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Using Amazon SIPS for Keyword Research

Not sure how useful this would be for some people but I thought I'd write about it anyway. I was just loking for a book on Amazon - Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival - when my eye was drawn to Amazon's SIPS. For those who don't know (probably everyone!) Amazon's SIPS are:

Statistically Improbable Phrases, or "SIPs", are the
most distinctive phrases in the text of books in the Search Inside!™
program. To identify SIPs, our computers scan the text of all books in
the Search Inside! program. If they find a phrase that occurs a large
number of times in a particular book relative to all Search Inside!
books, that phrase is a SIP in that book.

They actually offer quite valuable information - let's call them "keywords" - from within a book. In the case of the book I mentioned above, the SIPS are:

belay seat, boot snagged, belay plate, snow stake, snow hole, cooking rock, corniced ridge, ice cliff, rock buttress, ice screws, snow cave, steep ice, ice bridge, ice wall, second lake, powder snow, dome tent

It would appear that these SIPS act as tags and, on clicking, you get taken to a list of other books where these SIPS appear:

14 references in

Touching the Void: The Harrowing First Person Account Of One Man's Miraculous Survival


Joe Simpson
8 references in

Antarctic Oasis: Under the Spell of South Georgia


Tim Carr, Pauline Carr

8 references in

High Achiever: The Life and Climbs of Chris Bonington


Jim Curran

7 references in

Highland Fling


Katie Fforde

5 references in

Storm Mountain


Anne Fitten Glenn

5 references in

Everest: The Unclimbed Ridge (Adrenaline Classics Series)


Chris Bonington, et al

5 references in

One Man's Mountains: Essays and Verses


Tom Patey

4 references in

The Mountain Skills Training Handbook


Pete Hill, Stuart Johnston

Click on any one of these and you get presented with a new set of SIPS. Brilliant!

By methodically going through this process, it is quite possible to build up a highly relevant, set of keywords. Quite often in search engine marketing people will develop their keyword lists from 'within', that is they will either write down the keywords that they, or their closest colleagues, use. Using something like Amazon's SIPS ensures that you are, potentially, tapping into the words that the 'community' is using in relation to your subject.

Let's say that your subject is 'mountaineering', well the people that write the books that are listed above (and other ones you will discover from further research) may well come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They may be climbers, mountain rescue people, walkers, abseilers, journalists beginnes or pros; they may come from different countries or prefer rock climbing to ice climbing. The point is that SIPS allow you to see the different perspectives of other people and help you use the language (read keywords) that they may be using.

You will also come across CAPS which are:

"Capitalized Phrases, or "CAPs", are people, places, events, or important topics mentioned frequently in a book."

They are another important source of keyword information.

Try typing in keywords relevant to your business or your clients on Amazon's site and see what SIPS are being used.

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John Battelle Assesses His 2004 Predictions

Going back a year John Battelle, author of The Search - How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, made some predictions for 2005. Here is a brief list:

1. We will have a goat rodeo of sorts in the blogging/micropublishing/RSS world as commercial interests push into what many consider a "pure medium." I've seen this movie before, and it ends OK.

3. There will be two to five major new sites that emerge from "nowhere" to become major cultural influencers along the lines of the political bloggers of 2004.

4. Meanwhile, the long tail will become the talk of the "old line" media world.

5. Google will do something major with Blogger. I really have no idea what, but it's overdue. Six Apart will grow quickly but face a crisis in its implementation as its core users demand more features that are "unbloglike" like customer databases and robust publishing support tools.

6. Ask will continue to consolidate traffic by buying smaller search sites.

7. Yahoo and Google will both test systems that combine local merchant inventory information with search, so that merchants can use search as a direct sales channel.

9. Firefox will near 15% of total browser share. Firefox faithful will wonder why it's not much much higher. But MSFT will release a very good upgrade of IE, see #8.

10. A third party platform player with major economies of scale (ie eBay or Amazon) will release a search related innovation that blows everyone's mind, and has everyone buzzing about how it redefines what's possible in search.

14. All year, Apple will be rumored to launch a video iPod, but it won't - it's still too early. By the end of 2005, we will just be starting to see traction in the video over IP market and its connection to search. Google will introduce Video search at some point in 05, but it will stay in Labs.

16. Perhaps most recklessly...I will finish my book

John Battelle was pretty close to the mark on most of his predictions. Take a look at how he fared in his article So, One Year Later, How'd I Do?

Search Engine Books for Christmas

If you're stuck for some stocking fillers this Christmas, here are some excellent Search Engine-related books you may want to consider. Or why not just indulge yourself?


The Google Story
David Vise


Winning Results with Google AdWords
Andrew Goodman

073571256501_aa60_ Search Engine Visibility
Shari Thurow

159184088001_aa60_ The Search
John Battelle

Search Advertising
Catherine Seda

Google Power

Chris Sherman

Keyword Research (Suggestion) Tools

I got asked today about which were the best tools to use for keyword research. Here are some of the tools which will give you an idea of what, potentially, your target market is likely to be typing in to the search engines.

Overture Suggestion Tool (USA)- displays results from the previous month

Overture Suggestion Tool (UK) - as above but for UK

Word Tracker - you can use their free trial version (for a certain number of keywords) but need to pay £140.00 / $242.24 per year for the full version.

Google Adwords
is probably the best tool to use for keyword research (suggestions), though it doesn't exactly tel you the number of times a search word has been typed in to its search engine. To get started you will firstly need to set up an account, which is pretty
straighforward. Once you set up an account you will need to activate it (having received email notification). Once activated, you will be able to use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, which includes the NEW "Keyword Variation" and "Site-Related
" features. These tools are great for viewing the popularity of a search
term and the volume of advertisers for that term (I will include some screenshots and a more detailed overview in a folow-on article).

MIVA Keyword Tool (formerly eSpotting) offers a keyword generator which gives you an idea of the popularity of a keyword across its network (UK) over the past 30 days. This is actually quite a simple, yet neat tool and ideal for keyword research.

Online Marketing Blog also points to these Keyword Research Tools: and Google Suggest  - incidentally, the latter can be used with Google Toolbar within Firefox:


Related Article

SEOmoz has an interesting article on this subject: When Wordtracker is Not Enough - Some Alternative Tips for Keyword Suggestions and Traffic Estimations

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John Batelle on the BBC’s Start the Week Programme

ThesearchJohn Battelle, of Searchblog and author of The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, has been in London this week for the Financial Times Book of the Year Award. He has been quite busy meeting people and doing interviews and was invited on to the BBC's popular radio programme, Start the Week on Monday. You can listen to the broadcast on the Start the Week website

Factors Influencing Search Engine Rankings

SEOmoz has a comprehensive list of factors that influence your search engine rankings on the major search engines - Yahoo!, MSN, Google and AskJeeves. They invited some of the big names - Danny Sullivan, Ammon Johns and Scottie Claiborne - in the search engine world to vote on the major factors and an average rank was given to each. Here are the top ten:

  1. Title Tag - 4.57
  2. Anchor Text of Links - 4.46
  3. Keyword Use in Document Text - 4.38
  4. Accessibility of Document - 4.3
  5. Links to Document from Site-Internal Pages - 4.15
  6. Primary Subject Matter of Site - 4.00
  7. External Links to Linking Pages - 3.92
  8. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community - 3.77
  9. Global Link Popularity of Site - 3.69
  10. Keyword Spamming - 3.69

For the complete report, head off to the SEOmoz Search Engine Ranking Factors page.

Search Engine For Sale

If you've ever wanted to buy a search engine, there's one going on eBay! It looks like the folks over at Jux2 are have taken this particular project so far and now want to sell up. Jux2 is a neat meta search engine, which does comparative searches on Google, Yahoo! and Ask Jeeves. According to Battellemedia, " jux2's founders' attention wandered to other projects, and they could no longer keep the service running."

Link: Award-winning META-SEARCH engine for sale:

Interview with Matt Cutts of Google

Aaron Weil, of SEO Book fame, posts an interview that he conducted with Mark Cutts, software engineer at Google, on his Search Marketing website. Here are some excerpts from it:

Is all SEO spam?

Absolutely not--I need to do a post about this on my blog sometime. Lots and lots of search engine optimization is white-hat and not spam at all. Things like making a site more crawlable, tweaking the words on a site based on what users type in or what you see in your server logs, and gathering links by coming up with creative ideas or services that make people link to you naturally. To me (and Google), spam is search engine optimization that is outside our quality guidelines--things like hidden text, hidden links, doorway pages filled with gibberish words that do a sneaky JavaScript redirect, and so on.

And on unsolicited email from "SEO Experts"

Some SEO firms cold call saying they can rank people in first place. Can they guarantee this?

Not on Google. No one can guarantee this, not even Google, since our ranking algorithms are often updated. I've seen scams where the "#1 placement" is really buying ads. I've seen scams where the "keywords" that they sell are really for people who have scumware hidden in their browser. I've seen stuff where the guaranteed keywords are 5-6 word phrases that only have nine results, and no one would ever really type that really long, specific phrase.

Here's an interesting insight for bloggers:

I originally started a service-selling site and then later sort of stopped selling services and started blogging. An interview with you will likely go on that static site and is likely to be a well linked page, but my blog is by far the more popular of the two sites. Am I effectively hurting my end rankings by splitting up the content?

I don't think that's ultimately hurting your end rankings much.
There's always going to be people who do some attribution by linking to your main page, and some people that link directly to a post or to your blog--and some people that do both, because they're different urls. So having a primary service that's off the main page can sometimes even help a little bit. I think you'll get the same total number of links (or even a little more if they link to the root and the blog or specific post). After that, it's up to you how to handle that with internal linkage.

And this:

What would be the best ways to integrate the link popularity?

I think having a main site with a large feature like a blog somewhere near the main page is actually a pretty good structure. If you run a blog, it's good to spend some effort to have one main url for each post so that there's a single well-known permalink. I haven't been as nitpicky about that on my own site, but if you do SEO for a living I'd pay a little more attention to that.

On what to do if your site is out of favour (banned) with Google:

If I got a site banned what is the procedure to get it re indexed?

This is boilerplate that we're sending out to some site owners as a pilot program if we detect spam, but it's the most current info:
"If you wish to be reincluded, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our quality guidelines. When you are ready, please submit a reinclusion request at

You can select "I'm a webmaster inquiring about my website" and then "Why my site disappeared from the search results or dropped in ranking," click Continue, and then make sure to type "Reinclusion Request" in the Subject: line of the resulting form."

If that procedure changes, I'll blog it.

Jakob Nielsen’s Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005

Jakob Nielsen has just published his Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005. It is based on the results of a survey he conducted with readers of his Alertbox newsletter. As you will see most of the issues are perennial favourites (baddies!).
1. Legibility Problems – Number one spot reflects the issues that people have with fonts.
2. Non-Standard Links – Jakob includes 5 guidelines for getting hypertext links correct. He says:

Links are the Web's number one interaction element. Violating common expectations for how links work is a sure way to confuse and delay users, and might prevent them from being able to use your site.

3. Flash – Surprisingly, he says that web developers still don’t get how to use Flash correctly on a web page.

Flash is a programming environment and should be used to offer users additional power and features that are unavailable from a static page. Flash should not be used to jazz up a page. If your content is boring, rewrite text to make it more compelling and hire a professional photographer to shoot better photos. Don't make your pages move. It doesn't increase users' attention, it drives them away; most people equate animated content with useless content.

4. Content That's Not Written for the Web – He advises that writing for the web means making content:

·    short,
·    scannable, and
·    to the point (rather than full of fluffy marketese).

From both a visitor and search engine perspective, he says that Web content should:

·    answer users' questions and
·    use common language rather than made-up terms (this also improves search engine visibility, since users search using their own words, not yours).

5. Bad Search – this is one area that Jakob concedes will take investment (on software) and time to get right
6. Browser Incompatibility - with the rise of Firefox, Opera and Safari it is worth paying attention to get this right.
7. Cumbersome Forms – often too long and asking too many unnecessary questions. Jakob offers  five basic guidelines to this end.
8. No Contact Information or Other Company Info – The number of times I have to advise clients to address this basic principle is unbelievable. As Jakob says,

Even though phone numbers and email addresses are the most requested forms of contact info, having a physical mailing address on the site might be more important because it's one of the key credibility markers. A company with no address is not one you want to give money to.

9. Frozen Layouts with Fixed Page Widths – 2 complaints here: relating to monitor resizing and printing.
10. Inadequate Photo Enlargement

One of the long-standing guidelines for e-commerce usability is to offer users the ability to enlarge product photos for a close-up view. Seeing a tiny detail or assessing a texture can give shoppers the confidence they need to place an order online.