I just completed a question and answer session with CFDynamics, a ColdFusion Hosting company. The questions were geared towards their hosting customers with a basic understand of the search engines but little or no understand of search engine optimization or search marketing. I thought it would be good to share the same information here.

Questions for Jason Dowdell:

1. How did you become an expert in this business?

Back in 1997 I had a car audio business while I was in college and I began esearching my online competitors. I found myself going back to Yahoo over and over in order to find the most important sites and I simply put 2 and 2 together and realized search would be the main way users find what they're looking for online.

2. What changes have occurred in the web industry that shocked you? (or at least make you scratch your chin and say to yourself,"Gee I didn't see that coming?"

The fact that natural search results are still around and that attempts to make all natural search results actually unnatural by making site owners pay a fee to be included. I honestly thought natural search was going to go away a couple years back but it didn't. That's been the biggest change or non-change I simply didn't predict.

3. What one piece of advice would you offer a business that just beginning to launch their web site?

Make sure your developer understands the way search engines crawl a site. If they can get in the 'mind of a bot' then the actual practice of optimization becomes much simpler.

A few quick tips would be...

  1. Use lowercase for all urls
  2. Avoid any special characters in your urls
  3. Include a text based sitemap linking to the important pages on your site
  4. Be sure your robots.txt is formatted properly or leave it out completely
  5. Provide a unique Title, Description and Keyword tag on each site and make those tags reflect the actual content of the page
  6. Focus on being the best in your field or market and provide insightful / unique content on your site
  7. Choose a host that understands the importance of speed and reliability in their hosting environment
  8. Shorter URLs are better and likewise, fewer directories are better Don't get hung up on owning every single domain name related to your main keywords, pick a single domain and use that as your main brand.
  9. In shopping carts you only want to have a single url for any item, no matter what category or page the user found that item on. Duplicate content penalties are rampant these days and this is a major achilles heel for most eCommerce apps.

4. What is one element that businesses which have a web presence forget or fail to do that would improve their site?

Focus on what their users are looking for. Hyperfocusing on the search engines can kill conversion rates and destroy the user's experience. Work on your sales funnel and give the visitors fewer and fewer choices as they proceed down the sales funnel.

5. What is ROI analysis and how can it benefit customers?

From a search perspective it's simple. Take the amount you spend with your search marketing firm + any pay per click fees and divide them into your revenues over time. This shows you how much money you're actually earning after your search marketing expenditures but be careful because it doesn't include the actual cost of merchandise.

Understanding your ROI will help you understand how much you can afford to spend on a search marketing firm or consultant. You will find that many are simply out of your price range, it's amazing how many people go with the most popular firms just because they're the most expensive. Find a firm that suits you and let your competitors waste their money on the Madison Avenue firms.

6. Based on your web site information, it states that it's an expensive quick fix to use search engine marketing (SEM) to drive targeted traffic to a site. In other words when organizations sponsor a link and pay per click for traffic. Whereas, a search engine optimization (SEO) makes web sites friendlier to crawler-based search engines. Would you recommend combining campaign efforts for both a SEM and an SEO?

Absolutely, there's a lot to be gained if you can afford to do so. However, if you're just getting started and funds are tight I'd recommend forcusing on natural results (seo) and then finding out what keywords are converting and from which search engines by analyzing your log files. Then you'll know where to begin spending your ppc money in order to get the highest return on investment. One caveat is that it takes time to rank well for your targeted terms and if you have more money than time I'd recommend using ppc to kickstart your sales and perform seo at the same time.

7. How can site architecture affect crawler based search engines?

  • It can cause a site to be automatically penalized for having duplicate content even when none is present.
  • Properly formed and optimized urls can give you an extra boost in rankings.
  • CSS based designs allow you to have more content and less code which makes it easier for the spiders to crawl your site.
  • JavaScript based navigations are difficult for search engines to crawl and often result in pages not getting indexed and thus never even having a chance to rank well.
  • Flash sites are difficult to index because the only information that's indexable is the meta information within the flash movie and a search engine is only given a single url for the site rather than multiple urls for users to choose where they want to go.
  • Embedding JavaScript within pages increases the page size, load time and reduces the content to code ratio. Essentially making a page less important because there's more code than content.

8. If some of our customers have never visited Global Promoter what free tool from your TurboPromoter would you recommend?

The search engine saturation and link popularity tools. The search engine saturation tool tells you how many pages the major engines have indexed from your site. If the number is extremely low or high then you know you have a problem. If the number is lower than the actual number of pages on your site then you know your site isn't being crawled properly. If it's too high then there's a good chance you're getting hit with a duplicate content penalty because you have multiple urls pointing to the same content. Usually a result of sorting items or results using different parameters.

The link popularity tool tells you how many other sites are linking to your site but you can also look at your competitors and see who's linking to them in order to begin your own backlink campaign.

Oh and by the way, yes CFDynamics is no. 1 on Google for their main term on Google [ColdFusion Hosting]. The most rewarding feeling for an seo is helping out the companies that totally deserve it by getting them to the top of the main engines for their most important phrase.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
March 14, 2005





Jason is a nationally-recognized SEO expert and is the go to seo consultant of Fortune 100 companies like AT&T, Motorola & Microsoft as well as major brands like YellowBook and LA Times. He is the Director of Search at Triangle Direct Media and responsible for the development and capabilities of SEO Tool - TDM's automated seo platform. Prior to joining TDM Jason was Founder / CEO of search engine optimization firm Global Promoter, which was acquired by Kowabunga in 2004. In a previous life Jason was an Information Systems Engineer for NASA and a systems analyst at Oracle Corp.








Search Engine Guide > Jason Dowdell > Basic SEO Answers For CFDynamics' Newsletter