Monday, March 14, 2005

Real Estate Website Structure

In the sea of websites involving Real Estate and MLS, I have learned that the sites that display good search engine status, typically involve:


  • Well structured and keyworded pages, each somewhat optimized for individual phrases specific to the region.

  • A home page that has hundreds of backlinks from other sites.


  • A listings area that produces listings where the Title and Descriptions are well coded, and unique for that property.


  • Homepage links to important, high PR sites from the community help a site rank high for the general search of that city or region. i.e. Chicago Real Estate found in the search for "Chicago".



The last point is interesting in that while a site may be optimized for a region's Real Estate market, people don't always use Real Estate phrases to find homes. Many just enter the city name, and go from there.

A very usefull website for Open Source (FREE) Real Estate Listings PHP code can be found at www.open-realty.org

With modifications, this code can be very search engine friendly. Forums are available to learn about the different MODS, and get help.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Reciprocal Links - Top Freebies 001

Every once in a while you come across a great search engine optimization tool or script, service for free. This is definately one!

  1. Quoted directly from her site:

    "Put your website promotion, marketing, & search engine positioning on autopilot with my all new Link Management Assistant. The "Link Management Assistant" totally automates your reciprocal link partner management, allowing you to focus entirely on securing more strategic link partners to increase your websites link popularity & search engine rankings..."

    * source: http://www.onlinemarketingtoday.com/software/

    This reciprocal link directory software will help your site build a manageable link directory for free. It even enables you to "populate" the directory with DMOZ.org data. (The world's largest human edited directory).

    This program is an awesome start, if your don't have a links page, or want to custom build another area!


  2. This cool site allows you to search for link partners free. Probably the best of it's sort that I have seen - it shows PR rank of site, breaks partners into categories. Requests come in your email for link exchanges and you log in, and either accept or decline the invitation. Conversely, you can make requests to other sites listed. Heres the link: http://www.infowizards.com

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Keywords or Key Words

Is it keywords, or key words? I'm not sure. Perhaps I should check Google !

What is certain is, for small business online, you need to know them! From a "Keyword" point of view take a look at your site on an online keyword analyzer like the one at VirtualPromote. If the keywords that are being used online, or key phrases, are not appearing, then you'll need to add them.

But what are they?

Keywords are the language of search. They are every possible combination of words that could lead to a search, as entered in any search engine online - that could be used to find your site. They are the words most closely related to a specific sector, or industry, of the economy. They are Brands. City Names. Nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Many search engines "remove" overly common words like:

on, in, the,

but... when you get to words like

at, for, get...

Searches done in January 2005 Count (Overture)
Search Term

307859 searches for "get right"
523939 searches for "work at home"
74723 "body for life"

The keyword "in" is a special case. It shouldn't be optimized for, but on the other hand "in" can produce some results. For me, it's a bit of a mystery. I've used it in domains, URL's, and optimized HTML - but only when I had to, or was experimenting, after a site was already scoring well for it's main phrase. I tend to think in phrases most of the time as opposed to singular word usage. I find it very interesting how Overture is reporting phrases these days. One of a few things is possible.

  1. The computer at Overture is screwing up, or there is a conspiracy.
  2. A large amount International users, possibly asians are using translators and our keywords are getting mixed up due to electronic translation, or a mixed "perception" of how our words are used is actually being entered into the search boxes.
  3. I am the only person left on Earth that still types words in the correct order.

I've also noticed Overture doesn't seem to post the plural version of words, either?

Fortunately I am a Gemini so I'm not too worried about it. I am also a firm believer in having Altavista Babel Fish javascript on my pages. You can experiment at Babel Fish by taking phrases, converting them to another language, then taking that "converted" language, and switch it from language B, back to A. Did you get the same phrase? If it is different or reversed, perhaps it is important. I've noticed that by having largely text sites, with translators, and reverse coded SEO phrases, your international audience increases in your server statistics. Be discrete though or you might look fairly English challenged.

You can also take printed copy of translated pages into a translator, along with the original web page and get some pages optimized for other languages.

Try any keyword search of a two or three word combination, as an experiment. Try to think in laymen terms, as well as intellectual. A search for "bicycle tire" at Overture:


3059
bicycle tire
361
bicycle michelin tire
338
bicycle continental tire
160
bicycle pump tire
148
bicycle hutchinson tire
138
bicycle studded tire
117
bicycle colored tire
110
bicycle kenda tire
98
bicycle change rear tire
93
bicycle nokian tire
88
bicycle tire tube
88

If I had to build a website tomorrow, for a bicycle tire company, and it had to be done by the evening (Outrageous), I'd order:

Domain name bicycletire.net available
Domain name bicycletire.org available
Domain name bicycletire.info available
Domain name bicycletire.biz available
Domain name bicycletire.us available
Domain name bicycletire.ca available

If I was Canadian, which I am, I'd at minimum go for the .ca name, and If I was American, I'd go for the .biz

My HTML would look like this (or close to, this is a Blog, not a research document :)

[title] Bicycle Tire, Bicycle Tires - Bike Company, State [/title]
[meta name="keywords" content="bicycle tire,bicycle tires,bicycle michelin tire, bike tires, michelin, hutchinson, kenda, specialized"]
[meta name="description" content="Bicycle tire brands by Bike Company: Michelin, Hutchinson, and specialized products - all brands of bicycle tires with guaranted service."]

* many will argue that the Major SE's don't look at Meta Tags beyond [title]. I say: what about the ones that do?

My Site would involve at least one usage of H1 "Bicycle Tire" in the HTML.

That is a very crash course article, off the cuff lesson! Certainly more thought must be put in it! Written in this fashion, thought - you can easily get a feel for "thinking keywords", if it is totally new to you.


Powertip
: Try converting this page to a different language with the Babel Fish Language translator - then click on one of those hotlinked bicycle search terms to find keywords in a different language!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

PHP Search Engine Optimization

Optimizing a website for PHP can be a challenge. Often the code created does not allow for proper Titles, Meta Tags, or Descriptions (like HTML homepages do). If you are careful and create dynamic Titles that match the key words and content in your dynamically produced code, you will have more luck. If a website contains a great number of pages, dynamically produced, with the same Title and Description Tags - chances are SE's won't pay much attention to them. Site Maps also help greatly in this department. If the number of dynamically produced pages is not too enormous; one can create HTML with proper anchor text, in a site map that points to the dynamically produced code. This creates a road map to these otherwise lost pages, and helps them develop relevance. If the number of dynamically produced pages is in the hundreds or thousands, you will have to restructure your Title in the relevant .php to incorporate some way of pulling a key word data variable, either from the database, or some other routine. Fortunately there are usually forums full of users for each PHP script (if popular)out there. Making the database output SE friendly is usually a hot topic in most forums.



* I have replaced the "<>" in the Title tag with [ and ].

It is an acceptable practice, as a minimum, to add that same data to the Description. This dynamic Title is usually a call to a function in your "common.php" document for the application. In this example, a real estate website calls to a function to place the address of the property right in the Title. The address could be added into the Meta Description, as well. For each property listing, there will then be a unique Title and Description.

Resources:

More info on PHP and Search Engine Optimization.

  • Check out www.seo-into.com for fee service MOD Re-Writes that handle PHP and Search Engine Optimization issues.
  • The very cool, ad free informative PHP Tools Page, by Gary White.
  • Thinking about a complete site switchover? Check out this FREE blog script , b2evolution featuring multiple blogs, categories/sub-categories, skins, search function, multiple languages, search engines friendly URLs.
  • Here is are two CMS systems definately worth noting: pMachine and Geeklog.

More to Come! Add a Site!

Google PageRank(TM)

Google PageRank(TM) According to Google(TM): "The heart of our software is PageRank(TM), a system for ranking web pages developed by our founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University. And while we have dozens of engineers working to improve every aspect of Google on a daily basis, PageRank continues to provide the basis for all of our web search tools."

* source: http://www.google.com/technology/

Google PageRank(TM) to me is admittedly, quite an enigma. It is becoming more and more apparent that theme is starting to play a bigger part of SERPS - (Search Engine Ranking Positions). Complicated estimations on how Google calculates PR suggest quite an intelligent algorithm. Another notable article is "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine". I should hope they've come up with something intelligent, afterall, they are making a lot of money off this stuff. Many tools exist to check Page Rank on your site. Don't hammer the search engines with tools you find on sites. Downloadable programs that queue up lengthy requests from search engines run even more risk of getting your local IP restricted or banned from use. Be reasonable, and it's best to use sites or tools that actually have a licensed API. You can add a Toolbar from Google(TM) to help you out, as well. Discussions take place about Google PageRank (TM) in SEO Forums. If your site domain is brand new, you will experience additional challenges in the alleged Google Sandbox. What the Sandbox means is: If you have a new website, there's a good chance that you'll be placed in this "penalty" zone. Don't change the way you build your website or market it. Use it to your advantage and build your traffic, and links. Usually within 6 to 12 months, your website should be very well positioned within Google.

Fortunately, you may scratch Google(TM)'s back with their Google Adsense(TM) program. Also notable, is http://services.google.com/. As you can see, at the moment there are no public services available off that link. Perhaps that would be.. Evil? I wish I could get blank pages on my server to get a PR 3, like that one!

My rule of thumb:

I optimize for Altavista(TM), (I miss her...) / Yahoo(TM) and MSN(TM), and then if all goes well, Google(TM) will come around last. I really don't give it a lot more thought than that, because it's pretty hard to optimize for Google(TM) with a new client - new domain. To the best of my knowledge, Google(TM) is the only important search engine that takes a website's "age" into consideration. There are a few cool checks you can do with Google (TM) though, even if your website is in the alleged "Google Sandbox".

Try putting these terms before your search if your domain is brand new:

site:domain.com

This will tell you if Google(TM) has registered your site in it's database. If it is not listed add your URL to Google.

link:domain.com

Link search will tell you how many pages Google(TM) is aware of: pages that link back to your domain. It will produce a result like:

Results 1 - 10 of about 10,200 linking to domain.com

* If your site is "SandBoxed" the results you get are inaccurate. That's not too important. As long as that number increases, it's a good thing. If your site is PR0, shown by a blank white PageRank(TM) bar, you'll need to get some links back to your site. Once you have your site listed in many directories, Google will be constantly crawling your site and picking up new links day by day. Sooner or later, if you have enough higher PR links back to your site, your PR will go up.

Here are some other cool Google(TM) search commands:

related:www.domain.com

Related to the topic on your page. Yea Right.

allinurl:keyword

Lists pages and sites that contain the "keyword" in their url.

allinanchor:keyword

Lists pages and sites that contain the "keyword" as anchor text in a link.

* see more here: adapted from this page by PHOENIX

More Google(TM) to come!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

SEO - HTML - LAYOUT

Search engine optimization is effected by our choices of structure - our site layout. With so many ways to create a web page - some lend to better search engine "look". (More info in my previous article SEO - HTML - Body Text. )

I mentioned using this great tool: The Delorie.com Online LYNX Viewer Tool. This will help you compare one HTML page against another for it's layout's effectiveness at search engines.

Websites that rely heavily on graphical look and flash presentations, often suffer at the search engines. Here are some cool links to articles describing website layouts that create high performance search engine friendly sites:

The Table Trick
The table is trick is a strong HTML search engine optimization tehnique. Quoted directly from the site: "Table-based layout usually works well with search engines. However, a traditional design that contains the menu on the left and the content on the right does have one downside. In many cases, such a layout will cause your navigation menu to appear above your content in the source code. This is unlikely to create any major problems, but might make it slightly harder for your pages to obtain good rankings. Correcting this issue seems relatively simple, at least at first. It can be done by making some minor changes to the way your tables are arranged. The procedure is widely known in SEO circles as 'The Table Trick'".

This site assumes some basic HTML skill. Here, in essence is the "Table Trick":

<table>
<tr>
<!-- Spacer Gif located in upper-left cell -->
<td><img src="/images/spacer.gif" width="1" height="1" alt=""></td>
<!-- main content cell first, with rowspan=2 -->
<td valign="top" align="left" rowspan="2">
... Put your main Content Here...
</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td valign="top" align="left" width="25%">
... Put your Navigation Bar here...
</td>
</tr>
</table>

* adapted from another great article regarding the table trick from http://diveintoaccessibility.org/

Search Engine Optimized CSS layout

While there is still a lot of argument for and against the use of strict XHTML, one can definately benefit by making sure their choices in table layout or CSS are search engine friendly. I personally think that either is OK. Tables may still be stronger, and offer more platform compatibility - but XHTML strict positioning is a possible way of the future. Here is a great site regarding Search Engine Friendly Layout.

3 Column CSS Search Engine Friendly Layout


This page contains what many consider the "The Holy Grail" of layout. It offers the best of both worlds: 3 column layout, CSS positioning, and search engine optimization. Though it may produce trouble in some browsers, most will see exactly what you intend to present! Be sure to check that one out!

Added (Feb 2006):

Another fantastic, open licensed layout:
http://design.adaptiveview.com/demo/3-col/lfso.html

SEO - HTML TAGS - BODY TEXT

Search Engine Optimization of body text is an important area of SEO. For now, and probably some time to come, websites that contain relevant and key worded text will continue to do better than sites that don't.

Placing text (whether it is in H1 tags or not) at the top of a page is a very useful technique. However, having said that, where exactly is the TOP of the page, in the eyes of a search engine? It isn't always where you would think! CSS, Tables and XHTML definitions can change this, for better or worse. Fortunately, there are few tricks to determining how a search engine "sees" your page. My favorite technique is to use LYNX. LYNX enables you to look at a web page and see it, approximately as a search engine might. You can download a copy of LYNX and use it locally, or you can use this great tool, to view your webpage, as LYNX sees it, right online.

Editors note: Feb 2006
Delorie.com is now asking that you place an empty HTML document in your web servers
root folder called delorie.htm in order for her LYNX tool to validate you as the webmaster


This is a great tool, becuase it shows you what text is prominent. Do your key words come up first, or do your links to subpages precede them? This tool will determine the "layout" as a search engine sees your page.

As a round figure, your web pages should contain between 200-400 words each. Having said that, I have found pages with many more words that are doing well. I don't think there is a magic number, really, because while this is important, it is not nearly as important as other things like the [Title] tag, and links back to your site.

What is important however, is the prominence, weight, and placement of your key words. I like to design pages that have key words prominent, links to sub pages at the very bottom of the site, and about 200-300 words with a key word weight of no more than about 30%. Some designers have had great results with as little as 3-5% and say over 25% will constitute a ban. I do not agree at all, I have sites rating top ten with 30% prominence.

Heres some simple tips and guidelines to follow if you need an outline of how to get started in site opmization, key words, and body text:


  • Use key words at the beginning and end of your documents
  • Use key words right in the anchor text at least once per page
  • Use bolded key words at least once per page
  • Use H1 or H2 somewhere on the page
  • Use a sitemap that is heavier in keywords
  • Mix up the usage of key words, and words that interchange with keywords


It should be said that the usage of wordy pages must be balanced with ad copy technique. There is no point in excessive key word usage if it creates pages that are awkward to read: that will destroy any marketing or educational value of the page! Keep it clean and natural.

Here are some tools to help you find which key words are actually being used to find your service or product online:

Finding Key Word Usage at Overture.com
Finding Key Word Usage at wordtracker.com

SEO - HTML TAGS - H1

Search Engine Optimization of a website greatly benefits from proper usage of H1, H2, H3 etc. These tags create "Headers". You may have noticed that when you search for a key word or phrase on a search engine, you often arrive at a page that has a large occurrence of the very words, you used to find that page. It's key words. This is no coincidence. H1, H2, H3 etc. are large bold, loud and proud. Anyone in business who is brave enough to put those words in a header at the top of their site is likely to be in the business of those key words. For Example here is a H1 usage:


H1 tags and Search Engines



For a search engine, it stands to reason that if a webmaster is brave enough to place those H1 or H2 tags on the top of the site, those key words that are relevant to the content of those pages. Although the opposite can hold true; a person could use these tags to mislead people. On this site I am referring to ethical search engine tactics. I am talking about getting a site to rank for key words that are relevant to the sites theme and industry sector. Mis-use of key words in an H1 tag is unethical - I don't recommend it. A mathematical calculation of the re-occurence of those key words; a comparison of what is in the Title, and the H1-H4 tags - compared to the rest of the page would show that the page is spam - in the case of misuse - so that would be stupid. Usage of these key words in H1, and prominent position purely to add a misleading "text" theme to an website about something completely different is actually unlikely to work. They will however help a site, that is overly "graphic". They can be the saving grace for such a site, and their "style and feel" can be controlled by CSS. Some webmasters are abusing this too, however, and I don't recommend placing keywords, using CSS, in "unreadable" regions of a page. It's only a matter of time before SE's are smart enough to determine those words have been "programmed" to appear about 2 feet to the right off your moniter; and the web audience could not possibly see them!

Placement of the H1 tag is likely best on the top of your page. Headers generally mean more when they are place at the beginning. This, by the way is called prominence. A key word or header is considered prominent when it is at the start or beginning, top. Also, information at the very end of an article, paragraph, or page is also important.

Consider this paragraph:

Key Words in Headers



Key words placed in bold text, in H1-H4 header tags and bolded in the beginning and end of paragraphs are a widely used SEO technique. Studies have shown that valid, relevant documents do this naturally, so it is easy to see why search engines would utilize this in their ranking algorythms. It is not uncommon when we build articles, naturally, we would stucture our paragraphs and pages using key words in this fashion.

Now, having said that, it is possible to use H1, H2, etc., without having such huge ugly words. Use of CSS to downplay the size of the text and change it's style is totally possible. In this way, we get the relevancy and importance across to the search engines, without actually having to have massive big ugly words across the top of our web pages. I do not recommend using strategies that hide them or make them so small they are not legible. These practices are likely to be the next changes that will get sites penalized.

Here is some handy CSS that will decrease the size of H1 tags This will enable you to use the tag, but not BLAST it across your page. Place this in your CSS (Cascading Style Sheet)

h1 {
font-family: Verdana, Times, serif;
font-size: 14px;
font-weight: bold;
}


Relevant Online Documents:

Webmaster World Forum on H1 usage
Onclick.com Article on H1 Usage
Epoweredprofessionals.com uses extensive H1 tags and simple HTML to improve their SEO

SEO - HTML TAGS - TITLE

Search Engine Optimization begins with your HTML Tags. Proper Usage of Tags is still important in SEO. Perhaps the single most important Tag is the Title Tag.

What belongs in the Title tag? Your entire life story. Joke. No really, what belongs first in the Title tag is your key words. Followed by a dash or comma, then your company name. No more, no less. I have experimented over and over with this. If you put to much information in your Title tag, you will pay a price. This is because the weight of your keywords will be less. Weight? Weight means, in SEO terms, the density or weight of your key words compared to the total of all words in this tag. Still confused? Consider this keyword weight equation:

[Title]Widgets - John Smith[/Title]

I have replaced the <> symbols with [ and ], to make it easier for me to enter into this blog. Naturally, you wouldn't do this in your HTML. Let's look carefully at this Title. Widgets is our example key word. Upon careful examination, inside the Title tag there are exactly 20 characters. Widgets makes up 7 of them. If we divide 7 by 20, we get .35, or 35%. 35% is our keyword weight.

From this, we can see that a Title tag:

[Title]Widgets - John Smith, Serving the State of Nevada USA[Title]

will not have the same key word weight. In fact this Title has a keyword weight of only 13%. That is a little bit low for the Title Tag. I like around 30-40% myself, but opinions will vary. Don't bother repeating your keywords in your Title Tag, it won't help much, and may even do harm.

That's it for the Title Tag. See my next post for using the Meta Description Tag in your search engine optimization techniques.

Resources on this topic:

Steve Jackson's Article on websearch.about.com
http://www.seorank.com/meta-tags-article.htm

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization is a misunderstood part of web design: No Doubt. With a million companies and websites, SEO rates from $10/mo. to $500/mo. how is one to determine, what works, and why? Small Business websites require a low budget solutions. SEO Tricks are really just a myth. Decently coded pages with key words, are a reality. The truth is, search engines are still not incredibly intelligent.

Search Engine Optimization is the responsibility of whoever is paid to care about the position or rank of a web site, on a given search engine, for it's given set of key words. So who should care? Anyone who publishes a web site, who wishes to benefit from traffic derived from people searching - that's who!

What is it worth? This is probably the biggest enigma. It's worth, and ROI is skeptical. Ultimately, the worth is determined by the ad copy at the end of the road. The quality of service and motivational factors of the site. A click-through to your web site is worth nothing, if your website doesn't offer good services, or products. It sure doesn't hurt if your website gives away some general, valid information on the topic or key words closest matched to your service industry: A autoparts website that offers great deals and warranties on autoparts - and gives you general information such as crossreferencing parts. It isn't worth a dime if no one ends up being interested in your services, after they arrive. If your site is ready for success, clickthroughs are of value, and SEO may be for you!

What techniques would produce the ultimate search engine optimized site? No one really knows the answer to this, but my guess is, it would include:

  • Either a very tightly optimized CSS layout or Table Trick. Forces key word content to the top of the browser in a place of prominence.
  • Excellent content on the website, that is key word laden.
  • A domain name with key words.
  • Written by an expert in the field, and containing cutting edge discussion and articles about the given industry or key worded topic. This promotes spontaneous "backlinks".
  • Hundreds (or thousands) of links leading back to the website containing a good variety of the key words in place in the anchor text. Many of these links being high Google PR Rank and appearing on the home page of a domain, if possible. Many can be "reciprocal" links, but the most valuable are high PR links, from a home page, that does not contain more than 40 or so links on it.
  • An .xml feed of the site updates - at very least. A complete strict site may help, especially at Yahoo - but this hasn't proven to be totally necessary and may restrict audiences.
  • A Blog (which could provide the above - .xml feed)
  • Continuous updates changes - "tweaks" to the position and use of keywords
  • Continuous addition of content
  • Tip of the Hat Links - Links to high PR content rich sites in theme with the site.

Search Engine Optimization begins with several main procedures:


  1. Optimization of HTML Tags
  2. Optimization of Word Copy
  3. Link Building - Reciprocal Link Building
  4. Directory Submissions
  5. Content Building
  6. Experimentation
  7. Waiting - Resubmitting - Ping and Blogging
  8. Server Log Analyzing
  9. Key Word Swapping
  10. Pay Per Click Programs
  11. Domain Name Strategies

This BLOG will attempt to teach the beginner webmaster a few techniques to help get pages ranking better at the search engines. Please note, that techniques change, over time - as search engines change their "ranking algorithm", or methods for determining which sites will rank highest.



Stay Tuned For Search Engine Optimization Articles To Come!