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The only change so far was to switch this setup to CSS styled text menus (links in list elements) a few weeks back. And funny thing, the look is so close to the original that no end user or affiliate has yet commented on the change. Some of the business staff haven't even noticed.
At any rate, with the Google changes on Sep 15, we got our first look at the new rankings. On the trophy keyword, the home page went up about 45 positions, from out of the running to a second page contender. With lots more improvements to go, this picture is quite hopeful. The power of anchor text on the main navigation turned out to be BIG.
Lots of other major keywords went to #1 or into the top 3, from previously being 10, 20, or more positions down. In all, it looks like 200 phrases have improved from the benchmark sample we are tracking. I'm sure as the new conversions start to show up, we'll learn about lots more keywords that are worth tracking and tweaking, too.
Lesson for me -- don't let the issue slide when it comes to using text in main navigvation. It's a lot more important than I used to think, and I used to think it was pretty important anyway.
[edited by: tedster at 1:38 am (utc) on Sep. 19, 2006]
Now I wish I could go back and redo all the sites I've ever done with everything I've either figured out or learned here.
Tedster is talking about repeating KW in the anchor text, BigDave about repeating the anchor text itself.
this is bad:
<a>keyword keyword keyword widget keyword</a>
this is OK:
Did I get that right?
Where in the spectrum of good anchortexting does this fall?
... assuming all the proper nouns make sense when arranged like that.
This menu is not passing any "keyword" anchor power to the baddabing page. but it is passing concentrated baddabingness. Sometimes that's enough :)
But, since we are spoiling the day, don't forget the power of in-line links back to the site's own relative pages. It is not just nav menus that carry this effect.
...may well be a bit too much. I am watching a site slide (not a lot, but noticably) with a menu much like that. It has been top three on the single word terms for several years. Right now it is #5 for the plural term and #11 for the singular.
The singular term shows in 4 of 8 top level menu items. The plural in 3 of 8.
I strongly suspect that this is related to the slip, but it still rates well enough that I am afraid to tinker.
This would be my preferred one, if it was a much longer list of more than 3 or 4 of "keyword". You will, of course be using "keyword" in your title, and you are also making an upper level page all about "keyword" that will then have some inline text links down to "keyword widget".
You don't have to shove everything down the SE's throat. Even MSN is starting to figure some of this stuff out, and google has been there for years.
So they value text links more than alt-attributes.
Consider my example. I have a site which promotes widgets of over a dozen different colors in hundreds of cities. My nav structure for the last 5 years has been similar to pageoneresults' above, just without the heading tags and list. Everyone else and their momma who comes up for searches like "widgets in miami" has tons of links repeating the keyword "widget" for lists of cities of varying sizes.
ALthough I considered this a total Google landmine, just recently it occured to me:
If my main Kansas widget page links to 100 pages of widgets in cities throughout Kansas, then it is almost stupid of me to link to them only using the name of the city. To support this further, now take the whole structure down one level to "blue widgets in miami". If I have 9 different color widgets in miami, should I not link to each with the color and city in the text link.
Logic says yes. Let's see what Google says.
My impression is that SEO techniques that worked well in the past tend to stop working, or begin to hurt, as the SE's get smarter.
Consider the earlier example, it was a site which promotes widgets of over a dozen different colors in hundreds of cities.
The nav structure for the last 5 years has been similar to that of its competitors -- lots of usage of both "widgets" and "city name" in the navigation, making it easier to come up for searches like "widgets in miami" and perhaps even for the keyword "widget" (since this keyword was being used in the anchor text for nearly all of the navigation links on the site.
This nav structure may have worked well for SEO purposes, but it really isn't the most logical, or ideal nav structure for users. Absent any SEO concerns, it really would be more logical for all of these internal links to only use the name of the city -- assuming the site is devoted to widgets of various types and locations. In other words, the user already knows the context is one in which the focus is on widgets, so there isn't a good reason to constantly mention the word widgets -- particularly in the navigation, where it is redundant noise that reduces usability.
Thus, if the SE's get smart enough, the presence of all those redundant "widget" references in the navigation links is a dead giveaway that the site owner is trying to impress the SE's, not trying to make the site better for users.
Which, we will recall, is exactly what Google warns us not to do.
Basically, to look natural and user-oriented, the site should have the keyword "widgets" sprinkled around the site as much as necessary to form coherent sentences and paragraphs, but it shouldn't be overdone. And, it certainly doesn't need to be mentioned in nearly every internal link.
From a user perspective, a menu that reads: "blue widgets", "red widgets", "green widgets" isn't very logical if the site specializes in widgets. Of course, if this is a general site selling all different sorts of things, perhaps you might see that navigation, but more likely, there woudl be a hierarchy, with one button or tab labeled "widgets" and a subset of buttons or links below that which list the various colors.
Now, for highly obscure combinations, like "blue widgets in miami", it might make sense to use the full phrase in navigation, but more likely this will also be less than fully natural.
So, the real issue is whether Google is smart enough to detect the difference between navigation which is designed strictly for users, and navigation that is largely or entirely designed to help the search engines realize this is a widget site. It used to be important to mention "widget" everywhere you possibly could. Now it may be, or at least it will soon be, smarter to be a little more circumspect in our efforts to help the SE's realize our site is all about widgets.
Sometimes the longer phrases are more important for the business and for conversions than the single word search. I have one case where this is exactly the case. They were filtered way down on the 1-word search long ago, but those searches weren't bringing in the real money. And so we let it be, and even went after more phrases.
Also, I've had some questions about whether heavy keyword repetition in the navigation might make a page go into the Supplemental Index as duplicate content. I have never seen that, and the way I see things, that wouldn't make any sense. It's hard to give a definite yes or no to almost any Google question, but in my mind this is a definite no.
Thank you tedster - it's certainly a bit comforting that you haven't come across evidence of these stuffed links causing penalty. One of my oncerns was that the keyword density for "widgets" on the page would be weighed down unnaturally, but I do not believe that hyperlinked text is treated the same way as regular text. I'd love to hear otherwise, if anyone is of a different opinion.
this repetition of alt and anchor text with sometimes the anchor text being a bit shorter: Is that good, bad or neutral?
I see an awful lot of this myself. Geesh, I was looking for something quite specific this morning and goat back about 90,000 (no exageration) responses that all looked like city.county_name.state.zipCode.sameFrigginSite.com
The results were absolutely useless. Pathetic...
Way OT, but G really needs to get the subdomain issue under control.
my oncerns was that the keyword density for "widgets" on the page would be weighed down unnaturally
Oh, it can be. And it can get your page filtered for the "widgets" results. But you can still be #1 for "Phoenix widgets".
In short, a filter (which can be search specific) is not a penalty aginst the entire domain -- at least that's what I see.
Warning: if you tke this approach, you my be tempted to "embellish" the text version of the graphical content, just to help Google along a little bit extra, you know? Google most definitely considers that hidden content and such usge will not pass a manual check.
However, I have not used them in text navigation, but only for heads and sub-heads where they can enhance the page design with with a nice display font. I suppose they could be employed in a menu/navigation area - no technical limitation I know of.
But my question is what type of method do you apply to remove/hide the text?
We use the first method below, and I think our reasoning was that the search engines would not register the tag as hidden or not displayed. We are not trying to blackhat anything, we are simply trying to make clean html for the SEs and visual pages for the user.
[We currently us this one]
- or -
- or -
1) Is one better then the other?
2) Have you begun to see any abuse of this CSS layout method by spammer sites?
3) Do search engines read the CSS file?
4) Would the search engines be savy enough to figure out if a site is spamming or is using the CSS hide methods honestly?
Any thoughts on this are appreciated, new territory in a way.
1) The key is not the "hiding" method, but the fact that some mechanism (like Flash turned off) will make the text visible to some users.
3) Not often, so my guess is not in an automated way -- yet
4) Not by algorithm, at least not yet. But they re smrt enough to let the algo flag some urls for a hand check.
Because on page location is a relevant factor, try positioning the footer in the code at the top of the page, similar to a top navigation. You can uss CSS and absolute positioning to have the page footer hide nicely beneath the contents of your page so it doesn't really alter the look and feel of the site.
I have employed this with a couple of sites and have seen very good position increases fairly quickly.
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[edited by: tedster at 7:15 pm (utc) on Oct. 2, 2006]