Friday, February 26, 2010

US National Archives Channel as a Resource

One of the great things about most of the output of the US federal government is that it is in the public domain, meaning you can use it without cost and without asking permission. One of the great resources for this kind of material is the US National Archives, which also has a YouTube channel featuring a number of films going back to before WWII. If you see something that you want to use, for example some audio or video content to add to your project, go ahead and take it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to Check for User Name Availabilty

Problem: You have a great idea for a user name to use on a bunch of social networking services, but you don't want to start signing up for services just to find out that the name was already taken.

Solution: Go to to see if the user name or URL you want to use on is available on the more popular social media services. The home page lists dozens of services. You just plug in the name and in seconds you see what's available.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Great Conversation about Online Marketing and Measuring

Avinash Kaushik is one of the world's most influential people in the world of online marketing. He is the author of two very important books on web analytics, and is one the forces behind the Google web analytics package. No matter how much you know about online marketing and measuring, Avinash will open your eyes a little bit more. Check out Mitch Joel's Six Degrees of Separation podcast featuring Avinash.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Does Getting an Inbound Link Do for a Site?

The other day, one of the web site owners that works with me asked a simple question: What benefit does a site owner get from having a simple inbound link? It was a simple question without a simple answer. The short answer is that I'm not sure, but I have a general idea of how an inbound link can benefit a web site, but as you will see, it is about a lot more than just links.

I've had over a decade working in online advertising, including a few months in a failed start up that had a business model that required a flood of advertising dollars to succeed (actually, a moderate flow of dollars followed by an IPO in the pre-Internet bust years would have been been perfectly acceptable to the owners), and my most recent experiences developing online content and marketing web sites,my opinion is that there are two benefits to the site that is the target of the link: a small amount of traffic from the the site hosting the link, and a small boost in the influence the site has within the algorithms that run search engines, especially the major engines like Google and Bing.

Although the boost to the search engine algorithms is small, the cumulative effect of all incoming links can be quite significant. If inbound links are combined with other efforts, such as creating a web site with compelling content and incorporating a number of other often subtle efforts both on a web site and outside of a web site (for example, having a related network of blogs or other social media, and perhaps marketing the site outside of the Internet), then that site may become a first page or even a number one result for relevant searches on major search engines.

As many of you know, I've run the site, for almost 14 years. I've done many things to make that site a useful resource for airline safety information, and the site and my related online efforts often bubble up to the top of relevant search results (see what happens if you search for 'airline safety'). It has literally hundreds of links pointing to it from around the web, and it gets traffic from a variety of sources, included articles in traditional printed publications both large and small (usually very, very small).

The site was up for several years before I even knew what the word SEO meant. While my design and development process happened to have many elements currently associated with optimizing a web site for search engines (keyword use, linking to relevant content, etc,), my objective for the site was to make it useful for its audience. To do that I was constantly improving the content, looking to see what the competition was doing, and taking advantage of online technology developments.

In the last few years, some of the changes to the site were subtle, like updating HTML tags and changing the naming structure of URLs to be more search engine friendly, but most have been outside of the site. Among the major changes was creating separate online content such as podcasts, opt-in mailing lists, online videos, blogs, and other social media resources like Twitter, Facebook, and RSS feeds to enhance traffic to the main site. While some of those resources had the option of creating relevant direct links, most of them indirectly increased awareness of the main site, which in turn may have caused others to place links to the site form other web sites, from online news articles, and other locations.

The site has many natural advantages that have come with time, the development of closely related online content, and audience familiarity. Newer sites that don't have these advantages can make up for it in part by creating a large number of inbound links from relevant locations. Some site owners literally place a lot of value in these links, given the very active market for text link online advertising. While these kinds of links may turn out to be useful, the benefit would be much greater if the site owners combine those inbound links with useful and compelling content, a site design that makes the site more attractive to search engines, and other efforts to expand the audience for what the site has to offer.

Evolution of Social Media at (7:01)
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Most Important Search Engine Ranking Factors

The search engine world is constantly evolving with respect to what factors will get your contact to rank highly on the major search engines. Whatever worked last year may not work that well this year. While no one person knows all the answers, there are some organizations that try to figure those answers out for the rest of us who are trying to get our minds around the most important things to know about search engine marketing and search engine optimization.

Every two years, SEOmoz surveys top SEO experts worldwide on their opinions of what elements drive search engine rankings. Their 2010 survey asked 72 search engine optimization experts to rate more than 100 search ranking factors, and also asked them about the most important hot issues in the SEO field.

Top 4 Positive Factors
According to the survey, the top four things that will enhance your search engine results are:
  1. External links containing keywords that are relevant to your site
  2. Having quality and quantity of your external links
  3. Having a diversity of your link sources (unique domain names)
  4. Using your site's keyword in the title tag

For more details on the survey, including things that affect your site's search engine rank that have nothing to do with keywords, check out the details of the study.

For more insights about this survey, check out this recent podcast from Marketing over Coffee, one of my favorite sources for insights about online marketing trends.