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:
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 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:
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?
I sometimes feel as though we’re all so focused on a website being search engine friendly that we easily lose site of the importance of it being user friendly, as well. It can be a difficult balance to cater to both the user and to the search engines (namely Google and Bing ). The perfect scenario is to have a website that is both visually appealing to the user, while simultaneously being SEO friendly. Sounds like it would be an easy thing to accomplish, right? Unfortunately, it’s not. Far too many websites have one and not the other.
So how do you end up with a website that has both? The best way is to start from the ground up. You’ll want to ensure that you have a qualified SEO Engineer working in conjunction with a skilled Web Designer. I have seen many instances where a client hired a snazzy design firm that built a beautiful looking website with bells and whistles galore, only to find that it could not be any less SEO Friendly if it tried. Typically what happens next is the client then has to “backtrack” and do their best of optimizing the site after the fact, since their finished product was not designed with the search engines in mind. In hindsight, it would have been very helpful to have an SEO Agency involved from the beginning and throughout the development of the new site. This approach can also help you save time and money by combining SEO with design rather than tackling afterwards, which can be a frustrating and more expensive way to go.
If you are in the process of a website redesign or designing one from scratch, I strongly encourage you to consider both the user and the search engines from the onset. This will negate any obstacles of the search engines not being able to effectively crawl through your site and/or the end user not having a satisfactory experience. Think about it this way: If your site shows up well organically, but when a user gets there he has trouble with the navigation and can’t find what he wants…then your SEO friendly efforts are, in a sense, a waste.
All of the websites we design are completely optimized for the search engines, while still taking into account the user’s perspective, as well. If you’d like to peruse some of our previous work, please visit our Design Portfolio Page.
In the world of SEO, links are a good way to improve your organic visibility. Many have heard about link building, but aren’t eager to follow through with the steps. However, link building doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it can actually be fun if looked at from the right perspective. Since Spring is upon us, let’s look at how your company can begin link building or tidy up and improve the links that are currently in place.
When many people think of links, they think of outbound links. Outbound links are links on your website that direct a visitor to another website. Some tend to think that outbound links will cause a site to lose visitors. On the other hand, if links are treated like Macy’s treated Gimbels on the movie “Miracle on 34th Street”, then the return of visitors may be greater than expected. One way to increase outbound links is to think of the current alliances and partnerships that your business possess. Reach out to contacts at those businesses and let them know that your company is sending outbound links their way. They may even be kind enough to return the favor and both companies win.
Another winning link strategy is internal links. Sometimes, internal links aren’t given the same hype as outbound and inbound links, but they are very efficient. Internal links can be used to direct visitors to more detailed pages within your site. For example: Let’s say your company sells vacation plans, and the special for the month is a discounted trip to Hawaii. On the company web site are blogs about different destinations and their benefits. It would be a good idea to have an internal link on the Hawaii vacation plan page that directs a visitor to the Hawaii blog. This way, the visitor is learning more about Hawaii and its pleasures and is more likely to purchase a Hawaii vacation plan from your company. One note that should be adhered to is that inbound links should make sense. Don’t just create an inbound link for the sake of having an inbound link; otherwise it could frustrate your visitors. Inbound links should be relevant to visitors, and at the same time provide quality SEO value to your web site.
Another valuable way to improve linking is to think outside of the box. Is your company having a Facebook contest or promotion? How about creating an outbound link that directs visitors to that contest or promotion? Also, take a look at what your competitors are doing. This isn’t a task that your company should do everyday, but rather every 6 months or so. Learn from your competitor’s accomplishments and avoid their downfalls.
Link building doesn’t have to be an arduous task. In fact, it may prove more entertaining and valuable than your company thought. Outbound links and internal links are a true benefit and can help your company’s SEO efforts. As your company looks to improve its site, remember the 3 “Linkability” tips above. To learn more about linking, read our white paper called “Link Building Made Easy: What to Do When You Run Out of Fresh Ideas.”