Another Great Newsletter

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you read blogs and SEO newsletters to keep up with the latest SEO news and to glean some insight into the search engines then Jill Whalen’s High Rankings Advisor newsletters is a must-subscribe-to resource.

I just received today’s edition and after giving it a read, thought … that’s definitely worthy of a mention and reference on our blog. Unfortunately when I went to the High Rankings site the newsletter wasn’t yet posted so I’m going to have to copy it below (and then email Jill and tell her … remember folks, people will give you permission if you ask nicely and provide credit so copyright infringements are completely unnecessary and unwarranted).

The only portions edited out of the newsletter are the ads though I’d still recommend visiting Jill’s site (link below) and sign up for the newsletter.

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~~~High Rankings™ Advisor – Issue No. 149~~~

Your Host: Jill Whalen [jill@highrankings.com]

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~~~IN TODAY’S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
—-> Must-read SEO Secrets

*Search Engine Marketing:
—-> Should I Add HTML Pages to a PHP Site?

*Guest Article:
—-> How To Write Persuasive Subject Lines

*Stuff You Might Like:
—-> High Rankings Seminar in Philadelphia

*High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week:
—-> SEO Dilemma

*This Week’s Sound Advice:
—-> How Many Words Do You Need for High Rankings?

*Advisor Wrap-up:
—-> Secrets Revealed

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~~~Introductory Comments~~~

So did my subject line “Must-read SEO Secrets” get you to open today’s newsletter when you may not have otherwise? I was just testing out Karon Thackston’s advice in today’s guest article! I don’t want to disappoint you now that you clicked it open, though, so I’m going to wrack my brain to think of some SEO secrets to tell you here. Just give me a few minutes…hmmm…

I think we’d better get straight to the good stuff, and my hope is that the secrets will just start flowing…

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Should I Add HTML Pages to a PHP Site?++

Hi Jill,

Following your guidelines, I have had excellent results optimizing regular html pages. Thank you!

I am currently doing an associate’s site that is written in php with a content-management type of program. The pages are in php and not html. The program offers a way of adding in meta & title information for each page but it also has something that it calls “gateway html” and they designate it as being for search engine optimization. It is located in the same area that you will add specific title and meta data for a given page.

I believe that what it does is write out an html page of content that you input, but it is associated with the php page. It will share the same name, title and meta attributes, but you can input different html there than will be viewed in the php page. It will have the same name as the original page, but will be .html instead of .php.

My question is, does this fall foul of “cloaking” whereby you are showing different content via the php and html versions of the same basic page? I have never done anything like this before and I am afraid of having problems with the search engines for fear of cloaking.

Could you please give me your opinion on this?

Thanks very much.

Mark

++Jill’s Response++

Hi Mark,

If I understand you correctly, creating that extra HTML page through your content management system is not something that you need to do. It may have been worthwhile many years ago (back in the age of the dinosaur) when the search engines avoided reading dynamic-looking web pages and adding them to their databases. However, this is no longer a problem.

Let’s discuss what used to happen in the Stone Age of the Internet for a moment, so that you can have a better understanding of this whole dynamic-website issue that plagues so many people.

Many years ago, when search engine spiders saw a URL that seemed like it went to a dynamically generated site (because it had a bunch of parameters in it like question marks, equal signs, etc.), they wouldn’t attempt to crawl it.

One of the reasons for this was that with dynamic sites, you would often find the same content delivered to the user (or browser or spider) under multiple URLs. So for instance, on an ecommerce site that sold hats, you might be able to get to the black ten-gallon cowboy hat that you had your eye on through a URL that was something like this:

www.MyAwesomelyCoolHatShop.com/index.php?category=cowboy&color;=black&type;=tengallon.php

This user may have browsed for cowboy hats, then chose the color black, and then the ten-gallon type.

You might also get to the same exact hat page through another URL like this:

www.MyAwesomelyCoolHatShop.com/index.php?color=black&type;=10gallon&cat; egory=cowboy

This user may have been looking for a black hat to start out, and then decided on the 10 gallon cowboy type.

These are similar but different URLs that both have the potential for being added to a search engine’s database. When that happens it creates a whole pile of URLs for exactly the same content, which is one of the reasons the search engines would avoid them. Another reason for their avoidance was that the search engine spiders had the potential for getting stuck in a sort of infinite loop while they were trying to gather up all the pages. With so many different ways to categorize the products, and so many ways for a user to land at the same page, the spider might end up going around in circles. Search engines and website owners don’t like that because it can eat up server resources.

Years ago it was easier for the search engines to simply avoid those types of sites, as they were few and far between. Since site owners still wanted to get their sites into the search engines, savvy programmers learned how to create URLs and pages that were friendlier to the search spiders. Some figured out how to make dynamic-looking URLs into static-looking ones by rewriting the URLs so that they didn’t use parameters. Others created workarounds whereby the content management system would spit out HTML files that were more crawler-friendly, such as the system Mark was talking about in his question.

Fast-forward a few years.

As websites and businesses began to grow, more and more site owners turned to content management systems to dynamically generate the pages of their websites. It was a whole lot easier and faster and just made sense. Dynamically generated pages were definitely not going to go away, so of course it was in the search engines’ best interests to figure out how they could index the information contained on them.

And so they did.

Today’s search engines generally have no problem with dynamically generated pages. They don’t scurry away as fast as they can when they see a .php or an .asp or a .cfm extension in a URL. They don’t even flee when they see parameters in the URLs. Question marks and equal signs have no spider-repelling powers anymore. While I don’t understand all the programming behind it, I do know for a fact that the search engines definitely index *most* dynamic-looking URLs just fine.

Notice that I said *most* — not *all*.

Some believe that if you have more than 3 parameters in the URL, you may have less of a chance at getting those URLs indexed. I’ve seen some of those in the search engines’ databases, however, so it’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

Another problem for the search engines is when you require session IDs in your URL. The engines still try to avoid this type of URL because every spider visit to the site might create a completely different ID num
ber and thus a new URL. The engines still prefer to keep hundreds of the same page out of their databases, so they have learned to look for the telltale signs of session-ID URLs in order to avoid indexing them. Because of this you should avoid using “SID=whatever” in your URLs if you want your pages indexed. Plus, Google has stated on their FAQ page for webmasters that they don’t index URLs that have “&id;” in them, so definitely stay away from those as well.

In answer to the original question posed by Mark regarding cloaking:

From how he described it, creating those pages wouldn’t be considered cloaking, just unnecessary. There’s no reason to create duplicate pages of the same content that’s most likely already being indexed by the search engines.

If you do choose to use the extra pages, then you’ll probably want to exclude the dynamically-generated PHP URLs via the robots.txt exclusion file and allow the engines to index only your .html/.htm files. But again, you’ll be much better off to just ignore that function of your CMS. If for some reason you start noticing that none of your dynamic pages are getting into the search databases, you may wish to rethink this, but I doubt you will have any indexing problems.

Hope this helps!

Jill

(P.S. If anyone would like to republish the above Q&A; article, please email me your request and where it will reside, and I’ll send you a short bio you can use with it for your site.)

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~~~Guest Article~~~

++How To Write Persuasive Subject Lines++

Copywriting queen Karon Thackston writes today’s guest article on subject lines. You can learn from and meet Karon in person at our High Rankings™ seminar on Nov. 3-4 in Philadelphia, where she will be discussing how to write copy that speaks to your target audience as well as to the search engines.

Without further ado…here’s Karon! – Jill

How To Write Persuasive Subject Lines

By Karon Thackston

Three seconds and 40 characters. That’s all you usually have to work with when trying to get and hold the attention of someone reading email. And with user behavior changing so much in response to overwhelming amounts of spam, the attention spans of email readers are getting shorter. Needless to say, it’s vital to make the most of your introduction via the email subject line.

Email marketing powerhouse DoubleClick.com conducts annual surveys with regard to user behavior when it comes to email. A couple of the statistics from their latest findings are interesting. The second-biggest motivator in opening email is the subject line. (The first is the “from” line.)

Because subject lines are often truncated at around 40 characters — and because email readers usually have their index fingers poised over the delete button — we’re left with about three seconds and approximately six words to make an impression. So what works? Which types of subject lines have proven to be successful? Here are my top three:

1. Make An Offer

It’s an old sales cliché that still holds true in the fast-paced world of cyberspace: Lead with your best offer. Whether a product, service, or proposal, you want to tell people up front about your deepest discounts, your fastest delivery, or your grandest idea. Get their attention right off the bat, and you’ll likely have your message read. (It’s even better if your offer happens to be time-sensitive.)

Examples include:

“Half Off Leather Boots Until March 1st”

“Top 10 Reasons To Attend [Whatever]”

“Your Link on High-ranking Web Pages”

2. State a Benefit

Since the majority of consumer and B2B customers live in the “what’s in it for me” world, benefits always make powerful subject lines.

Telling the readers what the end results of their actions will be helps them visualize the need for your product or service. Here are a few examples based on the subject lines above:

“Wear Fall’s Hottest Trends for 50% Off”

“Learn [Whatever] in Only Two Days”

“Build Link Popularity & Traffic for Your Site”

3. Evoke Curiosity

We’re all nosy to a point. Our curiosity gets the best of us, and we want to know more. That’s not only true when it comes to watching movie previews on TV. It’s also true for email as well. Some of the best subject lines hook readers by piquing their curiosity, and then reel them in to read the entire message.

“Are You Still Wearing These Fashion “Don’ts”?”

“The Secrets to [Whatever] Never Before Revealed”

“Link-popularity Scams You Should Avoid”

Of course, the key to writing the best subject lines is knowing your target customers, making the topic relevant, and testing, testing, testing.

The other interesting fact from the DoubleClick email survey is that relevancy is a major player. Over 55% of respondents said they deleted email that wasn’t relevant because they considered it spam. DoubleClick also reported that the average open rate was 27.5% (for text or HTML messages). That gives you a baseline to gauge your success.

Not every type of subject line will work for every campaign. Testing is vital. And it’s easy enough to do. One of my favorite ways is to set up a Google AdWords campaign and judge the clickthrough rates. This quickly (and cheaply) tells you which subject lines will work and which won’t. You can also test your subject lines by sending your emails to a smaller test list before broadcasting to the entire group.

Whichever styles of subject lines you choose, make sure you know your target audience so you can develop relevant subject lines. Then test and test again until you’ve created subjects that are highly persuasive and deliver record-breaking open rates.

Karon Thackston Copywriting Course: http://www.copywritingcourse.com How To Increase Your Keyword Saturation: http://www.copywritingcourse.com/

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~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++High Rankings™ Seminar in Philadelphia++

We’re getting a good response so far to our Nov. 3-4 search marketing seminar in Philadelphia! Please remember that in order to save money with the early registration, you’ll need to register by Oct. 6th. If you missed last issue’s top 10 reasons why you need to attend this seminar, you can read them here: http://www.highrankings.com/issue148.htm#stuff.

We should have more info by the next newsletter on the cocktail reception for the night of Nov. 3rd. This will be open to the public, so even if you somehow decide you can’t make it to the seminar, we’d still love to meet you at the reception!

To learn more about everything that is included in the seminar, i.e., usability, keyword research, SEO copywriting for your target audience, writing and maintaining PPC ads, tracking traffic and conversions, advanced link-building, spotting search engine spam, and more, please visit the seminar page here: http://www.highrankings.com/seminar.

~~~High Rankings™ Forum Thread of the Week~~~

++SEO Dilemma++

Forum member “Clueless” wonders how he could possibly optimize a poetry site without compromising it for his site visitors. In the process Clueless became a little more clued-in and learned a whole lot about how categorizing stuff is not only a great SEO technique, but usually makes sites much more user-friendly.

Read the thread and share your own thoughts here: http://www.highrankings.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=17053 (Link removed – no longer available).

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~~~Sound Advice~~~

++How Many Words Do You Need for High Rankings?++
http://www.highranki
ngs.com/soundadvice
(This audio recording changes each week.)

~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

That’s it for today!

Oh wait, I still didn’t provide you with your “must-read SEO secrets” did I? (Raise your hand if you scrolled down here first when you saw “secrets revealed” in the table of contents!)

Hmm…well…umm…you’re not gonna like this very much, but I have to be honest with you as that’s my nature. The real secret, and the full truth of the matter is…that there are NO secrets when it comes to SEO. There’s no magic formula, no special trick all the top SEOs know but that they won’t tell anyone else. Nothing to it but hard work, love for your site, and the dream of making it the best it can be for your users and the search engines. In 10 years of doing this, I’ve learned that you don’t have to get bogged down in the details in this business. You might easily be fooled into thinking that you do, but in reality you don’t. Amazingly enough, the details often make no difference whatsoever to your rankings. It’s always the big-picture stuff that provides the most astounding results.

So if you want to learn all the big-picture stuff, continue to read this newsletter, the forum, and — if you can possibly swing it — come to our seminar in November. One day it will all just “click” for you and you will know exactly what I mean when I say there *are* no SEO secrets.

Catch you next time! – Jill

Today’s issue will be available in the archives at the following URL: http://www.highrankings.com/issue149.htm

Please send all questions to mailto:newsletter@highrankings.com.

If you prefer RSS/XML please feel free to use our newsfeed here: http://www.highrankings.com/high-rankings-advisor.xml.

I do send personal replies as time allows, however, I do not give out individual site critiques for free. Please check out my various SEO services if you’re interested in a complete review of your site.

Visit the High Rankings Advisor website at http://www.highrankings.com/advisor.htm and don’t forget to check out the High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum at: http://www.highrankings.com/forum.

Best Regards,

Jill Whalen

http://www.highrankings.com

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I hope that you enjoyed the read as much as I did.

Remember to visit Jill’s High Rankings website and sign up for her newsletter. She’s always helpful and one of the SEO’s we at Beanstalk pay close attention to.

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