Sunday, January 04, 2009

Blogging for Greenbacks (Part 3): Google Adsense, "SEO" techniques, and other sure fire methods of getting traffic

Here is an entry in the Google Adsense support site that describes what it is all about:

Google AdSense is a fast and easy way for website publishers of all sizes to display relevant, unobtrusive Google ads on their website's content pages and earn money. Because the ads are related to what your users are looking for on your site, you'll finally have a way to both monetize and enhance your content pages.

It's also a way for web site publishers to provide Google search to their site users, and to earn money by displaying Google ads on the search results pages.

The program is free, and combines pay-per-click and pay-per-impression advertising - meaning you get paid for valid clicks on the ads on your site or search results pages as well as impressions on your content pages. So go ahead and try this program.

The mechanics of earning money through blogging with the use of Google Adsense seemed simple enough to me.

1. Put up a Blog using blogger and fill it in with a couple of posts.

2. Register it with Google Adsense.

3. Paste Google Adsense codes in areas of your blog that will most likely get it some attention.

4. Wait for the money to come rolling in.

What I didn't realize then was that between steps 3 and 4 was a virtual chasm.

Money doesn't automatically come rushing in after you put up the Google Ads. It isn't like putting up a billboard and renting it out to advertisers, selling space on a printed page or selling time on radio and TV broadcasts.

You only get paid if the advertising on your page is seen, if the advertising gets clicked by your visitor or worse, only if the advertising gets the visitor to buy what is being advertised.

Being the stunted garden variety internet dolt that I was, I figured out that in order to get my advertising clicked, people other than myself had to visit my blog first.

Duh-oing! Ding! Ding! Ding!

Without knowing much about how to get people to visit my blog, I first pursued the objective of getting visitors by telling friends about my blog for about a month.

Telling them about blogging for money was an ordeal in itself because at that point, all they knew about the internet was limited mostly to the e-mail sites that they used.

When I first mentioned the word blog, they thought I was referring to parts of my nether regions. And I bet you can guess what they thought when I said I was monetizing my blog.

After explaining what a blog was and what monetizing it meant, friends became more curious and started asking, "Who'd want to read your stuff and why would Google pay to advertise on the stuff you wrote on the internet?"

The most disappointing response I got was, "So, is this like the networking business you told me about last month?"

In any case, the idea of promoting my blog door to door and through word of mouth sucked egg big time. It hardly got me more than a dozen visits in two months.

So I searched for better ways of getting people to visit my blog and found oodles upon oodles of websites that gave free advise on how to promote websites and get visitors. A lot of sites have claims that were too good to believe but there were a number that had good and free advise.

The first advise that I implemented was to register my blog's URL with search engines like Google, Yahoo, AOL, and MSN. This didn't take much figuring out because all I had to do was to fill out and submit an online form.

The almost immediate and awesome effect this had was that I now could find my website using these search engines. The effect this had on the number of visits to my website was a remarkable and outstanding ZIP.

So I searched for other better ways and that was when I stumbled upon Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

Wikipedia describes what SEO is all about:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via "natural" ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search results, or the higher it "ranks," the more searchers will visit that site. SEO can also target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a website primarily involves editing its content and HTML coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.

Originally devised as a way to make websites turn up at the top most part of the results page of search engines and thereby get traffic, some websites claim to have adopted effective SEO to drive up traffic for blogs.

Some sites give free advice on how to SEO your blog but also claim that for a fee, they'll ensure that your blog gets higher traffic and either more clicks on your Google Ads or higher paying Google Ads plus clicks on those ads. These are the ones that give SEO a rather dubious reputation as they are most likely pseudo SEOs.

One trick that I got for free was that of tinkering my blog's meta-tags and like a freak, I implemented what I thought to be a pretty great trick.

Lo and behold! Tada! My ranking on Google and Yahoo didn't improve one bit as I was still on the Next Page and I had set up my preferences to display search results for100. Moreover, the number of visits I was getting went south, from 6 a month to about 2 a month.

Apparently, the use of meta-tags to manipulate page rankings had already been rendered futile as search engines began adopting techniques to ensure that searches produced relevant results. Wikipedia says:

Early versions of search algorithms relied on webmaster-provided information such as the keyword meta tag, or index files in engines like ALIWEB.

Meta tags provided a guide to each page's content.

But using meta data to index pages was found to be less than reliable because the webmaster's account of keywords in the meta tag were not truly relevant to the site's actual keywords.

Inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent data in meta tags caused pages to rank for irrelevant searches. Web content providers also manipulated a number of attributes within the HTML source of a page in an attempt to rank well in search engines.

By relying so much on factors exclusively within a webmaster's control, early search engines suffered from abuse and ranking manipulation.

To provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their results pages showed the most relevant search results, rather than unrelated pages stuffed with numerous keywords by unscrupulous webmasters.

Since the success and popularity of a search engine is determined by its ability to produce the most relevant results to any given search allowing those results to be false would turn users to find other search sources.

Search engines responded by developing more complex ranking algorithms, taking into account additional factors that were more difficult for webmasters to manipulate.
Moreover, Wikipedia warns that:
By 2007, search engines had incorporated a wide range of undisclosed factors in their ranking algorithms to reduce the impact of link manipulation. Google says it ranks sites using more than 200 different signals. The three leading search engines, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's Live Search, do not disclose the algorithms they use to rank pages.
I am not saying that SEO for blogs cannot be done. There are pretty reputable website developers out there and SEO is one of their services. However, it takes a lot of expertise to figure out how search engines collect and organize information on websites.

This expertise is something that people have to pay for and so, freebie SEO advice is more often than not just a come-on or worse, it may actually be set up to steal traffic from your blog.

If the advise you stumble upon promises almost magical results immediately, you ought to doubt it.

The thing to resorting to trickery or webfoolery is that it sooner or later, it will get found out. The consequences are catastrophic as your blog or website can be banned from search engines.

The Wiki lists various forms of webfoolery:
Keyword stuffing

This involves the calculated placement of keywords within a page to raise the keyword count, variety, and density of the page. This is useful to make a page appear to be relevant for a web crawler in a way that makes it more likely to be found.

Example: A promoter of a Ponzi scheme wants to attract web surfers to a site where he advertises his scam. He places hidden text appropriate for a fan page of a popular music group on his page, hoping that the page will be listed as a fan site and receive many visits from music lovers.

Older versions of indexing programs simply counted how often a keyword appeared, and used that to determine relevance levels. Most modern search engines have the ability to analyze a page for keyword stuffing and determine whether the frequency is consistent with other sites created specifically to attract search engine traffic.

Also, large webpages are truncated, so that massive dictionary lists cannot be indexed on a single webpage.

Hidden or invisible unrelated text

Disguising keywords and phrases by making them the same color as the background, using a tiny font size, or hiding them within HTML code such as "no frame" sections, ALT attributes, zero-width/height DIVs, and "no script" sections. However, hidden text is not always spamdexing: it can also be used to enhance accessibility. People screening websites for a search-engine company might temporarily or permanently block an entire website for having invisible text on some webpages.

Meta tag stuffing

Repeating keywords in the Meta tags, and using meta keywords that are unrelated to the site's content. This tactic has been ineffective since 2005.

"Gateway" or doorway pages

Creating low-quality web pages that contain very little content but are instead stuffed with very similar keywords and phrases. They are designed to rank highly within the search results, but serve no purpose to visitors looking for information. A doorway page will generally have "click here to enter" on the page.

Scraper sites

Scraper sites, also known as Made for AdSense sites, are created using various programs designed to 'scrape' search-engine results pages or other sources of content and create 'content' for a website.[7] The specific presentation of content on these sites is unique, but is merely an amalgamation of content taken from other sources, often without permission. These types of websites are generally full of advertising (such as pay-per-click ads[7]), or redirect the user to other sites. It is even feasible for scraper sites to outrank original websites for their own information and organization names.
(Next up: The real deal to generating web traffic for your blog)

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