Q and A: What search engine submission program should we use?

QuestionHi Kalena

We are looking to buy a search engine submission program. Can you make a recommendation? Here are a few we’ve heard work well. What do you think?

Thank you so much for your great newsletter!


Hi Amy

What do I think? I think you need to stop listening to people who tell you that you need to use search engine submission programs! You. Simply. Don’t. Need. Them.

It’s a a common misconception that you need to submit your site to search engines. Provided at least one site is linking to yours, all the major search engines will find your site as they crawl the web. In my opinion, many of the sites listed in those automatic submission programs are low quality Free For All (FFA) directories, considered bad neighborhoods by Google anyway.

That said, most major engines still provide an Add URL facility, or XML sitemap upload facility where you can manually submit your site for indexing. But do a manual check for your main site URL first, to see if any pages have been indexed. If they have, the search engine already knows about your site, so there is no need to submit it.

What I think you should do is obtain one-way links from high quality niche directories and popular sites in your own industry. There are really no shortcuts when it comes to gaining links. You’ll need to seek out sites that are relevant to your site and submit by hand. I recommend that you forget the auto submit products and put together a quality submission list tailored to your own site requirements. If you insist on using auto-submit products, be very selective about the sites you choose to send your link to and expect LOTS of email spam.

Oh and I’m glad you enjoy the newsletter!

Q and A: Why do my search positions fluctuate so much in Google?

QuestionDear Kalena

I am hoping that you can help me as this has been driving me crazy! Certain search keywords such as “buy Taser” from the Index (home page) goes to page 1 in google for ONE day, then jumps to page 13 and climbs up to page 20 or so, then goes back to page 1 for one day. So, about once every two weeks those two keywords are on page one in Google for one day!

I do not have this problem with MSN. I am totally baffled. I was running Google Base thinking maybe there was a connection, but I inactivated the product search a few days ago, so I guess that is not the problem. The site is about 9 months old. Is it because I have a yearly expiration domain and Google thinks it will expire soon? I tried so many things. Please help ASAP. Thank you SO much!


Hi Terri

Ack, I seem to be a magnet for Yahoo SiteBuilder issues this week. First up, please read my recent rant about Yahoo SiteBuilder.

Secondly, to answer your question about shifting rankings, in a nutshell it’s because Google uses different datacenters to show results and shuffles between these datacenters (they each have slightly different ranking algorithms). So on one datacenter your site might be on page 1 for a search query but then for that same query done a day (or hour) later you might be on page 4, because they are showing results from a different storage facility.

Different pages from your site and your competitor’s sites might also be stored on different datacenters, meaning that pages that normally rank well may not appear at all depending on which datacenter Google is using to fetch search results and whether or not all your indexed pages are listed in that datacenter. Your competitors may have more pages indexed by Google across all datacenters so they seem to be consistently outranking you. Or else they have simply done a better job of optimizing their pages to match search queries.

But the datacenter issue is the least of your worries. Here are just some of the problems I see with your site:

  • The Title and META tags are poorly constructed and not optimized for performance on search engines. This can partly be blamed on the tag limitations of Yahoo SiteBuilder, but mostly it is just poor keyword choices and incorrect formatting. For example, your META Description tag contains a bunch of keywords instead of a readable sentence! Your poor Title and META tags are limiting the ability of each of your site pages being found in search engines.
  • You’ve got the worse case of code bloat that I’ve seen in years, thanks to excessive code added to your HTML pages by the SiteBuilder program and the page author. Code bloat happens when unnecessary code snippets are added to your HTML code during the editing of your pages. A very common way this happens is if you cut and paste text from one program into your web editing software. For example, if you cut and paste from MS Word into your web editor, you can often find extraneous code (such as span tags) added. These snippets build up and add to your file size and can often lead to invalid code, meaning that Googlebot and other search robots may have problems indexing your pages and abandon the site, meaning fewer pages are indexed and included in their datacenters. Apart from that, code bloat impacts the ranking relevancy of your site because it impacts the keyword density of your pages. For example, if your competitor mentions “buy taser” in their page text the same number of times as you do in your page, but their page has less code to wade through, it is likely that their page will rank higher than yours for the search query “buy taser”.
  • As I suspected, your code does not validate. When I ran it through the W3C Markup Validator, it spat back 236 errors, including a missing DocType! Now Google and other engines are pretty forgiving these days when it comes to invalid code, but even if some pages are being successfully indexed, the errors could well be sabotaging your site’s ability to rank well.
  • I’m betting that Google hasn’t indexed many of your site pages. Read this post about how to get more pages indexed and how to monitor your site’s performance in Google.
  • You’ve got keyword repetition ad infinitum happening on your home page. The excessive keyword reps are almost certainly going to trigger search engine spam filters if they haven’t already. I think you’re breaking practically all Google’s Webmaster Guidelines!
  • There don’t seem to be many internal or external links pointing to your site. You should try to gain some links from other web sites in your industry as theme-based links will help boost your position in Google.

There’s lots more wrong with your site, but I think I’ve given you plenty to get on with for your $10 coffee donation. The rest is up to you. As I always say to businesses using free or cheap web design and hosting tools online, you get what you pay for. If you want potential customers to take your business seriously, YOU need to take it seriously and spend some time and money addressing your site’s compatibility with search engines.

You should consider paying a site designer to build you a better looking site that can be properly optimized. If you can’t afford a professional site design, consider installing the (free) WordPress blogging platform on your server and taking full control over your site that way. Teach yourself – it’s free – and then hire a search engine optimizer to get your site ranking better. If you can’t afford a search engine optimizer, consider posting your requirements on our Search Engine College jobs board as there are a lot of SEO students just itching to sharpen their skills on a real site.

I’d also recommend downloading the free Search Engine Optimization lesson from Search Engine College so you can better understand what makes a site rank well in search engines and take control of your own site’s destiny. Good luck!

Search Marketing Burnout and How to Avoid it

Just a quickie for you today as it’s the Easter long weekend and I’m trying to stay away from the laptop.stress leads to burnout

Actually, that’s the subject of today’s post. For many of us working in the search marketing industry, burnout is a serious issue. Spending time away from our computers is difficult when we are so busy, but for the sake of our physical and mental health, it’s absolutely vital.

Christine Churchill’s timely post Ten Strategies for Avoiding Search Marketing Burnout reminds us to take a deep breath now and again, give ourselves permission to take downtime, get some exercise and schedule time for family and real life away from the computer. These steps help us avoid stress and the dreaded burnout.

Having suffered the physical symptoms of severe burnout last year, I am all too aware now of the warning signs. I encourage you all to heed Christine’s advice and don’t let burnout sneak up on you.

Web 2.Overwhelming: 22 Ways to Frustrate Your Site Visitors

Damian ConwayDamian Conway is known as the “Mad Scientist of Perl” and he was my favorite speaker at Webstock 2008. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science and until recently was an honorary Associate Professor with the School of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Monash University Australia.

A popular speaker and trainer, he is a former columnist for The Perl Journal and author of two books about Perl. He also runs an international IT training company which provides programmer training throughout Europe, North America, and Australasia.

Damian kicked off his presentation by revealing that his wife is responsible for him being at Webstock. A few months ago, she was trying to buy a DVD on the Internet and was yelling expletives. He went to help her and after several minutes of frustration he finally gave up. Her response was “Are they deliberately trying to make it impossible for non-geeks?” His reply was “Yes”. Damian’s impression is that mankind has evolved into two distinct species – typical web users / typical web designers.

Damian then showed the Irony Ahead symbol for the Americans in the audience. The sad truth, he says, is that the web designers are losing the battle to the masses. There are now normal humans who can almost use web sites on a daily basis! His sacred promise is to protect your web sites from infiltration by the terrible general public.

In reverse order, here are Damien’s top 22 web design ideas to fend off the non-geeks and prevent Web 2.0 from taking hold:

22) Use Zen: Confuse them with anime and odd artistic blobs that are a complete mystery. Is it a web site? Is it art? Is it impossible to enter?

21) Use yellow or black and yellow: This signals danger as in wasps and Star Trek uniforms.

20) Use xenophobia: Try geo-location as an instrument of torture. Show only products not available in their country or illegal in their country e.g. “show me products I can’t buy with a credit card issued in my country”.

19) Get a site that requires the “www” to work: This is known as a canonical URL to us normal people. Make the www necessary and confuse the heck out of them when they type in the domain name without the w’s and get shown an error page.

18) Use variable navigational layout (VNL): Use the previous and next links as people hate them. Let’s replicate it for the entire web!

17) Throw usability out the window: Navigability is the pre-requisite for usability. So let’s create navigation buttons that don’t go anywhere. The non-geeks will be occupied for at least half an hour. Use Javascript to turn the navigation into confusing shadowy arrows. Javascript your scrollbars so they don’t look anything like regular browser scrollbars. Use back buttons that embed links that take you up a level rather than actually taking you back. Your visitors will get lost in the hierarchy. Inconsistency is important.

Typography doesn't matter16) Terrorize them with typography: Most non-geeks don’t care about typography. They don’t even have a favorite typeface! If they do, it’s comic sans. Or Impact! All they care about is whether they can read it. Therefore, typography DOES matter. Go with something unreadable! Go with Abduction 2 font or something just as annoying. Fonts are not toys people, fonts are weapons!

15) Make shipping a last minute surprise: Shipping is a powerful tool to dissuade purchasers. It delays their instant gratification. Don’t let them calculate the shipping cost in the cart otherwise they can go and comparison check on other sites. Instead, use the W3-recommended 34 step method and make all these fields compulsory:

  • product selection
  • shopping cart
  • checkout
  • purchaser address
  • phone number
  • fax number
  • email address
  • social security number
  • payment method
  • billing address
  • shipping address
  • shipping method
  • shipping costs
  • income bracket
  • referral source
  • etc.

With any luck, they’ll abandon the cart in total frustration.

14) Make them register and login before they purchase: They’ll be naturally terrified and run off. Even better, make them register before they can even view the web site!

13) Reduce the quality of site search results: How can you minimize the quality? Don’t provide site search facilities at all! Or make the options highly improbable. Don’t let them search for the product. Make them search by date of manufacture, or the name of the manufacturer. Or, make them search for the type of person that they are. Or what type of person YOU think they are. Pure genius.

12) Add pages ad infinitum: Don’t return more than 10 results for a search at one time, even if you have to list 250 pages of search results. God put the fold there for a reason. If you don’t follow this rule, it can result in scrolling! Protect the kids from scrolling!I'm a programmer - you have to guess what I mean

13) Delay their gratification or their dis-gratification: Show items that aren’t in stock, services you used to provide, options that won’t work for them. Only tell them a product is not available AFTER they click through to the shopping cart total. This builds up a sense of hope so you can dash it immediately.

14) Don’t allow them to sort search results: This non-sortability of results preserves the natural social order. Sort things in random order. For example, don’t let them sort by product type, or price. Provide an alphabetical sorting option only. Or sort according to the web designer’s favorite items.

9) Use background music and lots of it: It’s a sure way to irritate your users. Your music choice probably sucks if you choose it carefully enough. Don’t provide a stop button. Make it restart again on every new page. They’ll soon leave.

8 ) The little things count: Like tiny little font. It’s the most effective deterrent for anyone over the age of 20. Damian finds size 4 or 3 point is pretty good. Government and news sites use it all the time to great effect. Some browsers have the ability to change text size. Thankfully, most web users Damian surveyed didn’t know this until it was pointed out to them. But it’s ok! Because 2 weeks later, they’d forgotten again. Tiny text is the web designer’s ally.

People don't care7) Use Cute Kitten Aversion Therapy: There are some web sites that you don’t want your kids to see, Damian says. One of these is the W3 HTML Validator. AAARGGGGHH! It means that solutions for non-valid HTML code could be discovered by anyone and you don’t want that. So spread the message, every time you validate, someone kills a kitten!

6) Use J-version therapy: The non-geeks have a strong aversion to the letter J and things like Jscript, Javascript etc. These J languages create fear in the non-geek. Online security companies have scared them into avoiding sites with Javascript or other items starting with J because hackers use them to distribute viruses. If you’re lucky, they’re so convinced by these fears that they’ve turned off Javascript in their browsers. This means that if your site uses Javascript menus, they can’t be navigated! Brilliant.

5) You can never use too many images: Encode your important data and text in an image so it can’t be cut and pasted and make the images huge and dark so that they can’t be printed out. Or they can be printed but they use up masses amounts of printer toner. It’s a great way to scare off even the most persistent of non-geeks.

4) Play hide and seek with your site visitors: They don’t like to wait, so make them. Information that is impossible to find is safe. Don’t use a sitemap and make sure there is no rational hierarchy to your site. Hide your most important data on a page that has no links pointing to it!

3) Use gray: It’s the new black and it goes so well with black or darker gray. When using gray, make it impossible to read. Use nano-text in gray or even gray text on white. The site visitors run away! Even better, use gray on darker gray – it’s the low contrast approach. This is even more effective for site visitors with a color impairment. If all else fails, use intestinal beige. It’s apparently the new gray.

2) Flash is very important in our defense against web-mortals: “Clocksucking Flash” they call it. Some non-geeks even have their Flash facilities turned off so make your site entirely in Flash. Once visitors arrive at your Flash page, they see – “loading 1%”. This is delayed gratification at it’s best! Also, don’t provide a “skip intro” button. Or if you do use it, make the link move away from the mouse. Over and over again. If the visitor persists, then make it disappear entirely. If the visitor without Flash is determined to view your Flash site, provide the “You Need Flash” link. Then make them download an enormous file that maxes out their bandwidth limits. Even better, use a Flash-based installer that requires them to have Flash installed first.

1) Combine all of the above for optimum effect: This is Damian’s number #1 best way to scare away non-geek visitors. His favorite example of this in action is the World Glaucoma Association. Scroll down and place your mouse over the eye for the full effect. [Editor note: My own personal favorite is Fred Frap and Friends where the pink text on the purple background asks you to click on the non-existent image to enter. Nice!]

Irony endsBut seriously folks, Damian says, the non-geek level is the SAME LEVEL as the MAJORITY OF YOUR WEB SITE USERS. Remember this. The typical experience for web-mortals is bad. He’s here to plead with us all to build software for how people really ARE. The non-geek users.

The Grandma Usability Metric

The single biggest mistake that web designers make is not doing accessibility testing on their grandparents. Your grandparents are the typical Internet users. Use the Grandma usability metric. It’s not about what your client wants. It’s about what your client’s customers want. It’s not about clever, it’s about comprehension. It’s not about style, it’s about usability. It’s not about searching. It’s about finding. It’s not about ambience it’s about the outcomes for people visiting your site.

Web 2.0 is Web 2.0verwhelming for most people. So make their experience measurably superior.

Search Industry Job of the Week: Search Specialist

Job Title: Search Specialist
Job Reference #: Unknown
Position Type: full time, permanent
Name of employer: Leap Frog Online
Location: Evanston, Illinois
Date Posted: 18 March 2008
Position description:

Leapfrog Online is experiencing record growth and they’re looking for several new members.

Leapfrog Online offers:

A people-first culture
Competitive compensation & benefits
A well-respected, high-growth business
A fast-paced, dynamic environment

Ready to join the leader in digital direct marketing?

For the Search Specialist, Leap Frog Online are seeking a candidate with a minimum of one year of search and keyword advertising experience to assist with the launch and ongoing management of Leapfrog Online’s search and keyword advertising programs.

Responsibilities include:

Supporting assigned Campaign Manager on media partner relationships in the search and keyword category including search engines, directories, contextual placements and comparative shopping bots.
Implementing media plans/keyword lists, executing buys and managing ongoing placements for search/keyword activities with contacts at search engines and sites.
Conducting ongoing analysis of program performance to optimize and scale programs with existing media partners.
Working with media services and project management to set up campaigns.

The ideal candidate has:

A college graduate with a degree in marketing or advertising.
Familiar with search campaign management tools.
Experienced in tracking, analytics, and reporting.
Computer literate, including competency with Microsoft Office Suite.
Looking for a focused, team-oriented environment in which to grow.
Google AdWords Professional Certification.

MAIL/FAX/EMAIL your resume, which must include salary history to:

Human Resources, Leapfrog Online, 807 Greenwood Street, Evanston, 60201 / fax 847-556-1468 / e-mail sespposition[at]xfer.leapfrogonline.net

Salary range: Unknown
Closing date: Unknown
More info from: http://www.leapfrogonline.com/who/careers.php
Contact: Send resumes to sespposition[at]xfer.leapfrogonline.net

For more search industry job vacancies visit: Search Engine College Jobs Board