Getting Google to Love Your Website: 50 MORE Questions and Answers (Part 2)

June 1st, 2004

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Originally published in MarketingProfs

As part of our recent MarketingProfs seminar on optimizing Web sites for Google search, my partner Brian Klais and I answered 50 questions from attendees. Here is Part 2 of the resulting Q&A.

26. What’s the right number of keywords to include in the meta keywords tag?

I’d suggest no more than a dozen or so. Much more than that, and your page starts to look spammy.

27. Is it true that you should not include the same word in your meta keywords more than twice (for example: Hawaii Travel, Hawaii Tours, Hawaii Hotels, Hawaii Lodging)?

I would try to avoid much repetition in the meta keywords. But there is no hard-and-fast rule about this. I would instead choose to formulate my meta keywords tag as follows: Hawaii, Travel, Tours, Hotels, Lodging. If the word is repeated on its own rather than as part of a phrase, then that definitely looks spammy — for example: Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii.

28. What is the one line of code that you can use to replace a large javascript?

29. You suggest having a good call to action above the fold on every Web page. What does “above the fold” mean?

It means viewable on the screen without scrolling.

30. What are some of the tools to measure the success of SEO?

www.digitalpoint.com/tools/keywords

www.netconcepts.com/urlcheck

www.netconcepts.com/linkcheck

www.gravitytrack.com

rankwhere.com/Google-page-rank.php

www.researchbuzz.org/archives/001405.shtml

31. Where do you find info on indexation? Is that on the Google toolbar?

No, it’s not on the Google toolbar. The number of pages indexed can be found using the free tool at www.netconcepts.com/urlcheck/.

32. How do we get Googlebot to crawl our site more often?

First, improve your PageRank score. Second, update your pages often.

33. What is the presenter’s opinion of the SEO software WebPosition Gold? Of IBP?

Search engines advise against auto-submitting, machine-generating “doorway pages,” and automated querying. For instance, automated queries cram Google’s servers with useless searches and distort search data.

I’d avoid any automated tool that checks positions because it violates Google’s terms of service — unless that tool does the querying through Google’s API (which has a maximum number of queries of 1,000 per day). Even if the tool you choose uses Google’s API, you’re still not home free… because the API’s results are not very reliable (the API results tend to differ from the regular Google search results).

If you play by the rules, that doesn’t leave much for WebPosition Gold or IBP to do for you. We don’t use either tool. I also think that analyzing the keyword density value of your pages is not seeing the forest for the trees.

34. Do you have any suggestions for increasing the number of links to your site?

Improve your site’s content and functionality to make it more “link worthy.” Hire consultant Eric Ward (www.ericward.com) to do a link building campaign for you. Syndicate your site content to other sites.

35. Please explain again the “spider trap” as it pertains to pages created on the fly. How big of a disadvantage does this present? If redesigning the site isn’t an option, what can be done to lessen this disadvantage?

A search engine spider can get caught in a “spider trap” if it keeps bumping into links to pages that are the same content but with different URLs that are varied dynamically (e.g., where the URLs contain a nonessential variable/flag or session ID in the query string). If caught in a spider trap, the spider would download the same pages over and over again, overloading the site’s Web server and cluttering up Google’s index with a slew of duplicates.

To circumvent such potential problems, Googlebot often chooses to skip over various dynamic pages. This can have very deleterious results, such as the majority of a dynamic site getting skipped over by Googlebot. If revamping the site isn’t an option, you might want to consider an outsourced “dynamic feed” service such as GravityStream (www.gravitystream.com).

36. Does Netconcepts provide software to track conversions?

Yes, it’s called GravityTrack software (www.gravitytrack.com).

37. Does Google frown on URLs such as /index.asp?section=10 versus /aboutUs.asp ?

Google may index both URLs, but the latter is safer.

38. We are well ranked on Google’s natural text search engine. Is it worth spending on AdWords too?

It’s probably worth experimenting with AdWords. A recent study showed that those who had high positions in both paid and organic search results (i.e., where paid and unpaid search listings both appear on the same search results page) got significantly more traffic than just the amount expected from summing the two “channels.”

39. What is the real relationship between paying for Google placement and spidering of “natural” pages?

There is complete separation of church and state. And I say that confidently.

40. How much, if anything, can be picked up by a spider on dynamic pages?

Potentially everything. Just keep the URLs search-engine friendly and you should get those dynamic pages fully indexed.

41. I have graphics as my headers on most of the pages, but I want to have text headers as well so Google can index them. Can I create a style on my style sheet called hidden and put text under the header graphic that is hidden or will that be considered unfriendly to Google? What else would you recommend?

Trying to hide content or links within the page so it is not visible to humans but only to spiders is dangerous. For example: hiding things within no-script tags, playing tricks with div tags, or making text the same color as the background, are all good ways to get penalized or banned.

A good general rule of thumb: anything that you’d feel at all uncomfortable telling Google about, you shouldn’t do. The approach I would advise in your situation is to either make your header navigation text or to add alt tag attributes to your img tags.

42. Regarding link popularity: I just queried Google (i.e., link:www.xyz.com) and found some 2,000 links to my site. But, according to Google’s results, many of those links are from within my site. Is this hurting or helping me?

It’s not hurting you. Internal links count as votes, and that can help you. But voting for yourself can only do you a limited amount of good. Linking across your entire site to particular pages (such as your Top Sellers) reinforces their importance over other pages in your site. But without good inbound links from other sites “voting” for you, voting for yourself doesn’t mean much.

Incidentally, if you want to see how many inbound links are pointing to your entire site (not just your homepage) and with all internal links excluded, try the following search on Yahoo!: “linkdomain:www.xyz.com -site:www.xyz.com” (without the quotes).

43. How do affiliate programs play a role in optimizing search engine results?

Affiliate links typically run through a third-party Web site then redirect. Rarely is an affiliate program set up so that the PageRank score flows through to the merchant’s homepage. It’s technically challenging to achieve this, and I see little motivation for the third-party affiliate management company to do things any different from the status quo.

44. How can we get products listed in Froogle? Is it similar to Google or does it have a specific method?

You can get your products included automatically without any effort just by having a Google-friendly online catalog site. You can also submit a data feed to Froogle in XML format on a regular basis free of charge. Learn more at froogle.Google.com/froogle/merchants.html.

It’s a good idea to submit a Froogle data feed if you are eligible (to be eligible, your online shop must operate in the US and in US dollars).

45. Could you elaborate on how a homepage’s PageRank score influences the PageRank score of internal pages?

The homepage is typically the most PageRank-endowed page of a site because it’s the most linked to. Thus the homepage is the holder of much PageRank. You pass on PageRank to other pages of your site via the links contained on that homepage. The links contained on that homepage, and on the secondary pages that lead from the homepage, are a reflection of your site hierarchy.

Change your internal linking structure/hierarchy, and you will change the way PageRank is conveyed to sub-pages within your site. Best practice is to think through which pages are your best opportunities and should therefore be getting a bigger share of PageRank.

46. Are php pages searched differently?

No, because their output is HTML, just like asp pages, Cold Fusion pages, etc.

47. Do the names of image files themselves — not just the alt tags — affect rankings?

You might get a small uplift, but the effect is negligible.

48. Regarding link popularity: What is your opinion about tools like Arelis that can help produce link popularity? Can these do more harm than good?

How do you feel when you get an unsolicited reciprocal link request via email? How many of them do you respond with a “Yep, sure thing. I added a link to you.”? So why buy a tool that propagates that sort of spam? We don’t use any such tools.

49. I understand that Google reads the left hand side of the site, the top then the middle, and that is what is displayed. Is there a particular code to have the spiders read the middle first.

Google actually reads straight down the page — in the HTML source code. If you’re clever with your HTML, you can re-jig the HTML code to put the middle column on top. You can see an example of how we put the second column first in the HTML above the left column of navigation at www.stepbystepwebmarketing.com.

50. If we are using Flash on the homepage with very little content, can we include relevant content and links below the fold, and will this help in search results?

Yes, it will help to some extent. Certainly that is better than not doing so. But it may not look that great to the user if s/he does scroll below the fold (i.e., it’s not the best user experience to see you repeat yourself). Better to remove content and links from Flash altogether.