SEO Question: When people talk about buying links and how they don't help you, does this mean if I were to buy a link on cnn.com it wouldn't help me. Or are they talking about the pages that have nothing but 1,000+ links?
SEO Answer: Most of the paid links on major news sites that are sold are probably discounted in Google as far as their direct effect on SEO.
Many link buyers buy from multiple sites that are obviously selling links. They further compound their problem by not doing things like mixing anchor text and not also building up a wide variety of link types.
Many link sellers sell many outbound links on the same page in a small block. Others sell links to anyone willing to buy them, perhaps even selling highly off topic.
Most people do not try to stay below the radar when buying links, and those link buys that are not below radar attract other link buyers and link selling activity. The end result is that many of the links will still be devalued.
Keep in mind that I do not think MSN and Yahoo! are as good at detecting paid links as Google is.
If you listen to Matt Cutts talk long enough you might want to avoid doing press releases, syndicating articles, submitting to too many directories, and buying links, but his posts are sometimes more about in an ideal world than in all actuality.
Many smart link buys and marketing efforts drive direct traffic and have a viral effect to them as well, so you have to consider that something that may not provide much SEO value may still provide good value from direct traffic or social connections they create. Some of my press releases, articles, and ad buys have helped lead to further organic natural coverage. I also have recieved free secondary marketing worth thousands of dollars based on aggressive or creative ad buying techniques.
Those editorial links that may be created are hard for competing sites to reproduce, and help augment the value created in an ad spend.
One of my theories is that people are going to talk about someone or something. To the extent within my abilities I may as well make that someone be me. Exposure leads to more exposure. Keep in mind if you are doing things like buying hidden links on the Financial Times someone is going to find it.
Some link buys may also be great at hiding why you are ranking. If you are already ranking great and profitable in huge markets like online flowers, mortgages, or insurance those markets may provide enough profit margin that it may be worth buying links that you know will be discounted just to cloud up your backlink profile to make it harder for competitors to do competitive research. The Internet.com partner network does a great job of making competitive research hard.
SEO Question: I am trying to get a higher listing in Google. I've read a several articles that say the more links that I have, with a high PageRank, the higher up the ranking I should appear. Having said that, what page does Google look at when considering the link to my site? Does Google look at the page that I'm listed on or that websites home page? To say it another way, does Google, when looking at the PageRank for relevant links, look at the page that my website is linked from or does Google look at that websites home page?
SEO Answer: It is hard to say with 100% certainty what all Google looks at when determining link quality, but I think you really want to look beyond raw PageRank score. As a measure of value of a link I think most people place far too much emphasis on PageRank.
These are things I would consider:
How natural is the link popularity pointing at the site I am getting a link from? Anyone can buy their way to a PageRank 7 renting a few links here and there. Legitimate sites with legitimate link popularity are going to drive direct traffic and value and if you can get links from those sites in a manner where Google thinks it is an editorial vote of quality that is great.
Will anyone click the link? If the links are tucked away they might not get clicked on. Direct value helps pay for link costs, and eventually some search engines may heavily factor user data into their search algorithms.
Is the site / page an obvious link seller? If there is a block of links on every page that were bought the odds of Google counting them long term are fairly low.
Are the other outbound links of high quality? If not does it make sense to cluster yourself with them?
As far as PageRank goes a site which has a high home page PageRank may be able to carry more weight than a site which had a low home page PageRank, but as far as the strength of the vote in terms of PageRank that is related to the page specific PageRank (instead of the home page PageRank) and how many links are on the page.
SEO Question: Do you know of any tools that would let me check all the ranking of my site by just givin my url? I mean, I want to know where I am rank right now, even for keywords I have not intended to rank for, any ideas?
SEO Answer: Rule #1: It really only matters that you rank if people are actively searching for a topic.
Most sites probably rank for hundreds or thousands of phrases that might be searched for once a year, so it is not important just to get the data, but also look for ways to make it useful.
Log Files and Analytics Data:
Using analytics tools or log file analysis tools can help you see what are your most common search terms that drive traffic toward your site. Analytics software packages can even show you how well you are converting for various phrases.
Most analytics software programs run from $50 to $150 a month. Stuff like Omniture is far more expensive. On the low end there are free tracking scripts like SiteMeter. Google Analytics is also free, but some webmasters do not like sharing all their conversion and traffic data with Google.
Automatically cross referencing sites and rankings:
There are some tools that automate cross referencing common search terms and rankings across a wide variety of sites.
GoogSpy allows you to cross reference terms and sites. GoogSpy is free, but their data is a bit shallow and may be dated.
Companies such as HitWise and AdGooroo sample search data, but searchers that tend to participate in those tracking programs tend to skew data toward lower end surfers (missing out on much of the B2B traffic).
Value vs Perceived value:
Many top keyword lists tend to point out the same search queries to many webmasters, which creates an artificially hyper saturated markets. [Mesothelioma] is a great example of a keyword market polluted by too many unoriginal me to websites.
Quickly responding to market changes and thinking creatively to create content about whatever news is in fashion or will be in fashion will help you find more unclaimed gold than any widely promoted list of keywords.
SEO Question: What you often hear though is that ideas presented very often work for combined keywords or not so competitive keywords but much less for keywords in competitive areas especially if they are single keywords.
We are building a portal hence single keywords are of interest to us.
SEO Answer: The whole advantage of owning a large portal with a large amount of relevant related content is that you will match for many various longer search phrases.
Sure eventually you can rank for competitive single word search terms, but typically conversion rates are higher for longer search phrases with more implied intent in the query.
One thing you have to remember is that if you are starting a new site from scratch that it is going to have a long way to go to catch up with old trusted estabilished sites. Another thing you have to remember is that if your competitors are not idiots they will be reinvesting profits into further promotion, so it can take a while to rank for short search phrases in hyper competitive commercial categories.
On the page problems with being too focused on a single word:
Some people who chase the single word phrases end up stripping out many valuable modifier terms out of their content to where they no longer have relevant documents for a wide array of longer search queries. The focus on concepts like keyword density also ends up creating mechanical sounding content.
Off the page problems with being too focused on a single word:
When linkage occurs naturally there is a wide variety of anchor text associated with the links. Focusing too heavily on a specific anchor text set may give a site an unnatural linkage profile that prevents a site from ranking in the search results. Many quality sites will not fully allow you to control the anchor text they use to link at your site with.
Links from quality trusted sites help you rank across the board even if those links do not contain your keyword phrases in them.
SEO Question: I wish I had a list of free good directories that I could auto submit to, and the paid inclusion list as two separate tools or checkboxes or something. Do you still update your directory list and do you offer anything like this?
SEO Answer: I don't update my directory list very often for a few main reasons:
most general directories are pure garbage
I believe in many ways many search algorithms are moving beyond the level of valuing many of those links since they are surrounded by many low quality outbound links, have much of their link popularity come from overlapping low trust sites, and general directories typically do not drive too much traffic.
the return on my time in trying to track what is generally a fairly sleazy quick buck no value add business model with maybe only a dozen or two dozen legitimate players would be better spent studying and learning other stuff
Also imagine that search engines get better at doing duplication detection during crawl time and look closer at the context of a link. Is it a natural pattern for many links to have the same anchor AND same description right next to them? Nope.
I use Roboform to help save time with directory submissions, but I still mix the anchor text and descriptions when I can.
Editorial Quality Votes Are Key:
Many directories list any site that has $20 to pay for submission, and thus links from those types of sites are not legitimate editorial votes of quality.
Sure everyone ends up with some spammy links, but I think it is only probably worth getting links from around 10 to 50 directories depending on your niche. Beyond that you want to look for other links that are serious votes of editorial quality.
If your site can't get those sorts of links then eventually you are going to need to change the site profile if you want to compete in Google in a competitive marketplace.
I recently interviewed Greg from BOTW (a directory owner) and he said he believe for most sites directories should only be a small part of your link profile. Directories can carry sites in uncompetitive industries, but they are typically easy links for your competitors to get, and if you ever think your industry might get competitive you should spend some time digging around elsewhere as well to do like Stuntdubl says, Balance the Link Equation.
SEO Question: I'm going to be working on a site that was written in frames. I heard that there is some tag you can put in the code so that search engines can spider a frames site. Do you know about this? And if so, can you tell me how to do it?
SEO Answers: The first step with frames is to convert the site to a non frames site.
Because if your site is framed it becomes much harder for people to deep link to your content since they dont know the actual url of the interior pages unless they view the source code.
There is the noframes element, but it's just as easy to use PHP or server side includes for the navigation, etc. and avoid using frames all together.
If you want to use noframes HTML Help has a good page on the noframes element, but I would recommend avoiding using frames alltogether.
SEO Question: Aaron, In you opinion, what is the best resource to obtain for learning how to developing landing pages? SEO Answer: An area of limited experience here, but here are my thoughts...
When Jason Lexell releases his landing page guide it will be good. You may want to shoot him an email and say Aaron Wall sent ya...will help motivate him to finish publishing it and I promise it will be good.