Google Instant and SEO Strategy

Listened this morning to the latest “Marketing Over Coffee” and their discussion of Google Instant, the new instant results functionality you may have noticed the last time you did a Google Search.

Chris Penn ( I think it was Chris ) thinks that because instant response will distract the searcher Google Instant will disadvantage long-tail keywords .

I disagree. Presumably the reason Google Instant is so cool is the quickness of response time. In economic terms this means the “cost” of a search (measured in time) is now cheaper than ever. Therefore, we might see an increase in overall searching AND an increase in the number of terms submitted per search.

An example: Yesterday I was looking for some obscure WordPress documentation and instead of doing one brilliant search and promptly getting lost down the rabbit hole of links in the WordPress Trac. I tried three or four different keyword combination (in less time than it use to take to perform one search!) and was able to judge which keyword combination gave me the best results.

Granted I’m an advanced user, but I suspect Google Instant may in fact give more novice users a better understanding of how to piece together keywords and phrases to find what they are looking for faster. This means, GI could be a great boon to long-tail keywords.

To the extent Google Instant will have an impact, it will be making the top five search results even more important than they already were. Why? Because it’s now easier for me to perform another, more targeted search than it is for me to scroll down the page.

I can’t wait til they start reading minds.

SEO Basics

Good Content

In many ways, the technical aspects of SEO are becoming automated. If you use an open-source content management system, or a custom system built within the last two years, chances are you are already well optimize … at least technically.

The real competitive advantage lies in developing good content that people want to read, that has “viral” potential, and yet still advances your overall mission.

Clean URLS

In general the url of your page should reinforce the keywords you are trying to target. The link to this post is “”. Notice the term “SEO Basics” is included and that my url reflects a ration (human centered) organization.  An example of a bad or “dirty” url would be ““. If your links aren’t clean, talk to your website provider. It should be relatively easy for them to give you the necessary capabilities.

Title Tags

Title tags tell google what to put in the browser window title when the page is open. For instance, the title of this page is “SEO Basics | Mike Van Winkle”. That title is controlled by the following tags, which you can view in the source code.

<title>SEO Basics | Mike Van Winkle</title>

Note that the keywords are first in the title, the name of the site is second.

Meta Tags

The most important meta tags are the “Keyword” and “Description” tags. Here are the tags for this page.

<meta name=”description” content=”This post reviews some of the basics of SEO for small organizations and non-profits. I review meta tags, title tags, and no follow links.” />

<meta name=”keywords” content=”meta tags,search engine optimization,search engines,seo,seo basics,title tags,web marketing” />

How do you change the meta tags for your page? Unfortunately this is something that must be provided by your Content Management System. Many open-source systems like WordPress and Drupal have capabilities for this built in. Custom content management systems, which I strongly discourage, often require custom programming to enable this capability.

Heading Tags

Heading Tags set of headings and subheadings in your content. In general you should try to use these tags to reinforce your keywords, but without annoying the heck out of your readers.

<h1>SEO Basics</h1>

<h2>SEO Basics</h2>

<h3>SEO Basics</h3>

Keep in mind that your heading tags will also change the formatting.

Anchor Text/Link Attributes

We also discussed anchor text and link attributes, like titles and nofollows.

<a href=”” title=”LINK TITLE” rel=”nofollow”>ANCHOR TEXT</a>

The link title is a great opportunity to reinforce your keywords. The title for this link might be “More SEO Basics” or something similar. The same goes for the Anchor Text. Most content management systems have this capability built in. You can tell whether a link is title by simply putting your mouse over the link. Titled links will show the title in a hover box. Mouseover this link to see what I mean: SEO Basics.

You want to pay attention to the anchor text you are using to link to other pages within your site, as well as the anchor text other sites are using to link to you.

Image Alt Attribute

Similar to link titling, the Image “alt” attribute gives you an opportunity to reinforce a specific keyword or set of keywords. For instance, if you put your mouse over the image below you’ll see that a hoverbox with the terms “Seo Basics” pops up. This is because I have set the alt attribute in the image code. I can also set the image title to reflect the same keywords. Again, most content management systems these days give you the option to set these attributes as part of the normal course of posting an image. If yours doesn’t, call your provider and demand that it does.

seo basics

<img title=”seo basics” src=”×281.jpg” alt=”seo basics” width=”300″ height=”281″ />

SEO Basics Resources

Google Trends: (hot keywords) (overall SEO resource)

Yahoo Site Explorer: (Who’s linking to your site)

SpyFu: (research your competition)

SEO Link Building: Quality First

There’s always been a bit of tension between quantity and quality in link building campaigns. Do I build a widget that can get me thousand of links with minimal effort? Or do I focus on getting big links for a few dozen sources? Here’s a video from on the growing importance of link quality.

SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday – Link Quality vs. Quantity from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.

Will your project follow the “Hype Cycle?”

TechCrunch published this really interesting graph yesterday that comes from Gartner. The graph details the life of a new technology. The initial excitement and buzz, the inevitable disappointment, then the slow build.

Does a similar cycle apply to new web projects? Perhaps we have to give the phases different names, but in a broad sense the trajectory applies, both internally and externally.

From an internal perspective, it’s very easy to get caught in your own hype about a new web site. This new blog is going to be the one that puts you on the map. This new wiki is going to revolutionize the way we do business. We all have visions of that instalanch (define: instant avalanch) making our site a household name on the first day.

But when it doesn’t come, we get discouraged, our interested drops, and sometimes we even abandon the project. But sticking with it pays dividends. Slowly, over time the site starts achieving some modest successes. After six months or even a year, perhaps the project begins to take on a life of its own.

The peak, the crash, the long-slog; this is the emotional rollercoaster we experience in web development.The key is keeping yourself grounded and understanding what you want. If you are just chasing the instalanch, then maybe you should give up on a project after three months. But if you believe in your concept and you are committed, you will see slow progress. And if your product is good and you are patient, you will be successful.

The curve applies from an external perspective as well. Often groups will do a great media launch for a site, get an initial burst of traffic, but then see their stats plummet back to earth because they had no plan for long term promotion. No matter how big your initial buzz is, you must have a long-term plan for driving traffic through search-engines, email marketing, and organic links. Without it, the traffic for a site simply can’t be sustained.

Know Your Audience: Facebook, MySpace Fail in Japan

A great article from Techcrunch reminding all of us to listen to what our customers want:

Social networks have become integrative elements of modern American youth culture over the last years, shaping social patterns and changing the ways that people communicate. When taken abroad, these services have to deal with a large number of cross-cultural peculiarities by their very nature.

Societal and cultural gaps are particularly evident in the case of Japan. Market entry in this country with a “What works in the US must also work over there”-attitude is going awry for both Facebook and MySpace. It’s not a stereotype that communication tends to be nonverbal in Japan. The society generally puts more emphasis on the community rather than on the individual. Also, security plays a major role in many aspects of Japanese life.

These cultural distinctions largely explain why social networks from abroad have a hard time winning over Japan’s 90 million web users. Mixi, the country’s biggest social network, positioned itself as a tool for communicating at a distance through diaries and communities to meet like-minded members. It doesn’t primarily exist to make new friends (poking is restricted) or as a platform for public self-presentation.

A perfect example of a cultural misconception: Mark Zuckerberg recently said in Tokyo one of Facebook’s unique selling points is the usage of real names and photos in profiles. This may be true but it’s exactly what Japanese web users usually try to avoid. And they already have a high-trust, invitation-based social network anyway: Mixi.

Read the whole article; it’s good for you.