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I wrote a post earlier about SEO and the English Langauge that described the ways text can influance search engine placement and I want to talk briefly about one of the other factors that can affect search engine optimization and that is backlinking. A backlink is a link from any other website to your own.  If I were, for example, to link to Spoonfed that would be considered a backlink to the Spoonfed site, an external link from my own.  The more backlinks a website receives, from more reputible sources, the higher Google ranks them in the search results, and the higher page rank (PR) they are awarded.  PR is an artificial indicator, created by the search engines, that indicates how important a page is perceived on the web.  PR can go from unranked, which is lower than 0, to 10 which is the highest.

Of course, the trick becomes finding ways to get sites with high PR to give a backlink to your site.  Of course, you can create content that other sites find interesting, causing them to link to your interesting information; you can contact them directly and ask them to place a link on your site, especially if you think they might find your content valuable – this is what I am currently working on for Spoonfed; you can purchase high quality backlinks OR you can find places where you can actually post your own link on someone else’s website.  That might sound counterintitive – why would someone allow you to change their page to add a link? – but it’s actually more common that you might imagine.  Blogs have comment fields where you can enter your own comments, forums as well allow visitors to take part in a conversation.  By placing your link in comments or forum posts, you can manually increase the number of backlinks to your site.

Things become a bit more complicated, however, with something called the Follow tag.  When you typically create a link in HTML code, it looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.name-of-website.com”>Name of Website</a>

However in that code, you can add special tags that cause the link to open in a new window, to open in a new tab, or even a tag that tells Google robots (discussed in the previous post) not to visit that page at all.  Most blogs (including mine) include “no-follow” tags as a default setting in comments, so spammers can’t take advantage of the exact manual backlinking strategy I described above.  However many forums and blogs have “do-follow” tags that allow Google robots to explore your site after you manually create the link, thus passing the high PR from their blog or forum to your page.

There are many directory listings of forums and blogs that are do-follow, so I won’t go into those lists here.  What I want to discuss is how to find high PR pages within the forum or blog where you can post your link.  Because each page on a domain has an individual rank (for example, this blog post alone is unranked while the homepage at www.thetopfloorflat.com has a PR of 3), sometimes it can be tricky to find high PR places to link even within do-follow domains.

The first step is to download the Firefox addon, SEO for Firefox, a fantastic tool that will show you, directly in your search results list, valuable SEO information about the pages your search has returned.  This information includes PR, the number of backlinks that page itself has, and age of the site.  Once the addon has been installed, you’re ready to find some high PR target pages to add your backlinks.

Pick one of your favorite do-follow forums or blogs – if you don’t know of any you can start with my favorite web developer’s forum, Digital Point.  Go to the Google search engine and make sure your SEO for Firefox addon is turned on.  Then, do a search for the phrase “site:forums.digitalpoint.com” of course replacing the URL forums.digitalpoint.com with whatever forum or blog you plan on using.  As your search loads, the SEO for Firefox addon will show you the PR of each page indexed on the site, while the Google results will show you how many forums posts are on the page.  A quick scan through the results can indicate some valuable results, such as this one here:

This image shows a result with a PR of 3, a fairly high PR, and only six other posts on the page.  This is an excellent target – I can go to the page, add a post to the forum thread, and instantly have a PR3 backlink to my site.  Then, I can return to the search results to find more easy targets and high PR backlinks. Once you’ve exhausted one site, there are thousands of other do-follow blogs and forums to explore.

One note – Google does not allow you to run limitless searches on their cached site pages, so it may be useful to do a few searches under one domain, then another, switching between them as you look for high PR backlink options.

This is a departure from my usual, less technical posts, and I do hope to start including more of my tech experiences in the blog here.  If you have any questions about this information, feel free to leave a comment below.  Didn’t understand a word? Don’t worry, the usual fluff will return to a blog near you soon :).

In the California Silicon Valley, the bar is set by the big local bigshots – the Googles and Facebooks – not the struggling start-ups still living in a garage. However throughout the rest of the world, the bar is Silicon Valley as a whole, with the startup mentality, the business creativity and the culture of risk and, sometimes, payoff. So it is not surprising that outside of California and America, other emerging tech cultures seek to style themselves around the Silicon Valley model. Meet the Silicon Roundabout in London, England and Spoonfed, a London web startup that’s building a name for itself and the area.

A map pinpointing the offices of the tech and media start-ups in London shows a scattershot grouping around Old Street in East London, an area that has become colloquially known as the Silicon Roundabout in homage to the Silicon Valley of California. Moo, Last.FM and Dopplr are a few of the homegrown start-ups that have already caught international business eyes. More recently, Spoonfed, a local events listing site in the vein of Yelp or Trusted Places, emerged as another one-to-watch in the Silicon Roundabout.

Basheera Khan of TechCrunchUK writes in her review of Spoonfed, “the kicker is that it’s location- and preference-specific; tell Spoonfed which parts of London you hang out in, give it a general idea of the types of entertainment you’re into, and hey presto, you’ve got a customised guide to upcoming events….[Spoonfed has] influencers with top notch experience in social networking, big brand advertising, B2B publishing and corporate governance backing a couple of 25-year olds who pitted their combined life-savings of £8,000 against the problem they and their friends shared — never being able to find high quality information about upcoming events across all of London from a single trusted source.”

Spoonfed is ready to take on traditional listings giants with the message that it should be easy and fun to find events you will enjoy locally however their message is two-fold. In addition to a web service that engages Londoners with their local area and events, they also remind world that the Silicon Roundabout and the emerging UK tech scene is certainly one to watch.

Google Map of the Silicon Roundabout:

View Larger Map

Read the full TechCrunch UK Review of Spoonfed

Visit Spoonfed.co.uk

This article is writen by Meaghan Fitzgerald, a Silicon Valley native now living and working in the UK.  Please feel free to republish or link to this post on your blog, or share with your friends using the links below.

There are a number of different elements to online marketing and as I may have mentioned before, one techniques I have been utilizing quite a bit is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO.  SEO is the buzz topic of internet marketing at the moment and involves finding ways to make your website rank highly on search engines.  If you did a Google search for ‘London’ for example, it’s not simply luck that the results you see there have been placed at the top of the list.  Search engines such as Google carefully guard the algorithm that ranks results so that marketers and web site owners can’t take advantage of it and artificially rank more highly but there are a couple of factors that go into causing a website to rank highly for a particular search and that has created the practice of SEO.

The first and most important part of ranking highly is keyword and text optimization.  You could never expect to rank for the search ‘London’ if you don’t have the word London on your webpage.  Additionally, if you have the word London displayed in such a way that the search engine crawlers that automatically view, catalog and rank your webpage can’t see it (such as in an image or movie instead of in text) the search engine doesn’t recognize that your page has relevant keywords.  On the other hand, a popular SEO strategy used to involve “keyword stuffing” which meant adding high numbers of popular search keywords, or the same word repeated many times, penalizes the site as search engines have developed advanced ways of determining if the text is relevant and contextual or not.

The trick in writing SEO text is to compose paragraphs that involve the most popular keywords, in the format they might appear when someone types a search phrase into Google, yet making those keywords sound natural contextually.  The higher up on the page, and in your body text, the keywords appear the better.  Like a topic sentence in an academic essay which outlines the rest of the content of your writing, text in the first paragraph or even sentence of an article, blog post or web page lets search engine robots know what the content of your page is about.  For example, look at the first sentence of this post:

There are a number of different elements to online marketing and as I may have mentioned before, one techniques I have been utilizing quite a bit is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

This is a great SEO sentence.  It doesn’t sound like I’ve stuffed keywords in to trick a search engine but I’ve managed to include three key search phrases, ‘online marketing,’ ‘search engine optimization’ and ‘SEO’ in the first few lines of my post.  Here is an example of how I could have written my first paragraph that would have meant the same thing to my human readers but might have caused search engine robots to view my post as less relevant to people looking for online marketing and SEO information:

There are many different elements to my marketing job, all related to driving more traffic to the Spoonfed website.  One of the most important parts involves finding ways for Spoonfed to rank highly on popular web search results.

In that case, I didn’t use any key search phrases, and I probably wouldn’t find a way to fit those key words in until much farther down in my post, causing the robots to believe those subjects are less relevant to my post over all.

This has been a longwinded and fairly technical way to get to my main point which has been nagging me ever since I began to learn about SEO.  As the pressure increases to rank highly in search engines, bring traffic to websites and create pages that Google and the other leading search engines can recognize and rank, how much will this change web writing? While of course talented writers will always find a way to incorporate keywords naturally, the need to be understood by artificial Google robots can easily lead to a stilted and unnatural writing style – just look at the top ranking results on some Google searches.  As print authors are more and more turning to the web, and web authors are more and more looking towards SEO strategies to bring traffic to their site, what happens when those authors find themselves not writing for a human audience but for a robotic one?

I find it unlikely that such a writing style would ever be more appealing than natural, well-crafted prose. In what is possibly a unrealistic and utopian vision of the SEO future, some sort of AI English teacher-style robot will troll the web, knocking the web crap out of the rankings no matter how many keywords they work in.  One can only hope.


It’s been an incredibly hectic week that sort of peaked last night with a super late night at the office.  But on Tuesday I had a chance to go to a very interesting lecture at the Institute for Contemporary Art called Googleworld.  I’ve done a full write up on Spoonfed.

Tonight, it seems, I’ll be present for the foretelling of the end of society as we know it. I’m learning of our decent into an Orwellian future where our every move and thought is read and recorded. The cause of our downfall, and the subject of tonight’s lecture, ‘Googleworld’, at the ICA is none other than Google, which, despite a cuddly logo and a name two letters away from ‘giggle’, is poised to control the world.

Read on

You Digg?

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a quick rundown of StumbleUpon, one of the main social bookmarking sites out there and a tool I use to promote both my blog and Spoonfed while I’m at work.  I generally have prefered StumbleUpon because you’re almost always guaranteed traffic to your site, in some form, regardless of how popular your page is.  More popular pages get more traffic, sure, but even if not one other person gives you a thumbs up, you’ll still see more visitors.

On the other hand, Digg.com, another incredibly popular social bookmarking site which allows users to share their favourite bookmarks and vote on the best ones by “digging” their favourites is very different.  The most popular stories, the ones that get so many votes that they appear on the front page of digg.com get, I was told, a huge boom of traffic but stories that get a few dozen or fewer votes generally don’t get any traffic at all.  Therefore, I knew it was important to continue to submit Spoonfed and The Top Floor Flat stories to digg, but I didn’t really anticipate much of a return.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered first hand what a front page digg.com story can do when my post about Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie not only got over 1000 votes on Digg as a popular story, but appeared on the digg.com homepage! Two hours and 20,000 visitors to my blog later, I still saw no sign of an ebb in the traffic flow – huge boom of traffic indeed!

I couldn’t believe it… I had more visitors to The Top Floor Flat than I’ve ever gotten in the history of all website I’ve ever run.  Then the server broke (sorry if you tried to access the blog and it wasn’t working yesterday!).

Today, the traffic has slowed but is still incredibly high.  The article has been reposted on a number of blogs, the link was picked up by several movie sites, and although I was just blabbering about how much I enjoy Alice in Wonderland, I seem to have struck a chord with internet readers.

I may have to review my view on digg.com.  It clearly is a different sort of marketing tool – and I don’t anticipate many of the people who read my Alice post coming back to the blog.  But it’s exciting to feel so popular online, even if just for a few days.

Now I just need to upgrade my servers and get a Spoonefed.co.uk story to the front page of digg.