SEO for Couch Potatoes

So, it is good that finally the title of this blog post has moved your attention from television to something else. When you start learning about search engine optimization and how to implement that on your small website, you get confused and tend to lose focus a bit. It is all some alien talk for you and being a couch potato you are obviously not interested in learning new things that involves lot of reading and on top of that on a computer. So this article is for those lazy people who want to get it all concise and under one hood.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is both an art and a science packed together. According to SEO industry expert and leading technologist Danny Sullivan phrase “Search Engine Optimization” came to use during 1997. In good old days when spamming was not a big problem Search Engine Algorithms relied heavily on web-master provided data like meta description, meta keywords and index files and sitemaps. Ranking manipulation and abuse forced search engines to change their algorithms to rank ‘good websites’ before bad ones. Nowadays prominence of a website is calculated using complex mathematical algorithms that are not easy to manipulate. Google uses more than 200 factors to give a page-rank to a website and its ranking in search engine results.

What do you need to know about SEO?

When people talk about SEO and SEM they tend to mix things up a bit. Search Engine Optimization is different from Search Engine Marketing in many ways. One method costs you nothing if you intend to do it on your own and the other may cost you money every time someone clicks on your advertisement in search engine results. So what is your goal and why do you need SEO and why it is more preferable than paid Pay-Per-Click SEM programmes?

If you are a true couch potato and doesn’t want to move your lazy ass a bit and still want some good healthy traffic to your website that help you market your product, sell something or just get the traffic for the sake of it, SEO is not for you. PPP programmes offered by Google Adwords may be is the right solution for you but it is not free like SEO and in no way a permanent solution to get more traffic to your website. The day you stop your PPP advertising campaign traffic may reduce pathetically and it also doesn’t get you any long term “link juice” advantages.

Than why do we need SEM?

Google Advertising Professionals Program

Google Advertising Professionals Program

In some cases SEO can not help you because you can’t get your website on the first page of google or yahoo overnight. When time is more important than money SEM gives you better results compared to SEO. Say for an trade fair website SEO is not necessary at all. Trade Fair is going to run for 3 days and event is just 10 days from now than SEO can’t help you there, and it is also meaning less as website is going to shut down once the event is over. For a politicians election campaign SEM surely is a better solution compared to SEO.

It is also very useful when the return of investment ratio is very high and you are selling some product or service on your website. You are a hosting company and if you spend $50 a day and get 10 registrations worth $50 from that campaign it is better than waiting for SEO done and your website ranking higher than your competitors. When either “Time” or “Return of Investment” is more important than money SEM is right solution for you.

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Charismatic Blog Titles for SEO

There are few charismatic and simple tricks that you can use to write very attractive and magnetic blog titles for your small or moderate traffic blogs or websites. Better blog titles are very important also from the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) point of view and can gain you some respect in Blogging community. There are few things that one should keep in mind before making decisions about including phrases and keywords into Blog titles.  It should cajole users and readers and should gently persuade them to read the blog entry by just having a glance at your blog title.

Why and Does it really matter??

Internet has changed the way we look at things now. Titles and captions are no different as long as this change is concerned and undergone various changes and improvements after new media. Web 2.0 is going to change it for better only. Titles are not as long as they used to be before the online media was in existence. Now short is simple as a rule in most cases as blog titles are used by many sources including search engines. Most commonly they appear in following:

  1. Search Engine Results and Suggestions including Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask
  2. Blog Search Engines and Blog Directory Services
  3. RSS and ATOM Feeds other Feed services like Feedburner
  4. Links, Pings and Comments from other fellow bloggers
  5. Social media and social networking websites like Orkut, Facebook and Hi5
  6. On your systems internal pages including Archives, Blogs, Tags and Search Pages
  7. Google News results and various other news search engines
  8. Easy to list using URL shortners
Blog Titles in Search Results

Blog Titles in Search Results

So peaking up the right title is not only necessary but a very important condition in your blog’s success in social media and public bookmarking services like Digg, Delicious and Technorati. There are few things that you can avoid while writing a title for  your blog post. The most important thing is not to use vulgar slang or informal words and phrases and offensive words as a title of your blog. Creating controversy is not good but healthy debate is always welcomed by most of the readers and users who leave comments to your blog and help you indirectly with your unique content.

You can create that “This is So Important” feeling with your blog Title that may help you in positive way. You are giving some information that is new to your readers or just some updates from your niche or area of expertise. If you constantly deliver news before the world knows it you are going to get more targeted traffic, and Good Blog Titles are going to help you immensely here.  Free I’s of good blog titles are (i) Insightful (ii) Intensive and (iii) Instructive that may hook your readers to reading further or clicking on that RSS feeder link that he or she has subscribed to your blog.

Goals and Importance of a good Blog Title:

  • Make it easier for your readers to get and idea about the topic you are going to discuss
  • Make it easier for search engines to help people find your article who are searching for a particular topic on a Search Engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing
  • Make it simple so that people can easily manage and bookmark your blog post
  • Make it descriptive and yet short as possible to remember easily

Minor changes and you have more responsive blog titles or headlines that help you generate more traffic for your blog both via RSS feeds and direct traffic as well as through search engines as they help it understand your content better.

Have your say on “Importance of a Blog Title or Headline”

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XML sitemaps and SEO Guide

What are Sitemaps?

As defined by sitemaps.org, organization that standardized the sitemaps protocol, it is one of the methods to inform search enigne about the pages in your site. There are many ways to do that and Sitemaps are one of them. Sitemaps can be in various formats like html, php or the most popular format xml. XML sitemaps are widely accepted standard by most of the websites and are used on small as well as very large websites with thousands of links listed in sitemaps. It lists urls of a site along with othre meta information like the date published and the importance of the page within the sitemap or website. It also contains the information about how frequently a page listed in the xml sitemap changes and how to inform about it to various search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, etc.

It is not guaranteed that using the sitemaps you get listed in all these search engines, it is just a method to remind them about the pages and whether they are updated/added or not.

Why Sitemaps standard is needed?

Sitemaps standard or protocol provide a basic communication link or channel between the search engines spider/crawler and the websites sitemap. Before the protocol html sitemaps were used and are not upto the mark as far as performance was concerned. Theoretically search engines need to use less processing power as they have the overview of the site available with them and can help to find them all the urls of a website with ease and risk of leaving the site before it is crawled wholely is reduced.

Sometimes important pages were left behind by the spiders and useless pages were indexed this was the biggest reason behind the stiemaps protocol first developed and accepted by google and than adopted by other search engines too.

XML Sitemaps Format:

Sitemap protocol is consisting of xml tags that are used as the basic structure of the sitemap file, and all the values (data) in the sitemap must be entity escaped and the sitemap file must be encoded in utf-8 format only. There are few other must haves that you need to keep in mind while writing your sitemap or creating a tool or plugin to create sitemaps automatically for CMS like joomla or drupal or blogging platform like wordpress. They are listed below as described on Sitemaps Protocol site:

  1. A sitemap must begin with an opening <urlset> tag and end with a closing </urlset> tag.
  2. You need to specify the namespace (protocol standard) within the <urlset> tag.
  3. Must need to include a <url> entry for each URL, as a parent XML tag and include a <loc> child entry for each <url> parent tag.
  4. All other tags are optional and support varies for different search engines like yahoo and google.
  5. All the urls listed in a particular sitemap must be from a single domain like example.com as an example.

For more information about sitemap protocol and sample sitemaps and xml tags please visit this link at sitemaps.org

Sitemaps standard and Search Engines:

Google Sitemap Submit

Google Sitemap Submit

In early 2007 all major search engines agreed to follow the sitemap xml standard adopted by google and created a website sitemaps.org to give more information about the standard and protocol used for the xml sitemaps. Yahoo is now accepting sitemaps in xml format along side its .txt format in yahoo site explorer. Bing also have started to accepting sitemaps in xml format after some initial testing for the format. Though sitemap can help find search engines hidden content but it should not be created and used for this sole purpose because it may send a wrong message to search engines and your site may get banned from search results too.

Before the sitemaps protocol was invented it was difficult to both webmasters and search engine spiders/crawlers to keep track and record of the various pages and links on the website but this protocol has made it very simple for site owners to create and update their sitemaps. There are various plugins available like Joomap for joomla and Google XML Sitemaps for WordPress self hosted blogs. This is a win-win situation for both webmasters and search engines as less resources are used to index the website and all the links from it with the help of this protocol.

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Google Adwords keyword Research Tool

There are two very powerful tools offered by google that you can use for the keyword research purposes. One is Google Search based Keyword Tool and other is Google Adwords Keyword Tool. There are two versions in google adwords tool one is internal that you can use with an Adwords account and one is External Google Adwords Keyword Tool that anyone can use even without registering a google account.

Internal Adwords tool has many advantage compared to the one used as an External tool but for the time being we need to learn and concentrate on the external tool and how we can use it to manipulate search results as well as exploring other niches that are there unexplored. One of the basic usage of this tool is to learn about potential domains that are available in a particular niche apart from regular keyword research and stuff.

Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool

Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool

There are few advantages direct and indirect of using this tool to research about potential domains available rather than other websites that you check your domain with. First is that if security is not proper on the website where you search about an available domain name, it might be leaked and lost even before you can register it. Big registrars don’t face this problem but it is there with smaller ones.  So we are going to learn more about features and advantages of using Google Adwords External Keyword Research Tool and how to use it for Search Engine Optimization in general and to book a niche domain name in particular.

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Google Analytics, Keywords Research and Showdown

Few years back I was doing the keyword research for one of my website where I used to publish information and updates about the services offered by Indian Railways, my offerings included every kind of rich and text media that I collected, studied, modified and worked upon according to my own needs. But the most important of them all was the ‘keyword’ in my domain name and proper use of them in ‘text’ articles and information that was retrievable in text from by both ‘search engine’ spiders and humans.

Statcounter Inside View

Inside view of a Statcounter Traffic Report

I was blissfully unaware about Google Analytics at that time and was using some other free and paid services available for the tracking of my webpages and analyzing them. One such service was Statcounter‘s free account. Though there were few limitations like I can not keep log for more than 500 entries and once they are deleted can not use them for analysis on long term basis. Only numbers were available but no the actual data. There were few advantages though that it tracked my webpages live and was able to see the activity on my pages almost in real time (Google Analytics still doesn’t offer it). Though it was not very useful for the long term keyword research and knowing/understanding the keyword trends.

Still today Statcounter doesn’t offer more than 500 log entries for free accounts and Google Analytics doesn’t offer live traffic analysis of the webpages, but there are few things that make Google Analytics slightly more useful a service compared to Statcounter. It is a good idea to keep record of the keywords that send you some traffic 3 weeks ago, 3 moths ago as well as 3 years ago as it offers great insights into the trends. Google Analytics wins here and of course the service is free. You also may integrate it with your Google Adwords account if you want to use SEM services offered by google in future.

Now back to the case we were talking about on SEO and usefulness of long term analysis of the keyword trends that may help you sustain your search engine rank for long time. My domain was placed on the first page of the google for keywords like ‘indian railways’, ‘indiarail’, ‘indian railways ticket booking’, etc. At that time I didn’t even aware about the Search Engine Optimization and SEM and never knew that such thins exists that can help me boost my rankings in Search Engines. I also was unaware about my placement in the search results until I started using Google Adsense and earned a bit because of that Indian Railways website.

That was the first time when I realized the power of better search engine rankings and how it can be useful to professional bloggers and small webmasters. After that I started studying about Search Engine Optimization in particular and Search Engines in general to utilize its power for running professional websites. It is very important to understand how major search engines like Google and Yahoo works and operates in order to understand Search Engine Optimization and ranking better in search results.

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Keyword Research using Google Analytics

In my previous post about Google Analytics we discussed how we can create an account with Google Analytics and can add tracking code to our website. Once we have tracking code in our website we start receiving data from the website and it is stored in our Google Analytics account for the future reference and analysis. There is lot of information stored in google analytics account and many of them are not even needed by small website owners or bloggers. Detailed analysis like screen resolutions and operating systems and setting up different goals or linking your Analytics account with your Google Adwords Account are for experts users and we are not concerned with it right now.

Now once you are logged into your Analytics account you find all your website profiles that you have created are listed there with data linked to them like Visits, Average Time on Site, Bounce Rate, Completed Goals, etc. Click on the website profile that you want to analyse for the keyword Research, you need to click on the ‘view report’ link for the default  monthly view of the profile. A visual description is shown here in the image below for the better clarity of the topic in hand.

Screenshot Analytics Settings - Google Analytics

Screenshot Analytics Settings - Google Analytics

Once you click on this view report link you are presented with lot of visual information, charts, graphs and figures that may overload your sense, but don’t worry as they are pretty simple to understand. Follow this blog with screenshots and it would be very easy for you to under stand how you can use Google Analytics to find good keywords that are already in your site and can optimize them for the better search engine results and rankings.

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Tags Keywords and Categories – SEO Surf View

Many People confuse Tags for Categories or a Subject but they are not. There are few things that keep them different from Categories and they make them more useful for SEO purposes than Categories, especially in WordPress. The most important thing related to SEO that makes the real difference is that Tags provide meta-information, Categories need not. Tags content some meta information as well as can be used as a label to filter certain kind of or type of messages or blog posts and put them under one ‘meta keyword’. Categories in WordPress can not do that atleast for the time being there are limitations.

Though there are few advantages related to categories that we can’t enjoy with Tags. Categories organize, hierarchically and Tags can’t. This is not very important for most of the bloggers who don’t need categories below the depth of one level (Most of us don’t in the real world blogging). So Tags are more important from the SEO point of view than Categories in WordPress, but that is may be not true for all other blogging platforms or CMSes that we need to optimize for Search Engines.

There are few good wordpress articles that can help you to understand the Tags better, few of them are listed below:

Tags and Categories at WordPress.com

Categories v/s Tags at WordPress.com Support

The Problems with Tags and Tagging

Tags have many advantages over categories, as they can describe your blog post in more detailed manner than a category ever could. You can have more number of Tags so more ‘keywords’ and the number is not limited so you can have as many Tags as you want. Tag clouds can give a visitor of your blog a visual idea about what is discussed the most in the blog or the blog is about what topic or topics and hence can generate more traffic for you.

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