FTC Guidelines And My New Disclaimer

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I’m sure by now you’ve probably seen that the FTC has set new guidelines for bloggers. I’ve been reading comments on both the pro and con side of the issue. Some folks argue that this is long overdue. Without specific rules people will take payments to promote products and services whether they actually like them of not.

The other side says that this is not needed and is probably weakening the First Amendment to our Constitution. The government has no business infringing on our freedom of speech. Our right to lie, so to speak. Personally I’m on this side a bit more than the other, but I can see good arguments for both sides.

What I’ve decided is that it probably won’t make a bit of difference either way. Bloggers (or anyone else) who are willing to lie about a product or service will soon lose their credibility. It doesn’t matter if there’s payment or not or what they disclose. The biggest problem with rule in my mind is that while the FTC says that you have to disclose the relationship between you and your sponsor, they don’t mention how it must be done. So while many people are writing about how they think it should be done, they’re just guessing. It seems that it can be done in many ways. Here’s mine…

Disclaimer – There may be some people or companies out there crazy enough to pay me money or give me merchandise for my opinion or review of their product and/or service. If they do I’m going to take it.

I’m not a lawyer, but from reading this rule I believe this small blurb or something like it may be actually enough to satisfy the rule. It doesn’t even say that it has to be on the same page as the endorsement.

While my statement may not actually be enough disclosure, the rule is gray enough that you could argue it is. I don’t expect that anyone will actually offer me anything for my public opinion and I would like to  think that I wouldn’t give a positive review to something that I really don’t like, but I did write a post on this topic a couple of years ago called I Probably Can Be Bought.

Some people will continue to ignore this rule and if I were a big enough celebrity that was worth more than the $11,000 fine I might consider risking it. In addition if by some fluke I was caught and publicly fined, the resulting publicity would probably be worth much more than that anyway, so the company might even cover it.

Read more on this topic on Search Engine Watch Site

FTC Sets New Guidelines for Blogger Endorsements and Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Great Tips For Local Search

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The search engines in an attempt to make sure your search results are relevant to what you were actually asking for are getting more and more local. If you search for “pizza” for example you not only get a list of the national chains, you also get a list of the shops that are near you. Yes, they know where you are and they know that someone here in Pittsburgh probably won’t be interested in a pizza shop in California.

So the search engines know where the searcher is, but do you know if they know where your pizza shop is? There’s a great post on the SearchInsider site by Todd Friesen that can help you with this. I got some really good information from reading it and visiting the links. See for yourself.

Read Location, Location, Location

Offer Something Of Value To Your Visitors

Filed under: Favorite Sites,promotion,web design — Tags:

I saw a great post by Eric Brown on the Search Engine Guide site where he reports on an apartment rental company in Michigan who’s blog has nothing to do with apartment rentals and are still top of the search engines.

They offer virtual sightseeing tours, restaurant tips and reviews, and other good information about the community. Without ever directly plugging their main business from their blog their website business has more than doubled. A very good lesson for anyone interested in writing or improving a business blog.

If your blog screams that you can “Make You A Million Dollars”, but offers no other value for free, your visitors will not take you seriously. However, if you offer them something of value without any strings attached they will take the time to find out what else you can offer them, even if it’s not free. In fact, they will look expecting to have to pay for it. You’ve already proven that your experience can be valuable to them.

As a designer I think that the Urbane Life Blog is very hard to read, with blue text on a black background, but they have done everything else right. It’s just my opinion and who knows the blue on black may even help them.

Read Focus on Your Core Community

New Free Keyword Reasearch Tool

When first starting or adding to a website one of the first things that you want to do is to decide on which keywords to target. These words should be action words to get your visitors to do whatever it is that you want them to do when they land on one of your pages.

Usually a new client will ask me which keywords should I pick and how do I use them? I usually first explain that keywords can be and usually are more than one word. How it can be very hard to get to the top of a search results page for a one or two word keyword that is very competitive (like “web design”). It can be much easier to get to the top spot for a more narrow keyword (“web design Pittsburgh”, “web designer western PA” or “WordPress expert Pittsburgh”), but because the action inferred from that keyword is more specific to what you do, the  traffic from a search term like that may also convert to sales better if you pick the right one.

Another great advantage in more targeted keywords is if you are buying keyword ads you can save quite a bit of money not getting clicks that aren’t really interested in what you have to offer.

It’s always best to have one unique page per keyword and to use your keyword once in the main headline, maybe once more in the sub-headline and a couple of times in the body text. It’s a good idea to read the page out loud before it’s published to see if it sounds spammy. If you have overused your keyword it may be considered spam by the search engines or worse by your human visitors.

To help my clients pick good keywords I have been sending them to a older post where I suggested some free keyword research tools (two of the three still work). I’m writing this post today because I found a new free keyword tool from WordStream and I thinks it works really well so I’m now recommending it to everyone.

Try Out The Free Keyword Tool from WordStream

Inbound Links Are The Best Way To Help Your Search Rankings

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Whenever I’m at a networking or social event where someone asks about my business, there is always someone who wants to know what they can do for their site to be number one on the search results page for whatever it is that they are selling or promoting.

My first answer is usually the same one. “You need quality one-way links from high ranking sites that point to your information.”

I then wait for their surprise and follow up, “You mean there’s no secret formula that you can use on my site to (magically) do it?”

I try to explain, “Of course, you need to have the search engines be able to find and index your pages, but then it’s mostly about having good inbound links.”

Sometimes I get a blank stare, sometimes just disbelief, but usually I get The Magic Question. “Why would a high ranking site want to link to mine?”

I usually answer, “That’s exactly what every site owner needs to ask themself. I also believe the best way to get links is to first have content on your site that’s worth linking to.”

I also try to offer more help and send them to this blog where I have written many times about how to promote your site with the search engines. I also read a post recently by Mike Grehan on the ClickZ site that can help.

Read Why Linking Is so Important for Ranking

Simple Can Be Good

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It never ceases to amaze me how many people want the latest and greatest technology, regardless if they have any idea how to use it or what it can actually do for them.

It’s also very true with websites. I can’t tell you how many sites that I’ve built with programs for things that were hardly ever used, if at all. There’s also no telling how many visitors that the latest bell or whistle confused and chased away.

As a website designer I work for the site owner and so first I give my opinion of the value for any addition to their site. I’ll hope that they’ve thought long and hard about if they really need the very latest “must have” gadget. Hopefully they will have taken some time to decide if it will actually help their site’s goals before they add it. After that, I’ll do what they want.

There are many other designers who will just say to their customers “sure thing, that’s a great idea” and close their eyes and see their bill going up.

Here’s another good post on the subject from Joshua Palau on the Search Engine Watch called…

A Modest Proposal: Technology in Search

How To Get Unexpected Customers

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A little while ago I noticed on Twitter a post by a local SEO company that was trying to get Pittsburgh to #1 on Google for the term “best city in the world”. I realized that this was more about them than Pittsburgh, but I was a hometown boy who likes his city and thought I might add a link and help them out. Some also said that they should have picked a more appropriate search term, but I thought it was fine.

I checked back occasionally and this past Saturday the City of Pittsburgh website was on the 12th page. That’s pretty good considering they were not anywhere a week or so ago. Visit Pittsburgh was on the foruth page and the thing that really caught my eye was my blog post was on the first page!

Today the City site is on the first page of Google (#2, congrats Eyeflow) a respectable fourth page on Yahoo and still not anywhere on Bing. My post is still right up there, too and it got me thinking. I just wrote a quick blurb to try to help my city out, not even thinking about what it would do for my site. I’ve had quite a few visitors come through for that term.

I know that the search term “best city in the world” is probably not going to bring me any new business, I would much rather be found for “best web designer” or even “best web designer Pittsburgh”, but who knows?. The point here is that the best way to promote yourself in the search engines is to constantly add new content to your site. Some will say (rightfully so) that you need good outside links pointing to your site, but the best way to get those is to give them something that they want to link to.

Write about your business, tell anecdotes about your customers, give advice and make sure that if you are sending a newsletter that they all are available as a page on your site. This is called the long tail of search, having your site found for things other than your primary keywords. Especially with a new site you will be much more likely to find yourself at the top of a less popular search term, but perhaps one of these terms can land you a great customer!

Read The Newspaper Article

Good Tips For New Webmasters

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I was reading a blog called Internet Marketing for the Newbie and one of their posts called Website Marketing For New Webmasters

They offered some pretty good advice for any webmaster, not just the new ones. One of my favorite tips was that you should write your site thinking about what your human visitors are interested in, not the search engines. That is so true, as I’ve written before What Good Are 1,000,000 Visitors If They Don’t Like Your Content?

I do recommend that you have a look at this post and feel free to post you comments here.

Read Website Marketing For New Webmasters

WordPress Is Nofollow By Default

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I was tweaking my WordPress theme a bit today. Whenever I look at my blog and see something that I don’t like or think could look better I change the stylesheet for the custom theme that I made.

While I was working on that today I noticed the links from the commenters on my blog are now “nofollow”. If you don’t know what that is, the nofollow tag was invented by the search engines as a way to tell them not to follow or pass along any authority to that link. I believe their goal was to establish a way to keep popular sites from selling their links to “less worthy” sites. “Add this tag or we’ll punish your site if you profit by selling our page rank.”

In this case I think that the folks at WordPress are trying to combat comment spam. Their thinking may be that by not letting spammers get the “link juice” from their comments they will realize that it’s not helping and will stop. I think this is a bad idea because first, it won’t work and second, the site’s legitimate commenters won’t get any benefit either. I do already have comment spam protection and even though I’m not sure when the WP nofollow started, I haven’t seen the comment spam go down any.

When you ask visitors to comment, you are asking them to share their thoughts on your site. They are giving you valuable content, not just for your human visitors, but the search engines as well. One of the ways that I have preached about getting links to your site is go to other blogs and add relevant comments. What you get back in exchange for your content is a link to your site. A way to get visitors who click your link and also to get a “vote” for your site in the eyes of the search engines. With nofollow that vote is no longer there.

I want to give back something to my commenters so I have removed the nofollow from the links of my legitimate commenters and will continue to filter the spammers. Bad move WordPress! You should at least give us a way to turn this “feature” off.

If you would like to remove the nofollow attribute from the commenters on your WordPress blog it’s pretty easy. You need to find the comment-template.php file which is located in the wp-includes folder of your blog.

First make sure that you have a good backup of the comment-template.php (I know you have that already)

Open the comment-template.php file and look for
$return = “<a href=’$url’ rel=’external nofollow’ class=’url’>$author</a>”;
on line 148

Normally I don’t recommend modifying any WordPress PHP files, but this one is pretty straight forward. Just remove
rel=’external nofollow’
from that statement and make sure you use the WordPress editor or a text editor. Not Word or Wordpad as they will add their own code and may ruin the file. The only other problem that I see is that I (you) will have to do it again after any new WP updates.

Update 8-20-2009 – I had listed some WordPress plugins here that remove nofollow, but with the last WP update they no longer work, so I removed them. Let me know if you find one that still works.

Getting Inbound Links

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Making your site have more value with search engines has always included inbound links. These links from other sites to your pages have always been considered a “vote” for the value of your page. Why would some site owner link to your page(s) and risk sending a visitor from their site to yours unless they thought it would offer their visitor some benefit which would end up benefiting them as well?

Don’t get me wrong, having pages and navigation on your site that search engines can read, follow and index accurately is important and necessary, but having other sites “vote” for your content is becoming the main factor in getting your site to the top or the search results.

In the old days, before SEO was called SEO, you could have a page with a list of links to other sites and those would give value to the sites that were being linked to. Search engines learned that these “link farms” were of little or no value to their searchers and devalued them completely. Site owners then learned that if they linked to only a few sites per page that search engines still considered these links to have value and proceeded to sell and trade links with other site owners.

Well, the rules have changed again as they always do. Now reciprocal links carry very little, if any, weight even if both sites have value for the searcher. So what you want to get now days are one way links from important sites to “vote” for you.

How do you do that?

There are new schemes that have three, four, or more sites do reciprocal links in circles, but search engines are going to catch on to that as well and you’ll have to start over again. My advice today is the same as it’s always been. Write good content on your site that’s valuable for your human visitors and then other sites will want to link to you. That way you won’t have to worry about what changes are made by the search engines this week, or probably next.

With billions of web pages out there how do other sites find you to link to?
There are many ways to get started and here’s a post on Elites TV with some good ideas that I agree with.

Read 3 Ways To Quickly Build A Link Campaign

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