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On the subject of domains

Matt

November 5th, 2008.

SMX London – 25 Killer Tips, Tools And Strategies

Having just got back from SMX London I thought that rather than be one of 50 recap blog posts I thought I would try to do something a little different.

Sitting though about 15 hours of presentations and Q&A over the past couple of days was no mean feat. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for people with a short attention span!

Taking this sentiment on board I have put together a list of the best hints, tips, tools and strategies from the past couple of days, not just from the speakers themselves, but also picked up from around the conference halls and bars.

  1. Download the Microsoft AdCenter Excel plugin for keyword research. It’s incredibly versatile, users can easily manipulate long keyword lists and data. It even goes as far as adding extra data sets into the mix by offering historical data and demographic breakdowns. Unfortunately, since the is currently still in beta UK specific data hasn’t yet been made available.
  2. In ushering in a new era of transparency MSN is giving users an unprecedented amount of access to actionable data though the impressive AdCenter labs, some of the best tools include,
    - Detecting commercial intention based on a URL or keyword phrase.
    - Keyword group detection tool for detecting related keywords.
    - Search funnels, for visualising search sequences and search funnels.
    - Ad text writer, for the lazy PPC marketer! Enter a page URL and it will spit out a list of ad text.
  3. MSNs webmaster centre is now displaying lists of pages your pages that are penalised, contain malware or link to pages that contain malware.
  4. “More than 60% of companies are planning to increase their PPC or SEO budgets in 2009″ Linus Gregoriadis. Recession? What recession?
  5. Keyword phrase composition – consider all of the elements that may make up your users potential keyword phrases.
    For example – Use (For school) + Action (Buy) + Price (Cheap) + Attribute (Black) + Brand (Sony) + Location (UK) + Quality (New) + Your Keyword.
    Consider the alternatives for each of these and build your keyword lists accordingly.
  6. There is a real lack of awareness of new UK laws (enforced by Trading Standards and The Office Of Fair Trading) that now make it illegal to offer fake editorial content, without first making this fact clear to the reader. This will also affect fake internet reviews, promotional blog posts and comments that don’t offer disclosure of payment. – Judith Lewis
  7. Although there is/was some obvious disagreement, the consensus is that owning the local TLD is by far the easiest way of of ensuring rankings in the correct local search engines. Other factors include local hosting, links, translation and address data in both the WhoIs and on the pages themselves.
  8. The Redfly Google Global Firefox extension is perfect for searching local versions of Google quickly.
  9. Linkbait – It is now vital to keep it on topic/niche. Wandering off topic may make things easier, but it’s probably tempting fate. Jane @ SEOMoz
  10. Facebook fan pages are live, indexed and the links are non-nofollow.
  11. The Forrester Groundwell tool is great for understanding the likely social media engagement level of your target market demographic.
  12. Social media campaigns must should be carefully planned – be sure that you know who your audience are, which social media channels they’re likely to use, the creative message that you want to get across and your delivery strategy – Ciaran Norris
  13. Vanessa Fox – Duplicate content across local TLD properties “should” be properly dealt with by Google, the correct verion “should” be delivered in the equivalent local version of Google. – Notice emphasis ;) Again, I would say to be sure to have key content rewritten.
  14. Use psychological hooks in your linkbait. Take your core niche and add in a social media angle – environment, politcal, geeky etc. Be aware of the linking demographic, they’re typically male, intelligent and tech savvy. Linkbait isn’t linkbait if it doesn’t elicit links! – Lyndon Antcliff, Cornwall SEO
  15. Use search operators to find expired pages such as keyword+”this page is no longer available” either, contact the page owners for them to add a link to content on your site, or, contact the sites linking to the expired page asking them to link to your content instead. Tom @ Distilled
  16. Keep an eye on competitor business closures or bankruptcy, this gives an opportunity to either buy they domain, or contact sites linking to them to link to your site instead. Wiep Knoll
  17. Use forums and similar Web 1.0 communities for user generated linkbait
  18. Always try to use your keywords in the article title of linkbait pieces – it really helps getting your keyword phrases in links.
  19. Try launching linkbait on forums before onto social sites. In this way you can test it’s effectiveness, get feedback, and frequently pickup better quality content.
  20. Avoid foreign links from foreign sites, in large quantities these can be an obvious flag for closer inspection. Jay @ LinkFish Media
  21. Some “killer” tools worth taking a look at – Linkscape, Majestic SEO, TubeMogul, Optilink
  22. Buying websites for SEO can provide a competitive advantage in terms of links, or 301 redirecting the site to pass domain trust/authority and the backlink profile. Use these tactics sparingly though, too many sites being redirected can lead to a search engine penalty. Concentrate on buying traffic and relevance over PR and backlinks.
  23. Web 2.0 linkbuilding! We’re moving away from Web 1.0 methods like exchanges, link pages, paid links and comment spam, and moving towards internal link optimisation, online PR syndication, targeted PR submissions, guest writing, linkbaiting and social media.
  24. When buying domains change ownership indicators slowly, things like Whois data, hosting, design and content should be left as long as possible and changes staggered, Google will zero any link and age benefits if there is an obvious change in ownership. DaveN
  25. Finding domains for sale – Google searches, forums, DMOZ listings etc Richard Kershaw

Thanks also to Rob, Bruno, Chris, Rob, Rishil and many other people who I had a lot of fun discussing all of this with!

Matt

September 22nd, 2008.

The Definitive Guide To Website Geo-Location In Search Engines

Being based in the UK I find that SEOs on this side of the pond have to get very familiar with website geo-location factors. It’s an unfortunate quirk of search engines that one of the main criteria that search engines use to determine a websites location is the location of its webhost.

If you’re looking to target a specific locality, then it’s vital that your site is recognised by search engines as being from that territory. Local websites are featured more prominently in local versions of the search engines, there are also surfers are given the option to see only pages from their location excluding foreign based sites.

Up until fairly recently UK hosting tended to be fairly expensive in comparison to our US cousins. For this reason many UK based sites found themselves running into problems when they tried to save costs by hosting their sites in the USA.

Don’t take it for granted that by hosting with a UK based company that their servers will also be based in the UK. Many UK hosting companies locate their servers overseas including one very well known host that bases their servers in Germany. I’m sure this is the case the world over. When signing up for hosting contracts, if location is an issue for you, always check that the servers are located geographically where you would expect them to be.

There are several factors that are theorised that effect the location of a site in terms of search engines. This list tends to include,

  • The top level domain extension (.co.uk, .fr, .de)
  • The location (IP address) of the website host
  • The geographic location of the domain registrar
  • The language that the site is written in
  • The location of incoming links
  • On page factors (addresses, telephone numbers)
  • Registering with Google Local

Obviously some of these factors hold more importance than others, some I theorise are used marginally, others I believe not at all, or their effect is too minimal to test.

Using The Correct TLD (Top Level Domain)
This is your best case scenario. You have a site that you’re targeting to UK consumers, holding a .co.uk site will pretty much guarantee that you’ll be found in the UK search results, even if you choose to host out of the country. For example the server for whois.co.uk is based in the US, but the site is still returned in the UK only version of a Google search.

Website Host Location
There are of course many instances of websites that are targeted to a specific country but are using a generic top level domain such as a .com or .net. In these cases simply ensuring that your hosts servers are geographically located in your marketplace should ensure that the site is recognised as being local. The Datadial site for example is using a .net TLD, but as its host is located in the UK is still appears for UK only queries. ASP.net which is located in the US does not appear for the equivalent query.

Geographic Location Of The Domain Registrar
I feel this is a factor that is sometimes overlooked by many webmasters, but as Google has access to the geographic location such as the location of the domain registrar it would make sense for them to make use of this as well. This along with other registrar information such as Whois data could well be used as a ‘tie-breaker’ when country-specific TLDs are hosted elsewhere. For example many country specific TLDs such as .fm, .cc, and .tv are now being used because of the brandability of the domain extension. In cases such as these where the TLD extension is indicating one location and the hosting location indicating another then it would be a logical step to make use of the information available from the domain registrar.

Site Language
Obviously as well as it making sense to make sure your site is written in the language of the search visitors that you’re looking for, it may well be one of the factors that a search engine may use to help determine the location of a site. It certainly isn’t a defining factor though as it’s relatively easy to find foreign language sites within the UK only search results.

Location Of Incoming Links
As above, the idea is that a search engine can use the location of incoming links to determine the site location. Again, I’m sceptical if this is any more than of marginal importance. I have seen lots of sites with low quality link profiles that consist of largely overseas located links and of course news sites with very few links seem to have little problem get geographically placed before backlinks have had a chance to develop.

Site Addresses/Telephone Numbers
Again, it’s just good practice to have local contact details for local markets. There is also speculation that this may be used to place a sites location. Again this is difficult to test but I’m doubtful if this is would be anything more than of marginal importance.

Registering With Google Local
Again, hard to test, but it would make sense for Google to make as much use of all the information that was made available to them. Yahoo and MSN also have similar local services.

Going back to our original list I would place the factors in the following order of importance,

  1. TLD extension
  2. Hosting location
  3. Domain registrar
  4. Google local registration
  5. Incoming links
  6. Site language
  7. On page addresses/phone numbers

Of course, many of these factors are very difficult to test on their own as it’s difficult to isolate individual factors on their own. Certainly the first three seem to influence the outcome the most.

Site Targeting In Google Webmaster Tools
Last year Google added an option in Webmaster Tools to define a geographic location for a website. Unfortunately this is only an option if you site is already on a non-specific TLD.  Vanessa Fox wrote on SearchEngineland,

If your domain is a location-specific TLD (such as the .fr example above), Google will show you the country that your site is associated with but won’t let you specify something different. However, if your domain is not country specific (such as a .com or .net), you can indicate the location of the site…

You can provide information at a more granular level than country. For example, if your site is for a pizza restaurant in Seattle, you can specify up to the street address (although you can input any granularity that makes sense for your business such as city or state).

One of the most useful things about this tool is that it lets you specify different locations for each subdomain. This can be extremely helpful for large corporates which could save them from having to purchase domains and/or source hosting in many different localities.

Geo-Detection Tool

The SEOMoz Geo-detection tool is is a useful way of checking how well a website is targeted to a specific country or market.

More resources
Get Elastic – Location Targeting In Google
Webmaster Central Blog – Better Geographic Choices For Webmasters
Search Engine Journal – On Site Geotargeting And SEO
Search Engine Land – SEO And SEM Outside The US

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