Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Search Engines and Affiliate Marketing

Looking through my Google Analytics results yesterday morning, I noticed that I've never, ever gotten a referral from a search engine other than Google. Furthermore, it looks like none of my new entries from the last few weeks are getting hits. So I did a searched the web for a good guide to getting listed in the major search engines.

My old friend Google came up with How to Get Listed... which describes how and where to get listed (including direct links to the URLs to add your site). A useful little site and a quick read. From what I read (at the site above and elsewhere), new website owners should submit to the big three search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN). Then, submit to the Yahoo Search Directory and The Open Directory (details in the link above). Now I just need to wait until something actually happens :)

I also started to wonder: just how out of date is Google's index? How soon will my new pages be listed in Google? So I started searching for my pages in Google (just prefix your web page with site:, like Yeah, none of my new entries showed up. I tried the same thing (same syntax even!) in MSN and Yahoo and came up with nothing, verifying I wasn't in their indexes. So I looked for more info...

And that was when I stumbled upon Google's Webmaster Tools. It turns out that Google gives you a bunch of information about how Google has indexed your site, so you can optimize your pages and address problems that might cause trouble. Like many sites, you have to verify you own the site (by posting a meta tag in your template) but it is a pretty painless process. This is what GWT told me:

Googlebot last successfully accessed your home page on Mar 28, 2007.

Wait, what? Google hasn't looked at my site for over two weeks? No wonder none of my new info is in the index. The first order of business was to resubmit the site to be crawled (maybe I'm not supposed to do that, but I did -- I did it yesterday, and it hasn't been updated yet). I also told Google to crawl my site faster. Part of the problem might be the chronologic nature of a blog: old entries don't usually link to new entries. Supposedly I can submit a site map to Google to help it crawl, but I'm not up for that just yet. I'll keep you posted when I get some more data from GWT.

Also, I went through some of my old posts and purposely misspelled some things (such as SB20 instead of SB-20 in this post). I noticed some searches came through for SB20 and I wanted to make sure they'd hit me. Also, I made sure that common (and useful) searches like review nikon sb-20 would go to my pages, adding common search words into the text as much as possible.

Along those lines, it is important to search for your site both directly (using the site name) and indirectly (using common searches for the types of things you talk about). It is a great way to see how important your site is (based on how high it appears in the search rankings) and, more importantly, it verifies that someone looking for your site can actually find it. Especially if you have any clients (photography or otherwise), if they can't find your site, you'll lose money.

On that note, I searched for stanfordphoto today (in case anyone couldn't remember the web address) and I was second on the list, behind I'm ok with that.

Then I searched using the keywords please excuse me while clean lens and my site was the top of the Google list. Excellent.

On a lark, I tried it in Yahoo search even though I didn't expect anything to come up. Interestingly enough, there was a site that included the name of my blog! So, I checked it out and it turned out to be Sphere, some sort of blog entry aggregation site. I guess I'm ok with that, but my first thought was that it was some affiliate marketer stealing my content.

Wait, let me back up. Affiliate marketing is a method of making money on the web (and in real life, too) where you draw people in with good content, refer them to another business or site to purchase something, and receive money for the referral. The primary purpose of an affiliate site is to attract a bunch of people that will click on links. One of the best ways to attract people is to post good articles that show up in search engines. Many affiliate marketers are very savvy businessmen (and businesswomen) but some of them are sleezes that will copy/paste other people's articles directly onto their site without even a link. The easy way to detect content-theft is to do a self-search every once in a while.

If you'd like to know more about this, I recommend reading Gadooney, an affiliate marketing guide. It is chock full of useful information that can help you promote your blog and even make some money off of it. For instance, his search engine articles really go into a lot of detail about increasing your hits.

I originally heard about the owner of Gadooney, ScurvyDog, through his poker blog (which even includes advertising info!). It really is amazing how he can make a site like HateNinja generate money for him. All Scurvy has to do is search YouTube for interesting videos and talk like a strange Japanese guy (check it out, it really is interesting).

Anyway, I have no intention of making this blog that commercial. But I do feel like I have a lot of interesting stuff to share with the world and I want to get as many people to see the blog as possible. That means I need to figure out how all this search stuff works. And hopefully, from these recent posts, maybe you've learned something too.

Oh, and don't worry, I'll let you know how long it takes Yahoo and MSN to get me into their indexes.

Update 5/21/07:

Google finally rescanned my page on 5/20/07, five days after I requested it. Well, they say they did it on the day I requested it, but it may not have hit their active files until last weekend. I have noticed an increase in my search hits (from an average of 1-2 to 3-4 a day) and my new stuff is getting decent interest. On the flip side, my referrals from other sites have gone way down in the past few days.

I appear to be listed in Yahoo and MSN, but not all of my pages (mainly just the entrance URL I submitted). I assume they'll crawl it at some point in the future, but as yet, I've seen no searches from them.

Oh, and today I got an e-mail about another site I manage (a local garden site). I haven't maintained it in over a year :) Apparently, someone wants me to link to them even though my site is very old and out of date. In the requester's words:
"While I can't promise a link back I am more then open to coming to some sort of arrangement."
Like what? You'll do my dishes? Purely a plee to increase their PageRank. I may not even respond.

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