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December 7, 2006

Organics Listing Forum

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Today’s Organic Listings Forum is moderated by Detlev Johnson, with speakers Bruce Clay (Bruce Clay, Inc.), David Naylor (Bronco), Todd Friesen (Range Online Media) and Mike Grehan (international search marketing consultant).

Since this is an open question and answer format, I’ll do my best to paraphrase each question and let you know who’s responding with what. Of course, my job would be easier if these boys didn’t talk over each other. :)

What link building tactics can be done to promote a new site and keep it out of the sandbox?

DN: I don’t think there are any sandbox issues anymore.

TF: The aging process, and how fast your links are getting built, and where those initial links are coming from. Look in your space and find those authority sites that you can get links from. Find other places in your space that have authority. Those kinds of things make you very legitimate and you should be fine.

BC: Does your site look like it’s behaving in a natural way? If you start a new site and the next day you have thousands of links, that doesn’t look natural. No incestuous links, or multiple IPs linking to you. If you look and act in an unnatural way you will get ignored.

MG: Sit down, look at your site. Write down 10 reasons why people would want to link to your Web site. If you can’t get past 5, you’ve created your own sandbox. (zing!)

Best practices for cloaking software?

DN; There levels of user-agent cloaking. Either you have stolen someone else’s content and you don’t want them to know, you have great content you’re hiding behind a subscriber link, or you’re geo targeting.

MG: There are times when cloaking is very useful.

DN: The problem with cloaking is that it’s not a dirty word and people think it is. Ninety-nine percent of cloaking is good cloaking.

Should we split our IP addresses up so our clients, who have similar content, aren’t on the same IP?

DN: Yes, you will have a problem. Yahoo is a classic one where if you got so much content on one server, on one IP address, you’re going to have problems.

I have an established site that’s been out for 10 years, but I may need to change the domain. What kind of techniques should I consider to preserve the PageRank and visibility of the site?

DN: If your site is clean and white hat, email Google and tell them what you’re going to do. They don’t want your site to get lost.

TF: Something we added into the mix as insurance, we made the Google and Yahoo XML sitemaps for the old site and then when we launched the old site with the 301s, we gave them the old site map to give them another chance to spider all the pages.

BC. The entire URL restructuring should not take more than 3 weeks. Be ready with PPC in case there’s a dip, but you should be fine. Your new domain should have a 404 page with a Meta index tag that has a ‘no index’.

When launching a new Web site, what is the appropriate pacing on setting up inbound links?

BC: If you were to create a site from scratch today and suddenly that site announced the cure for cancer, you’d have a million links within a week and that wouldn’t be interpreted as spam. It’s natural for the content. But if you have a 1000 inbound links from the same IP, you might be a redneck.

DN: Launch a site, press release it, and create something on the site that would make people want to link to it. Do something different. Once you are different, a month down the line, give them something else. That’s why the blogosphere does so well.

DJ: Err on the side of fewer links. It’s not the number of links that matters; it’s where the links are coming from.

BC: During your design you have to ask yourself, if I were another site, would I link to me? If you wouldn’t link to yourself, getting quality sites to link to you will be an uphill battle.

It used to be SEO was all tags. Then it was Content is King. Now linking is so important. Is content still king?

DN: The search engines are link-based, end of story. Larry and Sergey’s papers are all about the importance of linking. When people talked about the engines loving content, it’s not like the engines were reading it and saying, ‘that is the best story I’ve ever heard!’ They recognized that other sites liked it and were linking to it.

DJ: Linking has been important before Google. It’s one factor in many factors that goes into an algorithm. Google has shown that if you make linking the primary focus then you can achieve good results. Linking is still incredibly important because it can increase your indexing and ranking since you have these 3rd party endorsements of your content. The title tag will never go away because HTML has purposes other than search engines. Today, right now, linking is one of those things that are driving rankings.

MG: When you’re talking about content, yes, it’s still king, but what is content? It’s not just text, it could be a tool. If content is king, end user data is queen.

BC: You need to have the content first and the links will follow. You want quality links, not just links.

Do the search engines see 301 redirects?

TF: If you’re doing it at the server level, the search engines see all redirects.

We have a parent Web site with sites for 30 different cities. What’s the best way to optimize that?

BC: Cityscape went with subdomains and optimized each one separately. You can probably optimize one Web site with 30 different themes. If it’s unique content, you can accumulate a whole lot of content about basketball on one domain.

TF: I would subdomain them off. Otherwise you’re splitting your effort across too many domains.

Is a subdomain more valuable than a slash?

DN: Not anymore.

DJ: It was about pooling link popularity. Some people were seeing some incredible results by splitting a site into subdomains and making it appear as one Web site. But people took that too far and the search engines stopped giving that authority.

We do a lot of directory submission. But a lot of the directories only let you put a company name in there. Does that look bad to the search engines?

TF: Not at all. When you look at people’s backlinks, it’s going to completely dominated by brand. When we’re doing directory submissions, we try and roll in a keyword. If we’re submitting for a consumer electronics company we’ll say "stereos from X" and most of the time that will get in.

MG: If you want other people to do it, there are good people out there. It you’re looking for someone, look for client renewals. If they have clients who have been around for years, they’re probably doing something right.

What’s your opinion of the ODP?

DN: They should pay for submission.

TF: There’s a lot more value out there than the ODP. Go do the submission and forget about it.

MG: There’s a lot of stuff you can do offline that will bring in links. Be creative.

BC: I don’t think it’s important enough to spend a lot of time on.

How much attention to the search engines pay to the keyword field. How much attention should we pay to it?

MG: On a rainy day, when there’s nothing else to do… [polite chuckles :)]

TF: I haven’t done a keyword tag in two or three years.

BC: We think any tag worth having is worth doing right. There are 100 variables in the algorithm, what makes you think you’re better than the guy next to you? It only takes 30 seconds to do a keyword tag if you know what the keywords are for the page.

MG: I know for a fact that Yahoo! looks for the keyword tag. It won’t help you with rankings but it says you are a candidate for a result set.

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