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What do to when thinking of buying a website – Basic Research to avoid getting ripped off.

What do to when thinking of buying a website – Basic Research to avoid getting ripped off.

This is my first article in a long time and to be honest I never really thought I would find the time or inspiration to write again, but recent events that impacted friends of mine online pushed me to write at least one more piece.  With websites being easier than ever to publish online (we’re talking MINUTES), it is getting easier for people with less than stellar business practices to create legitimate looking websites and then sell them to unsuspecting beginners that are looking in to buying their first website or e-commerce business.  In this article, I will give you tips on how to perform very basic research that can avoid thousands of dollars in losses, legal fees and hours upon hours of anxiety and heartache from being ripped off, or at the very least, completely misled.

It’s important to note that most online website purchases that go awry are not illegal or necessarily fraudulent.  It’s simply a case of the buyer not asking the right questions, or perhaps more precisely, not know what the right questions are in the first place.  You wouldn’t buy a house without performing an inspection would you?  Or a car without taking it for a test drive?  Even buying something as simple as a cantaloupe, you probably have a trick to tell if it’s ready such as thumping it, or pressing the end of it and smelling it, or maybe rolling it down the aisle to see if it rolls straight and true.  Whatever your fruit purchasing methods are, the point is you have a vast database of checklists or must-do procedures before you buy anything.  Same thing goes for buying a website.

When it comes to buying a website, I actually have 3 simple rules I follow and I recommend to anyone.

  1. If the seller is boasting “HUGE POTENTIAL” or similar wording as a main selling point, I run away.
  2. The numbers have to make sense.
  3. A fair price in the simplest terms in most cases is the average monthly income for the last 3 months x 12.

Everything else in this article is centered around these 3 rules and if you stick to them, you’ll greatly decrease your chances of getting burned.  Let’s go over them.

This site has HUGE Potential!

When it comes to web real estate, nothing is more plentiful or as worthless as potential.  One of my favorite expressions is that money talks and bullshit walks.  When folks are touting potential as a reason to buy a website, you need to keep walking.  Classic example:

potentialexample

Potential is very subjective and quite frankly is something being sold to you on an emotional level, a gut feeling or maybe the promise of something great to come.  Emotional decision making in website purchasing, or any business decision really, will lead to disaster.

When someone is selling a site and they are pushing that it has “high potential”, “untapped niche”, or “proven market” or some other buzzwords without any kind of actual sales information or traffic information, this is a giant red flag.  It usually means that the seller has created a templated whitelabel website of some kind in the last month, assigned it to a recently purchased domain name and is looking to dump it for a quick sale.  This means the site has no customer base, no SEO optimizations, no traffic and ZERO revenue.  Basically you bought a site that probably cost $50 to make and will take you months of work and probably hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of additional development to get going.  These types of sites sell for prices all over the map, from $150 to $5000 and beyond, it’s crazy.

You should also be wary of people mentioning that the product or service being sold has been mentioned in Times Magazine or some other sort of publication.  If it says something about it being recommended by Doctor Oz, don’t walk… RUN!

Revenue

Most of the time, these template sites will have next to no revenue, or conveniently enough, revenue in the last month or so since the sale became available for purchase.  Get proof of all revenue claims by either bank statements, deposit statements, shopping cart reports or affiliate payout screenshots.  NEVER just accept revenue claims at face value, get proof.  Understand that if the site has JUST started making revenue, no matter what the amount is, assume this is a new site that isn’t making a dollar and won’t without you making a considerable effort to monetize your site.

In the example of a site suddenly making money in the last month, it’s safe to assume that the seller is pumping adword campaigns to drive some initial sales up as fast as possible to get the best price for their site.  As soon as you take over, those campaigns will be cut and the site will go to $0 in daily revenue almost overnight.  The same goes for a site that relies on ad revenue such as Adsense.  It takes tens of thousands of daily visitors to make decent revenue from the online ad market as CPM and CPC rates are minuscule.  If the site is suddenly generating hundreds of dollars a month in ad revenue, the seller is likely driving traffic to increase value.

As a general rule for anyone looking for a site that has an established revenue stream, look for a site that has been generating consistent or increasing revenue month to month for the last 6 to 12 months minimum.  Get proof and details of all earning claims and if a seller isn’t willing to share that kind of information, move on.  Obviously don’t expect the seller to divulge the magic sauce that makes the site a financial success in all cases (it’s usually obvious) but they do need to back up all revenue claims.

Site Age

When you buy a car or a home, what’s the first thing you ask?  Hopefully it’s the same thing I ask… how old is it?  The same thing goes for purchasing a website, you absolutely need to know how old the site is.  And once again, don’t just take the seller’s word for it, find it for yourself.  There’s a number of ways to check and see how long a domain has been around, but also to verify how long that site has been running on it.  It’s easy to own a domain for 3 years, but only launch a site on it 2 weeks ago.

First off, find out how long the domain has been registered, and you can do that at http://www.whois.sc for free, it’s a great site I’ve used for my whois searching for many years.  If you run this search for my blog, you can see that danrichard.com has been registered since February 9th 2006.  Wow, 11 years already?!

whois

You’ve now established that the site has been registered for several years, but that could just mean that the person owned the domain for years and only recently decided to launch a site on the domain or perhaps they only recently purchased the domain from someone else.  So what’s the next step?  Find out how long the website has been operating on that domain, and I love to use the Wayback Machine at https://archive.org/web/ to check that out.  This will show you just about every major change to that site running on that domain since the domain was registered.  You’ll see a lot of broken images but it still gives you a very good idea of what that site you are thinking of buying looked like a month ago, 5 months ago or 5 years ago.  If the seller is claiming the site has been running for 6 months but never monetized so it has “huge potential”, this is a good way to check out how long the site has actually been around in its present form.  Here’s how it looks when looking at my blog’s archive:

wayback01

Here’s how my site looked back in 2006 when we first started… awww!

wayback02

Traffic

Similar to revenue, traffic claims must all be proven, and again can be misleading.  First off, if a site is being sold claiming it has established traffic of any kind, do not accept any other source of proof other than Google Analytics.  Server logs can be tampered with and screenshots can be from anything, so the only acceptable proof should be GA.  Again, if the user gives a seemingly valid excuse for the site not running Google Analytics or it happens to be broken, big red flag.  A website seller with good intentions would make absolutely sure that GA was running properly on their site.  If you’re seriously considering purchasing a site, create a Gmail account and ask the owner to add your Google account as read only to the site’s Google Analytics profile.  You will then be able to access the GA account for that site for yourself to analyze the traffic.

Again much like the revenue, check and see if traffic has been steady or growing for the last 6 to 12 months.  If the site is brand new yet has traffic pumping in, the seller is probably purchasing traffic to boost the value of the site.  Again, if you purchase the site, those campaigns will stop and your traffic will plummet back to nearly zero.  Use GA to look at where the traffic is coming from, referrers and geographical breakdown.   If the bulk of the traffic is coming from just a few key sites (and they are probably irrelevant to the topic of the site being sold) or 70% of your traffic is from India, there’s a VERY good chance the traffic is purchased trash traffic.

Costs

DO NOT FORGET COSTS!  Websites cost money to run so along with those beautiful revenue reports and traffic reports, do not forget to get full cost breakdowns.  Hosting, ad costs, traffic buying, affiliate payouts, shipping or processing costs, vendor payouts, licensing costs, software licensing etc.  Make sure you account for every dollar!  $2000 in monthly revenue doesn’t looks as impressive when you realize it required $1500 in Adwords to get that.

Do the numbers make sense?

Don’t be so overwhelmed by the fact that this is a website that you forget some very common sense and logical business decision making.  Check and make sure the math adds up.

Is the seller claiming thousands in monthly revenue but selling the site for $1000 or some other low asking price that makes no sense?  Why sell a site that makes $5000 a month for $2000 when the seller could probably just leave it on autopilot or hire someone off-shore to run it and make a profit with next to no effort?  Red flags… red flags EVERYWHERE!

Generating online revenue and traffic takes effort and time, it is not overnight for a new site unless someone wants to flip a site as quickly as possible for the best possible price.  If a site is new, then expect it to take a long time to generate revenue and traffic, there are no shortcuts and the price should reflect that.  If a site that was established a month ago is bringing in 25,000 visitors a day and making $150 a day out the gate, that just doesn’t make sense.  The only exception to this would be if the site was launched by a company that has a massive network of other sites that were leveraged to pump traffic to the new property, and if that’s the case, what happens to that support after you buy it?  The most likely answer is you can kiss it goodbye.

Another expression I like… value perceived is value achieved.  If the seller can convince you the site is worth a fortune, you’ll pay a fortune, easy as that.  Be very wary of sellers temporarily launching heavy ad and/or traffic campaigns to boost up a site’s KPIs to get the biggest price possible.

For older sites, check out as much data as possible and look for seasonality and other factors that can influence revenue.  Run a trend report on the niche and see if it’s steady or in decline.  A good example would be phone cases… several years ago, you could make a fortune selling phone cases and accessories online and drop-shipping to customers.  Dollarama stores, the Wish app and Amazon cornered and killed that market and it’s almost non-existent for independents now.  How many bought those sites without knowing the decline and paid a fortune for a business that became worthless a year later.  Here’s a simple trend report from Google trends on cell phone cases:

cellphonetrend

Check the numbers and make sure everything makes sense.  If you’re not sure, either back out or get professional help from a qualified web analyst.

What is a fair price for a website?

It is really hard to give you a hard-coded recipe for the proper asking price for a website, but as a general acceptable rule, you want to start off with a price that is somewhere around the monthly average net revenue of the last 3 months, multiplied by 12.  Depending on cost of sales, some folks will also use gross revenue, but I would recommend being very careful if COS is more than 20% of gross revenue.

So if a site made $1500 in January, $1300 in February and $1600 in March, you would do the following:

((1500 + 1300 + 1600) / 3) * 12 = 17,600

So expect to be in the $17,600 range for this site.  Previous performance is mostly irrelevant so that’s why you want to stick to the last 3 months.  This works in favor for both the seller or the buyer… if the site is increasing in revenue month to month, then the seller is getting a better price whereas if the site is on a downward trend, you’re not buying the site based on performance that is no longer valid.  If the site has been steady for many years, check the seasonality for revenue and traffic to avoid getting jacked on the price.  For example, perhaps the site sales are very low in the spring but super high in during the holiday seasons and you’re buying in January.  If you use the 3 month rule mentioned above, you’ll be basing your numbers on a very high average.  You should normalize the revenue to account for seasonality and adjust accordingly, but remember you need a few years of steady revenue to know if you’re dealing with a growth or loss trend vs seasonality.  With a trend, the incline or decline will be consistent, whereas with seasonality you should see inclines and declines that repeat year over year.

I would also highly recommend you use an Escrow service for large transactions.  Personally I would go with Escrow for any website purchase over $5000 with 50% released at start of transition and the remaining balance after client sign-off on transition completion.

Final Thoughts

Remember that there are thousands of websites available for purchase every day so there is no need to rush.  Be patient and only buy when you’re 100% comfortable (and followed everything in this article) and you’ll virtually eliminate getting ripped off or purchasing a site that did not come even close to your expectations.

You should also consider WHAT you are purchasing in terms of functionality and addressing your business needs.  Ask yourself, does the site in question even work the way you want?  Is it easy to maintain?  Is it cost-effective?  Are you paying $5000 to inherit someone else’s problem when you could be spending that same amount for a site completely custom designed from the ground up to your exact specifications?

When in doubt, don’t be afraid to consult and hire a professional in the same fashion as hiring a house inspector when purchasing property.  Treat digital real estate the same way, know what you’re getting in to or hire an unbiased professional to give the web property a thorough inspection and provide you with a detailed breakdown to assist you to make an informed decision.

I hope this article will help you make smart business decisions and I invite you to contact me should you need additional advice or would like to me to audit a site for you.  You’re also welcomed to leave a comment below with your own feedback or suggestions for smart site shopping.

All the best!
Dan

The Death of Tutorial Portals – A look at the Big 3 in 2013 and Suggested Counter-Measures for Webmasters.

The Death of Tutorial Portals – A look at the Big 3 in 2013 and Suggested Counter-Measures for Webmasters.

It was a matter of time I suppose, an inevitable evolution as web behavior continues to shift, morph and push technological boundaries at an alarming rate.  More precisely, the ADHD generation of web users combined with massive strides in search engine results accuracy and perhaps a dash of lack of interest has destroyed the tutorial search portal business model.  For my long-time readers, you don’t have to ask, but for those of you fairly new to the world of online tutorials you might of never heard of the tutorial giants – Good-Tutorials.com, Tutorialized.com and Pixel2life.com.  These 3 companies battled long and hard for top search engine placement, diehard fans, streamlined UIs and dominance of the tutorial aggregate site niche.  In the mid to late 2000s, these sites were huge and brought in tens of thousands of visitors every day and considered the gold standard of free tutorial listings.  But as 2010 rolled around, it appears the wheels started to break free from what appeared to be a rock-solid frame.

Today these sites have plummeted in traffic, rank and audience.  Tutorialized.com and Pixel2life.com were sold to new owners in 2010 – 2011 that converted one site in to an ad laden cesspool of affiliate offers and the other seemed to fall in to autopilot while the owners fell asleep at the helm.  For Good-Tutorials.com, they seemed to have turned off all development and just let it chug along like an old 1988 Dodge Aries that refuses to die but gets harder to drive up the hill every morning.  A quick look at Alexa paints a fairly nasty picture:

blog_alexa_gt

 

blog_alexa_tz

 

blog_alexa_p2l

 

You can see that all sites suffer from identical markers of a site dying a slow painful death.  It’s important to note that you can only see the Alexa ranks from 2012 to 2013 and there was already huge drops since 2010 to 2012 that you can’t see in the graph.  The other alarming number is the dominance of traffic from India rather than the USA, especially for GT and Tutorialized with GT at almost 30% traffic from India.  These sites were previously ALL 50% or higher USA traffic sources with Alexa US ranking way below 10k, but with the lack of social presence, development and user interest, the sites are now exposed to non-premium traffic, which destroys the ability of the site to run top paying advertisers and affiliate offers needed for the precious revenue to keep these sites worth running.  The bounce rates, time on site and page views are also unhealthy signs of sites that are on the way to a website graveyard.

The question at this point is what happened and how do you stop this from happening to YOUR website before it’s too late.  What you may find interesting is that while tutorial aggregate portals like the big 3 are petering off, original content tutorial sites catering to specific niches are still doing quite well, in fact probably better than ever.  It’s becoming easier for people to find these sites through long-tail keyword searches on search engines so they no longer have to even rely on these portals for traffic anymore.  With basic SEO and patience, it’s hard not to succeed at some small level.  With bigger investments (in terms of time and development) and smarter marketing, you can stand to make a nice little profit once you understand how the web works today.

So what happened to the big 3 exactly?  In the most basic terms, they were mismanaged at a time when Google started making huge strides in long-tail keyword search results making it MUCH easier to locate tutorials for exactly what you wanted right from Google instead of having to sift through results on an aggregate that suffered from ancient Boolean search logic with sometimes sketchy results and 404 links once you finally found what you needed.  It was the perfect storm and all 3 major sites sailed directly in to the teeth of the seething maw of web destruction.  Once the downpour ceased it’s pummeling drive, some seriously battered websites floated out of the haze and have been drifting ever since and even now the seams continue to widen and water is pouring in, dragging them under.  The sites also allowed clutter to build up and standards started to slip both in terms of tutorial quality and advertisers and the situation would only worsen as users continued to drop as they discovered much easier methods of finding tutorials for free.  The sites with forums were further mangled by out-of-control spam, rendering the forums virtually useless to any valid users looking to be part of the community.

The final straw that broke the e-camel’s back was the massive implosion of online ad pricing, which saw a massive drop virtually overnight on all major networks.  After several years of high CPC prices with AdSense and other small competitors and the absolute insane earnings from the short-lived Yahoo Ad Network beta phase (think nerds, hookers and blow) prices went from dollars per click to a penny per click or lower.  Many webmasters found themselves unable to pay basic living costs once the ad market crashed and some bailed for steady employment, others fought to get through it, and some simply moved in to their mother’s basement and continue to fight the good fight!  This was actually one of the major factors that led me to dump the tutorial portal side of P2L’s business (I still run the hosting) and focus on more productive revenue generation.  2008 was most definitely gone and would never be repeated.

Pixel2life daily traffic from better times – 30k visits a day!

I founded Pixel2life – it was my creation, my baby, my passion and my fulltime business for many years and when it changed so I could pursue new challenges, it was done so with the very best of intentions and was assured that my site was in good hands.  It pains me to see what has happened to my beloved P2L, the tutorial community and the sites I used to consider threats to my livelihood.  While I know there is nothing I can do for P2L at this point even if it handed back to me today on a silver platter, I will always value the MASSIVE amount of lessons learned in every aspect of web development and management that I carry with me today.

Another benefit from the demise of P2L is that I can impart some advise to you, my readers, to help you preserve your website and possibly your livelihood.  If you run or want to run a website and want it to thrive for years to come, here are 12 lessons from me to you:

  1.  Always try to gear your site to a particular focused niche and try to cater to a niche made up of a buying audience rather than an audience looking for something free.  P2L was geared towards people looking for free tutorials, so when it came to looking for ways of converting on that traffic, it was a nightmare.  Another site I ran that provided product reviews for a particular niche had 10 times LESS traffic than P2L, but actually generated about double the revenue. The people that used that website were looking to buy products and just wanted to find out of it was worth it… it’s not hard to convert on an audience that has one hand on the mouse and the other wrapped around their credit card.
  2. Know your niche like the back of your hand.  If you’re not an authority on your niche, your audience will know it and will look elsewhere.  Live and breath your niche and become the dominant name in that field – this was critical to both my tutorial company and my collectibles company.
  3. Write original content that has not been done to death.  Forget about aggregate sites in general – Facebook, Reddit and Google have killed most of those opportunities so focus on providing your own unique content that can’t be found anywhere else and you’ll find other likeminded people that want to digest it.
  4. Listen to your audience, they are telling you what your competitors are already working on simply by telling you what they want.  If you don’t do it, someone will – that’s actually why I started P2L to begin with.
  5. Learn everything you can about SEO, it’s really important.  There are simple factors in search engine optimization that can make a HUGE difference in how much traffic search engines send your way.  At the same time, there are fatal mistakes you can make on your site that can turn search engines away from you and could take months to recover even if you manage to fix them.
  6. Constantly question every aspect of your website to ensure you’re not instilling a sense of blind cruise control.  Don’t confuse this with indecision or questioning your business sense…  what you want to do is ensure that your site logically makes sense and your business model is relevant and effective.  Why does your site exist?  Does it make sense?  Why would users come here instead of a competitor?
  7. There’s no such thing as an auto-pilot site.  The second you take your foot off the gas and let the site run on auto-pilot is the second someone is taking advantage of your lack of interest to threaten your market share.
  8. Don’t be afraid of change and evolution of your site, the web and the audience.  As social media and user generated content continues to dominate the web, things like “I don’t need a twitter account” are emotion based statements founded on fear of change.  If you want to have a business online that thrives, you’d better know where people gather and then make yourself heard.
  9. Put yourself in the user’s shoes and pretend to search the web like a regular person who has never heard of your site before.  If you have a business called Joe’s Bowls in Sacramento with a niche site on decorative ceramic bowls, then no one is going to open up Google and type Joe’s Bowls if they’ve never heard of you.  Be realistic and search ‘ceramic bowl store Sacramento’.  Are you anywhere to be found in the search results?  Check out your social media channels and those of your competitor.  Who’s more engaging and why?  If you can afford it, hire some folks for a focus group and get honest opinions.  You would be shocked at what you find out.
  10. Manage your site like a project, with a clear charter, project scope, work breakdown structure with deadlines and milestones.  Have the capital required to hire a top notch developer if you want to do it right the first time and do not let ANYONE compromise your delivery dates.  The more your drag out and delay a project, the longer you delay building up your business and generating revenue.
  11. Easy or hard, your decisions should be based on numbers and logic, not emotions.  Don’t become so attached to something that you ignore the facts.  I have this as number 10, but it’s one of the most fatal mistakes a webmaster can make.  AB test everything, learn how to use Google Analytics and study conversion.  Your site is a business, and successful businesses have a proper business model, a P&L and management decisions are based of actual data.  If your site is on a downward trend, then you need to investigate and address it, not dig in and ride it out or stick your head in the sand.  Otherwise you could follow the big 3 in to obscurity.
  12. Love what you do.  If you’re going to run your own website and business for years to come, you had better love the subject matter.

Do you miss the good ol’ P2L days?  Have some thoughts on what I wrote?  Please share them by using the comment form below, I read everything you guys send me.

Thanks for reading!
Dan

The SEO Marketing Traps – There is no secret SEO recipe you don’t know about!

The SEO Marketing Traps – There is no secret SEO recipe you don’t know about!

After a recent experience of mine with some SEO related service questions, I wanted to put together a few thoughts on SEO services, tactics and maybe put some of your minds at ease… both for people who provide SEO, people who do SEO package reviews like me, and users of SEO.  If you’re trying to find the secret ingredient to SEO success, you might like to read this.  Please note this is an updated posting, the tutorial has been moved from the old host.

You’ve probably seen the emails…  a company in India is a leading SEO specialist, and for a monthly fee ranging from $100 a month to over $1000 will perform some SEO magic on your website, making you more visible, higher ranked on keywords, increased PR and even possibly a better lover!  You’ve been busting your head trying to figure out what these guys are doing that you’re not…?  your site has been stagnant and after a couple of months of work, you’re not really getting anywhere.  So what the HECK are these guys doing that’s you’re not?  What secret recipe are they using that will yield the amazing results you’ve been after but have failed to produce?  What do they know that I don’t?!

The answer is likely… nothing.  And here lies the trap, and likely leads to the most common SEO mistakes most of us have fallen prey to at some point.

SEO is real, powerful and necessary for the success of your website even at a basic level.  Internet marketers and specialists focus (or least should focus) very strongly on SEO practises, and SEO companies like YEAH! Local are trying very hard to let all webmasters know that SEO is important and that you need to use them and their elite SEO knowledge to get results and be the top of the world quickly and effectively.  The truth of the matter is many of us think that SEO is a bag of tricks that changes month to month and that only a few folks that have dedicated hundreds of hours to the study of SEO truly know what they’re doing.

Good news…  that’s completely untrue, and most SEO tactics that result in overnight increases in traffic often do more harm than good as they are probably against search engine guidelines and their TOS.  You have to change your mindset completely… there is no secret recipe or overnight tricks.  You need patience and time, plain and simple.

 01. There is no SEO smoking gun!

The first mistake to avoid is looking for the secret that you believe SEO experts know and you don’t.  Every single SEO concept and tactic you need has been repeated over and over in thousands of free tutorials and articles all over the web.  Deep down you probably even know that, but you’re on a mission for more organic search engine traffic so you throw caution to the wind and decide to pay an expensive SEO service that will employ exactly the same tactics you already know about, they will simply dedicate more time to it than you probably realized was required, and even the best of SEO companies can’t deliver overnight results unless they are performing shady blackhat tactics.  SEO is a lot like investing money… you need to think long-term, as in 6 months down the road, not 6 days or 6 weeks.  Forget about spam campaigns or link directories with a million other SEO “gurus” have posted links.  You need to focus on quality backlinks and real keyword research, and of course the king of web marketing: CONTENT!

02. Search Engine Guidelines

Another mistake most webmasters make is to completely disregard user guidelines of the major search engines.  I think it’s safe to say that most of us know that Google has a TOS with very specific guidelines of what you can and can’t do to optimize your site for it’s index, but how many of us have actually read it?  Oh, you have?  Good stuff, now how many of you check it for changes on a regular basis?  That’s what I thought…  and yes it changes quite often.  Following these terms is critical if you care about search engine traffic because you can score some very effective tips on optimizing your site, plus find out what could end up getting your site penalized.

03. Internal Linking Strategy

The final mistake I see quite a bit, that even I am working on correcting, is internal linking.  You can bust your butt on backlinks, but if you ignore the topology of your internal link, you are missing a VERY important ingredient to your SEO success and your ability to earn what is called “link juice”.  First time you hear this term?  Link juice is the currency used by Google to determine why your site should outrank others.  For a great explanation on link juice and how it works, check out this article.

The fact is, it’s extremely difficult, if not damn near impossible to control how other sites link to you, but you can do whatever the heck you want with your own site.  Internal linking is an art-form on it’s own and can yield significant long-term gains when properly applied.  By creating effective internal linking, you’re more or less promoting other areas of your site that are less popular, but still possibly relevant to your visitors.  This increased visibility on an internal level can introduce your users to features, areas and content they may have never realized you had, and these users are all potential backlinks, social media buffs or word-of-mouth links to untapped traffic.  Just check out large sites like Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, Digg and many more… you’re presented with the content you are looking for, as well as internal links to other relevant areas in an effort to engage you and explore further.  This is effective internal linking.

Again, you’ve read SEO articles before and most say the same thing… you need to focus on the following:

Onsite SEO

  1. Establish and optimize your website pages for specific keywords.  This includes metatags, URLs and content.
  2. Investigate and research your competitors… see where they rank for keywords and how they are optimizing their pages.  Are they ranked higher than you?  You can find out why by checking meta tags, backlinks and their content pages.
  3. Optimize your title, meta and header tags.
  4. Optimize your anchor text, your robots.txt and your image Alt tags.
  5. Write relevant content as often as possible!
  6. Fix broken links on your site.
  7. Create an XML sitemap and submit it.
  8. Ensure your site is included in major search engines and see how you rank for your top 10 – 20 keywords.  Keep track on a monthly basis to check your progress.
  9. Install and use Google Analytics.
  10. Validate your code for easy crawler inclusion.

Offsite SEO

  1. Verify search engine guidelines and make sure you are compliant
  2. Research and build up backlinks to your site… there are dozens of strategies.
  3. Create a separate blog and keep it updated with content regarding your site, updates, research and other projects.  Use it to generate interest!
  4. Create articles for open distribution
  5. Take advantage of social media and social bookmarking sites
  6. RSS Feed submission
  7. Forum posting
    Search for link directories and link exchanges relevant to your site’s content and join them!  Don’t just submit to everything under the sun, most link directories are completely useless.

I’m sure I’m missing a couple of items on here, but this is everything you need to know, and this is everything an SEO company will do for you no matter how much you spend per month.  There are no magic bullets, smoking gun or any other catch-phrase worthy techniques you don’t know about, it’s all out in the open.  The key is to dedicate time to your SEO strategies and set long goals for results, but short-term goals to get there.  For example, rather than say “OK this month I want to increase my traffic an extra 5000 visitors a day” look for a more tangible short term goal such as “This month I will create 50 new one way links to my site”.  With small monthly goals, the long-term traffic goals will follow and will likely exceed your initial estimates.

Of course, if you have absolutely no time to optimize your site for search engine traffic, that’s an whole different issue and at that point you may wish to employ the services of a reputable SEO consultant, but don’t spend a cent if you’re thinking they know something you don’t.  Patience and hard work always trumps looking for a quick fix and instant results.

Now for some handy links you should know about…

Google Webmaster Guidelines
Yahoo Terms Center
Bing’s Webmaster Center
W3C Standards
SEO Centro Keyword Rank Checker

That’s for me on this one guys, thanks for reading and see you on the next tutorial!

Take care,
Dan

Optimize Your Website – Myths and Tips for Website SEO

Optimize Your Website – Myths and Tips for Website SEO

This was really a fantastic syndicated article I wanted to share… a great breakdown on the truths and myths of SEO, check it out:

What’s the big deal about search engine optimization? Isn’t it enough that you’ve put up a website, purchased some Google AdWords, and sent out an email to everyone you know announcing your site? In short, no. There is an art and science to search engine optimization (SEO), and it is critical for web-based businesses to know, understand and utilize if they want to drive quality traffic to their website via the Internet.

Where do you begin, though? How can you possibly know whom to trust or what to do first with so much information out there on SEO? Do you buy links or not? Pay per click or go organic? And what about those SEO companies who are aggressively promising Number 1 rankings? When it comes to search engine ranking, there are a lot of rumors and myths about what will improve your rankings and what won’t.

Debunking Some Popular Search Engine Ranking Myths

1. Pay per click (PPC) ads will either help or hurt organic rankings. (Organic simply means the process by which web users find websites having unpaid search engine listings.)
Debunked: PPC is categorized differently than organic listings. There is no effect, one way or the other, on ranking.

2. Websites are banned if they ignore Google guidelines.
Debunked: While it’s a good idea to read Google Webmaster Guidelines or Google 101: How Google Crawls, Indexes and Serves the Web, you are not banned if you ignore their guidelines.

3. Websites are banned if they buy links.
Debunked: Sites are not banned. The links just aren’t counted.

4. Copy must be a certain number of words, use a specific keyword density, and contain bold or italicized keywords.
Debunked: It used to be thought that there was a magic number of words used or certain times a keyword or keyword phrase should be repeated. Not so. Same with bolding and italicizing. They don’t do anything for ranking.

5. Duplicate content will get your website penalized.
Debunked: It will just get filtered out and not counted.

6. Reciprocal links won’t count.
Debunked: Every link counts, to a certain extent.

7. SEO companies can improve your rankings without doing any on-page work.
Debunked: Run if an SEO company tells you this.

According to SEO expert Jill Whalen, SEO isn’t magic and isn’t a crap-shoot. “SEO is about making your website the best it can be for your site visitors and the search engines.” Want to help the right kind of people find your website? Then you need to design your site so search engines can find, crawl and index your pages.

Pro tips!

Tip from Dan – Here are some additional Myths provided by www.mediumblue.com

There is an abundance of search engine information available on the web- some of it valuable, much of it contradictory. Throughout the years some prevailing search engine myths have developed. Some of these myths are still encouraged by companies with a financial interest in their continued existence. Others are based upon techniques that were effective years ago but no longer work. Still others come from simple misunderstandings that inevitably come with a relatively new medium. What follows is a few of the most prevalent.

Myth: Using a program or service to “Submit your site to 10,000 Search Engines” is a good idea.

Fact: There aren’t 10,000 search engines. There aren’t even 500. In fact, the top 10 search engines account for the vast majority of search traffic (studies vary from between 85 and 98 percent). Most of the sites that these programs or services list as “search engines” are called FFA (Free For All) sites, sometimes called “link farms”. These sites will agree to place a link to your site on their site, which is usually just a collection of links. Your link will usually only appear for a short time, since as new links are added, the older ones are pushed off the page. Almost no traffic can be expected from such links- but you can expect a lot of unsolicited mail to the email address that you provide them. In fact, these pages are set up largely to collect email addresses to which spam can be sent (and you can get spam for free!). In addition, engines do not like submissions done by computer programs (because of the excessive use of bandwidth and resources), and many of the most popular have taken steps to make automated submission impossible. This means that these programs or services will not even get you listed in many of the top engines.

Myth: Meta tags are the most important factor in search engine rankings.

Fact: Many search engines (most notably Google) ignore meta tags completely due to constant abuse by webmasters. The only importance placed on meta tags these days is actually the meta description tag, which will appear as the description for the corresponding page on engines that use inktomi data (such as MSN). Meta tags are virtually irrelevant in the ranking algorithms of the top engines- but many people continue to believe that they are the only optimization strategy that they need.

Myth: It’s impossible to do search engine optimization in-house.

Fact: It often is done in-house, and done effectively. This is typically when a large corporation hires in-house talent that is largely devoted exclusively to promoting the website. However, it is unrealistic to expect someone with many other job functions to do a credible job of SEO. Much of the skills are acquired through experience- and it isn’t usually desirable to have someone “experimenting” with the company website (especially considering that certain techniques can get sites penalized on engines or banned outright). SEO isn’t rocket science, but it also isn’t something that can be learned overnight. When deciding whether to outsource SEO or do it in house, it is important to consider the actual costs involved. Often, when the necessary hours it takes to pay someone to learn on the job are taken into account, it is cheaper to outsource (and the results are almost always better). Only a careful evaluation of your goals and resources can determine the best course of action for your company.

Myth: Sites must be constantly resubmitted to retain rankings.

Fact: This is a scare tactic popularized by various submission services and software companies. In fact, it is a waste of money to pay to have your site resubmitted once it is already listed in an engine’s database. It will not hurt your rankings to constantly submit (or else people would submit their competitor’s sites to get them penalized), but it will not help, either.

Myth: Search engine optimization is not as effective as “traditional” marketing.

Fact: In many ways, it is more effective. Companies often spend countless dollars on direct mail, television and radio advertising, and bulk email without a second thought. The common thread with each of these strategies is that the prospect is “approached” by the company, and that the company must reach a great number of people to find a few motivated prospects. On the other hand, search engines can deliver highly motivated prospects directly to your website- people who have already demonstrated, through their use of particular keyphrases, an interest in your products or services.

WARNING: Your site CAN be penalized by Google if you allow other websites to purchase links on your site and you do not employ the use of “nofollow” tags.  Google has been penalizing website PR levels, and you can read all about it on my blog when it happened right on Pixel2life.com.

Seven Ways to Get Your Website Crawled

1. It’s better to have one main website with numerous domains pointing to the main domain, than to have mini-sites or multiple sites with similar content. Mini-sites and multiple sites with similar content do not increase search engine listings and are frequently viewed by search engines as SPAM.

2. If you do have several stand-alone websites, make sure each serves a different target audience and has unique content with different domain or sub-domain URLs.

3. Search engines need to be able to follow internal links. To make that happen, use tags, text links, image links, and CSS menus. Spiders have difficulty with JavaScript menus, pop-up windows, drop-down menus, and flash navigation.

4. Choose keyword phrases that are most relevant and specific to what your web page is about. Think from the perspective of someone searching for what you are offering on your site. Ask, as if you were they: What would I search for if I am looking for something on your page?

5. Validate your keyword phrases through either paid or free services, such as Keyword Discovery, Wordtracker, or Google AdWords.

6. Check for keyword competitiveness. Take into consideration the size of your business. In this case, size does matter. If you are a major player with a major brand, you can play in a larger competitive pond than a smaller company just starting out. Know what size pond is right for you, and check for competitiveness by putting: allintitle: “keyword phrase” in your browser and check the number count.

7. Once you have your keyword phrases validated and checked for competitiveness, use them in anchor texts, clickable image alt tags, headlines, body text copy, title tags, and meta descriptions. Meta tags aren’t all that important for crawling.
SEO can be both intimidating and exhilarating. Intimidating because it seems as if just about everyone has an opinion on what it takes to get a high ranking in Google, so it’s hard to know what to believe. Exhilarating because, once you understand the method behind the madness of SEO, you see the art and science of it. Then it becomes fun and easy to come up with a strategic plan about where to place keyword phrases, how to write copy, and what size pond is best for your company to compete in. Optimize your website, and they will come.

About The Author

Dr. Susan L. Reid is a business coach and consultant for entrepreneurial women starting up businesses. She is the Award-winning author of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Journey to Business Success. Susan provides intuitive small business solutions, powerful attraction marketing tools, inspiration, and direction. Visit SuccessfulSmallBizOwners.com and download your copy of her latest free business success article.

Hope you enjoyed!
Dan

Top 20 Contributing Factors For Google SEO

Top 20 Contributing Factors For Google SEO

Websites are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways of advertising. Whether it be a business, its product or service or something completely different, everyone of all ages is turning to the web as a method of getting their message out there. With the popularity of this marketing medium increasing and the number of websites always growing, it is obvious that everyone wants to appear at the top of Google’s search engine rankings. Achieving such a task is not an easy feat, however with a bit of perseverance, one can definitely improve their chances of reaching that glorious first page result.

Given that there is a heap of websites out there who are on the first page, what is their secret? It is a little industry term called “SEO” and it stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO basically consists of the customization of your website, its content and its internal and external links to assist in the overall indexing and ranking of your website in popular search engines. There are many contributing factors that are used in determining a website’s ranking and every search engine is different. This makes trying to optimize your site for Google, Yahoo, Live and the many others quite a painstaking task.

As most of us are aware, Google is currently the most popular search engine for the majority of Internet users. As such, it is only normal that we’d want to focus our sights on achieving a higher ranking within Google first with the hope that the rest will follow. To do this, we must start a journey that could potentially take months before we start seeing any real change, however we have to start somewhere.

Our journey begins by defining some of the key contributing factors that Google uses to determine a website’s and webpage’s ranking within its results. These factors range from keyword use to manipulating internal and external links and the list goes on. To get you started, we have listed the top twenty factors that you should focus on in order to help get your website that little bit closer to the top of the search engine results listings.

Keyword Use Factors

The following components relate to the use of search query terms in determining the rank of a particular page.

1. Keyword Use in Title Tag – Placing the targeted search term or phrase in the title tag of the web page’s HTML header.

2. Keyword Use in Body Text – Using the targeted search term in the visible, HTML text of the page.

3. Relationship of Body Text Content to Keywords – Topical relevance of text on the page compared to targeted keywords.

4. Keyword Use in H1 Tag – Creating an H1 tag with the targeted search term/phrase.

5. Keyword Use in Domain Name & Page URL – Including the targeted term/phrase in the registered domain name, i.e. keyword.com plus target terms in the webpage URL, i.e. seomoz.org/keyword-phrase.

Page Attributes

The following elements comprise how Google interprets specific data about a webpage independent of keywords.

6. Link Popularity within the Site’s Internal Link Structure – Refers to the number and importance of internal links pointing to the target page.

7. Quality/Relevance of Links to External Sites/Pages – Do links on the page point to high quality, topically-related pages?

8. Age of Document – Older pages may be perceived as more authoritative while newer pages may be more temporarily relevant.

9. Amount of Indexable Text Content – Refers to the literal quantity of visible HTML text on a page.

10. Quality of the Document Content (as measured algorithmically) – Assuming search engines can use text, visual or other analysis methods to determine the validity and value of content, this metric would provide some level of rating.

Site/Domain Attributes

The factors below contribute to Google’s rankings based on the site/domain on which a page resides.

11. Global Link Popularity of Site – The overall link weight/authority as measured by links from any and all sites across the web (both link quality and quantity).

12. Age of Site – Not the date of original registration of the domain, but rather the launch of indexable content seen by the search engines (note that this can change if a domain switches ownership).

13. Topical Relevance of Inbound Links to Site – The subject-specific relationship between the sites/pages linking to the target page and the target keyword.

14. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community – The link weight/authority of the target website amongst its topical peers in the online world.

15. Rate of New Inbound Links to Site – The frequency and timing of external sites linking in to the given domain.

Pro Tip: Did you know you can use google to find sites that link to your website?  Simply visit Google.com and in the search bar type link:www.yourwebsitename.com and click search.  The search results displayed show you a complete list of sites that link to your link.  You can also search info:yourwebsitename.com for a small list of other useful queries about your site.

Inbound Link Attribute

These pieces affect Google’s weighting of links from external websites pointing to a page and ultimately will assist in the ranking of that page.

16. Anchor Text of Inbound Link.

17. Global Link Popularity of Linking Site.

18. Topical Relationship of Linking Page.

19. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community – The link weight/authority of the target website amongst its topical peers in the online world.

20. Age of Link.

Pro Tip: Ever wanted to know what your site’s Page Rank will be on the next Google update?  You can check it with a page rank predictor!

Negative Crawling/Ranking Attributes

There are also some points we should make before you start getting your hands dirty. With any type of SEO marketing, there are some things that can actually have a negative impact on your ranking. These following components may negatively affect a spider’s ability to crawl a page or its rankings at Google.

Server is Often Inaccessible to Bots.

Content Very Similar or Duplicate of Existing Content in the Index.

External Links to Low Quality/Spam Sites.

Duplicate Title/Meta Tags on Many Pages.

Overuse of Targeted Keywords (Stuffing/Spamming).

It’s now time to get busy! Start prioritizing your tasks, modifying your content and building your internal and external links to meet some of the above guidelines. Keep in mind that improving indexing is mostly a technical task and improving ranking is mostly a business/marketing strategy. What might work now may not work in the future and finally, it takes time. Loads of time. Still, with a bit of trial and error and a good dose of persistence, you can achieve the search engine ranking you’re after.

About The Author:
Jon Bergan is the owner of Bergan Blue, an Australian based creative design firm focused on bridging the gap between the online world of the Internet with the offline world of Marketing. Please visit http://www.berganblue.com.au for more information.

Thanks for reading!
Dan

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