Thursday, September 22, 2005

Does Google Penalize Innocent Websites?

Whether you like it or not, Google is the place to be ranked well. Yahoo! and MSN can offer their share of traffïc, but nothing serves up traffïc like a top ranking in Google. Unfortunately, no search engine is quicker to hand out a penalty either.

As the clear leader in the search engine market, it is hard to blame Google for being quick to hand out a penalty on a website. There are hundreds of 'black-hat' SEO techniques and tricks that all aim to 'crack' Google and give a website owner a top ranking without them doing as much work to achieve that ranking. If one person discovers a hole in Google, it takes very little time for an entire drove of website owners to start changing their sites to take advantage of this hole.
But is Google too quick to hand out a penalty? They have claimed in the past that it would be unlikely that a legitïmate site would receive a penalty. However, with all the confusion on the Internet about what good SEO really is, is it possible that a legitïmate site owner accidentally employs a technique that is shared by spammers? The site owner may have no intention of defrauding Google, but they may receive the penalty all the same.

Google Plans to Alert Site Owners of Potential Problems
There is some great news for website owners who fear they may have been penalized by Google. Matt Cutts, the owner of this quickly growing blog and employee of Google, confirmed on his website that Google is piloting a new program which will proactively alert website owners of potential problems on their website.

This is definitely exciting for website owners who do not know if they have been penalized, but it should not be taken for something that it is not. Keep in mind the following points:

1. This is a pilot program. It is not a full fledged program that guarantees everyone will be contacted who has been negatively effected. Chances are, you will not be contacted at all.

2. It is an automated program. Google will not have any one person sending out these emails, but a bot that will have to 'discover' your email address. If it can't find one, it will try to guess an email address. If you are good at protecting yourself from sp@m, you may not get a message from Google even if they want to contact you.

There may be a day in the not-so-far future where Google is able to contact legitïmate website owners who made an honest (or maybe not so honest) mistake. That day is not hëre yet, so the responsibility is still that of the individual website owner to make sure they have a legitïmate website in the eyes of Google.

The Many Ways to Get Penalized by Google
There are many ways to get accidentally penalized by Google. Preventing your site from being penalized takes a lot of attention to detail. Even if you have hired on a professional SEO firm, you should be mindful of the problems that can arise from a simple mistake. Below are several things to look out for on your site.

Duplicate Pages
This is a common problem, and a problem that can be difficult to avoid, especially if you have a large website. Duplicate pages are pages that have essentially the same content; it is an old trick employed by search engine spammers. Search engine spammers would use the same page over and over again, but change keywords at the bottom of the page to create some variance and to focus in on different niches.

Accidentally recreating this sp@m technique can be very easy to do. Below are a few ways in which you could have duplicate pages without even knowing about it:

* If you use different landing pages in your advertising campaigns to measure ad effectiveness, you are essentially building duplicate pages. If Google discovers these different landing pages, they may think that you are using duplicate content.

* Sites that offer the ability to print pages often create two pages that have essentially the same content. Using mod_rewrite to create search engine friendly URL's can create duplicate pages.

* When you use mod_rewrite the server will serve up the same page regardless of whether you use the search engine friendly url or the regular url.

These are just a few examples of how duplicate pages can creep into your website. You should look for more ways that duplicate pages could have creeped into your website.

If you find that you do have duplicate pages within your website, you should use the robots.txt file to exclude the duplicate pages. We published an article last week about the robots.txt file which should be helpful: How to Prevent Duplicate Content with Robots.txt and Meta Tags

Redirecting Users
Another favorite technique of search engine spammers is to use redirects to create doorway pages (otherwise known as cloaking). The idea hëre is to present one page to a search engine spider that is optimized for the search engine and present an entirely different page to the user.

Search engine spammers use all different types of redirects, from complicated javascrïpt redirects to simple http-refresh commands.

There are many valid reasons to redirect users on your website to a different page. Whether you are changing the name of your website or changing the structure, your website pages may not always be in the same place and you nevër want to löse a visitor to an ugly 404 page (even

Google does not like 404 pages).

Google does recognize that you may need to throw in a redirection from time to time. If you need to do so, you should use a 301 redirect. There are several ways to employ a 301 permanent redirect. Below are two examples:

Example 1 - Using mod_rewrite
Options +FollowSymLinksRewriteEngine onRewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdomain\.comRewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=permanent,L]

Save this in a file called .htaccess and upload it to your server.

Example 2 - Using an Apache Redirect
Redirect 301 /

Save this in a file called .htaccess and upload it to your server.

Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is the oldest search engine spamming technique known. All this entails is using your targeted keywords over and over and over again on your website. Keyword stuffing can happen throughout the content of your website, in hidden text, in the alt property of your images, in the meta tags of your website, in HTML comments, or a variety of other ways. To see an example of keyword stuffing, take a look at this thread over in our SEO Tips and Tricks portion of our forums.

The example above is an exaggerated example of keyword stuffing, but it happens a lot with website owners. The desire to rank high in the search engines often leads a person to put their keywords in their site much more often than they would do so normally. As a general rule, if the text on your page appears unnatural to you, it will appear unnatural to the search engines.

Be Vigilant and Be Natural
So far Google has done a decent job of keeping sp@m out of their index. It still finds its way into their results, especially for less competitive keywords, but when Google does find sp@m they tend to develop new methods to detect that sp@m and remove it from their index. Unfortunately they will inevitably affect website owners who really do not know that they are doing something wrong.

Google has taken a very positive step in starting their pilot program aimed at notifying website owners who may be innocently doing something wrong, but the responsibility ultimately will always reside with the website owner. If you are having troubles ranking well for your targeted keywords, take the time today to review your website. Ask yourself if you have duplicate pages, if you have any hidden text or are possibly stuffing keywords on your page. Do you have any redirects which could be misinterpreted? Take the time to re-read Google's webmaster info and familiarize yourself with it.

Getting to the top of Google is hard work, but it is well worth it when you reach the top.

About The Author
Does Google Penalize Innocent Websites was written by Mark Daoust, the owner of

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Keywords, Competition, Being Number One Uncovering the Algorithm

Keywords, Competition, Being Number One Uncovering the Algorithm
By John Krycek (c) 2005

By following these steps you will see that most closely guarded secret-- the search algorithm. Remember the movie "the Matrix?" The Matrix is there, you just can't see it. So is the search algorithm. It's easy to pay a Search Engine Optimizer to give your pages some ranking power. Unfortunately, given the inherent time factor involved in climbing the ranks, your money may be long gone before you know if you've spent your money well.

There Is No Magic Pill
Forget any advertisement you see for instant number one search results or automated this or that. Most are scams, and the ones that aren't might get you positioned, but it will be very short lived.

Search engine optimization is an ongoing process. Achieving and maintaining a high rank, especially on highly competitive keywords, requires constant maintenance. If you do find a legitimate SEO firm, it is well worth the money to pay their monthly maintenance fee and let them continue to help you after the initial project. At least for 6 months or a year as you establish yourself.

In this article we'll look at some of the intricate and complex tasks of optimizing a page for long term ranking power. You will learn how to read between the code and the content to find what is necessary to bring you to the top. Being number one is easy to say, but is quickly overwhelming when you stare at tens of thousands of pages you want to out rank. So how do you begin?

The starting line on the road to that first page SERP (search engine results page) ranking is not as blurry as you might think. In fact, you can uncover the starting line, the route, and all the scenery along the way to the finish line without knowing the search engine algorithm.

Your Keywords Are The Crowning Achievement Of Grueling Days Of Work

If you have investments in the stock market you know how much research and thought goes into choosing those securities. Now take that same effort and multiply it by three. That's how much planning and revision your keywords should take.

A simple, broad key phrase like "shoes" could hypothetically bring you up in a countless stream of different searches. Women's shoes, baby shoes, sneakers, high heels, etc. If somehow you manage to settle into a good ranking (which would be difficult) you would have more traffic on your site than you could handle. But traffic is worthless if it doesn't get to it's destination.

Chances are, you weren't that destination.

Your keywords must be focused and precise, specific to what you are selling. Using a key phrase like "Gucci mens black leather loafer" will bring a targeted lead to your site. You may not reach as many people as the more generalized keyword, but the people that do come to you have a much deeper interest in the specific product you are selling.

Therefore you have much greater chance of converting that targeted lead to a sale. Your keywords are your magic beans, your winning lotto numbers, your energizer bunnies, your sales force, whatever you want to call them. They must be perfect.

Want To Be Number One? Look At Who Already Is

Competition Analysis- no SEO book can give you this information.

Now take your keyword list and type them into a search engine. Who comes up in the first ten results? That company that is number one is because they have most closely matched what the search engine algorithm says should be number one. You can learn a great deal from them.

A. Internal Factors
Take that number one page, and the other top 9 pages and study them, look at the code, break them down. You are looking at the first half of what is needed to rank in the top 10 pages for your key phrases on that particular search engine. The list of what to look for is enormous.
Studying the Internal Factors on a page is taking it apart to see how it's put together. Not how it works, but statistical research into the precise construct and layout of keywords and phrases in relation to each other within the page.

Start with these areas:
URL address, Page Title, Meta description, Meta Keywords, First sentence on the page, Body copy, Bold or Emphasized Phrases, H1 or other tags, Alt Tags, Navigation system

In each of those sections, look at:

* Keyword densities- the number of times your phrase and each word in your phrase appears
compared to the text around it
* Where, and how many times, the same phrase and words appear in different sections
* The word and character position of each phrase in each section
* The total number of characters
* The total number of words

Beginning with these comparisons should keep you quite busy for awhile. A spreadsheet is quite useful. Some commercial products are also available that can make this daunting task much more feasible. Keep looking for other patterns and differences. You want to duplicate them in your own page. NOT copy and steal. You want to mimic the patterns that are bringing that page to the position it's in. Then move onto to examining the external factors of these pages.

B. External Factors
External factors of a web page deal with the links to, from and within a web page, both inside the same site, and out into the web. This analysis usually takes more time because it involves more dissection of pages beyond the one you're trying to optimize. In this analysis, as with Internal Factors, you want to compare and contrast your page versus the top 10 competitors, find similarities and differences. Below is a list of criteria to get you started.

* Number of internal links (to the same site) on that page
* Number of external links
* Number of links pointing TO that page* (see below for details)
* The link/anchor text- which keywords are used and where
* Google Page Rank value of incoming links
* Alexa Rank of incoming links
* The quality and thought of the content

To get a listing of the links that point to a site, type the following into Google, MSN and Yahoo searches: "". Google tends to only show a small portion of the links back, but MSN and Yahoo will give you much more pertinent data.

Now you want to compare the content on each of these pages to the one they point to. Is it of similar theme, in what context does the link back appear and where. Subject of much debate, the consensus is that Google Page Rank does not mean what it used to. However, if it is in some fashion a measure of how significant or "important" a site is, it is worth looking more closely at the sites that link back that are of high page rank.

Even A Surgeon Uses Tools
Now, this is definitely a ton of work to do all by hand. There are software programs that can help do some of the digging and mathematical computations for you, figuring out densities and organizing information.
Tools like this are definitely ones a professional SEO will have in their arsenal. But remember, these are tools, not miracle workers. It takes a human being to evaluate and realize connections, similarities, draw conclusions and interpret the data. Then, you have to extrapolate this data.
Remember, you want to do one better than every site you just examined. To do that you have to draw some conclusions and make some educated guesses and link to even better sites.

Final Thoughts
You have access to the inner workings of every page that you want to beat. Learn from them and do one better. This process is not a one-time shot. It is ongoing. Check your key phrases every week. Do the same people still rank in the top ten?
Some have probably moved. Remember too that they're going to adapt to maintain their positions too. If you want the ranks, you have to spend the time, and not just once, or pay someone to do it for you.

Don't ever believe anyone who says they can guarantee any kind of results. And ask them how they will optimize your pages. If they explain to you something like the above, then you've probably got yourself someone experienced and honest. Your money will be well spent and you'll quickly recover it.

About The Author
John Krycek is the owner and creative director of web design in Toronto. Learn more about search engine optimization and internet marketing in easy, non-technical, up front English!

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Logotype, commonly know as a logo, is a design, a graphic representation/image/trademark symbolizing one’s organization. Designed for instant identification, a logo can appear on company letterhead, advertising material and signs as an emblem by way of which the organization can easily be recognized.

Value of a logo should be based on a few important criteria:

1. Experience of the logo designer
2. Size & budget of the company using the logo
3. Scope and usage of the logo
4. Difficulty of the design
Does your current logo represent 3 of the key elements that make up a credible and high quality logo design?
a. Does the logo portray your company in a manner which says that you are an expert in this field?
b. Is the logo "contemporary", symbolizing a "forward-thinking" look?
c. Is the message that you are trying to convey to the consumer clear? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, then why change your logo? By revamping your company image, you may risk losing your supporters, clients that are already familiar with your products and services, your popularity, respect, as well as your market share. You can, however, clean-up your logo or update it with a lot less risk.

Important Points To Consider:

• A logo should: -Attract attention and leave an impression
-Create a look that in unique
-reflect the personality of the company

• Reproduction costs: The more detailed and colorful the logo design, the more difficult to reproduce, meaning a higher cost.

• The size: The prefect logo design will look great on a sign board as well as on a business card or a pen.

• Logo design companies are by the dozen. Take your time, research different companies and designers and compare packages in order to select a logo design company suited to your needs.

• Check your competition. What designs, graphics, and colors do they use? Remember that you need to be competitive.

• Trademark your logo. If your logo is trademarked, this prevents competitors and other third parties from stealing it.

• And last but not least, when in doubt, try the janitor test.
More about the janitor test tommorrow!


Friday, September 09, 2005

SEO According to Google's Webmaster Guidelines

By Mark Daoust (c) 2005

Every SEO expert has their own set of rules as to how they believe Google ranks websites. Most of the time, these rules tend to vary slightly from one another. But what does Google tell us? Fortunately they gave us all the guidelines we need. This article will look at these guidelines in depth.

Make a Site With a Clear Hierarchy and Text Links. Every Page Should Be Reachable From at Least One Static Text Link.
Your website's navigation is the foundation of your entire website. It binds all the pages together into a common theme and provides a clear vision to your website visitors. Clear navigation is extremely important for search engine spiders. Spiders want to find as many pages on your website as possible. However, if your navigation is confusing, or worse, incomplete, search engine spiders will not discover your entire website. It is also important to remember that search engines learn what a page is about partially by the text used to link to that page. In this regard, the anchor text you use in your navigation can help you rank better for your targeted keywords. This is why Google also heavily recommends that you use text links on your website.

Offer a Site Map to Your Users With Links That Point to the Important Parts of Your Site.
If the Site Map is Larger Than 100 or So Links, You May Want to Break the Site Map Into Separate Pages.

Having a sitemap is crucially important. When a spider visits your website one of the first things it will look for is a file called sitemap. Search engine spiders have millïons of pages to visit in a very short amount of time, they want to work as efficiently as possible. A sitemap will allow the spider to know what pages are most important to your visitors, and therefore, the most important to the search engines.
Even if you don't have a sitemap you can still get your pages indexed by Google if you have a solid navigation system. Placing a sitemap on your website will simply make life easier on the spider, which is something you should strive for.

Create a Useful, Information-Rich Site, and Write Pages That Clearly and Accurately Describe Your Content.

You've certainly heard everyone talk about how content is king. It is important to note, however, that not just any content is king...unique content is king.
Undoubtedly you have heard experts touting hundreds of sources for free content, from RSS to free reprint articles. Although RSS and free reprint articles can be very useful for your website, nothing will ever replace content that is developed by yourself or your company.

It is said that nearly half of all searches performed on a daily basis include combination of words that have never been searched on before. If users are searching using unique combinations of words, what are the search engines looking for?
Of course, RSS and free reprint articles are useful, especially if the information in the articles or feed is pertinent to the subject matter of your website. You should not be afraid to use free reprint articles or RSS feeds (in fact you probably should use them), but you should also be sure to have a significant amount of unique content on your site as well.

Try to Use Text Instead of Images to Display Important Names, Content, or Links. The Google Crawler Doesn't Recognize Text Contained in Images.

This is an extremely important point that many, many website owners tend to ignore. They miss great opportunities to place heavy hitting keywords in great spots within their website.

Instead, they place an image in that spot solely for the purpose of appearance. Fortunately the web and most browsers have adopted CSS. With CSS you can format the style of your links and present important text in a stylish manner. Using CSS you can also present an image to your visitors while keeping important text in your code for the search engines.

Make Sure That Your TITLE and ALT Tags Are Descriptive and Accurate.

The title tag is the single most important part of SEO that you can optimize. The title tag is included in the head portion of every HTML page. The tag is intended to tell your visitors and the search engine what the subject of that specific page is.
Many website owners make a number of mistakes with their title tag. Many times they'll stuff the title with a list of keywords. Other times they will not change the title from page to page. All of these things will hurt your rankings and drive the search engines away from your website.

A good title tag should be relatively short and highly descriptive. It should contain your most important keywords for that page, and it should make sense to a human reader. If you use images on your website, you should always include an alt tag. When choosing your alt tags you should try to be descriptive and brief. Alt tags are not an opportunïty to stuff your page with your targeted keywords. Search engines are smart enough to know when a website owner is trying to take advantage of image alt tags.

Of course, using CSS, it is possible to design a good looking website without using any images.

Check For Broken Links and Correct HTML.

This is a simple step to take, and extremely important. This goes back to the concept that we want to make life easier on the search engine spiders. If a spider comes across a website with broken links, it may think that your website is incomplete. Worse yet, it may consider your website not worth visiting as it wastes the spider' src="path/to/image.jpg"

Fortunately there are several link checkers available. You can use the Site Reference site link checker.

Correct HTML can be a little more difficult, especially if you use an HTML editor such as FrontPage and do not know HTML. As the owner of a website, however, you should take the time and effort to make sure the site is written in valid HTML. This will make it easier for a spider to find out what your site is really about.
To validate your website, visit the World Wide Web Consortium's HTML Validator. If you have any mistakes in your HTML, the validator will tell you what they are and what you need to do to correct them.
Once you have validated your web site you may also place the Consortium's image link right on your web site. Look at the bottom right of the following page:
Click on the W3c logo!

If You Decide to Use Dynamic Pages (i.e., the URL Contains a '?' Character), Be Aware That Not Every Search Engine Spider Crawls Dynamic Pages As Well As Static Pages. It Helps to Keep the Parameters Short and the Number of Them Few.

The larger a website gets, the greater the need for it to get some sort of content management system. If you own a shopping based website or a content based website that generates its pages dynamically, you should be aware of the implications to the search engines. Dynamic websites often employ the use of query strings. Below is an example of a query string:

Query strings can employ a wide range of characters which make it difficult for search engines to spider your website. They are able to spider sites with simple query strings, however, it is generally not a good idea to do so.

You can easily change your website URL's to be search friendly by using a tool called Apache Mod_Rewrite. Using Mod_Rewrite you can turn a URL from looking like this:
to this:


Most SEO experts have their own set of rules to rank well in the search engines. If you travel from one SEO to another, you will find that they differ slightly in what they believe should be emphasized in your SEO strategy. Even though they may all have their differences, the most basic and most important aspects of quality SEO are all the same.

Fortunately, Google provides us with these rules.About

The AuthorSEO According to Google's Webmaster Guidelines
was written by Mark Daoust.
Visit for more
articles on search engine marketing.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Logo Design

Logo Design
Corporate and commercial firms spend thousands of dollars on creative consultants to find that special combination of color, style and shape.

Case Study
A consultant study for a new Fox 43 television affliate logo design involved analysis of the existing logo color and design of all the other local television affiliates in the region. Preliminary analysis showed the over use of 'blue' in the other station logos. A Fox 43 logo design and color palette of gold, black and red was developed that provided a powerful stand-out against a the local competitors.

A company logo is the basis for your 'brand identity.
Think about it.. A logo is featured on;
* Letterhead
* Business cards
* Brochures, reports, flyers, newsletters
* Auto truck window stickers
* Auto truck bumper stickers
* Billboard signs
* Sales promotion materials - clothing, hats, pens and so on.
* Broadcast graphics
* Web site
* Emails

If you don't have a huge budget for logo design - DON'T DO THIS YOURSELF.
Go online and Google:
'online logo desing services' - 'cheap logo design' - 'affordable logo design'.

You will at least be in the hands of a knowledgable professional who can desing something better than chicken scratch on a cocktail napktin. - DON'T DO THIS YOURSELF.
I find that individuals who actually believe they can design a professional logo fall into the category of tone-deaf people who love to sing.
Let us create that professional 'brand presence' for your business.

Your logo reflects how serious you are about doing business.
So be serious about your logo.

Rick Vidallon