SEO and CMS
Posted 7/29/2008 5:48:57 AM by Mark Reichard
We just re-posted an article on how SEO and CMS systems relate. The article had been around for a while, but got lost in our move to the new design. Google Webmaster tools to the rescue ---we saw that Google was trying to re-scan the page but not finding it, so we re-posted.
In other news, we just put up a new product tour that walks folks through our CMS in a more step-by-step process than some of our other product literature (which tends to be big blocks of dense text). I'd be interested in any feedback.
Tags: Search Engine OptimizationComments
SEO Best Practices
Posted 7/18/2008 8:21:57 AM by Mark Reichard
As anyone familiar with iData’s products knows, one of the key features of our Synapse Publisher Content Management System (CMS) is the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) toolkit. The SEO Toolkit allows content authors who are subject matter experts in their field (but not SEO experts) to optimize their own content, as they create it, to be found by engines like search engines like Google® , MSN Live Search® and Yahoo!®.
Using the SEO toolkit is pretty intuitive, and we don’t get many questions about it. Even so, there are some important best practices, basics of search engine marketing, and ethics of SEO that uses of the SEO toolkit should be aware of. I won’t go into details in this post of how search engines rank pages --- that information is available in our SEO Basics article in the resources section --- but I do want to reiterate that search engine rankings are all about providing the best, most useful results to the searcher. In other words, search engines really don’t care that you or I want our sites to be ranked highly for a given keyword, they ruthlessly evaluate every site to determine which pages are most likely to be relevant to what they user searched for.
This key point --- that search engines care most about helping people find what they want -- drives the philosophy behind not only iData’s SEO Toolkit and the SEO-friendly features of our CMS, but also the whole white-hat SEO industry. In other words, to be successful long term in attracting high search engine rankings and --- more importantly --- conversions and happy users, the focus has to be 100% on helping people find something that will be useful to them. This means that your SEO efforts can’t be about trying to drive traffic to pages whether or not those pages are really relevant. Your efforts are much better spent creating lots of relevant content and organizing it in such a way that it is easy for engines to index than they are in trying to über-optimize a few pages to move up a space or two in the results.
The benefits of a user-centered approach are not just about feeling like you’re doing the right thing --- it’s less work and more effective in the long run. The reason for this has to do with keyword effectiveness and how people search. We know that a keyword will drive more traffic to your site if there are lots of people searching for it, but we also know that ranking well on a keyword is harder when there are lots of other folks also trying to rank well for the same keyword. So, a good practical approach is to find keywords that have at least some search volume, but not a lot of other people are optimizing for. These are likely to be longer keyphrases and odd word combinations. The search volume for any one of these phrases is by definition likely to be lower than the short, highly competitive keywords, but they are much easier to optimize for. Finding and optimizing for a lot of these phrases can lead to large amount of traffic.
Here’s where search behavior comes in. Web searchers, as they get more experience with search engines, increasingly search using phrases that reflect exactly what they are looking for rather than broad terms that will potentially return lots of irrelevant results. When they get results that exactly match their long, specific phrase they are very, very likely to click those results. This means that a broad rather than deep keyword strategy usually makes a lot of sense.
But who has time to research and track all those idiosyncratic phrases? The answer is that you don’t have to. If you create enough interesting content and make it easy for engines to index all of it, you will get lots of traffic on phrases that you never thought of. The screenshot below from Google Analytics for our site, www.idatatechnologies.com, illustrates this point. A couple of weeks ago, I did a slightly out of character blog post with some details of how to use CSS to style an HTML input box. Within a couple of days, we were getting lots of new traffic from Google users who had searched for a whole variety of terms related to CSS and HTML input boxes.
Note that this post was not optimized at all --- just some content that I thought might be interesting to share with others. Suddenly, it’s driving lots of traffic without me really trying for that result. The lesson here is that if you create interesting content, and publish it in a way that is easy for engines to understand, then you will get traffic. If you do some optimization around words that are important to you, then you will get more. In most situations, you really don’t have to spend lots and lots of time trying to optimize to the nth degree.
Which brings me back to doing SEO using the SEO toolkit. My advice would be to focus on creating content and doing the obvious things (title tags, human readable URL with keywords, keywords in the text, and alt tags). The screenshot below is the SEO Toolkit optimization report for a page on a content site that iData runs. As you can see, the overall optimization score of the page is 80%, but the page ranks # on Google for our main keyword, and for several variations. They message? 80% is probably good enough, and our efforts are better spent creating new content than continuing to tweak this page to try to get it to 100%.
Tags: Search Engine OptimizationComments
Green Web Hosting
Posted 7/10/2008 6:28:22 AM by Mark Reichard
Matt Cutts' blog recently had a post about how to reduce the volume of junk postal (snail) mail that you receive , which seemed like a cool thing for someone with a readership as large as his to post about. Of course, the real answer to junk mail is to change postal rates so that it is not economical to annoy people and damage the environment with junk mail (and perhaps this kind of change would also have the benefit of forcing some of the companies that currently rely on interruption marketing rather than innovation to step up their game). In the meantime, though, anything that we as individuals can do is important because, aside from the annoyance, the environmental cost of junk mail is quite high.
Matt's suggestions got me thinking about steps iData can take to be greener, and one obvious step came to mind, namely to research and advocate green Web hosting companies. People often don't think much about the power required to run Web servers (and more importantly to power the air conditioning units that data centers run), but it is significant. Since most greenhouse gas emissions are from power plants, reducing energy consumption in any way we can is really important. So, over the next several months, we'll be looking into Green Web hosting, and we'll let you know what we find. In the meantime, here are some resources:
By the way, thinking about green Web hosting got me thinking about whether people really care about the environmental impact of the choices they make in their daily lives, which gave me an excuse to use Google Trends to do a little research about what people are searching for. If you haven't played with Google Trends, you should. It is a service that lets you see among other things the relative frequency of different search terms (i.e. Yankees versus Red Sox). The most interesting result I saw in comparing various environment-related terms was the relative frequency of searches for "electric car" versus "cheap gas" (see the screenshot below). It seems we hear from the media all the time how ordinary people are not concerned about conservation, they just want cheap gas so we should focus on more drilling (even though drilling to solve our current energy problems is, according to the US Energy Information Administration, not a realistic option ).
But guess what --- people search more frequently for information about electric cars (red line) than they do for cheap gas (blue line), which suggests to me that maybe your average Web surfer is a lot smarter than many in the media and in politics, who often suggest short sighted and unrealistic solutions when what people want is real, thoughtful leadership. This impression is further borne out by the lower graph, displaying the volume of news stories about both terms. The conventional wisdom is that news stories drive search volume, but in this case you see that the reverse may be true --- the most recent spike in the volume of stories about electric cars has come after a sustained rise in the number searches, suggesting that the media is belatedly catching on to people's interest in electric cars.