Blogs Start Outpacing Static Sites: SES New York Organic Listings Panel

Blog Vs Static, blogs in the lead?

Over the past few months I have been working with clients who had a static traditional website for just over a year, and we decided to mix things up and add a blog on a 3rd level domain to their site.They posted just 4 articles, and within 3 weeks they were ranking on the first page of Google, just 2 placements behind the clients site itself!

This upset my client, but I made me wonder about the role of the blog in the search engines. Fortunately, I got the opportunity to bring this subject up at the SES conference and have a panel of professional SEOers weigh in on the subject.

SES New York was a great venue, and right off the bat they lined up a forum with some heavy hitters in the organic SEO world to field current questions. This won’t go through the full transcripts of the organic panel, but go over a key point.

The panelists for the organic listings panel were Greg Boser, Jill Whalen, Dave Naylor, moderated by Mike Grehan.

Me at the SES conference in New York March 2008I was fortunate to be given the second question to the organic listings panel.

“Is there a current trend where blogs are outpacing static websites, and can that continue since everyone and their mother has a blog?”.

Dave Naylor: The thing about blogs is the platform they’re published on. Blogs are not the silver bullet, they’re a supplement, Same as news feeds and social media exposure. Those kinds of things will give you benefits besides human traffic.

Dave hits on a point about blogs, in that their goal and delivery are very different from a static site. Web sites are intended to remain relevant over time, and usually have their own objective( e-commerce, etc) so the search engines are not going to look for much change in their content on a consistent basis. Once a page is laid out, it very rarely changes, aside from minor tweaking now and again. However, blogs are a different media. They are a “flash in the pan”, bearing extreme relevance to a topic for a short period of time, but then fading into an archive after time passes.

Greg: Sites with RSS feeds are outpacing sites without feeds. Blogs are about a distribution chain for content. That distribution attracts links.

The more authoritative your site is, the more on page factors are used.

Greg hits on two separate points that further explain why blogs get ranked quicker. First and foremost, blogs are on an “RSS feed” this send new data out to subscribed users. Most blog platforms have this RSS feed distributed to a central location, which is then tapped by Google, Yahoo and MSN. Essentially, blogs export their content to Google who no longer has to send a crawler out to find the information to check for new information on the page. Now it makes sense to me that this does have an impact on how Google uses the data gathered from blogs because they have the data sent to them. My hypothesis is that this timestamped data gets entered into Google’s database in a separate index or method that causes the posts to be treated differently than a static site.

The second point that Greg hit on, is that blogs are a distribution system for content. Blog posts get exported to RSS feeders. Quite often this is snagged by Technorati, gets posted to Digg, gets stumbled, and spreads this particular subject quickly across the internet. If you are a blog owner, make sure you have profiles on the social blog sites, to gain the benefit from the links that come in from this process. You gain authority as the source of that distributed content, which helps your rankings.

Dave: Note the number of laptops being used by audience. Web site owners don’t come to a conference and write articles. Bloggers don’t care so much about keeping people on the site, but more about expressing opinions.

The final thought for this post is about the transitive nature of blog posts. Dave Naylor is right, Blogs are in the moment in a way that static sites can never achieve. Take advantage of that flexibility and post about current topics, because there is a downside to blogs. It is much more difficult to keep your blog focused on a particular topic, unless you are keeping up with new articles on that topic. So keep posting on a consistant basis around your central theme.

Good luck on your blogging, there is more to come from the SES Conference!

SES New York

SES New York Montage SES Conference Coverage March 2008

The Search Engine Strategies conference in New York was a blast. I will be posting up detailed analysis from the panels that I attended, and share the responses to the questions I asked during the Q & A portions of the conference.

 Topics Covered by SES New York

 There was a wide swath of topics covered, from basic link building and content writing tips, into advanced analytics programs, Google Universal search, and local search. There was also a large chunk of information related to Search engine marketing strategies, so I’ll do my best to relay that information as well.

Matt Cutts Verifies Importance of Content Writing and Meta Tags

From the lips of Matt Cutt himself in an interview with Wired Magazine, answering a question about what a start up web business should do right out of the gate.

“[MattCutts]: First, I would create great content. That’s a fantastic way to get a head start.”

Hail to the king baby! Content is back! SO make sure you are providing quality unique content out there kiddies! It is he most important part of your site, it’s the reason they are there in the first place 😉

“Then you need to promote it — that can be done free using webmaster tools.”

The webmaster tools suite within Google are the perfect ammunition to target your audience.

“Third, tweak snippets. [Snippets are brief descriptions of web pages that appear in certain search results.] Changing meta description tags can increase your traffic.”

The Meta Content of your site is crucial to your success because it is you “advertisement” in the search engines. Through the Adwords program, you can place your add at the top of a keyword, and depending on the popularity of that keyword you can easily burn through 800-8,000 a DAY in advertising costs! There is a whole art form to subtly changing one word or two in the tiny Pay Per click advertisements. When you “organically” rank for a keyword you get 3 to 4 times more text space to advertise! You are getting some very costly advertising space so put some thought into what you say in you “ad”!

Fourth, tweak your text. Look at existing search logs to see how people find you now. It’s the easiest way to increase your conversions. “

Once you have put your content out here, look at your statistics. Make small adjustments to your text and content. If you use Google Analytics, you can actually setup several tests to determine if one version of your page is more successful than another. Remember that nothing is perfect, and small improvements and tinkering can have a positive impact on your rankings.

Thanks for the tips Matt Cutts!

Content Writing Advice: How Unique Do I Need to be?

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.”
Richard Harding Davis

When you are generating the content for a specific page, or in general for your website, you are always going to need to have good references. The most difficult approach to writing a whole new page is by starting with a completely blank page. This forces you to pull all of your creative ideas from your mental archive of information. For some people this comes easily, but for most it is very difficult to start from scratch.

Find Inspiration

Writing is a process, and well designed content is meant to be informed and informative. It is difficult to know something about a subject you haven’t studied. My first recommendation is to look at the subject matter of your page and look for existing information to digest. This could be in a traditional sense, with a trip to the local library( I know, it might be painful to actually go out into the sunlight!), or you can do a quick search to find online resources.

Using Vs Exploiting Resources

I recently read a black hat guide to content writing which talked about “manually scraping” content from other sites by replacing a few letters or words here and there in the content. While it is a great idea to find resources I personally feel that you should respect the integrity of the original work. I would hate it if someone jacked my content and just changed three or four words around. I would encourage you to visit several resource pages, print them out or book mark them, and then come up with your own unique direction, theme and development. Use the original pages as a knowledge base of facts and come up with your own exciting copy. The truth is, if you are just regurgitating someone else’s work and replacing 1 or two words, then you are going to hit a wall.

Google gets wise to Near duplicate content

Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea, keeps an eye on current patent applications coming from the major search engines. While his writing give me a headache sometimes trying to understand all of the technical aspects of the patents, the reality is that Google is implementing more ways of detecting duplicate and NEAR DUPLICATE CONTENT. The reality is that Google is keenly interested in refining search to relevant results, and if your content is near duplicate, and not unique, it’s not even worth Google’s time to display.

Content Writing Advice, Matt Cutts, and the thrill of competition…

I “Destroyed” Matt Cutts!

Content Writing Advice

Well….By “Destroy” I mean out ranked him on a term “Content Writing Advice” that nobody really looks at…

…and he hasn’t even written a specific post about content writing advice…

…and he most likely doesn’t even realize that he did rank for that term…

Actually, I know that this is a temporary spot in a long standing race for ranking in the term Content Writing Advice, and I would like to give due credit to the blogger who started the friendly little seo competition surrounding the content writing advice keywords. It has brought a large measure of inspiration and direction to this blog, and has often inspired and spurred me on to be far more active in my content writing.

Create Hierarchy in your Content Writing: Header Tags

Let your visitors know whats important

When website visitors (and search engines) arrive on your page, they are going to immediately try to assess the most important topics on the page, and if they match up with what they are looking for, they will continue reading your text. The best advice I can give you for writing your content is to use your header tags properly. Most web editors will let you enter these header tags, but you may need to switch over to your source code to add the tags properly.

Determine the what topics your page covers

At the top of your page, make sure your primary topic is set in an h1 tag, it is ok to adjust your css to compensate for the larger size it will make that text by default. As you write the rest of your page, break up your sub-categories by applying h2 and h3 tags to them so that those titles describe the content visually and make it easy for the site visitor to digest the different topics that you are discussing. Of course, your page content should all reflect your primary topic in some way, putting completely different topics on the same page makes it difficult for both visitors and search engines to determine what you are relevant to.

Making Content Count – Blog Vs. Website

I wanted to get a discussion going about this topic, because I think it could be really important for site owners. Blogs are a great way to get lots of fresh content out on a daily basis through an easy medium. However, the more time you spend blogging, the less content writing you do for your website. Editing your site pages definitely takes more consideration, as you have to consider layout, presentation, and call to action on every page you add (or at least you should be!)

So the question is, blog or write for your site?

– Side question, if you do have your blog as PART of your site, like blog.soandso.com, does the weight of the content added there get valued towards your overall value? I believe it may, but I think it’s a good question to put out there.

Content Without Purpose

When you are content writing for you site, you do need to keep in mind the user freindliness of your website. I read this great article about usability that gave an analogy of a restaurant that did tons of advertising but didn’t reap the benefits because their restaurant wasn’t quality.  

Write the content for your website in a way that is going to satisfy the people who read it. Filling pages with empty words that happen to match with your keywords will be much less successful than useful information that is relevant to your clients needs. 

Don’t focus on your rankings because you will become obsessed, checking other peoples sites and wondering why they are ranking higher. Take that energy and devote it to writing relevant website content! When you have quality information that converts visitors it is far more valuable than just sheer numbers.

Social Media: Participation or Exploitation

I recently had the privilege of writing a blog post for a Search Engine Optimization blog about the topic of social media. In my previous post on social media, I first found a thrill of exhilaration as my links from social media sources were quickly discovered on my google sitemaps. After some more time however, I developed a sense of concern about my self promotion on the social media sites.

I think that this has a huge potential to become a self defeating practice. Because, while it does expose my site to more viewers, who may like my site and link to it later from their own site, it is self promotion. If every website or search engine expert jumps on the bandwagon, it will go the way of Reciprocal Link networks and leave a flurry of wreaked sites when GYM change their algorithms to handle social media links.

I’m not the only one to think about these topics apparently, because there was some buzz about it on some SEO forums. I think the tactic I will follow is to be sensible about how you use social media.

If you love it and leave it, by making a quick profile and only linking to your own site, then I think that is a shame and a waste of a good internet concept. If you continue to participate, bookmark other sites and rate other sites, then good on ya! It will benefit you more in the long run as you may build a reputation as an authority over time. So please…bookmark responsibly!

Deconstructing the concept of “Under Construction”

I was assisting a client in moving their content from one company to another, and they had added an under construction page, and put up an icon to make people aware…BIG Mistake.

Don’t Use An Under Construction Page

I think that the “Under Construction page” should become a thing of the past. I think that putting up the under construction page forces Google, Yahoo and MSN to drop all of the links it had to all of the internal pages of your site.

This could set you back greatly because Google will check the site less for new content if it thinks that there is no content there and it will take longer once you remove the under construction page to re index and rank your site.

Websites are living, growing beings. They’re never “finished”

The primary fallacy of an under construction page is the idea that websites are like traditional buildings. When a building is under construction it is of no use whatsoever, however even a fledgling website, if done with thought, can be useful to visitors even if it doesn’t have every thing the creator imagined. Aside from the icons looking like they came from the 90’s dot com bubble, people can of course tell that site isn’t complete.

Don’t Have Stub Pages

As a site owner, you should know that Google doesn’t like “stubs” or placeholder pages that have little or no content. The best way to build your site, is to build it page by page, and publishing when it is filled out. This isn’t to say you can’t add embellishments, or more pictures later on. Ditch the cheesy gif files, and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was any good website.