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Google’s Sandbox Documented?

If you’re into Search Engine Optimization you might be interested in checking out this article and the comments at this Threadwatch post titled Google’s War on SEO. It refers to a recent patent by Google that could shed some light on where they’re going with their algorithm.

It is pretty heavy stuff – but sheds a bit of light on the legendary and often speculated about Google Sandbox. I’m yet to go right through it all – but one of the initial take home comments seems to be that if you want to grow in Google you need to work on ‘natural’ growth and not the sudden appearance of a large site with loads of backlinks to it (which has been an approach of many SEO experts perviously.

This makes sense and is probably good news to bloggers who in most cases grow their blogs pretty slowly over time with a steady growth in backlinks. Anyway – if you’re into this stuff have a read and let us know what it all means to you in comments below.

There is also a good discussion on the same topic at Search Engine Watch.

Google SEO Tips

If you want to spend some time this week optimizing your blog for Google then you might want to check out some of these articles on SEO for Google that came up in my RSS feeds this morning. They are good solid tips for people wanting to learn some SEO basics:

Google Optimization Secrets From The Trenches
How to get top placement on Google
How Image Links Can Help Build a Better User and Search Experience

What does Google display under your page title?

Antone over at SEO SEO Secrets of the PageRank Masters has finally updated his blog with a post on determining what Google displays under your page title in search results which a few people have asked me about recently. I hope it helps.

‘So how do you control what text appears in Google’s search results? Make sure the search terms you are optimizing for appear close together early in your meta description tag or close together early in your page. If your site navigation appears above your content, put it at the end of the document, and use CSS to position in higher in the page instead of putting it at the beginning of the document. Then, hope that people use the search terms you’re optimizing for!’

Frequently Asked Questions on ‘Links’

Wayne over at SEO Chat has a good article on Links – Links: Frequently Asked Questions. It might be of some use to those of you interested in optimizing your blogs for Search Engines. Don’t be put off by the basics at the start (ie first question is – ‘what are links?’) – it gets deeper than that (I guess you’ve got to take account for all stages of knowledge when writing these pieces). Here’s a snippet:

‘While quantity of links is important, quality is even more important. Some inbound links are simply given more value than others by the search engine algorithms. Links from pages deemed to be more relevant, in terms of topic and theme, are given more weight. Also given more value are links that are labeled with more keyword rich anchor text, links from pages with higher Google PageRank, and links that originate within content pages rather than from the ubiquitous “links pages.” There is even some evidence that linking out to other Web pages provides some benefit to the link sending page.’

Read more at Links: Frequently Asked Questions

Formatting images for SEO

One of the most commonly known Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tips that go around has to do with the way you name and tag the images that you use on your site. Its fairly commonly accepted by most SEO experts that Google not only looks at the text on your blog in order to measure its worth but that Google’s spidering bots also take a look at the code you use in your image files.

Over the years SEO techniques have been developed to abuse this fact and webmasters have ‘stuffed’ their ‘alt tags’ with all kinds of keywords – however Google has found ways to combat this and treats such strategies as spamming their bots now – however it is still legitimate to put keywords in you image tags and I would recommend that you do (within reason).

If I’m writing on one of my technical blogs about a product and want to post a picture – I always make sure that the file name of the picture includes the name of the product (with-hyphens-between-words). The system I use (ecto) to publish my blog uploads photos automatically to set the file name as the ‘alt tags’ (which are the words that come up as your picture loads) and uploads the picture to its own URL with the file name in the actual URL. This ensures that when Google’s bot spiders through your site it sees your keywords an additional few times per picture.

[Read more…]

Increase Traffic to Your Blog from Search Engines – The Top 5 Tips

Tinu Abayomi-Paul post an article over at Search Engine Guide on how to Increase Traffic to Your Blog from Search Engines – The Top 5 Tips. Might be useful for some – although nothing really new here – you’ll find it all in my SEO archives too.

Getting Yahoo Traffic for your Blog

One of the constant frustrations that I’ve had with blogging over the years has been my inability to rank well in Yahoo’s search engine results. Despite the fact that Google seems to love some of my blogs – Yahoo has always been rather standoffish with them. It does seem to index my sites but it might as well not have as the percentage of traffic it sends is miniscule. This is until recently.

A few weeks ago I saw a number of bloggers talking about a technique that promised to get Yahoo indexing blogs better – so I gave it a go and have had some moderate success. Its still not traffic in the levels that Google sends (but I guess that would be hard as more people use Google to search the web) but its better than previous levels.

Really the strategy is simple and it involves signing up for a MyYahoo page and using the RSS Headlines feature. This feature allows you to track a variety of blogs via RSS. Simply add your own RSS feeds and it seems that Yahoo adds them to its own tracking system which must be linked to their indexing system.

Just a day after adding the feeds to my MyYahoo page I noticed an increase in my traffic from Yahoo. Since then as it has indexed more pages it seemingly is sending even more traffic across to some of my blogs.

No guarantees but Its worth a try if you’re looking for more traffic on your blog (and who isn’t).

Relevant links on this topic include:
How Yahoo’s Recent Facelift Can Mean More Traffic to Your Site
My Yahoo RSS Headlines Module – FAQs
My Yahoo RSS Upgrades Officially Live

Search Engine Optimization for MSN Search

One of the nice surprises that we’ve had over at the Breaking News Blog collective over the past few months has been the way that MSN Search has ranked our blogs highly. Even though the blogs are new and are yet to have the many links that their competitors have pointing at them – we have been on the receiving end of some pretty decent traffic from this new search engine.

A number of times I’ve asked why this is so – I’m not sure how long it will last but we’re making the most of it while it does and doing our best to optimize the blogs for MSN and the other Search Engines.

Search Engine Journal has a helpful article on Search Engine Optimization for MSN Search which might give some hints as to why we’ve been so highly ranked on MSN Search. here are a few of the key points that they make that might help you optimize your blog for MSN search – a growing force in the Search Engine wars.

– ‘MSN readily admits that MSNbot will actively be using Meta tags for part of its web site analysis.’

– ‘Similar to other search engines, the ‘title tag’ again appears to be the most heavily weighted within the algorithm, followed closely by the Meta Description Tag’

– ‘The Bot does not read text within a graphic’ (rather it likes simple and plain text best)

– MSN Search calls for pages to be under 150K in size

– Words (even keywords) within headers, footers and tables will not be read. Again, simple text is the rule of thumb.

– Linking, as per usual, will be an important part of MSNBot’s equation. (particularly internal links from the main page are powerful. They suggest that every page on your site should be accessible from your front page by three clicks only).

If you want more information on SEO for MSN search you might want to look over the MSN Search section for Site Owners.

Google Back Link Update in Progress

Google seems to be doing a back link update at present. I’ve noticed significant changes in some of my blogs back links so far. Traffic changes and SERPs often follow such updates.

Update: Others are seeing it too

Update II : Sorry for my lack of explanation here – I’ve had two emails, a comment and two instant messages asking for clarification as to ‘backl inks’. I was in a rush to post the information and am about to dash off now – but put simply (or as simply as I know how), a ‘back link’ is simply another site linking to your blog.

Every month or two Google does an update to the number of other sites that it finds linking to your blog (and the posts within it). The amount of links pointing at your blog has an important part to play as to how highly they rank your site. No one really knows just how they rank sites, but we do know that backlinks play a major part in it. So when they do these periodic updates webmasters all over the web hold their breath to see what it will reveal and what impact it might have.

For example – problogger.net had no recorded back links to it two days ago because it was a brand new domain (only a month or so old). A few minutes ago I checked and found that Google now sees 2080 backlinks pointing to it (probably mainly from my old domain – but also from many of my wonderful readers who changed the links on their sites to the new domain). This should help me increase my readership in the coming weeks and months.

Note: Backlink Updates take time to take full effect. Google has many data centres and it takes time for them all to come into line (if they ever completely do). If you check your back links now they could well be different tomorrow (or in 10 minutes) – it takes a while for Google to stop dancing.

How do you check your back link numbers I hear you ask? There are a number of ways. You can use a number of online tools – I use Digital Point’s Back Link Tracker which is a free service. To get the most of it and track your back links over time you have to check it every day or two. otherwise you’ll just see how many back links you have on any given day rather than the changes in your back links over time. It will also track your page rank, how many pages Google indexes and other things like your ranking on particular key words.

You can also use the ‘link:’ command in Google. ie type in link:www.yourdomainname.com into the search field on Google. It will come back to you with sites that it finds linking to your site. Note: if you use this method your results probably won’t reveal all links to your site – I know doing it for me now the results omit ‘duplicate results’. But if you do this over time you’ll see changes. There are plenty of other tools out there for this type of thing also – my suggestion is that if you’re going to track it choose one tool and stick to it so that you can track your results consistently over time.