Why I Think Most SEO Software is Trash

Recently the Pittsburgh Post Gazette quoted a person offering tips to ranking in MSN:

Mr. Sweet, who is senior sales consultant for Nauticom Internet Services in Sewickley, posted several paragraphs, trying not to use the term "yellowware" more than 4 percent of the time so it wouldn't be classified as spam but also to include enough content to lure the search bots.

Within three weeks, his listing showed up at the top of MSN.com's "yellowware" search -- at no cost.

Now when you look at the page ranking in MSN you notice the following problems:

  • the page title is one word, and thus generally not very compelling, having no modifiers (to pick up related traffic or appeal to prospective clients) and no calls to action in it

  • the URL has ID in it twice, with a long variable string after each one
  • many search engines would not want to index URLs like that if they thought those stood a good chance of being session IDs. In fact in Google's guidelines state "Don't use "&id=" as a parameter in your URLs, as we don't include these pages in our index."
  • not sure if the page may be indexed in Google AFTER I linked at it, but in spite of the site being around for at least a few months and already showing PageRank the example page is still not cached in Google yet.
  • Google is the biggest search engine. Not even being in their index is a brutal miss for an example SEO page.
  • the content reads like it was crafted with search engines in mind, which is not the type of content that tends to convert well if you are selling stuff on your site (though ugly content like that might be great for getting people to click off onto PPC ads)

One of the biggest advantages of mixing PPC in with organic SEO is that it forces you to appreciate lead value, and to create content that converts.

Most SEO software gives you an arbitrary framework which prevents you from focusing on conversion and profits. Not every site is for profit, but you still want to create content that people would like to read and perhaps share.

Here we have a newspaper quoting a guy who has a site that messed up from a SEO and conversion perspective, and his tip for people is to focus on keyword density, in spite of keyword density losing its relevance years ago.

Imagine a conversation inside a shop selling junky outdated SEO software that has been rendered irrelevant by improving search technology.

Worker: Hey we are giving people some bad information here. Our software is kinda bogus and without purpose now isn't it?
Boss: It makes us $70,000 a month. It clearly has a purpose.
Worker: But doesn't it gives people bad advice and outdated tips that actually hurt their businesses?
Boss: It makes us $70,000 a month. It clearly is a valuable piece of software.

And so people continue to chase keyword density, getting ripped off along the way.

Published: March 21, 2006 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


Dean Layton-James
March 22, 2006 - 9:34am

Just a quick note to let you know the

keyword density losing its relevance years ago.

link seems to be malformed, the url is concatenated 3 times



March 22, 2006 - 9:52am

thanks Dean

March 21, 2006 - 12:09pm

Hey Aaron, your link to The Keyword Density of Non-Sense is messed up for some reason.

March 21, 2006 - 4:53pm

I'm glad I read this article just so I could read your article, "Mixing Organic SEO and Pay Per Click Marketing." An excellent read. Thanks!

March 21, 2006 - 8:29pm

This is the main problem with content editors on the internet... they will print anyone's article and obviously have no clue whether the information contained within the article is in fact true.

As long as you put up a pretty webpage and "sorta know" what you are talking about you are an "industry expert" and the sad fact is someone is going to read that article and perhaps use his pages as a guide to craft their own. Ouch!

Funny one Aaron... keep digging up these nuggets.

March 21, 2006 - 10:44pm

Once of my clients has been after me to optimize their pages to do better in Yahoo Search. I told them to spend more money on PPC, because, as far as I can tell - ranking well in Yahoo seems to have much more of a relationship to how much you spend on Yahoo. I have not been able to figure out the algo for Yahoo (Maybe now that Andre Broder is working for them - they'll improve it - because it makes not sense half time now - with Spam sites ranking on top for many popular keywords - you have to wonder...)

Ranking well in Google Organic has less or nothing to do with how much you spend on AdWords and MSN Search does not seem to reward you with better organic listings if you spend more on MSN AdCenter PPC.

Anyway....my client argued with me that PPC spend has absolutely nothing to do with ranking Organically in Yahoo Search. I was not going to argue with them - why bother - I was just going to focus on Yahoo for the next report and leave it at that.

Meanwhile, an article just came out that confirms some of my ideas about Yahoo's ranking algo. Yes, getting a good directory listing is important to Yahoo.... and a higher listing in the Yahoo Directory implies that your site is more popular - and if your site is more popular it's a ranking factor for Organic Search.

I can see, in my mind, a four part Algo - 25% being Yahoo Directory Popularity, 25% being Organic Seo Optimization, 25% Backlinks to the site and the other 25% being how much the site spends for PPC. I'll have to test that idea and see if it fits.

Here's part of what the article says:

Each search engine has its own method for finding and ranking the non-biddable searches. Google, for example, uses an algorithm that rates a page's content as well as the number of other pages linked to that site, while Yahoo! counts more on editors to decide where the sites best belong.

"Or, companies can try to slip into a searcher's field of vision the old-fashioned way, through what the industry calls an organic search. That means putting content on a Web page that somehow convinces automated search engine "bots" to rate a site as being useful and include it near the top of the non-sponsored links, which often number in the tens of thousands".

Perhaps because of all the hurdles, organic searches only claimed about 11 percent of marketing dollars last year, according to the search engine marketing association. "That's really difficult for someone who isn't very experienced to tackle successfully," said Mr. Jarboe.

Antique collector Tim Sweet had one of those satisfying moments in December when he decided to feature a type of ceramic known as yellowware on his whatsinyourattic.com site.

Mr. Sweet, who is senior sales consultant for Nauticom Internet Services in Sewickley, posted several paragraphs, trying not to use the term "yellowware" more than 4 percent of the time so it wouldn't be classified as spam but also to include enough content to lure the search bots.

Within three weeks, his listing showed up at the top of MSN.com's "yellowware" search -- at no cost.

And he has managed to sell some yellowware, too.


My takeaway for this is to get my clients pages to have about 4% of the keyword density for whatever keywords are important for the main pages - but the other part is that you need to pay more to get a higher listing in Yahoo Dir by going after the Sponsered listings and making sure the editors write your description to include the most important site keywords near the beginning of the title (which Yahoo Editiors control).

And then, if my idea is correct, Yahoo factors in how much you SPEND on PPC and perhaps, any other advertising you do with them -as a part of the ranking factors (but i'm sure they'll never admit it).

March 22, 2006 - 12:39am

I seriously doubt PPC spend (or spend at all really) comes into organic rankings at Yahoo!.

Here is an example for you. I am part owner in a one year old site that only spent about two grand on marketing ever (with $0 on search paid inclusion or PPC ad spend).

It was listed in the Yahoo! directory and was separately surfed by a Yahoo! editor and marked as a keeper.

Last month the core keyword showed 140,081 searches on Overture's keyword suggestion tool with the #1 bid being $5 a click right now. Right now my site ranks #2 in Yahoo! organic for that single word core term, and we have not done any active marketing in months.

I think the reason you are seeing junky sites outranking you at Yahoo! is that their link filtering algorithms are still not as good as those at Google. They may make up for that by putting a bit of weight on editorial, and paid inclusion (via the directory, or search submit) guarantees editorial review. But as noted, my site was reviewed independently of the inclusion review, and Yahoo! reviews small portions of their index outside of paid inclusion.

Also note that added PPC exposure can help boost other quality indicators (for instance if a site has greater exposure and I come across it I am more likely to visit a site I am more likely to comment on it, link at it, or tell a friend about it), but the direct connection between PPC and organic ranking really is just not there. They mix and are synergistic, but the connection is not direct.

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