Posts Tagged “seo”

ampersandIf you're studying up on SEO, you'll find that one of the primary recommendations is to validate your HTML, and this is so Google can understand it. This is all well and good when it comes to your HTML tags, but what about HTML entities?

HTML entities are special codes for special characters like the copyright symbol (©) and unlike tags, they're not bracketed. If you want to insert a copyright symbol, you use &copy; in your body text. On the other hand, if you wanted to make it bold, you'd have to put bracketed tags around it like so: <b>&copy;</b> (©). Read the rest of this entry »

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I have Google alerts running to spot when my last name (since it is uncommon) comes up in a newly indexed web page. Usually, the mention is about me, but sometimes it's one of my distant cousins. Anyhow, there was a link to the Dallas Morning News that came in today, but my last name was nowhere on the page. Usually, that's when I go into the source of the page, finding a link or something where it appeared.

Since the DMN story was on using American credit cards in Europe, I figured that a story about Todd Bulmash (who's been getting press in a wire service story about how the credit card companies don't allow minimum transaction fees) must have been mentioned. No dice.

So I went to check the source of the page and a name in the Meta Keywords caught my eye... Rick Steves. For those not familiar with Rick Steves, he's a travel writer who has authored many travel books, has a syndicated travel column, and has a PBS show about travelling in Europe. But the odd thing was that Rick wasn't the author of the piece, in fact he was mentioned nowhere in the piece and had absolutely nothing to do with the page. It was a wire service story from the Washington Post. Yet in the Meta Keyword and Meta Content sections of the page's HTML headers, he was mentioned.

Here are the contents of those two Meta headers:

Keywords: Christopher Elliott, travel troubleshooter, hotel advice, car rental, travel ombudsman, Las Vegas Advisor, Anthony Curtis, Las Vegas deals, Las Vegas hotels, Los Vegas restaurants, Eileen Ogintz, taking the kids, traveling with children, traveling with kids, resorts, travel advice, Tom Parsons, Best Fares, air travel, travel deals, cheap flights, bargain travel, Rick Steves, European travel, budget travel, travel in Europe, travel tips, tour trips, dallas news, dallas morning news.

Content: Chistopher Elliott, the Travel Troubleshooter, helps readers solve their travel-related problems. Anthony Curtis is publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor column which covers the city's deals, restaurants and hotels. Eileen Ogintz writes about traveling with kids for The Dallas Morning News. Tom Parsons is publisher of Bestfares.com and writes about bargain travel for The Dallas Morning News. Rick Steves writes about European Travel for The Dallas Morning News.

Now you as a reader never see these portions of the page unless you go looking for them. Who are they for? Search engines. They're trying to tell search engines that all these terms are relevant to this page. But if you read the story, you find that 80-90% of them aren't. None of those authors' names are relevant, nor is the article relevant to cheap flights, traveling with kids, or Las Vegas. Yet, whether it's through sheer laziness or evil intent, the Dallas morning news is attempting to convince search engines that this page is relevant to them.

Now, if all newspapers were doing this, it might be understandable, so I checked a random story at the Los Angeles Times. The keywords were the story title, repeated. A description tag contained a relevant slug line for the story (a brief description). And that was it.

When done with ill intent, what the Dallas Morning News is doing is called "spamdexing" and is frowned upon by all of the major search engines. In fact, it's gotten to the point where they give those fields a lot less weight in their search algorithms because they are so widely abused. But just because the Dallas Morning News may not benefit as much from this as they might have years ago, they're still doing something that could unfairly place their pages in results for search terms those pages don't address.

If this is merely due to pure laziness, the Dallas Morning News is still decreasing the usefulness of search results and thus wasting the time of the general public just so they don't have to be inconvenienced. If it's for more greedy motives, then it goes from obnoxious to evil. Either way, they could and should do better.

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So, this guy contacts me the other day. Wants to pay me $200 to put up a couple of paragraphs of text (with links in them) on this site.

Now, before we get to how screwed up his offer was, read what Google says about paid links. Google blogger Matt Cutts has opined in the negative on this for over two years, campaigning against paid or exchanged links that have the sole purpose of influencing search rankings.

Furthermore, Google added a way to report paid links around 5 months back.

Now back to the guy. His offer was a one-time $200 payment: $120 for a permanent paragraph of links on the front page and $40 each for permanent paragraphs of links on two internal pages (both of which had previously been slashdotted and had a lot of incoming links).

First, on those interior pages, the weight those links would carry was worth more than $40... until Google got wise and discounted all outgoing links from those pages or even the whole site. Second, you never ever sell a permanent spot on your homepage. Homepage real estate is always leased, never sold.

Now, when you've got a blog that's not earning you John Chow money, your reputation is all you have that's of any value. And even if your reputation with Google is decided on by a robot and known only to that robot, would you be willing to lose it for a mere $200?

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I read an interesting article today about a couple who tried to use Google to help pick a baby name.

The odd thing about it was that they didn't Google for baby names. They Googled specific baby names to try to find one that formed a unique combination with their last name so it would be easier for someone to Google him later in life.

This was due to the problems the mother encountered in her professional life. As a researcher who published papers that lent credibility to her opinion, when people wanted to know if she was worth listening to, they'd Google her. As the combination of her first and last name wasn't too common, it was easy for them to find results that helped her credibility. But then she married a guy whose last name was Wilson and took his name. When people Googled her under her married name, she became buried in a sea of results for women with the same name. Finding results that were directly related to her was nearly impossible, and her professional life became more challenging.

Google reports back 202 million results for the search term "John Smith" and they're about many, many John Smiths, ranging from the historical John Smith of colonial times to a Gonzaga University professor. For my name, it reports back just under 84,000 and they're almost all about me in some way, shape, or form.

I'm lucky enough to have an uncommon last name and my religious tradition forbids naming a child after a living relative. So this isn't a practice my wife and I will be engaging in with our next kid; not because we don't see the value in it, but because with my last name, we really don't need to. We can guarantee that his or her name will either be unique or limited to a maximum of maybe one or two of very distant relatives.

But if your last name is Smith or Johnson or Wilson... it's not unreasonable to think about unique first names for your child to ensure that he or she is easily Googled later in life when they're in the professional world.

Now, in one way this is a good thing. Child names run in trends and a single popular name can end up given to tens of thousands of babies over the course of a single year. Google-aware naming of children would create more diversity. On the other hand, you're search engine optimizing your kid. It's one of those things that's sensible when you think about it, but totally ridiculous on the surface.

So, whaddaya think? Sensible, ridiculous, or both? That's what the comments area below is for.

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