Category Archives: Organic SEO

Sweet New SEOmoz Tools

I hate writing “groupie” type posts, but this short one was earned.  SEOmoz just launched a new Keyword Difficulty tool, which, at first glance and after just a couple of tests seems to have a bit of merit.  I tested on some keywords I’m pretty familiar with and its ratings matched my general concept.

My only critique would be that its maybe its scale should be adjusted a bit… I put in “directory of handsome guys” and that was a 22%.  IMO that should be like 5% or less, there is no competition on that keyword.  I accidentally ranked a site of mine #1 for that, and after a few days I wouldn’t be surprised if this blog post ranks #2 for “directory of handsome guys”.

I guess it was a couple of months ago that the launched the Open Site Explorer tool, which I now use daily and love it.  My only critique with that is the size of the data set.  I have one client where we’ve tracked the total number of links its reporting by month with that tool and its showing drastically changing numbers – both up and down.  I believe its more reflecting of swinging changes in their data set than it is “real” changes in numbers of links to their site.

I’d say in general their data seems to be tracking the good-old-fashioned Yahoo Site Explorer and Majestic SEO, but their front-end interface and the tools’ overall usability more than makes up for that.  I’m a fan.  Good work, Rand and team.

Update: See my comment below and comment from Richard Baxter’s write up for another critique.  I’d like to see it weigh “domain authority” more and “page authority” less.

Good write up Richard.  Overall I like the tool, but I feel like its maybe favoring “page authority” a bit too much, and “domain authority” not enough.  Anyone else agree with me on that?

Take the “pivot tables” (49) vs. “pallet delivery” (64) example.  I’d argue that “pivot tables” is more competitive b/c all of the sites in the top 20 have domain authority over 80.  You need an 80+ domain just to to get a ticket to that dance.  But for “pallet delivery” only 2 of the top 20 have domain authorities over 80, and several have very low domain authority.  You can get into that dance with most any site, so long as the page itself has a little juice.  That’s much easier to do.

Full-Service SEO vs. “SEO Consulting”

Last night at SEMCLT, I spent a few minutes chatting with Corey Creed.  He asked if I was still doing full-service SEO or if I had moved to a consulting model.

I had never described what we do as “full-service”, but I probably should.  Its pretty accurate.  You’d think in 7 years I would have spent a few minutes thinking about how to describe what we do.  When talking with prospects, I would generally say things like “we don’t just give you a list of recommendations, we actually DO the work” and so forth.  I often used other verbiage around the same point, such as “we handle everything needed to produce results” and so forth, but the phrase full-service describes this more accurately and more concisely.

But now there is a new problem.  What exactly is full service SEO?

I guess let’s think about what its not.  Oftentimes when companies hire a consultant what they are looking for is strategic guidance, advisement, etc.  They want to know what to do, and maybe how to do it.  As such, many SEO consultants do exactly that.  They provide a written report and/or verbal communications in meetings, training sessions and so forth and basically tell the client what to do in order to increase their site’s rankings, organic traffic and (hopefully) conversions.  The deliverable may be called a “Site Audit” or “SEO Recommendations Report” or something like that.  The pro here is that the client can get high-level direction and recommendations without too high a price tag (as the time to create a plan is inherently less than the time required to create AND implement a plan).

But to me, that’s no fun.

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Thoughts on Bing as Related to SEO & Optimization

So by now you’ve heard that Microsoft launched Bing a couple of days earlier than what was (most recently) expected.  I’ve read a few other SEO news bloggers who’ve summarized the initial feedback saying it was generally positive – that Microsoft had improved their search product over the most recent Live search product, though it likely wasn’t a Google killer.  In fact, many would say that there is no search product that would be a Google killer.  I’d probably agree.  I think the only thing that would de-throne Google anytime soon would be some sort of PR crisis or major technical lapse.  I don’t see either happening.

That said, an improved product from Microsoft (Bing) could increase their share a bit more, and it seems like that is the idea behind Bing.  Microsoft seem to have realistic expectations here.

Okay so enough about this background… what’s Bing mean to people who practice SEO and online lead generation for a living?  Well after about 30 minutes of messing around with it here are my thoughts…

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Hyper-Regional Lead Generation for SEO Companies

Okay so for this post instead of talking about using SEO for online lead generation, I’m going to talk about online lead generation for SEO services.

When I started my SEO firm back in 2003, I immediately identified Baltimore, MD as my primary geographic market.  At the time, I was living in the Towson area – which is a suburb about 15-20 minutes north of Baltimore.  In 2003, few people had heard of SEO so I was worried about getting enough demand in Baltimore, much less a smaller suburb.  I targeted keywords like “baltimore seo” rather than “towson seo“, as I thought the latter was simply too niche a keyword and didn’t have enough demand to support my lead generation needs…

Continue reading – SEO-Friendly URL Shortener with 301 Redirects and Tracking

This is just a beautiful thing.

I’ve somehow started using Twitter again after our recent SEO Meetup about social media.  At the event, @george_murphy and @timstaines convinced me (@jonpayne) there was a business benefit – a way to leverage it for traffic and leads.

Anyhow, today I was looking for a good URL shortener that also does 301 redirects.  Why?  Well let’s suppose I post a URL of a page on one of my sites – like this blog post for example.  In Twitter, since I’m limited to 140 characters I need to use some sort of URL shortener or I might not have enough room for the long URLs typically associated with blogs.  Until recently, I had been using, mainly b/c I just liked the “is good” reference.


So what if – by rare occurance – someone who visits my page actually likes it and wants to link to it?  If they copy the URL in their browser post-rediret than I’m fine, they’ll link straight to my site.  But what if they copy the URL shortener version and then they post that in their blog or elsewhere?  I’ll get the traffic, but no link juice… and those are the perfect, real, natural “editorial” type links Google is really looking for.  I should get that credit…

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Segmenting Keyword Rankings in Google Analytics Reports – via Yoast

So the other day I found this post on Yoast that describes how to set up some Advanced Segments in Google Analytics such that you can isolate out the traffic you received from keywords where your site ranks on the second page (or any page) in the Google SERPs.  Its pretty slick.  It basically uses the start=10 value in the URL of the Google search results pages to identify whether they came from page 1, 2, etc…

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SEO Q&A: Domain Kidnapped by Hosting Company, Ranking for Your Name

My dad just emailed me as he is helping a friend who had a website that was ranking for a given keyword, but the friend’s sketchy web host is now holding the domain hostage. I imagine this is not the first time this has happened to someone, which is a shame. I thought it would be worthwhile to share my response, hoping it will benefit another person or two in a similar situation. I’ve left out a name or two, and also added a few sentences to my response versus what I sent via email, but its pretty much the same deal.


…Helping out a friend with a problem. Her website was suspended by an unethical webhost and they are holding her domain name for ransom. (name removed – google them, lots of issues) I set her up with .info and .org and we are going to try and work with ICAAN to get .net back.

She was well ranked in a google search on her name. Are there any [tactics] I can employ to get a search on her name to quickly offer up the .info and .org (points to .info) web pages?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

My Response:

The domain is everything. If the web host is holding her domain for ransom than that tells me they probably technically own the domain, which means they have all the power unless she has something that can legally dispute that. ICANN is probably who you’d need to go through.

The only way to “get your rankings back” completely is to 301 redirect the old domain to the new domain. You’d need either be able to log in to the registrar or access the website via FTP (using the .htaccess file) to implement this. If they have the hosting account and domain on lockdown then you are basically helpless. Technically they control (own) the website… or at least the domain which is what Google uses as your unique ID.

Think of it as your website’s Social Security Number. You can dye your hair, buy new clothes, get a tan and change your accent to make yourself appear different – but you are still the same person with the same SSN. Once you change your SSN then you have no credit history, etc. You are basically a new person and start again from scratch. Such it is with domains.

How competitive of a search was she ranking for? If its just her name or her company’s name than its probably not very hard to rank for that search phrase even with a brand new site. I would definitely go with a .com, .net or .org version of the domain and avoid using a .info like the plague. .info is often associated with spam, and those domains fight an uphill battle in Google. This won’t help you rank for all sorts of other keywords, but the company or personal name shouldn’t be that tough. You can also try creating accounts on some other sites such as LinkedIn to get rankings for your name fairly quickly.

Example – Google search on “jon payne“. I am the guy featured on sites ranking #1, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, and 15 out of the top 20. That changes all the time just a bit, in fact most days I have 3 or 4 in the top 5. My associate “tim staines” has sites 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 from the top 10. I’m bitter about that, so I’ll argue that his name is a bit less common and there isn’t a PhD at Stanford sharing his name.

Note: there are a few “black hat” types of tactics that could be implemented here, such as 302 domain hijacking. I’m a little too “white hat” in my approach to actually recommend that, and probably couldn’t even provide details on how to successfully execute that if I wanted to since I never have (I swear!). In this case though, if the objective is ranking for a person’s name that isn’t terribly common I think some basic white hat SEO techniques on a handful of sites should be able to meet the objective here without much difficulty. If the friend’s name happens to be something like “Sarah Palin” or “Britney Spears” or something than this could prove more difficult.

SEO Meetup Topics – Your Input Requested

We had an initial question via the SEO Meetup group mailing list today about Web CEO, which has spurred quite a discussion of that and many other tools. Perhaps a good topic for an upcoming meetup would be a discussion and quick tour of a number of tools.

Interest? How about interest in any of the following topics?  Edit: Please choose ONE or two of the topics you’d most like to discuss and whatever is the most popular choice will be our topic.  We’ll then discuss other topics at future meetups.

a) SEO software, tools and plugins
b) pricing, sales and contracts SEO projects
c) project management, tracking results and reporting to clients
d) link building show & tell
e) site review panel
f) understanding black hat tips and tactics
g) overviews and opinions of SEO conferences
h) social networking and social media
i) blogging and SEO
j) comparison of various analytics services

Maybe 60-90 minutes of interaction discussion about the above… and then over to a nearby bar to have a drink, network and casual small group conversation as per usual. Thoughts?

Please let me know your opinions or preferences. Now is the time to “voice your vote” otherwise you have no right to complain about next meeting’s topic :) You can either email me or post a comment below with your thoughts.

I’m thinking maybe first or second week of November.

Edit: So far I’m getting mostly emails rather than blog comments as replies… but I’ll share an update later on about what the topic will be for the next event and also what the top requests were.

Ranking #3 for “Marketing” in Google India – Very Interesting…

So this is pretty cool. My internet marketing firm’s website is ranking # 3 for “marketing” in Google India. Go check it out. Its not even for the “pages from India” selection but just from the entire web, when searched through Google India.

Google India SERPs

Yeah pretty cool… I didn’t even really target that one-word keyword, although it is in our name (Ephricon Web Marketing) and naturally its completely intertwined with all of our services… but I have to think that is also true for every other online marketing and SEO firm out there, right?

The funny thing is that we’ve been there for at least a few weeks, maybe months. I’m too lazy to dig through the analytics right now to check. I actually noticed a ton of traffic for this keyword in our Google Analytics account, but then I checked and right now we’re ranked #199 in “regular” Google. I assumed maybe something funny was going on with the tracking, or perhaps it was some crazy bot traffic… didn’t really give it much thought.

It wasn’t until I logged into my HitsLink account (which I haven’t done for months) that I noticed it. By default, HitsLink shows you micro-level data like each visitor to the site… it shows the last 50 visitors and what they searched on, where they came from etc and I noticed a ton were “marketing” and from I then logged back into Google Analytics and clicked on traffic sources > keywords > “marketing” (my kw) and then selected “country / territory” from the “dimension” dropdown.

I had 94 visits from people searching on “marketing” using a Google property in the last 30 days. 93 of them used Google India.

So wow, pretty cool. But on second thought, why only 93 visitors? That’s only 3 people a day from a pretty popular 1-word keyword phrase. Sure, is not the default Google… but I have to think it has a pretty good volume. I believe its not drawing more traffic for a number of reasons:

  1. My title and description both specify that we’re in “Baltimore, MD”. If I’m a guy in India, I’m not nearly as likely to click on this site in the SERPs.
  2. gets only a small slice of Google’s total search volume. I have no data to back this up. I’m guessing.
  3. Like reason #1 above, my title and description both refer to internet marketing and SEO. If you are searching on marketing you are likely searching for something more broad or strategic, and thus not as likely to click on my site.

There are probably many more reasons too. If you can think of any, please share them with me.

So of those 3 items above, I can change #1 and #3, but cannot change #2. Here’s a case study – should I change the title and description to tweak it to bring in a higher clickthrough rate for a generic term like “marketing”? I could do this to see what effect it would have on clickthroughs and traffic for this keyword. Might be a cool mini-case-study of sorts.

If I did that, I’d probably change it back before too long. Truth is that the lower volumes of more highly qualified traffic is what produces my conversions and business objectives… so that generic traffic is pretty useless to me.

I’m not really sure why likes the site so much more than the rest of Google, perhaps there are a bunch of SEO companies in India linking to my site? Even if that’s the case, again I can’t see how that would be stronger for us than say any other internet marketing or SEO firm out there.

Any other thoughts, ideas, comments? Has anyone seen something like this for other country-specific Google domains?