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SEO

Getting the Ax: Sidebar Links

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Subscribe to Elliot's BlogI’ve had a few conversations with some people who are involved in SEO, and all agree to an extent that there are (well, were) too many links in my right sidebar and that could hurt my blog’s rankings and PR. The problem I have is that I find it difficult to say no when someone asks me to add them to the sidebar – especially when I know the person. A common email I receive is goes a little something like this:

“Dear Elliot,
I read your blog…. etc… I just started a blog/website/journal…etc and added a link to your blog. As a courtesy, please add a link back to whateverblogistarted.com. etc…”

Lately I haven’t been responding to these emails because my blogroll became gigantic and I don’t think it looks good or is helpful to anyone (except those who want to benefit from the “link juice”). I feel badly about it, but I also don’t think it’s fair to be asked to be added to my blog especially from a brand new blog that may die once the owner realizes how much work a blog is.   I never asked anyone ever to add my blog to their blogroll, and I felt it was an honor to be added (I still do think that way).
So… after conversing with a few SEO friends, and after deciding that an overhaul of the design of my blog will be done by my developer and introduced in January (once I finish re-developing Lowell.com), I removed most of the links in my sidebar and added them to a resource page on the site with “no follow” on them. If you are pissed off or offended by this, I am sorry. I am spending less and less time reading other blogs and domain news sources because of the work I am doing on my sites, so maybe I haven’t been to your site in a while or ever.
I will admit that I do ask for link exchanges on some other sites with my geodomains. The difference though is that my geosites have long been established (even before I owned them), receive considerable type-in traffic, and have Google page rank, so it’s an even exchange or possibly better for the person that I contact.

BuyDomains.com Offers Free SEO Webinar

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Subscribe to Elliot's BlogWith more and more domain investors beginning to develop their domain names (or exploring development options), I wanted to let you know about a free SEO webinar offered by BuyDomains.com. The webinar, which will take place on October 23rd at 2pm, is aimed at small to medium sized business owners who are looking to grow their web presence. The details are as follows:
SEO for Small Businesses

  • The relevancy and importance of targeting the right keywords
  • Why page titles and meta data matter
  • Domain & URL structure advice and tips
  • Internal & External linking
  • How Webmaster Tools can help your site
  • Tips on site structure for local search
  • The importance of directory listings
  • Content, content, content!

To sign up for the webinar, register on Namemedia’s website and you will receive log-in information via email. This could be a good way to learn some SEO tips at no cost and with no obligation.

HUGE Domain Deal in the Works

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Subscribe to Elliot's BlogWhen you see that a HUGE domain deal is going to take place in the near future, who is the first person you think of that made the deal?   If you guessed Rick Schwartz, you would be correct.
Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, unless there’s a reason for it.   While some people have said that Rick Schwartz is “lucky,” I would strongly disagree.   Rick saw the potential in domain names many years ago, scoffed at selling most over the past few years, and has recently cashed in, while retaining some of his best names. Not only did Schwartz recently work out huge deals for iReport.com and Property.com (and RoomDividers.com last week), another deal is in the works that in Rick’s terms, “will blow the doors off the industry at the darkest time…..AGAIN!”
While the domain name in discussion hasn’t been publicly revealed yet, the deal is going to make headlines for Schwartz again – and for his friend Kevin who had a hand in the Property.com deal as well. While I won’t publicly congratulate Rick for this until the deal is done, I will say that from this and my own personal experience, it appears more end users are beginning to understand why they should own category defining generic domain names, and many are paying big bucks to get them.

Buying Domain Names Based on Search Rankings

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I haven’t done this before, but I am thinking about it and would like some advice. Have you ever gone out to buy a domain name based on the current natural search position rather than the domain name? For example, if you have a great oil painting-related domain name that doesn’t rank well in Google, it might be in your best interest to try to acquire the highest ranking website (currently 1st-art-gallery.com) and do a 301 redirect to your domain name.
Although content is king and Google would probably notice that you don’t offer the same website content as what was on the #1 site, you would be able to retain the inbound links that the other website has. Since one of (if not) the biggest ways Google ranks domain names/websites is based on the inbound links, your great domain name with poor links would all of a sudden have a ton of inbound links.
Personally, I have never tried to buy a shitty domain name simply because it ranks well in Google, but since I have begun developing some of my better domain names, it might be worth doing. If anyone has done this before, I would really like to hear how this would help the domain name/website to which you 301 the higher ranking name. At the next update, would Google recognize your new name as the higher ranking website?

5 With… Bill Hartzer, Search Engine Optimization Expert

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Bill Hartzer is a successful writer and search engine marketing and search engine optimization expert who has created hundreds of websites over the years, beginning in 1996, with the establishment of his company’s online presence. It was during this time that Bill learned about the Internet and how much power Internet search engines had in helping customers and potential customers find his company’s website.
Bill has over 17 years of writing experience, including as a television writer and a computer software company technical writer. Hartzer utilizes his writing and online skills to create websites that are compelling and useful to clients and their potential customers. Bill’s primary focus is on business to business search engine optimization, but he is also experienced in optimizing business to consumer websites.
Bill Hartzer’s many accomplishments include:
– Founder, Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (www.dfwsem.org)
– Owner/Author, Corporate Web Site Marketing (www.corporatewebsitemarketing.com)
– Administrator, Search Engine Forums
– Frequent Speaker, Search Engine Strategies Conferences
– Frequent Speaker, WebmasterWorld’s PubCon Search Engine and Internet Marketing Conference
Bill has given me quite a bit of helpful tips and advice for several of my websites, both on private forums and on his blog, BillHartzer.com. It’s great that someone like Bill helps people build successful websites, and it’s nice that Bill happily helps those who lack the experience in the SEO arena.
1) EJS: With so many people calling themselves SEO experts, how do you distinguish between those who are and those who aren’t? What questions should a domain owner ask before ordering services from a SEO company?
BH: Great question. You’re right, there are a lot of people out there calling themselves “SEO Experts”. While there’s no SEO “license” or official “certification” for SEOs like there are licensed plumbers, lawyers, and other professionals, the Search Engine Marketing industry has been trying to get some standards in place. SEMPO (www.sempo.org), the Search Engine Marketing Professional Association, has courses that provide for certification, and both Yahoo! Search Marketing and Google AdWords have their certification programs. Vizion Interactive has an SEO RFP that has a lot of the information that generally should be included when you’re thinking of hiring an SEO: (http://www.vizioninteractive.com/search-engine-optimization-request-for-proposal-rfp/).
To distinguish between a “good SEO” and a “bad SEO” (if there is such a thing), you’ll need to ask for references and proof that they’ve done their job and know what they are doing. If you hire someone to build an addition on your house they most likely you’ll want references and photos of their work: the same goes for hiring a reputable SEO company.
2) EJS: How important is a domain name in ranking high in the search engines, and how much does the extension matter?
BH: I believe that every domain name has an equal “chance” to rank high in the search engines. That said, though, many of the factors that search engines consider when determining search engine ranking involves humans: and when people are involved in making decisions (like deciding to link to your website or not), some domain names will have an advantage over others. If you use a domain name that fits the content of your web site (one that has its main keyword in the domain name), there’s a good chance that someone linking to you will use that domain name (the keyword in your domain name).
So, for the search engines that give a lot of weight to ranking factors that includes the anchor text in links, you’re going to see a benefit from that. Some marketing experts prefer to market a brand name; thus they use the brand name in their domain name. Ultimately, I believe it can definitely help both from an overall marketing perspective (both online and offline) and from a search engine ranking perspective to be have a category-killer domain name.
The .com, the .net, and the .org TLDs generally have an equal chance of ranking well in the search engines. The only real difference is using a ccTLD, where the major search engines give preference to certain countries in search. If you’re in the UK and using Google.co.uk, Google expects that you prefer to see UK search results, which includes .co.uk domain names as well as others.
3) EJS: How has the search industry changed over the last couple of years, and how have you coped with the changes?
BH: There always seems to be various “fads” that come and go. We’ve had “reciprocal links”, “web directories”, “bid directories”, “social media”, etc. etc. that have come and gone. There are really only half a dozen major web directories left, Google tells us not to exchange links, and social media sites seem to be here to stay. Ultimately, it’s the content on your web site that will keep your search engine rankings. It’s important to have more content on your site than others in your niche; and to add content to it on a regular basis. It’s the ability to create great content that has allowed me to cope with the changes in the industry. Sure, it’s okay to test out the latest online marketing “fad” to see if it brings any ROI. But don’t forget the content.
4) EJS: What free SEO tools do you recommend to domain owners who are developing websites?
BH: There are all sorts of free SEO tools out there. Many of them actually exist that are part of the search engines themselves. For example, a “linkdomain:domain.com” search at Yahoo! will show you all of your competitor’s backlinks; use that information as an SEO tool to see where your competitors have links (and where you don’t). Set up Google and Yahoo! alerts to make sure you’re on top of your industry: watch your industry and add content to your site when something comes up that interests you. Your own web stats will give you lots of good SEO-related information about your web site, your visitors, and what they like and what they don’t like. Other SEO tools I like:
– OptiTools (OptiSpider, OptiLink)
– Traffic Marks
– Compete.com
– Spyfu.com
– Domain Tools
– Google Insights
– Google Trends
There are a lot of great free SEO tools listed here:
http://seocompany.ca/tool/seo-tools.html
5) EJS: What services do you offer to domain owners who would like to improve the rankings on their developed domain names that they have passively developed (not full businesses, which would recommend?)
BH: I recommend that domain owners who want to improve rankings first look at their web analytics. See where their traffic is coming from. Take a look at how many pages they have indexed in Google (using site:yourdomain.com). Look to see if the number of pages on your site is close to how many pages your competitors have on their sites. Make a plan to create the content or figure out how you’re going to get someone else to create that content for you. Analyze the backlinks to your website. How many links do you have that are from sites that are on the same topic? How many links do your competitors have that are on the same topic (e.g., an automotive site should link to another car site, not to a dating site).
Once you’ve done some quick analysis, determine if you’ll need more content on your site or more links to your site: or both. I certainly can help domain owners with link building and content building and writing services. Or both. There are also many different things to “fix” on most sites, which would include most of the “on-site” factors, such as title tags, search engine friendly URLs, and other on-site issues that plague most content management systems nowadays.

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I know it’s a holiday weekend, but I think everyone needs to take a few minutes to read Ron Jackson’s interview of Rick Schwartz. In the domain space, Rick has been something like a soothsayer, and when he speaks, I listen. While we don’t all own the same quality domain names as Rick, the things he is saying does affect all domain investors.

If or when Google decides to pull the plug and PPC as we know it drastically changes, there is going to be a lot of tumult in the industry. While quickly and efficiently monetizing domain names will be difficult and domain values will be impacted, domain owners need to keep the following things in mind:

  • Businesses who want to be online need a domain name
  • Advertisers will still want to advertise on relevant domain names
  • People will continue typing-in domain names looking for products or services
  • Easy to remember and relevant domain names are the most desired
  • Consumers typically have certain web browsing patterns, and many type in their keyword and .com as a starting point

The point is that while making easy money from domain names won’t be possible, there are still going to be plenty of opportunities in the domain space. Some people will have to sell more than they have in the past in order to maintain the same revenue levels, so some deals may be had.  I recommend buying domain names that would make sense to be developed. Just because a domain name did well parked, doesn’t mean that it would be good to develop.

I still believe the greatest ongoing revenue generating opportunity is selling advertising space directly to advertisers on developed websites. I believe websites are the newspapers of decades ago. Websites get the eyeballs that newspapers once received, and advertisers want to reach them. Motivated consumers are untapped leads that businesses would like to acquire.

I also believe that as companies continue to migrate their business online, more will get it, and more will want (or even need) the domain name that describes their business or industry. Generic and category defining domain names are rare, and they hold considerable value. Selling domain names to end users that get it will be the driving force behind the future growth of domain values.

Changing times call for changing strategies.  Those who adapt and adopt will survive, and those who sit back will not. Who knows when all of this will happen, but I think it’s important to be prepared for the worst. Read Rick’s interview and judge for yourself.

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