What is Personalized Search?

When you type a phrase into a Google Search Bar, the results generated and delivered to you are personalized based on your Google Account (if you are logged in) or your IP address. Google keeps track of your previous searches by default if you are logged in, and it will use your search habits and apparent preferences to customize and bias the results it delivers to you. If you are not logged in, Google will attempt to personalize your search based on demographic statistics or other factors based on the physical location you are in when you search. It uses your IP address to help guesstimate categories to put you into for shaping the search results.

Personalized Search is a Game Changing Event for SEO’s

In the past, SEO’s demonstrated their effectiveness by giving ranking reports to their clients. Ranking Reports were one of several clear indicators that clients could use to determine if their SEO Firm was effective. Of course the end goal of SEO is to get more sales and more business for their client, but showing them that they were # 1 on Google for their key phrase was a great proof that their salary was justified. I handed out over 250 Google # 1 rankings in July of 2009 to my clients as well as over 1,000 Google Top 10 rankings. Now, a search done by an attorney in Miami will have a different result as the same search done by an SEO in New York. I’ve had to spend a lot of time teaching my clients how to handle these changes. Some clients only care about the rankings and I can tell you it’s a little difficult to change a mindset after clients have been accustomed for years to look at ranking reports.

Is Personalized Search Good?

My opinion is that it’s good for non-technical searchers because it helps them to get the relevant results they are looking for … most of the time… based on probability and statistics. For an SEO like me, I want to know what Google thinks without getting biased results from their index. And really I want to see the actual search frequency for each term I’m interested in and I’d like to see what was delivered not just to me but to everyone. SO it is good for search? Yes for some and no to others. There is no right or wrong answer to that question yet.

How Can I De-Personalize Search?

After you search for a phrase and you get to the SERP (search engine results page), take a look at your address bar on top of the browser.

To De-Personalize that search add to the end of the string that’s already in the address bar:   &pws=0

(that’s a zero at the end)

This is the same search with the de-personalize string added to it. Notice the results are different. webdesignworkplace.com is listed #16 for that phrase and it was listed #17.

Do I have to Keep Typing That De-Personalize String?

In manual mode with you and your browser, the short answer is Yes. To get a de-personalized search you have to add that string to remove filters and bias. But there may be a better way. Yoast has just released a new plugin that works with IE and FF. Just search for:

Disable personalized search

I’m going to try this later because if I had 10 cents for every time I had to de-personalize a search in the last 4 months I could take my kids to Disneyland.

(I have not been paid by anyone mentioned in this blog post – Cheers – Mal Milligan)

URL Stuffing – Ba Da Bing!

SEO Poor Taste Violation

Spammy URL due to Keyword Stuffing.

Well I did not expect to see a major search engine engaging in URL Stuffing but here it is:


Wooh Dude ! Lighten up Bing, having more than about 5 hyphens in a Stub is an indication there might be a spammy story there. You have 11 hyphens in that URL. I would vote on it if I had time but in this case I’ll have to act as if I were Judge Dred:

I hereby convict you of an SEO bad taste violation having found you guilty of issuing a Spam URL. I therefore have no choice but to sentence you for 1 count of a poor taste violation using Spam in your URL needlessly in order to stuff keywords. Bad Bing, Bad.

OK will a spammy URL get you a Google Penalty?

I tend to look at something like this not as a penalty but in the light of not being a good move. A URL gives you a chance to give feed a Google Spider with exactly what it craves… relevance ! Google wants to find a relevance match with the searchers phrase and the URL, the meta title, the meta description, the img alt tags, the H1 and H2 tags on the page and the content of course. When all these stars are in alignment the Google Heavens may shine down on you and grant you high ranking for the relevant phrase. But you can blow the whole image of relevant purity and spam that URL to death and loose the chance you had to impress the next Google Spider with a real tasty and relevant treat.

The moral of this story is: Don’t Spam your URL’s… keyword stuffing anywhere is bad. It might not hurt you with any kind of a penalty… but it definitely won’t help you and it might blow your shot at setting up a perfectly juicy piece of spider food that is wholesome and incredibly relevant.

Is Comment Dropping On Other Blogs Good For You?

Oh No! It’s The Algorithm!

There are thought to be 200+ factors that are considered when Google analyzes a web page. These 200+ factors together are known collectively as “The Algorithm”. SEO’s like me study the algorithm so we can learn how to improve a web page the way Google wants to see it. That way we can get a page to rank higher for a particular keyword phrase.

The age of the page, the number of inbound links, the number of outbound links, the amount of unique text… we could get started and this would be a long discussion if we tried to name all the factors that go into “The Algorithm”. We’ll dive into that one later. Let’s just consider this one for today.

If I make a comment on another blog, will this help my PageRank?

The short answer is: Yes… but only if the blog has allowed you to have a trusted outbound link or what we call a “do follow” or a “good link”.

The other short answer is: “Maybe a little”… if the blog is set to the default status and they only provide “no follow” outbound links .

Here’s what a “good link” or a “do follow link” looks like:

<a href=”http://webdesignworkplace.com/about”>

And here is the “no follow link”:

<a href=”http://webdesignworkplace.com/about”  rel=”nofollow”>

We call it “Link Love” or “Link Juice”

Don’t just take my word for it, there is a lot of documentation provided by Google on the rel=nofollow issue. Basically what The Google WebMaster Central doc tells us is that when you use a no follow link it will not pass PageRank to the target page. If you use a do follow link, it will pass PageRank to the target page. When you pass PR to a target page through a do follow link, SEO’s call it “Link Love” or “Link Juice”. Around the SEO Shop where I work a conversation between 2 SEO’s will sometimes include something like… “My cosmetic surgeon in Manhattan needs a little link juice, can you give me some?” Translation: “Can you give me an do follow inbound link from a web page you control that has PR?”

Now that you know what’s up with that, you can help your ranking on Google and build PR on a particular page (usually your homepage) by commenting on a blog that allows do follow comments. My personal feeling is that even though Google tells us that they do not allow PR to pass I think they must give some kind of positive accounting to the sheer number of inbound links a page gets that are no follows. A lot of SEO Theories exist revolving the idea of an Optimum Ratio of good inbound links to no follow inbound links. I’ll tell you right now there is no solid evidence regarding these kinds of ratios and don’t spend too much time on that. A web page in the wild will get good links and no follow links naturally over time and all other factors being considered exactly equal, a page with more do follow inbound links will rank better than a page with less do follow inbound links. And probably a page with just more no follow links would rank better than a page with less no follow links too. That’s just my professional opinion. Blogs default to no follow. So we can assume it’s perfectly natural for a page with inbound links that are no follow has some sort of interest in cyberspace.

Will Inbound Links from Bad Communities Hurt Your Page?

The short answer is: No. Google has to assume that inbound links are from a web property you do not control unless it can determine a cross-linking scheme like a link farm exists, or the link is from another website on the same class C IP address. I’ve seen lots of official stuff from Big G saying being on the same Class C IP address would not have a negative impact to the value of an inbound link but I don’t believe it. Conservative SEO’s like me… trying to make sure a client gets the best White Hat SEO you can give them, will put a client website on a Unique Class C IP address. That move will avoid the possibility that Google might think an inbound link from the same IP address has been manipulated. Why risk the chance that an inbound link might look like its from a link farm or that your site is one the same address as a known bad community? Sometimes a competitor who is acting in an unethical manner will link to a page from a known bad community in an attempt to discredit the target page. Google and Yahoo and Bing are all aware of this tactic and more than 9 times out of 10 it will not work to discredit the target page. That strategy does work sometimes, so to block that put your client on a Unique Class C IP address and “Forget About it”.

Here is a segment of a report I made with Link Diagnosis showing some of the inbound links to a webpage. Some of the PR on this spreadsheet I Jimmied up for the purpose of this conversation. Notice the “Link Type” for the the links on this part of the spreadsheet is “good”. Those are like money in the bank for an SEO. They add up to boost the PR on the target page and they are worth their weight in gold sometimes. All other Algorithm factors being considered equal, the web page with the most good inbound links wins.

What Most Web Designers Don’t Tell You

In my humble experience – covering 25 years of IT working for Fortune 100 companies in NYC, I’ve worked with many a web designer. What web designers don’t tell you upfront usually is that they don’t know SEO. That covers more than 90% of all web designers. My point has always been in this business if no one goes to your website what good is it? You can have the prettiest website in the world and if it sits at a ranking of #400 for it’s main keyword phrases on Google, are you getting any ROI return on investment at all from your development costs?

It’s better to have a site that is more functional and easy to navigate than it is to have one that is pretty with moving flash components. That being said I also have to add it’s absolutely critical that your site ranks well on search engines for you to gain any business value from it. Therefore it must be SEO’d properly. Every page must be worked by someone who knows SEO at least to tune the meta tags. Without the meta tags being tuned up, the chances for a web page to rank well are limited or a long shot at best. Meta tagging is essential.

Next time you are talking with a web developer, ask her or him how they are going to ingetrate SEO into your latest website? If they don’t have a clue, get an SEO to help immediately. New websites that have good meta tags get ranked way faster for key phrases and somethings they can be competitive immediately after the site is launched.

WordPress Site Review – Kitty Bradshaw

I got a chance to meet Kitty Bradshaw at one of the volunteer sessions for WordCamp NYC 2009 at Baruch College. We were making name tags and chatting about WordPress and SEO. We exchanged cards and she asked me to take a look at her site. I did a site review for her last night and I mentioned a few things I would change but overall I was very impressed with the amount of artwork and the color palette match. It was visually impressive and there was a lot of eye candy for the men and the ladies in Kitty’s targeted audience. This is another Thesis WordPress Blog and like many production sites built on Thesis it was adapted beautifully from the central logo / header.

Kitty had a PR3 on her homepage and about a year and a half of blog posts so the site is primed for big gains once it’s search engine optimized. She has around 300 blog posts and they’re packed with great images and well written original content with a unique perspective. A winning combination.

(I was not paid by any of the people or products mentioned in this article – Cheers Everyone – Mal Milligan)

WordPress Automatic Upgrades

For all of us who have installed and maintained the stand alone version of WordPress since “quite some time ago”, the automatic upgrade feature was a “small step for WordPress and a giant leap for webmasters”. OK, so in the beginning and really until early 2009 all WordPress upgrades were manual. That is the new files had to be copied to a local machine and unzipped… then they were uploaded to the server to over-write the existing core files, and then the database had to be updated in many cases. Lots of work, lots of places for human error. But always exciting nevertheless.

Enter WordPress version 2.7 – Yeah !! With WordPress 2.7 in February 2009 we had automatic upgrades available for all future upgrades. (Not Automattic). So we can login to the admin Dashboard and see immediately when we have to upgrade WordPress itself, or any of our plugins.

A word to the wise is appropriate here. Please resist the urge to upgrade everything immediately when you see the notices that you can upgrade. Be sure your backup is rock solid before you start upgrading anything. You can check my backup routine or of course use your own but make sure you can restore the entire site if something goes terribly wrong during your upgrade.

To execute an automatic upgrade with WordPress or any of the plugins that support automatic upgrade, you will be challenged for login credentials like this:

And following a successful upgrade, you will be rewarded with this screen… note this does not mean your new files will work. This just means that the upgrade process appeared to have completed successfully. Immediately after any upgrade, I check to make sure my plugins are all playing properly together. But that’s another story. Cheers –

WordCamp NYC Genius Bar – Bring It On!

And you thought the so called “Apple Genius Bar” had a trademark on the phrase “Genius Bar”? No way. WordPress fans have their own version of the Genius Bar and the WordCamp NYC event will have one all day on November 15th at Baruch College. I’m working as a volunteer at the event but I’ll be bring my questions to the bar with the other WP Padawans. I’ll be asking my NJ web design buds if anyone has the courage to deliver. Steve Bruner who was the original organizer for this year’s event mentioned he wanted to have one if we had enough Geniuses to support it over a month ago. And now there are enough. There are over 50 presenters at the 2 day event and from the field we’ve managed to get enough WP Guru power to have the Genius Bar this year.

From today’s WordCamp NYC 2009 newsletter:  “The idea behind the genius bar is a place where you can come to ask your toughest (or easy) questions to members of the WordPress community and get great answers. Whether you are having a problem with your WordPress theme or want to know the best place to find a new one, have a question about a plugin or two, or just want to know the best way to get started with WordPress – we are there to help! ”

If you want to and can volunteer to work the Genius Bar, please contact Barry at http://barry.wordpress.com/contact-me/. Thanks !!

WordPress Site Review – Frugal Kiwi

I was looking at incredible food pictures on Tastespotting as I do every once in a while. An interesting picture lead me to a beautifully designed site from New Zealand by web designer and web copywriter Melanie McMinn. The Frugal Kiwi – “Live Well Spend Less”.

I exchanged a few emails with Melanie as she described her Thesis Theme WordPress website. Melanie called Thesis as “an incredibly flexible framework”. She mentioned other WP themes she’s used and she said the features and customization you can do with Thesis left the others “in the dirt”. She went on to say the price tag for developers was very reasonably priced. I was especially interested in Melanie’s report that the built in SEO options were handy.

For me the most impressive feature was that the site was so eye catching and artistically designed. It looked like it was built from an artistic composition… if you’re in the business you would just say “a comp” or a “PhotoShop Comp”. I really like the header integration with the theme and the fact that the Nav Bar is above the header and the image flows down into the context area seamlessly. The fat footer is nicely done with plenty of links to her recent posts and categories to make navigation easy and search easy. Her widgets on the right sidebar are artistic and interesting… also fitting the overall look and feel perfectly.

The Frugal Kiwi has a Google PR3 now on the homepage and a PR2 on the About Page.

I’m going to have to look more into Thesis. I’ve heard a lot about Thesis from Rae Hoffman at Sugarrae but this is the best design I’ve seen to date on Thesis. Nicely Done Melanie – cheers !!

(I have not been paid in any way by any companies or persons listed in this review – Mal Milligan)

Backing Up WordPress

Sometimes there is a right way and a wrong way to do something. In this case, there are a lot of right ways to get your Stand-Alone WordPress blog backed up. I’m going to demo my system and you can use it if you have a similar set of parameters or just get a grasp on the tasks if you have a different set of circumstances.

The official core WordPress document written to help you with backups is one you should be familiar with. It’s on the official WordPress Codex and it’s located here: http://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Backups

I’m running on a Unix host with a Plesk Dashboard / Control Panel.

  • Make a copy of the local folder where you keep your WordPress blog. After I copy the entire folder / directory tree, I usually rename the old one to wordpress-blog.old and then I’ll make a brand new folder (empty) for the next step.
  • Use FTP to copy the entire directory tree from your server / host down to your local folder. With the latest versions of WordPress allowing version updates and plugin updates to the server directly, you really have to make a fresh local copy of whatever you have currently on the server / host. In the past my master copy of a WordPress blog would be local, but since I use the automatic update feature constantly with updates to WP and plugins, the master is always on the host these days.
  • Backup the database. Lots of ways to go about this. The first is to do it manually. You can go to your Plesk dashboard and then access the db via phpMyAdmin. There are a staggering number of possible combinations selecting the export manually, so I just use a WordPress Plugin. The one I have been using lately is called: WordPress Database Backup and it’s located at: http://ilfilosofo.com/blog/wp-db-backup/ This plugin allows you to set it for weekly backups to the server, to an email address, or a “Johnny On The Spot” backup to your local machine.

That theoretically covers the backup portion and you will find other references on the internet for the “3 step WordPress backup” in a number of places.

You will normally restore this backup to the original location if you have to but you can also use this backup to move your WordPress installation to an entirely new location. I’ll cover that in the next post.