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What is the single best piece of SEO advice?

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Via SEOMOZ I see on Quora.com "What is the single best piece of SEO advice?"

My advice: Forget about SEO.

Okay seriously - I think SEO is just an industry buzzword for common sense. My SEO technique is anti-SEO or maybe deconstructive SEO. Meaning you will get your best SEO results by forgetting about SEO. Just do everything like a human would, and use common sense. Correctly name and label all files, folders, directories, etc. like a human - not a machine (i.e. words, not numbers). Write original content. Make list and references. Use great original photos and video. Blog, tweet, tumble and use Facebook. Answer questions. Comment in other places. But just keep working - and forget about SEO.

Google Webmaster Central Video Channel

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If you can take the engineered drone of Matt Cutts (sorry Matt - but you put me to sleep) there is some useful stuff in these videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/GoogleWebmasterHelp

AdSense Newsletter "tip of the month"

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One of the things I am always going on about is using the tools that are out there. You can do a lot of pretty sophisticated things for free or very low cost. If you are an AdSense publisher, you should be getting their monthly email newsletter, which today contains this info about the new Google +1 button:

+1 Reporting is now available

In our last issue we told you all about the +1 button and how it can help you drive more and better qualified traffic to your site. This time, we're excited to share the new reporting tools Google has designed to help you keep track of your +1 activity.

The best place to find out how the +1 button is performing is in Google Webmaster Tools . You can get more information on how much additional organic search traffic the +1 button is bringing to your pages, how many times your pages have been +1'd by your users and demographic information for those users. If you haven't done so already, you'll need to verify your site on Google Webmaster Tools to get access to these features. In addition to this, Google Analytics is offering the new Social Plug-in Analytics tool. This will give you insight into the different types of actions taking place in your site once users reach it. You'll be able to compare behavior between users who +1 your pages and those who don't, as well as track other social actions and see which pages are driving the highest number of them.

It is good info, and stuff you should be on top of if you are running a web business, blog, or develop sites for clients.

Do URL shorteners pass anchor text?

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France Calls Google a Monopoly

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So do I. The article makes the case pretty clearly - they dominant the market for search and search ads in France (and most of the rest of the world beside China), and their rules are arbitrary and sketchy. They need to be regulate, plain and simple. Google can make or break businesses - the power they hold is incredible:

Published: July 1, 2010
That conclusion is hardly novel, but the decision appears to go beyond any previous official ruling in the United States or elsewhere.

Google is lame...

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Just a thought: Google is lame. I mean, Google is great - search for the most part, Gmail, Google maps, and tons of other useful, nearly indispensable stuff... but at the same time, I think that the mantra of Larry and Sergey of "Don't be evil" doesn't hold up anymore, and that in the sprawl of what they are doing (web browsers, high speed Internet access, applications, social networking, etc.) they have really dropped the ball on SEARCH. When they started, yes, we needed to know where the website of a thing we were looking for was, and let's face it, Google worked at that better than anyone at the time. A few years later, a lot has changed on the web, but Google's main search really hasn't. I am really tired of finding 3 or 5 or 7 year old websites for topics where new things are much more relevant. And tired of not finding stuff that sometimes appears (like Twitter results) and sometimes doesn't - based on what? We never know, because too much of what Google does is still secret. Which is sort of a crock anyway - what they did, follow text links to their relevant sites and then rank those sites as most probable to be about what the text link says, is really no big deal (not to diminish the technology and the fact that yes, they made it work). Webmasters and SEOs have been pulling their hair out over this secret formula/algorithm for years - it is a whole industry unto itself now - but for what, really? If your site is relevant, live, legitimate, and people link to it and come to it, unless you have screwed something else up royally, you should be just fine in all matter of search engines after a period of time. In the end, 99% of the other crap webmasters worry about (how many h2 tags does this page have?) is crap.

So what is my point? Google search needs to change - they need to change their results more often, refreshen the index more, give new and news site more credence, and at some point and for some topics they need to admit that the "algorithm" does not know all and do some human, qualitative analysis of their search results. And stuff like Twitter results and in the future perhaps Facebook, etc. (anywhere that is as important as those sites are to millions of web users) should be at the top of the page as an option for a user to search or not - not show up when Google feels like it.

Keep developing, keep striving, but don't forget what brought you to the dance.

Using press releases to increase organic search

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There is a good article up on the increasingly relevant WebProNews site about using press releases: How Press Releases Can Be Great For Search

It includes this handy list, which should be indispensable for all web marketers:

- Business Wire
- PR Newswire
- PRWeb
- 24-7 Press Release
- PR Zoom
- PR Leap
- I-Newswire
- Webwire
- ClickPress
- PR.com
- PR Log
- eReleases
MarketWire

This is not cool

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WebProNews asks: "Can You "Rank" in Google if Everyone Has Different Search Results?"

Answer - I don't want to. I don't want everyone's searched customized - I don't want my searches customized! I want to know what the best, most relevant site is - but I don't want it influenced by each and every person in the world! This has always been an issue for me with Google. I would love to see Google results more qualitative (from a human editorial standpoint) and fresher (I hate searching for an event or something newsworthy and constantly getting things from 3, 4 or 5 years ago - that is ridiculous) - but I want Google to do that. With all the money they make, why can't they let some real people make some editorial decisions? I think they need to stay relevant.

But - what I don't want, is every person in the world getting a different, customized result based on their own past behavior. I can't see how in the long term this doesn't end up making individual searches less relevant, as all you are doing with your searches (by what you eventually click on) will be preaching to the converted (you!). How will you then break out of your own habits and find things that are new?

Anyway - I think this is a can of worms for Google and that letting people opt out of it is disingenuous - they know that 90% of users have no idea how to do anything other than point and click - configuring their Google settings isn't going to happen...

Murdoch On Blocking Search Engines: "I Think We Will"

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Yeah - RIGHT! Good luck with that....

There's a chance that the content produced by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and a number of other important organizations will soon become impossible to find using Google. Rupert Murdoch indicated in a recent interview that News Corp. may block search engines...

Finally, in response to a question regarding why News Corp. doesn't just block search engines, Murdoch said, "Well, I think we will..."

Full article and video here. Notice how this is quoted by SkyNews... which Murdoch conveniently, you know - what's the word I'm looking for... OWNS.

Look - this is pure crap. And if he really believes he can live without Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc. he is really out of touch. No one is going to pony up for this stuff. What value does any of his properties add? If anything, his news ops are marginalized now by their political alignments. I for one would be happy to have his crap publications deleted from my search results as it is.

Bing And Google

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This is really too funny - some Microsoft employee ran a test last weekend to see what search engine was more relevant... that soon devolved into a mess. But this quote from the pollster is priceless:

Indeed, Kordahi eventually yanked all the poll results altogether, complaining about "some douche gaming the system."

It really is pretty amazing that these captains of industry and masters of the universe will stoop to, on all sides.

More on Wolfram|Alpha....

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The Wolfram|Alpha search engine launches on May 9th...Here is a nice article from h+ that breaks down how it all works:

Despite his disclaimer, Wolfram|Alpha looks like a search engine, in that there's a one-line box where you type in a question. The output appears a second or two later, as a page of text and graphics below the box. What's happening behind the scenes? Rather than looking up the answer to your question, Wolfram|Alpha figures out what your question means, looks up the necessary data to answer your question, computes an answer, designs a page to present the answer in a pleasing way, and sends the page back to your computer.

Let me give three random examples. If you enter the query, "3/26/2009 + 90 days" you'll get a page that gives a date ninety days later than the first date. If you enter "mt. everest height length of golden gate" you'll get a page expressing the height of Mount Everest as a multiple of the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you enter "temperature in los gatos," you'll get something like the current temperature, a graph of the temperatures over the last week with projections for the next few days, and a graph of the temperatures over the last year.

There is also a podcast with Stephen Wolfram that gets a bit deeper into the science behind the new service.

Design Patterns for Faceted Navigation

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Many moons ago, I led the creation of a faceted search system across IBM's PC catalog. Along the way, we experimented with different user experiences. I ran across an article this morning on Designing for faceted search. The salient points are contained below:

  • DON'T go crazy with facets. Information overload is bad enough in general--don't add to it by presenting users with 15 different facets. That is hardly "narrowing," and users will generally not scroll too far down beyond the initial screen to locate your more obscure facets. But how do you make sure your facets are focused and helpful?
  • DO base facets on key use cases and known user access patterns. A little bit of research goes a long way in identifying key ways users navigate and search your site. Analyzing search logs, evaluating competitor sites, and user research and testing are great ways to figure out what key access points users are looking for. Interviewing as few as 10 users will often give you great insight into what the facet structure should be. Don't skimp on that upfront research; you'll thank yourself later as you continuously refer back to that data while you configure your taxonomy and search engine.
  • DO order facets and values based on importance. That might sound obvious, but a lot of sites get it wrong. Not all facets are created equal: Some access points are more important than others depending on what users are doing and where they are in the site. Give them top billing because only the first few will be visible on page load. Same goes for values: Most faceted search engines will allow you to order values based on number of items in that category. This is almost always a better bet than alphabetical ordering, because it dynamically presents the most popular items at the top. When determining order for navigation, again think about your users and why they are coming to your site: Don't obscure the big-play items in an alpha scheme.
  • DO leverage the tool to show and hide facets and values. While the free or low-cost faceted search tools don't all offer those configuration options, more sophisticated faceted search solutions allow you to create rules to progressively disclose facets. Think of a site offering online greeting cards. While the visual theme of the card--teddy bears, a sunset, golf--might eventually be important to a user, it probably isn't the first place they will start their search. They will likely begin with occasion (birthday, Christmas), or recipient (father, friend), and then become interested in themes further down the line. Accordingly, we might hide the "themes" facet until a user has selected an occasion or recipient. You can selectively present facets based on your understanding of your users and their typical search patterns (as mentioned in the previous "do").

Excellent Article on the Digg Algorithm

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If you are wondering how the Digg algorithm works, a good place to start is right here.

Specifically I think these are the most salient facts to consider:


  • Voting is the dominant component.

  • Timing of the votes matter.

  • Who submitted the content by domain and submitter.

A shot across the bow to search engine marketers?

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associates-logo-small._V265885005_.gifAmazon sent out an email today and announced inside their affiliate program pages the following:

Change to Amazon Associates program

After careful review of how we are investing our advertising resources, we have made the decision to no longer pay referral fees to Associates who send users to www.amazon.com, www.amazon.ca, or www.endless.com through keyword bidding and other paid search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines, and their extended search networks. If you're not sure if this change affects you, please visit this page for FAQs.

There is more to it but I am sure you can find the rest in the news. It may not seem like a big deal, but I am sure that it could put a certain number of people virtually out of business. Key word bidding on certain retail items is both science and art - and Amazon's decision, at this stage of the recession, is pretty curious. Do they feel the Google has their merchandise covered well enough that they are throwing money away paying these affiliates? Or do they plan on advertising themselves more? Either way I am sure it came as a shock to some SE marketers who may have seen a big chunk of their business disappear in an instant. I am sure lawsuits will follow.

Spy on your competitors

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If you ever wanted to know what your online competition is paying for keywords and adwords, check out SpyFu.com.

Here is a quick snapshot of what ebay is paying:

spyfu.GIF

You can also search by keyword to see how much certain words will cost you... pretty cool.

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