SEO Forum Watch Blog

SEO Forum Watch Blog is a collection of the best posts from the leading search engine optimisation forums. Find all the best discussions in one place, the SEO Forum Watch Blog

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Location: Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom

On a quest for knowledge

December 16, 2005

Does Article Distribution Help SEO?

I thought it would be nice to make this post and more to point, share my joy with all three of you that may be reading it. Over the last few weeks I’ve started experimenting with writing articles and distributing them to see if it would help with SEO.

What is Article Distribution for SEO?

In short, article distribution is writing articles that are focused on your market sectors target audience. The articles could be news worthy stories or anything else you feel people would like to read about. You then submit the article to websites that display them. There are even services dedicated to distributing articles. I would recommend Articlesender which is one of the best distributors I’ve used and completely free.

When submitting your article you can normally add what’s known as a bio box. The bio box is displayed at the end of the article and is your chance to inform people who wrote the article. You can add a link to your site in the bio box.

If your article is accepted and posted on the site, it should be indexed by the search engines. So you will now have a new one way link pointing to your site. People who are looking for content to publish on their site or ezine may find your article and choose to use it. The rules are if they do use your article they have to include your bio box with the links.

Does it work for SEO?

I don’t know? Not yet anyway. I’m still tracking the results of the few articles I’ve wrote and distributed so far (some of which I’ve posted on SEO Forum Watch). There is a good thread over at WebWorkShop discussing the same question and I came across an interesting discussion on Matt Cutt’s blog. Matt didn’t directly say article distribution doesn’t help Google SEO but did say he felt sites that simply reproduced articles where not adding any value to the web. Whether that means Google discredits links from article distribution sites or sites reusing the content I don’t know. But as mentioned before I’m tracking the articles to find out if any SEO benefit is happening on what search engines.

Other Benefits of Article Distribution

The last article I published did however produce significant traffic. The article titled “The SEO Snowball Effect” was picked up and used by both WebProNews.com and WebProNews.co.uk. This had the effect of referring traffic from their site through the bio box link on the article to the company I work for. Looking at our stats I could see in two days WebProNews had referred just over 180 visitors to our site. We even had someone requesting a SEO campaign because they read the article.

In my opinion this is where article writing is going perform. If you can write articles of such quality, that the authority sites in your sector use them. Then your going to get both targeted traffic and recognition of being an expert because of your association with them.

I will be posting more on this when I get evidence of whether article distribution has any SEO benefit. I’ve got a feeling it will work on Yahoo and MSN but not the big G. If I fail to make another post before Christmas or you fail to make it back, have a great Xmas and a good new year.

December 13, 2005

SEO Forum Watch - 2005 - 2006

Well it’s coming to that time of the year again, where we say good bye to the old and welcome the new. Lots of us will be looking at what was achieved in 2005 and looking at what can be achieved in 2006. The New Year is always exciting in the search industry, with people rounding up the year and predicting what’s going to be hot, where things are heading etc.

Anyone who visits SEO Forum Watch regularly would of noticed it has been put on the back burner but I refuse to end the blog there and know it will come into its own come 2006. When I get time and the opportunity is right, the SEO Forum Watch will be moving to a WordPress blog and most probably be changing its focus slightly.

2005 was an interesting year for the SEO community, with the new MSN search probably being one of the biggest stories. And then towards the end of the year Google’s Jagger update hit us in three parts but rumours of Google engineers not being happy with the update is probably the bigger story there.

It looks like the Jagger update has tried to rebalance the importance of natural linking by devaluing reciprocal links and adding more emphasis to TrustRank (authority sites). However looking at Google’s results does leave one feeling like they have taken a bit of nose dive, even if the sites I’m conducting SEO on have benefited from the update!

As I said above the new MSN search in my opinion is the biggest story of 2005. MSN was previously using Yahoo as their search provider and is still using Yahoo Search Marketing (formerly Overture) to provide their sponsored results. MSN will be launching their own pay per click advertising service in 2006, replacing Yahoo’s and giving them an all important foothold on the SEM market. No doubt an advertising network will quickly follow for web publishers to be paid for displaying their ads (think Google adsense but with a MSN logo).

Well this has been my first round up post but no doubt I will post at least one more (time permitting). If you do for some reason forget not to come back, have a great Christmas and all the best for the New Year. Have a drink for me and raise your glass to getting even more traffic in 2006.

James Anderson

December 06, 2005

The SEO Snowball Effect

SEO can seem like a long hard slog with little to no reward at times. Your mind often racing, constantly thinking about keyword phrases, H1 tags and links as you lay in bed trying to catch a few winks. Six months down the line your SEO efforts are nowhere to be seen, not even a trace, except in the redness of what used to be the whites of your eyes. But what if, it didn’t have to be this way. What if, there was a method of seeing results sooner rather than later.

I still remember when I first set out on my path of SEO enlightenment, vividly. If I knew some of things I know now, it would have been a completely different journey and a much shorter one to arrive at the place I’m at now (slightly further up a never ending path). The sleepless nights as my brain churned through the new chunks of information learnt that day. The eureka moments when you learn the most simplistic of things like anchor text and emphasising keywords with bold tags. Learning how to perform keyword research was one of the most enjoyable and undervalued aspects of SEO. And did I mention the sleepless nights.

Anyway enough reminiscing and back to topic of this article. The SEO snowball effect is a simple an analogy. Remember those cartoons where a character would role down a snow covered hill, gathering more snow and increasing in size until they crashed into something like a tree. Well that is the SEO snowball effect, minus the crash at the end (hopefully).

You see, if you drew a chart that measured the effort put into SEO and the traffic it produces, you get something very much similar to that snowball. At first the effort you put in yields very little traffic if any at all. But putting the same amount of effort in again results in slightly more traffic, until further along the chart, the same amount of effort yields a much greater output of traffic.

The problem with this is the time it can take to see the first initial traffic from your efforts. Many webmasters will give up because of this, while others carry on but only see little reward in the first year or so. However, there is a way of optimising the initial stages of this snowball and it all comes down to keyword selection.

In brief, many webmasters focus on keywords they believe are worth the effort in terms of traffic and rightly so. After all what’s the point of chasing keywords that no one uses or only have a very small number of impressions? So we go after the big boys, the keywords with lots and lots of traffic. But this contributes to the snowball effect because the effort required to obtain a top hundred ranking can be a lot on keywords with higher traffic levels. While the traffic gained from being listed in position 67 will be insignificant. So may be there is a reason to gun for those keywords with fewer impressions?

If you conduct you keyword research intelligently you should be able to find quite a few keyword phrases with small amounts of traffic but more importantly, phrases that contain your main keywords. By optimising these phrases you are contributing to the SEO of your main keywords, simply because the main keyword is part of phrase. These lesser phrases in terms of traffic are much easier to reach traffic generating results and therefore can be done much quicker. Once you’re happy with the rankings of that phrase, simply move onto the next until all small traffic phrases are optimised. In a lot of cases the combined traffic from sub-primary keyword phrases can be more than the primary keyword it self, not to mention more targeted.

When all sub-primary phrases are optimised, the chances are your site will rank well for the primary keyword with little to work left at all to get the top spot. The best thing is you have targeted the best keywords but received highly targeted traffic earlier in the campaign. Turning the snowball effect from an annoying symptom into a competitive advantage.



Article by James Anderson, an SEO Consultant at Podium Solutions, a web design and internet marketing company based Manchester, UK.

©2005 James Anderson. Author bio box, links and copyright notice must be included in all reproductions of this article.

December 02, 2005

Phantom Traffic and the Overture Keyword Assistant Tool

SEM campaigns involve detailed keyword research that’s critical to the overall success of the marketing campaign. Many companies use the Overture Keyword Assistant Tool to conduct this research. But would they base a marketing campaign on this data if the accuracy and reliability was uncertain. The following article questions the accuracy of Overtures data by documenting an SEO experiment that had some very interesting results.


Websites that are dependent on search engine traffic rely heavily on detailed keyword research to reach their target audience. Whether the resulting information is used for PPC, SEO or featured ads is beside the point. Simply put, if you want to exploit search traffic, you need accurate data on the number of searches carried out for each particular keyword.

Some companies will sub contract the keyword research to a specialist company and others will tackle it in-house. Regardless of who performs the research, a large number of people will primarily use the information provided by the Overture Keyword Assistant as the foundation of the project. I’ve been of the view for some time that the data Overture provides is often inflated, especially primary keywords. Recently I have been conducting tests to ascertain the accuracy of Overtures data in an effort to prove my suspicions and to see how big the problem is. The results so far are way beyond what I expected.

The SEO Research

Approximately one year ago I set up a new website focused on VoIP phone systems. The website was built to rank highly on Yahoo for the search phrase “Phone System” and a number of other keyword phrases. According to Overture the phrase “phone system” has 350,066 searches performed each month in the UK alone. The website is currently on the first page of results in Yahoo.com and in the top three positions for Yahoo’s UK only search.

With the keyword tool reporting this amount of searches and the websites position, you would expect the site to be receiving a large volume of traffic. But to put it simply, it does not. For example, over the last two months the site has only received three visits from people searching for “phone system”.

This test is not concrete because the majority of searches for phone system could be performed on another engine that Overture pulls its results from like MSN. But you would have to agree that it’s not very likely. Especially when you consider the site ranks in the top three positions for the search phrase “phone system” on MSN.

Overture’s keyword tool pulls its results from a number of sources, Yahoo and MSN being the largest in terms of traffic. The site has a large number of top three listings on apparently high traffic yielding phrases e.g. IP Phone, Business Phone System, Office Phone System etc. yet only receives a very small number of visitors.

Phantom Traffic

So what’s causing the highly inflated number of impressions the tool returns? I can’t say for sure but can certainly name a few things that could be significantly contributing to the effect. I’m also going to try and coin a phrase here and call the phenomena “Phantom Traffic”, which simply means non-genuine traffic or searches conducted for other reasons than an actual genuine interest of finding a site relating to a keywords particular theme. I strongly believe both of the examples below are affecting Overtures data and are contributors of phantom traffic.

1. Manual SEO Position checking

People manually checking the search results to ascertain a websites position. Search phrases that are perceived to be high traffic yielding in theory will have more people conducting optimisation and therefore more people manually checking their positions. More people manually checking their positions causes the number of impressions to be inflated (phantom traffic). This is self perpetuating; the more people checking results inflate the number of impressions, causing even more people to target the phrase and manually check their positions etc. etc. etc.

I’m certain this is impacting the Overture Keyword Suggestion tool significantly enough to cause many sites to chase phantom traffic. I also believe this to be the biggest contributing source of phantom traffic. Many webmasters manually check their rankings every day and some even more.

Auto Generated Pages Compiled from SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages)

Spam sites gathering keyword rich content from the SERP’s. These sites will automatically query search engines for their most sort after keywords (probably researched via the Overture keyword suggestion tool). The sites automatically copy the results pages of the search engines which are highly keyword focused. Quite often these sites will auto generate tens of thousands of pages, all focused on a select number of keyword variations. These keyword rich pages are normally buried quite deep in the site because they have no value to human visitors. Each page will be linked using rich anchor text and then pass the relevance back to one of the main pages via an anchor text link.

The idea behind this SEO trick is simply to produce large amounts of optimised content that’s linked together in a favourable fashion. Some of the programming that goes into these kinds of practices can be very clever, while others are very basic indeed. The problem is virtually every page being generated or regenerated for that matter is influencing Overtures data, unless the programmer is using an API key (which is unlikely).

Conclusion

This is very worrying to me as there must be a large number of people who base their entire keyword research campaigns on the data from Overture. This may cause their entire marketing campaign to focus on nothing more than Phantom Traffic. So what can one do to avoid targeting phrases that mainly consist of phantom traffic?

Well first of all it’s wise to use a combination of data sources. Wordtracker provides similar data to Overture but it’s gathered from different sources. Comparing the two data sources can sometimes highlight phantom traffic. If you notice keywords with an extremely high number of impressions, just ask yourself if it’s believable. Common sense can go a long way in this game.

Personally I’ve always advised clients to target sub-primary keyword phrases first and once rankings are achieved to focus on the next sub-primary phrase. If you intelligently select sub-primary keyword phrases that include the primary keywords, you are optimising the primary keyword at the same time.

Example

A good example of this is the sub primary keyword phrases, “web design Manchester”. The company I work for is currently listed on the first page of the major search engines for this phrase. The primary phrase is “web design” and is also being optimised at the same time because the words are contained in “web design Manchester” (we’re currently holding position 11 on Yahoo UK for search phrase “web design”). The search phrase “web design Manchester” is also one of our best performing keywords because it is so targeted. Anyone searching on that term is specifically interested in web design in the Manchester area.

Optimising in this fashion has several benefits. First of all sub-primary phrases should be less effected by Phantom Traffic and the number of impressions you see should be similar to the number of genuine searches carried out. Sub-primary phrases tend to also be less competitive with fewer people specifically optimising for them (however, this is not always the case). So reaching a traffic generating position is easier and faster resulting in faster ROI.

Once enough sub-primary phrases are optimised to rank well for primary keywords. The campaign will already be bringing in targeted traffic and therefore cause much less pain and wasted effort if the primary keyword is heavily affected by Phantom Traffic.

The other advantage is much of the time sub-primary phrases are more targeted and the traffic they bring tend to convert much better. I have personally seen this time and time again. Sites that have little traffic but enjoy a conversion ratio of 1/3 because the traffic they do receive is extremely targeted sub-primary keyword phrases. These websites often out perform sites receiving ten times the amount of traffic from primary keywords. It’s all down to specifics though and what works for some may not work for you. As mentioned before, common sense goes a very long way in this game. Just don’t get caught up chasing phantom traffic.

November 21, 2005

eCommerce Solution ready for launch

Today is a great day as we're ready to launch the ecommerce solution everyone has been busy building. Trolleytech eCommerce is a powerful solution that enables retailers to sell their goods online. You can see a site using the trolleytech ecommerce solution by clicking on the link below.

Flava Fashions Store

October 25, 2005

Jagger update - No Comment

Jagger Update

If you have'nt noticed already, Google has been very busy with its latest update. Named Jagger, the update has caused many webmasters to feel the wrong side of Algo blade with the result of their sites falling from grace.

What the update has changed no one can say just yet, but one thing for sure is its not over yet. Anyone who has been affected by this update is well advised to sit back and let it finish before making any alterations. The three stage update has been going on for the last week and is predicted to continue for another couple.

No Comment

Just a quick one. Because of the overwhelming spam problem the SEO Forum Watch has had recently, I've had to switch off the comment facility. Until I get around to finding a solution that allows genuine people to leave comments and stops automated spam, I have no other choice but switching it off.

Linking out to sites is something that needs to be overseen very carefully and a large number of this comment spam was linking to sites you would never allow. So for now, the feature is off. Sorry for inconveneance (or however you spell it).

October 24, 2005

Web Design Manchester

Web Design Manchester is one of the keywords the Company I work for targets. We could have targeted the more popular term "web design" but found using pay per click services "web design manchester" yielded a much higher return on investment. This is because we're based in Manchester and companies are wanting to work with local businesses.

Going for web design manchester also contributes to the larger but less targeted phrase web design. Conducting a search on Yahoo for both phrases brings our website up in promanant positions, number 1 for web design manchester and number 14 for web design (24.10.2005).

When starting a new SEO campaign it is wise to use a similar technique when possible. In the early stages of the campaign while conducting your keyword research, try finding less competative keyword phrases that also contain the main keyword phrase. Some of these phrases may be more targeted than the main just like web design Manchester.

This will also help to bring traffic earlier in the campaign. Targeting the main keyword phrase will take longer to reach positions that receive clicks. Where as the less competative phrases are much easier to optimise to traffic generating positions.

Once you have reached the desired position for the less competative phrase simply move onto another e.g. web site design Manchester or Manchester web designers. After all sub phrases are complete start gunning for the main phrase.