Q and A : I’ve lost 1000 backlinks – is my site now permanently damaged?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I have a site which has lost about 1000 back links, they were weak back links (repetitive links from same domain).

My question is this: is the site now permanently damaged or is it possible I can get it ranking again?

Thanks
Louie

Dear Louie

No the site is not permanently damaged – you’ll most-likely find that since the links were poor quality, and site-wide, a bulk of them probably weren’t even being counted in the first place.

Not all links are equal and the better quality (ie. more authoritative, trust worthy, relevant etc. ) the fewer links you’ll need to achieve the same results.

Jim Boykin explains this nicely in his post about Why that site with 50 backlinks beats your site with 1000 backlinks where he quotes:

It’s not always “He with the most links” who wins the game……often, “He with the right links” can win the game as well. Really, very often, he with the right 10 links can beat the guy with 1000 of the wrong links – I see it all the time.

So all you need to do is go out and find some decent links and you’ll be fine. If I were you, I’d consider this a good thing to be rid of the old crumby links and a golden opportunity to start building a better inbound link profile.

Hope this helps

Peter Newsome
SiteMost Search Engine Optimisation

Q and A : What is suggested SEO-friendly punctuation?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I was hoping that you could help me with the following debate.

What is suggested SEO-friendly punctuation for the following examples:

keyword/keyword or keyword / keyword (ie. using a space before and after the slash or using no space)

and

blah blah-blah blah … or blah blah — blah blah (ie. space or no space between — and the words)

Also, if you would recommend an article on the subject of punctuation for SEO, that would be great!

Thanks and best regards!

Laura

Dear Laura

Different types of punctuation and where/how it is used will have varying impacts on your SEO. Some punctuation is completely ignored, some should be avoided although doesn’t strictly have an impact on SEO and some can make minor differences when the search engines are indexing your content.

In the examples you’ve provided, it doesn’t make much difference at all. I personally would put spaces between the dash and slash, but that is purely to make the text more legible and doesn’t really impact on the indexing of the content.

When naming files, I tend to use hyphens instead of underscores and spaces. For instance I’d name the “Contact Us” page on a site: contact-us.htm instead of contact_us.htm or contact us.htm (as the later example would end-up looking like contact%20us.htm after it’s been parsed by the webserver/browser. The same applies to adding any other unnecessary punctuation (such as inverted commas, quotation marks, ampersands, exclamation marks, commas etc. etc.) as this can also create some funky looking page names.

If you were optimising a page for the keywords men’s hats vs mens hats – this slight variation (with or without the apostrophe) would have an impact on how Google indexes the content and while you’ll still rank for both terms, you’ll obviously rank better for the term that matches what you’ve used in your content.

As you’ll probably use your chosen keyword more than once on the page, you could choose to use punctuation most of the time, but “accidentally” leave it out on a couple of occasions to cover both bases.

Generally speaking, your best bet is to adhere to the standard grammatical rules for punctuation and when in doubt, err on the side of the reader and not the search engine as usability and readability far outweigh the very minor benefit that could potentially be gained otherwise.

If you’re looking for some good articles that pertain to punctuation and SEO, here’s a few to check-out:

How Google Treats Punctuation
How Punctuation in Keywords Affects Google Results
Does punctuation affect SEO?
Watch Your Punctuation Online

Hope this helps

Peter Newsome
SiteMost Search Engine Optimisation

Q and A: How do I rank well for a term like ‘apartments’ ?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I’m on the verge of starting an apartment mega site mixed with social networking kind of like Rent.com meets Myspace, where people can list property for rent, etc.

I need tons of traffic and was going to start this off strong by targeting the keyword “apartments”. I have heard from many people to go more targeted but I need the massive traffic as I will be running Adsense as well. What would be the perfect way to tackle this?

I currently have someone writing 1,000+ articles with the keyword and derivative of it so I’m set in that arena.

Thanks again and any help would be greatly appreciated.

Cathy

Hi Cathy,

The first challenge any SEO faces isn’t how to improve the rankings of a website, but more-so how to manage the clients expectations.

While I acknowledge the need for massive amounts of traffic for your website to work effectively, it’s also important to remember that taking-on very generic keywords and wanting to compete with highly authoritative websites will take a lot of time and money. There is no cheap or easy way to accomplish this and if you don’t have a substantial (and really, that’s my polite way of saying HUGE) marketing budget covering a mix of both online and offline advertising along with the patience of a Tibetan Monk, you’d better stop reading here.

At the time of composing this post, there are roughly 181,000,000 sites indexed by Google.com for the word apartments. Rent.com has over 9,000,000 inbound links. The number one site ranked for the term ‘apartments’ has over 11,000,000 inbound links and the sites in the other top 5 each have well over 100,000 inbound links (all according to Yahoo’s Site Explorer).

So the first challenge will be finding a way to attract over 100,000 good quality links.

The next challenge will be the age of your website – each of the top sites in this niche have been around for over 10 years. Google looks at the age of a site as a sign of trust and authority, so if you setup a brand new website on a brand new domain name, it could take years before Google even considers your site in the same league as the sites you’re targeting.

Google’s Traffic Estimator tool suggests that advertisers are paying up to $3 per click for the word ‘apartments’ and the recommended daily budget (as suggested by Google) to achieve the maximum number of clicks through their PPC system would be approximately $39,820. This would bring you anywhere between 21,819 – 27,364 click every day.

So if that’s the amount of traffic you’re hoping for – it’s simply a matter of putting aside $1,200,000 a month on Adwords.

Now the Yahoo! and Google data above is bound to change and should only be used as a guide, but based on this information, it clearly indicates that a few thousand keyword-rich articles and a well optimised site isn’t going to cut it.

My advice would be to focus on more specific keywords (perhaps targeting different locations), try and create a range of viral/linkbait articles that will help generate slightly higher-than-normal link quantity while building relationships with other prominent (and industry-relevant) sites to get the link quality in there. To utilise social media effectively, you should also start to build an online profile within some of major networks and start creating genuine connections with people through comments, guest blogging, submitting other great articles (not written by you) etc.

Be prepared to pay for some online advertising through systems like Adwords and banner advertising or sponsorship deals with other high-volume sites. And although I probably shouldn’t be endorsing offline advertising on an SEO blog, you should also use mainstream media to gain greater exposure for your brand.

If you consistently roll-out great content, focus on managable keywords, form the right partnerships with the right websites, be prepared to put in the time-and-effort with social media and embrace the old adage “you have to spend money to make money”… in a few years time, you might be in a better position to try and tackle the major players.

If all this seems like too much hard work… maybe making money online isn’t for you.

Hope this helps!

Peter Newsome
SiteMost SEO Brisbane

Q and A: How do I avoid duplicate content created by my CMS for product pages on my site?

QuestionDear Kalena…

You’ve helped us out with a couple of problems over the years ~ thanks again. Don’t have a problem this time but I do want to get your opinion/guidance so I can maybe AVOID a problem.

We handle over 5,000 products, and we want to create a page for each product using an automated page generator. Same as what thousands of other people do. Nothing fancy and no SEO tricks. Just a brief description of the item, price & how to order.

I’ll be using a template, of course, and about 75% of the words (excluding shared borders) will be common to all pages. The other 25% of words on a given page will be unique to the product/page in question.

I may be overly cautious, but I’ve learned the hard way that what seems like a good idea or what the rest of the herd is doing might not be acceptable to the SE’s, especially if not executed properly. We have a fairly well-performing website and the stakes get higher as we grow. So, any tips on what to do / not do when creating these individual product page would be appreciated.

Thanks
Rick

Dear Rick,

Sometimes it’s possible to reduce duplicate content by placing that content in a dedicated section of your website and then linking to it where necessary (this can apply to things like shipping/handling, product guarantees, returns policies and terms & conditions… which some store owners will try and display on every page but could quit easily be put elsewhere).

Another way to make the search engines focus on the unique content is by using emphasis tags (such as H1, H2, bold, italics etc.) and use them sparingly (or don’t use them at all) in your page header, footer and other duplicate parts of the page. This will help the spiders isolate your unique page-specific content as well as drawing your readers attention to the most important parts of the page.

You could also try and setup a feature that allows users to add reviews or feedback on each of the products. This user-generated content would become yet another source of additional unique content for each page (and what’s better is you didn’t have to write it yourself).

Hope this helps!

Peter Newsome
SiteMost SEO Brisbane

Q and A : How do I optimize an e-commerce store?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I have a friend who asked me to look at a site (designed but not launched yet).

The question I have is about optimizing a shopping cart. It uses a CMS and they have the ability to change the tags for each product but not a lot of other flexibility. Is there anything else that can be done for cart optimization?

Thanks
Nancy

Dear Nancy

It’s good that you have control over the product titles because having unique and keyword-rich titles and descriptions is one of the most important things for a well optimised online store. For product images, make sure you use ALT tags and ensure the the site has a search-engine friendly structure (ie. design, architecture and navigation).

Avoid dynamic URLs and use a logical directory structure to break-up products into their appropriate categories (although when doing this, try not to bury the products too deeply in sub-directories as the search engines will often only crawl the top few layers unless there are enough deep links forcing the spiders to dig a bit deeper).

Use a sitemap, breadcrumbs and show visitors other related products by using links like: “people who purcahsed this also bought…”

If possible, try and incorporate a social media aspect to the site where users can add reviews and other product feedback. Setup a blog and/or a Twitter account and use these tools to help promote your products (without spamming people of course).

In conjunction with the social media and organic search engine optimisation, it’s also a very good idea to run a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign. PPC campaigns are great for e-commerce sites because it’s quick, highly customisable (in terms of budget, geotargeting etc.) and incredibly measurable allowing you to further refine the keywords, titles and other content by monitoring click-through rates and using A/B split-testing tools.

All of this will improve usability, reduce bounce-rates, ensure the search bots will be able to find everything (and index it accordingly) and if done well, hopefully even improve conversions.

For a more detailed and comprehensive list of other things to look at, here are 50 SEO tips for online retailers.

Hope this helps!

Peter Newsome
SiteMost SEO Brisbane