Used without permission as an example of how web marketing consultants get a bad name!
are millions (literally) of these sites on the web. The real truth
about search engine optimization is that there is no Â“silver bulletÂ”
any more. It used to be true that you could stuff a few keywords into
some metatags and you get lots of traffic. Now, search engines are much
smarter. Google recently released its patent #20050071741 on its
“Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data” (that’s that little
search page to you and me). In the document were over 118 factors that
effected a web site’s position in the search engine’s rankings!
This is the real truth about SEO:
There is no such thing as Search Engine Optimization any more.
only reality now is having a long term web marketing strategy and a
commitment to building a site full of quality information.
Having said that, assuming that your site is one of the ones with the quality content, SEO still has its place.
On an average day, about 68 million Americans will go online.”
“More than half of them, over 38 million people, will use a search engine.”
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 2005.
are a lot of people out there, and why shouldnÂ’t they come to your
site? Especially if all the Â“other guysÂ” are still just stuffing
metatags. Over the next five articles in this series, I will explain
some of the things you can do to increase your traffic and visibility,
and make specific references to how this is implemented in Joomla. I
will be looking at the steps in a roughly chronological order that you
might take as you launch a new site. Follow this guide and some time in
the next 6 months, you might be getting that traffic you wanted.
The SEO and Joomla Series:
Part 1: How to earn $1,000Â’s a day with Search Engine Optimization and Joomla
Part 2: Planning your site
Part 3: Designing your Site
Part 4: Launching your site
Planning your site
Why do you want traffic?
Before you go anywhere you need to answer this question. You can break it down into:
- What is your web site about?
- Who will visit it?
- What will they gain?
- What will you gain?
Write the answers on a piece of paperÂ… no really!
Now you have thought some what about who is going to visit your site, we can talk about the how.
you are a potential visitor to your site. What keywords will you type
in to find it? Take a blank piece of paper. Now, on your piece of
paper, write down as many words or phrases as you can that you as a
potential visitor would search for to find a site like yours in a
search engine. Try to write 20 to 30 keywords or phrases on your piece
of paper. If youÂ’re having trouble coming up with keywords, ask your
partner, friends or family members which keywords they would use to
find your site. At this point you should have a list of no less than 20
keywords or phrases at your disposal.
You need this tool below:
use it almost on a daily basis. It allows you to find out which
keywords people are using in their searches, which as IÂ’m sure you will
agree is very valuable information!
Another useful way of doing this is a beta Google tool:
at the top of your keyword list that you wrote earlier and enter each
one into the text box. As you can see, the term suggestion tool returns
a list of keywords and how many times they were searched for. As you
type each of your keywords into the text box and see the number of
searches, write that number down next to your keyword on the page.
should now have a list of keywords with the number of searches for that
keyword from last month on your page. To get the 5 most popular
keywords, simply take the 5 keywords with the highest number of
searches. Flip your paper over and write them down in order of most to
least popular. You should now have your list of 5 popular keywords,
maybe something like this:
- Marketing: 1,406
- Advertising: 704
- Web Site Promotion: 442
- Marketing Online: 56
- Branding: 5
keywords are going to form the basis for all of your site optimization
strategies. Keep your keyword list with you as you read through the
rest of these articles.
The first way to use these keywords
use your domain name as a factor in the Search Engine Results Page
(SERP). Now there is a lot of debate here, some think that branding for
the viewers is more important than having a keyword in the URL
(remember the URL of my lead example?). But, if you can combine both,
then great! Notice my domain is www.compassdesigns.net. This will get me a little boost if someone searches for Â“web designÂ”.
you canÂ’t easily change your domain after you have made your site, so
this is why we are thinking about SEO before we have even started on
the site design. If we can use a keyword in the domain, go for it.
Part 2 Summary:
- Ask yourself who will visit your site, why and what will you get out of it.
- Research your keywords.
- Domain name; branding or keyword?
Designing your Site
Ready for the techie stuff? OK, grab your coffee/beer/herbal chai.
First and most important:
need lots of content, LOTS of it. Before you have even considered site
design and such, you should have 100 odd pages of actual content. Yes,
there are supposed to be two zeroÂ’s on the end of that 1Â… 100, I mean
it. A page of content means about 200-500 words.
course, no-one does this, I didnÂ’t! But, if you are serious of getting
gobs of traffic, and you do have lots of rich content to publish, just
think how far ahead you will be of poor schmuks like me.
I mentioned before, designing your site for traffic, both human and
search engine spider is very different than a few years ago. Its now
about what is on the page that people can see. No more having a 200
keyword list that is set to the same color as the background at the
bottom of the page.
If your impatient, according to the
Â“SEO guysÂ”, here are the most important factors in deciding your SERP,
along with a vague number I came up with to show relative value. These
ten factors add up to a whopping 21% of the SERP.
Title Tag Â– 2.3%
is what appears in the blue bar at the top of your browser, it comes
from a metatag called <title
you title will reflect the content of the page. Even better is to
install a 3rd party SEF, then you can set the page title to be the
title alias of that page. I prefer using the title alias for my page
title, then I can have the title on the page and control the one
delivered in <title
You MUST have some sort of SEF enabled. Search engines hate dynamically
generated pages, and thatÂ’s the whole point of Joomla! Even if you have
just basic enabled, the benefit of the search engine Â“seeingÂ” static
pages is huge, far outweighing the little bonus gained from having
keywords in the title too.
Anchor Text of Links Â– 2.3%
phrasing, terms, order and length of a link’s anchor text is one of the
largest factors taken into account by the major search engines for
ranking. Specific anchor text links help a site to rank better for that
particular term/phrase at the search engines. In other words, itÂ’s the
actual text that represents the link on a web page.
Keyword Use in Document Text Â– 2.2%
keywords must appear in the actual copy of the page. Supposedly search
engines pay more attention to the first and last paragraphs. The way to
go about this is have your keywords firmly in your mind as you write
your copy. I donÂ’t know about you, but I find this really hard. I
prefer a different approach.
There is a simple trick
here, write your quality content, then use a keyword density tool to
find the keyword density. THEN, take the top words and add them to the
meta keywords tag for that page. This is somewhat backwards for some
maybe, it optimizes a page for what you actually wrote, rather than
trying to write a page optimized for certain words. I find I get much
better correlation like this and can then tweak my text afterwards.
if you want to you can further optimize by having the keywords in
header tags and bold etc. As a guide, these might contribute less than
1% to the SERP.
Joomla is good and bad
here. The good part is its easy to add keywords to the meta keywords
tag for that page. You just go to the meta info when you are editing
the content and plop them in. Note that they are added as well as any
keywords you have specified in the main global configuration. Its good
to only have your most important 2-3 words there and put the rest in
The bad part is linked to the fact that Joomla is
dynamic. The code is not very lean, that is, there is a lot of html
compared to actual copy text. This in turn reduces your keyword density
(indirectly). One way to address this is to design without tables (I
hear vavroom applauding). Using CSS instead of tables means leaner
code. Its also possible with CSS to have your page Â“source orderedÂ”.
This means that the real content (the middle column to you and me)
comes before the side columns and/or navigation.
Accessibility of Document Â– 2.2%
are not talking human accessibility here (as in 508). Accessibility is
anything on the page that impedes a search egine spiderÂ’s abilty to
crawl a page. There can be a number of culprits:
- Avoid Splash Pages: Flash and heavily graphic introductions prohibit engines from crawling your site.
- Avoid Frames: Never use pages with frames. Frames are too complex for the crawlers and too cumbersome to index.
Cookies: Never require cookies for Web site access! Search engine
crawlers are unable to enter any cookie-required materials.
they disable crawlers from accessing those links. Most, well-indexed
Web sites incorporate text-based links primarily because they are
- Avoid Redirects: Search engines frown upon companies that use numerous Web sites to redirect to a single Web site.
Internal Dynamic URLs on the Home page: Though many sites incorporate
internal dynamic links, they should not incorporate those links on the
home page. Engine crawlers are currently ill-equipped to navigate
dynamic links – which often pass numerous parameters using excessive
- Utilize Your Error Pages: Too often companies
forget about error pages (such as 404 errors). Error pages should
always re-direct “lost” users to valuable, text-based pages. Placing
text links to major site pages is an excellent practice. Visit www.cnet.com/error for an example of a well-utilized error page.
Many things to be careful of here. The most important is go turn on
Search Engine Friendly URLÂ’s (SEF). It changes your links and pages
from dynamic to static.
menus. They are very popular because the look great. As good as they
look to people however, they look equally as bad to spiders. Try using
CSS to style you menus, youÂ’ll be surprised how good they look. You can
even have drop-down sub menus.
Internal Links- 2.1%
more important than the holy grail of external links is internal links.
Who knew! Easily the most underrated criteria. But, its important to
make sure you are making good use of anchor text. A well-linked to
document is considered more important than an obscure page.
Tight Site Content ThemeÂ– 2.1%
your website is about is determined through analysis of the content.
Its critical that it correlates to keywords, anchor text, etc.
strange off shoot of this is perhaps its not worth spending much effort
trying to build the page rank of the home page. This strange concept is
explained in the idea of Search Engine Theme Pyramids.
related factor is having a good sitemap. Not only is it good spider
food, you can also load it with lots of quality anchor text for those
internal links as well as relevancy text (that which appears near a
link). Also important is the invisible Google sitemap which is an xml
file for the Google spider only.
up for Joomla! Add-ons such as Docman make it effortless to add globs
of content quickly and easily. Remember, itÂ’s a Content Management
System after all. There are also some add-ons for sitemap, though I
think that you have to upload the Google sitemap independently.
External Links Â– 2.0%
are the links from other sites to you. Note its much better to have
specific pages linked rather than your homepage because of the idea of
Search Engine Theme Pyramids. DonÂ’t bother with link farms or anything
you see advertised for a link. You are much better off finding links
from sites that have similar topics as yourself (see below)
Theme of Linking SitesÂ– 2.0%
search engine is trying to figure out what your page is about, so it
can decide if its relevant to a users search. Links from pages with
similar topics add credence to your page. When trying to search out
those links you can use something like WebFerret.
Or if you just want a quick method, use the Â“related:Â” tag in Google,
e.g. type Â“related:www.yahoo.comÂ” in and it will search for sites
related to the topic of Yahoo (whatever that is?). Then spend some time
emailing webmasters and asking for links. There is software out there
that will do this automatically for you.
Popularity of Linking Sites Â– 1.9%
means that links from sites that are Â“importantÂ” (i.e. have a high
SERP) are more valued than those from a lower SERP. A factor worth
considering when searching out links, get the ones from sites with a
high page rank first.
Keyword Spamming Â– 1.9%
this is a negative factor!! This means having a keyword density in text
or tags so high that the engine decides you are stuffing. Your rank
will go from #1 to #10000 in a heartbeat. Want to know the best part?
No-one actually knows what percent density this is, and its probably
different for different engines! Between you and me, I am not going
above 15% on my pages.
For the morbidly curious, the other factors I have on my site (there are too many to post here) at Search Engine Ranking Factors.
Part 3 Summary
- Fortune favors those with rich content
- There are many factors that determine search engine page ranking.
Rather than tweak minor tags, its better to leverage JoomlaÂ’s true
power of being a fully fledged Content Management System to gain rank.
- DonÂ’t use flash (ok, I admit I am biased)
- Make sure your pages are under 10k. Not mentioned above, but it just occurred to me.
Launching your web site
you have designed your web site, and now its time to put it online.
IÂ’ll leave the actual process of installation for another time. I will
mention hosting however.
Not every host
will meet the needs of a Joomla site. One issue is safemode. ItÂ’s a
server setting and it needs to be off for Joomla to work properly.
Other issues that often crop up are ones involved Â“ownershipÂ” of files
on the server. I have a few reviews of recommended Joomla hosts here.
Ok, so we have our site up, what next?
Open your doors to the spiders
start showing up on rankings, your site needs to be indexed. This means
a program called a spider comes to your web site and crawls it.
Crawling involves looking at the tags, text and following all the links
it can find. Make sure your site is easy to crawl:
pages should be linked to more than one page on your site. This is easy
to do with Joomla, it happens with the mainmenu and other menus. Also
try and make all pages within two levels of the root (home page). If
they are buried, try and add more specific sections to hold that
Two Common Joomla Mistakes!
menus. I showed my bias against flash in my last article. Spiders
struggle to follow flash. If you really must have flash navigation,
then you need to include some plain old text links somewhere on the
page. An easy way to do this is in the footer. Go to
/includes/footer.php and add your links there. They will then turn up
on every page, easy eh?
- Don’t put it online before you have a
quality site to put online. It’s worse to put a “nothing” site online,
than no site at all. You want it flushed out from the start. Its very
easy to fall into this trap with Joomla as its so easy to put a site
up, especially with the built in templates. Better to work off line
with MSAS and import the SQL database (note to self: write guide to
One last thing, to actually be indexed, the spiders need to know you exist. This happens by submitting your site and linking.
Submitting your site
The first part is real easy. Go and submit your site by hand to all the major engines, hereÂ’s a few to get you started.
you do submit, take note of who supplies the search. Alltheweb is done
by yahoo for example, you donÂ’t need to submit there.
second part is much harder. Forget about you submissions for a few
months. ThatÂ’s right, submit them and forget about it. DonÂ’t even think
about using one of those Â“submit your site to 89768 engines for $20Â”
Also go submit to a few directories. If you have
the right contacts, sacrifice a goat or something and submit to
dmoz.org. ItÂ’s the grand daddy, with a page rank of 9, but almost
impossible to get on.
Linking your site
links to your site is perhaps the most important part of SEO and
perhaps worth a topic all in itself. Needless to say, the more links
from quality sites you can get the better. Also ones with the same
An easy submission is in the community news section of Joomla.org.
Hey, its free, will give you a link and also might trigger a spider to
crawl you. If you have a useful site, announce it o the community!
Logging and Tracking
a decent tracker that can track inbound referrals (where someone came
from). Most hosts have several built in, I use awstats. Whatever you
do, don’t use a lame graphic counter, it doesnÂ’t give you want you want
and looks unprofessional. If your host doesn’t support referrers, then
back up and get a new host. You can’t run a modern site without full
referrals available 24x7x365 in real time.
For the more
compulsive amongst us, you can start watching for spiders from search
engineÂ’s. Make sure those that are crawling the full site, can do so
easily. If not, double check your linking system (use standard hrefs)
to make sure the spider found it’s way throughout the site.
underused way of SEO is simply buying traffic. You might not think of
advertising when you think of optimizing your site, but the ultimate
goal of all this is traffic, so why not just skip the middle man.
recommend using Google AdWords. ItÂ’s a Pay-per-click program that has
somewhat revolutionized online advertising. Basically you only pay
(usually a few cents) when someone actually clicks on your link. Your
actual ad is designed based on certain keywords you want (remember part
2?), this means it targeted traffic, the best kind.
probably do a guide at some point, but to get started, you need a
Google account. Also, to help you figure out how much to bid, and on
what words, I use this tool the most:
It does the bid and terms at the same time.
Where is all my traffic?
In March 2004, Google implemented a new filter, now referred to as “The Sandbox”.
thinking was, A new web site shouldn’t be able to get good ranking,
until they prove themselves. Spammers generate millions of new pages
daily, along with millions of new links to go with them.
withholds high ranking ability on new sites, by de-valuing the new
links for 2-4 months. If the domain and backlinks have existed for a
certain length of time (4 months?), then you are OK, and escape from
This penalty is new-site based.
Long-standing sites have no trouble ranking new pages. Over time, the
newly generated links are given weight, and eventually the sandbox
effect goes away.
DonÂ’t get too worked up about instant
traffic, its probably not going to happen anyway because of the
sandbox. For the next few months you are better off spending your time
writing content, a page every few days.
Part 4 Summary
- Use a Joomla friendly host
- Make sure your site can be spidered
- Submit and forget
- Buying traffic is surprisingly cheap
- You wonÂ’t get good SERP to start