Canonicalization is a major part of SEO, but at the same time one that still gets missed by many web designers.  Check out my guest post at Daily SEO Tip.  I get into more detail on what it is and how to fix canonicalization there.

I still hear from a lot of SEOs that are convinced the keywords meta tag actually makes a difference.  Well, I thought I’d run a full test to see how much attention the search engines pay to it.

The test was as follows: I put a random string of letters and numbers together and slapped it into my keywords meta tag.

Keywords Meta Tag Test

Keywords Meta Tag Test

So there it is.  And I let the engines go out and gobble up my site.  After the robots had all crawled it, I did a check to see what each search engine found.  And this might surprise you, but here you go:

Google Keywords Meta Tag Test Results

Google Keywords Meta Tag Test Results

Yahoo Keywords Meta Tag Test Results

Yahoo Keywords Meta Tag Test Results

Bing Keywords Meta Tag Test Results

Bing Keywords Meta Tag Test Results

Ask.com Keywords Meta Tag Test Results

Ask.com Keywords Meta Tag Test Results

And as you can see for yourself – only Yahoo and Ask seem to pay any attention to the keywords meta tag.  Not only that, but it was very recently revealed that Yahoo will no longer use the keywords meta tag.

So, as I’ve said before – the keywords meta tag is only used by people who have not done the research to realize that it doesn’t do anything.  For SEO, keep your optimizing solid – use the primary elements, the title tag, the description tag, header tags where valid.  But remember to target humans, not just the search engines.  If you keep that in mind, you’ll likely find yourself in better positions on the search engine results pages.

So last month Matt Cutts posted a blog entry giving away some startling news.  Apparently the “nofollow” tag makes a link still absorb PageRank, but not pass it on.

In the past, most (educated) SEOs used the nofollow tag to adjust PageRank flow.  This was done because using the tag would completely block the link from passing PageRank, and that PageRank was passed on to the other valid links on the page.  This is called PageRank Sculpting.

The way this works is like this: say I have 4 links from a page I run.  The page has 60 “points” of PageRank.  Well, by default, all 4 links each get 15 points.  Before, if I wanted to make some of these links get more points (PageRank Sculpting), I’d add the nofollow tag to links.  So if I nofollow’d one of my 4 links, then the resulting 3 links would now pass on 20 PageRank points, adding more “link juice” to the pages they were pointing to.

From the updates on Google (which, apparently, have been running for over a year), this now is a bit different.  The link that I added the nofollow tag for still absorbs the 15 points, but does not pass this “link juice” on.  So I now have a page with 60 points of PageRank, 3 links get 15 points, and 15 points are lost.

As you might believe, this made many SEOs rather unhappy.  I myself am not thrilled with this news, this now makes me have to rethink/redefine PageRank Sculpting for my own SEO projects.  I know this is going to affect how many SEO’s use their blog comments, as well.  Before, defaulting the blog comments to nofollow meant that all links stayed intact, PageRank points stayed in the places the web developer wanted them to be.  Now, any additional comment (even if they are nofollow) pulls PageRank away from the site page.

Because of this, I suspect many SEOs will now either make their comments in an iframe, or remove comments from their blogs entirely.  I’m of the opinion Google actually gives PageRank to some sites based on links they have going out, not just links coming in.  This is very hard to test thoroughly, but I’m starting to wonder if leaving comments in a blog as dofollow would be better than not.

Eh, I’m just trying to keep integrity and do white-hat SEO, so I’ll try to find the best way to do it all.  We’ll see what comes of it.

Page Rank is a vital part to any SEO done for a website.  Understanding how to increase Page Rank is a huge benefit to any SEOer, and can help make a difference between page 10 and page 1 on the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

(For those that want to get picky, yes, Page Rank is actually spelled PageRank, but since a large number of people think of it as two separate words, I’ll refer to it that way in this post.)

To start – what is Page Rank?  Page Rank is not named because it’s associated with web pages, it’s actually named after one of Google’s founders, Larry Page.  The true ranking structure is something that isn’t fully available to anyone outside of Google, although you can install the Google Toolbar (for IE or Firefox) to see the Page Rank Google has publicly posted for any given web page.

So what is Page Rank?  Basically, it’s a score Google has given to a web page, between 0 and 10.  Higher is better.  It’s affected by a variety of things, although knowing how to increase Page Rank for your site will help much.  This is because Google tends to post higher Page Ranked sites higher on the SERPs, for the keywords that they are optimized for.  To Google, Page Rank is equivalent with a level of quality.  If a site has a high Page Rank, it is likely a high quality page.

To get an idea of this – most pages when they start begin with PR (Page Rank) 0.  From here, initially most sites are around 1, 2, or 3.  To reach PR 4 or above requires some qualifications, which I’ll detail in a moment.  Anything above PR 6 takes quite a bit to get to, and these are very well known, popular sites.  For some examples, these are how the following sites are currently ranked:

How do you increase Page Rank?  The primary means of increasing PR is determined by how Google scores PR: it’s all about who links to you.  This ties heavily, very heavily into basic SEO.  Off-page linking is how PR is built.

The basics of Page Rank come down to links.  It’s like a popularity contest – the more links to a given page, the more votes that are cast to this page, the higher a Page Rank that page is given.  The weight of each link is affected by the PR of the linking page.  This is where things start getting a little trickier to understand, but we’ll start with the basic formula.

PR = 0.15 + (0.85 * (PR of linking page / number of links on page))

This starts with 0.15, which is the lowest possible PR any given page can have.  If your page is crawled and has no links to it at all, that’s where you are.  The next bit of math takes 0.85 and multiplies it times the PR of the page linking to you divided by the total links from that page.  This does mean that the more links on the linking page, the more “washed out” the quality of link from the site is.  Getting a link from a page that only has three links is far better than from a page with 230 links.

Adding up multiple links into the equation makes it get quite messy, but you can see pretty clearly how getting a high quality link from a high PR site will jump your PR rather quickly.  Also realize that this equation applies to on-site linking, as well.  So by simply linking to your own pages from within your site will help your page rank.  Keep in mind that the more links you put, the less PR (the less “link juice” as it’s often termed) will be given the page being linked to.

To get to something like a PR 7 means you have to have many links, and many high quality links.  Good SEO requires finding quality relevant links, and increasing Page Rank is one reason for this.

So to increase Page Rank, you can start with doing quality on-site linking, and then from there start getting links from other pages to jump your PR further.  The higher PR the page linking to you, the higher PR you’ll get, and the better you’ll do in the search listings.

This is a question posed by various people – SEOs, internet marketers, online business owners, and even just people browsing the web: which search engine is best?

Well, this really comes down to depending on what your approach is.  If you are just browsing, it’s really a personal preference.  But if you’re in internet marketing, then it comes down to understanding the varieties of users who are using each.

To start, Google is still controlling the search engine market, with 64.2% of all searches in April (according to ComScore).  Yahoo is second with 20.4%, and Microsoft is third with 8.2%.

As most people know, the bulk of traffic can be gained through Google.  Doing SEO or AdWords can take advantage of this traffic.  It’s been seen through PPC marketing that Yahoo does not get quite the same traffic but does tend to get a higher percentage of conversions.  This varies based on market, but it’s worth noting.

So what this means for internet marketers is this – definitely use Google if you’re interested in traffic.  For SEO or PPC, it’d be good to start with a focus on Google, and follow up with adjustments for Yahoo (and with PPC, start advertising with Yahoo) after a set plan is set for Google.  Microsoft is really an extra option to take advantage of, but in some cases may not be worth too much extra time/effort unless the amount of traffic gained through them is notable.

Make sure to realize that it’s worth it to go beyond just looking at Google.  One fifth of all internet search engine users use Yahoo, so the numbers there speak for themselves.  Be sure to keep that in mind when focusing on your internet marketing endeavors.

It still surprises me how many businesses are completely unaware of Google Local.  The benefits of putting your business in Google Local are enormous, especially for businesses that run primarily a regional business.

To start – Google Local is essentially the cheap/easy way to do SEO.  It’s not exactly doing any traditional SEO, but by doing this, you’re able to rank above the rest of the organic listings (in most cases), and for quality keywords.  You can see an example of it any time you search for a business listing in a local area, or often you can simply enter a city or zip code plus a particular market keyword (such as dentist, or plumber).  When you do this, Google Local entries will show up, next to a map.

To get your business listed in this way is fairly easy to do.  Begin at http://www.google.com/local.  From here, you’ll want to click on the link that says “Put your business on Google Maps”.  This will take you to a page that lists all of the entries to put information down about your company, such as name, address, phone, and web site, plus a description.

At this point Google will search to see if you have any listings posted yet.  If you haven’t done any entries into Google Local or Google Maps, then you shouldn’t find a match.  Add the new entry, and go on.

This next page is crucial to take advantage of Google Local for the SEO benefits it has.  You can show up in organic listings by putting proper keywords into the “Categories” section.  You can have up to five categories here.  By doing some good keyword research, you can determine which keyword phrases would be best to place here to ensure you get good, quality traffic from local searchers.

The other information is good to put if you can.  In particular, placing a video or image will help you by distinguishing you from your local competitors, as these will often show up with your Local listing.

Once you’ve completed this information, you’ll have to confirm by entering a PIN code Google will give you, either by giving it to you online to enter it over the phone, or by sending it to you through mail to your business address to enter it online.  Once you’ve done this, your Google Local business listing will go live.

For extra marketing push, you can choose to add coupons to your Google Maps listing.  Simply go back to http://www.google.com/local/add, only select the “Coupons” tab at the top.  Here you can add coupons of any kind to help bring customers in.

Now that you’re set up, your business name and link will show anytime anyone within the same area as your business types in the keywords you selected, or types in these keywords next to the name of your city or a close-by zip code.  This can be very effective if you’ve selected good keywords, and even without full SEO, you’ll still appear at the top of the search results.

If you notice an increase in business from this, it may be wise to consider doing full SEO, as your customer base appears to be using the web to find business in your market.  By increasing traffic through SEO, you’ll be increasing business further – and for national or international companies, this is a must for competing on a national/international scale.  Even without SEO, this is a good start to get traffic to your business site, and to help increase profits!

So I was reading through some SEO material recently (as all good SEOs should do), and found a few interesting things out.  I knew that in the past, when the keyword meta tag was first introduced, it was the authority for ranking pages in the SERPs (search engine result pages).  You could just put your primary keyword into your keyword meta tag 300 times, and you’d rank at the top.

Of course, this is silly.  And most of the search engines realized this before too long.  The tag was introduced in 1996, and a lot of changes happened in 1998.  One particularly major change – a company named Google.  When they came into the game, they didn’t even support the tag.  Why?  Because of the blatant abuse people did with it.  And even to this day, Google doesn’t even acknowledge it.  I know this is surprising at least a few of you.  So is it even worth using?

Well, although Google doesn’t notice anything you do with your keywords meta tag, there are still search engines that do.  Primarily Yahoo and Ask.com.  However, the content placed into this tag doesn’t help your rankings much at all.  It has about as much SEO power as normal page content.

If I had to give any reason for still using the keywords meta tag, it’d be only to put words that you would never actually use in your content.  Primarily common misspellings and phrases that are impossible to use in your normal content, but that people still type when they search.  And you’ll only get potential results from those two search engines – not from Google.

So keep your SEO solid, and do some good on-site SEO with the appropriate adjustments, plus good off-site backlinking (which is really where most of the SEO power comes from).  And make sure to research as necessary, to find out what really helps (or hurts) your rankings on the SERPs, if you want to be a good SEO.

In SEO there are many basics that are standard and remain that way.  For instance, the title tag has always been important, and will likely stay important for a long time to come.  It’s the way SERPs present the content of the page linked in the most concise way possible, so it’s the main construct of SEO.

However, there are some SEO elements that have changed over the years.  For example: the keywords meta tag.  This is something that is still used (by some search engines more than others), but is not nearly as prominent as it used to be.  In the past, many pages would just fill this tag with every keyword possible and rank very nicely because of it.  As search engines mature, they become more intelligent in analyzing pages, and tricky black hat approaches no longer have quite the weight they used to.

Another major SEO element that is not as prominently referenced as previously: keyword placement in content.  I can hear many of you gasp now – that’s one of the major SEO staples!  It is still used quite a bit, but it’s starting to change.  Particularly with Google.  Now keywords are still checked, but LSI is starting to play a larger role.  Latent Semantic Indexing is basically the search engine’s associating of keywords with related words.  In the past, you threw a ton of your main keyword up on your page, then made every other word “la la loooo”, you would still rank very highly for the main keyword.  It was easy to cheat.

Now that search engines have progressed, they look for FULL content, not just one or two keywords.  Nobody knows exactly how Google operates (except for the doctors working in their secret labs, with their NDAs chained around their necks), but we do know that they are starting to use LSIs much more when doing keyword rankings for search results.  If you have your keyword and several LSI keywords as well, you’ll do much better than if you awkwardly place one or two keywords in some manufactured content you wrote JUST to have somewhere to put your keywords.

Good SEO is starting to mean actually writing valuable content.  Personally, I think this is a good direction.  People searching through search engine results should be able to find what they are looking for, and quality results.  And to get to the upper ends of the results, you should be providing quality content.  SEO is beginning to progress more in this direction.

For now, it’s not perfect, and some little tips and tricks still do a better job for search engine optimization than they probably SHOULD (aherm, sloppy backlinks, hrm) where they do not always provide the searcher with a quality result.  But as the search engines get more advanced, SEO will have to adjust.

One of the overlooked parts of SEO is coming up with good backlinks.  Now any professional search engine optimizer knows very well that you NEED backlinks to get your site up in the listings.  But how many realize that exactly which backlinks you choose to use makes a huge difference?

This is where Page Rank comes into play.  If you’re trying to rank for a little search engine like, say… Google – you need to consider their rules in the game.  Google uses Page Rank to estimate how good a page is.  Good for consumers, good for business, good for quality overall.  This is done by estimating the amount of traffic the site sees, in addition to the sites that link to this site in question.

The way SEO comes into this equation can be explained through an analogy.  Referrals.  Say you are looking for a good doctor, to help you get over a nasty infection you got after you got a little overzealous making sushi and cut yourself.  If you had no idea where good doctors where, how would you find them?  Most people would ask a friend, or a colleague.  Someone they trusted.  Now if Jim Bob the back alley narcotics dealer mentioned to you this nice doc he knew that had great prices and could slip you a little extra pain relief (wink wink nudge nudge), would you trust him?  But if Mr. Oxford, the CEO in charge of the chain of banks in town – if he recommended the doctor he used, one that costs a little extra but is very effective, friendly, and knowledgable – which of the two would you choose?

This is a little like how Google does its Page Rank and how you can excel with SEO.  If a site has a backlink from some unrelated page (say, a site about lawnmowers has a link to your dog food page), that just doesn’t make a lot of sense and doesn’t carry much weight.  But if you have a link from a well-known source (i.e. Wikipedia) for a related keyword (i.e. DOG FOOD), Google looks at that and says, “Well now.  This page has a high quality site linking to it, with a related word.  It MUST be high quality, as well.”  And then your site jumps in rank.

This is very much like a referral system.  If a great source gives good referrals, you learn to trust them.  So if your page has good referrals with related keywords, you’ll move up much more quickly in rankings.  If your page has bad referrals with random keywords, your rankings may not move much – and in some cases, they may even DECLINE.

So keep this in mind when you’re trying to get some good backlinks for your site.  Don’t just go hunting for every single backlink you can get – higher quality ones are worth far more than a huge number of low quality ones.