Friday, December 19, 2008

IMPORTANT NOTICE - Read Me First - Before you pay for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Services!!

If you are about to hire a Search Engine Optimization contractor, spend a few moments reading this - it could save you thousands of dollars.
Not long ago I wrote a little article about How to choose a contractor for Search Engine Optimization work. Little did I realize the vital importance of this information for the world. 
I have since seen quite a few desperate forum pleas by people who have been ripped off by "SEO" contractors. The reason they got ripped off is that they do not know what Search Engine Optimization is. Don't buy on automobile unless you know what automobiles do, and don't pay for "SEO" unless you know what it is supposed to be and what the firm is going to do for you and why. If you understand a bit of what it is about, you will not be ripped off as easily and you will also be able to get the most of any search engine optimization service.
The short version:
Search Engine Optimization is a bunch of techniques for making your website more visible in unpaid search engine listings. These techniques involve

On Page OptimizationKeywords and coding and content on a page.

Off Page Optimization - This usually refers to Links from other Websites.

Website SEO design - Link structure in your site.

A longer version: SEO Basics and The SEO Mini-Book. You should at least understand the basics before hiring an SEO contractor.

What  Search Engine Optimization is NOT:
Paid advertisement in search engine results pages or other Websites - Not SEO and you do not need a firm to do that for you.
Black Hat SEO - Practices that can get your site banned from search engines. If someone wants to do anything like that or says "this might get your site banned," don't do it.
Web page graphic design - Changing the outward appearance of Web pages in itself may have no effect on search engine placement or number of visitors to your site. It might affect conversion rates, which are peripherally related to Search Engine Optimization.
Choosing a Search Engine Optimization Firm
Make sure you understand exactly what they intend to do and why - what are you paying for. That's elementary. This should be defined both in terms of operations they will perform and of results they expect to achieve.
Are they going to do work or just tell you how to fix the site?
Are they going to change code on your Web pages?
Are they going to change text on your Web pages?
Are they going to add new Web pages to your site?
Are they going to add new links to your Web pages from oustide?
What key words and phrases will they optimize for your site?
Check Before You Buy
Ask to see sites that this SEO firm has done. Do they get good rankings in Google for popular keywords?
Do pages have meaningful file names like nice-widgets.htm. Long and meaningless file names and URLs like are a sure sign that there is no search engine optimization here.
If they are generating the new site, is it making "dynamic" pages (based on a database and generated on the fly) or static html (actual html files) ?? Static html is better.
Does every page link back to the main page using a keyword that people will search for?? ("Home" is not a keyword unless you are selling homes).
Check the source code (in any browser, click View-->Page Source). Do images have  "alt" tags with keywords? Is the <TITLE> tag in the header a keyword? Is there a site map for the site?
Talk to Webmasters who worked with these people. Did they get more visitors? Check the Web sites in Alexa (  to see if there was really a recent improvement in site rank for traffic.
Do they promise top spots in Google or other search engines for your pages for different keywords?
Do they promise to increase the  Google PageRank  of your site?  
Do they promise a percentage increase in number of visitors??
Changing names and files - Firms that want to change the domain name or filenames of your site generally do not know what they are doing. Changing your domain will reduce traffic if you have any visitors now. If the name MUST be changed, the old pages and domain should remain and should be redirected to the new ones.
Java and Flash - Javascript is a turn off for search engines. You do not want pages with Javascript menus in them or lots of fancy javascript for display graphics or Flash immages. Google is only now learning how to deal with Flash images.
Meaningless promises - Top 10 spots for keyword in Google - If the keyword is Sexonomonia, it won't help you because nobody is searching for it. If the keywords is "Maps" they cannot do it for you - too many other good Web sites rank ahead of yours. Be sure you understand what they are promising and why it is good for your site!  

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Registering Web pages in search engines - a better way

Here's my year end nondenominational Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and Eid el Fitr wish list from  Google. It's simple:
1- Don't penalize me for Google bugs. I really cannot control whether someone links to or or or If your spider and software are too dumb to understand they are the same pages, it is not my fault.
2- There is really no difference between a page that is in a subdirectory and one that is not. Really! If you are going to penalize pages that are in subdirectories, or index them later, you ought to be telling people that that's how the spider works. If you like flat directories, we will give you flat directories. Just ask!  
3- Most important - Give us all a quick and easy way to tell you when I have 1 or more pages or to tell you to index the whole site. There are a dozen good technical ways to solve that problem. The XML Site map is one of the bad ones. If you are going to insist on those maps, then provide a free tool that will crawl the site and submit the URLs in any format you like. But in addition to that, please give me an easy way to tell you that there is one new page at the site. I should not have to make a whole site map for a single page.  For bloggers it's easy. There is an RSS syndication file and that file can be sent to an aggregator. You probably use information from aggregators and blogs like Blogline. But what about sites that do not have an RSS feed? Why isn't there a simple interface for submitting a single URL to a queue? It could be used for new pages or changed pages. That could also take a load off Google software, since widespread use of such interfaces reduces the need for frequent spider crawls through thousands of pages to find just one that is really new or changed. It is incomprehensible why registration of new pages has to be such a hassle when there are simple and foolproof technologies available to solve this trivial problem.
Is that too much ask?
Anyone out there who sees this cry of despair - post it to Matt Cutt's blog and maybe Santa will answer our prayers.
Ami Isseroff