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SEO Contests - Lessons Learned

The number one lesson learned in the v7n contest is Google Bowling appears to be a fact not a myth.  Google bowling occurs when competitors set up external links to knock out a competitor in the SERPs. Too many links too fast can result in a site disappearing in the SERPs.  This appears to be a Google strategy to discourage the selling of links.

Google changed the wording on its site to say there is almost nothing anyone can do to affect your SERPs.  The keyword is almost.  I am not at all an advocate of Google bowling.  If you have the link power to knock someone out of the SERPs you have the power to rank above your competitor using purely white hat techniques. 

The fact that Google Bowling appears to exist signals a warning to webmasters.  Not only can you Google Bowl a competitor, you can Google bowl yourself.

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A Branding Tip

You often read about the importance of branding along with the usual methods of branding and marketing your site. Having a simple logo that translates well as a desk top icon and favicon is one excellent idea.

Recently I was confronted by a request to delineate different types of data in a table using high contrast colors.  No amount of work produced anything suitable for the site. No matter what I tried it looked like a clown had designed the table.  Finally I thought what better way of making use of the delineation than using the favicon.  It was small and proved to be an ideal symbol. 

The table below shows the favicons use to mark the defending champion for an Internet chess league.

Young&Old A Team 2:2 sumthink
  f5 2381 White 1:2   Arshanay 0 Black
  Burning-Bush 0 Black 0:1   gracey 2077 White
  iwulu 0 White 1:0   matman 0 Black
  Gregorio 2082 Black 1:2   syy89 0 White

It is all these "little something extras that help make a web memorable and bring viewers back

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Do it Right the First Time

Many of us have quickly thrown together a few pages for a small web and not taken the time to do it right the first time.  What starts out as a small site nearly always grows into a big headache if one does not plan for growth.  From a one page site to a large site it pays to design site with the thoughts of maintenance in mind.

No sooner than my neighbor and I finished a 167 page site, the owner of site decided she wanted to change the phone number used online.  Since all of the pages had been coded with no plans for changing the banner we had to open each page, delete existing phone number, replace with new number and upload the web again.  Within 6 months the area code changed in our area and all banners had to be redone again.  By this time I had learned about CSI (Client Side Includes) and SSI (Server Side Includes) hence I used client side includes so in future any time banner was to be changed I could change one document and upload the web.  Now I would not think about designing a web without using the include file option for items such as banners, footers, menus etc.

Before deciding to use a SSI strategy make sure your host will allow server side includes.  Since server side includes can be resource guzzlers, some hosts do not allow their use.

Another good strategy is to use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to help reduce the bloat of your HTML code.  Initially it will take a little longer but pay off in the long run.  This year I was given Word generated HTML. I saw red when I saw two lines of code that could be shortened to <p>&nbsp;</p>.  By moving the formatting code into a style statement, I was able to cut load time to 1/3 the original load time.

No matter how well we plan and design, due to the rapid advance of technology pages we design today can be obsolete before the site is completed.

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Good Design vs Good SEO

The dilemma of balancing good web design with good SEO is a task each webmaster faces.  What is good for one is not necessarily good for the other.

Without search engines our webs would truly be lost in the abyss of cyberspace.  To make our pages readily available online we must design a page that is well indexed by the search engine.  This is where things grow more complex.  Over the years we have seen pages become more cluttered.  Banner ads, text ads, and more and more tiny text grace pages. Finding the meat on the bones becomes harder and harder.  It is almost as if  web designers / search engine optimizers take a shotgun approach to web optimization and fire a volley of words in every direction in hopes that some combination will please the  search engine Gods.  Search engines like content to index.  Users prefer good navigation to lead them directly to the information they are seeking. 

By carefully designing a page you can make a page both user friendly as well as a page that is well indexed.

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