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SEO Question and Answer Extravaganza
By Jill Whalen 2003-10-22 (From the High Rankings' Advisor Newsletter)

It's that time of year again when I do my SEO Mailbag Extravaganza! This is when I take a sampling of email questions I've received throughout the week, and post them along with my answers. I always feel like I'm being lazy when I put together one of these issues because it's not much work for me, but most of you seem to enjoy the variety of topics. Same appeal as the forum, I suppose.

Without further ado, let's get straight to the good stuff...

Transparent Gif Links

I am new to your list so if you have already answered this question, please just direct me to the archive newsletter and I will get the information there.

Most all of my clients have in the past allowed me to place a small text link at the base of their sites which links to my site. In the past few months, I have come to the conclusion that this form of "tag" makes my clients' sites look less professional, and I have started to remove the visible links and replace them with a transparent gif that carries the alt tag with the same message and link.

This leaves the benefit of the link, but removes the eyesore. Is there anything wrong with this practice?


~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Rob,

What is the benefit of a link that nobody (except the search engines) can see? Sure, it's a benefit to your site, as any link is. However, it's not actually a "vote" for your site if the client would prefer it not be there. 

The search engines have to assume that any link they find is an actual vote of confidence in a site. If you hide a link, you're defeating part of their ranking process, and you're obtaining that extra link popularity through deceptive means (I stole that phrase from my buddy Alan Perkins).

You are right to be concerned about this practice, and smart to check if it's okay. Invisible links are indeed against the search engines' guidelines, or at least against Google's. They may or may not be actively seeking and penalizing sites that use these deceptive links.

Check out Google's Webmaster Guidelines for more info. They specifically state that you should "avoid hidden text or hidden links."

If you're ever unsure about a particular technique or practice that you're using, it's pretty easy to decide whether the technique serves a purpose other than obtaining high rankings. If it does, then it's probably not going to get you into trouble with the engines. If it doesn't, there will always be a risk of penalization hanging over your head.

I'd either make those links visible as soon as possible, or remove them altogether.

~~~Next Question~~~

Quick SEO Results Wanted

Hi Jill,

I'm currently VP of Marketing at a [specific type of medical center] and I would like to hear your proposal for how we could make some quick improvements in our search engine rankings.

We've already received a Keyword Effectiveness Index study (KEI) from our ad agency, and we currently work with [a design company] who proposes some minor enhancements to hold us over until we do a major site redesign. However, we'd like results very quickly.

Please let me know if you feel you could help. Thanks.


~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Tim,

Unfortunately, SEO is not something that can be done quickly; it's very much a long-term proposition. If you are looking for a quick search engine presence, I would suggest that you purchase ads from Google AdWords and Overture. This will get you the immediate search engine exposure you're looking for when people search for your keyword phrases.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

~~~Next Question~~~

Wording of Titles and Subtitles

Hi Jill -

I have a quick question...We publish a scientific magazine (rather than a journal) and some of our titles and subtitles are a bit poetic rather than descriptive. For example, we recently titled an article "The Pursuit of Shadows" when the article was about the study of clouds, or cloud science. The article of course was filled with keywords, but the title and subtitle were more ethereal. This poetic approach seems to work really well in the print magazine, but I'm wondering if this approach might be hurting us in searches. What is your opinion?


Katie Lord

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Katie,

You are exactly right. You'd do much better in the engines if there were keyword phrases in your titles and/or subtitles.

How about a compromise? You could do something like this:

"The Pursuit of Shadows: The Study of Clouds and Cloud Science."

Or something to that effect. In fact, that same info could even be used for your Title tag.

Good luck!

~~~Next Question~~~

Useless Meta Keywords

Hi Jill,

I just subscribed today (yes, I was lucky it was Wednesday :) and noticed on your page that some of your meta keywords are only generally descriptive in a sense they do not actually happen to be within the copy text itself. Is it a kind of cover-up to hide which keywords you actually optimize in the page or is there some productive reason?



~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Matus,

I would never bother to hide what keyword phrases I optimize any page for, because it would be impossible! All anyone has to do is read the copy on my optimized pages and they can easily figure out what keyword phrases I concentrated on. Hopefully, they don't stick out like a sore thumb, but are still fairly obvious. That's the balance you want with good SEO copywriting.

Since the search engines ignore and/or give very little weight to the Meta keywords, I just have some standard ones I use for many pages of my site. Normally I just leave them off altogether, but occasionally, I use some that sum up the general theme of the site. I do recommend using unique Meta description tags when you can, but don't always bother to follow my own advice in that respect. I don't actually count on the search engines for my business, however!

You should really try to get the whole idea of using the Meta keyword tag in SEO right out of your head so that you can concentrate on the things that really *do* matter, like writing for the search engines and making your site the best it can be.

Hope this helps!

~~~Next Question~~~

Submitting Sites to Inktomi

Jill, I've been working on optimizing a site that is not a new site. It's been a live site for quite some time. I was thinking of hand-submitting it to Inktomi, but realized MSN and Hotbot have already indexed it without me doing anything. Is it necessary to pay to have your site submitted if it has already been indexed for free? Is it possible that it will be dropped from Inktomi if you don't pay to submit?

Thanks for your help,

Mary Beth

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Mary Beth,

The beauty of working on existing sites (as most of the ones I do these days are) is that you don't have to submit them anywhere when you're done!

Existing sites are generally crawled on a regular basis by all of the major search engines, including Inktomi. If the pages from the site are currently indexed, then check the engines in 2 - 6 weeks and you should see the pages slowly getting re-indexed.

Of course, if you don't have much time or patience, where Inktomi is concerned, you may want to pay for inclusion to speed things along. But if time is not of the essence, it's worth simply waiting it out, in my opinion.

Best of luck with it!

Don't Miss Jill's Special Report: "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines"

Jill Whalen is the owner of and moderator of the free weekly email newsletter, the High Rankings' Advisor. She is also known for her moderation of the critically acclaimed, Rank Write Roundtable. Jill specializes in search engine optimization, directory submissions, SEO consultations and workshops. She has obtained hundreds of number 1 and 2 spots for her vast array of clients throughout the years. Clients include multi-million dollar companies, major universities, real estate agencies, attorneys, surgeons, dentists, and small-medium sized businesses.

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