Posts Tagged ‘search engine optimization’

SEO: Optimizing Flash websites for better rankings

There are many beautiful clean crisp & funky websites out there that look very attractive and is obviously appealing to the visitor. The functionality as well as the page animation is awesome and everyone that goes to that website boasts about it. But, one question to ask – how many visitors actually visits this website?

This is generally a question an SEO expert would ask, and more often than not the answer is always quite a few, sometimes not even hundreds. Disappointing as it seems, this is the reality most flash websites have to endure.

The main reason for not attract much traffic is that search engines dislike flash as they find it difficult to index the contents within the flash file. This is true for all search engines. There is however a few pointers for optimizing a flash website by squeezing traffic out of them.

  • As a general rule, keep flash movies at a minimum. In this case less is more and search engines are not the only reason. First, Flash movies, especially banners and other kinds of advertisement, distract users and they generally tend to skip them. Second, Flash movies consume a lot of bandwidth.
  • Content: One should have some text with the main points of the story (including your keywords) and then you should have the Flash movie to add further detail or just a visual representation of the story.  The greatest SEO sin is to have the whole site made in Flash! This is unforgivable and one should not even dream of high rankings!
  • Navigation: Another ‘Hell No’ is to use flash for navigation, as well as using it on the landing page that was once fashionable to have a beautiful flash movie that linked to the ‘main area’ of the website. These days it is a common mistake to have javascript / AJAX for the navigation, one should use text links or images (that are optimized).

Workarounds for Optimizing Flash Sites

Even though workarounds are not a solution, flash sites can still be optimized. Here are some approaches:

  • Provide alternative pages
    For a good site it is a must to provide html only pages that do not force the user to watch the Flash movie. Preparing these pages requires more work but the reward is worth it because not only users, but search engines as well will see the html only pages.
  • Input metadata
    This is a very important approach, although it is often underestimated and misunderstood. Although metadata is not as important to search engines as it used to be, Flash development tools allow easy to add metadata to your movies, so there is no excuse to leave the metadata fields empty.

These approaches are some of the most important examples in optimizing your flash website. To assist you further, I have found this a free tool that visually shows how your Flash files will be seen by search engines.  Don’t be surprised if you don’t see anything! Hope this helps! 🙂

SEO: Geo Targeting in Google (this affects all ecommerce websites)

There are many websites out there with the intention of making sales online or acquiring customers from the internet. These websites do official business which is targeted to certain geographical locations – either targeted to only a single country, a number of countries or the entire world.

Search engine rankings in Google are influenced by a geo targeting aspect of the domain and its hosting location. If one didn’t consider geographical location as a factor, one would think ranking a website accurately is a straightforward task. The ranking we check on Google’s results page is just the tip of the iceberg with respect to client expectations. For example, say you have a client in the US targeting and you are an SEO specialist living in SA. Of course, your clients’ and your geographical locations are different and so are the ranking results you see on, which are NOT exactly the same.

Let me explain further with an example – let’s use the keyword ‘mugs’, which in South Africa ranks at position 7 on, your client in the US uses the same keyword on and the same website could rank 9, or even worse rank on the second page at position 15 when checked in the US.

If you are an SEO living in SA and you check your client’s rankings using, the results are geographically biased. Google will deliver results that are different from those it would give if you had checked the site’s ranking exactly in the targeted location. But when rankings are checked in the US, search results are unbiased, since the searcher is also from the US.

Because of the discrepancies in the search engine results there is a lot of conflict between SEO companies and their clients. To simulate the outlook of a searcher living in the same country as your client, you will have to use a proxy. The proxy acts like the middle man between Google data centers and your computer. If you are using a US-based proxy, then Google treats the IP address of the proxy like a US-based searcher.

  1. Go to Google and search for a free proxy in the specific country of choice, in this case USA ie: ‘USA free proxy’
  2. Click the proxy of choice, in the proxy’s search section – type in
  3. then in the search box, type in your desired search ie: ‘mugs’


Using this technique, any SEO can accurately check rankings in Google with differences in geographical location or Google country-targeted search engines.

What to look out for when choosing an SEO Consultant

Deciding to hire an SEO agent / consultant is a big decision that can potentially improve your sites traffic and rankings as well as save you time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation.

Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO agent / consultant can do to your site. I have reviewed some useful hints / tips to keep you in the know about SEO.

Many Search Engine Optimizers, consultants and other agencies provide useful services for website owners, including:

  • An SEO Audit – Review of your site content or structure
  • Technical advice on website development: for example, hosting, redirects, error pages, use of JavaScript, flash.
  • Content development (how to rank using your content)
  • Keyword research
  • SEO training
  • Internet / Online Marketing strategies
  • Expertise in specific markets and geographies.

Keep in mind that the Google search results page includes organic search results and often paid advertisement (denoted by the heading “Sponsored Links”) as well. Advertising with Google won’t have any effect on your site’s presence in our search results. Google never accepts money to include or rank sites in their search results, and it costs nothing to appear in googles’ organic search results.

A great time to hire an SEO specialist or Agency is when you’re considering a site redesign, planning to launch a new site, want to market a new product / service or increase your bottom line. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site, depending on the market competitiveness.

Some useful questions to ask an SEO include:

       Can you show me examples of your previous work?

       Do you follow the SEO best practices?

       Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?

       What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? How do you measure your success?

       What’s your experience in my industry?

       What’s your experience in my country/city?

       What’s your experience developing international sites?

       What are your most important SEO techniques?

       How long have you been in business?

       How can I expect to communicate with you? Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?

       Where is your company situated? Infrastructure? How many employees?

While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate google’s guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from google’s index. Here are some things to consider:

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.

Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

“Dear Sandy,
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through Googles’ Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap.

Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.

Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.

You should never have to link to an SEO.

Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines, however if they are willing to implement a link building strategy; make sure that this is done with high traffic websites that have a good PR (page rank).

Be sure to understand where the money goes.

While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn’t work with Google because their advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results as displayed with the ‘sponsored links’, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.

What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?

One common scam is the creation of “shadow” domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client’s behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor’s domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

Another illicit practice is to place “doorway” pages loaded with keywords on the client’s site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO’s other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content.

What are some other things to look out for?

There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. It’s far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO:

  • owns shadow domains
  • puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
  • offers to sell keywords in the address bar
  • doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear on search results pages
  • guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
  • operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
  • gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
  • has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google

If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way, contact me for a web evaluation or SEO Audit.

How to SEO for Collecta (the new Real Time Search Engine)

We are all familiar with using search engines to find what we are looking for, and this is primarily because search engine optimizers put a lot of energy into SEO in assisting a website to rank well.

Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Ask, are all different search engines, but in many ways they’re all the same. Like most other search engines out there, these sites work in the same basic way. Search engines like these scan the Internet, archiving information about the pages they find, so this data can be quickly accessed when users like us type in search terms.

It may take several hours to a few days for brand-new information to properly register on search engines before listing results in a comparative ranking system. It’s pretty complex, and that’s why so much emphasis is put on SEO.

There is however, a new real time search engine called Collecta. Collecta monitors the update streams of popular realtime blogs and sites like Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, Facebook and mySpace and shows the results as they happen.

Unlike, other search engines Collecta uses an XMPP protocol to collect content all over the Internet, condensing information into constantly-updating data streams. XMPP (which was inspired by XML), is used to update information on the Web in real time, and that’s just what Collecta does for searchers – gives them real-time results that are not hours or days old.

This constantly changing, up-to-the-minute search is great for users who want to find brand-new data, but it could potentially be a headache for webmasters who want to figure prominently in most search results. Many have learned how to master the art of SEO for traditional engines like Google and Yahoo. If you blogged a ton of fresh content yesterday, Collecta may not even recognize you today. The Internet, and all the data therein, moves pretty fast. 

Optimizing for Collecta

Websites that gets a lot of comments, and blogs that are linked with twitter and other social media websites will naturally get a lot of attention because Collecta displays the newest, freshest content on the web, as Collecta collects information in real time.

Optimizing for this search engine is completely unlike the SEO tricks we’ve practiced in the past. To get listed often with Collecta, you’ve got to keep that content coming all the time, by either encouraging reader comments, adding new data to Twitter and other social media sites and just keep adding new content.

SEO vs PPC (The battle is on!)

Both search engine optimization (SEO) & pay per click (PPC) advertising are excellent online marketing strategies without a doubt, but which is the more dominate, more popular and more cost effective?

Interestingly enough, Google recently released some info regarding just this: on average 20% of web browsers clicked on PPC adverts (text adverts on the right hand side and sometimes at the top of Google’s results page) while the other 80% of them clicked on the organic listings (website listings on the left hand side of Google’s results page).

So we can safely say that the more popular of the two is SEO (according to the web browsers / website visitors).

Previous to this, stats showed that 1 in every 20 people used to click on a PPC advert / Google Adwords campaign. If this is so evident, then why do most people spend the largest part of their online marketing budgets on PPC campaigns rather than SEO?

“It could be that SEO is a long continuous and time consuming process of optimizing and making strategic alterations (sometimes even restructuring the entire website), while PPC advertising displays instant (yet short term) results – results that CEO’s want to see immediately”.

In the US, (in 2007) companies spent 89% of online budget towards PPC adverting, and only about 11% on SEO. In 2008, the ad agencies in the US reported that on average companies spent $300 000 on PPC advertising and $90 000 on organic SEO. The companies that spend their budget on SEO still remain to rank (organically) today, while the companies, who spent their budgets on PPC, either don’t rank or rank very poorly. These figures show that PPC is more dominate over SEO in this case, but SEO appears to be more cost effective and provides a greater return on investment (ROI) especially in the long run.

“In my opinion, the reason Pay Per Click gets higher spend is due to the fact that large corporations and companies are more focused on instant gratification and their short-term bottom line”.

The hard truth is that SEO is a far superior long-term strategy. It is probably the most cost effective and powerful online marketing strategy that currently exists. Roughly 88% of all website visitors originate from the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.); this means that when you are ranking well in the organic listings you are targeting approximately 70% – 80% of your online market.

The three primary advantages of SEO over PPC:

  • No direct marketing costs when your ‘ads’ get clicked.
  • Organic rankings are more credible and thus have a higher conversion rate. In fact, between 68% and 72% of web searchers believe organic search results produce the most relevant information.
  • Far higher visibility on search engines and therefore more traffic.
  • You can rank for hundreds / thousands of keywords with a professional SEO strategy
  • Your website will continue to rank as long as it is live

From my experience in online marketing, companies that allocate their budget on SEO, experience far greater returns, and if you are currently spending your online budget on PPC, then contact me for a chat to discuss a personalized SEO strategy. I am willing to help! 🙂

SEO in a Nutshell

89% of internet users use search engines to find what they are looking for, and in February 2008 there were about 10 billion searches done in the US alone. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a process of positioning a website as high as possible for organic searches on search engines. The higher your website is listed, the more accessible your website is to the public and this in turn will result in huge traffic to your website.

In layman’s terms: go to Google, and do a search for ‘kids parties’, and a website appears number one displaying relevant content on kids parties (maybe even selling products or their service) – this is due to an effective and well implemented SEO strategy. Google ranks websites based on two primary processes – onsite optimization and offsite optimization.

Onsite Optimization is basically optimizing an entire website (each and every web page), and this entails tweaking the content and everything within the content (links, images, style etc.), as well as certain HTML tags, and regularly modifying the website structure and content in order to improve your organic rankings on search engines. Search engines use ‘bots’ or ‘spiders’ which are algorithms that crawls all the pages of your website. Once complete, the ‘spiders’ then allocate a rank for your website and this rank is the rank you see on search engines when doing a search.

Offsite Optimization or link building is one of the most important techniques of SEO and involves acquiring links from other well ranked, credible or popular websites. The more websites that links (or points) to your website (especially if that website has similar content), the more credible and valuable your website will appear to search engines – this is like a stamp of approval from other websites endorsing your website. The higher the number of quality links you receive, the better your link popularity and rankings become.