Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SEO and Social Media

from Nick Usborne

Danny Sullivan, founder of, recently conducted a series of interviews with insiders at Google, Bing and Yahoo!

What he wanted to know was how much attention they paid to social media
when determining search rankings.

All three companies said that they did factor in such things as the number
of Facebook friends, Twitter followers etc a company or individual had.
They also calculate influence, based on retweets and other factors.

In other words, social media activity, tied closely to your name, your
company, or even individual products, is beginning to have an impact on
“traditional” search engine results. Strength in social media can give you
higher listings.

This means that even if your primary focus is on SEO, you now have to work
on social media optimization as well. These can no longer be separate


SEO Web Design and SEO

Monday, November 22, 2010

SEO articles for your reading pleasure

Staying Ahead Of Google Search

Last week, I asked the musical question, "Are you keeping up with Google?" In that post, I tried to stimulate some thinking around the idea that waiting for the ranking algorithm to change is not the best time to begin doing something new in response. If you work that way, you are constantly feeling under the gun, like you can't keep up, and that you are always falling behind.

Continue reading:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

CMS Keeps Two Sets of URLs (same content)

We are moving our site to a new CMS – same content, many identical pages, some new pages, same domain, different URLs. The CMS allows us to craft SEO-friendly URLs, like this:

The underlying page-number URL will also load that same page:

Question 1. In sitemap.xml, can we use the page number URL rather than the keyword URL?

Continue reading:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Local Social Media Marketing: How your peers use Twitter, Facebook, and blogs

Foursquare or GroupOn? I think the playground game four square is far more impressive than the social media platform with the same name…and only then if you absolutely, positively can’t find a football. I think GroupOn has far more value for local social media marketers.

On the other hand, Senior Manager of Research Partnerships Andy Mott thinks that Foursquare is the natural evolution of the loyalty card.

Continue reading:



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Monday, November 15, 2010

Top 10 Etsy Shop SEO Mistakes

SEO mistakes I often see in my shop "travels" around Etsy

1. Ignoring SEO. Sometimes the shop title is completely missing or only contains the user name. Adjusting all of the text in your Etsy shop - titles, section names, product listings, descriptions - so that the search engines can index your shop pages usually makes makes a big difference in the number of visitors to your Etsy shop

2. Not using keywords that have been researched. Use keywords that are used over and over again to search for the products or services you are selling. Using keyword phrases that you think would be used to search for your products or services usually does not work. Research keywords for free using Google's keyword tool:

3. Breaking up keyword phrases and/or rearranging the words within a keyword phrase, such as using "jewelry, handmade, silver, gold, gemstone" for the original whole keyword phrases "handmade silver jewelry" "handmade gold jewelry" and "handmade gemstone jewelry." The search engines do first look for the exact phrase that matches the keywords that are used in any search.

4. Using single words, such as, bracelets, necklaces, cards, paintings, for keywords. Single words are too general and there are so many Web sites competing for these high traffic words that your shop will come out so far in the back of the search results that you will not benefit from the use of these words. Using keyword phrases that are more specific will work better for you, such as, "watercolor paintings," and "sterling silver bracelets."

5. Not checking the title tag of the program code for each page of your shop. Etsy sometimes cuts off the last word to make room for "by username." The last word is often the one you do not want to have cut off. Always check the program code after you add keywords to the shop title and the product listings to make sure all of your keywords are included in the title tag. You can find the title tag for each page of your shop in the Internet Browser you are using by clicking on "View" in the drop-down menu and then clicking on "Source" or "Page Source." The title tag is near the top of the code and looks like this: "< title /> your keyword phrase and your keyword phrase by username "

6. Not building inbound links outside of Etsy to move your shop higher up in the search results. Adding keywords to all the parts of your Etsy shop does allow the search engines to index your shop for your keywords but without building links, your shop could come up so far back in the search results that you will see increased views or sales in your shop. Building links for your shop drives your shop higher up in the search results. The higher up your shop goes in the search results, the more and more visitors you will see coming to your shop. Coming up on page one of the search results usually means a huge increase in shop views and sales.

7. Not building links inside of the Etsy Web site to add to the link value for your Etsy shop. Build links between your listings and your main shop page and sections. Build links from within the forums and the comments in Storque articles.

8. Not researching the other web sites that come up high in the search results for the same keywords you are using. These sites are your competition and knowing what the competition is doing - how many links as well as the quality of the links - gives you a good idea of what you need to do to to come up high in the search results. Use Yahoo's Site Explorer to research the Web sites competing for your keywords:

9. Applying SEO once and never looking at it again. Popular keyword phrases sometimes loose popularity over time. The competition is always working on SEO and you should too. Review your chosen keyword phrases at least twice a year and make adjustments as needed. Work on link building ongoing basis.

10. Not using the Developers Tool Bar in the Firefox browser to identify which links really give your shop link value. A lot of time can be wasted in leaving links all over the Interent that have no value to your shop. The Developers Tool Bar can be added to the Firefox browser. For PC's - Download directly from Mozilla here:


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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

10-plus SEO Questions - Google Rules

Guest article from Jill Whalen

This morning I woke up to someone having submitted a pile of SEO questions using our newsletter question form. At first I thought, "Yikes, that's kind of pushy to think I have time to answer all those questions!" But then I remembered that this was a newsletter week and I still had no idea what I was going to write about. A second look at the questions made me think that you guys would probably be interested in the answers to many of them, so it worked out perfectly.

Most of these questions have been answered in greater detail in various articles that I've written, so if you'd like more info on any of them, I've linked to the relevant ones for your convenience.

Thanks to Umair R., who submitted these questions.

1. Is there any fixed rule for Google as far as SEO is concerned? If so, what are the steps?

If only! There are no fixed rules because every website is different and has different needs. There are basic things that all websites need to do in order to improve their chances of showing up in Google search results for relevant phrases, but no magic formula.

See "The Art of SEO" article for more on this.

2. Do the following play important roles in website page ranking and positioning?

* PR

Yes, real PageRank (PR), that kind that only Google knows, about plays a very large part in websites showing up (or not) for search queries that are relevant to it. But toolbar PageRank is another matter entirely. What you see there doesn't correlate very well to where your page will show up in the search results.

See: "Getting Into Google."
(Scroll down to the "Google Still Loves Its PageRank" part.)

* The number of incoming links

Not so much in and of itself. Real PR, as mentioned above, is calculated not only on the number of links, but also on the quality of those links. A handful of links from authoritative, trustworthy, relevant pages should far outweigh hundreds of links from so-so sites.

See the High Rankings Link Building Forum.

* Keyword density

Not in that there's some special percentage that you need to aim for. Certainly it's helpful to have the keyword phrases that you'd like to show up being used within the content of your page. But that's just common sense, if you ask me. Surely, if your page is about a certain something (your keyword phrase), how could that phrase NOT be on the page?

See the various threads on keyword density on the High Rankings Forum.

* Page response time

This is important only because if it takes too long to load, it might not be properly (or completely) indexed.

* Bounce rate

It's doubtful that this matters, because there's no way for Google to know the bounce rate of every site. And it wouldn't be fair for them to only count the bounce rates of those sites that have Google Analytics installed, so my guess is that this is not a factor.

See various High Rankings forum threads.

* Time on site

Like the above answer, they don't know this number unless the site has Google Analytics installed. That said, they may sometimes incorporate the old trick of seeing if a searcher clicks to another site in the search results after clicking one result, and how long it took them to click another. In other words, if they find that lots of people who clicked to one site in the search engine results pages (SERPs) always end up back at Google to try another site, then perhaps that first site wasn't a great answer to the search query after all.

* Domain page / page age

From what I can tell, this can often be a factor. But it doesn't seem to be as prominent a factor as it was a few years ago.

3. Is there any special technique for content writing?

There's no special technique, but I highly suggest hiring a professional marketing copywriter. You will see a positive return on your investment very quickly if you do. In addition, the tried and true SEO copyediting techniques in my "Nitty-gritty of Writing for Search Engines" may come in handy if you're not sure how to integrate your keyword phrases into your professionally written content.

4. Should we cater to code-to-text ratio while developing websites?

There's not one shred of evidence that this would have an effect on where a page would show up in the search results for a relevant search query.

5. If active scripting is a must for webpage development, how harmful can it be for PageRank and positions?

It's typically not harmful at all because it's usually done before a browser (or search engine spider) sees a page. To users and search engines, your dynamically generated pages are just static HTML by the time they get to them. Still, not all dynamically generated pages are created equal. There are some ways of developing your site that are less search friendly than others. For example, some JavaScript menus, some AJAX, etc.

See "Diagnosing the SEO Health of Your Website":

6. If a webpage is ranking top for a specific keyword, if we make textual changes in that webpage, is there any chance that we lose the rankings?

Any changes you make to a page's content can affect how relevant the search engines believe it to be for any particular search query. That doesn't mean it definitely will change the search results, but it could. The only way to know is to try it and see. Usually, if you're rewriting your page to be more useful to your site visitors and you don't remove all the instances of the keyword phrase, you should be fine. Because nothing is permanent with SEO, if you don't like what you see you can tweak it until you do.

7. Is it possible to be #1 for 20 high-volume searched keywords on Google for a particular domain?

Of course. Every website has lots of pages contained within it, each of which has the ability to be relevant for a number of keyword phrases. However, it's important to note that what you see as the #1 result may not be what everyone else sees. A better question to ask would be, "Is it possible to get search engine traffic for 20 high-volume searched keywords?"

See "5 Reasons Why Rankings Are a Poor Measure of Success."

8. How many good-quality links does a webpage require to be in #1 position at Google?

See the previous answer about the number of links as well as the article on rankings referenced above.

9. Is link building an ongoing process forever in order to maintain the top positions?

Like most of the answers I've been providing, it depends. An awesome website that is different from its competitors and that is continually developing innovative content will consistently generate high-quality links. But the site that is the same as its competitors with no real added value will most likely end up having to beg for links for its entire existence.

10. Is there any other significant factor for SEO apart from those mentioned above?

Yes, there are thousands of other factors! I'd suggest reading all the articles referenced here, as well as past issues of this newsletter. Also, become a regular member of the High Rankings SEO Forum. Keep studying, but more than that, keep trying different things on your own sites – learn what works and what doesn't that way.

Jill Whalen, CEO of High Rankings a Boston SEO Consulting Agency, has been providing SEO services since 1995. Jill is also the host of the  High Rankings Advisor newsletter and the High Rankings SEO forum.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Custom Web Design Giveaway Winner Announced

Judy Russi won the custom Web design giveaway. The random number picker gave me #9  and that comment number belongs to Judy who left a comment  on Facebook where this giveaway started. Judy has a shop shop on Etsy, and said she would love to have her own web site too. Congratulations, Judy!

I will be posting Judy's Web site design as we work on it.  Judy will first receive a design questionnaire from me so that she can give me a good idea of the type of design she would like to have.  I work with design questionnaires for all custom designs including those in my Etsy shop for graphic designs,

Some day I will find out why my comments on Google's blogs disappear into cyberspace and never appear on any Google blogs including my own blog.  In the meantime, I will post responses to any comments in this section of each post. I can also be contacted through either of my Etsy shops, or

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Custom Web Design Giveaway was a Success

Although it took one week longer than planned, this current giveaway was a success and a winner will be drawn on Monday morning from all the entries on this blog and on my Facebook page. 

Stay tuned . . . .

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Custom Web Design Giveaway

Custom Web design giveaway for this Web design package

The winner will have a custom designed web site that can include almost anything that can fit onto one Web page, including:
  1. Your own domain name on your web hosting account
  2. Custom designed graphics
  3. Flash animation or slide show of your products
  4. Your text
  5. Links to your blog, your Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites as well as links to any other place on the web you want to link
  6. Etsy mini if you have a shop on Etsy or any other similar widget from other online shops, such as Artfire.
  7. Almost anything else you would like to include 
  8. The prize can be for a redesign of an existing Web site or for a brand new Web site.
  9. Most existing Web sites with multiple pages also qualify for a new custom designed look.  Web sites that may not be eligible are custom designed ecommerce web sites. Please contact me at if you have any questions about this.  
  10. Wordpress blogs use complex "Wordpress themes" and may not be eligible for this drawing. I will discuss this with the winner if the goal is a new Wordpress Theme and see if anything can be worked out.
  11. A random number from 1 - 50 will be drawn using - #1 - #20 will come from the first 20 entries on my Facebook page and #21 - #50 will come from the comments left on this blog.

    The Web site design must be free from any hate, discrimination, pornography, gambling, etc.

    How to enter:
    1. Become a Facebook fan: OR
    2. Follow me on Twitter:
    3. and leave a comment on this blog post along with your Facebook name or Twitter name and write a little or a lot about the web site of your dreams.  
    4. One entry per person but you can leave any number of comments that you like.
    5. The winner will need a new or existing web hosting account.  If you need a recommendation for web hosting, I usually working with and recommend them highly for low prices, great features and great customer support.

    Drawing will be held
    on September 15. A number will be drawn from all the comments left by participants on my blog if there are at least 50 entries. If needed, the contest will continue past September 15 until there are 50 entries. The 20 people who entered through Facebook: will be part of the drawing (#1 - #20).

    Pass this along to anyone you know who would like their own Web site.

    Family and personal friends are not eligible for the drawing but are welcome to join the discussion.

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    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    My Sultry Summer

    For a woman who has never liked summer and spent each entire summer running from air conditioned home to air conditioned car to air conditioned job to air conditioned stores, this has been a summer of surprises.

    The air conditioning in my car as well as my home stopped working in early June. To my own surprise, I chose not to have either one repaired - knowing that if I did, I would keep the air conditioning running all summer long, driving up my electric bill at a time when I need to conserve and keep expenses down. 

    I tried this for one day, then one week and now it's been almost 3 months of living a new and different way during the hot and sultry summer months.

    My Sultry Summer Survival tips
    1.  slow down and take everything at a much slower pace
    2.  wear very loose breathable all cotton or linen clothing
    3.  take many warm showers -  the hot air feels cooler after a warm shower
    4.  use fans generously with one or two fans in each room of the house  
    5.  place fans on or very near the windows at night to blow in the cooler night air  - the house cools down a lot by morning
    6.  do not run window fans on very hot days - this will only bring the hot air in but do use other fans inside each room
    7. keep blinds or shades drawn during the day to keep out the hot sun
    8. cook and clean only in the very early morning or very late night hours when it's much cooler 
    9. reheat or microwave meals quickly during the day or just eat a lot of salads and other raw foods
    10. keep the ice-cube trays filled and use ice liberally in water and other drinks
    11. drink lots of water to replenish the water lost through perspiration
     The greatest benefit to living through the summer this way is the large savings in electric bills.  For me, though, learning that I can survive without air conditioning has been a lovely bonus.

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    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Search Engine Marketing Issues

    Social Media Marketing Doesn't Replace SEO

    Looking at the latest search marketing conference agendas, articles, and online news in the SEM space, it certainly appears that social media marketing and networking are the wave of the future.

    To a certain extent, they are.

    Social media, and social networking in particular, create a back-and-forth conversation with your target audience, so you can virally market your website through the "buzz" that can be created. When something interesting, cool, or unique is being talked about in "all the right places," it can certainly provide a boost in website traffic.

    We search marketers tend to hang out in numerous online and offline communities where it's easy to promote our own products and services, yet I can't help wondering if our view of Web marketing is skewed because of this.

    Are potential B2B clients and even B2C customers spending time at Digg? Do they attend SEM conferences in order to hire a company, or are they just trying to learn to do it themselves? And what about other industries? Is there a Sphinn equivalent for developers of product lifecycle management software? Are there groups of people online comparing the various brands of auto parts? Are there really people seeking out articles on these topics?


    And if so, we'd be remiss not to promote our clients' websites in those spaces. But is this search marketing? Or is it simply online marketing? Arguably, it becomes search marketing when it increases link popularity, but surely that should be the secondary goal of this type of marketing campaign. True link popularity comes from having something worth linking to, not something you've asked your insulated group of cronies to link to.

    Certainly, the boost in direct traffic that a site can gain when it is being discussed in all the right places online is not to be taken lightly – and that alone is reason enough to try to be found in all the right places. Yet how much of that traffic actually converts into anything good, and how much does it help your organic search rankings?

    More important – how does it increase your bottom line?

    For instance, I've written a few articles that received upward of 1,000 visitors a day from StumbleUpon alone. The spike in traffic was nice, and the slight increase in newsletter subscribers was certainly welcome, but for the most part, those StumbleUpon visitors spent just a few minutes on our site, and only a small percentage signed up for our free newsletter. None of them were interested in using our services. They read the article and then stumbled their way to the next site of potential interest.

    Isn't participation in social media really just preaching to the choir?

    You reach your peers, not the people who will buy your product or service. Sure, it's a nice ego stroke to have others in your industry tell you how cool you are, and there's something to be said for building credibility within your own community. I'm certainly not knocking that, and have built my own credibility via various online communities in which I've participated over the past decade.

    But how does it sell your products and services?

    Do you gain customers and sales from your social media marketing and/or your participation in social networks? Does it increase your rankings for the keyword phrases your actual target audience is typing into the search engines? If your business model depends on traffic for traffic's sake, or on how many ad impressions your site generates, then there's an obvious value. But if you sell a product or a service – then not so much.

    My fear with all the hype about social media marketing is that people new to search marketing will believe it's what SEO demands and what SEO is all about.

    It isn't. Not by a long shot.

    Social media marketing is a great addition to any traditional SEO work that you do, but it's not a substitute. It's more akin to hiring a PR firm once you've launched your already-SEO'd website. On-page SEO is definitely not as sexy as social media marketing, but it is still the most important investment in your website that you can make. Period.

    So, go to all your social media conferences, and Digg your way to increased traffic. But first learn exactly who your target audience is, what they're searching for in the search engines, and how your website can solve their problems. Then make sure your website does exactly that. All the social media buzz and traffic won't amount to anything if your target audience isn't already part of the online conversation.

    Be sure to have your own house in order before you give social media marketing a try.

    And don't be surprised if it doesn't actually provide you with the ROI you hoped it would. In most cases it will depend on who your target audience is, where they hang out, the types of services or products you offer, and whether your website truly provides people with what they're looking for.

    Getting back to SEO basics – that is, creating a crawler-friendly website that is built around the keyword phrases people use at the search engines to find what you offer – is the first and most important thing you can do for your website and your business. Yeah, it's not as fun and exciting as social media marketing, but skip this step at your own peril!


    Jill Whalen, CEO of High Rankings a Boston SEO Consulting Agency, has been providing SEO services since 1995. Jill is also the host of the  High Rankings Advisor newsletter and the High Rankings SEO forum.

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    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Search Engine Algorithm Changes Effects on SEO

    Guest article from Jill Whalen

    Here's a quick question for you: Is what you do to optimize your website going to be considered search engine spam one day because of a change in the search engines' magic formula? Photo Credit mikebaird

    I strongly contend that it shouldn't. If you're not using spammy SEO tactics, that is.

    When I posed this question to my Twitter followers, I was shocked to see how many people felt that yes, today's SEO techniques could definitely become tomorrow's search engine spam if the search engines decided to change their ranking algorithm.

    The Real Story

    Good, professional SEO that puts users first while keeping search engines in mind will never be considered spam by any stretch of a search engineer's imagination. Search engine spam takes a concerted effort and is done in an attempt to make low-quality websites or content show higher in the search results than they should.

    Search engine spam can be visible on a website, such as with keyword stuffing, or it can take the form of hidden text, cloaking or link spamming. Generally, search engine spam makes a website *less* valuable for real users rather than better.

    Make no mistake about it, keyword stuffing in all its forms – be it the copy, the title tags, within image alt attributes, or in anchor text – is search engine spam – there's no purpose other than to try to increase rankings. And the same thing can be said of useless off-page SEO through link farms, low-quality directories that nobody visits, useless article submission sites and the like.

    I see all of the above often discussed as SEO tactics. But they're not. They are search engine spam.

    Search Engine Spam Does Not Equal SEO

    One of the largest problems plaguing the SEO industry is that the general public thinks that SEO = SPAM. This is why, every year, numerous articles are written saying that SEO is dead. What they mean to say is that search engine *spamming* is dead. Because they equate search engine spam with SEO, it's easier to just say that SEO is dead.

    Now you might be thinking, "Hey, wait a minute there, Jill. I've used some SEO techniques in the past that don't seem to work anymore, particularly after a major update by Google. They used to work great until Google decided they didn't like it anymore." In reply, I would ask you to revisit whether the technique was in truly making the website better (or worse) for the people who come to the site. Chances are that, if you're honest with yourself, you'll agree that you probably went overboard with things.

    Just because your "spam" increased your rankings for a while doesn't mean that it was a true SEO tactic – it was always spam whether you thought about it that way or not. And that's what confuses people.

    Before you tell me to get off my high horse and stop calling you a spammer, let me tell you a story about me. Just like you, I was once a search engine spammer!

    My Story

    Back in the early 2000s, I realized that I could keyword-stuff the alt attributes (alt tags) of invisible GIF images that were used within some website's code as part of the design. It seemed to work to increase the page's rankings for the keywords I was stuffing in the code. In fact, I wrote an article about it in my newsletter at the time. When a few colleagues emailed me back to nicely explain that my technique was in fact search engine spam, I poo-poohed them. I had built my reputation on using legitimate SEO techniques to gain targeted traffic, not search engine spam. Who were they to call me a spammer? I was quite indignant!

    But I was really just lying to myself to protect my own ego. Eventually I saw the technique as the search engine spam that it was and stopped using it and recommending it. Although I don't recall if that was after it stopped working or before! (I'm not a saint, ya know!)

    The point is that the technique was always search engine spam. It was spam when it DID work, just as it was spam when the algorithm changed and it no longer worked. It wasn't the change in algorithm that suddenly made it spammy.

    Why Search Engine Spam Is Bad

    It is my strong feeling that search engine spam is never a good idea. Not because you might get caught, penalized or banned. You probably won't, at least not until you've made quite a lot of money off your technique. It's wrong because it makes your site worse, not better overall. And more than that, it makes for a bad searcher experience. We all have to use search engines, and there's nothing more frustrating than having low-quality garbage show up at the top of the results.

    Let’s face it, the search engineers don't change their algorithms all the time because they're bored. Nor do they change them to stick it to innocent website owners. They tweak them so that they can preserve the integrity of their search results. If search engine spammers weren't out there vying for positions at all costs, there would be fewer algo tweaks being made.

    Unfortunately, the world is composed of many people who will take any system and exploit it for their own gain. It's a sad fact of life that creates a constant battle between search engines and those who are happy to spam them.

    Which brings us back to my original question of whether today's SEO tactic might be tomorrow's search engine spam. There's only one answer to this – NO! No legitimate SEO technique will ever be considered search engine spam because real SEO enhances a website as well as the search engine results. Good SEO makes it easier for the search engines to show the best stuff to their searchers.

    If you suddenly lose substantial search engine traffic, be sure to revisit the techniques you were using. Were they really and truly good ones? Did they enhance your website for all its target audiences? Did they make the search results more relevant or less? Or did you make them just because they were easy and it seemed like a good idea at the time?

    Jill Whalen, CEO of High Rankings a Boston SEO Consulting Agency, has been providing SEO services since 1995. Jill is also the host of the  High Rankings Advisor newsletter and the High Rankings SEO forum.

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    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    ETSY Shop SEO Giveaway Winners are Working It!

    The winners of my Etsy Shop SEO Giveaway have all received their personalized Etsy Shop SEO reports and are working on the recommended changes to their shops. I will take another peak in a few weeks and see how each has progressed.

    Summer is here and the weather is just about perfect right now. I keep day-dreaming of getaways to nearby lake-side places just for a day or two.

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    Monday, May 17, 2010

    ETSY Shop SEO Giveaway Winners Announced

    Three Etsy shop names were drawn for the Etsy Shop SEO Giveaway that was announced on April 29.

    The Winners of My Etsy Shop SEO Giveaway are:

    There were 36 entries and several shops were entered more than once by referrals from other Etsy shop. Thank you to everyone for taking part in my first Giveaway. 

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    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    Etsy Treasury East

    I created an Etsy Treasury East the other day and almost forgot about it!

    Take a look and leave a comment if you can.  You can find the treasury on Etsy by clicking this link.

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    ETSY Shop SEO Giveaway

    I love giveaways, especially the giveaways that I am hosting. :-)

    ** The Giveaway: There will be a drawing for one ETSY Shop SEO service for every 10 responses to this blog entry: 10 entries = 1 prize, 20 entries = 2 prizes, etc. Each Etsy shop can only enter once but each entry from another Etsy shop that mentions your shop will give you another entry in the drawing. If 5 of your friends mention your shop, you will be entered 6 times; once for your own shop blog comment and 5 more for each time you are mentioned in another comment.

    ** In Your Comment: write about your own online Etsy shop - what you make and sell.

    ** The Prize: An Etsy Shop SEO includes, Keyword Research for the products or services you are selling through your shop and a detailed report on exactly how to use these keywords in your shop in the shop title, section names, shop welcome text, product titles and product descriptions. I also include link building tips that can be used to improve your shop rankings in the search results.

    ** The Drawing: will be held on Saturday, May 15. Entries can be made through Midnight, May 14 (Central Standard Time). The winner will be posted here on my blog on Monday, May 17, and through
    my Facebook page,
    my Twitter account,
    my SEO Web Design Shop on Etsy and
    my Graphic Design Shop on Etsy.

    Feedback from one shop owner, "What a fantastic help this has been. You did a great review and pointed out some very useful changes for my shop! If you are struggling with relevancy this will help."

    SEO is complex and difficult to understand. has added SEO functions to all Etsy shops. SEO can be very beneficial when understood and incorporated correctly into a Web site or blog.

    Most Etsy shop owners have never heard of SEO and struggle with optimizing their Etsy shops. Despite every effort to understand and incorporate SEO, most of the Etsy shops I have seen have made mistakes with their SEO efforts.

    I have been designing and optimizing web sites since early 2003 and have been successful in getting my SEO customers to the first page or even the top of the search results for the products or services they are selling. My 30+ years in computer programming background helps in understanding the logic behind search engine optimization and I can help Etsy shop owners improve the number of visitors to their shops as well as rank high on the search engine results.

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    Saturday, April 24, 2010

    How To Find And Sell To Your Target Market

    Article from:

    When I teach small business classes on marketing strategy, I often ask participants the question, "Who are your customers? Who will buy your product?" I am often surprised that otherwise savvy small business people either have no idea who will buy from them, or they assume that 'everyone' will.

    Assumptions like this can lead to wrong decisions, wrong pricing, wrong marketing strategy – and ultimately, business failure.

    The most successful small businesses understand that only a limited number of people will buy their product or service. The task then becomes determining, as closely as possible, exactly who those people are, and 'targeting' the business's marketing efforts and dollars toward them.

    You, too, can build a better, stronger business, by identifying and serving a particular customer group – your target market.

    One of the first things you need to do is to refine your product or service so that you are NOT trying to be 'all things to all people.' Become a specialist!

    For example, in my business, an eco-tourism company, we made some specific decisions early in our market planning. As a charter boat business, we knew that there were plenty of fishing charter operators in the area, and 'party boats' as well. So we decided that we would offer sightseeing or special event charters, and that we would not allow alcohol on board, or fishing rods. Yes, this decision eliminated a percentage of the market – but it also gave us a 'niche' that we could capitalize on, and expanded our market in a way that other charter operators could not take advantage of.

    Next, you need to understand that people purchase products or services for three basic reasons:

    * To satisfy basic needs.
    * To solve problems.
    * To make themselves feel good.

    You'll need to determine which of those categories your product or service is the solution to, and be prepared to market it accordingly.

    Your product or service may fit more than one category, too – our charter business primarily targets folks who just want to feel good – spending a day out on the water, relaxing and being waited on. But it also targets people who have visitors coming from out of town, or even overseas, because we represent a solution to the problem of "What will we do while our company is here? How can we entertain them, or show them our area?"

    The next step in creating an effective marketing strategy is to zero in on your target market. Continue on to the next page to learn how to use market segmentation to define your target market.

    Zero in on your target market by using Market Segmentation.

    First of all, is your product international or national in scope? Or is it more likely that you will sell it primarily in your own region or community? In the case of our charter business, our primary market is actually national or international – tourists who come to this area from all over the world. Our secondary market is local – people who have a special event to celebrate, a company meeting or retreat to plan, or company coming from out of town.

    Let's say that your primary market is local or regional, and that you live in a community with a population of 25,000 people. The first thing you'll need to do is research the 'demographics' of your community, and divide it into market segments:

    * Age: children, teens, young, middle, elderly
    * Gender: male, female
    * Education: high school, college, university
    * Income: low, medium, high
    * Marital status: single, married, divorced
    * Ethnic and/or religious background
    * Family life cycle: newly married, married for 10 – 20 years, with or without children.

    This information should be available to you through your local town , hall, library, or Chamber of Commerce – and the more detail you can get, the better.

    Next, you need to segment the market as much as possible using 'psychographics' as your guide:

    * Lifestyle: conservative, exciting, trendy, economical
    * Social class: lower, middle, upper
    * Opinion: easily led or opinionated
    * Activities and interests: sports, physical fitness, shopping, books
    * Attitudes and beliefs: environmentalist, security conscious.

    *Note: if you are a B2B company, you'll also need to consider the types of industries available to you, and their number of employees, annual sales volume, location, and company stability. In addition, you might want to find out how they purchase: seasonally, locally, only in volume, who makes the decisions? It is important to note that businesses, unlike individuals, buy products or services for three reasons only: to increase revenue, to maintain the status quo, or to decrease expenses. If you fill one or more of these corporate needs, you may have found a target market.

    By now you should have a picture emerging of who you think your 'ideal' customer is … or who you want it to be. Depending on the nature of your business, you might even be able to write a description of your customer. "My target customer is a middle-class woman in her 30s or 40s who is married and has children, and is environmentally conscious and physically fit." Based on the numbers you uncovered in your research, above, you may even know, for example, that there are approximately 9000 of those potential customers in your area! It may well be that 3000 of them are already loyal to a competitor, but that still leaves 6000 who are not, or who have not yet purchased the product from anyone. Do the research!

    Lots of times prospective customers don't know about your company, or can't tell the difference between your company and others. It is your job, once you know who your best customers are, to 'target' the group that you've identified – even if you have competition.

    In addition, you may decide, using the example above, that you'd also like to extend your target market to include women from 50 – 60 years of age. If you go back to the basic reasons why people purchase goods or services, and can find ways to target your efforts to that age group, you may be successful in capturing a bigger share of the market!

    On the other hand, what if you 'specialized' your product or service and then researched your target market, only to discover that there are probably less than 75 people who will buy from you?

    First of all, if those 75 are corporate customers who will spend hundreds on your product or service annually, then you have nothing to fear. But if those 75 are only going to spend $10 every decade on your product or service – then you need to go 'back to the drawing board' of planning your business and perhaps determining a wider target market – but at least you are armed with all the information you need to start again, or go in a different direction.

    Let's face it – there's a market, and a target market, for everything.

    If you don't think so, remember pet rocks?

    Author Marilyn Guille owns Comprehensive Virtual Editing (CoVE) Services, which provides press release writing and distribution, general and business writing, editing, and ghostwriting services. Guille has been a professional freelance writer for over a decade, and lives on a classic boat on which she and her husband do sightseeing charters.

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    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Two Excellent SEO and Web Design Posts from My Favorites

    The Four Pillars of Building Instant Trust Online

    Human beings are social creatures that seek out companionship and relationships. Our map of reality can be viewed as a series of concentric circles which include the most trusted relationships and those who are in our hearts at the very center.

    We crave trust. Without it, we would be consigned to a world where we must examine everyone's actions with suspicion and assume that they are working only for their purposes and not ours. Because of the sheer number of social interactions that we have with complete strangers, we must at least extend some trust. Otherwise, many acts, both small and momentous, simply could not happen at all.

    Even with total strangers in the "real world," we at least have their appearance and body language to go by. But what do you do online? Almost anyone can quickly create a Web site or landing page and masquerade as a wide variety of businesses. Many of these enterprises are untrustworthy. We are often barraged in the media about various scams perpetrated online and have our guard up. Continue reading at

    Google Loses “Backwards Compatibility” On Paid Link Blocking & PageRank Sculpting

    Imagine that you fired up your computer and found that a bunch of your programs no longer worked, because behind the scenes, the operating system had been upgraded without any backwards compatibility. That’s what happened this week with Google. Some things that were working just fine now are broken, because Google isn’t being backwards compatible. And that’s fairly unprecedented.

    Don’t panic. One of the changes really shouldn’t hurt many sites, impacting only a “power SEO” technique commonly called PageRank sculpting that I’d say fairly few use. The other has a bigger impact and potentially means thousands of sites may now be violating Google’s rules on paid link without knowing it. But that’s not likely to have an immediate impact. I’ll explain both changes in more depth below.

    The most important thing is that in both cases, the changes may require site owners to alter their web sites not because they were “chasing the algorithm” but instead because they were following Google’s own rules and instructions. They were doing what was advised, and now they may have to undo that work. Continue reading at

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    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Etsy Artists: Are Your Prices Too Low?

    After 18 months of both buying and selling on Etsy and reading the forum posts where sellers ask, "are my prices reasonable?" I need to put out another perspective about pricing from my 7 years as a small business owner.

    Prices on Etsy are all over the place in every category - from very low prices to very high prices. I have seen really talented people under-price their work and I cringe each time I see this.

    Very low priced items are quickly passed over by shoppers who can and will pay a higher price and will assume that a low price means low quality. I went through this a few times in my own business when I first started it.

    Fear of losing customers is a common reason for low prices. The truth is you will find new customers at your new price point.

    Visual the customer you are selling to in your mind.

    If the custom you visualize is someone who has a very small budget, you will price your work for the customer you visualize in your mind - low prices for small budgets.

    If the customer you visualize is some who can afford and will pay a higher price for unique and original handmade artwork and crafts you will price your work for that customer. And that customer will find you and buy from you.

    Are you happy with your prices?

    I wrote this as a forum thread on Etsy:

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    Friday, March 19, 2010

    SEO for Your Etsy shop or Web site for Google, Yahoo, MSN Searches

    Most searches on the Internet begin with keywords or search terms. Many of these are used over and over again. For example, when someone is looking for handmade jewelry, all or part of the search term is usually "handmade jewelry."

    When you look at my shop, , you will see the following words just below my shop banner: "SEO Web Design Custom Web Designs Web Design Templates." This describes what I am selling in my Etsy shop.

    You can test this by searching on these words, "SEO Web Design Custom Web Designs Web Design Templates" in Google (or Yahoo or MSN). On Google, you will see this exact phrase with a link to my shop at the top of page 2 of the search results.

    No one is likely to search on all of those words at the same time - the keywords I have many competing web sites using those same keywords and I have more optimizing to do to get to the top of the search results just for the keywords, "seo web design."

    If your shop has your shop name or something cute in the title, then you are missing on an opportunity to get visitors who are looking for what you are selling if you do not use keywords in your Etsy shop title that can be used on Google to search for what you are selling.

    The title that you use is placed into the title of your Web page - something you cannot see unless you look at the progam code.

    Search engines such as Google and Yahoo read the Web page title to see what your Web page is about and then add your Web page to all the Web sites that use to those same keywords.

    This is also true of your section names in your Etsy shop. Click on any section in your own shop and look at how the title changes to whatever words you are using in your section names. This title that you see is also placed into the Web page title (that you do not see) and this is where the search engines like Google and Yahoo look to see what each section of your Etsy shop is about.

    How do you know what to use in your shop titles or section names? Use a keyword research tool such as the really good free tool supplied by Google and find keywords that are relevant to the products you are selling. Google's keyword research tool will tell you how much Internat traffic was looking for each keyword phrase in the past 30 days.

    Googles Keyword Tool can be found here:

    Find keyword phrases that are very relevant to your products or services. Do no use single words like "jewelry." Words like this are so competitive on the Internet that your shop would disappear somewhere on page 500 for that word and no-one would ever find it on Google or Yahoo.

    If you choose keywords that are very competitive, be prepared to use more SEO work to bring your shop or Web site up in the rankings.

    Try these changes and test them with a search on Google in about 5 -7 days - you will find your shop somewhere on the search results. The less competition there is for your keywords, the higher up you will be on the search results.

    I wrote this as a forum thread on Etsy in early December, 2009:

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    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Free Book -The BuyerSphere Project: How Business Buys from Business

    It is not enough to put up a Web site and expect it to become a success without some idea of how to make it a success. I like research reports of any kind but especially those that teach me more about buyers behavior on the Internet. Everyone who has a Web site, especially one that has been created by the Web site owner, would be wise to learn as much as possible about all aspects of creating a successful Web site.

    Normally $29.00, the PDF version of the book, BuyerSphere Project is available for a free download from Enquiro, the researchers and writers. The print version of BuyerSphere Project is currently available at for about the same price.

    I have downloaded my copy and plan to curl up with this ebook tonight.

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    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Why We Do What We Do in SEO

    Guest article by Jill Whalen

    I hear from many people who want to be told exactly what they need to do to get high rankings and bring more targeted search engine traffic to their websites. I wish I could provide them with a straight answer, but every site has its own needs when it comes to SEO. Which means there's no exact rule that will work each and every time for any website.

    One thing, however, that can help you figure out how to SEO your site is to learn the whys behind the specific techniques you always hear about. But to understand the whys, you first need to get the gist of how search engines work. Sounds scary, I know, but I'm going to make it as simple and painless as possible – so stick with me!

    In very simplistic terms, there are 2 main components to the search engines: the crawler and the algorithm.

    The crawler, which is sometimes referred to as a spider, a robot, or simply a bot, is what goes out on the web and fetches all the pages of information that it can get its virtual spidey legs on.

    The algorithm (or algo) is basically the ranking formula that each search engine uses to determine the relevancy of any page that the crawler finds.

    The search engines use this formula to decide – out of the pages that were previously fetched – which pages they should show for which keyword phrases that any searcher might type into the search box. Those keyword phrases are also sometimes referred to as a person's "search query."

    While the algo is a formula, it's so complicated that it's not something you can simply reverse-engineer. The engines look at hundreds of factors and weigh them all differently. This is why you'll find that automated SEO software doesn't work well to increase your rankings.

    Here's an interesting point – those hundreds of factors that go into the relevancy algorithm boil down to two major things:

    What you say about yourself, and what others say about you.

    Really. It's as simple (and as hard) as that!

    "What you say about yourself" means the information you provide on your website, or the words that you write on your pages. The Internet is mostly a word-based medium. Every single web page has its own story to tell. Each page should be relevant to one or more search keywords or phrases. And each page's story helps the search engines understand which search queries the page is relevant to.

    Make sense?

    So now let's look at what others say about you. This aspect of how the search engines determine relevancy is known as the "off-page" criteria, and it's typically done through links.

    That is, another site owner likes what you say or offer on your site, and wants to tell their own site visitors about it. The way they do this is by linking to your site – or a specific page of your site. Search engines take these links into account because what others say about you provides an additional layer of trust beyond what you say about yourself.

    Still with me?

    These two major factors – how search engines work and what they're looking for – help clarify what you need to do SEO-wise to keep them happy.

    First, you need to steer clear of any technical issues that can impede the crawler from finding, reading and indexing the pages of your website. The easier you make it for them to do their job, the better chance your pages will have of showing up for relevant searches.

    Which means you need to start on the SEO of your website from the very beginning. You're going to need lots of up-front research on keywords and other elements. You'll also need to make sure your content is written to appeal to both your users and to the search engines. While all of this *can* be done later, you'll save yourself tons of time if you plan your SEO before you ever start developing your website.

    Then, once you've got a crawler-friendly website, you'll need to create pages that conform to the search engines' algorithms by making sure they are not only relevant to what people are looking for, but interesting and unique enough for others to want to link to them. You've also got to spend time getting the word out about your website, because even the greatest content in the world won't market itself!

    I hope I've simplified the search engine process and SEO enough that you understand why you need to use the specific tactics that are involved. If you always keep the two major factors that search engines are looking for in mind – what you say about yourself and what others say about you – you'll always be able to make the right decisions for your website.

    It's those two factors that drive the SEO process and fulfill its goal of helping your target audience find your website when they're seeking out exactly what you offer.

    Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor
    search engine marketing newsletter. She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.

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    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    Top 30 reasons you're not selling

    Etsy forum thread from Knot Work Shop

    I figured I'd list 30 so we'd almost always have one to blame for each new day of the month. If there are 31 days in any given month, just cycle back to number 1.

    How to use this list:
    Print it out. Cut each number up onto its own little slip of paper. Put them in a jar. Each day when you're wondering why you haven't sold anything, pull a slip of paper out and get your answer.

    1) George W. Bush. Yup. Everything's his fault.

    2) Barack Obama. Freaking socialist. Screwing up all this wonderful capitalism on Etsy.

    3) The economy. Seriously people. Look around. Nobody has a job. Nobody has money. Why do they want your stuff when you have the nerve to charge them money for it in these tough times?

    4) Relevancy- need I say more?

    5) Recency- need I say more?

    6) Resellers. Why would people buy my stuff on Etsy when they can buy Target's products here too? I mean seriously, what do I have that can compete with stuff from Target? It's so much easier for people to buy those things on Etsy than it is to just drive to their local Target.

    7) Undercutters. Yes undercutters. I mean you. Everyone has their own reasons for naming a price. But I haven't seen William Shatner here so I'm pretty fricking sure this ain't Priceline. If you want to sell something that took you 22 hours to make for $10, you and I are going to have a problem. I'll meet you outside after school after the bell rings. Alone.

    8) The weather. If it's hot, they don't want your stuff. If it's cold, they don't want it either. So strap yourselves in because whatever the season people ain't buyin what you're sellin.

    9) Your prices are too high. You think folks want to pay $50 for some yarn tied in a bunch of knots? I don't care if it looks like a hat. It's a bunch of yarn. In knots.

    10) Your prices are too low. Hmm. That item looks like a lot of work. Why are you only charging me $5 for it? Oh, probably because you live in a crack house and have swine flu. Yeah, I don't trust it. I'm going to go buy it from someone who will charge me $20 for the same exact thing.

    11) People are stupid.

    12) The internet is broken. Yes. The whole internet. Call Al Gore. I heard he can fix it.

    13) You're never on the front page.

    14) You're never in gift guides.

    15) You're never a featured seller.

    16) You're never in Etsy finds.

    17) No one liked you in high school.

    18) They don't like you here either.

    19) People need to see your items in person to appreciate them. Okay, maybe not that underwear made out of cream corn, but you know what I'm saying.

    20) You have your items on a gasp, real person, in your listing photos. I mean, come on. That necklace was completely sterile and free of all bacteria until you let it touch that ugh, HUMAN! Now it's no good. Sorry. Game over.

    21) You are not showing your items on a human. How can I tell if those panties will look good on me when the mannequin doesn't have a spotty arse like mine? It's false advertising.

    22) Your photos are too dark. Yes, yes, I know you're selling a lamp that glows in the dark. But still, your photos are just way too dark dude.

    23) You need more items in your shop. Would you keep going back to Home Depot if they only had six flashlights and a pile of shingles in stock? I thought not.

    24) You have too many items in your shop. I mean really, those huge stores like Walmart with tons and tons of items in tons and tons of different categories are never going to be successful. Nobody looks past the first five aisles. Oh, uh, wait...

    25) Your items are aimed at too narrow of a market. I'm sure if there were more professional football players from Tasmania shopping on Etsy your tasmanian football helmets would be doing much, much better. Honest.

    26) You have to go find your target market. No, I'm not going to tell you who they are or how you'll recognize them, but trust me, you have to find them. And fast.

    27) Don't rely on Etsy to make your shop successful. I mean, I know we're on Etsy, and we pay money to Etsy and are here because it's well, Etsy. But yeah, don't count on them for a thing. If anything, pretend like they're working against you. You'll be better off.

    28) It's a slow time of year. Maybe not for everyone else, but for you, that's the time of year it is.

    29) You haven't built up enough momentum. So take all your inventory in your arms, put it in a shopping cart and send it down a hill to get some momentum going. Report back in the forums after the sales start rolling in.

    30) You're not in the US. Just because people in your own country wouldn't buy it, doesn't mean that Americans are dumb enough to (hard to believe, I know).

    The above thread was posted in Etsy Forums on 2/5/10 by Knot Work Shop and received "rave reviews." It might still be going.

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    Friday, January 29, 2010

    My Gluten Free Life

    The gluten free cereal I bought online from arrived this morning via UPS. I immediately opened one box and cooked two servings for a late breakfast. The whole grain brown rice cereal  style=
    tasted so delicious after going a few weeks without any cereal. I had gone to Rose's Wheat Free Bakery in Evanston, IL earlier in the week to pick up several loaves of gluten free bread and ate several slices that same day - every meal was made up of sandwiches. Foods as simple as bread and cereal can become a delicious treat when it is no longer so easily accessible.

    I had no idea how many foods contained wheat until I found I had Celiac disease and had to eliminate gluten from my diet. I started reading food ingredient labels and searching on the Internet for lists of foods I should stay away from. In the list of unexpected foods that may contain hidden gluten I found: salad dressing, soy sauce, deli meats, Seitan, brown rice syrup, many prepared soups and stews, dry mustard. baked beans and more.

    There are so many foods that can contain wheat as a filler that the only safe food to order in a restaurant is very simple such as grilled fish or chicken with a baked potato or rice and a salad with oil and vinegar dressing. These are not very exciting choices but staying within a very narrow list of food choices keeps Celiac disease from progressing any further. Both Chinese and Mexican restaurants offer choices that do not contain wheat and these restaurants are a welcome change now and then.

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