Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

March 9, 2006

MSN LiveSearch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ryan Jones @ 12:00 am

http://californiawithkids.com/tag/believe-it-or-not/ I like that you’re trying to change search, but you got a few things wrong… let me explain.

1. It’s called live search, but it’s not live. Where’s the AJAX auto suggest like google has to help with my search?

2. You broke my scrollbar. No matter what program I open, the scrollbar always works the same: I can slide it and it lets me know how far up or down in the document I am.

Don’t change what a user expects. When I see a button, I want to push it. A handle? I pull. A scrollbar, I scroll. Try going to result number 200, then tell me how I get back to result number 1 quickly without re-searching for it? I can’t.

3. Your ads are cut off. I know they scroll with every 10 results, but it took me about 15 searches to figure that out, the average user won’t figure that out at all, and seeing cut-off ads makes you look very unprofessional.

4. It’s still not relevant. I like that you give importance to new sites, but you’re still not as relevant as Google. Search for “cds” on Google and the top result is a place where I can buy music. On MSN, I can learn about investing. What do you think is the more common definition of “cd” worldwide?

The new features are nice and pretty, but that’s all they are. I’m sure the marketing department loves them, but the average searcher probably just scratched their head while clicking on over to Google.

It’s not the interface that matters, it’s the results I get back that I care about. Keep on the “fresh web pages” and lack of sandbox.. you got that right, but don’t screw with my scrollbars.

March 5, 2006

SEO ? 3 rules for success.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ryan Jones @ 12:00 am

If you have a website, you?ve no doubt heard of SEO. If you haven?t, you might want to read a few of my earlier articles before continuing with this one. If you?ve done any reading on the topic, you?ve probably noticed that people seem to constantly contradict each other. This is exactly why SEO is the favorite part of my job; it?s never boring!

I have to confess, I lied to you in the title. If you?re looking for a how-to blueprint to get the top rank in Google or Yahoo you won?t find it here, or anywhere for that matter. There is no formula. There is no way to manipulate Google, if there were they?d be out of business.

Why does Google constantly change their algorithm? To prevent us from finding a formula for high rankings. Think about it. If there was an easy way to get top 5 rankings in Google, would you still need your Adwords account? Most of Google?s revenue comes from paid search, and you can bet they?re going to do everything in their power to keep paid search profitable. (and judging by my Google stock, it definitely is)

While there may not be a guaranteed formula, there are a few solid SEO rules that, if followed, will help your site out perform the competition.

Rule #1: Correlation is not causation. I can?t stress this enough. Just because two things are related, doesn?t mean that one caused the other.

Before I talk about correlation and causation however, let me say this plain and simple: Your site rankings will fluctuate, regardless of what changes you make. Why? The web is constantly evolving. New sites are being added, and old sites are being modified.

As an example, let’s compare the average global tempature to the number of active pirates on the high seas:

As you can see by the graph, the temperature has gone up as the number of pirates has decreased over the years. Does this mean that pirates somehow control the global temperature? Obvioulsy not; while there seems to be a strong correlation between pirates and temperature, there is absolutely no correlation.

Ok so where are you going with this? I wanted to make sure we?re on the same page, because now I?m about to deliver the shocker: PageRank isn?t as important as you think it is. While it?s true that higher ranking sites often have higher PageRanks, neither one is a direct cause of the other.

To help you better understand, let?s discuss how PageRank works. PageRank is based off of what we computer scientists call the wandering drunk algorithm, but I?ll try to use a more appropriate example.

Suppose you?re given a computer with a random website. From there you click 1 link at random. From there, you click another link at random, and so on. Do this for about a month straight, clicking a different link every 5 seconds.

Now count how many times you actually visited each site. If you found widgets.com 10 times and sprockets.com 4 times, widgets.com would have a higher PageRank than sprockets.com

This is the basic principle of PageRank. In fact, it?s what Google Co-Founder Larry Page did with his program. He pointed it at Stanford?s home page and let it go.

Now, the actual PageRank formula has changed significantly, but the basic underlying theory is still the same. What causes a higher PageRank? Links! Not just how many links, but the PageRank of the linking site is also taken into account.

The important concept to remember is this: PageRank does not determine your position in Google, links and content do.

This brings me to my 2nd rule: There are no bad links. I?m sure you?ve heard people talk about link farms, reciprocal links, and off topic links, and you may have even declined a reciprocal link request or two. Don?t. Many of you are probably cursing under your breath about link farms and getting banned from Google, but let?s look at it rationally.

Site owners have no control over who links them and where they?re linked. If I know this, Google knows this. If a link could hurt a site?s ranking, it would be very easy for me to sabotage all of my competitors by linking them from ?bad sites?. The ranking system could be manipulated, and Google would lose.

Link building is important, and this is where your SEO company can help you develop a strategy.

This brings me to my 3rd and final rule. As this is a long article, you may want to pause here and visit the restroom or grab some more coffee before continuing(anything other than getting back to work right?).

If you only remember one thing from this article, remember this: your site visitors come first. No exceptions. Your pages should make sense to a reader.

Make your text flow, in fact I recommend hiring a professional copywriter to write it for you. You hire one for magazine and print ads, and they reach less people than your website.

While keyword-rich content is the meat and potatoes of SEO, it does NOT mean placing keywords in every possible place. People may find your site, but if it sounds like it was written by a 5th grader taking English as a second language, you can bet they won?t buy anything.

If an SEO company makes a suggestion that compromises a user experience, you should re-evaluate the company. Sure, there may be minor trade offs like using text instead of images for links, or stripping out flash content, but if an SEO technique breaks up the flow of a website, confuses a user, or makes the site visually unpleasant, it shouldn?t be implemented.

Remember, your site is designed for customers, not search engine spiders. Util the web is served up in XML format only and interpreted differently by each user, your site needs to be aesthetically pleasing, and more importantly it needs to flow.

And that?s it! Follow those 3 rules, and your site will be fine. You may not be top 5 in Google for all your desired terms, but you won?t do bad for those that are actually related to your website.

Is that all there is to it? No, there are many other factors like coding style, layout, keyword selection, linking campaigns, and content management that can all affect rankings, but most of them will follow as a result of my 3 rules.

If I had to give a 4th rule, I?d say don?t concentrate all your efforts on SEO. Search is just one way potential customers can find your site. Paid search, advertising on high traffic sites, direct mail, email, and print are all other effective methods that all too often get overlooked. Seriously, does it really make sense to spend 80% of your time on a medium that only 40% of your customers use to find you?

About the Author:

Ryan Jones is a University of Michigan graduate who is currently working as a web developer. He runs several popular websites (including his Internet Slang Translator [ http://www.noslang.com ], and has authored articles for many more. You can learn more about Ryan, his websites, and interests at http://www.thehockeygod.com

( If you would like to reprint this article, please inform me of where it will reside, and leave the bio intact. )

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