popular myth about duplicate content debunked by Google

as stated in my previous SEO piece, there are quite a few myths flying around the Web and namely about what Google does and doesn’t with your data. Webpronews has this story about “duplicated content” and God knows there are many people tallking nonsense about that subject. A must-read:

[…] Greg begins by clearing up a popular myth about duplicate content, and that is that Google penalizes sites for having duplicate content. This is not the case. That’s not to say that duplicate content can’t have a negative impact on your rankings, but Google itself is not penalizing you for it. […]

  • read on at Webpronews

A Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) survival guide for marketing managers (part 2) – unabridged

note: this is part 2 of 2 in a series of articles on the subject of SEO and marketing, originally published at Bnet.co.uk. This piece is the unabridged version of the article.

10 steps for improving your SEO dramatically and simply

including a slideshare pictorial guide for SEO marketers (see bottom of article)

Important notice: it is reminded that this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to SEO. All steps have been voluntarily simplified in order to help marketing managers, not to turn them into bespectacled anoraks. My method described here is simple, it is certainly not scientific, it is bound to make any SEO guru scream in dismay I’m sure, but I’ve tried it and it worked time and time again, so I believe there must be something good in it.

Step 1: define your SEO niche

Trying to be all things to all people is a bad thing in Marketing in general, but in web page optimisation it is a lethal mistake. First and foremost, one has to target a so-called SEO niche in order to be well positioned in search engines. Reaching number one rank is a nice to have but can rarely be achieved from day one. On the contrary, it is easier and more effective to aim at niches, one at a time for each page you want to index, and eventually, your ranking will improve.

1.       Target 3 keywords (or combination of). I don’t mean that one cannot index a page for more than 3 keywords, I have seen counterexamples. What I mean is

a.       It’s difficult to target more than 3 keywords from a resource viewpoint,

b.      If you want to be consistent, these keywords will have to be repeated all over your text, so imagine if you have 10 of them!

c.       Your website has probably more than one page so do use other pages to target other keywords, based on relevance (the more the keywords are repeated in the page the more relevant because it means that this page really is about that),

d.      Don’t try and spam search engines, their designers are really shrewd, so spamming a page with repeated keywords may sound very clever but I assure you it’s not plus your readers might not appreciate your style.

2.       Analyse popularity AND competition and focus on that KEI

a.       keyword popularity will tell you how much a keyword combination is sought after,

b.      competition will tell you how often your competitors have tried to use this combination of keywords for their own SEO,

c.       the right combination between a & b is called the Key Efficiency Indicator index (aka KEI), a very effective way of balancing the two factors,

d.      bringing realism using personal judgement is also advised. Some of the numbers given by some keyword generation tools (see last section about useful tools) will not make much sense unless you interpret them properly and eliminate irrelevant keywords. For instance, networks appears as if it were a relevant keyword for telcos but in fact it’s not because it’s too vague as it mostly refers to social networks. A simple search engine query will prove the point very quickly and therefore, the ambiguity can be removed by qualifying the keyword better (network security is more relevant for instance, etc.)

e.      each page can/must be indexed with a different strategy in mind. This is how you can ensure that different targets are reached from the same website.

note: “The Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) was developed by search engine guru Sumantra Roy. it compares the daily searches with the number of competing Web pages to pinpoint exactly which keywords are good enough so you can use them while optimizing your site.” (source: sitepoint)

Step 2: fine tune your page title

As said in our previous post about Internet content, good content shows in the title. Good SEO too, and this is rather obvious so I won’t expatiate.

Step 3: implement keywords in the URL

Adding your keywords to your URL is also very effective as it will improve the search engine friendliness of your website. It also means generic keywords. Business people are always obsessed with their brand – and this is natural to an extent – but Internet visitors aren’t forcibly. What you have to do is get them to associate your brand with the good content that you are providing. It’s just the same objective but it works the other way round.

Continue reading “A Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) survival guide for marketing managers (part 2) – unabridged”

A Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) survival guide for marketing managers (part 1) – unabridged

note: this is the unabridged version of a post originally published at Bnet.co.uk

SEO is a serious marketing tool

Of all the topics surrounding the web, there is one which tops the list from a marketing point of view and it’s Search Engine Optimisation (aka SEO). It is indeed one of the most important levers for bringing traffic to a site. I can barely think of a Marketing manager I have bumped into in the past 18 months who isn’t obsessed with the fact that his products will or will not show in search engines. This is obviously a valid request and a lot of expectations are set on the improvement/optimisation of web pages to be more search-engine friendly, and a lot of pressure is put on web site owners like yours truly. There is nothing wrong with that though, I believe it all boils down to getting the right explanation across to our managers and explaining what SEO really is and isn’t about. In essence, it’s not about cheating; on the contrary, thinking that optimising your site for ‘free products’ when you sell expensive products is not only daft, it’s pointless. So I won’t take any of your time debating on whether SEO is cheating because it’s not. Or at least it’s not a side of the business that I’m interested in.

My conclusion is that education is at the heart of that matter and I have developed a little web owner survival kit in which I have included some of the fundamentals of SEO, to help Marketing managers and site owners with their daily task of improving their web content and better serve their visitors. This post and slideshare presentation will complement nicely our previous manual on the subject of Internet content.

Your SEO is more than just about  web pages: it’s a matter of strategy

My aim here is not to depict the complete picture of website optimisation. This would be an impossible task. Search engines vary their rules on a daily basis, and narrowing down our attention to Google only wouldn’t be sufficient to simplify our work. What I have attempted to do in this article is to focus on the fundamentals of search engine optimisation. I have used this canvas in the field and I have found it pretty effective in order to evangelise about SEO and get marketing managers to take ownership of this task, as a means, not only to improve their web pages, but mostly to improve how their products/services are presented: well, in essence I could sum it up by adding that improving your SEO will also help hone your marketing strategy, therefore killing two birds with one stone.

When Marketing managers come to see me about their web page SEO they often have grievances about the Internet, or the website or even the webmasters, but none of these are really to blame.

_ “I can’t see my products when I type ‘0800 numbers’” I was told by quite a few marketing managers (just change the keyword/product name, you’ll always get the same problem)

_ Ok, I replied, “but why isn’t your page named ‘0800 numbers’ then?”

_ “It’s normal he answered, we don’t call it that way internally!”

As a natural result, the name of a product which is only internal will never show outside the web because a website isn’t done for internal people, it’s meant for external visitors, who need to be addressed with their vocabulary, not yours. Actually, this means that the marketing manager in question is going to have to step into his visitors’ shoes and stop interpreting the world through his own cultural references. In essence, this is what marketing is all about, and it has nothing to do with the web.

part 2 of this SEO survival guide for Marketing managers will be about our 10 steps for improving your SEO dramatically and simply.

8 Tools For Online Reputation Management (ORM)

Managing one’s online reputation has become a must. It is absolutely unthinkable for anyone who wants to make a professional appointment to leave a photograph on one’s facebook profile in which he or she is holding a glass of champagne and assuming weird poses (and God knows I came across quite a few counter examples). Many chances are that the person with whom you are about to have an appointment has just gone straight to ‘Google’ your name on the Internet. This is what is called online reputation (or online identity) management (abbreviated ORM), that is to say your image as it is showing online through Internet and social media exposure.

In this article I will list 8 kinds of tools which could help you work on your own online reputation, or check upon other people’s online presence.

  • ORM tools #1: metasearch engines (i.e. an aggregator of all search engines) for social media such as http://samepoint.com , will help you check whether you are popular online or not. Samepoint will combine results from various sources such as social networking sites (facebook, mybloglog, linkedin, typepad, wordpress.com, blogger etc.), wikis, bookmarking sites such as delicious and others. I used my own example and I found out my samepoint request could produce up to 1000 results. This is not very surprising in fact, because this is the effect of my online work for the past 15 years. Internet presence takes time to develop, even though impressive results can be obtained very rapidly if you are committed to working on it. What is interesting too is that samepoint shows whether your documents contain ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ keywords. Very few ‘negative keywords’ were found in my case and this is not coming as a surprise either, as it has also been my choice from day one not to communicate online on anything negative or overly critical. Another example of a metasearch social media engine is http://socialmention.com which also deduces a social ranking from the results although it is difficult to relate that ranking to the quality of your work. Social media pundit Guy Kawasaki has reached a ranking of 89/100, and he certainly raises the bar very high given his frantic online activity (Guy has 77,916 followers on twitter as of today),
  • ORM tools #2: blog search engines such as technorati or http://blogsearch.google.com make up the second kind of tools which you can use to manage your online reputation. Obviously, the more your write on blogs, including other people’s blogs of course, not just your own, the better your chances to increase your online reputation. Eventually, you will establish the credibility through your writing. For instance, many a CV-related issue in job-seeking can be circumvented in that way (here’s the result of my research on ‘marketing & innovation’ which shows that my blog comes in pole position, just above my Belgian friends from future lab). Thus, writing in blogs can actually position you on top of search engine results without having to pay for anything (this is commonly described as SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimisation), but it also means that you are producing content on a regular basis, not just from time to time,
  • ORM tools #3: news search engines such as Google News which are not only scouring the Net for information from newspapers and press releases but blogs too – as long as they have been deemed reliable sources by the Google people. For your blog to be taken into account by Google you would have to go through the manual process of getting your blog registered. Finding the right place for you to submit your URL can be a bit tricky, so here’s the link which will make you save time. Please note that not all blogs are allowed to join the Google News list of reliable sources and that it is a manual process. Within hours of my main blog being accepted by Google News I received a phone call from the people monitoring employee blogs in my company to congratulate me for being registered,
  • ORM tools #4:some other search engines look for comments you may have entered on social media sites. http://www.backtype.com for instance, shows a relative low number of comments in my case. This can be explained by the fact that I’m rarely using my own name in comments, even on my own websites and blogs (I prefer to use my brand name so as to enhance the reputation of my website on search engines),
  • ORM tools #5: forum search engines. They are a good example is available at bigboards or Google Groups. In my case, little or nothing is showing through search engines for I very rarely go to forums (if I do wish to enter a personal comment on any of them however, I usually don’t enter my name in full for the particular reason that I don’t want it to show. Comments in B2C forums can sometimes be pretty direct and they don’t always provide real value with regard to your online reputation. As to expert forums and technical forums however, they can be very instrumental in publicising your expertise). One thing is worthy of note: comments in forums are online for a very long time, hence the reason why you should be very careful about them. Here’s an anecdote about that: I once entered a comment about Internet set-top boxes on a consumer forum in 1996, which I later regretted, and it took me at least 5 years to make it disappear. In fact in never really disappeared, I merely added more comments on top of that one. Actually, Google Groups will still show comments I made way back 1996, and my former e-mail address – no longer in use fortunately – is also showing through Google. As a conclusion, traces are left everywhere on the Internet, one should be very careful about that,
  • ORM tools #6: the next category is micro-blogging search engines such as http://search.twitter.com which scans the most popular micro-blogging engine www.twitter.com. that’s how you can recap on someone’s tweets or even trace those who forwarded or commented on your tweets or blog posts,
  • ORM tools #7: this category consists of social network aggregators such as Yahoo’s outstanding Mybloglog social website which enables you to link your blog to others and make friends with other bloggers and promote your articles,
  • ORM tools #8: this is the final category of online reputation tools which I’d like to present here, and it is that of people-centric search engines. I would namely recommend http://www.123people.com. One of the biggest issues with social media is that you are entering profile information in all sorts of different places and cannot point people to a single page which merges all this data from various sources and delivers an executive summary. This kind of search engines just does that for you. It will mix all the sources of information from the Internet – including multimedia files – which are related to you and merge them into a mash-up. You can have a look at my own 123people example here. Sometimes results are a bit weird because they show photos of other people which have nothing to do with you. One may actually prefer another tool such as zoominfo which can show more accurate results. In zoominfo, once you have signed up, you will be also able to claim ownership of your profile (through the “reclaim profile” option), which will give you an opportunity to gain control over it. My zoominfo profile can be seen by clicking here.

As a result, you now have evidence that you are leaving traces about yourself all over the Internet. To a large extent, in the past 4 or 5 years (mostly since 2004), social media has even exponentially increased that issue. Now you also have the means – with this very simple toolbox – not just to evaluate your current online reputation but to actually do something about it, as well as communicate positive information about yourself and actually shape your online image.

Down to business now, and remember that there is no erase and rewind button on the Internet!