Recently in the private forums Rich Schefren provides for his Strategic Profits clients there was a discussion started about search engine optimization.
The topic initially began with two questions. The first was about whether non-Google search engines penalize sites that advertise with Google AdWords (false) and the importance of having an “aged domain” and how it relates to number one rankings.
I became interested when Darryl Peddle, who claimed employment at Yahoo!, entered the discussion and offered some great SEO advice. I asked Darryl for permission to republish the tips from the discussion, which I provide below interspersed with my own opinions based on my SEO studies and experiments. Darryl also has a site called Rank Study.
This from Darryl regarding the first question about advertising on AdWords and the possibility of penalties from other search engines as a result:
As an employee at Yahoo I can tell you that advertising on Google will in no way affect your rankings in Yahoo… that’s completely inaccurate. Why would we reduce our quality by dropping relevant sites and advertisers?
This regarding aged domains:
Regarding the aging domain. This is information that is available from the latest Google patent. And yes domain aging is becoming a solid way of determining a sites long term value and quality score. It is just one of many (100+ factors), but it’s becoming more important nowadays.
Here are some tips from Darryl, followed by my own opinion and feedback.
1) Register your domains for 2-5 years, not 1 year
I’ve read this absolutely everywhere from every SEO expert I find, including me! I don’t know when I first heard about it, but it makes complete sense and if you want to know why buy my upcoming e-book on SEO for blogs. Early last year for some of the domains I have really committed projects behind, I renewed for multiple years – 5 years or more. This is also a good thing so you don’t lose a domain because you never received the renewal email.
2) Avoid buying domains with multiple dashes
I’m not entirely sure how many multiple dashes is bad, but obviously something like www.make-money-online-with-at-home-business-opportunities.com reeks of spam.
Generally I try and find domains that have both the dashed and non-dashed version and will buy both. For example I purchased BlogTrafficSchool.com and Blog-Traffic-School.com and there are arguments for promoting either domain as the actual site (that’s another article topic). I feel best knowing I have both so I don’t risk losing any type-in traffic or any possible keyword or SEO advantages. Just be careful you don’t head towards the five or more dashes domain names.
3) Do begin to obtain RELEVANT links from high authority pages and directories as soon as possible for both new and old sites
This is the golden rule and the key to building search engine authority, however it’s also the hardest part of SEO for many people. I think it’s especially important to note the word relevant is highlighted, which means you should look to attract links from sites within your neighbourhood of topics. Theme relevance is very important, as is the quality, age and spread of links you attract.
4) Beware who you link out to and do not participate in link exchanges with non-related content sites
I flat out refuse link exchanges nowadays and recommend the same to people who ask me to swap links. It’s a dated process. Yes perhaps for a brand new site a few link exchanges with theme-related sites will get you going, but I believe it’s a waste of energy. Spend your time forming relationships and writing content instead.
Be careful what sites you send links to as well. I can’t prove this, but it make sense to me if your site is seen sending a lot of links to sites that are prime candidates for search engine penalties (for whatever reasons), you might suck up some of the penalty too. This is especially important for you bloggers selling text links – I make this mistake myself – check every site that buys a link from your blog to see what you are endorsing.
5) Have a plan in place to update your site regularly with new content and shuffle featured content (e.g. homepage features) regularly. This will encourage more search engine spider activity and faster updates of your site.
I love this advice because it explains why blogs rock at SEO. It also explains why my blog content appears in Google results within a few days after publishing.
The idea here is that your homepage is different each time the search engine spider visits, prompting it to visit more often. This sends all the right signals to the search engines and makes a lot of common sense too – since the search engines want to deliver the best AND freshest content for each keyword search. If you are not consistently delivering fresh content then the search engines won’t flag your site as an authority.
6) Do use Yahoo Site Explorer (beta) to monitor your site to see how many pages are indexed and to analyze the links to your site (and your competition)
Yahoo Site Explorer recently got a whole lot cooler. Most people I speak to say they look to Yahoo as the most accurate representation of public backlink counts. If you are not clued in to why you should care about your backlinks start by reading why backlinks are important and my somewhat dated backlink FAQ.
Knowing how many pages are indexed is another important stat you can retrieve from Yahoo Site Explorer. This data indicates how good your site’s internal structure is and whether your site is crawled extensively. I believe the key for deep indexing (your goal) is regularly updated content AND content that is well structured – i.e. interlinked in a logical manner. If you use a WordPress blog, the job is half done for you, the other half is your responsibility – publishing regular content.
7) Do write unique quality articles and submit them to article directories
My own experience with article directories has been discussed already on this blog and was included in a free PDF published by Brian Clark. Personally I am not a big fan of this method of marketing for links because it takes significant work for often poor rewards. But that’s just my experience. Plenty of other people report back great results.
8 ) Do use press releases and submit the to places like prweb.com
My take on this is just like article marketing. You can “strike it rich” and score huge publicity and links via PR sites like PRWeb.com, but it can easily fizzle as well. The best strategy is to have a strategy and work at it for the long term with a clear message to market.
9) Do not buy ROS (run of site links) if you want to rank well on Google, particularly on a new site. (A ROS link is a link that is placed on every page of a site, like in a footer or navigation bar)
Just recently I had two people tell me that they believe – in fact are almost certain – that due to recent changes at Google their site rankings were penalized because they purchased ROS links from a text brokering service. Alborz Fallah, a mate of mine in Brisbane, noted that after informing Google that he had removed site wide purchased links that were pointing to his car blog, the penalty affecting his site was removed. You can read his story for more details.
It’s well reported that Google is attempting to crack down on links purchased purely for SEO benefits (links purchased for direct traffic is okay). A site wide link is a good indication to Google of the wrong motivation, however it’s not 100% proof, because for example many people have a blogroll that carries site wide links that are not there necessarily for any other reason than as a recommendation of good blogs. In general stay clear of buying site wide links across many sites all at once and if link buying is a strategy you intend to use for SEO, focus on in-content links or homepage only links.
10) Build your links and submit to directories gradually. Mix up the anchor text of your incoming links with your top 5 or 6 keyword phrases and category keyword phrases.
This first part of this advice about directories is okay for new sites and in particular non-blog sites that might otherwise have trouble building links. I consider directory submission one of the weakest link building methods around though, and rarely submit my blogs to directories.
The second part of the advice regarding mixing up keywords is a very good tip, but something that is difficult to implement if you don’t control how people link to you. As a good example, people often link to this blog with my name, which really doesn’t tell the search engines anything other than this is my blog. If you are buying links or article marketing or submitting content to other bloggers and you have control over what anchor text is use, try and mix it up as often as you can, but keep it natural too – don’t force keywords in for the sake of search engines.
11) Standard onpage SEO is enough (title tags with keywords, h1 for heading, static url, proper internal link structure, sitemap, deep content, article content focusing on the search tail and funnel pagerank back up to category pages).
Wow, there’s a lot of advice there and some of it might be over the top of your head if you have not studied SEO before. If that’s you, go read my intro to SEO series here – The 80/20 Of Search Engine Marketing.
Most of the items mentioned in this tip relate to your internal site structure. I don’t 100% agree that you only need to worry about your internal elements. I think you have to take steps to increase site authority by attracting organic link growth as well. However since you have complete control over your internal structure you have no excuse for not getting this part right.
One of the key tips listed is about the Long Tail. It’s very possible to attain top rankings in long tail keyword searches with minimal effort by focusing on your internal structure and content. You may not receive mountains of traffic, but it will be very focused. This blog you are reading now takes full advantage of the long tail and dominates many Internet business and marketing related terms because of the keywords I use and topics I write about.
If you haven’t come to grips yet with basic SEO elements like titles, headings, pagerank, keywords and how it all goes together to generate top search rankings, I suggest you start studying. Read my article archives as a good place to start.
12) Avoid search engine forums and areas where kids and beginners with no experience spread bogus rumors.
I’ve learnt a lot from forums. One of the first articles I ever read about SEO that really helped me was in a forum. However as Darryl is suggesting, be wary of what you read and don’t assume anything as the absolute truth. Test something yourself before you really believe it or at the very least review the credentials of the people you are following and see if they have proof by looking at their sites and reputation in the SEO industry.
Two of my favorite SEO forums are:
There’s a list of some of the top sites and blogs with SEO related information. If you really intend to be the SEO person in your organization or small business, then these sites are like your news portals. You will get the latest stories and events from the search engine marketing world by visiting these sites each day.
I have to confess that I do not spend too much time at sites like these. I’m more interested in monitoring my own search results than reading about what’s going in the industry. The things that I need to know generally filter down to me eventually once I go looking for answers to specific problems. In a world full of too much information I prefer to focus on finding answers to my specific problems, but if SEO is your thing then you need to follow these sites to make sure you know what you are talking about.
14) do invest in the right professional tools for seo and avoid the spam *tool of the day*
I’ve said it before – don’t be afraid to spend money on information products from credible experts who have achieved what you want to achieve. They are the best to teach you how to do what they do and will provide you with a concise, book sized and structured collection of only the information you need to know. Just be absolutely certain you are in a position to action the information you collect and it solves your immediate problems.
The second point about avoiding tools of the day is a good one. Avoid the hype – when it comes to SEO there are a few fundamentals you need to know and test for yourself, and that’s it. The only area where I would even considering investing in a tool is to help with keyword research, something like SEO Elite or WordTracker.
15) Avoid auto-page generators at all costs. They leave footprints and are a waste of time.
I was once asked if would consider using a blackhat SEO tool if meant a serious increase in traffic to my business BetterEdit with no risk of penalties to my site – the worse that could happen was the traffic coming in from the blackhat technique stopping. The technique in question was cloaked pages created automatically with software.
My initial response was no way, based on a moral knee-jerk reaction, but the more I thought about it the more I was tempted. Why not take advantage of a loophole in Google while the loophole exists? I decided against it because it didn’t feel right and I believe this sort of thing can come back to haunt you in ways you don’t realize.
I’d rather work in ways that are in unison with Google policies. I think the rewards long term are more stable and difficult to compete away if you use your head to simply be a better player at the white hat SEO game. Don’t fight the hand that feeds you, just make sure it feeds you first and gives you largest share.
16) Do have a long term SEO and content plan. Long term unique valuable content will always beat out spam in the long run.
Can you honestly say right now you have a plan regarding what keywords you want to rank for and how you intend to leverage content to target those keywords? Guess what – I don’t either!
Well, that’s not entirely true. In my case I’m confident of my blog’s authority and know that if I want to target a certain phrase I just need to produce some content focused on that. Most people reading this are not in the same situation.
Your blog probably doesn’t have a lot of authority yet, but at least you are blogging so you are on your way as long as you keep focusing on content output in your niche. If you are a small business owner with a static site, you have the the most work to do since it’s going to be very hard to increase your search rankings without dynamic content published regularly.
The advice here is to realize the potential that targeted search traffic represents and then strategically go after it. Don’t expect results quickly, but once you are established rest comfortably knowing that as long as you focus on your niche area you can dominate search rankings just by leveraging well structured content, slowly but consistently released. In other words – start blogging!
Search Engine Optimizer