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Article Archive by Darren Franks


April 26 2011

Google versus Bing – Part 1: Webmaster Tools

by Darren Franks

Let’s talk about Bing Webmaster Tools (even if no one else is) and how it compares to Google’s version. I say that with all due respect, because, well, Bing has certainly tried. Below are the major features of each:

Google Webmaster Tools has (that Bing doesn’t):

  • Ability To Test Robots.Txt
  • Remove URL Or Directory From Index
  • Set Up A Change Of Address
  • Links To Your Site
  • Ability To Block Sitelinks

Bing Webmaster Tools has (that Google doesn’t):

  • Submit URL To Be Indexed Or Re-Crawled
  • Ability To View Average Click Position
  • Number Of Pages With Crawl Errors By Day
  • Date Page Was Discovered

It’s interesting that even though Google seems to have many more options within its Webmaster Tools, Bing has some really comprehensive data that Google does not. Bing’s crawl data seems to be much more granular in that it will give you the specific date that a page was found by their robots. It’s also interesting that Bing gives people the ability to resubmit a URL to be crawled, but Google only gives people the ability to remove a URL or page from its index. Google Webmaster Tools, however, seems like it has more “configuration” tools and Bing Webmaster Tools seems more of a “diagnostic” tool.

Regardless of which one you prefer, Bing has certainly made headway over the past year or so. Their re-inclusion of presenting inbound links data makes their webmaster tools more robust, but Google’s version still seems to one-up their competitor in that you are given more opportunity to configure different elements of parts of your website for Google’s crawlers.

April 8 2011

The Basics of SEO Content Optimization

by Darren Franks

In a recent MoreVisibility YouTube Video, I discussed the elements of a page’s content that play the biggest roles in SEO. For today’s blog post, I’ll be digging a little deeper into that topic and expanding on my answer to a very common question that we receive from clients: “What is more important, Keyword Density or Keyword Placement?”

The SEO Content Graph

To say that “keyword placement” is more important than “keyword density” is more of a relative than an absolute statement. However, I believe it is much easier to “streamline” your SEO process by ensuring that the chosen primary keyphrase for a page is utilized in all of the key areas of the meta data AND in the content and anchor text for a page.

Keyword placement is essential when writing the content for a page because the search engines will assign a great deal more weight to a keyphrase because of where it’s placed. For instance, of the Titles, Descriptions and Keywords meta tags, the Title tag is given the most weight by Google. Anything placed in the title tag (preferably at the beginning) tells Google that this page’s primary focus is this word and they will typically serve that page in search results for that term.
The Descriptions meta data is the “ad copy” for the page and can be very effective in attracting people to click on the link to get to your page. The more compelling these 155 or so words are, the better the click-thru Rate. The general consensus is that the words contained in the Descriptions meta tag are not used as a factor in ranking by Google; I myself believe this to be naïve; until Google officially says that, treat any words contained in descriptions as a ranking factor and they should contain the primary keyphrase for the page.

The keywords meta data is ignored now, but may be used in the future by Bing, Yahoo and Google, so it’s probably worth at least including the primary keyphrase for the page in that tag.

Anchor text is the word(s) that you click on to open the hyperlink. Anchor text is weighted (ranked) highly in search engine algorithms, because the linked text is usually relevant to the landing page. This is why it is essential to always use the appropriate anchor text within any links leading to other pages on your site. For instance, if you are referencing an interior page in a blog post, include the keyword elements you are targeting for the destination page in the clickable links leading to that page. In this blog post, if I wanted to reference another blog post I wrote, I would link to it like so: Why you are Shooting Yourself in the Foot by not Employing H1 Tags for SEO.

Lastly, there is of course the actual plain, text content on the page itself. In terms of keyword density, try to aim for around 2-4%, but do not sacrifice the narrative quality for the sake of SEO. Put simply, if a block of text looks “spammy” and confusingly written to the user, it will look that way to the search engines as well.

March 30 2011

When In Doubt, Ask Google!

by Darren Franks

Back in December, I discussed Google’s blog for Webmasters, “Have you Checked out Google Webmaster Central Lately?”. As I said at that time, the Webmaster Central blog is a great SEO resource as you are getting answers from Google directly to common SEO problems, as opposed to sifting through the glut of information (some of it bad) about SEO on the Internet.

Today, I’d like to turn your attention to the Google webmaster support forum, http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters:

SEO: Google Webmaster Central Help Forum

As you can see from the screenshot of the page above, the discussions are categorized, making it simple to navigate to the particular area that you want to look at. To me, and to other SEOs, webmasters and developers, the Google Webmaster Help Forum is an invaluable place to get answers, straight from Google employees, about issues that are so perplexing, that you can’t find or trust answers anywhere else. A great SEO mantra is, “if you are on the fence about any issue and the answers aren’t anywhere else, ask Google!”

From an SEO perspective, the most useful categories are, “Crawling, indexing & ranking”, “Webmaster Tools” and “Sitemaps”:
When you look at the list of questions in any category, say the The Crawling, indexing & ranking category, you will see questions posed from any number of people in the SEO field. When you first see the list, some of the forum topics will show the word “Answered” underneath the link to the topic:

When In Doubt, Ask Google

When you see a topic/question tagged with that word, the question has received an answer that Google feels is the most accurate. The “Best Answers” can be from well respected forum posters, dubbed “Bionic Posters” and Google feels that these posters contribute the most prolific and accurate answers to many questions on the forum. There are also questions, topics and answers posted by Google employees:

When In Doubt, Ask Google!

As you can see, a poster’s status will be underneath their user handle next to the post, making it easy to ascertain the validity of any kind of answers you observe. Posters will either receive a designation of “Level 1” for the beginners up to “Top Contributor”. Top Contributor status is based on how much you participate (questions & replies), actual helpfulness (best answers) and how frequently you receive a manual thumbs up from Google’ employees.

In February, there was a major algorithmic change at Google affecting over 10% of websites that were deemed to have content that wasn’t of good quality. Many websites feared that they had dropped positions and PageRank for that very reason, so Google went and created a forum topic that if you feel your website was unfairly penalized, you were able to reach out to them:
http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread?tid=76830633df82fd8e&hl=en&start=160. While Google said that they were collecting this information to see how they could improve the algorithm and not make “manual exceptions”, it was still a useful way to alert Google to any concerns pertaining to the ranking status of your site.

Posting to the forum is easy as all you need to do is sign in to Webmaster Central with a Google account and create a user name. Have you signed up yet?

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