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Saturday, March 10, 2007


Last week we had a quiz on SEO from Brad Callen. This guy is the master of SEO and his lessons invaluable. I used Brad's techniques to help me reach the top of search engines (especially Google) for my key words and keyword phrases - marketing expert, internet marketing expert, marketing service providers, free marketing articles, marketing blog directory, etc. To find out how, click here.

Here are the answers to last week's quiz...

1. Your website sells Green Widgets - what is the best Title tag for your main page?

a. Get Green Widgets, Buy Green Widgets, Green Widgets, Green Widget.
b. We have Cheap Green Widgets with great prices and selection.
c. Buy Green Widgets | Discount Widgets.
d. Home | Greenwidgets.com

A Title tag must be descriptive, brief and keyword rich. This immediately rules out the first two options for this question, which were either too full of keywords or too long without any targeted keywords. Writing a Title tag is not an exact science - however, keep your keyword terms limited to 2 or 3 in the Title tag, and I always like to separate them with "|".


2. Your site map has more than 100 links to your pages. Do you:

a. Create a hierarchy of links, and split up the site map into multiple pages.
b. Keep adding new links, no problem.
c. Add a second page to your site map and add new links to that.
d. Stop adding links to your site map completely.

Because search engines are hesitant to give any specific guidelines on how to optimize our websites, any small detail becomes very important. As far as sitemaps are concerned, this is an issue where it pays to listen to the search engines, especially since with large content sites well-designed sitemaps are a sure bet that your site will be quickly indexed.

Google's Webmaster Guidelines clearly state that you should limit your sitemaps to less than 100 links per page, and that it is better to use a hierarchy that signifies the site structure and the importance of these pages. It is good advice to follow, especially when a search engine says that "look, this helps us index your site better".


3. How many words should you consider writing in a page of pure content (such as an article, a blog post or a product review)?

a. 100-200
b. 500-800
c. 200-400
d. 800+


While there is no set length of pages that works best in search engines (ecommerce stores have little content and still rank high, while many pages ranking high have 1000+ words as a minimum), but if you are going towards publishing quality content (either through blogs or articles), then the 500 to 800 word count is a good range for the following reasons:

  • Gives you enough room to discuss one focused topic in detail.
  • Forces you to keep it interesting and relevant.
  • More content = better contextual advertising - this limit gives you targeted ads for your article quite easily (whereas a small word count may result in generic, site-specific ads).
  • Since you cannot cover more than one main idea in such a short range, you must create separate content pages for different ideas - giving you more opportunities to create fresh content (remember to always "drill down" in your content writing and differentiate multiple aspects of the same topic).

4. What is the optimum keyword density you should aim for?

a. 2%-5%.
b. Keep the content normal, but stuff the page with hidden text in alt tags, meta tags and "white-on-white" text to maximize keyword density.
c. As much as possible, while keeping the content human-readable.
d. Forget keyword density - search engines pay very little attention to it any more. Just focus on writing content that people will want to link to.


Keyword density has been abused since before Google came out with their PageRank algorithm in 1998. Keeping that in mind, search engines do not pay much attention to pure keyword density. What they do pay attention to is relevant on-page factors such as page structure, navigation, title tags and advanced topics such as term weight and c-indices. However, all this pales in comparison to the off-page factors (linking strategy), especially in Google. Yahoo seems to give more weight than Google to on-page factors, but even then keyword density is not very high on the list.


5. What should you put inside meta tags?

a. Put your full keyword list in the meta keywords tag, and put your most important keywords in the meta description tag.
b. Ignore the meta tags - search engines don't use them.
c. Write a short description of your website in the meta description tag, and put your most important keywords in the meta keywords tag.
d. Put your most important keywords in the meta keywords tag and don't use a meta description tag.

Meta tags, like keyword density, are easily abused and misused. Because of this, search engines are very wary of trusting any information put in them. However since meta tags are essentially describing what the page is about, you should use them to briefly describe each page. Note that sometimes your meta description might be used to describe your site in search engine results, and that any heavy optimization of these tags may trip the spam filters in search engines. Use them, but lightly, and don't depend on them as they have limited use.


6. For optimization purposes, how should you use images on your site?

a. Use the alt tag to accurately describe the each image, and include descriptive content around each image.
b. Put your most important keyword in an alt tags followed by the word "graphic".
c. Just use them wherever it is necessary from an aesthetic perspective, without regard for alt tags because they aren't really that important.
d. Use alt tags to "hide" your full keyword list so you can increase your page's keyword density.

At the very least, images should contain alt tags with one or two keywords describing that image, and you should try surrounding that image with relevant text. If the image is not used in context (i.e. it is not part of a content page or an article), you should add a couple of lines below the image describing it. In essence, what you would do if you were caring for people whose browsers disabled images and those who wanted some details about the images.


7. Which style tag is preferred by the W3C for emphasizing important text?

a. b
b. strong
c. heavy
d. bold

This is one most people trip out on. The [b] tag is commonly used for style purposes (to make text go bold), and this was inadvertently carried over in SEO circles when people wanted to emphasize certain sections of their content. However, the W3C standards advocate that one must use the [strong] tag to emphasize important words in your content. As for the[b] tag, W3C standards classify it as a styling tag and actually want you to use CSS to style your content, but that's a separate issue.

So if you're using [b] tags to emphasize important parts of your content, stop! Use [strong] tags for keywords and key terms, and keep the [b] tag for visual emphasis only.

Link Building

8. What types of websites are most trusted by search engines (authority sites)?

a. High PR websites.
b. .edu and .gov websites.
c. Low PR websites with lots of backlinks.
d. Medium to High PR websites with lots of backlinks from other high ranking websites.
e. Both b and d

Authority sites are like gold on the Internet - a link from them is better than several links from small, unknown sites. Search engines use different criteria to establish the trustworthiness of a site, but common elements include those websites that are official (reduced chance of spamming and greater chance of accurate information) sites such as .edu and .gov sites (not .org, as this extension has been spammed and abused already) and those websites that receive a large number of links from other high ranking and trusted sites.

Getting links from these sites is tough, but definitely a great investment.


9. Which of these sites will provide the most valuable link?
a. A PR 7 website.
b. A PR 5 site closely related to your niche with strong backlinks from .edu and .gov (trusted) domains.
c. A website with hundreds of pages of duplicate content that is banned in the search engines.
d. A PR 6 website loosely related to your niche but with few 'trusted' backlinks.

For a site to be valuable as a backlink, it has to fulfill the following characteristics:

  • It must be trusted by the search engines - that is, it must have backlinks of its own from trusted sites.
  • It must be closely related to your niche - the closer, the better. So if you're running a soccer store, a tech site may not be the ideal backlink but a sports site reviewing soccer products is definitely worth going after.
  • It should be a clean site - without any penalties.


10. Suppose that you were offered the following 4 choices as a link - which one would be the most valuable?

a. An optimized contextual link (a link as part of a page's content with proper anchor text) from a closely related PR 5 site's main page content.
b. A link on the links page of an unrelated PR 7 site - shared with 50 other links (and their two line descriptions).
c. A link on the links page of closely related PR 6 site - shared with 20 other links.
d. A PR 6 link from a directory page with 10 other links only.


The best links are those that are contextual and contain optimized anchor text - such an in-text link to SEO Elite from a blog post of a leading SEO blog (e.g. seomoz or webguerrilla). Note that a similar link from a totally unrelated site such as a real estate portal will not carry the same value.

While directory pages and link pages carry value, these are not as important as contextual links, mainly because contextual links are harder to spam.

11. If you were building links for greenwidgets.com, what would be your strategy in choosing anchor text?

a. Buy high PR links from closely related sites that offer traffic as well as link wealth.
b. Use organic marketing tactics to encourage natural link growth using your site's content.
c. Submit articles to article directories and link to your site's inner pages in those articles to build 'deep' links.
d. All of the above.

This one was fairly straightforward - when building links, you should pursue opportunities on all fronts. Don't ignore developing your site's content and focus all your attention on buying links! Instead, balance your link building efforts and divide equal time for each of these activities.


12. Which of these four is the most important in assessing a link?

a. The anchor text.
b. The PR of the page you're getting the links from.
c. The number of outgoing links on the link page.
d. The title tag of the link page.

All four factors are important, but apart from anchor text, the other three are also dependent on other factors that may or may not exist in your favor. For example, the PR of the page you're getting links from is meaningless if the website is in a totally different niche than yours. Similarly, the title tag of the link page may be just [home], but if the link is contextual and if the anchor text is optimized, it's still a valuable link (where as the reverse - good title tag, bad anchor text - will not be true.

The number of outgoing links is only to be concerned about because it might show the search engine that you are situated on a link list page, which they may or may not penalize the link for. However, a good content page (like on a blog) may contain 30+ outgoing links - yet with optimized anchor text and placed in proper context, the link is suddenly very valuable.


13. How many links should you get for your site in the first 6 months (on average)?

a. 50-70 links a month.
b. 100+ links a month.
c. As many quality links as you can.
d. 25-40 a month.


While the Google Sandbox is not a myth (nor is it as strictly defined as some people might say it is), there are no penalties for building too many links. In fact, the 'pace' at which you build your links only becomes suspicious if it is unnatural - for example, if you suddenly get 100+ links to your website in 2 weeks that are from a link network (assuming this link network can be detected by the search engine) and you have made little or no addition to your site content, this would constitute as suspicious, unnatural link building.

On the other hand, if you're continually adding content and getting deep links (through article submissions as well as through your link building efforts), you may get 300+ links in a week (like seomoz did for its ranking factors list) and the search engine will recognize these as natural - and something viral like this can even propel your site out of the Sandbox.

General SEO

14. What does PageRank technically measure?

a. The linking power carried by a particular link.
b. How many external, inbound links point to a particular page.
c. The number and quality of the links pointing to a particular page.
d. Your ranking position in the search engines.

PageRank is not link popularity (number of inbound links) or link weight (the linking power carried by a particular page) - in fact, it is a combination of both as well as several different factors.

However, your search engine rankings are not determined exclusively via PageRank - hundreds of other factors, including relevancy of links, anchor text and other off-page and on-page factors come into play as well. PageRank is just a measure, and as a measure its value has been steadily declining - something claimed by Google as well.


15. What does the term "Sandbox" describe in reference to Google's SERPs?

a. The ranking factors affecting all new websites that are targeting highly competitive keywords before targeting less competitive keywords.
b. Google's system for penalizing sites exhibiting an overly-optimizing back-link structure.
c. Google's penalty for building too many links too quickly.
d. Google's play area for their staff during lunch break.


The Sandbox is a series of filters applied to all new websites as they try to rank for their select search terms on Google. It does not penalize websites for building too many links too quickly (as explained in a previous question), although these filters do affect websites that are seemingly too well-optimised than their niche competitors.

The best path to avoid the Sandbox (or to get out if you're stuck) is to keep building natural links through your content and focus on your rankings in MSN and Yahoo. If you're ranking highly in those search engines and are constantly building contextual links, you'll be able to get out of the Sandbox within an year.

Note: If you start with a keyword phrase that isn't very competitive and is "less known", you WILL bypass the "sandbox" and should rank well pretty quickly. Once you build credibility and authority/age, you can start to take on the bigger keywords.


16. What is the best way for websites with very little content (like ecommerce stores) rank highly for competitive product terms?

a. They have a lot of natural links (one-way, contextual) with optimal anchor text from a wide variety of websites.
b. Their pages are stuffed with keywords and "white text".
c. They use content-generating software to spam the search engines and attain false rankings.
d. They pay a lot of money to get high PR links.


This comes under the whole content vs. links debate: which is more important? Search engines value both, thus the only way to rank well if you have less of one of them is to have more of the other.

In the context of ecommerce stores, they face stiff competition from other stores that buy high PR links to artificially inflate their rankings. The best way to beat them is to go for contextual, one-way links from trusted websites - this is harder and takes more time, but the benefits include first page rankings on SERPs.


17. Which of these will NOT get your site penalized in Google?

a. Thousands of automatically-generated pages built only for the search engines.
b. Building quality links at a steady pace.
c. Scraping (stealing) content from other websites.
d. Getting links from websites that Google considers to be from a 'bad' link neighborhood.

Using content-generating software that creates pages only for search engines is a common spam tactic, and search engines have, in the past couple of years, rapidly caught on to this approach and will penalize it severely. Similarly, stealing content from other sites is not that hard to detect (they measure the similarity of content and match it with which page was indexed first).

Links from a website that is already penalized by Google can get your website penalized - this is not a guarantee, but if your website is getting several links from banned sites AND there is any spam-like activity on your website (like stuffing keywords into your meta keywords tag, or overoptimised title tags), then you may get penalized as well.


18. Which of these five methods will NOT give you an accurate estimate of the search demand in a niche?

a. Overture search term figures
b. WordTracker.com numbers
c. Nichebot.com
d. Statcounter.com


Overture and WordTracker report numbers based on an analysis of a subset of search engine data. Nichebot provides data from the above two services, while Statcounter is used to monitor site traffic.


19. When designing the site structure of a website, which of the following statements is NOT a good idea?

a. Make a site map that points to each page on the site.
b. Attempt to make all pages accessible from the home page by at most 3 clicks.
c. Link all of your inner pages to all of your other websites.
d. Create a category structure that goes from broad to narrow.

Site-wide links should be reserved for the important internal pages of your own website (such as the home page, the contact page and main category pages). This way, you will be transferring maximum link weight back to the key pages of your website so that they can rank higher. BY linking all pages on 1 of your websites, to your other website, the search engines will quickly see that you are trying to manipulate their results and will more than likely penalize you accordingly.

20. Which is the best method of getting traffic to your site?

a. Pay-per-click ads.
b. Pay for high PR links so that you get a PR yourself, which will help boost your own search engine rankings.
c. Submit your website to search engines and popular directories, and focus on creating content.
d. Create quality content that people in your niche would want to link to, and then promote that content through article syndication, blogs and forums.
e. All of the above.


Traffic building methods, like link building, should never be restricted to one form of traffic (because when that dries up, you'll be caught with your proverbial pants down). If you sell products, then PPC ads are a great tool for driving targeted traffic. On the other hand, paying for "traffic" links on related websites will do wonders as well. In addition, search engine traffic procured through link building and creating quality content will assure that you have a steady stream of free traffic to rely upon.



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