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Search Engine Marketing Q&A -1 
By Jill Whalen - March 26, 2004

Hi everyone! Today I've put together an assortment of search engine marketing Q&A compiled from the emails I answered last week. I'm sure that at least a few of these questions will be ones that have been nagging at some of you also.



Now You See It, Now You Don't

Hi! Hope you can answer this.

A friend made changes to his web site by adding headings to several pages. The headings showed up the first couple days. Now the site is back to the old one in Google.

What happened?

Thanks for your help.


Jill's Response

Hi Jean,

You can rest assured that nothing out of the ordinary happened; that's just how Google works. Generally it will find changed pages very quickly, but then it seems that they go into a different database for a few weeks. The good news is that you know that they have found the changed pages. So just sit back and relax and wait 2-4 weeks, and eventually you'll find the latest version of your pages showing up in Google.


Yahoo Directory vs. Yahoo Site Match

Dear Jill,

I am in shock right now with regards to Yahoo's [new pay-per-click/paid-inclusion program]. We don't even begin to have this kind of money in our business right now. We are a very small ecommerce business with less than a year on Yahoo. We only began to pay for the company with profits during and after Christmas. In May our 1-year contract for our listing on Yahoo is up. What can we expect cost-wise then? Will they switch us over to this new [PPC] plan or will we be able to pay our normal $300 and go for another year?

Thank you so much for your help.

Chris W.

Jill's Response

Hi Chris,

Since you mention $300 and a one-year contract, I am guessing that you're talking about a Yahoo directory submission/listing, not a paid-inclusion submission. The $299 you paid is for being listed in their directory and has nothing to do with paid inclusion to the regular spidered results. Yahoo has a human-edited directory that people could browse through (which is what you paid for), plus a database of pages that their spiders/robots have found. For people who don't want to wait to be found by the robot, they need to use the new paid-inclusion/PPC program, but this is separate from the $299 directory submission program.

If you renew your directory listing, you will get exactly what you were getting before (which isn't much, in my opinion). That is, a listing in their directory, which works out to being a link to your site that will help build link popularity. Your directory listing doesn't automatically mean you'll show up in Yahoo's regular results, but it does help them find you. You do not have to belong to their pay-per-click program, nor do you have to renew your directory listing if you don't want to. Your pages should still show up in Yahoo's spidered results, whether you pay or not.

I personally don't think a Yahoo directory listing is important unless you really need the link popularity that it provides. It's certainly nice to have, but there are plenty of cheaper places you can be listed. Please note that this is my personal opinion. Many others in the biz certainly disagree with me on this.

I've felt that a Yahoo directory listing has been fairly useless for a long time, and in many ways it's even a hindrance. Here's why: If you have a directory listing, your directory title (usually your company name) and description show up in the regular Yahoo results, instead of your Title tag and a snippet of text from your page. In my opinion, this gives your listing a disadvantage as compared with sites that get to control what shows up through their Title tag.

The problem is that we really don't know for sure if having a Yahoo directory listing gives you some sort of extra boost in the Yahoo search engine results. Many people believe it does, making it hard to decide whether you should renew your listing or not. The good news is that it won't cost you anything extra to see what happens if you don't renew. If you find that your missing directory listing affects the placement of your regular listing, then simply pay their $299 and resubmit it.

If you do drop it, let me know what happens (if anything) to your rankings, as it would be good to know.

As to the paid-inclusion/PPC program, as long as your site is spiderable, it should get added to the regular search engine results through the free crawl. Most likely, your pages are already there. I see no reason why you should pay if you already have a listing, because as I mentioned last week, why pay for something that you already have for free?

Good luck!


Gone From Google

From: Andrew

Probably hundreds or thousands of other website owners have the same question as mine, so I'd much appreciate if you could give us some advice.

My site used to be in the top 10 of Google for my keywords. But since the Google Dance, my site dropped out of sight -- it's not even in the top 30 pages! I believe it might be due to my over-use of keyword text link from other sites I own.

Since being dropped by Google, my sales dropped 45% at least! I want to overhaul my site so it will re-appear on Google, but my dilemma is that my site is still on the first page on Yahoo (Web search), MSN, AlltheWeb, and some other engines. I'm scared to death to make changes to my site. What if I redo my site, and it disappears in Yahoo, MSN also?

Your advice is greatly appreciated.


Frustrated Site Owner

Jill's Response

Hi Andrew,

I'd wait to see what happens with Google. Your site is fine, as evidenced by the fact that it's ranking highly elsewhere. Google is tweaking things right now and their relevancy is starting to be compromised again. Sit tight, and your site will probably show up soon enough. I told this same thing to people a few months ago when the first nasty Google changes happened, and sure enough, the sites that didn't touch a thing all came back. (This is assuming that you feel you've done a good job with your current site optimization.)

In the meantime, you might think about buying some Google ads to get back the missing traffic until they sort themselves out. I know that feels like extortion (as my sister whose page is also missing for one of her keyword phrases keeps telling me), but so what? If you can make money off your ads, then you'd be crazy not to do it just to "spite" Google!

That said, I'm a bit concerned about what you said here:

"I believe it might be due to my over-use of keyword text link from other sites I own."

Google is trying very hard to find sites that are excessively cross-linked. If you have a legitimate reason to have many sites, and to also have those sites linking to each other, then it shouldn't be a problem. However, if the sites are there simply to gain extra search engine traffic, then chances are this is why Google has trashed your site. They don't want to list sites that try to trick them, for obvious reasons.

A good way to decide if what you're doing is right or wrong is to decide your reason for doing it. Does it really make sense from the point of view of your site's users? Your answer to that question should let you know what you should do.

Whether changing things will affect your listings at other search engines is hard to say. No search engine likes to be tricked, so if tricks are involved and you remove them, it can never be a bad thing in the long run.

Good luck!


Meta Tags and Comment Tags

From: Vani

Hi Jill

I'm making Meta tags for web pages on my site, and I want to target some of the important keywords.

The content on those pages isn't much, and I can't really change the text of those pages. So should I put the related text in comment tags on those pages? Will it help me to get a listing for those important keywords?

Can you suggest some other tag or alternative way, if the comment tag won't be useful?

Looking forward to your reply!


Jill's Response

Hi Vani,

Neither the Meta tags nor comment tags will get your site listed for the words you put in them. You need to put them in the Title tag, the visible copy on the page, plus in the links that point to the page.

I realize that you said you couldn't change the text on that site, but I'm gonna have to say -- yes you can -- just do it!


Keyword-rich Domain Names (Again)


Here's something there doesn't seem to be a good answer for:

It's known that if you can somehow get your preferred "keyword phrase" into your domain name, the search engines will reward you with higher rankings for that search term -- that's right isn't it?

The question is, how should the domain name appear? Should it be the keywords all together or should they be separated by a hyphen?

Do the search engines look at these differently?



Jill's Reply

Hi Ken,

"It's known that if you can somehow get your preferred 'keyword phrase' into your domain name, the search engines will reward you with higher rankings for that search term -- that's right isn't it?"

Nope, that's not right, in my opinion. There are at least a hundred factors that go into the rankings. Yes, the domain name may be given a tiny bit of weight, but only when people link to the site using its domain name, instead of the Title of the site. That makes it like having keywords in the link, which is indeed helpful.

Most likely any site you see that has keywords in the URL has also been optimized for that phrase. After all, why else would they have keywords in the domain, unless they were attempting to rank highly for those keywords?

Instead of going into a big rant on this, I'll just point you to my previous article on the subject here: and the follow-up to that one here:

If you really feel the need for keywords in your domain, then you should separate them with a hyphen, as it's treated like a space by the search engines.

Personally, I would go with the company name in the domain instead. It's extremely silly for a name brand to have a URL with keywords in it. If your client's company site has a name, that's what you should use.

I'd much rather do what's best for the humans visiting my site. Your domain name is part of your brand, and you shouldn't waste that particular spot for keywords. That said, I've optimized hundreds of sites, 90% or more of which didn't have keywords in the domains. The other 10% already had domains with keywords in them when they came to me. In my nearly 10 years of optimizing, I don't believe I've ever purchased a keyword-rich domain for optimization purposes. It's just not necessary, and I personally think it looks dumb.



Asking Engines for Help

From: Frank

I have a web site that I'm trying to get traffic to and obviously I'm working the crawlers, spiders and robots as best I can.

I was wondering if there is some kind of way to find out from the search engines why they don't rank you higher for your keywords? (Or rank you at all for that matter.) I suppose you could talk to the human search engines about it but I'd really like to know from the "spider's" perspective.


Jill's Response

Hi Frank,

Unfortunately, there's no way to ask the search engines why you don't rank higher. They really are not interested in you and your site; they are only interested in providing relevant results to the people searching at their engine. Although your site is probably the best one in the world to you, to the engines it's simply one in a million.

That said, the engines do have specific guideline pages for Webmasters that can give you some clues, but really...they don't like the idea of people trying to rank higher and "working the spiders" etc.

Your best bet is to read the past archives of this newsletter, visit my forum and read the threads there, and just start learning how to make your site the best possible site it can be so that it truly stands apart from the millions of other ones.


How To Optimize Without Doorways

From: Clyde C.

I am at a loss on how to get multiple similar key words ranked without using doorway pages.

Currently my text is weak but even if I strengthen it I don't know how to handle all the relevant key words without a page for each one.

Can you point me to some discussions of this issue?


Jill's Response

Hi Clyde,

Doesn't your site have more than one page? You simply optimize each page of your site for two or three different keyword phrases. Don't try to optimize for one-word keywords as they will be too general, not bring targeted traffic and be nearly impossible to get rankings for.

Instead, do keyword research at Wordtracker and find the most related phrases that people are searching on. Then choose two or three of the phrases for each page of your site and optimize them accordingly. That means rewriting the copy to utilize the phrases, as well as optimizing the Title tags and the links that point to the pages.

There are more ideas in this past issue of the Advisor:

Also, I would highly suggest that you look into hiring a professional SEO copywriter. It will be worth every penny, as they generally only charge a few hundred bucks per page.

Good luck!


Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and editor of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter. She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars.

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