14 search marketing questions, answered

 
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I came up with the crazy ideea of asking people a dozen questions about search marketing (and related fields) in DigitalPoint. Why did I do this ? Because I often make posts, after I receive a questions/e-mail from my visitors, asking me this and that..

So I decided to take it a step further.

1. In your experience will linking to my competitors actually help me? if so how big is the effect ?

Martaay, there have always been long debates about outbound links helping a website with it’s rank. IMHO highly relevant outbound links CAN help. How big is the effect ? Rather small. In your situation (the outbound landing pages beeing the competition) I wouldn’t recommend this. Altough it might help you in a small manner, it will help them a lot more. So practically you will raise their rank for free.

2. What do you consider the top 10 ways to generate traffic for an entertainment site, such as game-related?

Chris, let me think about it for a second. Game site right ?

  1. As much as possible, custom and unique content, games and other information, so that you’re not just another Miniclip website. Conversion rulez.
  2. A forum on the website, generating unqiue content about related fields.
  3. Banners in other game-related websites (or entertainment websites, and teen websites like Myspace, kids websites etc).
  4. Highly relevant links in related websites, to generate higher SERPs.
  5. Using smart social gadgets like “send this game trough Yahoo Messenger” links, so that people can quickly share what they found. YM! and other instant messaging clients are a true viral network treasure.
  6. Forum posts (and signature links) in game related forums.
  7. Forum posts (and signature links) in every day forums.
  8. Links in web directories, for higher SERPs.
  9. Do some press releases. YES. PR can help any website.
  10. Buy banners in advertising agencies or ads in YPN!, adCenter, or Adsense

3. Can an authority status be preserved after a domain change + merging of many topics?

Johan, a domain change is always tricky. We all wish that NOT to happen. But if we are forced to make a domain change, we should always ensure that we do as much as possible to retain the most of our previous weight:

Q: Will 301s transfer all the ‘power’ from the old URL and domain to the other domain? With all the ‘power’ I mean backlinks, PR transfer, authority status, local rank value etc. etc.

Yes and no. Backlinks and PR yes. Authority status, trustrank no. You can never replace a 6 year old domain with a 1 year one. Follow-up: You can never replace a link’s 4 year stability with a 2 weeks old stability.

301 redirects did flaw in the past, and we all knew it. Today it seems that Google and the other search engines treat the issue better. But still, you will not have what you had before. That’s 100% sure.

I would recommend you to 301 redirect every single file that you had before, to the newly created respective URLs. If every single file can’t be redirected, try to do as much as possible in that direction, instead of just redirecting all the previous URL’s to the new domain’s index page.

Also, please remember that you WILL have to mail a lot of people so that they can change their links to point to the new domain. You just don’t want to rely on those 301′s forever right ?

Q: The current domains and the ‘new’ one are approximately equally as old and have always been owned by the same ‘host’ so Google probably already knows they are affiliated by host (host as in owner). Will this help preserve rankings?

Altough Google can check and verify if multiple websites are owned by the same entity (whois data, same hosting parameters, IPs, inter-linking structure etc) that doesn’t mean that if I own Wikipedia, and after some time I launch ExpertuPedia, ExpertuPedia will rank just as high as Wikipedia, just because I am the same owner.

It’s all about age (since the first indexing), link popularity, and Trustrank.

Q: A couple of the sites seem to be of a strong authority status; what are the chances of that being preserved when all of the content is lifted to the target domain? Think of it in terms of About.com snapping up a quality small resource and lifting it to their site.

If a website has an authority status, ANY content on that website will rank beautifully.

Take you average authority website like Matt’s website. He ranks #1 for cathing up. What the heck has Matt’s blog have to do with a “cathing up” ?

Just remember that on a long-term situation, people CAN remove links pointing to that website just because they don’t like the content anymore. So you should always try to maintain a high level of quality, if you want your visitors happy and if you want to continue to have free inbound links.

Q: Would there be a benefit in using subdomains for each site in a bid to preserve ‘niche’ value and authority on a subject? In other words, if you compare it to Amazon, would Amazon stand a bigger chance of ranking for jewellery if they had their jewellery department on jewellery.amazon.com instead just a file name depicting a category like www.amazon.com?cat=jewellery?

This is a highly controversial discussion. I once had a small talk with John Scott, at V7N forum. You can read that there and you’ll find out my opinion on folders versus subdomains.

Q: I’m tempted to build the new site and copy over the content first (leaving the current sites as they are) and then send a small proportion of the traffic via AdWords to the new domain as a test run. I obviously don’t want done for duplicate content. Would I risk anything doing that and just blocking the SE’s via robots.txt?

Well, you would risk a penalization, yes. Why would you want to have the same exact content on two different domains ? Not good. If you truly want the same content, as a test for your visitors, disallow indexing trough the robots.txt.

Also please remember that If you start a new website, having hundreds of thousands of pages from the start (on a brand new domain) is like screwing yourself big time. Try to raise the content step by step. 5000 pages at a time.

Q: Doing straight 301′s to the new destination might confuse repeat visitors. Does a meta refresh of sorts where I say “we’ve moved, you’ll be redirected” work just like a 301 as far as SE’s are concerned? is there anyway of doing a delayed 301 like that?

No. 301 is 301 (permanent redirect). 302 is a 302 (temporary redirect). A meta refresh is a meta refresh. None replaces the other. Each have their own purpose.

Have a look at the W3C status code definitions.

One way to let your visitors know about you moving homes (domains) is to make some sort of php script, on the NEW domain (after the 301 redirect has already happened) so that on any entry (in any page) the php script displays a message (“We recently changed our domain name bla bla bla”) and after 4-5 seconds, it automatically remembers the entry page and redirects to it.

But I would not advise any of the above. Too many redirects, and you can always mail your members, or issue a newsletter to let them know about the change.

4. What are the most popular, yet inexpensive, methods for promoting a site off line?

Interesting question David. In order of importance I would say that most important would be:

  1. Ads in newspaper and written magazines
  2. Advertising your business on all internal company assests from employee ware (T-shirts, pants, briefcases, A4 papers with a company header etc.), to car banners, to street banners with address guidelines.
  3. Word-to-word advertising. You can never have a better ad in any magazine/TV/website than a satisfied client going and bragging about that to his friends, coleagues and partners.
  4. Trying to develop partnerships with much higher established firms. A practical example would be, you as a 10 client ISP, becoming a partner with Alcatel Space, to sell 1 phone per year (because at the moment that’s your power). Alcatel Space will put you on their partner page with a logo and a link to your websites. After that you can brag (website, company catalogue, e-mail signatures, mentions in your ads, mentions in your offers) to all your current and future clients about what partners do you have and what kind of company you are.
  5. Direct marketing – If the client doesn’t come to you, you go to him. Call/e-mail/fax your possible future clients and present them your offer. Use YellowPages or company databases like Kompass to research possible clients.

5. What, if anything can be done, to speed up the process of giving a site credibility (as in “beating the sandbox”) in Google?

Heh Mike, nice one. When starting a new website on a brand new domain, I will always advise people this:

  1. Don’t start with 2 million indexed pages. Start low (maximum of 10-20k) and gently increase your indexed pages.
  2. Don’t make a LOT of exchanges, or buy a LOT of links right from day one of the website’s existance. Start small and add even a single link per month. You CAN avoid 3 to 9 months of “nowhere rank”.
  3. Don’t make site-wide links. Neither you offering them to other websites, neither other websites pointing them to your website.
  4. Don’t have duplicate content. Try to exclude (trough meta tags or robots.txt) duplicate content pages (like print/pdf/send to friend pages or others), from the index.
  5. When you have a brand new domain, try not to get links from other brand new domains. Get 40 times less links but from already established websites.

6. How should I promote my small business forum?

Manish, first of all your forum, is not a small busines forum, and the domain is something like:

internet-home-based-cash-get-free-money-home-work-business-opportunity.info

Would you write in a forum like that constantly and actually put soul in it as a member ? I wouldn’t. I would just consider it spam.

  1. Try to get another domain name.
  2. Try to get better graphics in the forum not some pixalated images.
  3. Talk about in other forums (without spamming).
  4. Write interesting articles and stories about what people would be interested in. That will always attract members.

7. What is important for us to focus on if we want our pages to be strong now as well as long term? Where are the algo trends going? Less link love, more on page linguistical analysis perhaps?

Johan, links will always be the strongest point. It’s no doubt about it (at least not in MY mind). What can we do, though, to ensure that we are safe on the long run, and on a yet another possible future algorithm update, is :

  1. Don’t spam (stuffed keywords, hidden divs, iframes, cloaking etc)
  2. Don’t create duplicate content.
  3. Don’t host 1000 websites on the same IP.
  4. Don’t have site-wides.
  5. Don’t over-zelously point tens of thousands of links to your website to quick, don’t get links from small quality websites.
  6. Use a semantical document structure (if a computer understands the semantics of a document, it understands the meaning, rather than just interpreting a series of characters).
  7. Don’t do link exchanges. You can be better of with one quality one-way link, gained per month, than 10 exchanges. (this last one is just my opinion)

8. How much weight does Google put on old domains like About.com or Botw.org?

Nate, an 8 year old domain, is almost unbeatable in the SERPS, even if the SEO applied to the websites is realatively weak.

If I would like to start a website which should have a high rank in Google (a content websites) I would any day prefer a PR0 domain, which is 7 years old, rather than a 1 year old, with a PR8 on the index page and 100.000 IBLs.

9. What is the best way to get big site, 20+ Million Pages, Indexed by the engines and have them rank well?

Nate, the best way:

  1. Minimum a true PR5 (with actual inbound links) on the main domain.
  2. Use a subdomain for every 500.000 pages. The subdomain must have at least a PR4.
  3. Use Google sitemaps for the domain and every subdomain, and submit the sitemaps to Google, at least weekly.

10. What are the other great link building ways other than directories and link asking.

Nate, I would really recommend you to browse trough the resources I will mention below:

  1. SEOmoz – Advanced Link Building Tactics
  2. LinkBuildingBlog – Patrick Gavin and Andy Hagans
  3. TextLinkBrokers’ Link Building Wiki
  4. Jim Westergren – Link Building Guide

11. Many people are saying that CSS plays a big role for ranking HIGH on the search engines, and that Table sites are getting old and they don’t rank high as CSS (tableless) sites. How true is that?

Skionxb, that’s not true at all. IMHO, more than 70% of all the websites worldwide have HTML errors and are not valid. More than 80% of the websites worldwide are created with tables. They all rank good or at least the same as any other website (css or not, tableless or not, xhtml/css valid or not).

Just build a website for it’s content, and stop believing in the “if it’s valid and tableless, I’ll rank higher” myth.

Yahoo’s, MSN’s and Google’s websites are not valid and are not tableless, btw.

12. Changing a website’s content theme whilst retaining search engine weight and trustrank

For an old site (actived since 1999) which ranks good for its important keywords, now the owner wants to change the theme of the site – the new theme has no relevance to the old site and is a totally different site – what is the best way (including url structure, 301s, site content, inbound links etc.) to retain the google love and to improve it further for the new site theme?

Onedollar, if a website is already trusted by the search engines, and has rank love, then no matter what content you will put on it, it will still rank as much as possible as it did before.

If the new niche of the website is totally irellevant to the old one, 301′s will not help because you will redirect midget pages to camel pages. Maybe the contact page and other similar pages should be redirected yes.

I would totally not recommend a niche change just because all the links towards the website will graduately fade away (either because the owner will see that they lead the 404′s or the owner will remove them because the website is no longer what it used to be).

13.How much would you charge for an overview of a website and then a clear guideline to how they can improve their serp?

Libertines, an inpage optimization service would be a one-time fee of 500 – 1500 Euro, depending on the complexity of the website.

After that, a consultancy based, clear report to how the client can improve their website’s SERPs, would be between 500 and 3000 Euro.

Further on, we do not accept requests such as “I want to be #1 on a search with the phrase blue widgets“. We have :

  1. Link building packages, ranging from 200 Euro to 10.000 Euro (if the client desires a > 10.000 Euro service, the contract is custom and negotiable).
  2. CPV (cost per visitor) based SEO services. It’s kind of like PPC. We charge between 5 Eurocents (0,05 Euro) – 50 Eurocents (0,5 Euro) per visitor, depending on client and niche. So if you would like to have 50.000 visitors/month from the search engines, you would pay between 2500 Euro / month and 25.000 Euro / month. This CPV service also includes a natural (organic) SEO service, so after the client stops the campaign, the website will still have visitors (versus the other PPC services where the visitors stop, when the campaign is stopped).

14. How to distinguish between fair and unfair ban of website in Google index ?

Mong, the unfairness of a ban is relative and subjective, if the webmaster of the website decides on it.

Most of the times, the ban has either been hand-issued by a Google engineer or it’s a temporary glitch and it’s not really a ban.

The only thing you can do is e-mail Google, using this reinclusion request form and kindly explain them your situation.

Endnote

Will, I left your questions unanswered because I plan to take on them in a separate post :)

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14 Comments so far

B00MER said:
August 5th, 2006

I would have to disagree with your answer to number 11. Anyone who’s ever deconstructed any web crawler you’ll notice the more clean code you can anticipate the better off the crawler is on capture your content and building more links to follow. Malformed HTML or what not can actually cause unexpected hiccups in a crawler, like endless loops, thus ultimately causing you the lose of the crawler indexing the page properly. Another plus with CSS is with absolute positioning you can easily put your “meaty” content at the very top of the source, and all of your re-occurring elements like Header, Side bars and a footer after the contents you really would like to be indexed. This may seem pointless but yet, again deconstruct any spider script/program and you’ll see the benefits this can reap. Other than this you’ve got a very nice list! +bookmarked! Keep it up.

August 5th, 2006

Thanks for your answer to number 5 :)

“Steady growth” is a general guideline I try to follow as much as I can. When it comes to getting ranked and gaining traffic in general. Thank you for your further insight!

- Mike

LaCabra said:
August 5th, 2006

Cristian, nice to see you take a very proactive approach. This is a very good resource that I will recommend to many. Keep up the great work!

August 5th, 2006

I would have to disagree with your answer to number 11

Boomer, I didn’t said that a CSS and tableless design doesn’t help with reducing a webpage (thus in creasing the easyness of indexing and crawling) or with better positiong of contextual ad units like Adsense.

What I did say is that CSS and/or tableless designs are not any more important than any other layout, as far as RANKING goes :)

@LaCabra, thanks a lot dude.

August 6th, 2006

Cristian,

Great answers here, I like this Q&A format alot. Helpful for us and you get to write some quality content on your blog. Great win-win situation.

Next week I’m going to launch the merged site, I’ll document what I did and what Google et al subsequently did. Fingers crossed they like the results! If not, I hear you sell targeted traffic :D

Thanks a lot,

Johan a.k.a. T0PS3O (Who’s postcount got stuck, damn VB!)

jim said:
August 6th, 2006

Cristian,

A good and comprehensive notes. I enjoyed reading it, man. Keep up!

Thanks.

Francois said:
August 7th, 2006

Nice going Cristian, thanks a lot for the great post :)

Kirant said:
August 16th, 2006

Learnt a lot…thanks..Might send u a PM at DP

King said:
August 30th, 2006

For on website optimization you have a “fee of 500 – 1500 Euro, depending on the complexity of the website. After that, a consultancy based, clear report to how the client can improve their website’s SERPs, would be between 500 and 3000 Euro.” … can you please tell me what you will do for around 5000 USD?! thanks
do you have any reference of people who hired you for this kinf os services?!

August 30th, 2006

can you please tell me what you will do for around 5000 USD?! thanks

Tell us what you need and I or one of my coleagues will send you a quote.

Let me guess. In Amsterdam you offer/desire services with 100 USD for a TOP10 listing (for 10-15 , 100 mil. results keywords) in 2500 search engines ?

do you have any reference of people who hired you for this kinf os services?!

Yes we have those too.

And btw, I know you are the user Softgroups (you have your messenger ID, msg2cell there, dude), the user I banned in Seopedia Forum, for harrasing another member to the point that she called the police.

You actually did that in Digitalpoint too, and you are banned there too.

Tip: Do not use your exact same e-mail address and just another nickname.

Don’t post here again also.

Brad said:
October 27th, 2006

Hi,

I’ve been looking around your site and found it to be amazingly informative. Definitely a bookmarked site. Anyways, do you suggest any certain WordPress Theme or wordpress addition when it comes to SEO?

Thanks,

Brad

AjiNIMC said:
October 30th, 2006

11 SEO watchouts – Also you should be careful with these watchouts.

allen said:
June 23rd, 2008

Thanks for this information. #2 and #4 is what information I was looking for!

Thanks
allen

Preeti said:
August 25th, 2008

Hi Cristian!

Thanks a lot for all the wonderful information. Bookmarked you :). Can you please give me any tips on link building to get faster approvals? I mean for non-reciprocal or one-way links, how can I search out potential link partners.
Very soon I will be launching a question answer sort of website. Please give me any suggestions for its promotion too. You can email me. :)

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