Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Backlinks

What is a backlink?


If a link exists, somewhere on the Internet, directing visitors to your site, or to one of your pages - this is a "backlink". It is the opposite of an outgoing link, or a "forward" link, that takes visitors away from your site. We all know about having a link page on our site. These are "forwarding" links. If a site other than your own, had a links page, and there existed a link on it, to your page, that would be a "forward" link for the site owner, and a "backlink" for you.

Why are these links, then, so important? Specifically, if these links contain keywords within the anchor text (the actual text within the hyperlink) - and they link to your site - they are very valuable to your campaign. Hypothetically, let's examine three different links. Suppose these links existed on a web page somewhere online. Hypothetically, we will assume you are "Margie" the owner of the website - www.margiesshop.com. Let's also assume your main product online for sale is woven baskets. So then, let's compare three styles of backlinks, assuming the following examples are the actual backlinks that exist somewhere online. In the examples below, I have bolded the text that would be the anchor text, or "clickable text".


Ex. 1
Margies Shop
Margie specializes in woven baskets from around the world! With hundreds of different styles available, Margie brings together baskets for sale from dozens of different countries, all on one site. Compare and shop for baskets from Asia, South America, and add to your collection, unique baskets from around the world!


Ex. 2
Margie's Woven Baskets
Margie specializes in woven baskets from around the world! With hundreds of different styles available, Margie brings together baskets for sale from dozens of different countries, all on one site. Compare and shop for baskets from Asia, South America, and add to your collection, unique baskets from around the world!


Ex. 3
Woven Baskets - Margies Shop
Margie specializes in woven baskets from around the world! With hundreds of different styles available, Margie brings together baskets for sale from dozens of different countries, all on one site. Compare and shop for baskets from Asia, South America, and add to your collection, unique baskets from around the world!

The main thing to notice is the difference between the three styles of links, specifically, the anchor text - the actual text within the hyperlink you click on (shown as bolded, in the above examples). Notice in Ex. 1, the anchor text is the name of the shop. In Ex. 2, the keywords follow "Margie's". In Ex. 3, the keywords are first, in the most prominent position, and they are followed by the site name "Margies Shop".

From an SEO point of view, the third style is most desirable. Placing our keywords prominent in a hyperlink, creates an association - that is our keywords are associated to our domain, or .com name. When building backlinks, this is exactly what we want to do! The power of creating this "hyperlink association" is incredible. Perhaps the most famous example, and proof of this power, is the Google search for the term "miserable failure". Try this search and see what happens!

Now that you understand backlinks, here is how to use the various search engines to determine how many you already have, to your site, at this time, and where they exist online.



Use this search style at the Google search box:

domain.com -site:www.domain.com -site:domain.com

(Use your site name, not "domain.com".)

This searches for pages linking to domain.com, but subtracts the "internal" links - those links that actually exist on domain.com itself, pointing back to itself. An example of an "internal" link would be a link back to your home page, on page two of your website. By stipulating -site:www.domain.com, we effectively subtract all of our own links, from the count, and results. By using both the www.domain.com and domain.com designations, we subtract all possible forms of internal backlinks, limiting the search to backlinks from external domains. Note: Google results lie! They only show a portion of our actual backlinks online. Better to use Yahoo.com



Use this search style at the Yahoo search box:

linkdomain:www.domain.com -site:www.domain.com -site:domain.com

Again, this search subtracts internal links from the count. Use your website name, not "domain.com".

At this time, the number of backlinks your website has, is a very important factor in determining your position at the search engines. The theme and content of the pages where they exist, also plays a big factor. Remember always to try and get your keywords fisrt, or prominent in the anchor text of the link, whenever possible. Repeat your keywords/phrases sensibly, in the description below the link. This increases the "on-page" content, or theme - of the page where your link resides.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Meta Tags - Do They Matter Anymore?

Meta Tags!

They used to be a powerful means of optimizing your website. Do they even matter any more? Truth is - not very much. However, having said that - they are still important, because the search engines still use them to to provide a description of your site, the text that appears on your entry. More so than ever you can use the Description tag as it was intended, to properly describe your service! In terms of their importance for your ranking - they only have power at the smaller engines, not the big three. One important factor however, is that it is wise practice to use these tags correctly, and uniquely for each page of your site. If a word is in your META KEYWORDS tag, that word better appear on the page! This is not a place to put words you wish you could have fit in somewhere - keep it down to your keywords, first, in the prominent position, and only words that actually appear on your page, afterwards - words that support the key phrase or key word, in theme! So many webmasters try to use this as a place where they can express all the extra words they hope the site to score for - but the truth is, if they aren't on the page itself, as well - they'll most certainly be ignored!

SEO - The Power of Text Key Word Anchored Links and Theme by Association

Over the past decade I have kept a small number of clients consistently ranked well in their respective searched terms. Even as someone who has a sound understanding of SEO, I am continuely asking myself, what are the most important factors. I have experimented continuously, and I would like to share with you a technique I use that I call Close Analysis.

As an example, let us look at the key word phrase "Pro Audio". At Overture, this phrase was searched in December of 2005 a reported 9991 times. That is a respectable number of people, not an obscure term. When we do a search for this term, we find that www.cakewalk.com ranks #1 for the term. Upon Close Analysis, and visiting the website, one can do a View Source, to see the underling code behind the homepage. As it turns out - there is not one occurrence of the term "pro audio" in the HTML, or on page. Not in the Title, not in the Meta's, not as a phrase on page. In other words, their site is in no way optimized for the term - whatsoever. In fact - when you look through the website - I'll doubt you'll find the term on any page, whatsoever, anywhere!

With all the talk of search engine optimization these days, and the importance of Title tags being done properly, Metas's, Headers, domain names, etc., this is almost hard to believe! How then could they do so well for a term, that the website is in no way associated to? And a term that has obvious usage, at that?

The answer is key word phrases anchored in text links, and "on page association", or "theme". A well known and hot topic, for sure... but who would believe it could be EVERYTHING. Turns out Cakewalk USED to make a product called Cakewalk Pro Audio. They don't anymore, but residual links are all over the Internet. Their company name is displayed next to the term Pro Audio, on thousands of pages (theme). Try this search at Google, with the quotes, and without the brackets: [cakewalk + "pro audio"].

Google reports 1 of about 600,000 pages that show both the words cakewalk and the phrase pro audio. Many old links likely have the text joined together, as in a product link to "Cakewalk Pro Audio 9".

It only goes to show the associations that are built.
Even though the company has long since changed their multi-tracker software to the name SONAR, the association lives on, and consequently so does their Google attachment to the term "pro audio". Naturally the combination of links and high PR help, yet oddly Cakewalk.com does not rank Top 10 for either "multitrack software" or "digital audio software". I wonder if their CEO knows about this :)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

SEO - The Coveted DMOZ.ORG LINK

Search Engines, especially Google, love to see one-way links leading back to your website. One of those links in particular, that stands above the rest - is a relevant Dmoz.org link - The Open Directory Project. Make sure your website is updated and everything is running smoothly though, before you apply for a http://www.dmoz.org link - in your approriate category. Spend some time finding the right category that best matches your service. Also make note of the PR in that category while your at it. Google loves to see a site listed at Dmoz.org, because it is proof that human has actually visited your website, and allowed you into that category! Makes sense, doesn't it? The same holds true for the Yahoo Directory - but it costs a fair bit of money! You can do without a Yahoo Directory link, and go for Dmoz.org instead for free. Expect to wait a long time to see it actually get created!