Since the beginning of search, keyword optimization has been king when it comes to SEO. Whether it was keyword stuffing in the early days, or counting words for the right keyword density, keywords are the obsessive bane or joy of website optimizers. Even less understood advanced concepts such as latent semantic indexing (LSI) still at their core are all about keywords and keyphrases. But in the next few years search engines are going to add a new component that will make SEO even more exact and potentially difficult. Both Google and Yahoo have filed patents concerning “Phrase Based Indexing”. Phrase Based Indexing is an attempt to recognize a relevant set of grouped terms in a section of text which represents a known concept stored in a central concept “dictionary”. What this means is search engines will potentially be able to determine a pages relevancy to a particular keyword without actually containing the keyword. For instance, a page containing the words “brakes”, “engine”, and “cylinders” would be recognized by the search engine as a page that relates to the keyword “cars” and return the page to searchers who search for “cars”. For SEO, not only will this change the way we write and organize our content, it could also blur the obvious relevancy we see today when doing competitive research for high value keywords. Following the previous example, not only could a website rank for a keyword that it doesn’t actually contain, due to other factors (traffic, page rank, etc…), the site could rank higher than many other sites that have a more direct relevancy. Also, such a concept dictionary could reveal common phrases and concepts that are present in advertising and spam websites which aren’t in strictly information sites. Search engines would have much more control over particular classes of sites then they do now, and I doubt it would be a good development for SEO. For more information about this topic, click here to read an in-depth article covering phrase based indexing on seobythesea.com
You may have already read that Google’s Matt Cutts went into more detail about changes Google made concerning subdomains. At first, many Internet marketers thought Cutts’ original comment at PubCon meant that no more than one subdomain would appear in the SERP’s for each domain. It turn’s out that the change was actually implemented several weeks before Matt made told audience members in Vegas and has gone pretty much unnoticed. Matt posted a new blog entry Monday that clarified the point of the change. Google is trying to fight ‘host crowding” - many SERPs coming from a single domain. Matt emphasized that the changes won’t effect every search. If a subdomain is relevant to a query it can still show up even if more than two subdomains are already included in the results. Here’s the relevant quote from Matt’s post:
For several years Google has used something called “host crowding,” which means that Google will show up to two results from each hostname/subdomain of a domain name. That approach works very well to show 1-2 results from a subdomain, but we did hear complaints that for some types of searches (e.g. esoteric or long-tail searches), Google could return a search page with lots of results all from one domain. In the last few weeks we changed our algorithms to make that less likely to happen
in the future.
This change doesn’t apply across the board; if a particular domain is really relevant, we may still return several results from that domain. For example, with a search query like [ibm] the user probably likes/wants to see several results from ibm.com. Note that this is a pretty subtle change, and it doesn’t affect a majority of our queries. In fact, this change has been live for a couple weeks or so now and no one noticed. The only reason I talked about the subject at PubCon at all was because someone asked for my advice on subdomains vs. subdirectories.
To read the full subdomains and subdirectories post on Matt’s blog click here.
After all the noise Matt’s comments made you may still be confused about when to use subdomains and subdirectories even after the clarification. I think a big area of disconnect is between the way Google expects subdomains to be used and how they’re used by Internet marketers. From personal experience, many marketers use subdomains to host separate sites with different content such as: ringtones.domainname.com, dateingoffers.domainname.com, insurancedeals.domainname.com. Google expects subdomains to offer specific content around a similiar theme or single provider like images.google.com, video.google.com, or groups.google.com. In the first case, marketers shouldn’t be affected since the SERPs those subdomains show up in will come from very different queries. But what about subdomains like ringtones.domainname.com, superringtones.domainname.com, bestringtones.domainname.com, and hotringtones.domainname.com? This is where Google doesn’t want to see a search for “ringtone deals” to return the ringtone subdomains for “domainname.com” in 7 of the top 10 results. If you’ve been doing this, stop. It probably wasn’t working anyway.
Former Googler Vanessa Fox has posted an article that goes into great detail about subdomains and subfolders that should answer all your questions. Check out Vanessa’s post on how Goolge’s subdomain changes could affect you here.
In the past, if you had a great domain and you wanted to take advantage of the name on a new site, creating a subdomain was the obvious solution. Tag on a keyword to your main domain and Google would treat the subdomain as a separate site that could rank well right along with your root domain. Apparently those days will soon be over. At the end of PubCon in Las Vegas, Google’s Matt Cutts announced that the search engine will begin treating subdomains the same as folders. That means instead of showing up as a separate SERP result, a subdomain will appear as an indented result under a primary domain. For SEOer’s who use subdomains liberally (such as me), this news really stings. Click here to visit searchengineland.com and read more about the announcement and the possible issues Google could run into when they implement this change.
There’s a great post at zephoria.org which asks the question "Who clicks on ads?". Whether you’re writing pay-per-click ads, using banner ads, or building landing pages; you must keep in mind who clicks on ads and and who ignores them like the plague. For instance, did you know that ad-clickers are predominately female and Midwestern? Click here to read the full article.
Without knowing exactly how Google views websites hosted on a shared IP, in the beginning of my own affiliate efforts I took the risk that many SEO gurus warn against and used shared hosting plans. I did so for one simple reason - I didn’t have any money starting out and dedicated or virtual hosting was not an option. During that time I always had a nagging worry that, as several experts cautioned, Google could inadvertently penalize one of my sites if another site on my shared IP was given a Google smackdown. Luckily, Mark Berghausen, a Google Webmaster Central rep, addressed the controversy in a Google Groups thread and allayed any fears that Google penalizes websites on shared IPs or favors dedicated IPs. Via seoroundtable.com, Berghausen said:
Lots of sites are hosted on shared IPs. If this had a negative effect on ranking, it would harm most of the sites on the web–and that’s not good for small webmasters or for our users. So, understandably, sharing an IP should not have an effect your ability to rank.
My advice: don’t worry about it. Host your site however you think is best, and instead spend your time focusing on the content–making sure your pages are easy to navigate for users regardless of their browser or hardware, and ensuring that the content you provide is informative and unique.
So follow Berghausen’s advice and stop worrying. Spend that time building links instead.
If you use multiple email accounts in your SEO efforts, especially free accounts, you know how annoying it can be to check those accounts on a regular basis. A new web service called Fuser is now available which lets you add multiple email accounts, both web and POP based, to a single web-based login at fuser.com. The service is currently in beta and is still very buggy, but once the kinks are worked out Fuser should be a real time saver for SEOers like me who have to manage dozens of email accounts. Check out Fuser here.
There’s a new resource for finding domain names thats an invaluable time saver for those of who buy a lot of keyword domains. The site, bustaname.com, is one of the new breed of ‘Web 2.0’ sites with an interactive interface. The home page gives you two easy options for finding good domains. The first option lets you enter one or more keywords in a search box that will return a list of available domains that contain the entered keywords. Further, you can edit the list to by selectively deleting keywords or finding similar keywords. The second feature allows you to type in a domain name and see instantly whether the domain is available or not – as you type in real time. No more entering a domain name, waiting, going back and searching for another. A great feature that sites like godaddy.com should emulate.
Want to save your Google searches to a bookmark so you can quickly check your website rankings for particular keywords? Via lifehacker.com, blog doubleparity.net has an article that describes a way to save Google advanced searches to a firefox bookmark. Of course there are ton’s of SEO websites and tools that show you where your site ranks for different keywords, but this method might be quicker for those daily rankings you want to check as part of your daily routine. Visit doubleparity.net for the instructions here.
In a previous post I pointed out a questionable use of adsense placement on the popular blog lifehack.org. Lifehack finds personal productivity articles from around the web and posts daily blog entries linking to the relevant site. They also format the link to look almost identical to an adsense ad – while surrounding the link with real adsense ads. I posted about this practice because when I first found the site, I almost stumbled onto this ‘trick’ and nearly clicked on the adsense ad instead of the link to the mentioned article. I asked readers what they thought about this – whether this was a brilliant use of adsense or underhanded visitor manipulation at the expense of adword users who had to pay for clicks from visitors who didn’t necessarily intend to click on their particular ad. Personally, I still haven’t made up my mind about this example.
Recently, a colleague here a ranktopseo.com found an even more pernicious example of “creative” adsense usage. Take a look at this screen shot from the site www.top-affiliate.com:
On the left hand menu bar, the first 4 links below “Ads by Google” are in fact adsense ads. I don’t think this is in any way falls into some grey area like lifehacks site. In my opinion its pretty black and white. This is blatant manipulation of Google adsense code and as a paying adwords user, clearly in violation of Google’s TOS. But, maybe I’m over reacting. Leave a comment and let us know what you think. Is top-affiliate.com going too far, or do you feel that everything’s fair in the adsense game (until you get caught)?
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