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Search Engines Gone Astray

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Simply having a website  does not guarantee that the world will beat a path to your door (I’m sure I’ve said that before, but it bears repeating!). There are hundreds of millions (billions perhaps) of websites, so competition is fierce to try and place prominently in search engine results. Face it, if you aren’t on at least page 2 of the SERPS chances are good you just aren’t going to get much traffic.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a must if a site is ever going to improve in positioning. There are  many basic components involved in optimizing a site – it can become a full time job and even then you can’t be assured of reaching the top of the heap. And the  Search Engines make it harder all the time. In my opinion, they’ve gone over the edge of what truly constitutes  a  top site.

Things started going downhill when the SE’s began putting importance on the number of  backlinks a site had. Supposedly it meant that the more backlinks a site had, the more visitors found it worthwhile which meant that it was a top notch site. Seriously? Is that really going to determine a quality site? You can buy backlinks so how does that prove the value of a site? And, really? how many webmasters are going to link to 100’s or 1000’s of other sites when it’s  incoming links to their own site that are more valuable and particularly one-way links (non-reciprocal links – meaning they link to you, you don’t link to them) There’s something wrong with this picture.

It proceeded to get more convoluted with the advent of blogs. All of a sudden Blogs were the be all, end all. Everyone needed one and the SE’s began to put blogs on the list of how to improve link juice to your site. As a side note here I have a couple of clients who belong to a blog for a particular profession.  They have begun allowing members to re-post other member’s previous posts.  Why? Well with thousands of people posting about a specific profession I believe they’ve run out of original things to post about so they’re recycling!  Go Green I say. Many blogs have really evolved into semi-websites. There are some awesome blogs out there, but for the most part they are just posts with little value and are merely taking up space – kinda like this one!  🙂

The advent of social media sites was one things really tanked.  Once again the Search Engines went off the mark and began putting emphasis on the nutworking sites as I call them.  Again I can only say SERIOUSLY? Anyone running a business has their hands full already – the last thing they need is to have to belong to a dozen social sites where they have to tweet, or write on a wall or dig something EVERY DAY in order for it to do any good. And guess what happens? The information highway becomes more and more diluted and ridiculous. Tweet this! Many of these  sites have their value for people who have nothing else to do than be social butterflies, some are a great way for families who want to stay in touch, but for the most part they are valueless. Get rid of them? No, because they do serve a purpose for some people. Make them part of SEO juice? NO!

Essentially there are four kinds of websites:

  • Informational sites – sites that provide information about a specific topic or topics. Authority sites, government sites, library sites and so on
  • Sites that offer a  limited variety of products or a service they are selling such as real estate sites, pet sites, etc., but also provide information about the service or the target for their products.
  • E-Commerce sites – These are internet stores that sell products and offer little or no information other than product descriptions
  • Personal and Organization sites – Sites about  family reunions, sports team sites, organizations, and the like

This is where the true value of the internet lies, not in twitting or facebooking or digging or stumbling. While those types of sites may hold interest or entertainment for some, I don’t feel that the Search Engines should be placing any value on whether or not a website is tied to one of these social networking sites.

Webmasters keep your focus and continue to make those websites strong, with good content and useful information. Add pages, update, add the site to directories and keep giving your visitors what they are really searching for.

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How’s your integrity quotient?

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You know how sometimes things just gnaw at you and even though you try to shrug them off they seem to constantly rear their heads and demand attention? This particular issue has gnawed long enough and its time to get it out there.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery …  but when it comes to claiming it as your own that’s a whole new ball game and when you do a lousy job of it that’s even worse. The real kicker though is charging people for so-called expertise  taken from someone else, edited just enough to maybe avoid copyright infringement and then presented as your own in an amateurish manner.

So what, you ask, is this all about? A couple of years ago this person showed up on the HC Forum asking for help.  He knew nothing about search engine optimization and had a site that was very poorly designed (and unfortunately it was a site he was designing for some unsuspecting soul).  Judy and I gave this fellow a ton of help and he purchased our book, SEO Building Blocks™.  The next thing we knew he began promoting himself as an SEO expert (remember, this is the guy who just a couple years ago didn’t even know how to spell SEO and you definitely DO NOT become expert in SEO in a couple of years) and selling information via videos (very poorly done and lacking in good/correct info.) and documents. Pity the person who purchases as they are not going to be getting expert advise, rather they will get info harvested from another source – in trying to escape copyright infringement he did a lousy job so the ‘expert advise’ is outdated and often incorrect. He has even gone so far as to incorporate the term Building Blocks into his content. Obviously integrity and honesty aren’t words in his vocabulary.

So buyer beware, if you are an Intuit – Homestead user and need some help with SEO, make sure that the source you purchase from is legit and truly knows the ins and outs of search engine optimization. Make sure that the seller is providing you good, quality, up-to-date information that will help you succeed on the WWW.

We have over 25 years of combined experience in design and SEO  and the Site Builder program. And,  ‘We wrote the book on SEO for Intuit – Homestead sites’®. If you want the ‘real deal’ visit us at SEO Building Blocks for information on the ebook that can truly offer you insight into search engine requirements and help with optimizing your website.

Thanks for letting us get this off our chests!

S & J

Google making search more interesting

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In March, Google introduced something new into their search algorithm. Their statement in part says, “we are deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search.” Simply put, semantic search is now a part of Google’s search results. By definition, semantic is the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text. Google’s changes will give results that target more queries and provide searchers expanded relevant results.

On page copy (content) is and has always been important for the Homestead webmaster but now it is even more so. The new changes allow a better use of related terms in your  information as the algorithm can understand the association of terms.  This makes search engine optimization (SEO) even more important for webmasters to gain good placement in searches.

The best part of Google’s improvements is how it effects longer queries…Google will be expanding the number of lines in the snippets to provide more information. The results will show the queried words in the context of the page. A search for ‘how to build a Homestead website’ is an example:

Search Results

The words in bold are what Google pulled from the site to match the search. In this example it is a snippet from one of our previous blog posts.

For webmasters who have actually developed good on-page copy this should be a real benefit by presenting your information to more searchers. It will not only provide results for the specific keywords but words that closely relate to those search words. These snippets may come from anywhere on the page.

This change should encourage better writing because the search terms utilized can and will include options beyond specific keywords. Phrases that semantically ‘fit’ may also be included in the results.  This should be a win win situation for both the web searcher and the thoughtful webmaster.

Homestead users should keep in mind that website design and information placement is important in regards to page copy.  As more information is added to a page it is possible for a website to initially overwhelm the reader/searcher with too much information to sort through.

It is wise to keep the top portion (above the fold) simple with emphasis on the main purpose of the site. Additional information can be placed lower on the page. The use of bold type for important information helps the reader to quickly scan to find the meat of the site.  Utilizing lists also helps the viewer to see at a glance what the focus of the site is. Both of these also help with the Search Engines.  By constructing pages in this way the reader can quickly determine important information in the first few paragraphs.  If what they see piques their interest they will continue reading/looking.

As search engines continue to refine their algorithms, on page copy becomes even more important. Webmasters will need to hone their writing skills and think beyond placing emphasis on just a few key words or phrases in order to fully benefit from searches.

Visit Google’s blog for the complete scoop on the New Improvements to Search Results 

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Be sure to visit us at the Homestead Connection Forum  for more help and information on making your Homestead site user and search engine friendly.

Homestead user who needs some help? The Homestead Connection  site offers users of the Intuit (Homestead websites) software, tutorials and examples of how to use the SiteBuilder program.

Homestead Users – Where do you get your search engine optimization information?

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Are you wading through pages and pages of internet information that may or may not fit your needs to find useable information on SEO? Is this information current or several years old? Perhaps you have a friend who has a website and is giving you information. Are you visiting forums in the hope of gleaning any useful information or answers to your questions? Are you purchasing or thinking about purchasing videos to help teach you about optimizing your website?

Some thoughts and recommendations that can prevent you from wasting your time and/or money on products and information sources that are incomplete, poorly done, provide incorrect information and don’t give the Homestead user information that applies to a Homestead designed website.

Blogs, Websites and Videos: 

Self promotion is what internet marketing is about. You may find blogs, videos and perhaps websites selling some information to make optimizing your Homestead website quick and easy.

 Search engine optimization is not easy, it is not quick and there are no guarantees.

Anyone can build a blog or website and present themselves as an expert. This is usually done to self promote and assist in selling items or products.

To gather good, sound information join the Homestead Connection Forum. It is free and limited to just Homestead users. We provide helpful hints, guidance and sources of other information. The admin staff and its major contributors have well over 20 years experience with SEO and proper website design. 

Visit this blog often or subscribe to the feed as new information will show up here first, it will be as complete as possible and it will apply to your Homestead website as well as any drop and drag site builder program.

Use the Homestead Connection website that provides tutorials to give you a good foundation on fine tuning your website and installing extra scripts to help customize pages. 

If you are thinking about purchasing information first find out about the seller, how long have they been around? A couple of years ‘experience’ is not long enough to be promoting oneself as an expert. If you see lists of keywords demonstrating their skill in optimizing a website – remember this…if there is no competition you can place anything on the first page! Do not be impressed with lists of highly placed keywords.

Is there a no questions asked money back guarantee on products? If not, don’t spend your money.

Are they selling information that has long been available free to Homestead users either on the Homestead Connection Forum or the HC site?

We have written two books dealing with website design and SEO. SEO Building Blocks is a guide to search engine optimization for the Homestead designed site. Homestead Website Design was written for anyone wanting to start their own web design business or to help a new site owner learn to use the SiteBuilder program properly and understand good usability for both site visitors and search engines.

We provide free updates, and a no questions asked money back guarantee.

 Homestead trusts us enough that they provide links to and promote both the Homestead Connection Forum and our Homestead Website Design book.

 Our goal is to provide you the foundation to understand how SEO works. This will enable you to weather the changes that the search engines undergo from time to time.

 Even if you only use the Homestead Connection Forum, or the Homestead Connection website and/or this blog, you will gain information that is complete enough to do things right. That may not be the case on other websites and blogs….if you want to learn, come to the teachers not the students.

Keyword density – Don’t over optimize

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Writing good page copy has two goals.

  • Keep a site visitor on your site long enough to buy your products or service.
  • Provide search engines information about your site. This information can help in ranking your site in searches.
Over the years there have been specific keyword densities associated with ranking a website or page. Each major search engine had a specific requirement for the density of keywords in the on page copy.
Keyword density tools were created to provide way to check page copy for its percentage of keywords.There are a number of these keyword tools on the web and many people still use their ‘magic numbers’ in creating website copy.

In all honesty the results may have provided the right percentage of usage for the search engines but in a lot of cases these numbers were and still are, a real turn off for page readers. Win the ranking race but lose the visitor to bad copy. Not a really great situation for a website that depends on generic searches and even worse for those depending on pay for click visitors.

When writing your page copy use these keyword tools as a guide only. The information that these tools provide can ensure you do not overdo keywords.

Algorithms are evolving and many Search Engines are now actually down ranking sites that are over optimized for specific keywords. This makes writing copy directed at search engines rather than people, unwise.

You are better off to simply place the primary keyword in your first paragraph and place it prominently. Make sure that this word/phrase shows up again toward the middle of your copy and in the last paragraph on the page. Beyond that, if it fits use it, but cautiously. Your secondary key phrases should be worked into the page copy as they fit.

Make your page interesting to read and provide good information for your visitor, this can be done and still utilize the important keywords needed by the search engines.

Remember … keyword tools should be used as a guide only and fixating on the numbers can be counter productive if your pages don’t provide good reading for site visitors.

Do-It-Yourself Website Design With Homestead

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You are about to begin on the journey of web design after having found Homestead’s easy-to-use site builder software. The sales pitch says that you can build a site in 30 minutes. This is true. You can throw together a one or two page website in 30 minutes by using the ‘cookie cutter’ templates, the existing page copy, the ‘canned’ meta tags, etc. offered by the SiteBuilder Lite program.  What you can’t do is build a site that meets usability standards, is a well-designed, properly optimized, or viewer friendly site in 30 minutes. If all you want is a personal site or one to share with family and friends then the 30 minute approach will probably work for you.  If, however, you are building a site to sell a product or service or an informational site that you hope will reach vast numbers of people on the Internet, it’s going to take considerably more time than that. Why? …

It’s about more than just a pretty site

Successful websites depend on two very important factors: search engine optimization and good page design. You can have one without the other, but without the combination the odds of your site doing well are minimized. Done right, the two intertwine so that while you are designing, you are also optimizing and while you are optimizing you are designing.

When we talk about SEO most people think it refers to meta tags: titles, descriptions and keywords, but SEO is much more than that. Search Engines index and rank sites based on many factors not just the meta tags. 

When page design is mentioned thoughts immediately go to the colors and the fonts and the pretty pictures. Just as with SEO, page design encompasses more than just the visual aspect of a page and it plays a part in how the Search Engines react to the site.

How A Web Page Works – The Simple Explanation

You design a page.

How well that page is optimized and designed are major factors in how the Search Engines will index and rank the page which determines how well it places in searches. (There are dozens more factors that will have an impact on placement, but these two are primary.)

Page/site success is also reliant on visitors. If a page isn’t viewer friendly (i.e. poor design) or doesn’t offer the information/product the viewer searched for (poor meta tag info) they leave. You lose a potential customer. If the site shows a large percentage of visitors bouncing out without spending time on the page the Search Engines may take that into consideration and decide that your particular page must not be offering the right info for the given search term and thus the page falls back in placement for that keyword or phrase.

To build a truly useful, successful and appealing site means researching and studying what site design and search engine optimization are all about and then putting that knowledge into practice. I guarantee it will take you a lot more than 30 minutes, but I also guarantee that you will see positive results. And one thing to keep in mind – Web sites are never done.

5 Don’ts of Web Design

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You are about to design your first website using the Homestead site building program. Before you jump headlong into your project keep in mind that your competition is only one click away so you want to put your best foot forward. Let’s explore 5 very important Don’ts that can increase your success with the Search Engines and make your site more friendly for visitors.

DON’T publish pages until you have added the ‘NoIndex,NoFollow” tag.

Websites that are in the process of being constructed should be hidden from view – they can have a negative influence on search engines and also visitors. No one, not even the search bots, likes to land on a page that isn’t complete. Prior to publishing your pages you should insert the ‘NoIndex,NoFollow” tag in the <Head> tag box under the Advanced tab on Properties Editor*. This prevents the Search Engines from indexing an incomplete site or page which could hurt you in the rankings. Copy and paste the following tag on every page. When the site is completed remove the tags and republish the page(s).
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” content=”NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW”> 
*Note: This is only possible when using the full version of SiteBuilder – You do not have access to the head tags in SiteBuilder Lite

DON’T clutter your pages with unnecessary elements.

A successful website depends on certain standards that need to be adhered to if you hope to make a go of your site. One of which is don’t annoy your visitors. Many first time webmasters fall prey to what I call the ‘junk syndrome’.  It is so exciting building your first site and as you will discover, there is a vast array of things you can add to it, but pretty soon what you have isn’t a website it’s the aftermath of an explosion in a junk shop. A calm site is a site that is much more apt to hold the visitor than one where the viewer’s eyes are going in circles trying to find a place to focus. Unnecessary elements include: hit counters, date/time, guest books on professional sites, Add to Favorites, and any/all spinning, jumping, twirling, scrolling animated gizmos you happen to run across.

DON’T create pages that rely on photos/images to convey your site’s message.

Visitors and search engines both need content to determine the focus of a site – search engines need it in order to properly index the site and visitors need it to decide if they are in the right place to obtain the information or product they were looking for. Content truly is king and without good, key word rich, well-written copy your site may never see the light of day in searches.

DON’T use an entry page on your website.

Entry pages can be a killer for web sites.  Not to be confused with the necessary Index or Home page, an entry page is the page a visitor lands on when they access the site only to find they must then click on an additional link. Often times this link is not obvious making it hard or impossible to figure out how to get into the site. When someone lands on your site they should be IN your site. When you open the door at a brick and mortar store you don’t expect to have to go through yet another one to gain access to the store – this holds true with websites as well.  Your visitor goes through the door (clicks on the link to your site) and they should find themselves on the Home page. Entry pages are a good way to lose customers real fast as well as the attention of the Search Engines.

DON’T make them wait, and wait, and wait.

The Internet has given millions of people almost instantaneous access to information, products, games, and everything else under the sun/moon. We have become an impatient lot, snarling if a page loads slowly and usually moving on if it takes longer than our perceived notion of how quickly information should load. Design fast loading pages for your visitors and keep them on your site – don’t make them wait, because they won’t.

Find out more about website design with Homestead by visiting the Homestead Connection Forum. It’s free and contains a wealth of information about the Site Builder program. Owned and maintained by Homestead users.