Part 1: META Tags
What’s a Meta Tag?
Generically the word “meta” is used in technology as “data that describes other data.”
In web design a Meta Tag is an HTML tag that identifies the contents of a Web page for the search engines. Meta tags are hidden on the page, but they (as well as all the HTML code
on a page) can be viewed by selecting View/Source or View/Page Source from the browser menu. Meta tags contain a general description of the page, keywords and copyright information.
The two Meta Tags we’ll worry about is the “Page Title” and the “Keywords.”
Meta tags factor into your position on a SERP like this…
The spider, or crawler, will see your title first. It will then compare your Title to your Keywords.
Matches will increase your score. Then it will compare your title to your content. More matches. Better score. Then it compares your keywords to your content again looking for matches. There are other factors to consider as well, but first things first…
Know Your Target Keywords
How do you think people will search for your web page? The words you imagine them typing into the search box are your target keywords.
Your target keywords are probably “Accounting” and “Accountants,” and maybe CPA. If you wish you can instead optimize to a firm specialty, like “bookkeeping” or “payroll”. There
are tools on the internet that can help you determine how often a given keyword gets inquiries. For example try THIS ONE.
If you want to go hardcore there’s software you can use to help with this as well (including some excellent freeware). See our SEO links at the end of this report.
Down the road each page in your web site can have different target keywords that reflect the page’s content. For example, say you have another page about the tax planning; then “Hoboken tax planning” might be your title for that page, but for now we’re going to optimize your Welcome (or “index”) page as this will be the first page discovered and “indexed” by the search engines.
Your target keywords should always be at least two or three words long. Many amateurs will try to optimize to a single word, such as “accounting.”
This means you’re competing with accountants, indexes, and accountant’s vendors all over the country and your odds of success are exponentially lower. Don’t waste your time fighting for rankings against sites that aren’t really in direct competition with you! Pick phrases of two or
more words, and you’ll have a better shot at success. Combine your primary keywords with your LOCATION. For example: “Hoboken Accountants”, and “Hoboken Accounting” will be SUBSTANTIALLY less competitive than “Hoboken”, “accountants”, and “accounting”.
Another option is to optimize to an industry specialty. For example “car dealer accounting” or “funeral home accountants”. You can even do both, as in “hoboken restaurant accounting”.
Position Your Keywords
Make sure your target keywords appear in the crucial locations on your web pages. Your Title Tag and Search Engine Keywords
A page’s HTML page title is it’s most important tag. Failure to put target keywords in the title tag is the main reason why perfectly relevant web pages may be poorly ranked. You will need to enter this data in two places:
Log in to your Control Panel.
Log in to your Site Manager.
Now enter your master site tags. You’ll find these settings on your “Firm Information Screen” under the Search Engines tab shown below…
Anything placed on this screen will default to EVERY PAGE ON THE SITE that’s not individually optimized.
Build your master title around the top two or three phrases that you would like the page to be found for. The titles should be relatively short.
Don’t try to take over the internet! Pick a FEW WORDS.
Wilmington Accounting: Wilmington Accountants: Wilmington QuickBooks
It’s 6 words long (7 is the maximum, any more and you risk the crawlers skipping words!) and has 3 really hot Key Phrases in it!
that for purposes of MOST search engines “Accountants” and “Accountant” are the same word, however for those that differentiate between singular and plural, the
plural (accountants) is usually the most searched.
The word “CPA” is an exception to this rule.CPA is searched for in the singular.
OK, there’s no point in a long list of keywords any more. If the word’s not on a page title somewhere on the site you’re wasting your time putting it in your keyword list. Likewise, if a word IS on a page title somewhere on the site, even if it’s on a different page, it should be on your keyword list. Sorry, but spelling counts here, as does grammar. Each keyword (or shall I say key phrase) must be separated by a comma and a space.
Sample Keyword List:
Wilmington Accountants, Wilmington Accounting, Wilmington QuickBooks
You can use more if you want. You can have as many as 25 keywords without risking lost relevance. You can have up to 66 if you don’t mind taking the chance, but you’re
wasting your time. If a keyword isn’t in a page title you will not rank well on it.
At this time SE Description is pretty much a formality, but go ahead and fill it out anyway. The
rules that the search engines use are constantly changing and if the spiders suddenly start looking at your page description you’re not going to want to go back and enter the data. Use your keywords in your description as best you can and try to keep it down to one complete sentence.
Do it Right, Then Do it Again
Now that you’ve done your master Meta Tags it’s time to optimize your welcome page.
Ok, now we need to modify your welcome page.
Your Welcome page (in geek speak we call it an ‘index page’) will be the first page visited by the search engine crawlers. We need to do your META tags again, this time on your page settings. “Edit” your Welcome page by clicking the settings icon, which is a picture of a yellow gear. Then choose the Search Engines tab…
Not bad, but let’s make some changes…
Let’s change the page title to: “Wilmington Accounting: Your Home Town Wilmington Accountants”
…exactly 7 words, the upper limit. Searchers will actually see your page title, and the new page title is just friendlier than the default one. Think of newspaper headlines. With a few words, they make you want to read a story. Similarly, your page titles are like headlines for your pages. A good page title not only appeals to the search engines, it also increases the chances of getting an actual “click through”.
But… But… But what about “Wilmington QuickBooks”? Isn’t that on my keyword list! I do a LOT of QuickBooks!
Use it instead of “accounting” if you want, but the raw numbers indicate the word “accounting” (about 140,000 inquiries) gets searched far more often than the word “quickbooks” (about 55,000).
You can optimize your QuickBooks page separatly LATER. Get your index page ranked first…
We’ll continue to use the default keyword list, at least until it hits 25 words.
We’re done with your Meta Tags. Now let’s work on your content.
Part 2: Content Matters
You need to rewrite your “Welcome” page. Standard pages won’t wash when you optimize. Your page rank is crippled by what the search engines call “duplicate content”.
Search engines prefer medium length pages. Use 150 to 400 words.
You may already know that Search Engines use “Keyword Density” to rank your page. What this means is you need to use your key phrases a few times in the visible text. As a rule, use each key phrase at least 3 Times and no keyword more than 8. This ties our hands a bit in our Wilmington sample firm. We’ll use each key phrase twice.
Sometimes sites present large sections of copy via graphics. It looks pretty sweet, but search engines can’t read them! That means they miss out on text that might make your site more relevant. Some of the search engines will index ALT text and comment information (more on this at the end of part 2) but to be safe, use HTML text whenever possible. Some of your human visitors will appreciate it, also. Likewise if you plan to have an extremely long page and want to hide some of that text so people can read it but search engines can’t using graphics is an effective way to do that.
Be sure that your HTML text is “visible.” Some designers try to spam search engines by repeating keywords in invisible text (tiny font or in the same color at the background color). You are NOT being clever!!! Search engines know these tricks (and many more you never
dreamed of). Expect that if the text is not visible in a browser, then it probably won’t be indexed by a search engine. Repeated violations might even get your site banned.
Finally, consider “expanding” your text references, where appropriate. For example, “tax planning” might have references to “strategy”
and “strategies”. Expanding these references to “tax strategies” and “tax strategy” reinforces your strategic keywords in a legitimate and natural manner. Your page really is about
tax planning, but edits may have reduced its relevancy unintentionally.
Consider for a moment the old business clich of “location, location, location”. The same is true of your “keyword placement”.
Search engines like pages where keywords appear “high” on the page. To accommodate them, use your target keywords for your page header, if possible. Have them also appear in the first paragraphs of your web page. Try to stuff them into the first 25 words of visible text.
Keep in mind that tables can “push” your text further down the page, making keywords less relevant because they appear lower on the page. This is because tables break apart when search engines read them. As a rule don’t use tables in the first and last paragraphs of the page.
Have you ever put your curser over a picture on a web page and a little description popped out? This is called an “Alternative Text” or “Alt Tag”. Search engines will often examine the first few images on a page for alt tags with keywords in them.
In order to add an alt tag the image must be added in the WYSIWYG editor. The “select image”
buttons you see all over your site is worthless for adding alternative text. We have two key phrases on the index page, so we’ll add two images…
One is a picture of Wilmington with an alternative text “Wilmington Accounting”. The other is a group picture of the firms staff called “Wilmington Accountants”.
Add the image as you normally would by using the WYSIWYG editor. Then right click the image and choose Image Properties. When you get to the image properties window, just type your alt text in the space provided next to Title…
Lastly we want to each key phrase in a header. In html a header is more than a boldface
title at the top of a paragraph. It’s an actual coded command telling the search engines “Hey! This is a header! Important stuff here!”. Headers are also inserted using the WYSIWYG
ONLY USE “HEADER 1″ <H1> STATEMENTS as these are hard coded to match your
site styles. Don’t worry if they seem big and dumb looking in the editor. On the site they’ll be font size 4 and in a color that matches your template automatically!
Avoid Search Engine No No’s
Some search engines see the web the way someone using a very old browser might. You need to
anticipate these problems, or a search engine may not index many of your web pages.
Have HTML links
Your java navigation menu looks great and allows you to put hundreds of pages on a very small nav bar. It’s also necessary to allow us to make html text the first and last thing a crawler sees. Unfortunately search engines can’t follow these links and won’t be able to get “inside” the site. Graphic links often have the same problem. Many descriptive, relevant pages are inside pages rather than the home page.
Solve this problem by adding some text hyperlinks to your footer and use keywords in them. This is something that will help some of your human visitors, also. It will put these links down at the bottom of every page. There are so many advantages to this it would be a waste of time to list them all here! The search engine will find them and follow them and the presence of key phrases in them will give you a ranking boost.
To add a navigation menu to your footer we need to edit it.
Now open your WYSIWYG editor. Add hyperlinks to the pages you want the crawlers to find. For example, we want three hyperlinks…
One “Wilmington Accounting” is a link to the “Our Services” page. Another, “Wilmington Accountants”, is a link to the firm profile page, and the third, “Wilmington QuickBooks”
is a link to the “QuickBooks” page. Looks kinda goofy huh? Too much “Wilmington”?. Now throw in a bunch of other links with not so obviously optimized anchor texts.
Do not text link to the following pages as these are non-scrolling frames and will not index
- Current Tax Rates
- Tax Due Dates
This brings us to our next topic: Framed Pages…
Let’s Try It!
Lets take a look at our Wilmington sample firm and map out a strategy for our Index Page content…
First: We review our Meta Tags.
OK, we’ve selected our master page title as: “Wilmington Accounting: Wilmington
Accountants: Wilmington QuickBooks.”
Our master keyword list is: “Wilmington Accounting, Wilmington Accountants,
Our Title for the welcome page is: “Wilmington Accounting: Your Home Town Wilmington Accountants”. This means the key phrases we are targeting
are “Wilmington Accounting” and “Wilmington Accountants”.
Our index page content will be:
Use both key phrases in the first 25 words. This is the trickiest bit of copywriting on
the page. We need to use them so they LOOK organic. They must be natural looking and the phrase can’t be broken with punctuation (ie: “We’re Wilmington accountants…” is good “We’re located in Wilmington, accountants specializing in…”
is bad: The comma breaks the key phrase.).
We will use each key phrase in a header.
We will use each key phrase ONCE in the text.
We will add links to the footer. The anchor text of these links will include both key phrases (and the key phrase “Wilmington QuickBooks”).
We will add 2 images and use the key phrases as Alt Tags. Alternative Text does not count towards your limit on keyword use on visible text, but don’t go nuts here, there are limits to how many times keywords can appear overall on the site as well.
I had to avoid the temptation to write sample copy. I love copywriting, but for purposes of this report it would have been a bad idea. If any of you actually copied the text, even subconsciously, it would be duplicate content and we’d lose the benefit of customizing the page!!!
Frames are bad!
Most of the major search engines cannot follow frame links. The ones that can often index them
incorrectly. I don’t offer frames any more. Don’t ask because I won’t let you use them. I forgot how. Never knew how. Nope. Never framed anything in my life. Frames are bad!
Have you ever used a search engine and found a web page with no navigation menu or header on it? There was lots of cool content but no clue where it was coming from or where it was going. This is an interior frame page incorrectly indexed by the engine.
Or is it incorrect? The search engines say no. After all, there’s no relevant content on the
nav menu or in the header… all the good stuff is INSIDE the frame. So what if the surfer can’t access the rest of the site? That’s not the search engines problem. Their job is to index pages with pertinent content…
I know, it bites. Frames are cool.
Don’t use them anyway. Cool is fine for party time but it doesn’t get any work done. Let’s keep
it out of the office, OK?
Oh yeah, one last thing about framed links… Frames are bad!
Part 3: Build Links
By building links, you can help improve how well your pages do in link analysis systems. The key is understanding that link analysis is not about “popularity.” In other words, it’s not an issue of getting lots of links from anywhere. Instead, you want links from good web pages that are related to the topics you want to be found for.
Every major search engine uses link analysis as part of their ranking algorithms. This is done
because its very difficult for webmasters to “fake” good links, in the way they might try to spam search engines by manipulating the words on their web pages. As a result, link analysis gives search engines a useful means of determining which pages are good for particular topics.
It’s possible to rank fairly well on Yahoo and MSN (under some very narrow search terms) without spending a lot of time on link building, BUT FORGET GOOGLE. If you’re not willing to do some serious work on getting with the “in-crowd” you will not rank well in Google. Your position on Google is dictated almost entirely by a factor called “Page Rank”
or “PR”. If you want a high PR be prepared to spend TIME AND MONEY.
Allow me to bust a myth for you. There’s no such thing as a free listing on Google!!!
So why bother?
Because Google is far and beyond the most searched engine on the net.
More people rely on the Google organic data base than all the other Search Engines combined!
While looking at this chart consider this…
AOL search uses the Google organic database landing it a 51% User Base!
OK, let’s get to work…
We’ll do the easy part first. Are you in the Delaware Society of CPAs? Did you know they have a website? Did you know they list members on their websites? Did you know that listing includes a web link? Do they know you have a website? No? Give yourself a good smack and update your listing!
Your Alma Mater, your affiliations and memberships can all make excellent link sources.
Do you have any buddies from school who’ve moved out of town? Any chance they have a website or their practice? Provided you’re not in direct competition I bet they’d like to swap links with you (not to mention… hear from you again… )
A comparative newcomer to the major search engines, local listings are much easier to attain than high rankings in the primary results!
Here’s the catch: NO MATTER HOW BIG YOUR MARKET GOOGLE WILL ONLY TURN 3 RESULTS IN ON THE MAIN PAGE. This means an inquiry for “Boston MA Accountants” returns the same number of inquiries as “Big Piney WY Accountants” even though Pig Piney has a population of 408 and density of 1 per 1000 miles.
Fortunately, for the time being, local listigs are a new and under-tapped market so getting a
good slot should be fairly easy… for now…
Directories Directories Directories
The key to ranking well on the local listings is to have the crawlers find your site referenced multiple times under your keywords. To do this we need to get into as many directories under keywords like accountants, accounting, and your town as possible.
Many directory listings are free. Most require a nominal fee. For the time being it’s money
This is no time to pinch pennies! Most directories have “free” and “paid”
listings. Paid listings will offer an inexpensive and highly relevant incoming link (See part 4). Google listings are not C.O.D. (unless by C.O.D. you mean Cough Up or Die). Most directory links are dirt cheap, so just pay ‘em!
I realize you have better things to do than look up directories, so I’ll recommend a few national
directories with strong local relevance. If you’re in Big Piney, WY these directories should suffice, if you’re in Boston, however, you’re going to need a few local directories. These should be easy enough to find.
Go to https://my.superpages.com/spweb/portals/customer.portal and click on “get stared”.
The Verizon online directory will offer a back link for any customer that spends $1 or more with them. The best way to do this would be to sign up for their PPC listings. SuperPages is the trickiest of these directories. It’s also the best.
A paid listing in this directory will cost you $9.95 monthly plus a set pay per click fee. How much this will cost depends on what market you’re in. You’ll get far more click-throughs in Boston than you will in Big Piney. City search is the most expensive directory, but worth
the 120 bucks a year just for the link.
This directory has a flat $5.50 per month monthly fee. This is a mediocre directory, but hey, it’s only seventy bucks. If you’re in a competitive market go ahead and cough it up.
Now we need to bring it home a little. If you’re a gold or platinum client give us a call and we’ll help you track down some local directories. If you’re at silver you should be able to find some
good one’s yourself. Just Google them up! Use search terms like “Wilmington Accounting Directories”, “Wilmington Business Directories” and “Wilmington Directories”. You’ll need to muck through a lot of fat to find the meat but it’s worth the trip!
One of the tricks to increasing the value of your directory listing is to link back to it.
Now… let’s get really dirty!
Belly Up to the Google Toolbar
The value of an incoming link is dictated by a figure called Page Rank, or “PR”. Page Rank is is represented by a number between 0 and 10 dictated by the number and relevancy of incoming links to a page. All sites start at “PR 0″. “PR 10″ represents a theoretically perfect site. Like all things “perfect” a 10 doesn’t exist (except places like here and, ironically enough, here). The highest PR I’ve ever seen on a real website is an 8. This site is PR 8 and appears #1 under the keyword “music”, arguably the most competitively optimized word on the internet. This is a monumental feat. A backlink check, which we’ll be talking about in Part 3, shows 32,700 incoming links! By far the most searched word on the internet is “sex”. No surprise there. The #1 result for the search word “sex” is only PR 6 (well… as long as the stop word filter is on anyway…).
Of all the search engines Google is the biggest and the most dependant on PR. The Google philosophy is that the more popular you are the more important what you have to say is. Setting aside the validity of this assumption and having decided that what we’re looking for is traffic we have no choice but to get with the in crowd.
First, we need to figure out who the cool kids are. Google makes this easy. Click here to download and install your new Google Toolbar. Once installed it will appear at the top of your browser…
This page has a PR 0. As a pages rank climbs the white bar slowly fills with
green. At PR 3 (a good target) the Bar looks something like this…
A higher page rank offers a better incoming link. I’ve seen sites go from PR 0 to PR 2 with a SINGLE link from a PR 4 site!
Link quality far outweighs quantity. Link quality is determined by:
- The PR of the page linking to you.
- The relevance of that page to yours.
- The relevance of the incoming anchor text.
Directory listings are not as useful for this type of optimization as they are in establishing
placement in the local results, but there are a few decent PRs for sale. Also… There’s no such thing as too many incoming links and directories are a pretty easy source of initial links. Unlike the directories we’ve already signed up for these links are less concerned with relevance and more concerned with PR (Page Rank). Remeber, to score well under our chosen keywords we need to have BOTH!
Search Engine Directories:
Unlike the organic listings, search engine directories are reviewed and ranked by living breathing human beings, and this is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
The advantage is that because the results are reviewed before they are posted they tend to be FAR more relevant. Also: the users of these directories are the most sophisticated internet users and most dedicated buyers.
The disadvantages are that in order to get a template driven site listed we have to either be the first person with that template in the area, or we have to customize the HECK out of it.
With Yahoo once we pay up, there’s no guaranty we’ll get listed. With Google, even if our
site is accepted it may take months. Finally, the reviewers tend to be volunteers in the industry you’re trying to get listed under… in other words… your competitors.
These listing squabbles can occasionally get very messy.
If you do get in, however, the listing tends to pay for itself. While these listings see far fewer
visitors than the organic listings, the visitors it does see are the highest quality traffic you can ask for, the incoming links are relevant, and the PRs tend to be high.
If you want to throw the dice…
- Google Directory Go to: http://dmoz.org/add.html Google uses the DMOZ open directory project. Submission is free. It can take FOREVER and the review process is brutal. Not many sites make it through but if you do you get a great incoming link. The DMOZ is the webs “Old Boy’s Network”. Don’t be surprised if you find out the guy reviewing your site is a competing accountant a few blocks away.
- Yahoo Directory Go to: https://ecom.yahoo.com/dir/express/intro/There’s a $300 fee to get Yahoo to review your site (which you will not get back if your site is rejected) and a $300 annual fee to stay listed. Ouch. On the up-side these are professional reviewers (as opposed to competing web site owners) with a profit motive to list you so you’ll much more likely get listed and get listed quickly.
There are thousands of directories on the web, but painful few with PR on the results pages. These are the ones I know about:
HighwayHome is a flat 50 bucks per year for an incoming link from a PR 2-4 site. Your link will be buried on a very crowded links page which reduces its relevance and increases the amount of time you need to wait for results, but hey… 50 bucks is pretty cheap.
This is CPC (See paid inclusion) only at the basic level. You will never get any clicks off it, though. The interface is so convoluted and counter-intuitive I’d be surprised if a basic listing ever generated a lead for anyone. The upside to this is that it’s for all practical purposes a free listing on a PR 1-3 page. Just don’t let them up-sell you.
Free registration requires a link swap. It will often get you an incoming link from a PR 1 or 2 page.
I’ll add to this list as I find new indexes.
The most common paid inclusion you’ll find on the web is called PPC or Pay per Click. Marketing on PPC requires a major adjustment to traditional marketing
First is not always best:
On PPC It’s OK to bid low. What we’re after here is the incoming link, not the listing. If you want to compete for listing traffic, fine (I recommend bidding for the number 3 position, top PPC listings tend to get a lot of “junk” clicks), but
it’s not necessary. Being a paid listing anywhere on page 1 is good enough.
Less is More: A Lot of people are surfing looking for free stuff. PPC has created a
demand for what internet marketers call “ugly ads”. Ugly ads are ads designed to keep casual clickers off our site. Compare these two ads:
a. Get the stuff you’re looking for!
b. Get the stuff you’re looking for: just $49.50!
In a newspaper ad it’s all about “a”. You want as many responses as you can get. Even casual inquiries are potential up-sells or side-sells. Not so for Pay per Click. There’s no point spending $100 on clicks to make one up-sell for $49.50. A good pay per click ad is more like “b”.
Lets make it clear we’re selling something here, and how much it costs. When you pay per click you want good clicks, not more clicks.
Digging for Gold
The best links are the hardest to get. We want links from relevant high ranked sites and this is a numbers game…
Here’s the simple means to find good links. Go to the major search engines. Search for your target keywords. Look at the pages that appear in the top results. Now visit those pages and ask the site owners if they will link to you. Not everyone will, especially sites that are extremely competitive with you. However, there will be non-competitive sites that will link to
you — especially if you offer to link back.
When working on your link structure use Google. It’s the biggest, baddest search engine in the game and it’s the search engine that relies most on page rank to determine your position on the SERP.
For example, We go to www.google.com.
Now we type in “Wilmington Accounting” and click “Google Search”. The page looks a little something like this…
This is the coveted first page. We want to be here someday. Now, we start reviewing these results…
Now we do the same for “Wilmington Accountants” and “Wilmington QuickBooks”.
All of these sites would good incoming links. All that remains is to start Emailing them and
seeing if there’s a way to get an incoming link. First find the sites contact info, then start Emailing.
Your CPA Site Solutions subscription includes a mass mail system that can be used to send out hundreds of identical letters at once. Don’t use it. First: It will require a bit of tweaking to save your Email Marketing list. Second… It will require you managing multiple lists in order to send out the multiple stock letters below. Third: If you are using the follow up marketing system it will reset all your subscribers to day one when you restore your original marketing list. Lastly, you’ll get a much better response rate if you keep it personal. If you’ve considered this and you’d still like to use an auto-responder to do your mailing then give us a call about setting up a dedicated account for that purpose. It’s only $29.95 a month and while you won’t be able to add the personal touches below at least you can use the automated follow feature.
It’s better to do this by hand. You’ll get a MUCH higher response rate if you follow these few
simple instructions. We’ll use a few standard letters…
- I think you have a really cool site. Can we exchange links? Here’s my site. In
a way these are the best… link swaps… because they’re free. The downside is that the sites willing to do this are as a rule low ranked sites and are linking to you from a links page which reduces relevance.
- I would like to list my site on your directory. Many of the top ranking pages will
be what the search engines call “vertical indexes” or directories. Get on as many indexes as you can. Many of these indexes will allow you to put a link to your site on them. Cool! These are the best! Many will not. Oh well. Many index listings charge for inclusion. If it gets you a good incoming link for your relevant keywords, so what? Remember: There’s no such thing as a free listing on Google. These listings have the advantage that they rarely require you to link back to them.
- I would like to buy advertising on your page. This one’s pretty self explanatory.
As a rule your ad will be a “banner”, a graphic of a pre-determined dimension. Use an Alt Tag to provide Anchor Text.
An examination of each site will tell us which of these letter’s we’ll send to the webmaster or
site owner. Some of these sites will make it easy by providing us with sign up forms, especially the directories.
A Few Tips On Your Contact Letters
- Don’t throw me out as spam! Use a subject line that identifies
you and and the reason for the letter. For example, “www.mydomain.com requests link exchange with www.yourdomain.com“
- “Click Here”: Make it easy for people to find your site. Give them a link to the pages you think they’ll like best.
- Work with the tools you’ve got: Use your content! If you are
trying to link to a real estate site point out your loan calculators to the webmaster!
- “Nice color scheme!” Make these letters PERSONAL. You’ve
already spent some time on the site to determine which is the best stock letter to send. What’s your favorite part of their site? Comment on that.
- Keep it Real: Link to sites with relevant content. First: the search engines prefer relevant links… and second: your visitors prefer them too!
- Avoid Link Farms! There are many services (including some hosts, domain name registrars, and internet service providers)
who promise to help you boost your link popularity by automatically entering you into link exchange programs they operate, often linking your page with websites that have nothing to do with your content. Be aware of the potential repercussions. The major search engines consider this spam and penalize
or even ban sites that participate in link farming.
- Less is Not More: At first this is going to be hard work. As your page rank creeps higher it becomes easier to get links, but at first people are going to take one look at your PR and delete your Email. Send out a LOT of mail and expect a low response rate until that little green bar starts to fill up on your Google toolbar.
Why is this system good? By searching for your target keywords, you’ll find the pages that the
search engines themselves are telling you are good, as evidenced by the fact that they rank well. Hence, links from these pages are more important — and important for the terms you are interested in — than links from other pages. In addition, if these pages are top ranked, then they are likely to be receiving many visitors. Thus, if you can gain links from them, you might receive some visitors who initially go to those pages.
Check Your Competitors Backlinks
Most of the time a lot of the work you need to do has been done for you, especially in a ompetitive market. Let’s go back to our Wilmington example. We do a Google search for “Wilmington Accounting”. This time, we’re looking for our top competitor.
Wow. OK we sift through 8 pages of spammy irrelevant garbage (including an insurance company on page 6) before we reach our first competitor www.hanscpa.com with a PR of 2.
Now we go back to Google and type “links: www.hanscpa.com” in the search field. This is called a “backlink check”. These results what Google considers the “relevant links” to our competitors site. This does not show all incoming links, just the ones that Google has found in its deep crawl and considers relevant. There are 99 incoming links. Now we just go through and see if he’s found any indexes or other sites that we’ve missed and crank out some Emails to the webmasters of those sites.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about incoming links, and these are by far the most valuable
element of your link strategy, but your outgoing links get counted too! Link to high PR sites with keyword related content. For example…
- Wilmington, Delaware
- Delaware Society of Certified Public Accountants
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- American Accounting Association
- Institute of Internal Auditors
- Association of Government Accountants
- Institute of Management Accountants
- Financial Accounting Foundation
A very complete list of accounting related sites can be found here. Finding sites related to your town and state or industry is simply a matter of doing a google search. Keep in mind that many of these sites offer backlinks to members. Backlinks are good! We like backlinks!
Just as links to good, relevant sites boost your PR, so too will links to bad. irrelevant sites hurt!
Don’t link to spammers, scammers, or other search engine scum! The penalties for linking to these nefarious sites are severe!
There are a number of “search engine optimization” companies out there that have learned how to cheat the search engines. Some of these techniques, tiny text, background colored text, multiple title tags, etc are so old that using them is just begging to be banned. Others, “doorway pages” (AKA: Ad Pages or Sales Pages) and “mouse-over redirects” are harder to spot and can still fool the search engines… sometimes.
I recommend strongly avoiding these “Black Hat SEO” guys.
Spamming usually works with search engines… for a while. It can also backfire. Search engines are constantly manuvering to detect new spamming techniques. If the algo changes to read a spam technique on your site you’d better hope your SEO fixes your site before the next
guys… If the search engines detect your spamming they’ll penalize or ban your page from their listings.
As a rule the longer you use Black Hat SEO on your site the greater the risk of discovery.
Search engine spamming attempts usually center around being top ranked for extremely popular keywords. You can try and fight that battle against other sites, but then be prepared to spend a lot of time each week, if not each day, defending your ranking. That effort usually would be better spent on networking and alternative forms of publicity, described below.
Spam has already become a major problem with many webmasters having to resort to repeating keywords for no reason other than to try and “beat” other web pages. The stakes simply keep rising, and users have begun to hate sites that undertake these measures because the top results on major search engines are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Sites that spam search engines degrade the value of search engine listings. As the problem grows, these sites are facing the same backlash that spam mail generates.
If these practical reasons are not enough to convince you to avoid these tactics, allow me to present a less practical but no less pragmatic one…
There’s a contingent of SEO practitioners who claim “there are no hats”. They claim
that their search engine spam is just “high risk SEO”.
This is bunk.
The assertion would play a lot better if the vast majority of these black hat guys were being more honest with their clients about the risks they’re taking beforethey signed on to the service. The VAST majority don’t give their clientele any hint that they’re taking a risk until AFTER their site has been discovered and banned.
Search engine spamming is cheating. It’s messing up the Search Results for all of us. Black Hatters are deliberately doing what the search engines told them not to do in order to rank better on those very same engines and this, in my opinion as well as the opinion of most web users, amounts to theft of service.
Your relationships with your clients are based in trust and mutual respect. Do you really want
that undermined because a web savvy client discovered you using a mouse-over redirect? Do you want him hanging out at his Christmas party telling his guests how your number one backlink is actually www.babes_in_chains.com?
Part 4: Submission and Maintenance
Search engine submission is a formality. The major search engines do most of their ranking by
performing “deep crawls“. This means that if you’ve set up a decent link structure your page will get indexed whether you submit them or not. Sometimes they miss, however, so it’s good to submit the top two or three pages that best summarize your web site.
Don’t trust the submission process to automated programs and services. Some of them are excellent, but the major search engines are too important. There aren’t that many, so submit manually, so that you can see if there are any problems reported.
To submit to Google:
To submit to Yahoo:
You will need a yahoo Username and Password
To submit to Bing:
Also, don’t bother submitting more than the top two or three pages. It doesn’t speed up the process. Submitting alternative pages is only insurance. In case the search engine has trouble reaching one of the pages, you’ve covered yourself by giving it another page from which to begin its crawl of your site.
Be patient. It can take up to a month to two months for your “non-submitted” pages to appear in a search engine, and some search engines may not list every page from your site. Don’t submit more than once every couple of months and ONLY if you’ve made changes to the site. If the search engines feel you’re spamming them with submissions they’ll penalize your site.
Verify And Maintain Your Listing
Once your pages are listed in a search engine, monitor your listing every week or two. Strange things happen. Pages disappear. Links go screwy. Watch for trouble. Fix problems and resubmit if you spot any.
Resubmit your site any time you make significant changes. Search engines should revisit on a regular schedule. However, some search engines have grown smart enough to realize some sites only change content once or twice a year, so they may visit less often. Resubmitting after major changes will help ensure that your site’s content is kept current.
Beyond Search Engines
Your web site can do a lot more for you than appear on the search engines. It can significantly increase the conversion rate of almost any form of advertising!
It’s worth taking the time to make your site more search engine friendly, because some simple changes may pay off with big results. Even if you don’t come up in the top ten for your target keywords, you may find an improvement for target keywords you aren’t anticipating. The addition of just one extra word can suddenly make a site appear more relevant, and it can be impossible to guess what that word will be but search engines are not the end-all to marketing your firm!
Search engines are one way people look for accounting firms, but they are not the only way. People also find you through word-of-mouth, traditional advertising, the traditional media, newsgroup postings, web directories and links from other sites. Many times, these alternative forms are far more effective draws than are search engines especially when combined with a good web site full of high quality content!
Finally, know when it’s time to call it quits. A few changes may be enough to make you tops in one or two search engines. But that’s not enough for some people, and they will invest days or weeks creating special pages and changing their sites to try and do better. This time could usually be put to better use pursuing non-search engine publicity methods.
Don’t obsess over your ranking. Even if you follow every tip and find no improvement, you still have gained something. You will know that search engines are not the way you’ll be attracting traffic in your market. Now you can know you’re not missing out on the search engine angle and concentrate your efforts in more productive areas, rather than wasting your valuable time trying to rank in a saturated market.
404: This is a generic page error. When a page is removed, the server will generate a 404 when a visitor attempts to view that page…
Algorithm: AKA “Algo”: In the context of search engines, it is the mathematical programming system used to determine which web pages are displayed in search results.
Alt Tag: AKA “Alternative Text”: HTML tag that provides alternative text when non-textual
elements, typically images, cannot be displayed.
Back Link: AKA “backlinks”: Inbound links pointing to a page are referred to as back links.
Black Hat: In the context of the web “black hat” is a type of Search Engine Optimization based
on spamming and/or misleading the search engines by using dishonest content and/or link structures.
Click Through: When a user selects a hyper text (web page) link. The Click refers to the noise a input mouse makes when a button is depressed. The through refers to the act of going “through” the link. Many web statistics are kept on click-throughs (sometimes abbreviated as Click-Thru). Some advertising systems are based on paying sites when someone actually Clicks-Thru to a new site.
Conversion Rate: The relationship between vistors to sales or actions. If 1 person out of 100 purchases a sites product, it has a conversion rate of 1 to 100.
CPA: This one may throw you some time if you explore Paid Inclusion. In paid inclusion CPA means “Cost Per Action”. See Paid Inclusion.
Crawler: A type of Spider that will download multiple pages from the same web site. Crawling refers to the fact, that the spider will look for links in the pages it downloads and then walk or crawl down through a web site. Often used synonymously with “Spider”. All crawlers are spiders. Not all spiders are crawlers.
Dead Link: An html link that has gone bad. The destination page no longer exists. Many search engines routinely check for “dead links” by spidering the page again. Dead links used to be a serious problem on search engines (mostly yahoo), but with increased link checking, dead links are becoming more rare.
Deep Crawl: When a crawler is released onto the net to randomly surf. All crawlers will find your pages to add to their web page indexes, even if those pages have never been submitted to them by following your incoming links. This is the process by which Google determines your page rank.
Directory: A directory is a web site that focuses on listing web sites by individual topics. A quasi table of contents. A search engine lists pages, where a Directory (such as Looksmart or The Open Directory Project lists websites).
Frames: An HTML tag construct for making a website appear to have multiple windows within one browser. A frame with links can remain static while clicks cause a different frame to be updated. Most serious websites stay away from frame usage because of browser compatibility problems and search engine problems. Most search engines will not index a framed site.
Fresh Crawl: When a crawler visits your site on invitation via the submission process.
Inbound Link: Links pointing to a website. When a user arrives at a website from another site, that link is called an Inbound Link.
Indexer: When a search engine spiders (downloads) a page on a web, it must process the page to store it. A spider is responsible for the downloading, while the Indexer is responsible for process the page. An search engine indexer will typically process a page by removing all HTML tags, checking for and story links, often compressing the page by pulling out filter words, looking for stop words, and finally storing the page in a online searchable database.
Key Phrase: AKA “Keyword Phrase”: Refers to two or more keywords combined to form a search
Keyword: A singular word or phrase that is typed into a search engine search query. Keyword mainly refers to popular words which relate to any one website.
Keyword Density: A percentage measure of how many times a keyword is repeated within text of a page. For example, if a page contains 100 words and ten of those words are
“house”, then “house” is said to have a 10% keyword density.
Link: AKA “Hotlink”, “Hyperlink”: A segment of text or a graphical item that serves as a cross-reference between parts of a hypertext document or between files or hypertext documents.
Linkage: A count of the number of links pointing (inbound links) at a website. Many search engines now count linkage in their algorithms.
Link Farm: Free For All links. These are places that allow anyone to add a link. Search engines will not count farmed links to your site.
Link Popularity: A count of the number of links pointing (inbound links) at a website. Many search engines now count linkage in their algorithms.
Link Swap: AKA “Reciprocal Link”: A link exchange between two sites.
Meta Tag: Author generated HTML commands that are placed in the head section of an HTML document. Current popular meta tags that can affect search engine rankings, are Meta Keywords, and Meta Description.
Misspellings: Intentionally making a spelling mistake in meta keywords or meta tags to catch search engine users who also misspell words when searching.
Off Page Criteria: When a search engine ranks pages by using data that is not present on the web page itself. This could be the presence of a directory listing, or the number and quality of inbound links to a page.
Outbound Link: A link that points away from your website.
Page Rank: A method developed and patented by Stanford University and Larry Page
(cofounder of Google) to rank search engine results. PageRank gives a unique ranking to every page on the internet. The ranking number is based on the number and quality of inbound links pointing at a page.
Paid Inclusion: Search engines (and indexes) offer paid ad space. Payment options are
CPA (Cost Per Action), CPC (cost per click), and PPC (Pay Per Click). PPC is the most popular
and differs from CPC in that click costs are dynamic and determined at auction.
Ranking: In the context of search engines, it is the position that a sites entry is displayed in a search engine query results.
Re-submitting: The process of resubmitting a web page or web site to a search engine or directory. This is often done to update a listing because of content changes, the page has moved, or the page has been removed. It can also be done after updating or optimizing a page to acquire better rankings.
Reciprocal Link: AKA “Recip Link”: A link exchange between two sites.
Results Page: A page at a search engine that displays the results of searches. After the user types in a search query, the page that is displayed, is call the results page. The order of results on the results page, is called the rankings.
Robot: A program that automatically does “some action” without user intervention. In the context of search engines, it usually refers to a program that mimics a browser to download web pages automatically. A spider is a type of robot. Some times referred to as Webbots.
robots.txt: A file on a web site in the root directory of a website that is used to control which spiders have access to which pages within a website. When a spider or robot connects to a website, it checks for the presence of a robot.txt. Only spiders that adhere to the Robots Exclusion Standard will obey a robots.txt command file. There are several specific fields in a robots.txt such as User-agent specifies which User Agents are allowed to access the site and “Allow/Disallow” specifies which directories a spider may access.
Search Engine: A program designed to search a database. In the context of the Internet this refers to a web site that contains a database of information from other websites. Directories of sites are *not* search engines (such as Yahoo).
Search Term: The very heart of search engine interaction with a user. The user types in words or topics to search for, and the search engine returns results that are matches from its database. The action of searching is called Querying the database. A single search is of any database is called a Query.
Spamming: AKA “Spamdexing”: The submission of pages that are intended to rank artificially high by various unethical techniques. These can include submitting hundreds of slightly different pages designed to rank high, small invisible text, or word scrambled pages. Most of these techniques are flagged by search engines as spam.
Spider: For our purposes a spider is the main program used by search engines to retrieve web pages to include in their database. Spiders have other uses as well. For example spammers use them to harvest Email addresses off the web and some businesses use them to monitor their competitors websites.
Stop Words: AKA “Filter Words” “Adult Words”: These include words along the lines of (the, is, an, of, for, do). As you can imagine, removing these words can save search engines enormous amounts of database space. While in common use this definition is actually a misnomer. Technically a stop word is a word that causes an indexer to STOP indexing in the
current procedure and do something else. Most common of these, is when an indexer encounters an Adult (censored) word.
Submission: The act of submitting a web page to a search engine or web site to a directory.
Submission Service: A service that will automatically submit your page or website to many search engines at once. These were once popular, but many search engines now ban these
types of services.
White Hat: In the context of the web “White Hat” is a type of search engine optimization based
on honest content and link structure.