Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SEO Q&A with Tofurious

As an add-on to the SEO Webinar Playback we felt a great addition would be a full text of the Q&A with Tofurious. We divided the questions up into three categories: General SEO, Showit SEO, and questions for Tofurious. If there are other quesitons you'd like answered head over to Club Showit and join the conversation!

General SEO
Q: Basically, what is SEO?
Tofurious: SEO is designing your website in a way that is friendly for search engines, so they can find what you are trying to promote.

Q: What is a crawler or spider and how is my website crawled?
Tofurious: Search engines have crawlers that scan websites for content. Depending on the frequency of change, crawlers will visit a website to check on updates from minutes (New York Times) to weeks (normal websites).

Q: Is it recommended to submit your site to Google and the other search engines?
Tofurious: The search engines will pick you up regardless if you submit your content, but it doesn't hurt to do it. Signing up for Google Webmaster Tools will automatically submit your site to be indexed by Google.

Q: Should I update my site daily so it gets crawled more often?
Tofurious: It definitely helps! Based on the frequency of updates your website will be crawled accordingly.

Q: How is my Page Title and Page Description used?
Tofurious: Your Page Title is what shows up in search engine results. The Page Description is what is shown in search results with your Page Title.
Q: When creating your Page Title are their any rules to using spaces, commas, underscores, etc.?
Tofurious: No. But as a best practice you can and should use normal punctuation in your page titles so search engines return results that are easy for a viewer to read.

Q: Are there recommendations on the length of the Page Name? How many words are too many?
Tofurious: Different search engines have different rules. But best practices would be no longer than 50 to 60 characters.

Q: Is it correct to say that if I add a long Page Description Google will rank or see it better?
Tofurious: No. All search engines have a limit on how long the Page Description is, so there is no guarantee the entire description will be shown. The most important thing is it include keywords for your business and that it provides a good description of what that page is.

Q: For SEO is it better to have my Site Name appear first or my Page Name?
Tofurious: It really more depends on what is more important to the photographer. If your brand is the most important thing then the site name should be first. If you would rather have the page content show up in the search listing then put the Page Name first.

Q: What are keywords are how are they valuable?
Tofurious: Keywords are not really that valuable, but you can still fill them in for kicks. Google recently made an announcement on their Webmaster Central blog saying they don't use keywords when indexing websites. You can read my take on this and see Google's video announcement here.

Q: When entering meta keywords is it correct to add both the word in both singular and plural, such as “wedding” and “weddings”? Also, does the same apply for capitals and lower cases, such as “Photographer” and “photographer”?
Tofurious: My experience that one is adequate. For example, “photography” is searchable for photographer and photographers.

Q: What is the difference between having www.mysite.com and just mysite.com?
Tofurious: It is believed that by not settling for one url, your Page Rank is split. To Google and other search engines you have two different websites with the same content, thus splitting your web traffic. Use a 301 redirect to divert traffic from one site to the other.
Showit: In Showit you can specify if you want to use www. as your default or not. Google's best practice recommendation is to use the www., and create a 301 redirect pointing mysite.com to www.mysite.com. Showit allows you to by default publish your website with the www., but at the moment it does not automatically create a 301 redirect for you.

Q: What are Image ALT tags and how are they helpful?
Tofurious: Image ALT tags are used to create a description for an image on your website. This is useful as you can note the location of an image if taken at a popular wedding location. When someone peforms a search in Google under Images that image would be returned in the results based on the ALT tag. In this example if you do a Google search for "Beverly Hills Hotel" this image is returned in the search results.
Q: What is Google Analytics and why is it useful?
Tofurious: It is the enterprise-class web analytics solution that gives you rich insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness. You can track what keywords were used to find your website, see what pages users viewed, see where users leave, and much more.

Q: Why are the statistics from Google Analytics different from Cpanel and my Wordpress StatPress plugin? Which one should I trust?
Tofurious: It is possible that each medium’s definition of a unique visitor or returning visitor can be subjective. I trust Google Analytics because it is 1.) Designed by Google and 2.) Trusted by large enterprises.
Showit: For a Showit website it would different because Google Analytics is being called directly with each Flash page change. The other stats will only have the hits from the original page load the user enters from.

Q: I've heard Bounce Rate called the only "magic metric" out there. You mentioned bounce rate is measured by Google. My bounce rate is currently 1.5%. Is there a bounce rate percentage that you need to aim for to get better PageRank?
Tofurious: In a nutshell no.

Q: Does bounce rate count in organic search?
Tofurious: I believe it does affect searches. For example, if someone is looking for balloon distribution and I so happen to have used balloons in my engagement session, my results won’t exactly be accurate. After enough bounces for the search term for balloon distribution, I assume Google would remove that listing.

Q: What is Google Webmaster Tools and why is it useful?
Tofurious: It provides you with detailed reports about your pages' visibility on Google. You see how many external links exist to your site, top search queries with details on result positions, click-throughs, and more. You can also setup here for Google to display your website URL as www.mysite.com instead of mysite.com.

Q: What is PageRank and how can I increase it?
Tofurious: PageRank (PR) is Google's view of your website's importance. PR is a number between 0 and 10, with 10 being the highest.

Q: How can I increase my PageRank?
Tuforious: PR increases based on a number of factors, but mainly by the number of incoming links to a website. In a nutshell, assume it would take 1,000 links to your website from websites with a PR 0 to move your PR from 0 to 1. To move to a PR 2 you would need 1,000 PR 1 links or 1,000,000 PR 0 links.

Q: How can I find out my PageRank?
Tofurious: The easiest way is via Google's Toolbar. They include a little green bar that measure the PR of the website you are currently on. The other option is to go here and enter a website URL.

Q: My website was a PageRank 4/10 last year and now dropped to 1/10. What happened?
Tofurious: Exactly how PR works is part of Google's secret sauce. Your PR can change due to dozens of different scenarios and Google's continually changing algorithm. It may be that sites linking to you got a lower PR, so your PR lowers. There is no guarantee on PageRank, but if you want to learn more about ways to increase it come to my workshop.

Q: Does a higher PageRank help with Google organic listings? I ask because my site is a PR3, and all of my local competition has a max of PR2, but they rank higher in organic searches?
Tofurious: It helps, but not entirely. There is a lot more than just PageRank involved in organic search returns.

Q: Is it bad or does it negatively affect your PageRank when you link to other people?
Tofurious: It doesn't help your SEO to link to other people, but I always say do it for good karma.

Q: Why are external site links important?
Tofurious: They are important because it helps with your PageRank. The more links linking to you the better your PR will be. You can track all your external links with Google Webmaster Tools.

Q: Is a reciprocal link different than a direct link to your site?
Tofurious: Yes. A reciprocal link is when it is exchanged (which in my opinion is weaker). A direct link (with no reciprocity) is a direct vouch without expecting anything in return.

Q: Why is social networking such as blogging, Facebook, and Twitter important for SEO?
Tofurious: I believe blogging is critical for a photographer's SEO. One of the most important pieces of SEO is new content to be indexed. A blog provides regularly updated content for crawlers to index about you and your photography business. You can use Typepad, Blogger, WordPress, or others. I prefer Wordpress because I think it's the easiest to use, customize, and has the best SEO capabilities.

Facebook provided news feeds in a dedicated platform. You can create a Fan Page which allows users to see your updates every time you post something.

Twitter is the new revolution in social networking. For the first time, you can subscribe to feeds without requiring reciprocation, and it provides access to information in small digestible amounts (140 characters).

Q: What is the best SEO plugin you could recommend for WordPress?
Tofurious: All in One SEO Pack

Q: Should titles in a Wordpress post and in its plugin, All in One SEO, be the same?
Tofurious: It’s relevant to what your goal is.

Q: Is it better to run your blog under a different address from your main website?
Tofurious: There are advantages and disadvantages to this. My opinion is having an “external” link where your blog is under another url is much stronger compared to an “internal” link where it is under the same domain.

Q: If you comment on lots of blogs where your user name links back to your website, does that affect your SEO in any way, negatively or positively?
Tofurious: It will generally not affect your SEO even if it's excessive. Most blogging platforms are setup with a no-follow tag for comments.

Q: What are the pros and cons of having www.mysiteblog.com, www.blog.mysite.com, or www.mysite.com/blog?
Tofurious: An external link (former) is weighed more in terms of PR compared to an internal link (latter). The disadvantage for this situation is that when asked to link to your site, which will you have it linked to – portfolio or blog? This splits your PageRank.

Q: In Facebook is it better to have a Group for your photography business or a Fan Page?
Tofurious: I am not a pro with Facebook, but my understanding is that a FanPage will send alerts automatically, which if it is your goal, then I favor the latter.

Q: Do Tweets and Facebook links boost search engine ranking?
Tofurious: Anytime someone hits your site it counts as a page hit, and ultimately the goal is to get people to your site.
Showit Update: Since this webinar the search engines changed their stance on Twitter. This is from TechCrunch...Yesterday Bing announced that Twitter updates will be integrated into it's search engine results. Google followed shortly with a press release it would also be including Twitter updates in it's own search results. All the more reason to start Tweeting!

Q: If you disable "no follow" using plug-ins in blog comments, does it help the person commentating since it will now allow the link to be tracked back?
Tofurious: It will help the commenter but not the host.

Q: How beneficial are links to my webiste in signatures on forums?
Tofurious: Not very. Generally forums are setup with no-follow tags. What this means is if your signature includes a link to your website, the code in the link-to advises Google to not count this as a link, so it is not counted in your PageRank.

Q: I have several domain names relating to my area/town, all pointing to my site. Is this helpful with SEO?
Tofurious: Relevant links are definitely more helpful compared to ones that are not.

Showit Questions
Q: How is a website published with Showit indexed by search engines since it's a Flash website?
Showit: Many search engines now can read Flash if your using an XML data format. But, to ensure your website is searched Showit publishes an HTML page with each Flash page you create. We also give you control over which elements of each page should be published to your HTML view. For more on this check out the Showit Wiki here.

Q: I saw a big jump in search engine traffic to my site immediately after the most recent Showit update (Showit 2.1). I see a lot of clicks coming from search terms that would be deep in the site, possibly page names. What did you do to make this happen and/or to what would you attribute this?
Showit: We completely revamped how we publish the HTML pages in the last update, Showit 2.1. The content was there in previous versions, but we really focused on making it more search engine friendly. You can also attribute this to your site just getting traffic! ;-)

Q: How can I setup Google Analytics with my Showit website?
Showit: In the Site Settings area you need to enter your Google Analytics ID. For detailed instructions you can review the Showit Wiki here.

Q: In Google Analytics for one of my Showit websites I often see "/index.html/somepage/" and hits on a separate "/#/somepage/". I think this is probably search engines sending folks to an html page, but I'm not sure. Do you know how and why viewers end up going to two different URLs and get the same content?
Showit: When a viewer is directed to your site from an external link it uses the /index.html address. When a user goes to your site directly or links to a page from inside your website, it does not include the /index.html. We have not yet found a way around this as it is how web browsers direct the link.

Q: Can we use other tools like Visistat to track site analytics?
Showit: Currently we only fully support Google Analytics due to the fact that the Flash actually calls out to Google with every page change.

Q: How do I setup my Showit website with Webmaster Tools?
Showit: You can create a text file with the name that Google Webmaster Tools provides, upload it to your media library just like you would an image file, and then publish your site. For detailed instructions check the Showit Wiki.

Q: How do I add ALT tags to images?
Showit: When a layer is selected in Showit on the stage, there will be a default name in the upper right hand corner of the Stage. The default for a text layer is “Text Layer”, for a shape is “Flash Layer”, and for an image is the name of the file. Click on the default name and rename it.

Q: How can you put ATL tags on each photo when my photos are inside the Gallery widget?
Showit: Currently we don't support attaching an ALT tags inside a gallery. You can put an ALT tag on the Thumbnail widget and Gallery Display widget as they are individual layers.

Q: I have gone through and added descriptions to each page on my Showit website, but I don't see any evidence of those descriptions in my source code when I view the site? However, I know the SEO info has been updated and published because the Title Tag changes. Why is this?
Showit: First make sure you have published your site with those changes, and then export your HTML files. Then, check at the top of any HTML file and look for a tag with the description. It should be within the first 10 to 15 lines.

Tofurious Questions
Q: Are you coming to cold Canada any time soon?
Tofurious: I will be speaking at Image Explorations 2010 in Canda.

Q: If you are going to cold Canada, you MUST come to the hot and warm Brasil! Any plans to head this way?
Tofurious: Only for vacation :)

Q: When are you going to start the Digital Download project?
Tofurious: Not sure, but keep an eye on my blog for updates.

Q: In your experience what is the best book for SEO? Aside from SEO for Dummies.
Tofurious: Unfortunately, I did not read any other book aside from that. It is a good basis to start with, but it is still only an overview. Try experimenting because those results you can track.

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