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March 12 2012

Google News: Panda Update 3.3

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Late last month, Google initiated the latest string of updates to its algorithm. Code-named “Panda 3.3”, there were a slew of revisions to the way Google interprets data on a website because, according to Google, they want to be “more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web.”

The major updates to Google’s algorithm include:

  • The ranking of videos on Google’s YouTube platform. Google now says that searches on YouTube will return more locally relevant results.
  • An update to image search. Google says they can now show “fresher” images in search results. This means that adding high resolution, optimally tagged images to a webpage will get it crawled and indexed in a quicker fashion. So if you have a news blog, for instance, a sharp image used on a recent and popular news post will enhance factors such as user experience and organic traffic to the page.
  • Improved snippets for video pages. As detailed in a recent MoreVisibility YouTube Video Series, Google now supports rich snippet data for video content, as it may display an image of the video within the description snippet in search results if correctly coded with rich markup.

These changes, as usual, simply reinforce standard SEO best practices. Page elements, such as optimized and interesting content, clean web coding and geo-targeting will only help to improve user experience and your website’s overall search performance in the long run.

February 15 2012

SEO 101: 5 Ways to Make Your Content Compelling

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There are multitudes of ways to optimize your content for SEO purposes. You perform the necessary due diligence by thinking up a theme for each page on your site and then researching potential keyphrases that represents each theme. That’s only the first part, however. It is then the job of the web writer to apply what has been researched to the actual page; you may have the most optimal keyphrases possible, but they are useless unless the content is constructed in a manner that will engage the reader and the search engines. The search algorithms are so advanced nowadays that they are able to determine the quality of the textual content that is applied to the pages of your website. Listed below are several ways to make your site’s content “pop” for the site visitor and potentially enhance their performance in search:

  • Use numbered or bulleted lists (as we’ve done here) where applicable to “break” the content up: Search engines place a great deal of relevancy on important keywords used in a list, plus the average user is likely to be more engaged and keep reading (and possibly link to) the content on the page.
  • Use a detailed diagram or chart to explain or relay the information in a more succinct way: This is also useful in garnering more interest and inbound links to the page.
  • Utilize quality images, where appropriate: An interesting, high quality image on your webpage can make the content more aesthetically pleasing and, if utilizing optimal alt tag text, may give the page a fair chance of it appearing in Google’s image or “blended” search results.
  • Anchor Text: Linking within the page’s content with keyword rich anchor text (the clickable, linked text) to another important page on your site will direct your visitors to yet more of your site’s well written content, as well as enabling the search spiders to crawl and give more ‘weight” to the website’s optimized copy.
  • An engaging headline using the main keyword for the page: When using important keywords in your page’s headline, coded with the <h1> tag, you are signaling to the search spiders that this is the main theme of the page, and that the keyword (s) contained within it should be given the most authority, thus possibly improving the pages’ search performance for that keyword.
February 10 2012

SEO 101: Internal Link Structure

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One of the fundamentals for constructing a website with SEO in mind is ensuring that all of the pages for the site are accessible to both the site’s visitors and the search engines in as concise a path as possible. Internal link structure is an important factor in determining a site’s performance in the search engine results pages. The faster a search spider can access all of your pages mitigates server latency and will make sure your most important pages are served in search results. Also, by linking explicitly to all of your top level, category and service level pages, you are alerting the search engines to their relative importance on the site.

Firstly, focusing on your “click depth”, will largely guarantee that all important webpages can be accessed within as few clicks as possible, mitigating issues such as site visitor “bounce rates” (single page visits) and search spider crawlability issues. However, in this day and age of advanced web design technology for coding navigation on a site, many websites are still programming internal links with “un-friendly” coding language, such as complex JavaScript and Flash or just using images.

While Google and Bing say that they are much better at crawling links that aren’t text based, it is still prudent SEO strategy to code links to your website’s main navigational section with plain text, formatted with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS is essentially a language used to improve the look of a webpage, including the look and feel of a web document and the links that reside on it. While using JavaScript or Flash technology may be aesthetically pleasing, it is not the most efficient way to help the spiders access the important parts of your site. JavaScript has some really nice features, such as the “onMouseOver” command which denotes that something will happen when the mouse passes over the active text in a link. However, this same effect can also be achieved in CSS with the “a:hover” CSS property.

If using less SEO friendly coding elements is something you just can not avoid (because of CMS constraints or the website architecture is not conducive to coding manipulation), web developers can always make certain that their site’s pages are also accessible via the internal, html sitemap page, the external XML Sitemap pages and footer navigation.

If you want to analyze the internal links on your site, Google Webmaster Tools has a section that will let you view how it sees these links and how many other links from your site are pointing to them. From the Webmaster Tools dashboard go to: Your site on the web>>Internal links. This will list the pages on your site (listed underneath the “Target Pages” column”), along with the associated count of links Google has found to be pointing to them:

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