Ah…Text – that bit of web content that we like to use to convey ideas. And format. And stuff.

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I recently wrote an article for the company I work for, entitled “5 Tactics to Boost Local Traffic to your Vacation Rental Website” and it’s pretty powerful stuff.

Even if you are not in the Vacation Rental industry, these SEO or Search Engine Optimization methods and logic, that I go into great detail about in the article, are extremely beneficial to most industries.

My boss even gave me accolades in our meetings – it’s gotten the most re-Tweets, the most shares, the most likes and so on, compared to any other one thus far on the site, so please go read it. 🙂

5 Tactics to Boost Local Traffic to your Vacation Rental Website

It’s Friday night and I thought I’d drop this little Online Marketing Article Roundup into the mix…

One morning this past week, like most mornings, my Inbox was busting at the seams with Online Marketing newsletters, articles, tips, guides and so on.

It’s rare that I have the time to read them, letting my Outlook Filters, Rules and Alerts do their organizing tricks. Of course, with the intention of visiting them at some point in the near future.

But last night, after I finished teaching my Kung Fu class, I opened a few of them and found some interesting reads.

21 Online Marketing Articles to Read Today

We’ve got 6 SEO Articles, 4 Google Articles, 6 Social Media Articles, 3 User Experience (UX) Articles, and 2 WordPress Articles. There may even a Bonus Article at the bottom!

SEO

Google

Google

Social Media

Social Media

User Experience

User Experience

WordPress

WordPress

Bonus

Bonus

I was doing a bit of research for my Northern Shaolin Kung Fu students recently and had a fairly eye-opening revelation.

To be honest – this little enlightenment is really positive, as it opens up new sources of information and at the same time it’s also quite frustrating.

Why frustrating? Well because it opens up new sources of information and a bit of overwhelm may ensue. 😛

As we all know, Wikipedia is user-generated content – a community-built encyclopedia of sorts, with editorial guidelines, restrictions and moderation systems (somewhat) in place.

And just a quck glance of its logo tells us that it is also translated into many different languages.

However, it is NOT merely translated into different languages.

There is different information in different languages for the same entries – sometimes more, sometimes less but usually different.

Translating NASA

For example, go to the English entry for NASA ( National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Scroll down to the last paragraph just before the big "Contents" link box and look at the last link in that paragraph; the anchor text is "Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite," and it points to a page with a fair amount of information and links about this satellite, also known as "Ibuki." On this page, we also learn that Ibuki was operated and launched by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA.

Next, go to the Spanish entry for NASA and look at the last link before the "Contents" box. You will see "Agencia Japonesa de Exploración Aeroespacial." And that is a link to the Spanish entry for "JAXA."

A logical argument could be made, initially, for sentence construction; that perhaps the last sentence in both languages in this paragraph contain all of the same links to their respective language entries, but just in a different order, due to their respective language rules.

However, all it takes is a quick scan through the sentences to see that this is not, in fact, the case.

Fun with Lincoln

Let’s look at another example in a different way.

Look at the English entry for Abraham Lincoln. And then the German entry for Abraham Lincoln.

And now all you have to do is look on the right hand side of each page, at the photos and scroll down. You’ll see the difference.

But, But, But…

And before you give me all of the reasons why you think I am wrong… Try it out yourself. Search for any topic, open a window or tab for the English version and do it again. Then just change the "en" at the beginning of the URL (this specifies English, for example) to another language or region – de for Germany, es for Spain, etc. And look at what you find; run your own little experiments.

Conclusion

My point?

Different people are getting different information on topics, based on language or part of the world they are in. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but definitely different.

There are many people who are unaware of the fact that Wikipedia is content created by its users. And many more, like myself, are under the impression that the various language entries are merely translations of English.

I am not attempting to make some sort of social justice comment here. What I am saying is this: If you are researching a topic and want more – consider alternative languages. It has its benefits.

It’s paying of for me already. My topical search that gave birth to this revelation has now given me much more interesting information on the topic from merely looking up the Italian entry. Now after I search through all of this new data, I can’t help but wonder what the Spanish entry will give me. Or the French. Or South African, or…!?!

It’s exciting, if not a bit overwhelming.

Anchors Aweigh

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and links go hand-in-hand. That’s why we hear so much about it all over the internet: blogs, forums, groups, social media – you name it; everywhere you look, somebody is talking about "link juice", "link bait", how to build links, optimizing links, etc.

And sometimes you hear about navigation and usability. But rarely do we hear about Anchors.

Today we are going to look at a very specific type of internal linking: local navigation.

Once you understand the true creation of a link, how to use Anchors and they are can be important, you’ll be shouting "Anchors Aweigh!"

Okay, maybe not, but at least you’ll be a bit wiser. 🙂

Wikipedia defines an Internal Link as "a hyperlink that is a reference or navigation element in a document to another section of the same document or to another document that may be on or part of the same website or domain of the internet."

We know about this. It’s what makes up our navigation systems.

We know about usability factors of allowing the user to get where they want in the least number of clicks possible (and if you didn’t – we’re trying to make it easy for them).

We also know about the SEO factors of supposed page rank, link weight, authority, silos, no dead links, anchor text, etc.

But Wait! I just said "anchor text" and yet the title of this post is "A Name is Not an Anchor". Confused? Read on.

Structure of a Link

In any link within your opening angled brackets you place the letter "a" along with various attributes and values of the Anchor element, and the text for the link (known as Anchor Text), followed by the closing tags.

A very simple link might look like this:

<a href="http://www.craigkiessling.com">Atlanta SEO Services</a>

Let’s look at what that means. The brackets simply denote an HTML tag. The "A" at the beginning designates the word Anchor. Just like a boat, it holds down a certain place, but here in the online context. This anchor could be a place within the document we are currently reading. It could be a completely different document within our own library (or website) or perhaps some other library. Or perhaps it could be a specific spot within our own library.

The "href" bit means "HyperText Reference". It is where we usually put the URL or URI. The address or the location of the web site, page, file, image, or whatever it is – that we want to link to.

How about a little more complex link? Got that too:

<a href="http://www.craigkiessling.com" class="SEO-Link" name="Atlanta SEO Services" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Atlanta SEO Services</a>

And now let’s look at this. The items that are the same as the previous example we do not need to discuss. "Class=" tells us that this link should be labeled as having the class "SEO-Link", and whatever styling we set up for the class of that name n our CSS should be applied to this link (or any other with that same class name; ids are unique but classes are not). Then we have the "Name" attribute. This something that was pretty cool back in the day; you could name your links, name your link destinations. Great for usability and SEO right? Well maybe. But with HTML5 – the most modern version of it that everyone is using – it’s deprecated; yeah it’s outta here. Then you have the "Target"

attribute of the link. This says where to open the new link – in the same browser window, or a brand new one? Here we tell it a brand new one. "Rel" is basically telling us what the Relationship is between this page and the one being linked to. Here we tell SE to bugger off – don’t follow and waste our link juice :P.

Anchors in HTML5

What do you think happens here, with a link of today’s standards?

<a href="URL" title="additional information" id="cool-name" class="pretty-cool-name">link text</a>

Technically, the "Title" attribute is suppose to give more information about the element in question; wiki says it’s suppose to give "brief" information about the link.

Problem is…Most of the crap SEO people have done with this like they’ve done with everything else – ruined it via over-stuffing of spam keywords etc.

"Class" is what we’ve talked about before – CSS styling.

But what about the ID?

Oh yeah. The "ID=". I left that one out intentionally because it can be a bit confusing. Bear with me now, we’re diving in head-first!

ID. In CSS you have classes and IDs. Classes you can use many times throughout a site, but IDs you can not.

Like if you wanted every first paragraph to have Drop-Caps for the first sentence; or every first letter of the first paragraph in each post.

But one particular paragraph you want to have special and different stylings. Well then you would give it an ID.

Now then, in most browsers, when the cursor hovers over a link, it typically changes into a hand with a stretched index finger, and the title appears in some way (varies according to browser). Some browsers render alt text the same way, though this is technically incorrect.

In HTML5, you can still use ID for extremely specific styling, But…You can also use it for naming. Why? Because as we’ve already explained they’ve gotten rid of name, and title is used for information.

A name is Not an Anchor

So here we are full-circle. Name is no longer used as a legit attribute for elements in HTML5. Title helps boost us from a SEO and Usability perspecitve. And now for styling – well my suggestion is to still use Classes, but very specifically and with the Cascading methodology. And only use IDs for what you use to use Name for.

That’s right – ID is the new name.

It helps though, for sure. You’ve seen how Google can treat a validated & well-optimized page with a variety of extra links showing up for a domain in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Page(s)).

We are use to seeing well optimized pages show up nicely like this for sites that have various pages, however did you know you can get the same results for simply having one page but broken up semantically well? Yep.

Canonical

NOT rel=canonical

Canon:
A general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged.
A member of the clergy on the staff of a cathedral, esp. a member of the chapter.
Canonical:
According to or ordered by canon law: "the canonical rites of the Roman Church".
As a Noun: The prescribed official dress of the clergy.

And what do either of these definitions have to do with SEO or even rel="Canonical", for that matter?

Nothing. Except, perhaps, for the idea of a general law, principle etc. We’ll see how in just a moment.

So when asked in a Job Interview, anything referring to the Catholic church or Catholicism is not really the correct answer; unless of course your job happens to be in that area.

So what does rel="Canonical" mean, why should you care, and how should you make the magic happen?

rel= "Canonical" – Why, What and How

Why should you care about rel="Canonical"?

Have you ever heard of duplicate content and the penalties that come along with it?

I’m sure you have. In short, Google is not a big fan of duplicate content and it could seriously hurt your rankings! Whether you have or haven’t, here’s a real-world example to give it some context:

Let’s say you’re running a site selling products (or services). And oftentimes these product pages can have exactly the same, if not similar content, but a slightly different URL. For example:


http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&trackingid=1234567&sort=alpha&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd
http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&trackingid=1234567&sort=price&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd

As you can see, there are two different values of variables in the URL – sort=alpha and sort=price. Regardless of how they’re sorted though, you’re still looking at the same list of swedish-fish.

And they will have the same, if not similar, content. So what do we do?

We implement the rel="canonical" attribute or tag.

You need to decide which actual page has the most complete, accurate and best content for this subject, topic or page. Once you’ve done that, you need to go to all of the other possible URL pages and put in the directive to tell Google "Hey! I know this looks alot like this other page over there, but I want you just to pay attention to this one page for the content, instead of all the possible ways you could find it."

So then, in each of the non-canonical pages, or each of the pages that tell part of the story with duplicate or similar content, we need to tell Google to go to this other page for classification, like


<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish"/>

Place this in the <head></head> section of these pages – all pointing to the one page that you’d prefer to be listed in the SERPs for that content.

Oh! And here’s a couple of extra pointers regarding rel="canonical":

  • It’s preferred to use absolute links instead of relative links, when specifying the canonical.
  • Do not try to "game" the system by using this to simply rank a page higher; you will get found out. And quickly!
  • If the preferred page does not actually exist – you’re at the whim and mercy of Google.
  • To an extend, Google can follow a chain of canonicals – but if you’re trying to game the system – see the second bullet point above.
  • Yes, you can use it to point to pages on another site…But again…Hopefully you get the point.

So you’ll either have to do this manually in the pages of your website, or if you’re using WordPress as a back-end CMS or blogging platform, there is a much easier way.

WordPress SEO by Yoast is an outstanding plug-in to say the least, with all of its wonderful functionality.

And one such piece of functionality is about rel="Canonical"!

After you’ve installed and activated the plug-in, go into your Page or Post that you need to get Canonical on, and scroll down past the content area into the box supplied by the plug-in.

Click on the "Advanced" tab, scroll down a wee-bit and there you have it: a form field labeled "Canonical URL". That’s where you would paste in the URL for the page that has the most complete and accurate content that you’d prefer Google to index and show on the SERPs for this topic’s search query.

Well folks, that’s it. Hopefully you’ve learned a little bit about rel="Canonical", why you should use it, and how to do so.

Oh and by the way, there is a way to use this for the whole www.website.com vs. website.com battle too.

Have you figured out how?

Web Directory

Directory Listings

Last month we discussed the Whys and Hows of Local SEO, including localized content ideas, such as including rates and locations. We also touched upon some ideas for link placement, like local rating sites and directory listings.

But why Directories? Perhaps you’re thinking "Directories for SEO? Directories are out-dated and just plain dead!"

Sure – they’ve been around for ages. And they don’t seem to ascribe to the whole social buzz idea. I mean, directories were THE THING at one point. Well, before Search Engines got smart… Right?

Slow down cowboy. Many people still submit to directories, including the pros. Let’s look at the Whys – The Benefits of being in Directories.

Benefits of Directories

Directories have been around since the dawn of the Internet. They’ve been a trusted way to get listed and locate listings. But in today’s world, many feel this dying breed has no benefit. There’s some merit to that idea, but it’s far from completely true. There are still benefits.

Here are some benefits, in no particular order, of having your website listed in a directory:

  1. Affordable
    Most directories are free. And of those that aren’t – most are fairly cheap. Some niche directories. And although more expensive than their counterparts, are also extremely targeted. A small warning, however: if it’s free – make sure the quality & freshness are there. Some of them never actually list your site.
  2. History
    Directories have been around a long time. They were here before Search Engines themselves! And we know that Search Engines pay attention to history. Getting listed in a long-standing directory will have more weight than a fly-by-night set up.
  3. People-based
    Although some of the el cheapo directories will post your listing immediately, some of them have actual humans behind the site. And they manually review the submissions. These are of a higher quality obviously. You’re already getting your first live human test – via submission!
  4. Getting Indexed in the Search Engines
    New website owners have learned the difficulties of getting indexed in a timely fashion. The days of using the "add URL" page of a Search Engine are long gone. Today Search Engines like Google and Yahoo find new sites through links. Directories give you links. And that gives you increased visibility to the Search Engines themselves.
  5. Timeliness
    You’ve built a website and are waiting to be found by the Search Engines Even with on-page SEO, you know how frustrating it can be to sit and wait. So why do it? Most directories, even those manually reviewed, have a fairly short waiting time for being listed. So you’re listed on the internet, especially for your niche target, perhaps Geo-Targeted as well. You have a keyword-focused listing, and an immediate quality one-way link! The Search Engines will pay attention.
  6. Increased Brand Recognition
    Using your brand in the directory listing and linkage creates another digital footprint. This immediately increases brand recognition.
  7. Traffic
    Though you’ll get a boost in traffic from being listed, it will most likely not be huge. It will, however, be more targeted, and that is, afterall, a step closer to a conversion.
  8. Contextually-Relevant and One-Way-Links
    We all love one-way SEO juice-boosting links, and directories are a great place to get them. If it’s a well-managed directory, then you’ll also get the benefit of that link being contextual (a link from a page with topically related content).
  9. SEO Targeting
    • Niche
      Directories are categorized, going from broad to specific. This is much like a folder system and breadcrumb trail. For example, in the Yahoo Directory, the Search Engine Optimization Services sub-category can be found via: Directory > Business and Economy > Business to Business > Marketing and Advertising > Internet > Promotion > Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Can you see how someone arriving to your website via a directory might be more targeted?
    • Keywords
      You get to choose what text to put into your directory listings. This is similar to the Title, Meta, etc., so why would you waste another SEO opportunity? Just look at the above-mentioned "Niche" topic. See how the breadcrumbs can be keywords? Oh and maybe keyword focused (focused, not stuffed) anchor text & descriptions?
    • Local
      Thinking of how directory listings go from broad to specific, we can see how Geo-Targetting and Local SEO can play a role here. For example, if I owned a retail outlet in Atlanta, GA – my listing could be found in the Yahoo Directory via Directory > Regional > U.S. States > Georgia > Cities > Atlanta > Business and Shopping > Shopping and Services > Retailers. At the time of this writing, there are only two listings in this sub-category and only one of them is specific to the actual area. Opportunity there?
  10. Competition
    Is there some competition on the Internet? Just a wee-bit. This makes most of our online marketing initiatives – SEO, SEM, SMO, etc. – a bit of a challenge. The great thing about directories is the very fact that they are dying out by most standards. For example, Google & Bing shut down their directories, pointing folks to DMOZ. Why is that a good thing? Because fewer and fewer people are using them and even fewer keep their listings updated. This gives us an edge. And that’s a good thing.

Bonus SEO Benefit of Directory Listings

And for you serious SEO folks out there – here’s a bonus benefit:

Directories are completely unaffected by the Panda update!

Soon I’ll be covering some of the directories out there, but in the meantime, why don’t you go and see what you can find? Go get listed!

Human-edited directories are often targeted by SEOs on the basis that links from reputable sources will improve rankings in the major search engines.

Spam

Spam

Spam. Long gone are the days of this word simply referring to a food item; A canned meat product made mainly from ham.

Now Spam invades our privacy, offends, annoys, and seems to be almost unstoppable.

We find it in SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), we find it as torrential rain in our email inboxes, we find it in our forums, we find it as personal messages and comments in our networking sites, and we find it as comments to our blog posts.

Today we find Spam everywhere, and it finds us.

What is Spam?

Spam is flooding the Internet with many copies of the same message, in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it.

Most spam is commercial advertising, often for dubious products, get-rich-quick schemes, or quasi-legal services.

Spam costs the sender very little to send — most of the costs are paid for by the recipient or the carriers rather than by the sender.

What is Blog Comment Spam?

Spam in blogs (also called simply blog spam or comment spam is a form of spamdexing. (Note that blogspam has another, more common meaning, namely the post of a blogger who creates no-value-added posts to submit them to other sites.)

It is done by automatically posting random comments or promoting commercial services to blogs, wikis, guestbooks, or other publicly accessible online discussion boards.

Any web application that accepts and displays hyperlinks submitted by visitors may be a target.

Read more in Wikipedia’s "Spam in Blogs" article.

How to Spot Blog Comment Spam

As the administrator, webmaster, author, etc. of your site, your comment settings should definitely be set to require your approval before being published. You personally and manually need to decide if it should go up.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have some automated help via plug-ins, etc. to auto-detect (and delete) obvious spam comments; You Should!

However, some comments in your moderation queue may look a bit convincing. Here’s some tips to help identify common Comment Spam patterns (These are just a few – some use some or none; some use all):

  • First Name Only
    Spammers are vague.
  • All single-case
    All upper or lower case.
  • Comments are on Old Posts
    Usually at least 6 months old.
  • Short message
    The pattern use to be long messages, packed with links – but the pattern has changed.
  • Grammar & Spelling
    Most are not native English speakers, so you’ll see glaring mistakes.
  • Scraped Content
    These guys will often scrape content right off your blog and re-paste it as part of their comment!
  • Nonsense
    The "comment" usually makes little to no sense whatsoever.
  • Titles
    Commonly they’ll use the title of your blog post, site, article, etc. within the comment, like "I always Spotting SPAM Comments in your Blog so thanks"
  • High-Traffic Links
    The links will be going to sites that require high traffic to make a profit. Porn, Gambling, Shoes, Jewelry, etc. are common.

Hope this helps in keeping your site Spam-Free and if you have any other tips on spotting Blog Comment Spam, shoot me a note and let me know!