RMIUG Meeting Minutes - Search Engine Optimization
Minutes of the (Tuesday) Nov 12th 2002
Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Internet Users
Group (RMIUG) on "Search Engine Optimization
The meeting started at about 7:05 pm, and
roughly 120 people were in attendance. Dan
thanked the RMIUG sponsors for their support:
MicroStaff (www.microstaff.com) generously
provides food and beverages at the meetings.
The company provides Creative and Technical
Talent for Web, Interactive Media, Marketing
Communications and Software Development
ONEWARE (http://www.ONEWARE.com) -- a Colorado-based software company
that provides semi-custom web-based applications,
is the sponsor of the RMIUG meeting minutes.
CEO of Microstaff, Maureen Little (firstname.lastname@example.org):
described Microstaff briefly, and related
one QA position they're trying to fill.
See www.microstaff.com for details.
Dan introduced the RMIUG committee, and
thanked volunteer committee member Alek
Komarnitsky, who is stepping down, for his
many years of dedicated service to RMIUG.
Alek has been with RMIUG since Day 1, literally,
and has been a huge help to the group. Dan
described an April Fool's prank that Alek
hatched -- an April 1st RMIUG meeting announcement
with Bill Gates and Al Gore as speakers.
to see the announcement, archived on the
Dan asked warm up questions; where are
people from, and what's your favorite search
engine ? Overwhelmingly, Google was the
most used by this group. How many
work in search engine optimization? (many)
Full time? (few) How many people have used
pay per click engines? (few) How may have
a top 10 site in Google for some key phrase
? (several) How many have a number one site?
(a couple folks)
Dan then introduced the first speaker
for tonight: Bob Bandy (email@example.com),
Partner of Actis eMarketing.
(slide presentation - available on his
web site: www.actis-emarketing.com/presentations)
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Three years ago it was easier - there
were about 10 major engines. Now there are
really 3 main players - Google, Yahoo, Inktomi.
[Graph shown on what percent of folks
find pages/sites by friends, links, print,
etc. Highest percentage is links, and second
highest is search engines.]
- SE's are the top way consumers find
- Users looking for products are far more
likely to use search engines
- 97 % of Fortune 100's had site architecture
problems that made them "unfriendly."
- pages indexed by robots/spiders
- each engine searches differently
- shotgun submittals are generally ineffective
(vs. human effort).
- current trend toward paid submission
- there are different types.
Google's success is partly due to a complex
and highly accurate algorithm.
- Key words are the foundation of good
search engine optimization, so do your
homework and select them based on research
- Use optimized and proper meta tags (however
only Inktomi reads them, at this point
- so don't spend a lot of time on that).
- Keep your descriptions relevant to your
site -Avoid spamming (read SE guidelines)
- Submit multiple pages (not just your
- Get as many links to your site as possible
- (good links). Google rankings are strongly
influenced by links.
(Comments on Google page rank - can you
get it without downloading the tool bar?
It's how Google rates sites and results.)
Page Rank is automatically assigned by Google
once they index your site. The Google
Tool Bar is merely a way to see what the
Page Rank of any web page is.
Google doesn't like pop up windows - AOL
doesn't like them, now, either.
Research will tell you what keywords are
popular -choose two word phrases
- each page may target different keywords
- position keywords in strategic places,
most importantly FIRST
- make sure they're on each page
- monitor competition to see what they're
- use relevant keywords (relevant to
- use selected words or phrases in strategic
areas (body text,titles, tags, URL, etc).
Q - what numbers of keywords are allowed
in a file?
A - In what? Metatags? In those, 250 -
1000 characters, probably. The search engines
want to see relevant content - with lots
of keywords. It's especially important in
Google to have certain text as description
of a given link.
[Some Discussion on Wordtracker, more
discussion on Google giving keyword impressions
Q - can you put canonical names (sub domain
names) in your keyword?
A - Yes, it'll take anything in the domain
name into account.
Q - why is it dangerous to use the discount
shotgun submittal services?
A - mainly it's ineffective, but can occasionally
be dangerous - if they oversubmit you, you
might be tagged as a spammer. Google is
pretty sensitive to that kind of stuff.
Q - A - Manual link redirects or pop ups
are okay - only the automatic pop up windows
are being banned.
OPTIMIZATION SUMMARY :
- key words in title tag
- description meta tag
- Keywords Meta tag
- HTML body Text
- Alt tag
- Internal link structure
[Q - will it work with an anchor tag?
A - I don't know]
- Link popularity
Q - is there a limit to alt tag length?
A - he hasn't seen one
Description of what constitutes spamming:
(DON'T DO IT!)
Repeating words everywhere - repeat submitting
same or similar pages, or duplicate pages.
Search engines can detect such things,
- downgrade site listing
- ban site listings
Story about Google lawsuit - guy in Oklahoma
was selling ads on high Page Rank sites.
Google down rated his site and Page Rank.
With Google it takes 30 days to see what
SUBMIT PAGES - how to
- do it manually
- read tips and tricks
- check listings & resubmit if needed
- consider outsourcing to experts who
stay on top of the rapidly changing rules
of search engine optimization, etc.
The main problem with SEO is not that
it's difficult, but that it's time consuming
and takes continuous updates to be on top
- Avoid 100% flash on important pages
- Avoid use of frames
- Spiders can't read what's in a graphic
- so put text links at the bottom
- Pages created dynamically are difficult
for engines to read; can have a mix
- Password protection also keeps spiders
- Avoid duplicate sites
Q - How does the search engine know it's
dynamic? From the URL?
A - It can tell from the query string or
use of '?'
- some engines weigh this in rankings
- locate other websites with associated
- create the link, then ask the other
site to reciprocate
- build good directory listings
Google does not like automatic redirects.
it doesn't like.
[Graph of % of US web users visiting site
during month. Top down is MSN, YH, GG, and
AOL, then Ask Jeeves.]
The top two are influenced by their "default"
BUYING YOUR WAY IN
- banner ads on search sites
- paid placement
- Paid inclusion
You must pay for Yahoo unless you're a
Be cautious about guarantees, pay for
position pricing, use of IP delivery or
cloaking, use of auto submission software,
and make sure your SEO company doesn't host
your optimized pages.
Understand how the engines feed results
to each other - this helps you to see where
to focus your effort.
Q - when Dept. of Justice or Treasury
hits my site, for example, is Google ranking
them that way?
A - Google doesn't track traffic, he doesn't
think - but rather tracks Referral link.
[Ranking] probably not via Google.
Dan then introduced the next speaker:
Les Reaves(LesR@rtp.com) - President of
Les has run many web campaigns, and he
manages the entire online advertising presence
for Vail resorts-many other clients, some
Les spoke on Pay Per Click (PPC) search
engine marketing, who the players are, and
how they work.
He calls it searchengine positioning,
now. He described how if you have 2500 -
10,000 dollars to spend a year, you can
get your listing on between 95-97 % of domestic
Using Overture and Google adwords .. You
might not hit Magellan and Looksmart.com,
He's had overture yield fewer clicks than
looksmart claims to. Find WHAT second to
Kanoodle --Blowfish - don't use Kanoodle
Espotting -- the Overture of Britain.
Overture feeds into top 4 rankings on
Yahoo, top 3 rankings for MSN
(Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL are ranks 1-4)
Lycos takes top three from Overture -
but he doesn't recommend Lycos. Keep it
simple, keep with Overture and Google. Alta
Vista also has boxes on the side, which
are 4 - 8 from Overture.
Excite - - its top three come from Overture,
most of the time.
He likes Google first for just info, Overture
second - for products, especially from well
financed good companies.
Yahoo probably has 12000 clients. But
Overture has 67000 clients, because of small
businesses advertising online these days,
instead of larger, older ones.
Go.com = complete mirror site. It's a
mirror of Overture.
If you stay in the top three for Overture
you show up on AOL, Compuserve, Ask.com,
He talks about the bidding mentality -
it's like Ebay, but goes up and down. The
top three bids are the most valuable in
terms of traffic generation - so you're
covered if you're in the top three.
It just takes 2-3 days with Overture.
Google is immediate, but the ones it's related
to take days
Word tracker is good, but he suggested
just signing up for the trial for 3 days
and don't pay the $200.00).
Overture's tool is great - the words being
jumbled now, though, is an equalizer (for
Third is the hardest place to keep. Overtures'
autobidding feature causes bidding wars
to happen. You want to bid right below,
if you want a lot of traffic for the cheapest
amount possible. You only pay when someone
VISITS the site.
Google's links into your site and your
page title are important, he thinks.
For sixth months (?), if you get into
link pools, you'll rank higher in Google
- but it's best to just write good content,
rather than try to fool the engines. And
don't use a word over 6 times.
Sponsored listings: (if you don't mind
cheating a bit ..)
Q - Google's default scrollbox -- have
you heard anything about Them upgrading
to an advanced key word scheme?
A - put quotes around it, in the search
Q - does Overture refuse keywords? A -
it changes all the time - now it's automated.
A - keyword research in Overture .. do
you do it in Google? A - no
Market research - if you have a tag line
that's being developed, put each one in
the Google ads, and see what the highest
click rate is - and there's your tag line.
And voila, free market research.
The different keyword research does give
different numbers - it extrapolates, so
it depends on which source the data's coming
Dan then introduced Eric Kallgren (firstname.lastname@example.org)
President of Mondo Code. Eric spoke about
designing web systems from the ground up
with emphasis on good site design and content,
vs. attempting to "cheat" the engines.
MondoTimes.com, the worldwide media guide.
(Trivia Question for prize: What was the
full name of the band that performed intro
and outro?? A - Bonzo Dog Doodah Band)
He said there's no point in fooling with
optimization unless you start with the proper
web site structure. It will give you a huge
[And bear in mind that search engine optimization
is partly a numbers game, in that the more
pages you have the more listing opportunities
you have. A site with lots of pages is almost
always a dynamic, database-driven site.
If you are using a web scripting language
(PHP, JSP, ASP, Coldfusion, etc.) to manage
your site, and have control of the server
configuration, you can use indexable URLs
and URL redirection to make sure all of
your pages get indexed.]
Heart: indexable URLS and URL redirection.
But first, basics that have already been
- title tag - must be descriptive
- be nice to Google, Google is your friend.
- Content, content, content
Yahoo is now presenting Google results.
Creating great sites is important. But
it doesn't do any good to have a mediocre
product and then push the hell out of it.
Create a great site, and optimize the page
Danny Sulllivan - "... search engines
choke on question marks " So you need a
solution that doesn't use operators such
Q - can you use dot separators?
A - yes, but forward slashes are most common.
Strip out the operators in the strings
after the .com, leaving the variables separated
by forward slashes. The variables then look
like directories although they are not.
You are stripping out the junk, then using
a URL redirect (set in the server configuration
file) to regenerate the variables and send
them to the appropriate script which will
generate the page. As a result you get a
page that the search engines will index.
Indexable URLS and URL redirection is
not something you hear about everywhere
- but this stuff happens first, so do it
right, and THEN go spend the money to promote
what you do.
His company is called Mondo Code because
Mondo is Italian for world, and he develops
services that are worldwide in scope.
Denver media search in Google, a million
results - Mondo times ranks 4 and 5. Dallas,
he comes up number 1 and 2 - he uses this
example to illustrate the effectiveness
of INDEXABLE URLS and URL REDIRECTION. It's
also about content management and the technology,
etc, and putting it together, but these
things sit on top of that, and so they're
very important in his view.
His point is: have a good site with good
content FIRST, use a dynamic system (PHP,
JSP, etc.), don't work without marketing/content
people, and THEN use INDEXABLE URLS and
Q - What else needs to be avoided? Drop
A - if you create a strong hierarchical
service (NOT in Flash), he hasn't found
it to be an issue.
Q - are "html includes" considered dynamic?
A - those work fine because they happen
on the back end, on the server side.
Q - how are mouseovers looked at?
A - it shouldn't be an issue, because it's
not a graphic
Q - if you have pages that you don't want
indexed, do metatags work?
A - it can work, but don't count on it.
Protect it, because there are bots out there.
"This is not an environment of trust!"
Q - to optimize, do number of pages on
your site affect page rank? -- where do
you want the best page?
A - no, it's per page.
A - (Bob) - It's possible. Google
likes content, so a large site with lots
of content could get a better rank.
Second part - depends on what you're talking
Dan - offered discussion of PageRank formula/determinants/calculations
[Dan mentioned a free report on the Net
("PageRank Uncovered") that gives an in-depth
explanation of Google's PageRank algorithm,
for those who want a deeper look into this.
It's a 56-page .pdf file with both an overview
and a deeper, advanced description of the
algorithm. Information at: http://www.supportforums.org/article81.html and it can be downloaded
Q - thoughts on Overture's "guarantees"?
A - he's never had a client ask for a refund.
Comment on Overture - if you share a click
URL all over the place, Overture notices.
Q - are you concerned about the growing
dominance of Google? A - yes, he [Bob] thinks
it's another Microsoft in the making.
A - [Eric] he thinks Google does a great
job - used to be dominant.
Q - how do bots determine content?
A - they look for keywords - titles, and
yes, [Dan comment] a certain amount of complex
proprietary processing - Google thought
to have around 100 variables it takes into
Dan commented further on how IP addresses
can affect your ranking.
Q - what might be the potential liability
of copyright infringement on keywords?
A - He [Les?] owns Sun Microsystems - !
HP wants Hewlett Packard - and it's expensive.
Dan [to Eric] - has Overture ever rejected
you for using a trademark?
A - no.
Q - Are site maps important? A - no, the
engines don't need it. But avoid image maps.
They can't be indexed. Q - but you can put
alt tags on them, right?
A - yes
Trivia question (for Softpro Books gift
certificate http://www.softpro.com) Q - What
did Overture used to be called?
A - GoTo.com
Please note that the January and March
RMIUG meetings will be cancelled due to
NCAR construction and we will resume meetings
in May. RMIUG (http://www.rmiug.org/) appreciates the sponsorship of MicroStaff
(www.microstaff.com) and ONEWARE (http://www.ONEWARE.com).