Some SEO Advice For Bill Gates

What do you get for Bill Gates, the richest person in the world? How about a little free SEO advice for his new blog? It could use some.

Bill, I went looking for your blog today on Google. Sorry, like many people, I have a habit of using that search engine first. What did I find for bill gates blog?

bill gates blog - Google Search

Good, you’re there in the top 10 results, listed fourth. And your official page at Microsoft shows at number one. But your blog could be so much better. Look at all those fake parody blogs! One of them is out ranking you. Some simply seem real because they have titles that actually say “Bill Gates Blog” in them.

Before you decide this is just Google being evil, let’s take a look at the same search on your own search engine:

bill gates blog - Bing

Ugh. Your blog doesn’t show there at all. Let’s get this fixed! I also hope you’ll take the advice in good humor. I’m going to keep everything in basic terms and use your blog to help others who may be in the same situation as you, with a new blog or web site but not up on how search engine optimization may help them.

The Importance Of Being An Earnest Title Tag

Want to rank better on any major search engine, be it Google or Bing? One of the most important elements in your control is the title tags of your pages. Every page has a title tag. Let’s see what you say in the title tag of your home page:

Bill Gates Title Tag

See that part I’m pointing at? The text between the <title> and </title> sections is your page’s title. It’s the text that search engines use as the title when your page is listed. Here’s how it shows on Google:

bill gates blog - Google Search

Notice I’m also pointing at your description. I’ll get back to that, but let’s keep talking about your title.

Ideally, each page on your web site has a title that reflects the terms you hope that page will be found for. Even more ideally, you’ve done a little keyword research to better refine those terms.

Now, I have no idea what you’re hoping your blog will be found for in general. “Bill Gates blog” might be entirely off. I did try to find an “About” page to give me an idea of the site’s overall aim, but there’s nothing like that in the site navigation. You do have an overlay introduction that appears. I’d suggest you incorporate that into an About area:

The Gates Notes

The introduction says the blog is supposed to be you talking about what you’re thinking about, working on, thoughts you want to share. Well, to me, that’s a blog. So I think people trying to get this type of information will indeed be looking for you by typing in something like “Bill Gates blog.” While that’s not a popular term yet, I’m sure it will grow.

Try These Titles On For Size

Let’s pump up that title. Here are some suggestions:

The Gates Notes – Official Blog Of Bill Gates

The Gates Notes – Official Bill Gates Blog

Official Bill Gates Blog – The Gates Notes

I like these because they maintain the brand name of your site — “The Gates Notes” — and help ensure you’ve done all you can for people who might seek the site by those words. But we also get your own full name in there.

The Importance Of Being Official

We also work in the word “blog” plus the word “official,” which is important. Consider this:

google blog - Google Search

Those are search results for “google blog” on Google. Little story here. In 2005, the official Google Blog had been out for about a year. It had a title of “Google Blog” and ranked sixth in the results for a search on those words. In number one was an unofficial “Google Weblog” site run by Aaron Schwartz

I was always forgetting the address of the Google blog at the time. So I’d search for it, and it drove me crazy that I had to hunt for it in the results. I sent a note over to a few folks at Google suggesting it might be wise if they followed the same SEO advice that they offer to site owners and thought carefully about their page title. In particular, by making it “Official Google Blog,” they’d stand out on the page even if it took some time for their actual ranking to build. It was changed soon after, and I think it helped make them more visible.

You’re in the same situation, and I think word “Official” will help when you’re mixed among four other “Bill Gates blogs.”

I also gave you three sample titles. Personally, I think the first one reads best. But the other two have the advantage of putting “Bill Gates” right next to word “blog,” which might help a tiny bit more in getting you ranked for a search on “Bill Gates blog.” A tiny bit, but pick the one you like best and see how it goes. Or ignore them all but don’t ignore that you probably want this site to be found for more than “The Gates Notes.” That means thinking of your top term or terms and getting those in your title tag.

The Meta Description Tag: Describe Your Page In Your Own Words

Remember I mentioned your description? Right now, what shows is likely to change depending on the exact search someone does that brings up your home page. Usually, Google and Bing will try to automatically form a description based on what someone enters. But you can help them by using a meta description tag. It looks like this:

<meta name=”description” content=”The Gates Notes is the official blog of Bill Gates, where he writes on subjects he’s thinking about and that he’d like others to consider and learn about.” />

You put that in between the header area of your blog. The part in bold, after “content=” is what will often show up in Google and Bing for your description. Not always, but it increases the odds, so you should do it.

Meet Your New Listing

If you did both of the things I suggest, then your listing in Google and Bing would be transformed from:

The Gates Notes

Jan 18, 2010 … Every January, Bill writes an Annual Letter, which includes his thoughts on the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and progress it …

To this:

The Gates Notes – Official Blog Of Bill Gates

The Gates Notes is the official blog of Bill Gates, where he writes on subjects he’s thinking about and that he’d like others to consider and learn about.

I think that’s an improvement. It could be even better, but I’ve only put about 15 minutes of quick thought in to it.

Each Page Gets Its Own Title

That’s your home page. Each page within your web site is aimed at a different topic and so deserves a different title that reflects that topic. How’s it looking on your site so far?

I’m going to use a special command that works at both Google and Bing. It’s the site command. You enter the word “site” followed by a colon and then the domain name of the site your checking. Put no spaces between any of those items. For your site, it looks like this:

site:www.thegatesnotes.com

When I run that search on Google, I get told you have 16 pages in all. It looks like this:

site_thegatesnotes.com - Google Search-1

Every page on your web site has the same title, even though each page is about a different topic. This is the same as publishing a bunch of different books, on different topics, but giving them all the same title. It hurts your potential to be found for what those pages are about. It hurts the chances for people trying to find the good information you’re putting out to locate it. Or, as SEO expert Aaron Wall tweeted (which inspired me to do a closer look at your site):

It should be criminal to write about issues of grand importance with irrelevant page titles ;) tell Bill I will SEO his site 4 free :D

Moreover, see that “we have omitted some entries” message? That means Google knows you have more pages on your site but is assuming these are basically copies of what it has already listed. You know, like when you have an article and then a print-only version of that article? It thinks you have a lot of duplicates like this.

Dealing With Duplicates

If I click on the link to have Google show me all the pages, its tells me you have 55 in all, though if I keep drilling, it ultimately says you have only 18:

site_thegatesnotes.com - Google Search-2

site_thegatesnotes.com - Google Search-3

Well, that’s Google being pretty screwed up. Be sure to poke fun at them about this. They can’t even count, right? But you’re not helping things with all those same page titles. And don’t poke too much fun because over on Bing, they’re only listing 6 of your pages:

site_thegatesnotes.com - Bing

Each Post Gets A Unique, Descriptive Title

Let’s drill down into one of these specific pages, to see how it might get pumped up. I’ll take your most recent post, Heading to Sundance:

The Gates Notes

Notice the text at the top of the browser says “The Gates Notes.” That’s because your title tag text is displayed there, and as we’ve seen, every page in your site is titled “The Gates Notes.”

On most blogs, the post’s headline is actually the text that’s used as the title tag. In this case, the headline is “Heading to Sundance.” Using that as your title tag would be an improvement, but even better would be if the headline/title tag reflected what you hoped the page would be found for.

Some New Post Headlines

You’re talking about going to Sundance to meet Robert Redford, one of your favorite actors, and to see a new movie about the US education system. So how about:

Heading To Sundance To See “Waiting For Superman,” A Great Film On The US Education System

My Sundance Agenda: Important Film On US Education System & Meeting Robert Redford

Sundance Viewing: “Waiting For Superman,” Important Film On US Education System

Bill Gates At Sundance: Seeing Important Movie On US Education; Meeting Robert Redford

These aren’t the greatest suggestions in the world, but they’re a start. I like the third and fourth best. The third, because the focus is entirely on the movie, which is the educational message you’re trying to get out. The fourth because it uses your name in the title, covers the movie and gives a personal touch that I love.

I know it’s weird that you’d put your own name in the title of a post on your own blog. But remember. People will link to your posts from off your blog. The context will be lost, in these situations. The headlines need to stand alone from your blog, to be most effective.

Pick what you want, but anything would be better than what you have now. Consider what I get when I search for bill gates sundance at Google:

bill gates sundance - Google Search

Everyone’s writing about you being at Sundance, but your actual post isn’t showing up. It should. I mean, you’ve got a brand new blog that will take time to build reputation. But a better title tag would have helped. Your home page has reputation that would have passed to that article, and the right anchor text for it is important.

Over at your own Bing search engine, things are better. Your blog’s home page shows in the top results:

bill gates sundance - Bing

Why not the actual post? Turns out after doing some checking, neither Google nor Bing have actually indexed that page yet. That’s pretty lame for both of them. Like really, really lame. At this point, they should have flagged your site as extremely important. You’ve got to have tons of links pointing at you. I’d actually show you this using the link command (such as link:thegatesnotes.com). But at Bing, that command doesn’t seem to work anymore. At Google, they’re reporting no links because, well, Google’s link command can be really lame. Make Bing fix theirs, then poke a lot of fun at Google.

Feeling Powerless? See, SEO IS Important!

At this point, I hope you’re feeling kind of angry that you’ve got this spanking new site that the search engines haven’t fully indexed. Welcome to the wonderful world of being a content owner having no power in the search ecosystem.

Well, you have a little power. That’s why all this SEO stuff isn’t about spamming and scamming as some thing but actually really crucial stuff that lots of people fail to know, even people who actually own one of the web’s major search engines, like yourself. Or really, the developers and marketers behind your site who clearly need more education.

Can I suggest sending some of them to our SMX West search marketing conference this March 2-4? We’ve got an entire boot camp day designed to get them up to speed. Plus, they can watch Steve Ballmer pump up the crowd about Bing :)

Webmaster Support From Search Engines

One thing that might help with those indexing issues (getting more of your pages listed) might be to use the special webmaster tools that Google and Bing both offer:

Aside from some diagnostic tools, either one of those areas can also get you started generating a sitemap that will work with both of them. A sitemap is a list of all your pages and can be updated to list new ones as they are added to your site. There are even ways to ping the search engines them about new pages. These techniques can increase the odds that you’ll get more of your site listed. And each page listed is like having an extra ticket in the search engine lottery. If your number comes up, you might get rich. Oh, yeah. Well, rich from a search engine perspective!

Building Links; Building Reputation

I mentioned that your site will take some time to build reputation. The search engines, they’re really into rewarding sites that get a lot of important links pointing at them.

Think about it as if you were in a big auditorium full of people and someone asked, “Who knows about Microsoft?” If everyone started pointing at you personally, you’d soon be ushered to the stage. On the web, people point with links — and getting on the stage is being in the first page of search results.

It’s not about just getting the most links, however. Think about it a bit differently. You’re in an auditorium, and on stage there are five experts. You’re out in the audience. Someone asks who knows about Microsoft. People in the audience start pointing at all sorts of people. But all the experts on the stage point at you. They carry more weight, and you come on up. In the web world, it’s the important links that count.

In your case, you control a lot of important links that are about you. For one, there’s your official page over at Microsoft. It’s not linking to your blog yet. Get someone on that. Same thing with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation home page. Google reports a PageRank of 8 for it. That’s huge. It means you have a powerful page that, if it links to your blog, will pass along some serious credibility. Or link juice, as us SEO types like to call it.

Your Feed, Links & Autodiscovery

Even better, I’m glad you’ve added an RSS feed now. I thought it was really weird when I noticed a lack of one on Friday. Use that feed to start listing your recent entries from your blog on the foundation site and perhaps from Microsoft, too. Those are easy links that will help your individual posts gain some reputation. The feed also makes it easy for other people to keep up on your posts and embed links to them in their own blogs (that’s also why, again, it’s important that your headlines standalone from your blog).

Make it even easier, however. You’re not doing “autodiscovery” of your blog feed. It’s something else you put in the header area of your web pages (all of them), and for your blog, it would look like this:

<link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”The Gates Notes – Official Bill Gates Blog” href=”http://www.thegatesnotes.com/rss.aspx” />

The part I’ve bolded is the address of your feed. You put this code on every page, and it makes it easy for those using browser and feed reading applications to easily subscribe to your words.

Riding Twitter & Social Media Sites That Have Reputation

I mentioned that it takes time for your blog to build reputation. While you’re waiting, social media offers a way to ride on someone else’s coattails. That’s why I’m so glad you’re on Twitter now. Check this out for heading to sundance on Google:

heading to sundance - Google Search

Yep, there’s your tweet. Pretty awesome (or sad), depending on how you look at it. Google has decided that your tweet about your blog post is more important and relevant than the actual blog post itself (0ver at Bing, neither your tweet or post appears).

Well, keep tapping into that Twitter goodness. Those tweets will turn into links that in turn can help your posts rank better (and yes, some Twitter links do pass credit).

To WWW Or Not To WWW? Do Them Both, Point To One!

There’s so much more that could be done, but I’ll end on a basic thing that should be fixed immediately. Your site is located at:

http://www.thegatesnotes.com

However, if I try to go to that without a www prefix:

http://thegatesnotes.com

I get an error.

That’s bad from a user perspective. Some people will omit the WWW portion, since many sites are configured to work with or without them. Make the WWW-less domain work, too. And then when you do, make sure you either redirect (with a 301 permanent redirect) anyone trying to reach it over to the WWW version (or vice versa). I don’t care which version you go with. Just make sure both work to lead people ultimate to one location.

Good luck with the future blogging, Twittering, plus a warm welcome to the wonderful world of SEO!

Postscript: My primary hope was that this post would use Bill’s blog as a case study for anyone to make simple, easy changes. A secondary hope was that the suggestions might actually be seen by Bill himself — and if so, that they would be taken in good humor and as useful advice. I think I may have succeeded on that part. Bill’s just tweeted:

@dannysullivan, thanks for the advice – the people who work on the site are on this now, should see improvements tonight…

I also meant to mention earlier that anyone with additional advice for Bill’s blog, please feel free to add them into the comments below, especially in terms of how they may also help others.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: General | Google: SEO | How To: SEO | Microsoft: Bing SEO | Microsoft: Marketing | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mackro badr

    Very impressive. Clap!!! Clap!!!

  • http://managinggreatness.com Gil Reich

    Great post, Danny, really enjoyed it. Feels like it would be a great preface to an SEO book, and a great example you can point to in your future defenses of SEO.

  • http://www.krick-interactive.com Gernot

    Yes, really good! I think he should ask one SEO in his stuff :)

  • http://www.soula.com craigparker

    Really nice idea for an article Danny, I enjoyed it.

    A good way of illustrating loads of the SEO basics to someone with a prominent example.

    At least it shows M$ are not controlling Bings search results! No way they would let Gates’ blog not be top if they were.

  • http://socialmediablog.tamar.com/ henweb

    Danny

    Leaving aside the fact that you may have just set a record for longest blog about blogging, I can’t help thinking of Bill Gates reading this, feeling a little hurt and then going to swim in a pool full of $100 bills :D

    Just kidding – your points are of course all valid for a number of companies and people, as well as the famous Mr Gates. We actually did our latest Search Index report on how UK politicians are faring in the same space – with very similar results. You should have a read (search “Tamar Search Index” – I won’t be so rude as to jam a link in!)

    Great post as always

  • http://www.maybenow.com adnan

    Really a very nice post for Bill Gates as well as for those who are not aware of the importance of SEO.

  • http://www.impactmedialtd.co.uk impactandy

    Excellent article, the question is will Bill be too proud to implement any of this???

  • Legato

    It’s funny and sad that not a single commenter (including you, Danny) didn’t try to analyze it as a failure of all search engines to find geniune content of someone whose purpose in life is NOT to game the search engine for ranking and juice.

    Here we have an interesting situation – BillG really couldn’t care less about being #1 in the search results/having his blog appear there or whatnot. At least I assume that be the case. Yet, his CONTENT, his THOUGHTS are what (again, major assumption here) people want. So in the end:

    - Content author produces valuable content/thoughts
    - People cannot find it using search engines
    - People lose.
    - Author is blamed (in a funny way, of course) for his lack of computer knowledge to ensure that his content is “search engine-friendly”.

    How much more content is out there produced and missed by search engines because authors simply don’t know/don’t care/don’t want to worry about being “search-engine friendly”?

    SEO is important for those who stand to benefit from it. In the world where search engines are smart enough, SEO is just garbage. Along with myriad of captchas to just publish this comment…

  • Frank Bauer

    nice SEO 101 post, danny!
    it amazes me that a man of his resources didn’t do his due diligence on such basic things.
    it’s an embarrassment, actually.
    this would have been a great opportunity to point out that bing “search partner” yahoo’s siteexplorer shows almost 600 inbound links to http://www.thegatesnotes.com.
    yahoo search hasn’t yet indexed the sundance post but they do show 30 results.

  • Frank Bauer

    forgot to mention, you if you should do a SEO 102 post for bill, you should explain the proper use of default index directory documents, how case insensitive IIS configuration settings are a bad thing for canonicalization, things like that:
    http://www.thegatesnotes.com/
    http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Default.aspx
    http://www.thegatesnotes.com/default.aspx
    http://www.thegatesnotes.com/DeFaUlT.aspx
    etc…

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Legato, I’m going to assume that Bill Gates started his blog because he felt he had important ideas to share and get people thinking about. I make that assumption based on the intro to the site.

    Given this, yes, he should care about how he shows up in search, just as much as he’d care if he wrote an important book but by found all the pages were printed in invisible ink. That would never be allowed to happen in the “real” world, but sadly search engine “Invisibility” remains all too common today.

    As for not blaming the search engines, I did that. I did that several times. I noted that…

    1) Google is pretty screwed up saying it has 55 of his pages but then only revealing 18 of them.

    2) Bing is screwed up listing only 6 of his pages.

    3) Neither Google or Bing has managed to index his latest post, which was, as I said, “really, really lame” and something they deserve ridicule over.

    4) That as a site owner, it’s easy to feel powerless when search engines screw up this way.

    5) That despite Gates personally having a huge reputation, search engines aren’t with it enough for his blog to immediately gain that reputation.

    6) That it’s pretty sad that Google is giving his Twitter account more of a ranking boost than one of his blog posts.

    There is plenty documenting the failure of search engines in there. I totally agree that no one should have to think about many of the things I’ve described in a perfect world.

    The reality is the world isn’t perfect. The search engines aren’t smart enough, which is why SEO isn’t garbage. There are things, basic and simple things that have nothing to do with trying to “game” search engines, that should be fixed on the Bill Gates blog. Those things are SEO. You do them in the same way you test a site in various browsers. You can ignore them, but by doing so, you risk having your thoughts be ignored by a larger audience.

  • jacthemanus

    Nice post Danny. I really enjoy it and I think Mr Gates will enjoy this as well.
    This is in reply to one of the comments above. The search engine does not care who the author is. You can be the richest man in the world or the most famous influential speaker at all time, it does not matter. The search engine will treat you (by that I meant your content) as anybody else. It is algorithms and programming codes that take inputs and spit out outputs based on some criteria. So if you want the search engine to rank your content higher than others, you need SEO or some sort of optimization to get noticed.
    In my opinion, if you are a famous person, it does not matter where you rank, people will find you. even though you rank 1000th. If I am a fan of Bill Gates and I really want to read his blog, I will find it. Even though I have to click 1000 times through Google search or Bing. But that’s just me.

    have a good day friends

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    I must have missed the legislation passed by Congress that says every blogger must brand his blog as “X brand BLOG” so that Danny Sullivan can find it in the search results.

    It ranks just fine for “The Gates Notes”, which is the brand name of the blog.

    A little better analysis would have prevented this unnecessary long-winded jibe. You usually do far better than this, Danny.

  • Legato

    Danny, I am with you on technical aspects, believe me :) I am just saying that Bill, as the content owner not directly benefiting from having this data scraped/picked up by search engines immediately within a day, shouldn’t care/know how to do SEO. If anything, your post shouldn’t have been about “Bill, here is SEO 101″ but about “Search engines suck if they can’t pick up thoughts of the richest man in the world directly from his blog”. I wouldn’t expect them to be able to do so for a regular person, sure, but Bill – c’mon :)

    to Jachemanus – I am fully aware of mechanics of search engines and their algorithms and the ways they find info. I am just trying to step back and show that the field of search is nowhere near the “completion” phase and much construction is still needed.

    In real life, if Bill would decide to speak his thoughts, he would just need to step on the virtual podium and start his speech. Media would find him. Not other way around. He wouldn’t be running from NBC to CBS to ABC asking them to post his thoughts :)

  • Darrin Ward

    Between the recent twitter posts and now this post, it’s pretty obvious that you want Bill’s business (or at least that’s the message that comes across). If I might recommend trying to get in touch with him personally. I think you will have better results that way than calling him out in public!

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Legato, if he has no benefit from being in search engines, then he should block them. But again, he does have a benefit. I know he’s Bill Gates. But there is a virtual podium he’s stepping out onto. It’s called search. And those search engines simply don’t get everything right. At the very least, ensuring that he’s saying something like “Official Blog” will help those who are actively trying to see him and may have no idea what “The Gates Notes” are.

    Darrin, no, I don’t want Bill’s business. I wouldn’t have time to take on a project like that anyway. My primary job is focused on educating people about search marketing and how to use search engines better. Looking at his blog served those purposes well — it provided a tour for anyone to use in thinking about how to do SEO better, and it pointed out flaws with the search engines that searchers need to be aware of.

  • http://bizthoughts.mikelee.org mikeleeorg

    @Legato,

    Here is another way to look at it. Bill Gates’ blog is his new magazine. Since he’s well-known, many people walk into a bookstore looking for his new magazine. SEO is his way of putting up signs to direct potential customers to the magazine aisle, and over to his publication.

    He doesn’t have to do this, of course. Over time, customers will come to learn where his magazine is located. But he could improve their search a little by employing a little marketing.

    In my eyes, SEO is simply a way of helping a customer find you. If Bill Gates didn’t do any SEO, I’m sure that his blog would gain search engine popularity and rise in rankings naturally. These techniques will only help him connect to his readers easier.

    Also, the page title technique is a best practice, not just for SEO, but for usability & readability.

    @Michael Martinez,

    True, it seems that Bill Gates has currently branded his blog as “The Gates Notes,” but I’m 100% sure the majority of readers out there are unaware of that branding right now and are using search terms like “Bill Gates blog” instead.

    My $0.02 at least.

    Great article Danny, as always.

  • Darrin Ward

    Danny,

    Fair enough – you know I love your work and I commend you for pointing out these items.

    PS. If he does contact – you can send him my way then :).

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Michael, I never said a blogger has to call their blog “X brand blog.” In fact, I said the opposite: “Bill Gates blog” might be entirely off.”

    I can tell you that if you hit Google or Bing and look at the suggested searches when you type in “gates b” (at Google) or “bill gates b” (at both) that “bill gates blog” is among the suggestions. But if you type in “the gates n” or “gates n,” you won’t find “the gates notes” as a suggestion.

    Since the suggested terms are fresh sometimes to within hours, I don’t get the impression many people know of “The Gates Notes” as the brand name for Bill Gates’ blog. I do get the impression there are more people who are specifically looking for it under the generic term.

    That’s why I suggested targeting both the specific and generic term. That just seems good advice to me, in the same way that I’d recommend a business like Amazon not to just target its own name “Amazon” but also some generic term it hopes to be found for, say “Online Shopping.”

    I find it surprising that you’d disagree that a generic term should also be targeted. That’s pretty core search marketing advice. I suppose you’ll recommend that your company change its home page title tag from:

    Visible Technologies – Social Media Monitoring, Analysis and Engagement

    to simply:

    Visible Technologies

    As long as you’re promoting your company using that brand, by your logic, you shouldn’t need any generic terms to go with it.

    As for it being long-winded, well, if all I was doing was covering the title tag of his home page, sure. But I covered more than that.

  • http://corporate.electricnews.net SheilaENN

    I’m a bit mystified by the criticisms of this post; does Bill Gates need a public handhold to optimize his SEO? No, he will be found anyway. Danny, I think, quite brilliantly seized an extremely rare opportunity to provide an illustrative case study for every blog owner — mommy blogger, entrepreneur, not-for-profit, corporate, politician — who needs to know how to get found by search engines: flawed though they may be, they are all we non-billionaires have to get ourselves seen. I personally ran to implement the meta-content tag description on my blog as soon as I read Danny’s piece about it — didn’t know about that one.

    Second, respect to Bill Gates for putting himself out there and tweeting and blogging in a (less than perfect) way which lets the rest of us also learn something. Frank – due diligence on his blog? What fun would that be? What would anyone gain from that?

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    Danny, Visible Technologies builds brand power. You don’t do that by trying to crowd into a space other people have occupied.

    I note that Bill (whose Twitter account has more than ten times as many followers as yours) was linking to TheGatesNotes.com from Twitter. Creating visibility for his site doesn’t seem to be an issue.

    And I also note that Bill said his people are taking your advice to heart. No doubt the links your article attracts will help inspire people to clean up the name space for him anyway.

    Question is: since you did this bit of reputation management for Bill Gates, are you going to do pro bono work for others?

    And will only billionaires benefit? I might have a professional interest in THAT prospect.

    Anyway, all criticism aside, you made your point and got it across in real-time search. That deserves a hearty kudo from the entire industry.

    Well done, there.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Michael, if you read the article, it says:

    “I’m going to keep everything in basic terms and use your blog to help others who may be in the same situation as you, with a new blog or web site but not up on how search engine optimization may help them.”

    So yes, I think it was designed to help people far beyond Bill Gates.

    Creating visibility for his site IS an issue, if there are people looking for “Bill Gates blog” using that generic phrase and being confused about which one is really his in the search results. A simple title change is an effective way to do that, in my opinion.

    You can disagree with that, but I’d be amazed if when you’ve worked with clients on search marketing that you’ve decided that their brand is enough, that there’s no need for them to consider generic terms that people might be seeking them for. That there’s no sense for a major brand to consider distinguishing itself as an official site in confusing results.

    Indeed, Visible Technologies is targeting both its brand name and generic terms that it wants to be found for. Is the “social media monitoring” space less crowded than the “Bill Gates blog” space? I doubt it. So why is Visible trying to crowd into that space? Feel free to drop those generic terms from your title tag at any time.

    I think you’ve fixated far too much on one point that I raised in this article and are twisting it into something I did not say. I was clear that I didn’t know what he wanted to be found for. You’ve tried to make it out like I swooped in and said “I know best; do this” in relation to determining his most important terms. I didn’t. I actually said:

    “Now, I have no idea what you’re hoping your blog will be found for in general. “Bill Gates blog” might be entirely off.”

    I did explain why I thought some people might look for him using this particular set of words (as some suggested terms led me to think) but that he might disagree. Which is totally cool. The site owner ultimately decides what they think they should target. But I’d hope they’d do that with some good keyword research.

    The article then covered things like a lack of a working non-WWW domain. Consideration of the meta description tag. Duplicate titles across all of his pages. Indexing issues that are primarily the search engines’ fault but since I saw no verification codes or sitemaps, I had a pretty good suspicion he’s not running those. Lack of autodiscovery for the feed. Some easy links that yes, even Bill Gates might want to ensure he picks up.

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    Danny, I read the article and understood well your intention to help other people.

    However, it appears that people searching for “bill gates blog” are far outshadowed by people searching for “bill gates” so there is limited ROI merit to your actual proposal.

    Bill Gates doesn’t need to rank for “bill gates blog”. He should, in my opinion, want to outrank Search Engine Land for “bill gates”.

    I’m not trying to twist anything you say — I’m just pointing out that advising someone to try to brand for a low-value term is not really good SEO advice, in my opinion. The value of the complex lesson is well appreciated — I think you have earned many compliments for the article based on what I’m reading.

    “…I’d be amazed if when you’ve worked with clients on search marketing that you’ve decided that their brand is enough, that there’s no need for them to consider generic terms that people might be seeking them for.”

    When appropriate, I do advise/assist clients on how to develop non-brand traffic. But that’s the primary focus of our service (or, at least, the part of the service I oversee).

    “Visible Technologies is targeting both its brand name and generic terms that it wants to be found for.”

    Not that I’m aware of. Visible Technologies wants to be found for its name and it wants its site to be searchable so that people can find relevant content for “visible technologies social media” or whatever.

    NOTE: I’m not involved with Visible Technologies’ corporate Web marketing. We execute our latest SEO theories through SEO Theory and Best SEO Blog.

    In any event, I have long advocated that the SEO cannot and should expect the client to change every aspect of a site to match the SEO’s theoretical criteria for success. We have to be able to work with clients whose corporate processes don’t allow for overnight changes.

    It would be great if our Forbes 50 and Fortune 500 clients all changed their sites within 24 hours of receiving our suggestions. I’m sure many other people in the industry would love to see that happen with their clients, too.

    But then again, although Bill did respond quickly to your suggestions, I have to point out that you still didn’t go after the money term: “Bill Gates”.

    At least linked to his site with his name, although he may have to work on it a little to capture a strong position in that name space. He has some tough competition there.

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    Wish I could EDIT the comment: “…But that’s the primary focus of our service (or, at least, the part of the service I oversee).”

    SHOULD have read: “…But that’s NOT the primary focus of our service (or, at least, the part of the service I oversee).”

  • http://www.justsay.on.ca/ rinkjustice

    An idea for future installments.

    Perhaps you could offer your professional advice to a struggling upstart business, or a non profit organization that would really benefit from this?

    Someone like Bill Gates doesn’t need SEO. He doesn’t need a network of Twitter followers or Facebook friends either. He doesn’t need your help or mine.

    A thought to consider.

    Just a thought.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Michael, I didn’t get into as part of the article about how when I looked at just “bill gates,” he wasn’t ranking for that.

    A title change to just “The Bill Gates Notes” even if the site’s name didn’t change wouldn’t hurt. But even without, I’m sure he’d get there. I’m also sure if he did nothing, he’d still rank for “Bill Gates blog.” But I think it would be clearer that it was his official blog, or site, or whatever you want to call it with a better title. And my suggestions, since they incorporated the words “Bill Gates,” did indeed go after the “money term.”

    I also didn’t advise him to try and brand for a low value term. I didn’t tell him to brand for anything at all. I advised that if people were looking for his site using the generic term of “Bill Gates blog” rather than the brand name of “The Gates Notes,” he might want to have a page title that — when he was showing up in the search results — spoke to both. I still think that’s good search marketing advice. I won’t go on and on about it, however. I really see nothing more to clarify on that front.

    If you’re telling me that the reason Visible Technologies has “social media monitoring” in its title tag is so help cover someone who might search for “visible technologies social media,” pull my other leg :)

    RinkJustice, this web site offers advice all the time to upstart businesses and non-profits. This entire article is also completely applicable to them.

  • http://www.justsay.on.ca/ rinkjustice

    Danny, you have a large readership and social capital. I think War Child or National Coalition for the Homeless (or whoever, take your pick) would have benefited from the attention and exposure a lot more.

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    “If you’re telling me that the reason Visible Technologies has “social media monitoring” in its title tag is so help cover someone who might search for “visible technologies social media,” pull my other leg :)”

    I’m saying that good SEO principle teaches that site search is important AND I’m saying that I’m not involved with marketing Visible Technologies’ Website.

    The company brands for its name, not for a generic term. We get enough news coverage that we want to be found for our name and our service marks.

    Of course, if anyone is searching for “visible technologies social media”, we seem to rank well enough for that. I don’t know what the Website stats look like.

    You’ll have to take all that up with someone else.

  • http://resify.com doublelama

    Excellent post Danny. In fact it’s so good if you check out http://www.thegatesnotes.com now a day later, almost all of your suggestions have been implemented. Someone over at Microsoft or Bill’s interactive agency must have been listening.

    I think you highlight something that’s indicitive across the web… people think if they create a website with good content and simply publish it without giving any thought to SEO, Google and Bing will reward them just for having good content. Clearly that’s not the case. SEO is something that every person publishing a website should consider even before launching their site. And here’s the key point you make in your article:

    “Well, you have a little power. That’s why all this SEO stuff isn’t about spamming and scamming as some thing but actually really crucial stuff that lots of people fail to know, even people who actually own one of the web’s major search engines, like yourself. Or really, the developers and marketers behind your site who clearly need more education.”

    If you understand enough about the web to put a website out, you should at least understand the basics of SEO. Nobody said you had to get into advance principals or trying to understand how a search engine’s algorithm works, just the basics like you mention here. It’s really not that hard.

  • http://www.wasteawarebusiness.wordpress.com joehind

    Interesting to see the speed with which changes to The Gates Notes have also lifted the Google rank (search for “Bill Gates Blog”): up to 3rd as of 9.15am (UK time).

    And this post is 4th! So these ideas clearly work. I’ll try and implement some on my environmental blog and thanks for the advice.

  • http://www.searchkingdom.co.uk RobAndrews

    Cool idea for an article Danny.

    Pretty much agree with the ‘worthiness’ comment from rinkjustice, but I guess you would not have got any where near as much press for a different website target and therefore the message would not have had the same reach.

    Not sure who developed the site, but isn’t this just another example of a web project that has had little initial on-site SEO attention? You can see these everywhere you look.

    The difference is that for Bill’s site the link profile would have solved most of these ranking problems eventually. Where as on most sites this won’t be the case.

    If only it could be that easy for ‘Bing’, eh Bill?

  • http://www.searchtools.com searchtools-avi

    This is so funny, in a slightly pathetic way, because we were telling people these things in 1998! And you did it politely, while I might have snarked a whole bunch more. Rock on, Danny

  • http://www.ioninteractive.com allenkristina

    Great post, Danny — it just goes to show that rules and best practices are constantly changing, and we have to change with them. I hope Bill Gates learns something from this! :)

  • http://twitter.com/movereses moveres

    It’s really usefull comments for every site, extremely useful for a noob like me). Finding your blog very interesting reading too.

  • Michael Sitver

    He took your advice. Well put.

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