When a key opens a lock, it typically provides the key’s holder with a clear path to where he or she wants to go. Keywords and key phrases do the same for a website. They help direct searchers to content they wish to see on the Internet. But there is a key difference: whereas a lock key will typically match up with only one lock, keywords can lead a searcher down multiple paths to many matching, relevant websites. It is a filtering process that leads the holder to the destination to which they want to go. (At least that’s how it’s supposed to work – see my recent article on keyword web spam for times when this is not the case.)
Search engines are still heavily oriented toward text-based content. Even when other media types are indexed, it is typically done so using text-based descriptions. Search engine users separate the wheat from the chaff on the Internet by searching for words that are relevant to the information they seek. That is their key. Smart webmasters, anticipating those users who will employ search to find content similar to what they’ve published, can boost their chances of bringing searchers to their websites by using the same words in their content that searchers will in their searches. It’s simply matching keys to unlocking (revealing) the content you want.
Sometimes the keywords and key phrases searchers will use for a given field of interest are obvious, but that’s not always good news for webmasters. If these keywords are obvious to you, it’s likely that they are obvious to everyone, and if your site falls into one of those fields, all of your competitors’ websites will be using those same keywords.
The long tail of search
If this is the case for you, there’s no need to despair – there is hope. There’s an often-overlooked truism in our industry: search has a long tail. Most webmasters only work to identify their sites with the head, so there’s typically a lot of untapped value to be had in working on that long tail.
What do I mean by head and tail? Consider the form of a tadpole. Much of its mass is in the big head, but then its form flows into a long, tapering tail. Graphs of keyword search trends often look like a tadpole with a very long tail. A few primary keywords typically dominate a sizable percentage of the search traffic, but then there are secondary and even tertiary keywords. By themselves, they are clearly not as effective as the primary keywords, as fewer users search on them. But there are people who either search directly on them or use them as a part of longer queries, and those users are just as valuable as conversion opportunities as users of primary keywords. The key distinction here is that most webmasters do not bother to actively compete for those potential customers in the long tail.
If you are in an industry that has a few heavy-hitter, powerhouse websites as competitors, whose webmasters have worked hard to develop great content and earn authoritative backlinks, it can be as frustrating as chasing your own tail for a smaller upstart to compete with those sites using the same primary keywords. Competing in the long tail can be a great way to mop up some otherwise untapped business and begin to develop a name and reputation for your website. It’s always better to compete for a high rank for a few keywords in the tail than to merely settle for a middling or worse rank for the most popular keywords in the head (settling for mediocrity is what most webmasters do, and thus why there’s so often good opportunities for the taking).
And with the time you spend successfully targeting the long tail keyword opportunities, if you make the effort to simultaneously develop quality content and work to earn authoritative inbound links for that content, your site will only increase in stature. At that point, you can start thinking about getting more competitive for those primary keywords in the head as well.
Make it so
So all of that sounds fine in concept. But how do you execute on such a plan? You have to know what keywords are being used in your field. You need to know what keywords you need to use on your website. You need to make your website a legitimate target for searchers who use those keywords. To get such keyword intelligence, you need a great keyword tool. One that is easy to use, draws from strong industry data sources, and offers a variety of views of that data. Frankly, I suggest you take a look at Microsoft Advertising Intelligence.
Microsoft Advertising Intelligence is the successor to the 2009 beta tool called adCenter Excel Add-in Keyword Research Tool. As you might have inferred by its previous moniker, it installs as an add-in to Microsoft Office Excel 2007 (it won’t work with any previous versions of Excel, however). You’ll need an account with adCenter to gain access to the keyword data, but that’s easily enough done, and there’s no cost for setting up the account. Note that the tool was designed for users of search marketing (aka Pay Per Click [PPC] ads). However, the research needed to develop strong-performing keywords for PPC ads parallels that of keywords for search engine optimization (SEO), and thus the tool is easily repurposed for those efforts.
Once installed, Microsoft Advertising Intelligence is presented as a tab on the Excel ribbon named Ad Intelligence. Click that tab, and from there, you have access to a series of helpful tools that can help you perform the following tasks:
I recommend that, immediately after installation, you first configure the tool to work with your adCenter account. In the Options & Help section of the ribbon, click Options, and then fill in the User name and Password fields with your adCenter credentials. Click Test Connection to confirm everything is ready to go. Once you get a message box confirming the connection was good, click OK to close the open dialog boxes.
There are nine tool buttons on the ribbon, some containing multiple, related tools. Instead of me trying to explain all of the cool stuff that Microsoft Advertising Intelligence can do, I’ll simply refer you to the tool’s website for technical documentation, its active community forum, and the numerous video tutorials.
Identify the long tail
Once you’ve installed the tool, you can use it to pull a list of the current keywords used on your website today. Here’s how:
In the resulting report, you can change the sort order of any of the columns of data to see which keywords and key phrases had the highest CTR on any particular month or in aggregate.
If you want to be very specific in conducting your research and customizing your reports, you can skip the keyword wizard and instead use the other tools in Microsoft Advertising Intelligence to narrow down keywords for specific verticals, demographics (including age, gender, and location), and more. You’ll see which words are the highest performers, and how those words have performed recently.
This is powerful information, and you’ll learn which words are being used in your field at which frequency. Check your site’s keywords against those who are the movers and shakers in your field, and you may discover some under-utilized keywords in the long tail of search that may be a golden opportunity for your site.
Once you do, implement them wisely on your site, and then monitor your site’s progress over the coming weeks and months. For advice on implementing keywords wisely, check out our earlier blog articles on using keywords, including Put your keywords where the emphasis is (SEM 101) and The key to picking the right keywords (SEM 101). Whatever you do, don’t follow the examples of keyword abuse documented in the blog article The pernicious perfidy of page-level web spam (SEM 101). Remember that SEO is not an overnight quick fix. Time is needed for crawling and reindexing changed content from the search engine side and then for searchers to find you. Patience, along with hard, smart work, will pay off. (And don’t ignore other aspects of a thoughtful SEO plan that can improve ranking as well, such as creating great, unique content and earning authoritative, high-quality inbound links!)
So stop chasing your own tail. Instead, invest in chasing the long tail of search by using a keyword intelligence tool like Microsoft Advertising Intelligence. That is the key for unlocking success in search.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post them in our SEM forum. See you again soon…
– Rick DeJarnette, Bing Webmaster Center
The Gillmor Gang — Dan Farber, Laura Fitton, Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, and Andrew Keen — kill time waiting for the iPad to ship. Recorded live Friday, February 19, 2010.
One of the things you discover as a speaker and, especially, a conference organizer is this: Keynote generates really frickin’ enormous PDFs. Seriously. Much like Miles O’Keefe, they’re huge. We had one speaker last year whose lovingly crafted and beautifully designed 151-slide deck resulted in a 175MB PDF.
Now, hard drives and bandwidth may be cheap, but when you have four hundred plus attendees all trying to download the same 175MB PDF at the same time, the venue’s conference manager will drop by to find out what the bleeding eyestalks your attendees are doing and why it’s taking down the entire outbound pipe. Not to mention the network will grind to a nearly complete halt. Whatever you personally may think of net access at conferences, at this point, not providing net access is roughly akin to not providing functioning bathrooms.
So what’s the answer? ShrinkIt is fine if the slides use lots of vectors and you’re running Snow Leopard. If the slides use lots of bitmapped images, or you’re not on Snow Leopard, ShrinkIt can’t help you.
If the slides are image-heavy, then you can always load the PDF into Preview and then do a “Save As…” where you select the “Reduce File Size” Quartz filter. That will indeed drastically shrink the file size—that 175MB PDF goes down to 13MB—but it can also make the slides look thoroughly awful. That’s because the filter achieves its file size reduction by scaling all the images down by at least 50% and to no more than 512 pixels on a side, plus it uses aggressive JPEG compression. So not only are the images infested with compression artifacts, they also tend to get that lovely up-scaling blur. Bleah.
I Googled around a bit and found “Quality reduced file size in Mac OS X Preview from early 2006. There I discovered that anyone can create their own Quartz filters, which was the key I needed. Thus armed with knowledge, I set about creating a filter that struck, in my estimation, a reasonable balance between image quality and file size reduction. And I think I’ve found it. That 175MB PDF gets taken down to 34MB with what I created.
If you’d like to experience this size reduction for yourself (and how’s that for an inversion of common spam tropes?) it’s pretty simple:
Done. The next time you need to reduce the size of a PDF, load it up in Preview, choose “Save As…”, and save it using the Quartz filter you just installed.
If you’re the hands-on type who’d rather set things up yourself, or you’re a paranoid type who doesn’t trust downloading zipped files from sites you don’t control (and I actually don’t blame you if you are), then you can manually create your own filter like so:
As you can see from the values, the “75%” part of the filter’s name comes from the fact that two of the filter’s values are 75%. In the original Reduce File Size filter, both are at 50%. The maximum size of images in my version is also quite a bit bigger than the original’s—1280 versus 512—which means that the file size reductions won’t be the same as the original.
Of course, you now have the knowledge needed to fiddle with the filter to create your own optimal balance of quality and compression, whether you downloaded and installed the zip or set it up manually—either way, ColorSync Utility has what you need. If anyone comes up with an even better combination of values, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. In the meantime, share and enjoy!
Though this may not completely eliminate liability if a publisher or artist rewraps a whole series of your tweets in a different shell, Zeldman makes an interesting point on the limitations of copyright in regards to short phrases (i.e. tweets):
As messages sent via Twitter cannot be longer than 140 characters, they cannot be copyrighted. However original, witty, or profound they may be, nothing more than good manners protects your original expression of authorship. If you wish to let other people quote or use your Tweets, you need not “license” them; indeed, technically, you cannot license them, since they are in the public domain the instant you publish them.
Which is an HTML5/CSS/JS entry.
That doesn’t run in Internet Explorer.
Frog Log was my top pick, and obviously did very well with the other judges too, for a good reason: it’s a fun game. It doesn’t play quite the same in Firefox previous to v3.5, as the drag-n-drop doesn’t work. Instead, you click on a frog, then click where you want to place it. I actually found that made the game a touch easier for me, but your interaction may vary. In addition to working in Firefox, Safari, and Opera, it also runs on a number of mobile devices.
Here’s an excerpt from my judging remarks:
Just a great little game, addictive and well thought out with some interesting gameplay. I would LOVE to see this developed further by the author… My only ding was that drag-n-drop failed in Firefox 3.5; clicking worked fine, though.
I’m not sure why I had trouble with drag-n-drop in Firefox 3.5, since I don’t have have the same problem now. Maybe I got confused with browser version numbers or something. Regardless, it works fine, it’s a great game, and remember: it’s less than 10K unzipped.
I also gave high marks to the HTML5 runner-up, Chris Evans’ 100pxls, which was the source of my Dadaist tweet a couple of weeks back and lands right in my personal sweet spot for “doing odd things with popular web services”. Here’s some of what I had to say in my remarks:
…really liked the concept here, especially the nonsensical tweets that were generated by drawing your own icon. The icons could be made easier to see in the main display, but I suppose that’s a minor quibble.
I’d like to thank the MIX 10K crew for getting me involved as a contest judge; I really enjoyed seeing what people created and had a hard time narrowing down my votes to just a handful of winners. More importantly, though, I offer my heartiest congratulations to all the winners, and most especially to Jimmy and Chris for doing such fun, interesting, and downright cool stuff with 10K of web standards goodness!
The Web Perfectionist site was designed by Irina Ponomareva to be clean, elegant, easy to use and accessible to all.
We found it to be a very solid, well coded, accessible site.
Carlos Bueno highlights an oft overlooked aspect of internationalization. His address book auto-complete example at the beginning of the article crystalized the problem for me immediately. The solution he discusses for a fuzzy character match dubbed accent folding seems logical, especially in certain contexts. Beyond those contexts, the problem of transliteration gets complicated quickly. link
The Gillmor Gang — Edo Segal, Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, and Andrew Keen — on FriendFeed 2.0 aka Buzz. Recorded live, Friday, February 12, 2010.
really like how you dig deep for link relevancy. was something I learned very early in my link building career… i will hopefully be attending SES as well and look forward to meeting you.
twitter lists are another great sources of potential link candidates