Archive for the ‘SEO’ Category

HTML 5, Microdata, and You

Howdy, everybody. I have finally returned to convey some more information regarding the technical side of web design. Today’s topic is HTML5 and microdata.

I have recently begun using HTML 5 instead of XHMTL 1.0. The spec for HTML 5 is still a long way off from being a W3 “recommendation,” but I decided to switch to it because of “microdata”. Microdata, or Rich Snippets as Google calls them, are a way to mark up the information on your web site to be more machine readable, such as products or addresses. For example, you can use it to tell search engines that a portion of your page pertains to a specific product, pointing out exactly what makes up the name of the product, the price, its image, and so on. The following code example is pretty typical for an individual product’s info (obviously simplified for this example):

<div class="product">
	<div class="name">The Web Site Maker</div>
	<div class="price">$99.99</div>
	<div class="description">This is the incredible Web Site Maker. No longer
		do you have to get your hands dirty. This software contains a single
		button. Push to receive web site.</div>
	<img src="web-site-maker.png" alt="The Web Site Maker" />
</div>

However, a search engine doesn’t necessarily know what all that means. Google’s pretty scary and can probably decipher all that, but, with microdata, we can help by marking exactly what each bit of info means. As follows:

<div class="product" itemscope="itemscope" itemtype="http://schema.org/Product">
	<div class="name" itemprop="name">The Web Site Maker</div>
	<div class="price" itemprop="offers" itemscope="itemscope"
		itemtype="http://schema.org/Offer"><span itemprop="price">
		$99.99</span></div>
	<div class="description" itemprop="description">This is the incredible Web Site
		Maker. No longer do you have to get your hands dirty. This software
		contains a single button. Push to receive web site.</div>
	<img itemprop="image" src="web-site-maker.png" alt="The Web Site Maker" />
</div>

What is this itemscope and itemtype stuff, you may be wondering. These are attributes new to HTML 5, and thus the reason for switching to it. These attributes are legal on nearly any element and are used to mark up our data. The itemscope attribute is used to mark an element as the container for a particular item—in this case, a product. In the example, it means everything inside the element with the itemscope attribute is information about this particular product. It’s within the “scope” of this product. As an aside, you may notice that itemscope “equals” itemscope in the example. This is only because I am using the XHTML flavor of HTML 5. If you were using the HTML variant, you could just use itemscope on its own without the ="itemscope" portion.

After itemscope comes itemtype="http://schema.org/Product". As the name implies, it specifies the type of item for the machine reader to expect. “Product” is one of a plethora of types you can use, a list of which can be found at Schema.org.

Moving on, itemprop="name" obviously specifies the name of the product. “Name” is a property of the “Product” type. The Schema.org web site shows in detail the properties of each type, usually with examples, under their schemas section. Some properties, however, are more than a simple text value. Some are actually an itemtype of their own, such as the price of the product. It is not merely an itemprop="price" with a number inside, but an “Offer” type. So it is necessary to again add the itemscope and itemtype attributes. I also had to add an extra element—the span—inside the price div so I could apply the “price” property, a property of “Offer”.

The rest of the example is just made up of some additional itemprop attributes. After you’ve marked up your information, you can use Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool to make sure it’s marked up correctly.

If you’re already using some form of XHTML, it should be a pretty simple matter of changing the doctype and replacing your <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="mime-type; charset=utf-8" /> (or whatever you may be using) with a simple <meta charset="UTF-8" /> to convert to valid HTML 5. It’s not necessary to use the new elements such as header or section. Your old div elements will work fine. It’s probably not even desirable at this point to utilize the new elements thanks to the inability of Internet Explorer 8 and lower to display them without a hack.

Welcome to the future. I hope you can start using microdata (AKA Rich Snippets) to make the web a more semantic place. Don’t forget to check out Schema.org for all the supported types and their properties. Have fun, web wizards!

—Kyle Blizzard

Why Paid Blog Networks Suck – Link Building 2010 Revisited

Link Exchanges

A lot has changed when it comes to gaining links to your website. More importantly a lot has changed on what is considered a good link or a bad link. With the economy in the tank, we are getting more and more calls for help with search position and increased traffic. Some of the calls are from potential clients that have never paid for any type of link building or site optimization, but a good percentage is from small business owners that have either been a part of Link Exchange programs or have purchased links in the past and now they are finding out¬† it is not working for their website any more. If you are not familiar with the Google or Bing guidelines for links then you should read Google’s position on link exchanges and Links: the good, the bad, and the ugly – Part 2 from Bing.

Paid Blog Networks

So what do you do if link exchange software doesn’t work any more? How about all the fuss about these blog networks? That’s a question we have received a few times. First let me tell you about blog link networks where you pay a monthly fee and publish as many posts as you want, with links to your website. Your posts are distributed throughout a “network” of blogs. The claim is link diversity and unlimited potential. Don’t waste your time! This type of network is popular because they pay out good commissions, that’s it! These networks are easily detected which means they are easily discounted by Bing and Google and could be considered a bad neighborhood. You will waste a lot of time writing or you will pay additional fees to have the writing done for you, and you get nothing or near nothing in return. That time and money would have been better spent putting an article on a popular article network or sending out a press release. While neither of those methods are high value they generally have some value, unlike the so called Nirvana of subscription blog networks. With generic category based blog networks with no specific theme and some of the worst content ever written, you will get zero benefit. Once your post is pushed off of the main page or the main category page, which usually happens in a day or two, any value is lost. At that point your time, effort and money live on a page buried in a site that nobody, including Bing and Google, gives a rat’s ass about.

Example of a Blog Network where you pay per month to post as many times as you want. Just look at the quality. ūüėČ

(The examples we showed here have shut down since this post’s writing, meaning everyone who paid to be on them has lost their investment, for whatever it was worth.)

If you think this type of site is not easily detectable, let me show you how I found them: Google This and then look for nonsensical domain names as the title. See the similarity? Most of these are from one of the most popular subscription blog networks out there. Notice every post has a single keyword link buried in the post? It gets worse, look at almost any post that is over 90 days old and copy a unique sentence, then search for the quoted sentence on Google, and 90% of the time the article can’t be found. The only people making money here is the owner of the blog system and their affiliates.

Let me say that there might be a paid blog network that actually works, but it would need to follow a few rules. I just pointed out one of the most popular networks that in my opinion is a waste of money and just ripping people off. If someone really wants to create a blog network that works, it would need to follow at least the following 4 rules:

  1. At least 75% of the posts need to be commercial quality information without any paid links embedded in the article.
  2. Every subscriber’s post needs to be reviewed by an editor for “real value”.
  3. Each blog needs to have a theme and specialize in one particular subject.
  4. Each blog in the network needs to be optimized and promoted as a “real website” with good content.

That said, you are most likely still violating Google’s guidelines if you pay to post your link on those sites. I’m not judging, just pointing out the risk involved.

How To Build Links

So how do you get quality links to your site? You need to create information and multimedia that people need and are willing to link to. Then you need to contact relevant websites and convince them that they should link to your content. If you are a product reseller, you should get your vendors to link to you as an authorized dealer. If you are a member or sponsor of any organizations, you need to get them to link to you as a such. You could do some guest blogging, but be sure the value of the link you get is greater than the value you would get from posting the article on your own website. You can also use article marketing, press releases, and directory submission but it’s just for diversity and extra exposure, alone they are not the answer.

Let me know if you agree, disagree or what I missed. I look forward to your comments. | Read the original Link Building 2010

—David Blizzard

SEO for Bing

bing SEODo I need to specifically perform SEO for Bing? After all,¬†the stats show that Bing doesn’t have anywhere near the traffic that Google has, so why perform Bing SEO? I say don’t perform SEO for any search engine specifically; perform SEO for your website. All of the known factors for on-page and off-page optimization should help you with Bing, Yahoo and Google. I won’t even bet money that meta keywords are 0% at Google. Maybe they lied to us. ūüôā

Bing might put more weight on one factor than Google, but SO WHAT? Optimize all factors and stop trying to micro manage a single factor for a single search engine like Bing. Quality titles and descriptions with keywords are a must for Bing and Google. It only takes seconds to add some meta keywords, and Bing suggests you should still take advantage of the meta¬†keywords in this article: Put Your Keywords Where The Emphasis Is. They won’t help much, but it all adds up and you never know what the next algorithm update holds. It’s a safe bet that your copy¬†needs to be¬†at least 250 to 300 words per page. Link text counts as copy, but your page should not be primarily link text. Usually only authority sites like Wikipedia can get away with that crap and still be top 5.

  • Create great content that targets the audience that is most likely to convert for your product or services.
  • Make sure each page you create has a specific topic.
  • Use keywords naturally in your copy.
  • Stop worrying so much about some magic keyword density number.

Links are the primary key to search optimization even when performing SEO for Bing. A few outbound links to authority sites can’t hurt, but make sure they are relevant for your page topic. Inbound links from relevant authority sites is the “right stuff”, but you can get results with the proper blend of lower value inbound links. Use social media to put the word out and you should get some natural links, assuming you wrote good content. There are still some quality directories that aren’t filtered, so those can help too. Buyer beware when it comes to paid links.

You have heard this same information over and over everywhere you go, and it still holds true when you perform SEO for Bing. And yes, Bing is important no matter which stat you believe.

—David Blizzard

What is SEO? Is It Real?

To the SEO bashers, I present this argument: Some people hire a lawn service because they don’t have the time to mow their lawn; they don’t like to mow their lawn; they don’t like wasting their weekends mowing; they don’t have the tools for it; or they tried it and they ruined the lawn and killed all of the plants in the yard. For whatever reason, they pay to have the lawn mowed. How silly would a person look if they posted an article stating “anyone that pays to have their lawn mowed is an idiot”? They continue about how it’s easy to do,¬†they have been mowing their own lawn for years and it looks great. They declare “Lawn men are con artists! I will even tell you how to trim your hedges, edge your sidewalk, weedeat, and prune your trees, and I will tell you for free.lawn man reading SEO book

Believe it or not, I started writing this because I just finished reading¬†“It’s All About The Links” over at SEOWizz. Ahh, the mind is a terrible thing. How did¬†I turn Tim’s great post about links into a discussion about¬†lawn mowing?

SEO work can be fun and educational during the on-page process.¬†¬†Onpage search optimization is the act of optimizing copy and¬†HTML based on a set of known and ¬†perceived search engine¬†guidelines. It takes a certain skill set to evaluate key words and phrases and incorporate those into HTML elements and body copy so they satisfy your target audience and the search engines.¬†You can change your page title, description, and copy and watch your SERP position and sales pitch change. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done and there aren’t known factors. Then we get to link building, which is a whole different animal.

Sadly “Links! Links! Links!” is very true. I’m not sure we should be calling link building SEO, to me it’s more marketing and should be listed as SEM. Finding the links that are providing your competitors with an edge or finding quality links that will improve your search position is a different skill set than on-page SEO. New rules from Google and “juice” protection from websites is making SEO link building even more tedious and time consuming. It is also raising the cost of hiring an SEO/SEM that gets results. Specialists who can provide quality links that will hold their value don’t come cheap. You can get your site bot-spammed to hundreds of¬†blogs cheap, but it’s not going to help.

The SEO community has been labeled con artists by some, but these people are blowing smoke when they tell you all you need to do is write good content.¬†It’s just not true.¬†You might not be capable of writing good content anyway. You need good content and you might have to pay for it,¬†and then you need¬†people to link to it. The content on its own does not get you traffic, and nobody knows you have good or even great content until someone links to it. Sure, it can go viral but first somebody needs to light the fuse. Some of the anti-SEO crowd are giving advice like “just¬†tell people about¬†your website”¬†(so they will link to it?). Well, guess what; you just committed the “act” of link building. They tell you to have your friends and co-workers tweet about your site and mention it on Facebook or in email. Guess what; that too is link building. Sure, if you have the time and will to learn then you can do it yourself,¬†but most business owners don’t sit at home blogging all day (or mowing their grass). They have a business to run and they need help promoting their website.

There are the basics that should be done when optimizing a website, and it will usually squeeze out some competition.¬†Generally, the basic onpage optimization with no regard for links will not get you in the top 10 if you are in a market that is the least bit competitive. Don’t get me wrong; you need to study keywords and phrases, because they have to be used somewhere, either in content, titles, or link text, but that research is generally wasted¬†without quality inbound¬†links.

Are you listed on Best of The Web?

—David Blizzard

SEO Meets Politics

I check my email this morning and I have a link to a political piece titled Nowhere Else To Go and then I hit Twitter and I find a link to a new post by Aaron Wall about how the SEO industry went corporate. Aaron could have easily titled his post “Nowhere Else to Go“. The crossroads in these two articles are alarming. One¬†difference is that you have two political parties that are the same but sell themselves as representing two different cultures and in the SEO article you realize we really only have Google. Some people pray for¬†Bing or Yahoo or a combination to catch up with Big G but will it matter? Or will we just have two parties that play favorites to Corporate America while stepping all over the little guy and our Internet freedom? With Google we already have things like the dreaded eviction notice from AdSense:

“While going through our records recently, we found that your AdSense account has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers. Since keeping your account in our publisher network may financially damage our advertisers in the future, we’ve decided to disable your account”

You have just been declared an Internet terrorist, try to figure out why. If you are a scammer then you know why but what about all the poor saps that don’t have a clue why they were banned? You can’t get any¬†information from Google other than a canned response on their website. Basically their claim is that they can’t¬†tell you what¬†you did¬†wrong or everyone would stop doing it and search wouldn’t be as safe. What? Their advice is to admit in an email that you broke the rules and promise never to do it again. First you have to undo what you did that you don’t know about? Cop a plea to a charge you disagree with¬†when they have provided no evidence.

A friend of mine jokes all the time “Google is the CIA“. Sometimes I laugh, but only sometimes.
Aaron quotes Google as saying “the reason that so many people come to Google is that for the last decade, we‚Äôve worked really hard to protect our users“. Ahh, the infamous we only step all over you to protect you, there will be long lines and forms in triplicate but it’s for your own good.
Someone I follow on Twitter mentioned an issue with a key phrase dropping in the SERPs after some link building and I can only wish him luck and feel his pain because we have to guess what it takes to fix the issues. Once again Google can’t tell us what we did wrong (in their eyes) because we might stop doing it. I can tell you. You know what you did? You tried to compete with Corporate America, you bastard.

Now we have the Government asking everyone to spy on his neighbor and rat him out for anything “out of the ordinary” and we have Google begging the little SEO to rat out his competition. The weaklings will be indoctrinated and sell their own freedom so they can be “friends” of Google (or the Feds).
What can we do? Nothing, you have already lost, you just haven’t figured it out yet. You are still moving your chess pieces around but the big boys left the table a long time ago. They only play with each other now. Enjoy the left overs.

—David Blizzard
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