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Search Engine Marketing Resources

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Smack

I thought I would start a new topic for those interested in posting resources to consult on Search Engine Marketing. A few years ago, I got into SEM when our company was renamed and we had to relaunch our brand. I was working for an ISP to the hospitality industry at the time, and when I tested the search results for keywords that should have led to our new website, I found that you had to type in our new brand name to find it. None of the popular keywords worked. Our company probably spent around $40,000 to $50,000 on this new site.

The long story short version is that after I performed a detailed audit on the site, we had to relaunch an entirely new website (something we probably would have done anyway, given a change in management). And while those who were responsible for the previous site were embarrassed, a relaunch was necessary.

One of the resources I found to be very valuable in conducting the audit and making a pitch for the new website was a book by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt entitled Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company's Web Site, published by IBM Press. Since I hope to get back into SEM, I started doing additional research on this topic recently. And although SEM will continue to change and evolve, and though there are many new resources available, I still find this book to be a great resource on all the fundamentals.

I hope this new topic attracts new posts regarding the ever changing field of SEM and that people will provide links to blogs, news articles, books, etc. they find useful. Thanks,

Greg McMurdie

Leaves on a Tree

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sjwinslow

Greg,

I be interested in hearing a few of the items the audit turned up on the site you mentioned. I took a look at your site, very nice with a lot of names included.

I'm very interested in SEM since I have Adsense on my site. I've done Adsense on my site for almost two years with a traffic increase of about 30% increase year over year but I haven't seen near the bump that I had this time last year.

I had some good new traffic from MSN-Live during the summer for a couple of months but it's all faded away now. I've had several bouts of a spammer hacking my site since October and that seems to put a dent in my search engine ranking and that may have turned off MSN. The money keywords for my site are "surname meaning" and "meaning of last name". Google and Yahoo have me on page #1 most of the time but its never a guarantee.

Thanks for posting the new topic. I know many here are not interested in traffic to their site and some even have the search engines blocked by logins. However, I been more interested in getting more people to my site than adding bells and whistles to what I already have. For this reason, I haven't posted much here lately.

Steve

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Smack

I be interested in hearing a few of the items the audit turned up on the site you mentioned. I took a look at your site, very nice with a lot of names included.

Hi Steve,

Sorry it's taken me a while to get back to you. We were very busy with the holidays. Here's a few of the findings of the audit. Where appropriate, I'll try to apply some of the lessons we learned to TNG-related sites. I'll also try to write this with a general audience in mind.

1 - Indexing - The company had recently changed names and needed to launch the new brand. After the new launch of the company and the creation of a new website, the website owner had not submitted the site to be indexed by any of the "big three". The old URL was being redirected to the new URL. Obviously this was a problem since the owner didn't understand the impact this would have on organic search rankings. Any site, or any page on a site, can be checked if it has been indexed by using Google's search operators. Similar ones can be used with Live Search and Yahoo!.

2 - Key Words - When the site was launched, it didn't employ any of the key words that either our channel or end user customers were using to find our type of services (the company was a niche-ISP). The only way a search engine user could find our company was if they knew our brand or company name (the same, by the way). Since "content is king" in SEM, well written content is most likely to attract rankings and therefore visitors. One way to improve rankings is to focus on content. For example, I just checked one of the histories on Darrin's site. When I googled the name, this history was ranked #1 vs. her individual page, which wasn't in the "top ten" on the first page (search engine users typically don't browse beyond the top 30 results). If my site were geared to a particular surname, location, etc. (my wife is a Winslow descendant by the way), I'd try to create as much content about that particular topic as possible using "landing pages", "histories", "albums", notes, etc.. I'd also use a "link strategy" to build relevance (see below). And with a general site like ours, we're trying to add as much relevant content as possible to individuals and families - but that is going to take time. We have literally thousands of items to add. Unfortunately, old and stale content doesn't attract rankings and therefore doesn't attract visitors. So that's one drawback to a family history site, because how much content can be created for individuals, places, events, etc.?

3 - Ad Agencies - While this may not apply to TNG-related sites, one thing our audit turned up is that most "ad agencies" hired by a company's marketing department are great at creating good visuals, and compelling content. However, many are not well versed in SEM. And those that can create compelling content, do not understand how to incorporate search terms to create that content. (Note: Keep in mind that this was two years ago. I'm sure things have changed since this time - but this was "generally true" two years ago).

4 - Offline Sales and Leads - Since our business model was directed towards "offline sales", our web site design choice was correct in that it was informational. But it didn't effectively highlight (e.g. optimized landing pages - see below) any "call to action" or measure the effectiveness of any web-based actions (e.g. web conversions). The website was largely viewed by executive management as a "poster" on the information super highway that Al Gore created for us. :grin:

5 - Measuring Site Effectiveness - No one was tasked to measure the site's traffic, page views, visits, sessions, new/unique visitors, time spent on site, bounce rate, pages viewed per visit, key words, etc. In other words, no one knew the SEM fundamentals that are available using Google Analytics, or WebTrends, let alone Site Catalyst. The company outsourced the website to a former employee and as long as the site had reasonably good uptime, no one thought to measure - or ask about - it's effectiveness.

6 - Optimized Landing Pages - The site's landing pages were not optimized for key words, nor to key phrases. (I used Digital Point's free service to track progress.) Consequently, the content on the site's product or service pages were not being found by targeted users. As I mentioned above, one of the best ways to optimize pages using one of the pre-built TNG templates is to include compelling content in the histories, digital media, notes, albums, and what's new sections. And employing some type of link strategy will not only help users find the content they are looking for, but can improve a landing page's search ranking.

7 - Link Popularity - I used MarketLeap's Link Popularity Check to check the site's link popularity. There were very few external links to the site. MarketLeap reported that it had a "limited presence" on the web. Since Google started incorporating links into it's algorithm, link popularity became a factor in rankings. The only outbound links on the site were to a few partner's websites, but had little connection to our core business since most of these companies were investors and in unrelated businesses. Over time, I am going through the sources and repositories on our site to ensure they have the appropriate outbound links. I will also try to do the same with "notes", histories, cemeteries, etc. But it will take some time. And since it's harder to build external links to our site, I created a Live Spaces blog. We plan to use this as a sort of online "resource log" of our family history activity. It will provide additional information and context around the images, histories, and stories related to the individuals on the site. It will also have many direct links to our site and other sites that are contextually relevant.

As you can tell, we operated on a small budget. But there are a number of inexpensive tools available to track and monitor a site's effectiveness.

After reading many people's comments in the forum about SEM, my approach is that I want our site to be as widely known as possible through all available channels. There is always a chance that someone could provide that one additional link that opens up new lines of research. And even though we've had our site up just a few months, we're already inundated with emails of information we need to act on. It's actually taking more time than we anticipated - but in a good way. 8)

I doubt any of this information is new or particularly useful to you, but hopefully the information above may be useful to other TNG users. If you want to get into more detail, let me know and we can chat via email. In fact, you may help me set up AdWords on our template-driven site some time in the future!

Greg

p.s. We need to get with Darrin and figure out why his site is "fully indexed" with Live Search (78,700 pages) and Yahoo! (69,300) versus Google (5,260). That's interesting. I notice that a lot of the links are to Neptis.

Greg

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hillgenealogy

The biggest drawback to TNG is the inability to add custom titles, descriptions, and keywords to every page, or at the very least content pages like histories where you have a lot of custom text. Adding keyword rich notes to the individual people profiles will give the search engines more content to index and make the page more relevant to a particular search.

You should not be using the $title for the description metatag, and all metatags for every page should be taylored specifically to that page. When someone finds your search result in a search engine, the title tells them at a glance whether it is relevant to their search or not. The description is your ad that tells them why they should choose your page. It shouldn't just repeat the title, as this doesn't give the surfer any additional information, so he is less likely to click your link.

Using a list of generic keywords sitewide actually hurts your ranking if all those keywords don't appear on the page referenced. You will rank higher with 3 or 4 specific keywords than you will with a string of a dozen or more keywords that aren't strictly relevant.

The site name shouldn't be included with the title of every page, this just waters down the relevance of the title for SEO purposes. This can easily be removed in the code.

Enclosing page titles in <h1 tags will give your page a boost. You can hardcode this where those titles are called in the scripts.

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Smack

I agree. I've thought about contacting Darrin and offering to help SEOize TNG. With a few simple tweeks anyone's data would be more highly ranked in search engines.

Although the page titles for individuals are optimized for the individual's name and key events, it would be nice to modify these and other pages as you suggest. One example is the Album section where every page title starts with "Album:", etc. Since the first word in the page title is the most "prominent", it doesn't help that each album page title starts with "Album:" (I use template #2). I also agree that the site name should not be appended to every page title since it does water down or take away the effectiveness of the title.

As far as the description goes, it is often used as the "snippet" in Google and it would be nice to be able to create a custom snippet or select a set of default fields to create a 150 character snippet. Being able to create or select a set of default fields for each site section would be invaluable since 43% of users view the snippet to determine if they will click through on a search engine result page.

The keyword meta tag - although still used by some of the Inktomi-based search engines - is ignored by Google, but for those search engines that still use the keyword meta tag, site-wide keywords certainly don't help.

Instead of the header tags enclosing the page titles, I'd suggest they be used on the individual's name for pages of an individual, the album name for each album, the name of the photo or document for each photo or document page, etc. If the headers contained the same keywords as the page titles - and if these could be customized - this would reinforce those keywords and assist in achieving high rankings.

TNG is a great program - and I'm sure the enhancement list is a mile long right now - but if it incorporated some basic SEO best practices, it would assist in garnering additional search engine referrals and help make connections with other relatives.

Now that Microsoft purchased Fast and now Powerset, and the fact that Icahn is probably going to force the ouster of the Yahoo! board in order to revisit a Microsoft merger, it is going to be interesting to see if the semantic web gets greater traction. (Yahoo! launched the Open Search Platform earlier this year). Hopefully TNG will keep up with these changes.

Thanks for the post...

Greg

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Ken Roy

I agree. I've thought about contacting Darrin and offering to help SEOize TNG. With a few simple tweeks anyone's data would be more highly ranked in search engines.

Although the page titles for individuals are optimized for the individual's name and key events, it would be nice to modify these and other pages as you suggest. One example is the Album section where every page title starts with "Album:", etc. Since the first word in the page title is the most "prominent", it doesn't help that each album page title starts with "Album:" (I use template #2). I also agree that the site name should not be appended to every page title since it does water down or take away the effectiveness of the title.

As far as the description goes, it is often used as the "snippet" in Google and it would be nice to be able to create a custom snippet or select a set of default fields to create a 150 character snippet. Being able to create or select a set of default fields for each site section would be invaluable since 43% of users view the snippet to determine if they will click through on a search engine result page.

The keyword meta tag - although still used by some of the Inktomi-based search engines - is ignored by Google, but for those search engines that still use the keyword meta tag, site-wide keywords certainly don't help.

Instead of the header tags enclosing the page titles, I'd suggest they be used on the individual's name for pages of an individual, the album name for each album, the name of the photo or document for each photo or document page, etc. If the headers contained the same keywords as the page titles - and if these could be customized - this would reinforce those keywords and assist in achieving high rankings.

TNG is a great program - and I'm sure the enhancement list is a mile long right now - but if it incorporated some basic SEO best practices, it would assist in garnering additional search engine referrals and help make connections with other relatives.

Now that Microsoft purchased Fast and now Powerset, and the fact that Icahn is probably going to force the ouster of the Yahoo! board in order to revisit a Microsoft merger, it is going to be interesting to see if the semantic web gets greater traction. (Yahoo! launched the Open Search Platform earlier this year). Hopefully TNG will keep up with these changes.

Thanks for the post...

Greg

Greg,

Some of the enhancements in TNG come from TNG User contributions. So if you know how to code some of these enhancements, they would likely be incorporated. Of course it might be a good idea to check with Darrin first.

The $title for the getperson.php page was changed in TNG 7.0 to include birth and death information along with the individual's name. The Family Group sheet was also changed to include marriage information.

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hillgenealogy

Has anyone done the coding for an .htaccess mod rewrite to take the ? out of urls for Version 7.0? I saw another thread that was for earlier versions but didn't know if it would still work on later releases. On my joomla sites, with this change to URLs, I went from just 5 pages indexed to thousands in about a week.

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