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Sorry about that. I needed a little bit of space to apologise about the missing newsletter from last month, and to mention a couple of other things: but I didn't quite know what to call it! Anyway, since the last newsletter, I believe I only have a plague of Locusts to contend with. And then, according to legend, I should be able to get on with a normal life again (well, as normal as life can be when you're me). No! Don't ask. You'll only regret it if I start to explain. Okay, two quick things as it's a double-bumper packed issue. "Link popularity", as it's loosely known in search engine marketing circles, is probably one of the most important factors in your strategy. But why is it so important to search engines? And what's it all based on? I wanted to write an article to complement the excellent piece about Google written by expert Chris Ridings in this issue. It became a full-blown feature on HITS the underlying algorithm at Teoma. It has exclusive abstracts from my book. And it's fr^e. You'll find a link to download the .pdf a bit further into this issue. I also want to apologise to the many people writing in With questions last month and who didn't receive an answer. If you look at the end of the article with Chris Ridings, you'll see where you should be able to get some answers from to me make up for that. And finally, due to popular demand - we're going bi-monthly. Okay, what's up this month? Read on...


=> Intro. <=

She is editor & publisher of award-winning WordBiz Report, the first e-newsletter to focus on the business of words online. A former (prolific) ClickZ columnist, she is also the author of a new special report, Turning Clicks Into Customers: Proven Online Copywriting Tactics. She does a limited amount of consulting for smart clients who need quickie tune-ups of the copy on their site or in their emails. In fact, Debbie Weil is also attractive, talented and has just returned from an exotic break in Myanmar (Burma). Yes, we hate her already! Actually, just before Debbie flew off to sunnier climes, I quizzed her about her new report.

Now, as many of you already know, I can't resist a little bit of a "wind-up". So I couldn't help letting my inane sense of humour get the better of me and throwing in the odd off-beat question. Debbie, a good sport (known to enjoy a little "tongue in cheek" rapport) spotted them immediately and replied with rapier like riposte. (We wonder if you can spot them :)

MIKE: Because we're all different types with different timescales, levels of income/turnover and creative ability: who should write our copy? I mean, can we just go DIY if we read your newsletters and reports? Remember, as we're not all Internet millionaires (yet), if you say we need a professional, we may have to resort to stealing a van and kidnapping Nick Usborne in the middle of the night.

DEBBIE: Hey, this is a great question. I've got two answers for you. First, reality is that most companies can't afford top-notch copywriters. If someone is really good at writing online sales copy he or she probably comes from an offline, old-fashioned direct response background where he/she was paid thousands of dollars (US) for an assignment. That just doesn't fit most Web site budgets.

And the 2nd reason follows from the first. As Nick has pointed out eloquently in his book, until quite recently copywriting was not seen as an integral part of the development of a successful Web site. The Web was owned, so to speak, by the techies. A writer (maybe even one of the more literate programmers) was called in at the last moment to,"oh, just add some words here on this page."

Gosh, I still haven't answered your question, have I? What I recommend is to 1) recognize that the copy on your site is equally as important as the graphics and the functionality and 2) take a stab at writing your online copy yourself, using your best in-house resources. Then go to an outside expert like Nick (or, um, me) to get your Web copy reviewed, edited and improved. No matter how good a copywriter you consider yourself, you absolutely need to get an outside, third-party perspective to make it better.

MIKE: Does size really matter? I've seen web sites with very long ones and some with very short ones. In fact, some with hardly any at all... What I mean is, does longer "direct marketing sales letter" type copy on a home page/landing page work better than short bulleted type copy?

DEBBIE: Depends on who your audience is and how much you need to tell them to convince them to take the next step (whatever that is) after skimming your home page or landing page. I.e. pick up the phone, sign up for your e-newsletter (thereby giving you an email address) or make an immediate purchase. Long vs. short sales copy is a fascinating topic. I'm writing an article about it for WordBiz Report, so stay tuned for more scintillating insights than I can give you in this short space.

MIKE: In your report, you spoke to two high profile SEO's called Jill Whalen and Heather Lloyd Martin who specialise in writing copy for search engines. They said that they had dramatically increased the amount of traffic to one site by optimising it for the words "gastric bypass surgery". Now, I've included those words on all of my sites, and those of all my clients and it doesn't seem to have worked at all. Are you absolutely certain you're talking to experts in this report?

DEBBIE: Um, you're joking, right? But you've put your finger on something absolutely key about keywords. They have to be the keywords that your target audience actually uses. Not the words you as the marketer or site owner use to market your product or service. But the words your target customer would use. It's just so easy to be myopic and think that the insider, industry jargon you fling around is what a potential customer will use when they go looking for your service. I guess your target audience is not looking for information related to "gastric bypass surgery," right?? Better get Jill and Heather in there to clean up your sites.

MIKE: You've mentioned "taglines" quite a lot in your newsletter recently and also in your new report. Can you explain what a "tagline" is and what the benefit of having one is? And if they are very, very important: how long would it take for you to knock out a fr^e one for my site?

DEBBIE: You're pretty funny, Mike. It works like this. Sometimes a great tagline just pops into your head. Those ones are fr^e... just kidding. But normally it takes many, many iterations to come up with one that does what a tagline should do: tell a new visitor to your site that she is in the right place and that you offer the product or service she's looking for. The tag is the short phrase that appears at the top of every page of your site, usually next to your company name. It's often embedded in the graphic header. If it's a good one, don't do that. Make it HTML text so that the search engines can find it.

MIKE: What about the practical and technical aspects of copywriting? For instance, what about HTML newsletters Vs text - which is best? And fonts and formatting: should we be using bold and italic and underline? How many exclamation points should I use in my headline - eight or ten?

DEBBIE: Let common sense prevail here. As well as a dollop of good taste.The way you format a texte-newsletter with ASCII characters can say a lot about your brand. Ditto for an HTML layout. I always advocate HTML lite so that it's easy on the eyes, prints out well, and doesn't look like a promotional email. Ultimately, there's a meeting point between what you as the publisher like - and what your reading audience wants. I'm very old-fashioned when it comes to good writing. Never use the word "very." Don't use more than one exclamation point. It's OK to use two question marks. Hey, I'm kidding!! Decide what's right for you and your readers. Informal is fine; poor grammar and typos are a no-no.

MIKE: Finally, I have to mention the scourge of the Internet (no - not this newsletter): Spam. What are your thoughts? Once the Spammers themselves start replacing characters with an asterisk as so many newsletters do these days: what happens then? Does email marketing still have a future?

DEBBIE: Sigh... I wish I had the answers. Yes, of Course email marketing has a future. I am hoping that a bunch of folks cleverer than I - and with keener political instincts - will come up with a solution that controls the amount of sp^m without compromising the instant and unfettered flow of information that defines the Internet. There's gotta be a meeting between what's technically possible and what is politically and economically feasible if we're all going to continue to use the Web as a platform for doing business. Sorry to sound so serious. I'm pretty confident we can control this if we (publishers, marketers, ISPs, corporations, government, etc.) work together.


Thanks very much to Debbie for that excellent contribution. Turning Clicks Into Customers: Proven Online Copywriting Tactics, the new report from Debbie, is getting excellent reviews. Jonathan Jackson over at ecommerce-guide.com says:

"Thankfully, we now have Weil's pithy words to guide us. By carefully reading Weil's superlative advice, marketers should be able to make their copy both enjoyable to read and profitable. The best of both worlds. This is invaluable advice that can be put to use immediately, and well it should."

You can sign up for Debbie's fr^e Wordbiz newsletter and find out more about her report here:

< http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/wordbiz >


It's the search engine equivalent to the Coca Cola recipe. Under the hood of each search engine is the algorithm which powers it.

Chris Ridings is the author of PageRank Uncovered, probably the most in-depth and authoritative document available on the subject. PageRank is at the heart of Google's power. So, what is it? And how does it work?

Here, in a special e-marketing-news feature, Chris explains. I also asked Chris to give his thoughts on the SearchKing V Google case.

By Chris Ridings:

PageRank was and is one of the most misunderstood topics when it comes to search engines. Despite it's surface complexity it actually is a remarkably simple concept.

When Google returns results pages, it has basic high level criteria that it wants to fulfil. The first is that the pages listed should be relevant to the query the searcher typed, the second is that they should be sorted in some way so that good pages tend to rise towards the top of the results. "Good" is one of those terms that we all know what it is but can't define specifically, so you often find it substituted by other words. "Important" is the one Google uses.

This second sorting stage is where PageRank comes in. At it's simplest level PageRank is a number that facilitates this sorting. As a page has a capability to be more about a specific topic than another page, we generally find the results listed are not in PageRank order but that there is a tendency for the higher PageRank pages to do better overall.

Search Engines did this before Google. Google merely redefined "Important". Whereas previously the measure of importance was the number of pages linking to another page (or site), PageRank took this one stage further. PageRank adds that if a page is important then its links to other pages should imply a higher degree of importance in the page linked to, than if the page was less important.To put it another way, one link from an important page can be worth the same as many links from less important pages.

The reason this hadn't been done before is most likely that search engines hit a catch 22 situation before they even started. If the worth of a link from Page A to Page B relies on Page A's importance, you must first have an assessment of Page A's importance. You cannot assess Page A's importance with this method unless you know the importance of all the pages linking to Page A. To do that you would need to know the importance for all the pages linking to the pages linking to Page A. Which eventually means you would need to know the mportance of every page on the web, including Page B which was what we were trying to work out in the first place! The founders of Google took a different approach, rather than trying to calculate values for the importance of each page, they created a calculation that would make values slightly more accurate. Meaning you could attach any value of importance to a page, run this calculation and be slightly closer to the true result. Run this calculation again and you'd be slightly closer still. Run it enough times and you end up so close to the true result that you can essentially say this is a numerical value for the page's importance.

Anyone that's casually read about PageRank in the forums, or who's downloaded the Google Toolbar can probably tell you that that final PageRank number is a value between 0 and 10. This is a misconception. PageRank values are more likely to be small numbers like 0.0567. When Google released the toolbar they chose to convert the actual PageRank values to a different scale. Just to confuse us further they chose to make that scale non-linear. Which means that from the values of 1 through to 9, although probably directly related to actual PageRank, there is very little we can learn from the toolbar. To further muddy the picture, if a page is not in Google's index then Google's toolbar will make a guess at what it should show. In this scenario, the real PageRank is zero but the toolbar may guess 7, the number that counts in the ranking process is the zero. There's a distinction I like to make between Toolbar PageRank and Actual PageRank. The only place where the toolbar gives any reliable data is at the extremes of 0 and 10. As long as you are aware of the limitations, the toolbar does have some uses as a tool but I personally have found it increasingly less worthwhile.

Having said that, there are other ways we can learn a lot about PageRank. Observation and analysis of similar algorithms allows us to deduce some fundamental things that must be true of PageRank. PageRank relies on links and links alone. For that reason when we look at using PageRank in terms of optimizing pages for the search engines, we are essentially talking about creating optimum link structure. We are looking to achieve two objectives. Firstly, to get enough PageRank in to the site to work with and secondly to get that PageRank to the pages that can most benefit from it.

This nicely fits into the two categories we can divide links in to: External and Internal. External links are what is responsible for the site getting or losing PageRank. Internal links are what enables a webmaster to place that PageRank where it can best be used.When asking for links to a site, there are a few PageRank things that might well be worth checking. The first is that the page that is going to be linking to you is in Google's index by performing a search on the url. It's important here to remember that PageRank is page based. If they will be linking to you from their links page then that is the page you check and not their home page. The second thing you will want to do is show a preference for pages with less links. Do this regardless of the page's current PageRank and you will form a good strategy that will benefit you in the long run. If those links are of quality sites then you also stand more chance of getting direct traffic.

When linking out to other sites, you are almost certainly going to decrease the total PageRank across all pages in your site. Meaning you will have less to work with. There are ranking benefits to linking out to good pages and there are obvious user/visitor benefits so you essentially have to make the decision "is this link worth the cost". That's really a personal decision that will depend on the level of competition in the area the web site is in, but invariably when linking out to good sites the answer will be yes.There are ways to minimise the PageRank loss when linking out, which is where we come on to internal links. Traditionally internal links have been the most overlooked area of PageRank. When a page says another page is important by linking, the quantitative value of that statement is based on the importance of the page doing the linking. If that same page instead said two other pages are important by linking to them both then they each of the two pages would get half that quantitative value. The quantitative value of importance that a page can give to others is divided by the number of links on the page. Say you have a links page with 2 links to external sites and no others. This effect means adding a link to an internal page on your site decreases the importance given to those 2 external sites. Or to put that in a way that's more likely to make you smile - you've decreased, by just a tiny bit, the PageRank of those other sites. Where has that tiny bit gone? Back through that internal link to a page on your site.

Internal links can do more for you than just that though. If you modified the internal link structure of your page and waited a month or two, you would see the PageRank of the pages change. This works because PageRank is page based, and not simply site based. Each and every page, wherever it is, has a PageRank and takes part in the PageRank system. By using various link structures you can determine where the PageRank goes in your site. The specifics of those structures are beyond the space I have in this article, but in general a page which you give more links to in your site will do better. Using this method you can target PageRank to specific pages.

This is the most important thing you can do with PageRank. There is only effectively so much PageRank you can pull in to your site, and unless you utilise that efficiently you might as well not have it all. If a page is already ranking well for a keyphrase, does it need more PageRank? Obviously not so targeting PageRank on to a different page that is having a tougher time is only logical. Often, people worry too much about getting their home page to a particular PageRank and completely forget that that PageRank is only worth anything if properly used. As a general rule of thumb you will find that if a page is competing for a competitive keyphrase or if the page is competing for a number of keyphrases, giving that page a greater PageRank is a significant plus. If a page is competing for one keyphrase or a small number of uncompetitive keyphrases it is easier for that page to rank and your PageRank may be better used elsewhere.

These days PageRank has once again been brought to mass attention, because of the SearchKing v. Google case. For anybody not familiar with the case, the situation basically goes like this: the owner of SearchKing sets up a business "PR AdNetwork" to sell text ads with pricing based on PR. Not too much later SearchKing, PR AdNetwork and SearchKing's clients experience strangely reduced PageRank's. SearchKing sue Google. Regardless of the specifics of the case, it raises some very interesting questions about PageRank. Google's defence is to argue that PageRank is their "Opinion". I guess the number one thing we can learn from that is that "it's better to have the mathematical version attached to your site than the opinion version". But one of the whole reasons why this question is important is because it for the first time gives us information about the reliability of what we are given. Who cares who wins when questions like that are about to be answered?! When Google displays their PageRank on the toolbar (with the wrong scale) does that represent an actual mathematical statistic or the opinion of Bert who's sitting at the console looking for sites that say something he doesn't like? And how does that difference change user perceptions of a site? If something is presented in the same sentence as the words "uniquely democratic" then we might not expect it to be manipulated by a few people's opinions. To be honest, I think it's a smart legal defence, but it does bring into question exactly what PageRank is and means.

(c) 2003 Chris Ridings. All rights reserved.

Thanks very much to Chris for that excellent insight. You can get the full version of PageRank Uncovered, fr^e when you purchase Search Engine Marketing: The essential best practice guide. And you'll find Chris ready and waiting over at Searchguild, his new online SEO forum site:

< http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/searchguild >

NB: Chris, knowing that I'm not really a forums type guy, has threatened me with a written exam on PageRank if I don't put in an appearance at Searchguild. I'm off to Boston the week after next to hang at the search engine strategies gig. But when I get back, I'm going to take up a role as "junior moderator" or something like it, so that I can experience the "full forum... er... thing."

So, if you didn't get a reply to your questions from the last issue, then try and track me down over at Searchguild and I'll do my best then. Okay, Chris. Now I'm committed to it ;)


For the past few weeks I've heard a great deal about "SmartPages". I have to say, I'd not heard of them at all until someone linked them to "The Whole Truth" which is a, kind of, online marketing toolbox campaign. It seems to have been hugely successful (judging by the number of affiliate promo's I see for it). So, it was very difficult to comment on "SmartPages" without having seen them. I purchased "The Whole Truth" a week or so ago, and duly received my kit including the HTML template for my "SmartPages".

Now, the reason I mention this is that, when I looked at the code of the pages, I saw that they were basically "spruced up" little cloaking pages which included java redirects. So, people use all kinds of Spammy pages at search engines. It's a fact. And eventually, search engines will find them. But... they won't find them anywhere nearly as quickly as your own competitors "snitching" on you.

Most of the people who have been in touch with me about "SmartPages" are either worried that Google will ban them for using them - or - they have already "tipped off" Google about their competitors Spammy pages.

I'm not about to get into any kind of "ethical" debate. But because there seems to be a "rash" of "SmartPages" around just now, don't be at all surprised if you suddenly find yours disappearing. Remember, nobody is watching your marketing efforts closer than your main competitor - not even a search engine.

Nuff said.


introduction by Mike Grehan:

In its short history, data mining the web has come a very long way. Web crawling, web page indexing and keyword or "similarity-based" searching of web contents is a mammoth task. It's tackled on a daily basis by the web's leading search engines such as Google, Inktomi and more recently, Teoma. As the challenge becomes greater, then so does the technology as it scales in terms of both capacity and capability. Hypertext-based machine learning and data mining methods such as clustering, collaborative filtering, supervised learning and semi-supervised learning are the foundation blocks of this rapidly advancing technology. The natural algorithm of the web is based on linkage. After all, that's why it was invented. When applied to the web, the knowledge derived from "social network analysis" can tell more about web pages, than those web pages can tell about themselves.

I'm going to generalise a lot in this paper. It's not a scientific paper, but it does touch on some very technical and scientific aspects. However, the intention is to try and 'not' get too technical, but to try and 'simply' get across the fundamentals of what is loosely termed as "link popularity" (and why it's so important to search engines). This paper is not at all exhaustive in its content (nowhere near it in fact). It's merely a skim across the surface. Hopefully though, it may help you to understand just a little more about how search engines work, and the way that they take advantage of "information rich" web linkage data.

During the course of researching the second edition of my book, I became fascinated by the work of Professor Jon Kleinberg and an algorithm he developed which has had a major impact on search engine technology. The principle behind the formula has been used as the basis for many experiments in what's known as "topic distillation". Work in this field also had a profound effect on Professor Apostolos Gerasoulis, founder of Teoma.

It's the influence of this work, and the further development work by Jon Kleinberg himself and a team of researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Centre in California, which (in the main) provides the basis for the underlying algorithm at Teoma. So what is it about Teoma which makes it so different? Please allow me to give a very general overview of the important role of link analysis and the algorithm which, some would say, is one of the most influential in the field of information retrieval on the web.

Please download your fr^e copy of this e-marketing-news supplement here:

< http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/topic_distillation >



I'm looking out of my office at work, it's snowing, it's grey and it's miserable! My uncle, an early retiree, phoned last night from The Algarve. Guess what... it's sunny and warm there in his four star hotel on half board. It's cheaper to stay there than run his home in England, not to mention improve his rheumatism. He booked ONLINE!I bring you the case of uncle, not to mention my aunt also, as I was busy researching material for the Internet text to be written by Mike Grehan, Dr.Rita Esen and myself. Within five minutes, I picked up two publications which considered the virtues of targeting the over 50's online.

The first, a new text from Paul Philips from Surrey University entitled E-Business Strategy, highlighted some of the problems with the older audience such as technophobia and resistance to change, which is understandable in a general sense. However, an interesting article by Ian Sclater in the Chartered Institute of Marketing's Marketing Business magazine delves further to highlight segments of the over 50's who are largely responsible for the online travel boom.

Those of us who are still slogging away at work, propping up a fragile stock market are the core group in that over used phrase CASH RICH TIME POOR (Not sure about the cash rich bit, not destitute but a long way from the comfort zone in my case). With early retirements and early redundancies we now seem to have a band of former middle and senior managers (AB's) who are CASH RICH TIME RICH with the flexibility to go where and when they want.

From Forrester Research, 50% of the 55-64 group have a PC at home From MORI research, 28% of UK Internet users are over 45. The over 50's are predicted to be the largest segment online by 2005.

This all sounds very promising and with ABC1's supposedly richer, fitter and more adventurous they will become a very attractive proposition for online marketers. Many companies are responding positively to this growing segment with specialized portals incorporating relevant over 50's content to pull them in and increase stickiness. Tailoring the content is fundamental to any web site isn't it??Naturally this group is heaven sent for the travel industry to fill airline seats, cruise liners and hotels off peak However, from a ervice provision perspective their buyer behaviour patterns must be considered. Whilst the 18-30 onliner is comfortable to purchase everything with CD-WOW, Firebox, DABS, Boysstuff etc online, our mature group seek information via the web but also seek the reassurance of a friendly voice at the end of a telephone when booking their arrangements. For companies, targeting the over 50's,the Internet/Phone link seems a vital persuader in the purchasing process.

Whilst travel lends itself nicely to this cash rich group other lifestyle sites could meet their needs such as health and finance sites. Clearly with their wealth and flexibility they're not to be ignored. It's targeting and tailoring again!

Well I must sign off now and get back to the joys of marking exam scripts and think of my uncle strolling around Penina.Roll on early retirement!


Leading New Zealand based search engine marketing firm Web Rank, recently conducted a study into the top 100 companies in Australia. In just the same way as I discovered the facts about the top UK based companies and Fredrick Marckini discovered similar with companies in the US, corporate Australia needs to pull its "SEO socks up".

< http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/downunder >

Cory Rudl invites you to take a risk free 30 day trial of his best selling Internet Marketing course. Two giant ring binders with supporting CD contain masses and masses of marketing tips as tried and tested by Corey Rudl himself.

< http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/coreycourse >


If you've read my book, you'll know how much I just love doing research (I know, I need to get out more). So, I spend a lot of time researching for research. Often I come across stuff that's useful and fre*e. Here's some stuff I found this month:Take up of new broadband subscriptions has now risen to almost 30,000 per week, and the UK now has over 1.4 million broadband users.

< http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/broadband >

The 12 deadly sins of site design. The BBC Training & Development Department studies over 60 web ites to discover the fundamental errors which cause problems in site design.

< http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/bbc >

netimperative has prepared a study sponsored by Ask Jeeves and featuring input from yours truly. It's a retty good look at search in your marketing mix.

< http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/netimperative >

Editor: Mike Grehan. Search engine marketing consultant, speaker and author. http://www.search-engine-book.co.uk

Associate Editor: Christine Churchill. KeyRelevance.com

e-marketing-news is published selectively on a when it's ready basis.

At no cost you may use the content of this newsletter on your own site, providing you display it in its entirety (no cutting) with due credits and place a link to:

< http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk >

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