions, a single page view does not constitute a visit or a session (it is a "bounce"). * First Visit / First Session - A visit from a visitor who has not made any previous visits. * Visitor / Unique Visitor / Unique User - The uniquely identified client generating requests on the web server (log analysis) or viewing pages (page tagging) within a defined time period (i.e. day, week or month). A Unique Visitor counts once within the timescale. A visitor can make multiple visits. Identification is made to the visitor's computer, not the person, usually via cookie and/or IP+User Agent. Thus the same person visiting from two different computers will count as two Unique Visitors. Increasingly visitors are uniquely identified by Flash LSO's (Local Shared Object), which are less susceptible to privacy enforcement. * Repeat Visitor - A visitor that has made at least one previous visit. The period between the last and current visit is called visitor regency and is measured in days. * New Visitor - A visitor that has not made any previous visits. This definition creates a certain amount of confusion (see common confusions below), and is sometimes substituted with analysis of first visits. * Impression - An impression is each time an advertisement loads on a user's screen. Anytime you see a banner, that is an impression. * Singletons - The number of visits where only a single page is viewed. While not a useful metric in and of itself the number of singletons is indicative of various forms of Click fraud as well as being used to calculate bounce rate and in some cases to identify automatons bots). * Bounce Rate - The percentage of visits where the visitor enters and exits at the same page without visiting any other pages on the site in between. * % Exit - The percentage of users who exit from a page. * Visibility time - The time a single page (or a blog, Ad Banner...) is viewed. * Session Duration - Average amount of time that visitors spend on the site each time they visit. This metric can be complicated by the fact that analytics programs can not measure the length of the final page view. * Page View Duration / Time on Page - Average amount of time that visitors spend on each page of the site. As with Session Duration, this metric is complicated by the fact that analytics programs can not measure the length of the final page view unless they record a page close event, such as on Unload(). * Active Time / Engagement Time - Average amount of time that visitors spend actually interacting with content on a web page, based on mouse moves, clicks, hovers and scrolls. Unlike Session Duration and Page View Duration / Time on Page, this metric can accurately measure the length of engagement in the final page view. * Page Depth / Page Views per Session - Page Depth is the average number of page views a visitor consumes before ending their session. It is calculated by dividing total number of page views by total number of sessions and is also called Page Views per Session or PV/Session. * Frequency / Session per Unique - Frequency measures how often visitors come to a website. It is calculated by dividing the total number of sessions (or visits) by the total number of unique visitors. Sometimes it is used to measure the loyalty of your audience. * Click path - the sequence of hyperlinks one or more website visitors follows on a given site. * Click - "refers to a single instance of a user following a hyperlink from one page in a site to another". Some use click analytics to analyze their web sites. * Site Overlay is a technique in which graphical statistics are shown besides each link on the web page. These statistics represent the percentage of clicks on each link. Google Penalty Advice Finding the Causes of a Sudden Drop in Ranking To check for Google penalties with any degree of certainty can be difficult. For example, if your website experiences a sudden reduction in ranking for its main keyword terms it can be caused solely by a Google algorithm change or search results (SERP) update. Google penalty example using Analytics When any algorithm change or Google SERP update is released, there are always winners and losers, and when a sudden drop in rankings is experienced Google penalties are often incorrectly blamed. However, where the traffic reduction from Google non-paid search is very extreme, as pictured left (from Google Analytics data - traffic sources > search engines > Google) then a penalty is much more likely. There are a growing number of Google filters now built into the Google algorithm which aim to detect violations of Google Webmaster Guidelines in order to help maintain the quality of Google's search results (SERP) for any given query. One such algorithmic filter is thought to have caused the massive drop on Google traffic pictured above. Link Devaluation Effects When considering the cause of a ranking reduction, its worth noting that Google continually applies link devaluation to links from various non-reputable sources that it considers spammers are exploiting to artificially raise the ranking of their sites. Hence continual Google algorithm tweaks are being made in an effort to combat link spam. When link devaluation is applied, as it has with reciprocal links as well as links from many paid link advertisements, low quality web directories and link farms, reductions in Google ranking may occur affecting the recipient site of the links. The severity of ranking reductions is usually synonymous with the website's reliance on that particular type of linking. There's no doubt that do-follow blog links and low quality web directory links have also been devalued and that this has lead to reduced website rankings for sites which got a significant number of backlinks or site wide links from do-follow blogs or directories. In addition, backlinks from unrelated theme sites are also experiencing Google devaluation - so if your site heavily relies on these links, then it too may experience a sudden drop in Google rankings. If you suspect a Google penalty, it first makes sense to check whether any Google algorithm changes have been made which could be the cause of the problem. SEO Forum posts reflecting algorithm changes usually appear on the SEO Chat Forum soon after the effects of any update are felt. That said, if your website suffers sudden and dramatic fall in ranking and no Google algorithm changes have been made, then a Google penalty or filter may be the cause, especially if you have been embarking on activities which might have contravened Google Webmaster Guidelines. The most severe Google penalties lead to total website de-indexing and where the SEO misdemeanour is serious a site ban may be imposed by Google, accompanied by a Page Rank reduction to 0 and a greyed out Google Toolbar Page Rank indication. Google filters are less extreme, but can still be extremely damaging to a company's profits. Whatever the cause, recovering from a Google penalty or filter is a challenge and our SEO checklist will help identify likely causes and reasons for a sudden reduction in Google ranking or an major drop in SERPS position for your main keywords. Initial Test for a Penalty When a penalty is suspected, start by checking with Google the number of URL's it has indexed. This can be accomplished by using the site:yourdomainname.com command within a Google search window. If no URL's are indexed and no backlinks show up when the link:yourdomain.com is entered then there is a high probability of a Google penalty, especially if your site used to be indexed and used to show backlinks. Another indicator of a Google penalty is ceasing to rank for your own company name, where previously your ranked well for your own brand name. The exception to this rule is a new website with few backlinks, which may not be Google indexed since it is still waiting to be crawled. Such websites frequently show no backlinks, but this doesn't imply they have received a Google penalty! Not all Google penalties result in a loss of Page Rank. For example, various Google filters can be triggered by unnatural irregularities in backlinks (detected by the clever Google algorithm) or by excessive reciprocal link exchange, particularly using similar keyword optimized anchor text in your links. The example (left) shows a typical reduction in website traffic caused by a Google SEO penalty. Another good indication that a site is under penalty is to take a unique paragraph of text from a popular page on the affected site and searching for it in Google. If the page doesn't come back as #1 and the page is still showing as cached using cache:www.mydomain.com/page.htm, then this is a good indication that a penalty or filter has been placed on the domain. To avoid a Google penalty or SERPS filter, take particular care when embarking on any link building program. In particular, avoid reciprocal link exchange becoming the main-stay of your SEO campaign. If you suspect your website has received a Google penalty, you can contact Google by sending an e-mail to help@google.com to ask for help. They will usually check the spam report queue and offer some form of assistance. Interestingly, in a recent move by Google, web sites which are in clear violation of Google's webmaster guidelines or terms of service may receive an e-mail from Google advising them to clean up their act, warning of a penalty and website de-indexing. When the breach of Google's terms (e.g. link spam or hidden text) is removed from the offending site, Google will usually automatically clear the penalty and re-index the site as many so-called penalties are actually 'filters' triggered by irregularities found by Google's algorithm. Google Penalty Checklist If your website has suffered a Google penalty, some free SEO advice to help identify the cause and solve the problem is provided below. Once you have identified the cause of the problem, we suggest watching the Google reconsideration tips video to help prepare a successful reconsideration request to Google. For further assistance with Google penalties contact us for professional help. Linking to banned sites Run a test on all outbound links from your site to see if you are linking to any sites which have themselves been Google banned. These will be sites which are Google de-listed and show Page Rank 0 with a greyed out Toolbar Page Rank indicator. Linking to bad neighborhoods Check you are not linking to any bad neighborhoods (neighborhoods - US spelling), link farms or doorway pages. Bad neighborhoods include spam sites and doorway pages, whilst link farms are just pages of links to other sites, with no original or useful content. If in doubt, we recommend quality checking all of your outbound links to external sites using the Bad Neighborhood detection tool. Whilst this SEO tool isn't perfect, it may spot "problem sites". Another good tip is to do a Google search for the HTML homepage title of sites that you link to. If the sites don't come up in the top 20 of the Google SERPS, then they are almost certainly low trust domains and linking to them should be avoided. Automated query penalty Google penalties can sometimes be caused by using automated query tools which make use of Google's API, particularly when such queries are made from the same IP address that hosts your website. These tools break Google's terms of service (as laid out in their Webmaster Guidelines). Google allows certain automated queries into its database using its analytic tools and when accessing through a registered Google API account. Unauthorized types of automated query can cause problems, particularly when used excessively. Over optimization penalties and Google filters These can be triggered by poor SEO techniques such as aggressive link building using the same keywords in link anchor text. When managing link building campaigns, always vary the link text used and incorporate a variety of different keyword terms. Use a back link anchor text analyzer tool to check back links for sufficient keyword spread. Optimizing for high paying (often abused) keywords like "Viagra" can further elevate risk, so mix in some long tail keywords into the equation. For brand new domains, be sensible and add a few one way back links a week and use deep linking to website internal pages, rather than just homepage link building. Above all, always vary your link anchor text to incorporate different keywords, not variations on the same keyword! There is strong evidence that Google has introduced some new automatic over optimization filters into their algorithm. These seem to have the effect of applying a penalty to a page which has been over optimized for the same keyword by link building. See Google filters for more information or contact KSL Consulting for assistance (fees apply). Website cross linking & link schemes If you run more than one website and the Google penalty hits all sites at the same time, check the interlinking (cross linking) between those sites. Extensive interlinking of websites, particularly if they are on the same C Class IP address (same ISP) can be viewed as "link schemes" by Google, breaking their terms of service. The risks are even higher where site A site wide links to site B and site B site wide links back to site A. In addition, link schemes offering paid link placement in the footer section of webpages (even on high Page Rank pages) are detectable search engine spam and are best avoided. Site-wide links should also be avoided at all costs. The reality is that site wide links do little to increase site visibility in the Google SERPS, nor do they improve Page Rank more than a single link, as Google only counts one link from a site to another. KSL Consulting also believe that Yahoo! now applies a similar policy. There is some evidence that the extensive use of site-wide links can lower website Google trust value, which can subsequently reduce ranking. Duplicate Content problems Whilst duplicate content in its own right is not thought to trigger Google penalties, it can be responsible for the non-indexation of website content and for placing all duplicate web pages into Google's supplemental index, which results in pages not ranking in the Google SERP. This can result in significant traffic loss to a site, similar to that caused by a penalty. Google will not index duplicate content and any site which utilizes large amounts of content (like news feeds/articles) featured elsewhere on the web will likely suffer as a result. Hidden text or links Remove any hidden text in your content and remove any hidden keywords. Such content may be hidden from view using CSS or alternatively, text may have been coded to be the same colour as the page background, rendering it invisible. These risky SEO techniques often lead to a Google penalty or web site ban and should be removed immediately. The same applies to hidden links, which Matt Cutts has openly stated break their webmaster guidelines. Keyword stuffing (spamming) Remove excessive keyword stuffing in your website content (unnatural repetitions of the same phrase in body text). Always use natural, well written web copywriting techniques. Check for Malware Problems It is worthwhile carrying out a check to see if Google has blacklisted your site as unsafe for browsing. To assess whether this is the case visit www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=mydomain.co.uk, replacing 'mydomain.co.uk' with your domain. Automated page redirects The use of automated browser re-directs in any of your pages. Meta Refresh and JavaScript automated re-directs often result in Google penalties as the pages using them are perceived to be doorway pages. This technique is especially dangerous if the refresh time is less than 5 seconds. To avoid Google penalties, use a 301 re-direct or Mod Rewrite technique instead of these methods. This involves setting up a .htaccess file on your web server. Link buying or selling Check for any paid links (I.E. buying text links from known link suppliers / companies). There is some evidence that buying links can hurt rankings and this was implied by comments from Matt Cutts (a Google engineer) on his Google SEO blog. Matt states that Google will also devalue links from companies selling text links, such that they offer zero value to the recipient in terms for improving website rankings or Page Rank. More recently, Google applied a Page Rank penalty to known link sellers and many low quality directories. Reciprocal link building campaigns Excessive reciprocal linking may trigger a Google penalty or cause a SERPS filter to be applied when the same or very similar link anchor text is used over and over again and large numbers of reciprocal links are added in a relatively short time. The dangers are made worse by adding reciprocal links to low quality sites or websites which have an unrelated theme. This can lead to a back link over optimization penalty (known as a BLOOP to SEO experts!). a Google Back link Over Optimization Penalty causes a sudden drops in SERPS ranking (often severe). To avoid this problem, reciprocal link exchange should only be used as part of a more sustainable SEO strategy which also builds quality one way links to original website content. Adding reciprocal links to unrelated sites is a risky SEO strategy, as is reciprocal link exchange with low quality websites. To help identify quality link exchange partners we use a simple but effective test - regardless of indicated Page Rank, if you can't find a website's homepage in the top 20 of the Google search results (SERPS) when you search for the first 4 words of a site's full HTML title (shown at the top of the Internet Explorer window) then undertaking reciprocal link exchange with that site may offer few advantages. Don't forget to check that prospective reciprocal link partners have a similar theme as your homepage too. Paid links on Commercial Directories Some leading online web directories offer paid placement for multiple regions where a link to your website appears on many pages of the directory with keyword optimized anchor text and these links are search engine accessible (I.E. they have no "nofollow" tag). If you have optimized the same keyword elsewhere in your SEO campaign, adding hundreds of links from commercial directories with the same or similar anchor text in a short space of time can cause serious problems. In extreme cases we've seen these kinds of directory links trigger a Google filter. Thin Affiliates and "Made for Adsense" sites It's a well known fact that Google dislikes affiliate sites with thin content and the same applies to "made to Adsense" sites. Always make sure affiliate sites have quality original content if you don't want to get them filtered out of the search results when someone completes a Google spam report. We have had personal experience of affiliate sites acquiring a Google penalty, so don't spend time and money on SEO on such sites without the right content. Content Feeds and I-Frames Whilst content feeds (including RSS) are widely used on the web, there is some evidence that pulling in large amounts of duplicate content through such feeds may have an adverse effect on ranking and in extreme cases may trigger a Google penalty. In particular, the use of I-frames to pull in affiliate content should be avoided where possible. Consider the use of banners and text links as an alternative. Same Registrant Domains As Google has access to the WHOIS records for domains and is known to use this information, it is possible that a penalty applied to one website may reduce the ranking of other websites with the same registrant, although most filters only affect one domain. Check Google Webmaster Guidelines Read the Google Webmaster Guidelines and check website compliance in all respects. Since early 2007, Google may alert webmasters via the Google Webmaster Console who they feel might have unknowingly broken their guidelines to advise them that their site has been removed from Google for a set period of time due to breaking one or more of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. However, blatant spam or significant breaches of Google's rules will often result in a site being banned, with no Webmaster Console notification. Where notification of a violation of Google's guidelines is received, it usually encourages the webmaster to correct the problem/s and then submit a Google re-inclusion request (now referred to as a 'reconsideration request' in Webmaster Tools). From my experience, after this is done the website will usually regain its original ranking in around 14 days, assuming that all violations of Google's terms and conditions have been resolved. Google Webmaster Tools According to Matt Cutts's Blog, Google is improving webmaster communication with respect to banned sites and penalties. Google is now informing some (but not all) webmasters the cause of a website ban or penalty, via their excellent new Webmaster Console. In addition, a Google re-inclusion request can be made from the same interface. For this reason, if you've been hit by a web site ban or penalty, it is worthwhile signing up for Google Webmaster Tools and uploading an XML Sitemap onto your site and then to check site status in the Google Webmaster Console. This is an easy 15 minute job and may help to identify the cause and fix for the problem! Preparing Your Site for Google Reconsideration Google recently prepared a Google reconsideration video tutorial on how to create a good reconsideration request, including tips on what Google look for when assessing the reinclusion of any website. The video tutorial is presented by actual members of Google's reconsideration team and is very helpful to any webmaster looking to successfully prepare a reconsideration request. Google SERP Filters There is clear evidence that over-optimizing a single keyword through adding too many back links and site-wide links can result in triggering a Google filter whereby the recipient page of these links no longer ranks in the organic SERP for the keyword being optimized. Affected page/s appear to still be Google indexed and cached. The Google Trust Rank of the website may be slightly affected leading to a ranking reduction for other keywords. Interestingly though, affected websites can retain ranking for other long tail keywords which have not been over optimized, particularly on pages which have not been subject to aggressive link building, but may have one or two decent natural links. One other fact worth noting is that affected pages seem to have high keyword density to the point of being over-optimized. In some cases changes to increase page keyword density for the problem keyword may have been made shortly prior to the Google filter being applied. In the cases observed, the websites still rank for their company name and pages still show in the Google index (using the site:domain.com command). However, picking a sentence of text from the affected page and searching for it in Google yielded no results. It is therefore fair to assume that the filtered page was all but removed from the index as far as its ability to rank - even for long-tail keywords, although it still showed as being Google cached (cache:domain.com/page). To assess whether your website is affected by a Google SERP filter, do a site-wide back link anchor text analysis using Majestic SEO (free) or a paid SEO tool like SEO Moz Links cape and check the spread of keywords used in links to your page look natural. Check your keyword density too excluding Meta tags. Google is tightening up on link spam in a big way; be warned! Check for a Total Google Website Ban If you've used unethical black hat SEO techniques your website could be Google banned and consequently totally de-indexed. If your site no longer shows any pages indexed when the site: www.yourdomain.com command is used in Google (and it was previously indexed), then your site may have received the most extreme form of penalty - a total Google ban. Check for possible causes using the free SEO advice contained in our penalty checklist above. Google Penalty Recovery Strategy Recovering from a Google penalty normally involves fixing the cause of the problem and then waiting for Google to remove any over optimization penalties or SERPS filters. To fully recover Google ranking may take around 2-3 months after all website problems are corrected, although we have seen penalty recovery in a matter of weeks following full and thorough resolution of the Google Webmaster Guidelines infringements. The Google algorithm can automatically remove penalties if the affected website is still Google indexed. To check whether a particular website is still Google indexed, refer to our Google indexing page. If your website has been Google de-indexed and lost Page Rank, then you will need to make a Google re-inclusion request. Where the reason for the penalty is clear, it helps to provide details of any changes you've made to correct violations of the Google Webmaster Guidelines. The best recovery strategy from any Google penalty is to thoroughly familiarize yourself with Google Webmaster Guidelines and also check the SEO Chat Forum for threads surrounding any recent Google algorithm changes and to evaluate recent changes made to your website prior to the sudden drop in Google ranking. Don't forget to check your link building strategy as poor SEO often causes Google penalties. Start by removing any reciprocal links to low quality websites, or sites having no relevance to your website theme. Preparing for a Google Re-Inclusion (Reconsideration) Request We recommend you start by watching the Google reconsideration tips video. If your site has been de-indexed due to a Google penalty, correct the problem and then apply to be re-included in the Google index by submitting a Google re-inclusion request from your Webmaster Tools account. More information about this is provided in Google Webmaster Help. Google refer to this process as making a "reconsideration request" which is now submitted from your Webmaster Tools login. How long does site reconsideration take? By submitting a reconsideration request to Google you enter the queue for the manual review process whereby your site is manually checked for violations of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This can take several weeks. At the end of the process, an Inbox message is usually sent to the Webmaster to confirm that the reconsideration has been processed. This will be visible by logging into Webmaster Tools and then checking your Inbox under 'Messages'. Gorilla Marketing (Viral Marketing) Viral marketing and viral advertising are buzzwords referring to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of virus or computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages. The goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to identify individuals with high Social Networking Potential (SNP) and create viral messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being taken by another competitor. The term "viral marketing" has also been used pejoratively to refer to stealth marketing campaigns—the unscrupulous use of astronautics on-line combined with under market advertising in shopping centres to create the impression of spontaneous word of mouth enthusiasm. Viral marketing is a imitation which is by using social media and other channels of communication spreading the planned content aiming to reach the most efficient and friendly manner to the target audience. Briefly, the idea spread from person to person. <b>Email Marketing</b> E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fund-raising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every e-mail sent to a potential or current customer could be considered e-mail marketing. However, the term is usually used to refer to: * sending e-mails with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or previous customers, to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business, * sending e-mails with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately, * adding advertisements to e-mails sent by other companies to their customers, and * Sending e-mails over the Internet, as e-mail did and does exist outside the Internet (e.g., network e-mail and FIDO). <
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