Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How registering your domain name for longer periods might help your search rankings.

I've heard that Google interprets longer domain registrations as a
signal of quality. Is it true that Google will treat my site differently if I
register or renew my domain for 10 years versus just two years?

Answer: The short answer is: It will never hurt your rankings and it might,
theoretically from time to time, help your rankings ever-so-slightly—maybe,
but probably not. Here's the deal.

A Google patent made public in 2005 referred to several ways by which
Google may distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate domains. One
aspect is the length of time a domain is registered for. According to the
patent, legitimate domains are more likely to be paid for several years in
advance, while doorway and spam-heavy domains are rarely registered for
more than a year in advance, since the owner knows they'll likely be
penalized anyway.

Based on the patent information, several domain registrars began prompting
their customers to lock-in new registrations for long periods, claiming that
doing so would help their search engine rankings.

However, since that patent was released our observations indicate that
extended domain registrations don't have much, if any, impact on
rankings. It certainly doesn't hurt, but you should not expect it to give you
any major boost in the rankings.

Even so, it is interesting to note that Google's patent application does state
that domain registration could be a potential ranking factor. But just
because something is in a patent doesn't mean that it's actually being done.
All it means is that the patent holder wants to reserve the right to possibly do
it someday.

Also relevant is the fact that Google, as a domain registrar, only has access
to the database of public (but not private) whois records. So, in theory, if you
keep your domain registration private (as many do for privacy and personal
security reasons)

Google has no easy way of knowing how long your domain is registered for.
Finally, it's worth noting that domains in the UK are prevented from being
registered for periods longer then two years at a time, making the point moot
for British sites.

So the bottom line is that it may be good business practice to register your
domains for longer, but you really shouldn't count on getting a ranking boost.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How to Get A Flood of Pre-Qualified Customers

Knocking Down Your Door Using Local Search and
Geo-Targeting ...and get local search engines to list your site exactly where you
want them to! — By Carrie Hill

I have a small confession to make. I almost chose to leave the words Local
Search out of the title of this report. That's because, to me, Local Search
implies looking for something nearby (also known as Nearcasting). And though
Nearcasting is a form of Local Search, we can't forget about Farcasting

Farcasting is search performed with local intent but for a location that is not
necessarily local. Travel searches are a great example of this. I'm headed to
Tampa with my kids next week, so I searched online for Tampa Bay Family
Restaurants to see where the best dinner places were in the area. I
performed a geo-targeted search but my query was not local—it was for an
area that was nowhere near where I live in Colorado.

It's very important when optimizing for local search that you understand how
customers use Nearcasting and Farcasting and the impact each can have on
your business. We'll discuss those top ics, as well as Yahoo Travel, Google
Maps and more. I'll also provide a handy checklist at the end for you to use
to evaluate a site's geo-targeted local search readiness.

Although the ranking algorithm for geo-targeted local search is quite different
from that used for the organic search results, we can identify several factors
that will help your web site rank better for searchers performing geo-targeted

There are an enormous number of online businesses targeting user s looking
for something located in a particular area. Hotels, plumbers, attorneys and
more can all benefit from using enhanced geo-targeted search optimization
tactics to out-pace competitors and capture market share for short and
long-tail geo-targeted terms.

The Key to Getting Your Business Recognized for What AND Where it

It's necessary to tell local search engines what the business is, where it is,
and what's nearby so they can find it, index it, and provide an enhanced
user experience to the searchers perfor ming queries for th ose targeted

You will really need to carefully describe the products, services and
operations of your business on your web site. The business is not just Instead, the true description of the business is...

A personal-injury attorney that specializes in
trial law in and around Santa Barbara County
in Southern California.

See the difference? We're now telling the search engines exactly...

What the web site provides (a personal injury attorney),
Where their service area is (Santa Barbara county)
What's nearby (Southern coastal California).

Describing the site with text, links and addresses in very minute detail
allows the search engines and local search platforms to be very sure of
your intention and market. Th is helps them decide which results to show
for a query.

When someone searches for personal injury Santa Barbara, Google or
Yahoo can be very confident that your web site provides a positive user
experience and they're match ing the user with a site that does exactly
what they're looking for. The user doesn't want a site that does contract
law in San Francisco — and th e site owner in our example doesn't want
clicks that are from users looking for contract law in San Francisco.

Telling search engines exactly WHERE you are...

Is as simple as putting your street address and local phone number on
every page of your web site, in text that's easy for search engine spiders to
read. You can also use descriptive keywords in your page titles, site meta
data and in the text on your site.

Think about how you perform queries online when looking for local-related
products and services. You'll often include a city, state, zip code or feature
such as beach or mountain. Work these kinds of keywords into your body
text so that your pages will rank well for these types of searches.

And, if you have the capability — add the hCard microformat to your site.
This is basically a coded business card for your web site. Yahoo Local has
stated they definitely use the information in their process, and Google
Maps claims they can use it but don't always.

It's fairly simple to use, particularly if you use the automated hCard
Creator. Very likely most sites will use this format in the near future to
deliver a standard set of location information to any engine that can use it.

Getting Your Site Indexed Exactly where you want it to (how to score a
listing in Google's 10-Box)

The search game is ALL about getting your listing in the top ten of google.
Well here's a tip that could potentially get you listed in Google's top
listings overnight - so pay attention.

Whether or not Google even displays a 10-box is based on competition and the
quality of the information Google has. If a query is made for a very competitive
term the 10-Box will show up nearly every time. If a term has only one or two
competing sites, we typically don't see the 10-Box.

Let's discuss how to get your site added and be sure you're doing every
thing you can to compete for those spaces. First you need to do your
research on the sites that are showing up in that 10-box for your
keywords. What exactly are they doing that you're not doing? Likely it's acombination of items.

Here are the 4 main questions that you need to get answers for:

What page of their site is optimized for that keyword?

Remember every page on the site carries a certain amount of
weight in the search engines. Pages that have more incoming links
and weight will support a competitive keyword in a way that allows it
to rank much higher.

Do they have a street address and local phone number on
almost every page of their site?

Have they claimed their Google Maps Listing? Look at the listing
in Google Maps and see if they've added categories, images,
videos etc. If they've claimed & updated it then they're ahead of you
and you need to catch up.

Dot hey have a large number of reviews? Just about every site
with a 10-Box listing will have several reviews, indicating this is a
big factor in getting listed.

Updating your Google Maps Listing

Make sure you have a free Google account before you start this process. It
takes just a few minutes and will be the first step to claiming your listing.
Once a Google account has been created, perform a search for your
business name and location to see if it's listed already. If ther e is already a
listing, choose to edit the listing. If your business isn't alread y listed, follow
the steps in this Google Maps help file.

There is a natural prog ression to updating information in Google Maps.
Required info must be provided before the next button will work. Fill in the
blanks as completely as possible and don't skip boxes unless the
information is not applicable.

I strongly encourage uploading any videos and images as these really
make a Google Maps listing stand out. It's a great way to enhance and
deliver information to the user.

Claiming your Yahoo Local Listing

Many consider Yahoo Local's ranking algorithm to be much simpler than
Google's, but that impression is changing. One thing to consider is that
Yahoo Local generally provides more user-friendly options with their local

Make sure your meta data is correct, that your listing has been claimedupdated, and that all pertinent information related to your location is
on your web site. Reviews do count in Google, but carry even more weight
in Yahoo Local. Thus, one of your best bets to ranking well with Yahoo
Local is to get some reviews.

Yahoo Local also allows users to sort by reviews — so if you have the best
reviews in your area and industry — you're going to rank higher in the
related queries that are sorted by reviews.

Justin Ziegler is an attorney who's site is a great example of how to
properly optimize for Yahoo Local. The site is large and well optimized,
with an updated and fully utilized Yahoo Local listing and a large list of
great reviews. If you want a web site to rank well in Yahoo Local, then do
what this site has done.

Claiming your Microsoft Live Local Listing

Most people don't realize that Microsoft Live even has a Local Listing
Center where you can login and enhance or update your business's
information. Well they do and it's worth the time to do a quick update here.
While the local ranking factors for Google and Yahoo are straightforward,
Microsoft Live Local Listings does not have clear optimization guidelines.

Distance from the central point of a geographic area (usually a post office
or town hall) does appear to be an important factor. Add ing text such as 2
miles from city-center to your pages may help in some cases, but your
actual physical address is key to determining distance from this central

Also important to note is that the market share for local search es on
Microsoft is still quite small, so start with Yahoo and Google if your time is

Internet Yellow Pages

Many Internet Yellow Pages sites offer enhanced listings for a small fee or
for free. Site owners who see a bit of traffic or rankings coming from these
resources should consider upgrading their listing. Keep in mind that they
will most likely try to sell what they call search marketing services. In
general, their sales people are stumped by the simplest SEM questions,
so avoid these services, as the return is rarely worth the investment.

Sponsored results take up a large amount of space in most internet yellow
page queries. These are folks who have signed on to do some paid
advertising and if that is what brings them a significant amount of
business, that's great.

A limited and controlled test is suggested if you or your clients choose to
go down this road. It's possible to blow hundreds and even thousands of
dollars on these types of listing s with little to show for it.

This doesn't mean internet yellow page listings should be completely
overlooked, however. They are an option for a small business owner who
doesn't have a lot of time to invest in a fu lly fu nctionin g web site. An
internet yellow page landing page is better than nothing —but in my
opinion it's less than ideal and it's probably impossible to infiltrate the top
local listings in Universal Search queries with this type of landing page.

I will always recommend a full web site that has links pointing to it and
that is optimized for keywords pertinent to the business if rankings are the
goal. You don't need anything fancy — just functional, user friendly and

Link Building and Local Search...

Just as in regular search results, good links are extremely important to
ranking well in local or geo-targeted search. One new thing to consider is
the local implications of your inbound and outbound links. Consider what
kind of websites someone looking for your web site might be looking for.
For an attorney they may need insurance or information on a particular
municipal code or tax law in your area. Getting links from and linking to
sites that provide this information gives your local presence and
information more weight. So, when you are link building look to businesses local to your area.

Your Local Search Checklist

As promised, here's a list of th e most imp ortant factors to look at when
optimizing for local search. Focusing on these factors will help you rank
higher in both the Geo-Targeted searches and in regular search results.

Do extensive keyword research to be sure you're targeting terms
that get searches every day. Incorporate long tail keywords and
optimize your lesser pages for terms that get only 1 or 2 searches a day. Build more pages if you have terms that get quite a few searches but you don't currently have a page that is relevant.

Do competitive research. Outranking competitors often means
doing what they're doing, only better. Research your competitors
and see what they're doing on their pages and with incoming links
to make sure you're doing the same. Use the Site Strength
Indicator (SSI) tool to see your competitor's incoming links.

Optimize your pages for geo-targeted search. Use the keywords
mentioned in step one in your page title, meta description, H1 tag
and in links pointing to that pag e. Make sure you use the phrase on
the page a few times and mix it up a bit. Use synonyms. For
example, Personal Injury Attorney could also be written as

Attorney for Personal Injury, Personal Injury Lawyer, Accident
Injury Lawyer and so on...

Login and claim your listings in Yahoo Local and Google
Maps. I also suggest spending some time updating your listings at
Microsoft Live Local and some of the Internet Yellow Pages sites if
you're seeing traffic or in terest from them.

Put your physical address and local phone number in text
format on every page of your site. You can do this in the footer of
the page if you like, here's an effective example where they also
give some simple GPS coordinates...

Get local links. Find service or product partners that you support
and that suppor t your business. Ask them to link to you and don't
be afraid to link back. Reciprocal linking penalties are reserved for
sites that go out and spam people for reciprocal links that are
irrelevant to their site offerings.

Your links will be relevant and supported within the context of your
site. The best way to set these links up is in a paragraph of text, not
just as a list of links on a page.

Utilize User Generated Content. Reviews have quite a bit of pull in
most geo-targeted and local platforms. Yahoo Local allows sorting
by highest review and other platforms do as well. We also saw how
the top 10-Box r esults in Google showed quite a few reviews.

Accommodate Nearcasting and Farcasting by using regional
colloquialisms in your text. Someone wh o is looking for a
plumber on the Outer Banks of North Carolina might search for
OBX plumber in stead of Outer Banks plumber This is an example of nearcasting with regional colloquialisms.

Someone looking for a hotel in the Outer Banks area may not have
any clue what OB X means when they first start doing their
research. The different neighborhoods and boroughs of New York
are a prime example. I have no idea where Tribecca is, but the
locals can tell you from what street to what street is considered
Tribecca. They'll use these regional terms when searching for help.

The printed phone book on the kitchen counter very soon be be a thing of
the past. Every computer, laptop, hand held and cell phone is being used to
find information on local businesses. This report will arm you with the tools
you need to get your site ranked on top for local search. The opportunities
are huge and the time to get established is now.

'Cause Local Search rules...

Carrie Hill
Professional Search Engineer
Carrie Hill is an industry-recognized SEO and Copywriter who optimizes sites for Blizzard
Internet Marketing, Inc.