Mordheim Blog – Update

It has been under two months since I have started my Mordheim Blog, and we are seeing lots of good progress in the Search Engine Rankings.

For almost the entirety of the last 7 weeks, my blog has been ranked on the second page for the keyword “Mordheim” at Google. Just this last week, I’ve arrived on the first page! My blog has been sitting in the #10 rank for about 3 or 4 days now.

My blog is very content heavy on the word “Mordheim” and is included in the title of my website and in almost every post title and keywords. Many of my categories also begin with the word Mordheim. I currently have 42 posts in my Mordheim blog. That is almost .9 posts a day!

Merry Christmas,
Ashton Sanders

Google Index Spasm (Google Dance)

I call this the Google index Spasm (other’s call it the Google Dance):

After a couple weeks in existence, my new blog found itself on the second page for it’s main keyword. After fluctuating between rank 12 and 18 for another two weeks, it fell to rank 80+… If I didn’t know better, this would have caused me to be very disgruntled.

I don’t know the purpose is of the Google Spasm, but it’s kind of funny and annoying at the same time.

Today my blog is back up to rank 19 for its keyword. I think some call this the “sandbox” but my site wasn’t in it for very long. Although that could be because it is a blog.

-Ashton Sanders

Google’s Indexing Delay: Update

As of today, Google knows about 35 pages of my Mordheim blog. The last time the Googlebot hit this blog was on the 22nd, and my post on the 21st of November is up second when I check to see how many of my pages Google has added to it’s search index.

It looks like Google has a fondness for blogs, as I’ve never had a page on my website get into the Google index that fast. Usually it takes at least a couple weeks.

Another thing to note: this blog is a subdomain of www.ashtonsanders.com, and Google already knows about this site. Even thought it is only a one page site, I’m sure it helped the speed into Google’s index because it already knew that that domain existed.

-Ashton Sanders

SEO – Where to Host Your Blog?

NOTE: This post is over 2 years old and is no longer totally correct.

I know that a blog can really help to increase your website content. A blog shows the Search Engines that there is actually someone behind this website, and they actually care about their website.

When I started this blog at the beginning of this year, I was trying to research whether it was better to have two medium-content heavy sites that link to each other, or one site with all of the content.

The Setup

My main Website Design Website is Websites in a Flash. This site has 20-30 pages of content, and got approximately 400 unique visitors a month. (This is primarily from Search Engines.)

I knew that this blog would have many pages of website-terms, so I decided to host it on my Ashton Sanders website as a subdomain. The purpose of this was to see if two medium sized sites linking to each other would create an increase in unique visitors for both my Main Website and my Blog.

Results

Obviously, my Blog had an increase in visitors (because it didn’t have any before). Surprisingly, it has totally surpassed my normal website, although I guess it shouldn’t be surprising.

My Websites in a Flash website increased to about 650 Unique visitors. It also finally got back to PR4, but I’m not satisfied with that product. So, I’ve moved my blog to my Websites in a Flash Site, 301 redirects and all. I will now be testing my statistics/results on this new server, and will give you another update after 4 or 5 more months.

My findings, so far, from this test lead me to believe that it is best to have your blog on the same domain as your main website, but a final verdict will come in early 2008.

Note: After this Search Engine Optimization test, the only thing I have to test for myself if whether a blog on your website is better as a subfolder or subdomain.

-Testing the Bounds of the Internet
-Ashton Sanders

How to Create XML Sitemaps

The purpose of XML sitemaps are to help tell the search engines about all of the pages on your website. It also helps to tell the search engines which pages you think are most important. (They won’t necessarily listen to you, but you can tell them.)

I recently found a great website that will create XML sitemaps for websites of up to 500 pages! And the best part is, it’s absolutely Free! You can by the program they made as well if your site has more pages, etc.

Check it out:

XML Sitemaps

Ashton Sanders

How Do Search Engines Think? SEO Basics

Search Engine Optimization is fairly easy to understand. All you need to do is put your self in a Search Engines Shoes.

Let’s start with Google’s Mission:

“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

-http://www.google.com/corporate/

Nice and Simple. But it gives you a good understanding of what you are working with and helps us to realize some very basic truths about Search Engines.

Search Engines Truth:

Search Engines want to find useful, informative sites for every search term.

Duh… And they do that by using robots (or bots) that are programmed to “index” websites and decide how useful/informative they are. So our job as Search Engine Optimizers is to make it obvious to search engines that your site is useful and informative. Here are some basics to Search Engine Optimization:

Use Valid Code: The search engine bots don’t have eyes, so they can’t see your website, but they can read the code that makes your website, and they do know how to read valid HTML. But if your code isn’t valid, the bot can get confused and ignore parts of your site.

Content is King: Anyone can make a site that says, “Hello World!” Search engines don’t value sites that don’t have any content. You need to have relevant content on your website. If your site is about fixing Race Cars, but you never say race cars on your site, don’t be surprised when you never find your site under the search term “race cars.”

Don’t Hide Text: An old search engine “cheat” was to have white text on a white background. This would allow you to have lots of keyword heavy content on your site without actually having to bug your visitors with the large amount of text. This will damage your rankings much more than it will help.

Basic Principles: Google recommends that you don’t do anything solely for search engines, which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t get your site search engine optimized, but rather, don’t waste time and money trying to develop tricks to deceive the search engines. Just make a good, quality site that people will find informative and useful.

Links:If someone likes your site enough, they’ll link to it. Duh. So if your site is extremely useful, and a lot of people like it, you’ll have a lot of links to it. The number of links you have to your site is one of the biggest things that the search engines will judge your site on.

That’s a nice overview of how search engines think, and the basics of search engine optimization.

-Use it wisely
-Ashton Sanders

Ashton Sanders – Interview

This is more of a Question and Answer with me, Ashton Sanders. Enjoy.

Q: What caused you to end up working on the Internet?

Ashton Sanders: Computers have always been my forte, and I greatly enjoy working and creating on the Internet. There is no other industry like it, and it will be one that I know I will always be learning new things about. There is no ceiling to how much I can learn and do.

Q: Why did you buy www.AshtonSanders.com?

Ashton Sanders: Ha! I bought www.AshtonSanders.com because I thought it would be a lot of fun to have and create with. I am the only Ashton Sanders who works on the Internet, (from what I could tell from the Google search) and I knew I would never forgive myself if some other Ashton Sanders bought it… or even worse, someone bought it just to spite me.

Q: What do you feel is your greatest strength in regards to Website Design and Development on the Internet?

Ashton Sanders: There are many aspects of the Internet that I am very proficient at: Website Design, PHP programming, ActionScript, Flash Animation, CSS, HTML, XHTML, etc. If I must choose one part of the Internet that I am the most proficient at, I would have to say it is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For the last couple years, I have been under the tutelage of Jere Matlock of www.WordsinaRow.com. He is the greatest SEO resource anyone could ask for, and the things that he has accomplished with his client’s websites is truly amazing. With his help, I have begun to create some equally amazing products in the field of Search Engine Optimization. I look forward to all the SEO accomplishments that I will achieve in the near future.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of Website Design and Development?

Ashton Sanders: I love it all! I love taking a blank page, and creating a place that is pleasing to look at, and entertaining to use. I love using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to simplify a website’s infrastructure and HTML Coding. I love the accomplishment of programming an elaborate PHP website that does all sorts of fun things. I love putting together an extensive Flash Movie that is entertaining, but most of all I love having fun, and giving my visitors something they can enjoy.

Q: Do you have any company policies that are different from other Website Design Companies?

Ashton Sanders: Yes, definitely! First and foremost, I always answer my cell phone. I am probably the easiest-to-reach web master on the planet. Even if I am behind on a project (not likely), I am not afraid to tell my client. I will never avoid a client for any reason. That brings up another company policy: “If you ever do anything, do it ‘In a Flash!'”

Q: Any Closing Thoughts?

Ashton Sanders: The mind can never be full. No matter how much you learn, there will always be space for more. It my personal policy to never stop learning. It doesn’t matter if I’ve never heard about the subject before, I know what everyone has to start somewhere. Why not here and now? I love expand my information on any subject!

-“Never Stop Learning… Ever!”
-Ashton Sanders”

SEO – Table Trick

It has been said that Search Engine Optimization “is not yet a science — it’s still an artform.”

I totally agree with that quote. Search Engine Optimization is hundreds of little things that you with your site to make it more search engine friendly. The table trick is one of those SEO things you can do to improve your rankings (however slightly) in the search engines.

Theory

Search Engines don’t usually index your entire page. They usually have a KB limit of how much it will index from each page, and it will probably value the information near the top of a page more than it does the information at the bottom.

Unfortunately, it is the style of the internet to have menu/navigation bars on the left side of the screen. Usually this means that the menu/navigation bar shows up in your code before the content of your web page. So the search engines have to sift through a bunch of formating code in your navigation before it gets to the meat of your site.

Here is where the table trick comes in:

Using this code, you will be able to have a left navigation bar that shows up below the content of your code. Here is the code:

<html>
<head>
</head>
<body>
<table>
<tr valign=”top”>
<td><!– leave this TD empty – it will disappear –></td>
<td rowspan=2>Put the text for the page here. </td>
</tr>
<tr valign=”top”>
<td>Put the Navigation Bar Here</td>
</tr>
</table>
</body>
</html>

That’s it! If you want to see a website that is currently using this trick, go to Front Sight.com.

The above quote and this table trick supplied courtesy of Jere Matlock of Words in a Row. Jere is the best SEO resource anyone could ask for. His site is full of useful Search Engine Optimization tactics and ideas. You can also check out his blog: JMblog.

Another fun quote he has on is blog is:

“If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.”
-Kingsley Amis

-Ashton Sanders

Cheating the Search Engines?

On the topic of Search Engine Optimization, there are many ways to “Cheat” the Search engines. (Most of these ways are very detectable and you will get penalized for it today, but it was a “good idea” back in the day.)

White Text on White Background: This will alow you put lots of heavy keyword content on your page without having to bother your visitors with them.

Hard to find links: This is where you link a space ” ” or a couple letters and force it to not underline. This way you can direct the search engines to a content heavy page without showing your visitors.

All of these “cheats” will get your site penalized on the Search Engines. This is Google’s first “Quality guidelines – basic principles“:

  • Make pages for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as “cloaking.”

(Source: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/…)

But what about link farms?

A link farm is a system or program that links thousands of sites to your website. Since number of links to your site is one of the main things that Google and other search engines look for, It probably isnt’ a bad idea.

But note, if you get 10,000 links from sites that all have pagerank of 0, your website’s going to have the page rank of 0. So you have to be careful about which program you choose.

I would recommend Link Farms for today, but keep an eye on your page rank, and if it disappears one day, it may because google devised a way to detect link farms.

-Enjoy,
-Ashton Sanders

Internet Explorer CSS Tip

Beginners Note: The main purpose of CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, is to add color and life to a website. The main use for HTML, or Hyper Text Markup Language, on the Internet is to create the format or layout of your website. (Note: It is quite possible to create two identical websites, one in only HTML, and one with almost no HTML formatting and lots of CSS.)

Many Search Engine Optimizers will tell you that the more CSS you use the better. The reason for this is simple: If you created a web page only in HTML, a search engine would have to index 300 lines of code (lets say), while on the other hand, if the same website was formatted with lots of CSS, you would only have 50-100 lines of HTML for the search engine to index. So the search engine would index almost only textual information, and very little code. And in theory, the search engine will think that you are a much more important resource for it to index.

As any Website designer will tell you, Internet browsers can react very differently to the same piece of CSS code. And since a vast majority of the public use Internet Explorer, it’s very important for your website to look good in that browser. Unfortunately, this browser doesn’t listen to CSS directions as rigidly as FireFox, the next most popular Internet browser. (Internet Explorer Vs. FireFox)

Now for the Internet Explorer CSS Tip:

Lets say you have this piece of CSS code:

.text {
padding-top: 5px;
}

And this is your HTML:

<div>Welcome to the HTML Class</div>
<div class=”text”>Today we will be learning about HTML</div>

And for some reason the freaking Interent Explorer won’t listen to your css. No matter what, it just refuses to add padding in between the two <div>s. There are many things you can try to get it to work. You can change it to “margin” or change the distance to 70px. Nothing happens. Believe me… one of the most frusturating things in the world… second only to stupid people… maybe.

Well behold there is something else you can try: be more specific when you define your selector (.text). Try this:

div.text {
padding-top: 5px;
}

I’ve found that Internet Explorer takes much more kindly when you are more specific with your CSS defining.

Another CSS Note I thought I’d throw in as a bonus:

I realized that almost none of the CSS tutors on the Internet tell you about this extremely useful CSS syntax that can help you to be more specific. Lets take this example. You have a 100 page site with lots of pictures that you want to validate. Unfortunately, a couple of your pictures don’t have an “alt” tag (which will create an error in almost all HTML validators). The solution is use this CSS code:

img[alt] {
border: 5px solid #FF0000;
}

This code will put a 5px red border around ever image that has an alt. This will make it easy for you to scan through your site and easily view images that are and are not properly formatted.

This is how it works: After the HTML tag (selector) and inside the brackets [ ] put any atribute for that HTML tag. You can also put the attibute and that atributes variable. Like this:

img[alt=”Websites in a Flash”] {
border: 2px solid #FF0000;
}

With that code, any image that has the alternate text of “Websites in a Flash” will have a 2px red border around it.

-Enjoy
-Ashton Sanders