Saturday, May 31, 2008

SEO Copywriting

SEO copywriting as defined in Wikipedia is "A technique of writing on a web page in a way that it can be read and understand by the surfer and it also uses the keywords and keywords phrases targeted for the websites. The purpose of doing copywriting that is SEO centric is to rank highly in the search engines for the given targeted keywords and phrases."

It can also be explained as the technique of writing the text on a web page in such a way that it reads well for the surfer or the user, and also targets specific search terms. The challenge lies in creating a content that is both user as well as Search Engine friendly. The purpose of SEO copywriting or Search Engine copywriting is to make a web page that can rank highly in the search engines for the targeted search terms and also conveys the message to the surfers in an effective and easy to understand manner.

While optimizing the websites, I have come across many situations where you are provided with a readymade website with very little or no content at all with a long list of keywords that are not at all related to the theme or goal of the website. What worsens the situation is that you can not find a single page which talks or deals about the search phrase you are provided with.

Generally, the novice users or users new to the world of Internet fail to understand the actual process of web development and the relationship between website design and Search Engine Optimisation. According to these users, SEO is all about creation and placement of title and other meta tags with stuffing of keywords within the page content. But the fact is that the task of an SEO expert starts right from the designing phase where the potential keywords are identified before content development and deciding the page url.

Search Engines look for genuine and unique content on the web pages that should be related to the search terms and the keywords used in the title and other meta tags. The content on any page should not be misleading for the users and it should reflect the correct picture and idea behind creation of the page. This ensures that the users are getting exactly what they are expected to find on a particular page. Search Engines ensure this by matching the words present in the text of the webpage with that of the page title and meta tags. LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing is a technique which helps them to accomplish the task. In this technique, synonyms of the search terms or phrases are also taken into consideration while generating of SERPs.

The task begins right from the designing phase before content development. Thorough keyword research is required for all the individual pages. Once the keywords are identified according to the theme of the page, content is developed with strategic placement of the search terms or phrases within the text and other on page elements. Synonyms of the search terms are also used to maintain the LSI ratio.
The reverse approach can also be taken for content development. In this case, first the target key phrases are identified according to the business, website theme and goal, and then web pages are created that can represent the actual aim of the website.

The URL is or the filename is also decided based on the target keywords to give more emphasis to the potential search terms.

This helps the Search Engines to know that the page is actually about the keywords and the users are provided with the correct information.

SEO copywriting is one of the major factors which decide the ranking of any particular page in the SERPs or Search Engine Result Pages. So, it is always a good practice to do SEO copywriting while creating any website or page, so that it can rank well as well as provide genuine and useful information to the users.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Social Bookmarking

Social marking, as defined in Wikipedia, is the practice of saving bookmarks to a public Web site and “tagging” them with keywords. It is very much different from simple Bookmarking where you save the address of a Web site you wish to visit in the future on your computer. Tagging or saving bookmarks to a public website has become very common now-a-days. Digg,, Reddit, Furl, Simpy etc. have become household names.

Social bookmarking dates back just a couple of years, when these sites just began operating. Social bookmarking is particularly useful when collecting a set of resources that are to be shared with others. Anyone can participate in social bookmarking. To create a collection of social bookmarks, you need to register with a social bookmarking site, where you can store bookmarks, add tags of your choice, and designate individual bookmarks as public or private. Visitors to these social bookmarking sites can easily search for resources by keyword, person, or popularity and see the public bookmarks, tags, and classification schemes that registered users have created and saved.

Social Bookmarking provides an entirely unique way to organize information and categorize your resources. You can assign also use social bookmarking as a networking tool to make social connections with other interested individuals. Tagging information resources with relevant keywords has the potential to change the way how we store and find information. Social bookmarking helps in simplifying the distribution of reference lists, bibliographies, papers and other resources.

The Significance

Social bookmarking gives you the opportunity to express differing perspectives on any topic or information. This process also allows you to connect with like-minded individuals and create new communities also known as folksonomy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

XML Sitemaps

Few days back, I had published a post on 10 basic thumb rules for SEO success. I got many queries regarding the 7th point i.e. xml sitemap. So I am publishing this post on xml sitemap for those who want to learn more about these sitemaps.

What is a Sitemap?

Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform the Search Engines about all the pages on their websites that are available for indexing or crawling. These are basically the tree structure of the website showing the hierarchy of the pages and the clear structure of website architecture and navigation. Usually Search Engine crawlers discover a new page from the links within the site and from other sites. Creation of sitemaps helps in providing this data to the crawlers.

Sitemaps can be of two types: html and xml. Html sitemaps are simple html files containing links to the individual pages of the website.

XML Sitemap

In the simplest form, an xml Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL. These metadata are the last updated or modified date, the change frequency, importance of individual pages, relative to other URLs of the site etc. These are the additional information for the Search Engine crawlers.

The Sitemap protocol format consists of XML tags. The file must be UTF-8 encoded and data values in the Sitemaps should be entity escaped. The xml Sitemap must:

  • Begin with an opening tag and end with a closing tag

  • The namespace (protocol standard) should be specified within the tag

  • A entry must be included for each URL, as a parent XML tag

  • A child entry must be included for each parent tag

All other tags like , etc. are optional and support for these optional tags may vary among Search Engines.

Another very important aspect to be remembered is that all URLs in a Sitemap must be from a single host, such as

A Sample XML Sitemap





A Sample XML Sitemap with All Attributes






Using Sitemap index files (to group multiple sitemap files)

You can also provide multiple Sitemap files, but make sure that each Sitemap file you provide must have no more than 50,000 URLs and must not be larger than 10MB. To list more than 50,000 URLs, you must create multiple Sitemap files.

In case of multiple Sitemaps creation, you should list each Sitemap file in a Sitemap index file.

The Sitemap index file must:
  • Begin with an opening tag and end with a closing tag

  • Include a entry for each Sitemap as a parent XML tag

  • Include a child entry for each parent tag

  • The optional tag is also available for Sitemap index files

Syndication Feeds

An RSS (Real Simple Syndication) 2.0 or Atom 0.3 or 1.0 feed can also be provided which is generally done when the site already has a syndication feed. Make sure that the RSS feed is located in the highest-level directory. Search engines extract the information from the feed as follows:
  • field - indicates the URL
  • modified date field (the field for RSS feeds and the date for Atom feeds) - indicates when each URL was last modified
Use of the modified date field is optional.

Text File

You can provide a simple text file that contains one URL per line. Following guidelines must be followed while creating a text file:

  • The text file must have one URL per line. The URLs cannot contain embedded new lines

  • You must fully specify URLs, including the http

  • Each text file can contain a maximum of 50,000 URLs and must be no larger than 10MB (10,485,760 bytes). If you site includes more than 50,000 URLs, you can separate the list into multiple text files and add each one separately

  • The text file must use UTF-8 encoding. You can specify this when you save the file (for instance, in Notepad, this is listed in the Encoding menu of the Save As dialog box)

  • The text file should contain no information other than the list of URLs

  • The text file should contain no header or footer information

  • If you would like, you may compress your Sitemap text file using gzip to reduce your bandwidth requirement

  • You should upload the text file to the highest-level directory you want search engines to crawl and make sure that you don't list URLs in the text file that are located in a higher-level directory
Location of a Sitemap File

The location of a Sitemap file determines the set of URLs that can be included in that Sitemap. An xml Sitemap located at can include any URLs starting with but not the ones which include URLs starting with

So, the Sitemap should always be located under the root directory to include all the pages of the website.

Informing the Search Engines

After creating the Sitemap and placed it on the webserver, the Search Engines that support this protocol must be informed of its location. This can be done by:
  • Submitting it to the search engine via their submission interface

  • Specifying the location in the robots.txt file

  • Sending an HTTP request

The search engines can then retrieve the Sitemap and make the URLs available to their crawlers.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I hope the post on Squidoo was helpful for those who were new to the website. Another very popular website is Twitter. This site also helps in Social Media Marketing. I have compiled some material on Twitter and publishing on this Blog to help you know it better.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing. That doesn’t really tell us very much. Wikipedia says, “Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates via SMS, instant messaging, email, to the Twitter website, or any one of the multitude of Twitter applications now available”.

Twitter asks the question, “What are you doing?” and allows you to send a small update (limited to just 140 characters) to your followers. The concept is amazingly simple and that is perhaps one of the main reasons why it has caught on like wildfire. The restriction to 140 characters has resulted in Twitter being labeled “micro blogging”. A traditional blog is a log of what somebody is up to, but in a richer, more detailed format. One of the key benefits of Twitter is that you can send and receive updates (also called tweets) via your browser, email, instant messaging clients and SMS so you can keep in touch no matter where you are.

Twitter is a Broadcasting Service

Email, Instant Messaging and SMS are all direct messaging systems. You choose the person with whom you would like to communicate and you send them a direct message. Blogs are open broadcasting systems. When you publish a blog post, it will go directly to those people who have subscribed to the RSS feed but it is also available publicly. Twitter is rather like blogging with just an RSS feed. Consider the diagram below:

We have two people, Bob and Betty. Bob can follow Betty, Betty can follow Bob and if they both did that they would be following each other. That is literally all there is to the relationships between people in Twitter. It’s extremely simple and what it produces is a situation like this:

Every time you send out a tweet, all your followers will see it. Unlike blogs, Twitter is a real time broadcasting medium. You update, it is broadcast to your followers, and then it is largely forgotten (but not quite!) When you first join Twitter you have no followers and you are not following anybody else so it can seem pretty lonely.

However, there is much more to it than that! There are now many tools and other web applications that will integrate with Twitter allowing you to broadcast your tweets all over the web even without followers.

Twitter is a Mobile Communication Tool

After you join Twitter you have the option to link it to your mobile phone and / or to your instant messaging clients. By having Twitter accessible on your phone you can both send and receive updates which means that you can stay in touch wherever you are so it is a truly mobile communication tool. This can be a pretty powerful thing.

Socialising with Twitter

Twitter is a social service - you will not get much benefit from it whilst trying to use it alone.

Is This Business or Personal?

I would urge you to stop and think for a moment before you even sign up to Twitter, whether you want to use it for business or personal use or some kind of combination. Twitter was originally used mostly as a fun little tool to just keep up with friends but it has now evolved into so much more than that. If that’s the way you intend to use it and that’s all you want to use it for then just go ahead and sign up and get started.

However, if you have a business or some other online presence then you may be able to use Twitter as a way of communicating with your customers / readers / members etc. If this is the case you need to ask yourself whether you would rather be represented by your business name or your own name.

Consider for example, whether you might want multiple people to use the same account to post updates. For example, several news services are now using Twitter to broadcast the latest headlines and in these cases the Twitter account is under the name of the news service rather than an individual.

How Can Twitter Help My Business?

A lot of people just don’t get Twitter, they don’t see any value in it. Now if you are using it from a purely personal perspective then really, it is nothing more than a time consuming distraction.

The value comes if you have some kind of business / service / organisation that you want to promote. For example, you might have a standard online or offline business, or perhaps you are an artist, musician etc and want to get your work out into the community… Maybe you work for a charity and would like to gain more public awareness of it. There are many reasons why you might want to go looking for an audience beyond just your own friends and family.

It is well known that the more contact you make with a customer, the more likely you are to make a sale. These days it is much more ‘in vogue’ to sell by not selling, rather than doing the hard-push sales pitch. Twitter is a way of doing that. With Twitter you can chat to people in a friendly way and give them nudges and hints about what you’re doing in your world. Look at the benefits:
  • It reminds them that you exist
  • It shows them that you are human
  • It allows you to mention new offers immediately
  • It allows you to form a more casual relationship
How to Get Twitter Followers?

When you first join Twitter you will have no followers. You can send updates but the only people likely to see them are the people who are currently surfing the public timeline on the Twitter homepage and that moves pretty fast. You aren’t going to get many followers from there! How then, should you get followers?

Ask For Them Directly

If you are creating a personal account just email your friends, tell them about Twitter and encourage them to sign up and then follow you. If you have a business and you have an email list then you could email the list and do a similar thing. If you have some kind of website, access to a forum etc then post a message about it - write a blog post etc.

One word of warning though - if you are approaching this from a purely business perspective then you need to have something to offer your customers. What It means is, if you use your Twitter account to just pitch, pitch, pitch, you will not get many followers. Twitter is not something that can be effectively used as a direct selling medium without adding extra benefits .

Stalk Your Targets

When you start following somebody on Twitter they will get an email telling them of the fact and in that email is a link to your profile. This notification can be turned off but it is on by default and most people leave it on because it is nice to know when somebody starts following you. Human curiosity will result in many of those people checking out your profile and possibly following you back.

This is rather like the strategy of linking to other bloggers if you want them to notice you. You link to them, they see it in their stats and they are curious as to who is talking about them so they check out the link. If they like what they see, they may turn into another reader. The principle is the same with Twitter but there is a caveat here - when they click on your profile, they will see a transcript of your most recent updates. If those updates don’t look interesting or there are none there then not many people will follow you.

This is a tricky situation to get around in the beginning because you have no followers so you feel as though you are talking to yourself.

Networking in Your Niche

Unless you are using Twitter just to hook up with your friends, you probably have some kind of niche that you relate to. Let that niche be Internet marketing. A musician would have his own niche within the music industry, a charity would also have some kind of niche. You get the picture.

The key is to get out there into your niche and network.

Now assume that you have some kind of online presence - whether that is a blog, some other website, an account on Facebook etc. If you don’t, then now is the time to create one! Wherever you present yourself on the Internet you should make your Twitter profile known. This also applies to other social networks.

The idea is to participate in the communities within your niche which naturally draws people to you. There is usually some kind of profile feature - whether its just a link in a blog comment, a forum signature of a fully blown profile such as that on Facebook. Everywhere you go online you have the opportunity to say who you are and when you do so, make sure you tell people where they can find you.

Using Twitter Properly

140 Character Limit / Plain text Only

Twitter updates have a limit of 140 characters. This is to allow them to be easily sent over mobile SMS systems. Twitter has since been coined a ‘micro blogging’ platform due to this reliance on short updates. The updates have to be plain text. You cannot embed HTML or any kind of control codes. The only exception to this rule is links.

Embedding Links into Tweets

Updates must be plain text but the one added bonus that Twitter provides is that it will turn links into hyperlinks. These are no-follow so don’t think you can get backlinks from these! Most links are long and so to keep the tweet size as small as possible Twitter automatically uses the TinyURL service to shorten them. This is automatic - you paste in a full link and Twitter will do the rest.

Don’t be Too Noisy

Keep the incoming Twitter noise to a minimum. Turning that around, you need to make sure that you are not one of those noisy people otherwise you’ll find yourself either being ignored or losing followers. Either way, you will no longer be getting your message across.

What is a good number of tweets? There is no absolute number and it varies according to your audience. Generally speaking, try not to update more than once per hour so in a standard day, that’s probably no more than a dozen.
Occasionally something interesting might happen that tends to cause many more - like the recent fires in California, but dont tweet all day long about mundane stuff.

Don’t be Too Quiet

Let’s not go to extremes though. Twitter is not a service on which you should lurk. If you want to get followers you have to have something to say, and it needs to provide some kind of value - interesting, entertaining, controversial etc. Basically there has to be a reason why people would want to listen to you.
Remember that your personal profile shows a history of all your tweets so if somebody comes to it and it’s just empty, or you only post a mundane update every day or so, why should they bother following you? Yes this can be difficult to do in the beginning when you don’t have many direct followers.

Using Twitter for Marketing

If you are using Twitter to market something, whether that’s a business, a blog, organisation, etc then in addition to the previous guidelines you also need to read this section. This stuff can be the make or break on your Twitter success so pay attention!

The Tao of Twitter by Ed Dale

Ed Dale put together a little video showing what he calls the ‘tao’ of Twitter which is worth watching.

Twitter is Not an IM Client

One of the points that Ed talks about in his video is the danger of using Twitter as an instant messaging system. It shows you how somebody did this recently, albeit accidentally. Look at this image:

If you read the messages from the bottom up you’ll follow along a conversation between two people. If you have your Twitter updates coming in real time, this is very distracting. In all fairness, you can see by the top tweet that this member noticed his error and corrected it shortly after.

At times you will get caught up in a conversation that requires a personal response. If you need to do this then do it sparingly. Placing the @ symbol in front of somebody’s name indicates that this message is for them. For example, @cmiddlebrook . Some tools will even help you out with this by incorporating intellisense so that once you type the @ symbol it will help you find the username of the Twitter member.

However, here’s the thing - personal tweets are still public! Twitter client gives intellisense and highlights personal tweets in a different colour. This makes it easy to forget that it is still public. When you are sending a personal tweet bear in mind that some people who are following you, may not be following the person you are talking to. This means they get only one half of the conversation, and that’s why it can seem so rude.

To offset the problem, if you are going to do this, try to word your tweet in such a way as to allow spectators to have some idea of what you are talking about. That way, they can feel more included in the conversation and it doesn’t seem so rude.

You might also want to try using the direct message system that Twitter provides instead. This allows private messages (still limited to 140 characters) between two Twitter users who are following each other.

Fly on the Wall Conversation

In the tools section of this guide I will show various ways in which you can get other people’s updates from Twitter. Whilst it is possible to get them sent directly to you via email, due to the volume of messages that can generate, most people prefer to use something that is less invasive. For example, you can see updates as popup notifications. you can also see a little number in brackets (6) that shows there are six new tweets to see. But you can choose not to read these if you want to.

Most people do not read all the tweets that come in. Many of the people are not in the same timezone as you are so they miss a lot of their tweets anyway.

This is how Twitter differs from direct communication methods like email. When somebody sends you an email you feel somehow obligated to respond if it is a personal message. If you are receiving an email from somebody because you are on their ‘list’ then as Ed says in the video, your defenses are up. But when you see people like Ed twittering about his latest Internet marketing products you can choose to completely ignore them if you want to. There’s no pressure.

The True Value of Twitter for Marketing

Of course, another key point is that just seeing Ed’s tweets come up now and then just lets you know that he’s out there, he’s doing something. Sometimes he’s out swimming with his dog. This shows that he’s a human too and not just some guy trying to sell you something.

Trust is such an important factor in today’s markets. We hate sales letters, we don’t trust salesmen and marketers. We think most advertisements are full of hype. Twitter allows you to expose the person that you are. It slowly allows you to build trust with your audience and this can have a massive impact further down the line.

If you have anything at all to market, Twitter helps you build your brand and promote yourself without direct email, without a sales letter, without any kind of sales pitch at all. If you don’t like the hard sell, then start using Twitter!

Don’t Use Twitter Only for Self-Promotion

Of course, there are some people who DO like the hard sell and they will try to use Twitter as another avenue for selling. This is a big mistake folks. The beauty of Twitter is that it is personal, it can be fun and hard sell messages can interrupt the experience and seem incredibly out of place.

Even if you promote yourself in a gentle way, don’t overdo it. You need to intertwine your promotional messages with the rest. Sometimes you click on people’s profiles and all you see is a stream of ‘New Blog Post” tweets. Really, you can get that just from their RSS, their Twitter account becomes pointless.

Remember that even though Twitter is real time, your personal history is saved on your profile. It’s worth looking at it now and then to see how it looks to an outsider. Would you follow yourself?

Twitter Tools | Platform Specific

The Twitter home page is rather limited and of course is only available via a browser. In this installment the first list tools specific to mobile devices, Windows based PC’s and Macs. After that a list of Firefox plugins.
The tools are listed alphabetically within each section, the ordering does not represent any kind of ranking.

Mobile Tools

jTwitter - A Java application that you install on your phone. You can leave it on all the time without fear of incurring data charges.

Pocket Tweets - A web based Twitter client for the Apple iPhone.
ThinCloud - Post to Twitter from your iPhone. It’s very finger- and eyeball-friendly, much more in fact than other iPhone apps. It’s got huge buttons and a friendly graphical interface

TinyTwitter - TinyTwitter works or any Java enabled device and allows you to avoid the SMS fees from being incurred by having multiple tweets going to and from your phone.

Twapper - If you wish to get Twitter updates to your mobile phone you can become overrun by messages.

Twapper is an alternative that allows you to monitor your feed from a browser and it is designed for mobile browsers (but can be used by any browser as well). In addition, Twapper integrates with 30 Boxes, an online calendar.

Windows Tools

triQQr - An oddly named client from Germany. Not much information about features.

TwitBox - This desktop client has many features that I have not seen elsewhere, such as support for multiple Twitter accounts.

Twitterlicious - A Twitter client with some nice features including highlighting of new updates, and lots of keyboard shortcuts to make it much faster to use.

Twitteroo - A Desktop client for Twitter. Lots of nice features and customisation options.

Mac Tools

Twidget - A Dashboard utility to allow you to update your Twitter status, but does not show your timeline.

Twitgit - A rather simple application allowing Twitter access from the Dashboard.

Twitteromatic - A Mac tool that will post all sorts of information to your Twitter account automatically. For example, weather status, word of the day, lotto numbers, and many more.

TwitterPost - Has some unique features such as avatar caching for faster browsing, Growl support, and in built support for iTunes.

Twitterrific - One of the more widely used Mac clients. This is a stand-alone application with a small desktop footprint and boasting features such as highlighting of unread tweets, audio notification, keyboard shortcuts and lots more.

Multi-Platform / Others

gTwitter - A GTK+ based Twitter client for Linux.

Snitter - A Windows / Mac application based on the new Adobe AIR platform. This has a great many features and has been generating quite a bit of buzz lately.

Spaz - Another client based on the Adobe AIR platform. This one is open source.

Firefox Plugins

For users of the Firefox browser, there are a few nice plugins to try.

TweetBar - A sidebar for Twitter that works in both Firefox and Flock. This takes up a permanent part of your screen real estate and if you have another application running in the sidebar (I do), they can’t both run at the same time.

TwitBin - Another sidebar plugin for Firefox.

TwitterBar - This plugin is very handy if you like to tweet about web pages you are currently browsing. This will add a tiny icon into your Firefox address bar that, when clicked, will send an update containing everything in the address bar. The cool thing is that in addition to the web address you can type in additional text which is appended to the tweet as a note.

TwitterFox - Shows you a popup notification when new tweets come in and shows a number in brackets in your status bar showing any that are unread. Click on that to expand the timeline. Very discreet and efficient. Also highlights personal messages, and uses member name intellisense. I use this plugin and I love it.

TwittyTunes - This is a sibling of the popular plugin FoxyTunes. It integrates with a number of music players and lets you easily tweet what you are currently listening to.

Twitter Tools | Web Applications

Productivity / Useful Apps

LoudTwitter - Publishes a daily post on your blog containing a digest of all your tweets of that day.

Remember the Milk for Twitter- Remember the Milk (rtm) is a popular GTD web application. By adding the rtm Twitter member as a friend you can send commands to your account via the Twitter interface. This is particularly useful if you are using Twitter by SMS when you are out and about and you only have your mobile phone and no Internet access.

RSS2Twitter - Allows any RSS feed to be fed to a Twitter account. Useful if you want to keep track of blog updates when you’re mobile perhaps.
ServerMojo - Monitors your web server and will send you update notifications via Twitter.

SugarStats - If you are diabetic then check out SugarStats. This site allows you to monitor your sugar levels and gives you all sorts of graphs and charts. Plus you can send in your data via Twitter.

TwitterDigest - Twitter Digest lets you read Twitter updates in a more manageable fashion. Just pick the usernames you’d like to generate a digest for, and you will see all updates made by them during the past full day.

TwitterFeed - Automatically feeds your blog posts through to Twitter. Very handy if you post a lot.

Twitterment - A search engine for Twitter.

TwitterNotes - Make notes using Twitter and tag them for later use.

Twitticious - This little application will allow you to setup an automatic import of links from any Twitter timeline (even the public one) into a Delicious account for later tagging.

Map Mashups

There are so many web applications that are a mashup of Twitter and map software such as Google Maps Etc.

GeoTwitter - Fetches the most recent updates from the public timeline once per minute and displays them on an interactive map.

Twitter Atlas - I couldn’t really get this to work so somebody please enlighten me as to what it is supposed to do!

TwitterEarth - Shows you the location of live tweets but this is one of the prettier apps of its type in my opinion.

TwitterMap - You can search for any location in the world and see in detail, all the Twitter profiles that are registered there. Search is a bit slow but once it comes up you can use the usual map tools to zoom in and move around.

TwitterVision - Brings up selected Tweets in real time as they are posted. You can click on their profile, links within the tweet if there are any and you can even click a like/dislike button to say what you thought of it.

Just for Fun

Mobypicture - With Mobypicture instead of typing where you are or what you’re doing you can show your friends real-time. Just plug in your Twitter details, send a photo+text to your Moby address, either from your phone or normal email client, Mobypicture automatically posts the text and a link to the photo to your Twitter account.

Swotter - "A new kind of talking book". Swotter is a unique application that reads books to the world via Twitter! Check it out here.

TweetVolume - Type in some words or phrases and see how often they appear in Twitter.

Twiddeo - Twitter + Video = Twiddeo. Don’t just tell people what you’re doing, show them!

Twitstat - Monitors the updates from any users following the Twitstat account on Twitter. The Twitstat collects data about the updates and allows you to get various stats such as the most active users for the last few days.

Twitter Confessional (Possible Adult Content!) - Forgive me, for I have sinned in 140 characters or less… This is quite funny - it allows you to send tweets anonymously which appear in this profile. There is a small amount of spam on there but it’s mostly sexual confessions! If the receiver is open minded it’s quite funny, if not, it might be offending.

TwitterBuzz - Shows an aggregated view of all the domains that people are linking to via Twitter. However it’s not that accurate because the top domain is tinyurl which of course is integrated into Twitter to shorten long urls. Still interesting though.
Twitter Mosaic - Very creative pictures made just using Twitter avatars. Check out this Casablanca example.

Twitterholic - A ‘top users’ page showing the top 100 Twitter users based on either the most amount of followers, friends or updates.

Hacking Twitter

On the surface Twitter seems so simple and yet there are a load of cool things you can do with it.

The reason you can do so much cool stuff with Twitter and the reason that so many mashups / hacks are coming out is that Twitter has an open API that allows developers to build apps around, much like Facebook.

Pimp Out Your Twitter Profile

Once you start to get the hang of Twitter, you can make yourself stand out from the crowd by adding some unique touches to your profile. To get started go to your Twitter home page and click on the ’settings’ link at the top.

Set Your Bio

From your settings page there are a couple of things you can do here. First of all you can set the 'More Info URL'. This link appears in your profile page and is a do-follow link. Twitter profiles tend to rank rather highly in Google so this counts as a quality backlink.

Next you have your 'One Line Bio'. You only have 160 characters here so you need a short, snappy description about what you are all about.

Lastly you can set your Location. One option you’ll see down the bottom of this page is 'Protect my Updates'. If you are trying to gain exposure for something via Twitter then this should not be checked because it means that people have to obtain your permission in order to follow you. However this could be useful for a private Twitter account that functions as part of kind kind of paid membership perhaps.

Set a Unique Profile Picture

Arguably the most important thing is to set your avatar. Every time you send an update the image you set here is displayed. Also, your avatar will appear on the profiles of anyone who is following you. By having a distinct avatar that stands out (or at least something unique) you are far more likely to get clicked on by intrigued users.

If you have profiles on other Social media sites like Facebook, StumbleUpon etc then I suggest that you use the same picture for all of them for this reason.

Alter the Design of your Profile Page

The default Twitter colour is a bright sky blue but you can change all of that under the 'design' link. You can upload a picture but this doesn’t work all that well because it places the picture in the top left corner of the page and doesn’t allow you to stretch it or center it. You can tile it which is ok for some graphics but not for others.

Funky Twitter Mashups

Twitter Via Email

EmailTwitter is a simple Twitter gateway that allows you to send updates via email. This is useful because it allows you to send updates via SMS without incurring the usual fees. Very nice.

Send Emails from Twitter

So you can Twitter via email so of course the reverse must be possible right? Why on earth would you want to send an email from Twitter? Because you can! Feed your inner geek with this cool Twitter hack from

Use Twitter for Reminders

TwitterTimer is a special user that can send you reminders. Send a direct message in the format “d timer ” for example “d timer 30 check Caroline’s blog” and in 30 minutes time it will send you a message to check my blog.

Note Taking With Twitter

So you spend far too much time on Twitter and an idea pops into your head, what to do? You could fire up Google Notebook or similar, or you could stay right where you are and makes notes from your Twitter account to retrieve later. TwitterNotes allows you to make notes, and tag them.

Leave Twitter Voice Messages

Jott is a service that allows you to call a number and leave voice messages that get propagated to various computerised services. Jott Links is an extension that supports include Twitter so you can tweet in actual speech, rather than text.

Twitter / SecondLife Mashup

SecondLife is a virtual world which is entirely driven by user created content. Anyway, for the techies amongst you you might be interested in these three twitter apps that have been created.

Twitter / Outlook Mashup

If you are a frequent user of Microsoft Outlook then you may prefer to access Twitter directly within Outlook rather than using a separate client. OutTwit allows you to do just that.

Twitter / Skype Mashups

If you are a Skype user you can send tweets from your Skype account. See Twitter4Skype. Also, an application called Twype allows you to pull in a Twitter feed and use that as your Skype mood.

Twitter Groups

Twitter Groups is a third party service that offers functionality sorely needed by Twitter (and indeed many other social networks). One of the problems that I alluded to in the earlier parts of the guide are that you need to decide whether you want your Twitter account to represent your personal or business life.

Of course it’s never that simple is it? See the trouble is that you may have close friends and potential clients following the same account. How then do you tailor your tweets to the audience without alienating some of them? You can’t with Twitter in its current form.

Twitter Groups allows you to sort the people that follow you into groups and then send updates to just a particular group. Personally I think a simple tagging approach would have been easier but it’s better than nothing. If you have multiple audiences this is well worth a try until Twitter put in some official support for this functionality.

Multiply Your Twitter Audience

Publicize Your Twitter RSS Feed

Did you know that your Twitter feed is also available as an RSS feed? Go your profile page and then scroll down to the bottom. There on the bottom left is a ‘RSS’ button. Click on it for the link. It looks something like this:

Because this is an RSS Feed, you can publicize it! First there were web directories, then article directories and now there are RSS directories too. Here is a massive list of RSS Directories that you can submit your feed to. Be careful though… if you tend to tweet mainly about what underwear you have on, don’t go submitting it to a medical directory. Use some common sense.

Twitter / Blogging Mashup

Do you have a blog? Many blogs have a large audience, there are more people that read blogs than people who use Twitter. First let me talk about a service called LoudTwitter. This will take all your tweets from one day, package them up into a blog post and publish it on your blog.

Why is this useful? Remember that Twitter is a real time application and people on the Internet are spread all over the world. Many people watch Twitter while they are awake but not everybody will go back over their timeline from the night before.
By posting your tweets to your blog you can make sure that you’re readers don’t miss a thing. Of course you must be careful with this.

Twitter Social Button

We have Digg buttons, Stumble buttons, Delicious buttons etc etc and now we have a Twitter button. TwitThis makes it very easy for your blog visitors to publicize your blog post via their Twitter feed.

Wordpress Plugins

Now if your blog audience and your Twitter audience match and you happen to have a Wordpress blog, then you can make use of some specific plugins that allow a more fluid integration.

Why would you want to do this? In a recent blog post about the benefits of untargeted traffic. Think about how much traffic you get on a daily basis that doesn’t hang around. If your latest blog post doesn’t grab their attention then perhaps your latest tweet will. That could net you some extra followers who might become blog readers further down the line.

Anwanore’s Widget - Allows you to post several of your latest tweets into your blog and you can put it anywhere by calling a php function from within your template. The author is working on future enhancements such as an optional avatar display.

Sidebar Widget - If your theme is widget-enabled then you might want to check out this plugin which allows you to create a highly customisable widget for the sidebar.

Twitter for Wordpress - Another plugin that creates a widget for you.

TwitterTools - This plugin by Alex King allows you to archive your tweets, make blog posts out of them, send tweets from your sidebar and lots more.

TwitTwoo - Twitter in your sidebar, AJAX style - so no reloading of the page is necessary. Very stylish and easily customisable from the options page.

Third Party Twitter Integration

A whole bunch of third party tools have been developed for Twitter. Some of these tools can be used to send out your tweets to audiences on other networks and the cool thing is that these people do not need to be directly following you on Twitter.

Integrating with Facebook

Twitter have developed a Facebook application that integrates your Twitter feed into your Facebook feed. This is only useful if you actually have friends on Facebook :-) If you don’t have many, you can start now

When you login to Facebook the first page you see is the news feed which displays selected news items from all of your friends.

With this application installed, your tweets appear in the news feeds of all your friends! Of course they only stay there for a certain amount of time until they get bumped off but still, this is exposure without direct followers and I think it’s pretty damn cool!

There is another Facebook application called TwitterSync that will actually cause your latest tweet to become your Facebook status. One thing to note - any links will be stripped down to plain text so don’t think you can get a load of backlinks with this!

So why is this app useful? Well it depends on your Facebook usage - I often forget to update my status so it doesn’t usually say anything. By using this app, it makes my Facebook status more interesting which can encourage people to check me out.


I don’t think that MyBlogLog has quite the support that it has enjoyed in the past but this is still somewhere else that you can propagate your Twitter feed to and of course once it’s setup, you don’t need to do anything.

Login to MyBlogLog and then click the ‘Edit Profile’ link from the green buttons on the right. From there click ‘Services’. It’s easy to miss this. From here you can link in your profiles from a ton of other networks such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and of course Twitter too.

Jaiku, Pownce & Tumblr

Jaiku is the biggest competitor to Twitter and it has recently been acquired by Google so it will become an important platform. Pownce and Tumblr are also micro-blogging Twitter competitors. Now before you panic about having to choose between them all… relax!

HelloTxt is an aggregation service that allows you to post once through their interface and have that message propagated to all the major micro-blogging networks - Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Tumblr and a few smaller ones as well. Of course the tricky bit is getting followers on all those other networks!

If you only use Twitter and Jaiku then another solution is TwitKu which provides an integrated interface to both networks.

Twitter Badges

So we’ve covered your blog, Facebook, MyBlogLog and other micro blogging platforms. But there’s more… There are lots of places in which you can own a little piece of the Internet - MySpace comes to mind.

Twitter have released support for official badges which you can customise in a number of ways. There are Flash and Javascript versions so wherever you put these needs to have support for those technologies.

How Twitter Promotion Can Go Viral

When something is publicized via Twitter it can sometimes go viral. For example, person A tweets about a site they are browsing and that goes out to their followers. One of those people picks it up, likes it, tweets it also but it now goes to a whole new groups of people and the effect goes on. Of course this will only happen if the content is tweet-worthy but it is much easier to twitter about a url than to link it in a blog post.

Let me try to explain this more clearly with this somewhat messy diagram:

So the first tweet comes from someone whose audience is the yellow group. Perhaps it is you promoting your latest blog post… all the people in the yellow group see it. One of those people likes it and also twitters it to their group - they are the red group. Suddenly your link has hit a whole new crowd. Now someone from the red group picks it up and tweets it and this goes out to the green group and so on.

The beauty of this effect is that it happens with absolutely no participation from you! All you need to do is attract twitter followers to your blog.

But it doesn’t stop there… Ed is Twitter-savvy and his tweets are automatically posted to his blog which has another large audience. You could argue that any form of link bait can have the same effect. True, but there is one vital difference - link bait requires that people have the ability to link. They need to run a website or blog etc, they need to get out their editing software, write a post etc. That’s a lot of effort. But with Twitter, 2 seconds and you’re done. It’s just so damn easy to Twitter-promote something!

Google Logo: First Laser Logo

Google has a special logo up on the home page today, a laser logo.

The logo links to a search results for first laser, which shows image results at the top, followed by search results from University of Chicago, Wikipedia and then Why does Google have a laser logo up today? Theodore Maiman, 48 years ago - demonstrated the first laser on May 16, 1960.

Theodor Maiman died just last year on May 5, 2007. He demonstrated the laser at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California.

Via []

Google Feeling Green: Testing Green Color Scheme

iCrossing reported noticing that Google is showing a green user interface within the Google Directory search results and also, in some occasions, for main Google web search results.

The most shocking green interface is when you look compare the typical blue bar to a green bar, when Google is showing yellow ads. Here are screen captures I posted at the Search Engine Roundtable, comparing the two looks:

The Green User Interface:

The Standard Blue User Interface:

I have never seen green used in this fashion at Google web search. But as iCrossing points out, Google has gone green in an extreme way at the Google Directory. For example a search on ipods at the Google Directory shows a green background behind the search ads, as opposed to a yellow background. Here is a comparison of the new green background, in contrast to the standard yellow background:

The Green Ads:

The Yellow Ads:

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Google Adds Real Estate Pull-Down Filter To Maps

Google has offered the capacity to search real estate listings for a long time. For example, when entering queries such as "homes for sale in San Francisco," a "one box" result used to show pull-down menus for "location" and "listing type." Activating these boxes would then lead into a specialized "Google Base" screen that allowed for further refinement. I found those screens as recently as earlier this week but today couldn't duplicate them. However, earlier this week Google explosed a "real estate" filter, among others, on Maps.

Google, in the text view, also offers some refinements: by price, bedrooms and bathrooms. These appear to be successive, meaning that they build upon one another.

The data are apparently coming via Google Base through a range of sources. But they're not comprehensive, which is important in the real estate context. However, if Google were to do deals with the various sources of MLS data around the US, it could build a fairly comprehensive listings database. That might make it more competitive with vertical search engines and real estate sites such as Trulia, Zillow, Yahoo Real Estate, and so on. By comparison to most of those sites, Google's real estate search and overall experience in this category is rather "skeletal" at the moment.

When entrepreneurs are pitching a new startup idea or prototype to venture capital the perfunctory question often arises: "Why wouldn't Google do this?" In the vertical context it's typically the case that Google won't go to the lengths of others to build a specific vertical experience (there are some exceptions). The imperative for Google is to scale its applications globally -- and that is often at odds with developing rich content and community around a particular subject area.

It is possible, however, with several tweaks and improvements, that real estate search on Google could get much better and become much more competitive over time.

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Google Now #1 Web Destination, Beats Yahoo

For the longest time, Yahoo was the U.S.’s most-visited website and Google was the most popular search engine. That has, however, changed. Google is now both the country’s top-visited website as well as the most popular search engine. Losing the title surely is a disappointment to Yahoo, who are currently trying to turn around their company and deflect take-overs.

According to a recent comScore ranking, Google has surpassed Yahoo in terms of its unique monthly visitors for the first time during april 2008. Google’s lead, however, is small at about 466,000 visitors out of roughly 141 million each. May 2008’s stats will be interesting to take a look at next month, to see whether Yahoo can come back and close the gap and regain their crown, or whether Google can continue the trend and widen the gap.

Google’s unique audience in April was 141.1 million, which is an 18% increase over the same month in 2007. Yahoo grew 7% to 140.6 million, and Microsoft, as expected, pulled in at third with 121 million.

As far as pageviews goes, Yahoo still has the most. This means that either visitors tend to return more often, or look at more pages of the site. Google had just 28.7 billion pageviews compared to Yahoo’s 33.6 billion.

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Yahoo Glue Pages Launches In India

Yahoo has launched Glue Pages Beta in Yahoo India. Glue Pages are specialized pages that contain an enhanced visual search result page, for select search queries. The search results that trigger the special "Glue Pages" run across searches in health, sports, entertainment, travel, technology, and finance categories.

The Glue Pages combine classic search results on the left hand column with more visual information related to your query in the middle and right section of the page. The results contain images, videos, articles and more. For example a search on diabetes returns standard search results on the left, in the middle we have WebMD results, followed by results, then results from Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Answers, Yahoo News, and even Google Blog Search. Gopal Krishna, Head of Audience, Yahoo! India said:

Searching on Glue Pages Beta will result in an experience that promises more than just web links. Users will receive more relevant, visually appealing search results from across the Web in one topical page. The new Glue Pages Beta feature for Yahoo! India Search supports our strategy to make Yahoo! the starting point on the Internet and demonstrates our commitment to provide a compelling online search experience.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Search Illustrated: How A Search Engine Determines Duplicate Content

With so much good content on the web, it's inevitable that the same information will be displayed many times over. Whether it's a blog post pointing to good statistics, an RSS feed pulled into a complementary site, or blatantly copied material, duplicate content can be an issue.

This week's infographic shows how search engines make distinctions between original and duplicate content:

Via: []

More Than Half Of Yahoo's Paid Search Clicks Come From Partners

Efficient Frontier is out with new research looking at how the major search engines get search traffic outside their own search engines, including the remarkable stat that less than half of Yahoo's paid search clicks happen on its own search sites. "Search syndication" is when a major search engine provides search results beyond its own core services. For example, Google quite famously provides the search listings that AOL uses., while it generates its own editorial listings, also gets some of Google's paid ads through a syndication deal. And many sites across the web use Google's AdSense For Search program to get both paid and unpaid results.

Efficient looked at paid search clicks that it buys on behalf of a number of large advertisers to determine what percentage of those clicks were happening on the major search engines themselves as opposed to partners.

Yahoo was found to have the highest number of partners generating clicks -- 1,196 of them beyond Yahoo Search itself. These partners generated 55% of all of Yahoo's paid search clicks. Yahoo itself generated 45%.

Though Yahoo generated fewer clicks on its own, those clicks on its own site converted better. Of all Yahoo search clicks (on its own site or through partners), 58% of the converting clicks came from Yahoo itself.

How does this show Yahoo converts better than its partners? The idea from Efficient seems to be that if partner and "own site" clicks convert the same, then the percentage should be the same. In other words, if Yahoo's own clicks make up 45% of total paid clicks, then you should also see 45% of total converting clicks coming from Yahoo itself. Instead, you get 58% of converting clicks from Yahoo. That suggests Yahoo ads convert better than those coming from its partners.

That's probably right, but it would have been better if the exact conversion rate for partner sites and Yahoo's own sites were given. Then the figures could be compared directly.

Google has many partners, too -- but at 431, far less than Yahoo. Google also generates the majority of its own search traffic, 59% -- partners make up 41%. Of all paid clicks, 75% of those generating conversions came from Google's own site.

That's good and bad for Google. Good that it's less dependent on partners. Good that traffic on its own site seems to convert so well. But bad that partner sites seem to convert more poorly than Yahoo's sites. But bear in mind, without exact conversion rates being provided, this might not be entirely accurate.

As for Microsoft, it has only 5 partners -- and those are other sites within MSN. I wouldn't consider these partners myself, and it suggest that at least a small number of those "partners" counted for Yahoo and Google are actually sites they own. But still, we're mainly talking about what percentage of paid clicks come off the "main" search site. For Microsoft, that's 99%. And not surprisingly, the percentage of paid search clicks that convert from Microsoft's core search engine is 100%. Those partners just don't matter.

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Google Incorporates Geodata In API, Partners With ESRI, Yahoo Introduces "Internet Location Platform"

Google's John Hanke keynoted the Where 2.0 conference this morning and discussed the development and evolution of the "geoweb." But he also announced that KML files (now a public standard) and GeoRSS data (I believe) being indexed by Google are now going to be available to third parties via the Google API. That means things like Panaramio and geotagged YouTube videos, among other datasets, will be available through the API. Google also announced a partnership with geospatial software platform and provider ESRI. ESRI will also be a kind of additional gateway for thousands of live datafeeds that can be equally tapped by third parties to do mapping mashups and other applications. The key here is that data is coming from feeds, which are more accurate and complete than conventional search indexing.

Hanke didn't speak at length about the details but what it appears to mean as a practical matter is that huge amounts of data will now be available to others to incorporate into existing sites and applications and/or to build new sites and applications around.

Update: I just spoke with John Hanke directly. What he said is that all the third party data from ESRI will be converted into KML files so they can be easily rendered in Virtual Earth, Google Maps/Earth or on any site that can take these files. You will be able to search all the data as well to quickly discover what's available. This will effectively mean huge amounts of additional data will be easily accessible and available to work with on mashups, mobile sites, etc. (for free).

I neglected to include Yahoo's announcement, also coming out of the Where show, of its new Internet Location Platform. Here's more explanation from the Yahoo Local & Maps Blog.

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Google Penalty: Probable Causes and Solutions

Google penalty is a nightmare for SEOs. Just imagine losing all SERP rankings for your website just because Google has penalized your website. Sometimes it happens due to sheer ignorance. Many SEOs are unaware of the factors which can cause the penalty. There are certain guidelines, which if followed properly can save your website to get penalized by Google. I just researched on the probable causes and solutions for Google penalty and consolidated the data at one place so that it becomes handy for those who want a solution to this problem. I found two websites very helpful to prepare this material and

What Exactly Triggers A Google Penalty?
  • Hidden text or hidden links
  • Sneaky redirects or cloaking
  • Sending automated queries to Google
  • Stuffing pages with irrelevant words
  • Creating multiple domains, subdomains, or pages with substantially duplicate content
  • Creating "Doorway" pages only for the Search Engines or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs containing little or no original and unique content
  • Link buying and selling
  • Excessive use of keywords
  • Linking to banned sites
  • Linking from banned or spam sites
  • Getting links from BAD sites
  • Violate Google Webmaster guidelines
  • Excessive linking in a short span of time
  • Affiliate links on the site
GoogleGuy Says:

Abigail, do you have a lot of links/keywords on a page that could look like stuffing? For example, if a page is pretty fair but then has 200-300 keyword-stuffed links, I wouldn't be surprised if that would go over a threshold at some point. Do you have a lot of those sorts of links, or affiliate links or something similar on your site?

In general, anything hidden from the human visitor but visible to the robots or vice versa is asking for a Google penalty. So don't put coloured text or links on backgrounds of the same color - Google penalty. Same for teeny tiny font sizes, especially if they carry links - Google penalty. And offpage content that only a robot sees - Google penalty.

If you're creating content for humans, it is very unlikely that you will trigger a Google penalty. But if you're making an effort to fool the robots, you're messing with the potential for a Google penalty, big time.

Google Penalty Checklist
  • Linking to banned sites - Run a test on all outbound links from your site to see if you are linking to any sites which have themselves been Google banned. These will be sites which are Google de-listed and show Page Rank 0 with a grayed out Toolbar Page Rank indicator.

  • Linking to bad neighbourhoods - Check you are not linking to any bad neighbourhoods, link farms or doorway pages. Bad neighbourhoods include spam sites and doorway pages, whilst link farms are just pages of links to other sites, with no original or useful content.

  • Automated query penalty - Google penalties can be caused by using automated query tools which break Google's terms of service as laid out in the webmaster guidelines. Google allows certain automated queries into its database using its analytic tools and when accessing through the Google API account. Unauthorised types of automated query can cause problems.

  • Over optimization penalties - These can be triggered by poor SEO techniques such as aggressive link building using the same keywords in link anchor text. When managing link building campaigns, always vary the link text used and incorporate a variety of different keyword terms. Use a backlink anchor text analyser tool to check backlinks for sufficient keyword spread. Optimising for high paying keywords can further elevate risk, so mix in some long tail keywords into the equation. For brand new domains, add no more than 5 new one way backlinks a week and use deep linking to website internal pages, rather than just homepage link building.

  • Website cross linking & link schemes - If you run more than one website and the Google penalty hits all sites at the same time, check the interlinking (cross linking) between those sites. Extensive interlinking of websites, particularly if they are on the same C Class IP address (same ISP) can be viewed as "link schemes" by Google, breaking their terms of service. The risks are even higher where site A site wide links to site B and site B site wide links back to site A. If you must use site wide links, make sure they are not reciprocal links. Link schemes built around links in the footer of each webpage are particularly risky. The reality is that site wide links do little to increase site visibility in the Google SERPS, nor do they improve Page Rank more than a single link, as Google only counts one link from a site to another.It is also believed that Yahoo! now applies a similar policy. There is some evidence that the extensive use of site wide links can lower website Google trust value, which can subsequently reduce ranking.

  • Hidden text or links - Remove any hidden text in your content and remove any hidden keywords. Such content may be hidden from view using CSS or alternatively, text may have been coded to be the same colour as the page background, rendering it invisible. These risky SEO techniques often lead to a Google penalty or web site ban.

  • Overt keyword stuffing - Remove excessive keyword stuffing in your website content (unnatural repetitions of the same phrase in body text). Always use natural, well written web copywriting techniques.

  • Automated page redirects - The use of automated browser re-directs in any of your pages. Meta Refresh and JavaScript automated re-directs often lead to a Google penalty as the pages using them are perceived to be doorway pages. This technique is especially dangerous if the refresh time is less than 5 seconds. To avoid Google penalties, use a 301 re-direct or Mod Rewrite technique instead of these methods. This involves setting up a .htaccess file on your web server.

  • Link buying - Check for any paid links (I.E. buying text links from known link suppliers / companies). There is some evidence that buying links can hurt rankings and this was implied by comments from Matt Cutts (a Google engineer) on his Google SEO blog. Matt states that Google will also devalue links from companies or suppliers of text links, such that they offer zero value to the recipient in terms for improving website rankings or Page Rank.

  • Reciprocal link building campaigns - may also trigger a Google penalty or cause a SERPS filter to be applied when the same or very similar link anchor text is used over and over again and large numbers of reciprocal links are added in a relatively short time. The dangers are made worse by adding reciprocal links to low quality sites or websites which have an unrelated theme. This can lead to a backlink over optimisation penalty (known as a BLOOD to SEO experts!). a Google backlink over optimisation penalty causes a sudden drops in SERPS ranking (often severe). To avoid this problem, reciprocal link exchange should only be used as part of a more sustainable SEO strategy which also builds quality one way links to original website content. Adding reciprocal links to unrelated sites is a risky SEO strategy, as is reciprocal link exchange with low quality websites. If you can't find a website's homepage in the top 20 of the Google search results (SERPS) when you search for the first 4 words of a site's HTML title (shown at the top of the Internet Explorer window) then undertaking reciprocal link exchange with that site may offer few advantages. Don't forget to check that prospective reciprocal link partners have a similar theme as your homepage too.

  • Check Google Webmaster Guidelines - Read the Google webmaster guidelines and check website compliance in all respects.

  • Google Webmaster Tools - According to Matt Cutts's Blog, Google is improving webmaster communication with respect to banned sites and penalties. Google is now informing some (but not all) webmasters the cause of a website ban or penalty, via their excellent new Webmaster Console. In addition, a Google re-inclusion request can be made from the same interface. For this reason, if you've been hit by a web site ban or penalty, it is worthwhile signing up for Google Webmaster Tools and uploading an XML Sitemap onto your site and then to check site status in the Google Webmaster Console. This is an easy 15 minute job and may help to identify the cause and fix for the problem!

Initial Tests for a Penalty

Just because you lose rank does not mean you have a Google penalty. Your ranking for keyword sets depends on many factors, including how many others are competing for the same keyword sets, how much content exists for that keyword set, and off site links. Also, the search engines are constantly updating the algorithms that determine rank, and as these change, ranks do as well. There are sites, and pages from sites that temporarily disappear from the index, but return later for no obvious reason, so don't be too quick to blame a Google penalty when your ranks are swirling.

But you can definitely tell if your site is still in Google's index. Simply search for the url (""). If there is no information returned, the url is not indexed. You can also see all pages that have been indexed by searching for "" If you were ranking before, but show nothing for this search, you have a Google penalty. If you have many pages on your site, but you only see the homepage in the result, something's very wrong, and you may have incurred a Google penalty.

It is also possible for Google to impose a manual suppression of your site that is impossible to detect, a kind of lower level Google penalty. Recently a case was unwound with such a penalty who had been told by Google that there was no penalty imposed, that his poor ranks were a result of his lack of content. The tipoff to the suppression was that all the other search engines showed high positions for the same keywords, and the company's trade name was not in the #1 rank, but on page 4.

When a penalty is suspected, start by checking with Google the number of URL's it has indexed. This can be accomplished by using the -asdfasdf command within a Google search window. If no URL's are indexed and no backlinks show up when the is entered then there is a high probability of a Google penalty, especially if your site used to be indexed and used to show backlinks. The exception to this rule is a new website with few backlinks, which may not be Google indexed since it is still waiting to be crawled. Such websites frequently show no backlinks, but this doesn't imply they have received a Google penalty!

Not all Google penalties result in a loss of Page Rank. For example, various Google filters can be triggered by irregularities in backlinks and by excessive reciprocal link exchange, backlinks from spam or banned sites etc.

If you suspect your website has received a Google penalty, you can contact Google by sending an e-mail to to ask for help. They will usually check the spam report queue and offer some form of assistance.

Interestingly, in a recent move by Google, web sites which are in clear violation of Google's webmaster guidelines or terms of service may receive an e-mail from Google advising them to clean up their act, warning of a penalty and website de-indexing. When the breach of Google's terms (e.g. spam or hidden text) is removed from the offending site, Google will usually automatically remove the penalty and re-index the site when the webmaster completes a Google re-inclusion request.

How to Check for A Google Penalty?

To check for a Google penalty with any degree of certainty is very difficult. The very first thing you need to do is determine the exact cause of the Google penalty. This is often not obvious. But if you know you have violated one of Google's published guidelines, that is where you should start. Unwinding a Google penalty means removing the offensive content, links, or strategy, and then informing Google that your site has achieved compliance with their guidelines. A Google penalty will not go away by itself, and a strongly proactive approach is required to both uncover the offensive material, and be certain it is completely addressed before approaching Google.

It is strongly recommended NOT contacting Google immediately upon discovery of a Google penalty. You really want to be certain that after expending time and energy arguing your case, that the Google penalty will not be reimposed later because of an oversight on your part. Make sure your site is completely Google compliant before contacting them. A demonstration that you understand why the Google penalty was imposed is instrumental to unwinding it.

Here's where to go when you're ready:

If you are uncertain as to the cause, you should seek help. It is not recommended that you contact Google until you can approach them with knowledge. Their contact form will generate an automated reply (if any), and they do not provide a service to diagnose the cause of a Google penalty. Unwinding a Google penalty usually requires an acknowledgement of the problem by the site owner, a clean site, and a statement of compliance with Google's guidelines. More than one attempt will probably be required to undo a sitewide Google penalty. Even in cases where the Google penalty involves only a limited number of pages from a site, be prepared to commit significant time and energy to setting things straight.

Check for a Google Website Ban

If you've used unethical SEO techniques your website could be Google banned and de-indexed. Check for a Google website ban using the free SEO tool at Please note that the results from this free site ban tool may not be entirely accurate or reliable!

Google Penalty Recovery Strategy

Recovering from a Google penalty normally involves fixing the cause of the problem and then waiting for Google to remove any over optimisation penalties or SERPS filters. To fully recover Google ranking may take around 2-3 months after all website problems are corrected. The Google algorithm can automatically remove a penalty if the affected website is still Google indexed. If your website has been Google de-indexed and lost Page Rank, then you will need to make a Google re-inclusion request. Where the reason for the penalty is clear, it helps to provide details of any changes you've made to correct violations of the Google webmaster guidelines.
The best recovery strategy from any Google penalty is to check for any recent Google algorithm changes and to evaluate recent changes made to your website prior to the sudden drop in Google ranking. Don't forget to check your link building strategy as poor SEO often causes Google penalties. Start by removing any reciprocal links to low quality websites, or sites having no relevance to your website theme.


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