Thursday, November 01, 2007

You can now tell Google what country/region your site targets

Just caught this on Sphinn this morning. According to ex-Googler Vanessa Fox, Google has introduced a way for webmasters to inform them what country their site should be associated with. This is an important feature and can influence the way Google ranks your site.

To use this tool, simply login to your Webmaster Tools account and follow the instructions in Vanessa's post.

This is a great addition to Webmaster Tools and should solve a LOT of the webmaster questions I've been getting on this blog about regional domain issues and how to tell Google about a site's geographic market.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Q and A: Is it necessary to renew your domain name?

Dear Kalena...

I just got a letter from the Domain Registry of America asking me to renew my domain name. Must one renew one's domain name at all? If so, does one do it with theses guys? I am very noobish in this respect, but I would not want to lose my domain name. I just need to know what to do to maintain my domain name. Any help appreciated.

Thank you for the information thus far.

Rudy


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Rudy

If you want to keep using your domain name, then yes, you will need to renew it. Best option is to renew it via the registrar that you bought it from. Do you still have the information sent to you when you bought the domain? Your domain confirmation email should have included login details for your registrar. Do you remember how many years you bought the domain for? Most registrars will send you a renewal notice automatically to remind you when your domain name is coming up for renewal. For this reason, you should keep the email address associated with your domain up to date.

From what I understand, Domain Registry of America (DROA) obtain access to domain renewal dates from public WhoIs lookups and send unsolicited "renewal notices" to domain owners inviting them to transfer and renew their domains with DROA instead of the owner's original domain registrar. This is likely what you have received from them. You are welcome to transfer your domain to DROA, but you will more than likely pay more this way than renewing it with your existing registrar. Read the (very) fine print on the back of the DROA letter carefully before you renew. You might also want to read my other posts about DROA.

If you no longer wish to receive letters from domain registrars you have no existing relationship with, your best bet is to pay the small fee to keep your WhoIs details private. Your existing registrar can advise you on this.


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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Deal Dot Dummies?

I just popped my head in to Deal Dot Com to check out the latest product and couldn't believe my eyes. Check out the screen grab. Yes, you read correctly, the site is "Down for Maintenance Until Tomorrow".

Huh? I don't get it. What if Googlebot and other search bots come calling and find no content and no links? What about new site visitors? Have they even heard of the word USABILITY? Have you ever known a company to simply wipe all content from their site while they whip up a new one? Maybe it's just me, but that seems totally ridiculous. The last time I saw such stupidity was when a client of mine decided to switch off her (carefully optimized) site for a 2 week Christmas vacation. Ouch. Bye bye rankings!

If our sites fall over for even a few minutes due to unscheduled hosting outages, I am the proverbial monkey on the back of my hosting company for the entire time, pushing for them to get the sites live again. I just can't believe an online business find the need to close up shop for back-end maintenance. Deal Dot Dumb?

29 Oct 07 *UPDATE*

Ok now they've changed their white "site down" page to a more colorful "site down" page with a cute cartoon character. Oh and they've also added their email address. Yep, that will fix the problem.... NOT!


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Monday, October 15, 2007

Q and A: Why isn't our site coming up on Google for "pages from Australia"?

Dear Kalena...

We have an Australian website and until now, we have been hosted in the US. Two days ago, we moved to an Australian server, but our site is not coming up on the Australian sites yet (even if you do a Google search for Cairns Unlimited). However, we have other domain names redirected to specific pages within our site, and these come up when you search for sites from Australia. The main reason we moved to an Australian web server was to ensure that our site comes up on Google search results even if readers search for sites only from Australia. Any idea what the problem is?

Thanks for your help
Maria

Kalena's Answer:

Dear Maria

You don't say, but I'm assuming you mean your site doesn't come up when searching on Google.com.au and restricting the search to "pages from Australia"?

I've checked and here's the score:

1) Conducting a search for "Cairns Unlimited" using Google.com brings up your site in first place.

2) Conducting a search for "Cairns Unlimited" using Google.com.au selecting results from "the web" brings up your site in first place.

3) Conducting a search for "Cairns Unlimited" using Google.com.au selecting "pages from Australia" doesn't bring up your site in the first 50 matches, but it does bring up links to your site from other sites.

There could be a couple of things influencing this:

a) It's only been a few days since you made the hosting switch. The DNS entries may not have propagated across the net yet or Googlebot may not have picked up the switch yet. Google datacenters may still be storing cached versions of your pages from your old server. You should give it some more time.

b) Your site has a Google Toolbar PageRank of zero, meaning it hasn't built up enough trust-rank yet to be shown for related search queries on Google, unless you search for very specific terms such as your brand. Things might change when your PageRank improves.

c) You may have switched your hosting company from one based in the US to one based in Australia, but are you SURE the server they use to host your site isn't based in the US? We also use an Australian host but they outsource their server rackspace to a larger company in the US.

d) Even if your site is now hosted in Australia, the domain you are promoting is still a dot com domain. Google takes several things into account when determining a site's origin with server location being only one factor. It is unlikely you'll be able to outrank any sites with AU domain extensions in the regional results with a dot com domain.

e) A site with an Australian domain extension always has a better chance of being included in the regionally-specific search results and out-ranking dot com domains. I see that you also own the .com.au version of your domain but Google isn't caching it as they have determined your dot com domain to be your *correct* one. Have you thought about setting your preferred domain to the .com.au version and parking your dot com domain to that one? Or using 301s to point pages on the dot com to the .com.au? You could then update your Sitemap in your Google Webmaster Tools account to reflect pages on the .com.au domain.

Keep in mind that doing this may improve your site's results in the regional search results, but it may have the opposite effect on your site's performance in Google.com.au "web results" and the wider search results shown on Google.com. You really should decide whether the Australian market is more important to you before you make this switch. You should also keep in mind that many Australian searchers still use Google.com or Google.com.au without selecting "pages from Australia".


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Friday, August 31, 2007

Domain Registry of America Don't Like My Google Rank For Their Name

Domain Registry of America are not happy with me. But the feeling's mutual. They emailed me earlier this year when they discovered that one or two of my blog posts were ranking in Google's top 10 SERPs for their name:

"It has been brought to our attention that you published or caused to be published an internet bulletin containing words that are false, misleading and defamatory to our firm. Your publication has caused and continues to cause Domain Registry of America irreparable damages and we intend to hold you responsible for these damages both past and present. You are hereby notified that we demand these false, misleading and defamatory statements mentioned above that you have published or have caused to be published be removed by no later than 15 days of your receipt of this notice.

If we do not receive written notification that these publications have been removed by the above deadline we will without further warning, advise our lawyers to commence a lawsuit in an Ontario court for damages and a permanent and interlocutory injunction restraining you, your employees, agents and representatives from making and publishing such publications."

Um hello? Ever heard of Freedom of Speech? Before you sue me, you might want to read the thousand other bloggers bitching about you on the net. Most are much more vicious than me.

My hate/hate relationship with Domain Registry of America goes way back to when they first sent me a junk "domain name expiration notice" in 2003 for a domain I didn't even own. I binned it. Then in 2004, I got another letter regarding a domain I DID own. In my opinion, the letter was very misleading and I remember thinking that if I was unfamiliar with my domain registration details, that I may have fallen for their tactics and renewed it through them by mistake, instead of my existing registrar. I wondered how many others had done just that.

I conducted some research on DROA and learned some interesting facts:

1) In December 2003, the Federal Trade Commission found that Domain Registry of America violated the FTC Act by misleading consumers in the marketing of Internet domain name services.

2) The same month, the FTC requested that a Federal district court issue an order requiring the Domain Registry of America pay redress to 50,000 consumers.

3) Despite being prohibited by the FTC from engaging in similar conduct, it appears to be business as usual at Domain Registry of America.

4) DROA allegedly operate under various names, including The Domain Registry of America, Domain Registry of Europe and EU Registry Services.

5) DROA apparently have offices worldwide, with letters received from DROA addresses in the UK, Europe, Australia and the US.

6) A lot of registrars have issued warning messages about Domain Registry of America letters on their web sites.

7) There are a lot of consumers who believe they have been duped by DROA into renewing their domains and they are complaining online.

Now I was willing to leave Domain Registry of America well enough alone, despite their threatening email, but today I received in the post YET ANOTHER of their annoying expiration notices for one of my domains. I could wallpaper my office with these things!

Today's letter has the same potentially misleading wording that I've complained about before, but I have to concede that at least it makes it clearer than it used to that the domain transfer is optional. This one still has the world's smallest small print on the back. I honestly had to borrow my son's magnifying glass to read it. Turns out it's DROA's Registration Agreement. Here are some classic extracts:

"FAILED TRANSFER POLICY: Payments received by DROA for transfers/ renewals are done on our best effort basis. While DROA guarantees it will issue the transfer/renewal request from the existing registrar of the domain name, DROA cannot guarantee that the existing registrar will consent to the transfer/renewal."

Of course they can't. Any registrar worth their salt will likely be suspicious of a DROA transfer application and contact the domain owner directly.

"FEES: As consideration for the Service(s), renewal of the Service(s), and, if you select it, automatic renewal of the Service(s), you agree to pay, prior to the effectiveness of the desired Service(s), the applicable Service(s) fees. All fees are non-refundable, in whole or in part, even if your domain name registration is suspended, cancelled or transferred prior to the end of your then current registration term, unless this Agreement specifically provides for a refund. At our option, we may require that you pay fees through a particular payment means (such as by credit card or by wire transfer) or that you change from one payment provider to another."

So you pay up front for a service you may not ever receive? What a bargain!

"CREDIT CARD AND OTHER CHARGES: In the event of a charge back by a credit card company (or similar action by another payment provider allowed by us) in connection with your payment of fees for any Service(s), you agree that we may suspend access to any and all accounts you have with us and that all rights to and interest in and use of any domain registration(s) services, website hosting, and/or email services, including all data hosted on our systems shall be assumed by us, as the case may be. We will reinstate your rights to and control over these Services solely at our discretion, and subject to our receipt of the unpaid fee(s) and our then-current reinstatement fee, currently set at $200 US Dollars."

Right. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding of this one is that if you dare to cancel your order, DROA can take possession of your entire domain and it's content until you pay them a ransom of $200. Charming.

But my personal favorite is this one:

"IF LAWSUIT(S) ARE THREATENED: If we are sued or threatened with lawsuits in connection with Service(s) provided to you, we may turn to you to indemnify us and to hold us harmless from the claims and expenses (including attorney's fees and court costs). Under such circumstances, you agree that you will, upon demand, obtain a performance bond with a reputable bonding company or, if you are unable to obtain a performance bond, that you will deposit money with us to pay for our reasonably anticipated expenses in relation to the matter for the coming year."

So if you want to sue them, you have to cover their legal costs? A year in advance? You've got to be kidding me. I was going to bin the letter but I've decided to frame it and hang it in my office. I'll read it on days when I need a good laugh.

If Domain Registry of America really want me to stop blogging about them and beating them in the SERPS, they should stop sending me junk mail.


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Thursday, August 23, 2007

When good domains are hijacked by bad people

One of my web sites was hijacked this week. No I don't mean the home page was simply hacked by a 12 year old posting porn. The domain itself was stolen by some aggressive hosting company who was using it to redirect traffic to their Google AdSense ads.

Luckily, the PR5 domain in question was an old one of mine: High Search Engine Ranking. If you view the Google cache for that page, you can still see the hacker's site. So how did this happen? I'm still not entirely sure, but I can narrow it down to a few possibilities:

1) A trojan virus made it's way past my firewall and anti-virus software onto my PC and grabbed my (encrypted!) registrar login details.

2) The server of my registrar, a reseller for TUCOWS, was hacked and my login data stolen.

3) The TUCOWS server was hacked and the domain registrant and login details were stolen.

4) Somebody posed as me and was able to use my personal details to gain access from the registrar to the domain control panel - a case of identity theft.

5) Somebody used brute force password hacking software to crack my login password.

I'm fairly sure it was 4) or 5) but who knows? Sadly, my registrar didn't have a clue. Of course I made it easier for the domain hijacker by leaving my domain account unlocked. A tough lesson. Make sure you always keep your domain locked in the registrar system and don't forget to lock it again if you ever need to unlock it and change your DNS details.

Regardless, I was able to reverse the damage by changing my DNS details back to what they were and changing my login password. It didn't take long for the change to propagate back to my real site but I'm yet to see if any damage has been done to my Google rankings. Make sure you learn from my mistake and go lock up those domains!


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Monday, August 20, 2007

Q and A: Why are domains I don't own displaying my site content?

Dear Kalena...

My domain is normaschutt.com and I have had a static IP address assigned to it by GoDaddy.com since Christmas for SSL cert purposes. It works great. However, when you search for 'norma schutt photography' on Google, in addition to my legitimate listings and references, you come up with a couple of URLs (www.247-bingo.com and www.webuyazre.com) that is really pointing to my website and my content.

An NSLOOKUP on www.normaschutt.com, www.247-bingo.com, and www.webuyazre.com returns the same IP address for all 3. I do not own either of these other domains. I've called GoDaddy and they say my site is the only one with that IP and that it's not their problem and haven't been able to help. I first noticed this 2-3 months ago which is long enough for the search engines to update these listings, I would think.

What is causing this and what can I do?

Norma


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Norma

Oh dear! I've heard of situations like yours, but never actually seen one in action before. What you've got there is an IP/Name Server tangle. Here's what's happening:

1) All 3 domains were registered at www.godaddy.com

2) Normaschutt.com and webuyazre.com are sitting on the same IP address. Normaschutt.com has the following nameservers:

NS3.SECURESERVER.NET
NS4.SECURESERVER.NET

Webuyazre.com has these nameservers:

NS1.SECURESERVER.NET
NS2.SECURESERVER.NET

Essentially, both domains are sitting on the same server, on a shared IP address, with your domain treated as the primary domain from which to draw content.

3) 247-bingo.com has these nameservers:

PARK9.SECURESERVER.NET
PARK10.SECURESERVER.NET

meaning it is parked to another domain name on the same server, in this case yours. According to a Whois Lookup, this domain is actually owned by GoDaddy and for sale by GoDaddy so it IS their problem and you should give them grief until they fix it.

4) Google is treating 247-bingo.com as a stand-alone site and is caching it accordingly. The content is from your site and may already be treated as dupe content because that domain has a PageRank of zero. This doesn't appear to be hurting your site, but why risk it? Get GoDaddy to fix this ASAP.

5) Google is ignoring webuyazre.com in that the cache for that domain is actually from your domain. So Google already understand that webuyazre.com is on the same IP and is not the *real* domain and is indexing normaschutt.com instead. So don't worry too much about this one.

6) I'm not sure what GoDaddy's version of a static IP is, but I can assure you that they have not provided you with a dedicated IP address. If they had done that, you wouldn't be seeing any of these problems. You need to call them and ask to speak to a supervisor or someone who can sort out this mess for you.

If you are really concerned about webuyazre.com showing your site content, do a WhoIs Lookup on GoDaddy.com and contact the domain registrant. His details are listed as I checked. He may not even be aware that his domain is showing your site! If he's concerned, he'll also contact GoDaddy and insist on them sorting out the IP issue.


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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Q and A: What can I do to improve the rank of my regional domain on Google.com?

Dear Kalena...

My question is on regional google sites. I have a .com.au and rank well on google.com.au when selecting 'search web' and 'search australian sites' but my rank on google.com is very bad. I would have assumed that the results for google.com and google.com.au 'search the web' would have been the same? What can I do to improve my google.com rank, perhaps I could register a .com and point it to my .com.au? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated, thanks for offering this service by the way :)

Tim


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Tim

First up, never assume anything with Google. Secondly, search engines use a few different methods to determine a site's country of origin. Here are just two:

1) IP address the site resides on (physical location of host servers)
2) Domain extension

The physical location of the server that stores your site can have an impact on how search engines treat your site. Even if your site is hosted by an Australian firm, if they use server space located in another country, that is usually the country search engines will associate with your site. Check with your host about server location if this is an issue for you.

Now about your specific example - think about who uses Google.com.au - the primary users are from Australia, correct? So why would Google show the same results to Australian users that they would show to users of Google.com? They (correctly) assume that Australians want to see results that are relevant to them. So Google naturally gives preference to sites with a .com.au domain extension or sites that are hosted in Australia for both regional searches and "search the web" searches on Google.com.au.

Not only that, but Google uses IP detection to determine a searcher's geographical location and present results they determine relevant for persons in that location. How else do you think they decide what AdWords ads to show to different searchers? Advertisers request their ads to be shown to specific regions, countries or towns, so Google have a highly sophisticated algorithm to make sure this happens automatically.

If it is really vital that your site be shown more prominently on Google.com, I would suggest moving your site to a .com domain, on a server located in the US. You could then 301 redirect your .com.au domain to the .com. Pointing a .com to a .com.au won't do anything because you are still instructing bots that the .com.au site is your primary domain. I would really only consider switching domains if your major market is the US, the Australian market is relatively unimportant to you and you are happy to lose visibility in Google.com.au, which is what would inevitably happen.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Q and A: Should I buy an established web site?

Dear Kalena...

I know you are very busy, but I hope you can help me. I am considering buying a web site. The price is $1750 and the domain is [URL removed]. This website sells over 400 different dog and cat pet products. The web site already has all of the supplier's available products loaded with description and pictures.

It’s only through one supplier – I could certainly find out who that is before I bought it. It’s not a business yet, just a website. They sure found a great domain name! Do you believe it was available? Do you think you could give me a quick opinion on this? I’d really appreciate it. Thank you!

Best,
Lois


Kalena's Answer:

Hi Lois

I'm not in a position to advise you on this purchase, as I've never personally purchased a completed web site before, only ever bought new domain names and built up my own businesses. May I suggest you do a few things immediately:

1) Look up the company selling the site on their local Better Business Bureau to ensure they are legitimate.

2) Do a Google search on the company selling the site to see what others are saying about them.

3) Ask to have referrals from other customers who have bought sites from them.

4) Look up the domain you are purchasing on Allwhois.com to ensure the domain registration details match the company claiming to own the domain.

5) Get in contact with the suppliers of the products that the site is selling to make sure this is a legitimate business.

6) Ask for some advice about purchasing established websites on various webmaster forums such as cre8asite forums and high rankings forums. You are likely to find other webmasters on such forums who have done this before and will give you good advice.

Also, I've had a look at the site for sale and there is reason to be concerned about it's search engine compatibility. First up, the site pages are all dynamic in nature, meaning search engines might have trouble indexing them. The home page redirects to a long-winded PHP page with multiple parameters which looks like an affiliate link. The site has no Google PageRank and is not being cached by Google. This would trigger alarm bells with me.

I'd do a LOT of research before throwing yourself into this. The domain name is nothing special. You could have a very nice web site built by professionals using a search engine friendly CMS for less than $1,750.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Q and A: How do I get search engines to recognize my main domain from the alias domains?

Dear Kalena...

I took out several domains that all pointed to one primary domain. A year on I have changed the content of my site completely and so the 'pointing domains' are totally irrelevant. Now however Yahoo have dropped my primary domain in the search results and only include one of the irrelevant domains. Could you advise how I would go about having the alias domains dropped and my primary domain reinstated with Yahoo?

Ade

Kalena's Answer:

Dear Ade

A client of mine is facing the identical situation right now, but on Google. How big an issue this is really depends on your definition of "pointing" domains. If you merely have the alias domains on the same IP address as your main site, that may not suffice. Does your primary domain have a Google cache? If it doesn't, then Google and or Yahoo may be assuming one of your alias domains is your primary site and ignoring all other domains.

You should park all the aliases to the main domain in your hosting panel so that when the aliases are typed in to the browser URL field, they redirect straight to the primary domain or show the content being cached from the primary domain. When you look at the Google cache for your alias domains, they should each show the message "This is Google's cache for [primary domain]". If they don't, you haven't got the DNS set up properly to point to your primary domain.

The alternative is to use manual 301 redirects from the aliases to the main domain. Your .htaccess file will then instruct search bots of the preferred domain and the others should no longer be indexed. It might take a week or two for the search engines to make the connection and index the primary domain, but it will happen.

You can help things along by creating a sitemap for your primary domain and uploading it to Google's Webmaster Tools and Yahoo Site Explorer. I recommend using the free XML Sitemaps Generator to create your sitemaps.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Q and A: Why doesn't Google show all our backward links?

Dear Kalena...

I came across your site as I was searching for "why doesn't google show my links?". Yahoo and MSN show over 200 links to our www.Rubber-Bracelets.com site, but Google shows 2! What's up with that? We have the keywords in our domain name and I can't find us in the first five pages for "rubber bracelets". What gives? Of course, people aren't searching for rubber bracelets like they once were, but it appears in Google Suggest that there are still a good number of searches. Can you help?

Thanks!
Tony


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Tony

First up, what makes you think that having keywords in your domain automatically makes your site more relevant for searches involving those keywords? What if I purchased a domain like www.safe-kids-toys.com and loaded it up with porn? Do you think Google's algorithm will automatically assume my content is about "safe kids toys" just because my domain suggests it is? Uh uh. It doesn't work like that. I answered a similar question about keyword domains just yesterday.

Secondly, Google never displays the true number of backlinks your site has, only a sampling of the ones they consider to be important. You can get a better indication of who is linking to you from Yahoo Site Explorer.

Lastly, if your site is under 9 months old or has recently undergone a major re-design, it could be suffering from Google's aging delay for new sites. If that's the case, it won't rank in Google for your target keywords until it is released from limbo. It's Google's little screening process to help them weed out the dodgy sites from the authentic ones.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Q and A: Should we create domain names incorporating our major product keywords?

Dear Kalena...

We run an ecommerce site and my boss would like to take advantage of the strong demand for a couple of our products in particular. One of the ideas being tossed around is creating domain names that incorporate these keywords so that search engines find them more quickly (i.e., www.sitenameproduct1.com,
www.sitenameproduct2.com)

What are your thoughts on this approach? Is this considered 'black hat' and could this get us in trouble with the major search engines?

Thanks
Kelly

Kalena's Answer:

Dear Kelly

Creating new domains for this purpose is a really, really bad idea. Although they are getting better at it, many search engines can't distinguish keywords within domain names unless they are separated by hyphens and there is really next to no ranking advantage for having keywords in a domain anyway.

It's not black hat, but it's a total myth and hasn't worked since about 2001. In fact, trying to get brand new domains ranked in Google takes up to a year now because of the aging delay so to launch new sites for this purpose is definitely not a good strategy.

You'd be much better off creating a few new pages on your existing site dedicated to the popular products and optimize them well for related keywords. For example, create some articles about the products or people's experience with the products and link to the product detail pages from within the articles using target keywords in the anchor text of the links.

Your existing site has great PageRank and link popularity and it is the best place to put content about your products. If you place a link from your home page to the new product articles/pages, that should help the search engines find the new content quickly and hopefully provide more rankings for keywords relating to those products. The other option is to boost the number of product related keywords in your pay per click campaigns and create dedicated landing pages for them so they convert better.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Q and A: How do I improve my site's visibility?

Dear Kalena...

Have had my site up for at least a month now and have had ~50 unique hits from a link posted on a forum, it still does not show on any search engines. Any ideas how to improve my visibility?

Cheers
Sean

Kalena's Answer:

Dear Sean

Easy: Get. Your. Own. Domain. Honestly, how can you expect search engines to take you seriously if you use a free site provided by your ISP?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Q and A: How do we stop our domains from competing with each other for search rankings?

Dear Kalena...

We recently constructed an optimised e-commerce site for a customer which initially had some great ranking results on the primary domain name (a .com) which we wanted to promote for a global market as a brand name. In the process we also picked up several keyword related domain names and pointed these in via A-record changes.

Unfortunately we now seem to have a pendulum effect going on between the non-primary domains and the primary ... one swings up Google the rankings, then the next, whilst the primary domain name raises its head occasionally but generally isn't ranking where it should be. We're obviously want to remove the secondary domain names from the index so that we score simply on the primary and are concerned that this activity could penalise us for duplicate site content ... am sure the answer is pretty simple, would appreciate a point in the right direction rather than us poke about in a 'try it and see' fashion!

Many thanks in anticipation
Rob

Kalena's Answer:

Dear Rob

It sounds to me like your question is actually : "How do we stop our domains from competing with each other for search rankings?"

It all comes down to the way you've set up your secondary domains. For starters, I don't know why you needed keyword-related domains unless it is for advertising reasons. You haven't sent me the domain info so I can only guess, but it sounds as though you have the same site content duplicated on multiple domain names and each of them is being indexed by Google. Effectively, this means your domains are competing with each other for rankings on the same search queries!

What you should have done (and should do immediately) is to park your secondary domains on the same IP as your primary domain so that search engines see the domains as a single site, index a single site and all your rankings and link popularity get attributed to your primary domain.

If you've got this set up correctly, when you view the Google cache of any of the domains, it will show your primary domain in the cached results page e.g."This is Google's cache of [primary url appears here]" or any parked domain entered in the browser URL field will automatically switch to your primary domain. Instructions for setting up multiple domain parking correctly can be found in this back issue of HighRankings Advisor.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Q and A: How do I ensure the same pages on two different domains are indexed?

Dear Kalena...

I am starting out with two domains of the same name so I get international and local visitors sent by search engines. Quite often people look for local sites and local engines only list domains within that country's regional domain. So I have mydomain.com and mydomain.co.uk.

My problem is how to ensure that all pages are indexed. If I simply forward from .co.uk to .com then only .com is indexed. I could mirror both sites, but I'm not sure that works because I read on your blog that Google skips identical content sites?

Many Thanks,
Henri


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Henri

You're right that regional search engines and directories often only list country-specific domains and you have the right idea registering the local domain as well as the .com version. But there is no need to have both domains indexed if they contain identical content.

Best solution is to park the .co.uk site on the same IP as the .com so that you have a single site with two domains pointing to it. You should stick to promoting the .com of the site in all your online submission efforts, except for regional marketing/advertising and the regional engines that require a country-specific TLD. In those cases, you should submit your .co.uk domain which points or forwards to the .com content. You can set it up so that the .co.uk domain actually switches to the .com domain in the browser bar if anyone types it in or clicks on a link from the .co.uk site.

The reason you should only promote one domain to be indexed is to avoid any duplicate content issues and to ensure your site's link popularity isn't divided between two sites (which can happen if you are promoting multiple domains and other sites start to link to both). If you use domain forwarding as described above and anyone links to your .co.uk domain, it's my understanding that the link popularity gets passed on to your .com domain.

If you decide to continue hosting two separate sites containing the same content, it is likely that search engines will try to determine which domain is more important, index it and ignore the other completely. Why let the search engines determine which domain you want promoted?

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Q and A: Which is the better domain to promote via search engines?

Dear Kalena...

I have a favor to ask you. I hope to launch the revised version of my site shortly and I'm re-considering the URL to submit to the Search Engines. Would my site be better served under the name of:

WorldTradeDirectory.com (Google Search Results for keywords: "world trade directory": 101,000,000 )

or

WWWorldTrade.com (Google Search Results for keywords: "world trade": 701,000,000 )

I'm just not sure if the "WW" before "World" will either help or hurt its spiderability if someone just types "world trade" in searching.

Thanks !
Jorge


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Jorge

When it comes to promoting your domain name, you should always choose the one that is most logical from a user perspective. I'm not sure if you've bought either or both of these domains but to me, the first one is the only choice. It's much easier to remember and to type. The second one is just silly.

Here's a heads up: there is very little search engine advantage to having your keywords in your domain name these days. If you insist on using them, they should be separated via hyphens e.g. world-trade-directory.com because search engines can only distinguish individual keywords if they are separated by hyphens.

But that causes usability issues, so what some people do is buy both hyphenated and un-hyphenated versions of a domain and park the unhyphenated one on the same IP address as the hyphenated version, while only promoting the hyphen one via search engines. I personally wouldn't bother with any of it. If any search algorithm advantage of having keywords in your domain still exists, it's miniscule. Choose the first domain option above and keep it simple.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Q and A: How will search engine ranking be affected if I change domain names?

Dear Kalena...

As always, I am very much enjoying your insightful newsletters.

I have a question for you: If I change domain names and keep the identical website on the new domain, how will search engine ranking be affected?

Thanks!
Marco


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Marco

If you are moving your site to an entirely new domain, you've got to be careful that your search rankings and link popularity aren't negatively affected. This can occur if you use the standard 301 "permanently moved" redirects on your old pages, or worse, use no redirects at all.

Technically, your new domain is treated as a brand new site, regardless of whether the content you use on it has been published on another domain and therefore, Google will subject it to the aging delay for new sites.

To avoid losing all those hard-earned rankings for the six to nine month Google limbo that is the aging delay, it's recommended that you use 302 "temporarily moved" redirects on your old domain pages until your new domain has aged the required time in Google. You can then safely switch the redirects to 301's. You can read more about this method in Scottie Claiborne's article: Switching to a New Domain Without Losing Your Google Rankings.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Q and A: How do I change our domain name without losing existing customers?

Dear Kalena...

If I change our URL name how do existing customers still find the old one?

Tracy

Kalena's Answer:

Dear Tracy

Your question is not crystal clear to me but I assume you mean: "How do I change our domain name without losing existing customers?".

If you are changing domain names but you want to make sure that existing customers still find you, you simply keep your old domain name and place a permanent 301 redirect on it, pointing it to your new domain. If you have access to your hosting CPanel, you can also achieve this by parking the old domain on the new one or by simply editing your .htaccess file.

Once this is in place, anyone typing in page URLs from your old domain, or clicking on outdated links in search engines will be automatically taken to your new domain. The search engines will eventually update links so they point to your new domain.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Q and A: Will redirecting multiple domains to a single domain negatively impact our Google rankings?

Dear Kalena...

It's been a couple of years since I posted my last question; but time has come around again where I'm really stumped, and I thought, I bet Kalena will have the answer so (without anymore back slapping):

The question is loosely based around Google's 'Big Daddy' update.

We have recently released a new website (well at least the domain name was new); now before we released this website we had another site (just a different domain name); in fact there were quite a few domain names, all going to one site. Now the problem we have is that, well, a lot of these domain names were successful (are still successful) and we really don't want to lose the traffic from them, in our industry they are pretty good domain names. I want to keep the new site (the same as the previous site) whiter than white, I can't abide all this 'black hat' SEO stuff.

What we've done so far is apply a '301' permanent redirect from all these different domain names to the new website; once you've been '301' redirected and have landed at the new website the previous domain name (i.e. the one you'd have typed in) transfers (in the address bar) to the URL of the new website.

What I'd like to know is: will having these domains (approx twelve 12) effect our ranking, positioning and basic good buddy comradeship with Google?

David

Kalena's Answer:

Dear David

Redirecting domains to other domains is not technically a problem, if it is done correctly at the server and IP. From your description of the method used, you are correctly redirecting those domains to your main site from a search engine's point of view.

Eventually, most search engines will take note of the 301 redirect and update their databases. When that happens and you no longer have any outdated links pointing to your old sites, it is safe to remove the redirects and allow the domains to expire (assuming you wish to do this). In the meantime, you need to start contacting directories and other sites that link to your old domains and ask them to update their links to your new site.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Q and A: Could purchasing and redirecting multiple domains to our main site hurt us from an SEO perspective?

Dear Kalena...

Management constantly wants to register new domain names based on new product line brand names. These domains will all end up pointing to specific product pages on our single corporate site. Could this hurt us from an SEO perspective? Would the better route be to use direct URLs such as www.corpsite.com/product-page ?

Thank you,

Leona


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Leona

Yes and double yes. There is absolutely no value in purchasing a unique domain name for each of your product lines, especially if you are only going to redirect those domains back to your main site anyway.

Search engines no longer give any ranking boost to keyword-stuffed domains and new domains are subject to an aging delay of up to 9 months before being included in Google's standard search results database so the pages wouldn't be found anyway. Plus, if you DO decide to redirect other domains to your main site and use META refresh as the redirect method, you can trip spam filters on some search engines and possibly have your site filtered or pushed further down in results pages.

Another disadvantage of using multiple domains is the fact that you dilute the link popularity of your existing site because some links would point to your other domains and not your main site. The best option to avoid all these hassles is to dedicate a page or series of pages on your main site to each product line and optimize those pages very thoroughly for the target search keywords relating to each unique product. You should also use a logical navigation structure when creating those product pages, for example if you were a jewelry site selling multiple products online, you could use something like this:

www.jewelrysite.com/rings/silver-rings.htm
www.jewelrysite.com/rings/gold-rings.htm
www.jewelrysite.com/necklaces/silver-chains.htm
www.jewelrysite.com/necklaces/gold-chains.htm
etc.

Using a logical navigation structure such as the above helps search engine spiders to easily find and index all your pages and it also aids usability for your site visitors. Now go and convince your managers quickly, before they sabotage your site's search engine visibility!
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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Q and A: Why did my site have a better Google PR when it was on another domain?

Dear Kalena...

Thanks for your answer to my last question. What's curious is how my *other* site (tony.thehungs.org), where my content resided before I transferred evreyting to its current domain, got a PR in the SAME amount of time (and still does).

Sure, its a PR of 2, but at least its not zero.

Have any idea why this is?

Kalena's Answer:

Dear Tony

Ok, couple of explanations:

1) The old site content was actually on a sub-domain and that site would take it's Google PR from the main domain http://thehungs.org. Although I see that site is password protected so it can't be indexed by search engines - has it always been this way?

2) The old domain was .org. Some people swear that .org and .gov sites are given a slight boost in the rankings and/or are not subject to Google's aging delay. No idea if this is currently true.

A final comment - If you have moved your blog to a permanent location, you should get rid of that old blog content or use Permanent Redirect 301s to point it to your new domain, because it *may* be considered duplicate content (same name, titles etc) and might be affecting your PR at the new site or causing Google to ignore the new site.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Duplicate Content: The Evil Twin Sister

I came across a terrific article today by one of the many search marketing experts on staff at iProspect. In the article The Evil Twin Sister: Duplicate Content, Errin White makes many of the points I've made here on the blog in the past about the need to avoid duplicate content.

Some highlights:
"By utilizing duplicate content, you risk losing your site’s credibility from both an SEO and user perspective".

"Only one domain will be chosen as the authority domain, which may not be your company’s main point of focus, and rank on related keyword phrases while the other domain(s) is left out of the search engine index"
Errin recommends following these three steps to avoid duplicate content penalties:
1. Focus SEM efforts on one domain

2. Take down duplicate domains and implement 301 redirects in their place in order to drive users and search engine spiders to the chosen domain

3. Utilize unique page content on every page, the same content should never be available on more than one URL
Good advice!

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Q and A: How important are keywords within URLs for SEO purposes?

Dear Kalena...

I´m working in url rewrite for my website. I have a few questions or problems I'd like to solve, just wondering if you could help me: in my new url´s how important are keywords for SEO? Which directories inside the url are more important? How should I separate keywords for better results?

I hope you can help me, any commentary will surely be of help.

Thanks!
Santiago


Kalena's Answer:

Dear Santiago

Wow that's a lot of questions. Might need a coffee to cope with those. Let's see:

1) All things being equal, I do think that using keywords within your file names (and visible URLs) helps your search relevancy and usability a little. Particularly if you have a large catalog of products and you can sort them into logical file-names. But it will only ever help a little and certainly not if you go overboard and throw in every possible keyword combination for the sake of it. For example:

This is logical:
site.com/blue-suede-shoes.htm
But this is not:
site.com/we-sell-blue-suede-shoes-that-will-make-you-look-like-elvis.htm
Consider your site usability and link potential. How many people would want to link to or type in such a long page name? Also note the difference between using keywords in your file-names vs keywords in your domains - the latter is ugly as well as pointless for SEO. It may also attract the wrong sort of attention from Google according to their head of Webspam Matt Cutts.

2) In terms of directories, I'm assuming you mean directory levels of your URLs? From what I understand, the closer your content resides to your top level domain, the more important search engines consider it to be for indexing purposes. Content buried many sub-directories deep like site.com/catalog/shoes/suede/blue.htm may not ever get indexed, so be sure to use a logical directory structure that is no more than 1 or 2 levels deep. The alternative is to use Google's SiteMaps tool instructing Googlebot how to index all your sub-directories and pages.

3) Ah, the old hyphens vs underscores debate. I'll let Jill Whalen wax lyrical on that one. Matt Cutts also throws in his 2 cents worth about the issue here. In short, hyphens (dashes) are the way to go.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Domain Registry of America is at it Again!

Some people just won't be told. After being taken to court and rapped over the knuckles by the Federal Trade Commission for misleading consumers, the Domain Registry of America (DROA) is back to their old tricks and mailing out confusing letters to domain holders advising their domain registrations are expiring, leading many consumers to unwillingly switch their domain name registrar and usually pay a higher price in the process. You can read more on the situation here and here.

In December 2003, the Federal Trade Commission requested that a federal district court instruct the Internet domain name reseller from making misrepresentations in the marketing of its domain name registration services. But that apparently didn't stop them.

I had thought I'd seen the last of Domain Registry of America, but I got another of their misleading letters today. Here are some priceless extracts from the letter:

"As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification of the domain name registration that is due to expire in the next few months..."

"You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web, and now is the time to transfer and renew your name from your current Registrar to the Domain Registry of America. Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity making it difficult for your customers and friends to locate you on the Web".

The cheek of them using such misleading and threatening verbage. And my domain doesn't even expire till November! Some people call this type of approach a scam. DROA have written to me claiming that they resent being called "scammers". What a shame. I resent receiving their letters but they don't stop sending them.

Don't be fooled people. If you get a letter or email from the people at Domain Registry of America, file it where it belongs - in the bin. You can also file a complaint with the FTC and call or email Domain Registry of America directly and request to be taken off their mailing lists.

You can also protect your address from being collected by using the privacy features most registrars now offer domain holders, although there is usually a charge to keep your details private. Sad but true.

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