PowerPoint Free! Put your questions about SEO to our panel of experts and get answers about ranking and crawling issues.
Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land Q&A Moderator: Cindy Krum, Senior SEO Analyst, Blue Moon Works, Inc.
Speakers: Jill Whalen, CEO and Founder, High Rankings Bruce Clay, President, Bruce Clay, Inc. Todd Friesen, Vice President of Search, Visible Technologies Greg Boser, President, 3 Dog Media Stephan Spencer, President, Netconcepts
Question: What are the most important factors to try to rank in Yahoo? Any differences in what you should do for different search engines to rank well?
Greg: Crappy links work really well for Yahoo. Difference in Yahoo in the amount of time and the quality of links. He has separate strategy for Yahoo. They are more tolerant of higher volume of lower quality links.
Stephan: Paid inclusion. Todd also likes paid inclusion. Don't turn off paid inclusion, then you'll vanish. But it's a lot cheaper than PPC.
Question: Three or four primary things to do to make sure they have a good platform to make sure they are successful for SEO. If I'm doing new website, what should they keep in mind?
Greg. RSS. Have feed-enabled site, clean, 2.0. SEs love feeds, gets you crawled more often. Don't do static HTML.
Jill: Do keyword research first, build site architecture based on keyword research.
Bruce: We do the same thing, organize the site architecture based on themes. Getting spidered is a big issue to being able to rank. Use site maps. Make sure content connected to home page.
Todd: Fairly flexible platform. Change elements in templates easily so you can adjust quickly to shifts in the search engines.
Jill: A good CMS is important.
Stephan: Keyword rich text links, need to be able to measure KPI. For example, compare how many unique URLs are getting spidered vs. how many are in the index, monitor that over time. Look at long-tail metrics. What are you measuring? Page yield? Page yield is looking at distribution of all of your pages and how much traffic are you getting from the SEs. Here's my pages, only 10% of my pages really only get visitors. How to increase ratio of pages that get actual visitors.
Question: What do you do if page uses iframes or Ajax and client won't change this.
Greg: Ask why are you (client) doing that. Ajax is good for cleaning toilets, but not ranking. IT people don't think of search engines as another user. Ajax is great on the front end, but if you're serving multiple pages worth of content being served in Ajax, it's not being spidered and indexed. Many different ways to do it, but it is wroth doing it.
Todd: Another problem with Ajax is you lose a lot of your metrics. Looks great, but at the end of the day you only know how many people went to your home page but nothing beyond that unless you go with an expensive analytics package.
Bruce: Problem with using Ajax for part of site is you lose the functionality of your back button and other issues I didn't catch.
Question: What tools do you use?
Jill: KeywordDiscovery.com, Firefox.
Bruce: His own tools.
Greg: Bruce has a great chart. Greg uses his own internal tools. Discussion on which version of keyword discovery to use.
Bruce: Three presenters at SES London, nobody used the same tools. Lots of things out there for people to use. SEO Book has some good tools. He thinks tools should be appropriate to mission. For linking information, use Yahoo site explorer.
Todd: Firefox stuff – web developer toolbar, search status. That's for a quick analysis.
Stephan: Has trouble just picking one tool, lots of good stuff. Touchgraph.com. Thumbshots ranking tool – shows lots of good visual comparison information.
Jill: Google webmaster tools and google analytics. Tools won't do your SEO for you, you can't just push a button and SEO your site.
Bruce: Analytics will be an important SEO tool out there he feels. Ranking won't mean as much when behavioral search and personalization comes in. Traffic and action will be what is meaningful.
Tools you use to measure rankings: Jill: You can't use rankings anymore. They can be different based on geotargeting, personalized search, etc. Need to get away from that and convince your clients to get away from that. Todd: Trying to move away from rank reporting. Clients do want to see some of that, need to remind them that you made a bunch more money this month than you did last year. Stephan: InQuisit. Talk about several people having problems when they run rankings and Google thinking they are doing something wrong because they run so much stuff. Have to run slow. Todd: InQuisit shows a good amount of long-tail information, (Stephan) you can see by city what your rankings are. Todd: Put InQuisit on a site, saw bunch of traffic from UK, put UK specific stuff on and got much better results. Jill: Site search to see what people are searching for. Bruce: Optimize and monitor for about twenty keywords, then looks at trending over time. When something is broken, then he looks at a deeper research process. He gets about 800 deferent combinations of words with his reports at the end of the day. 80% of traffic is from Google.com, rest is from Google in other countries.
Danny: Looking at competitive tools, Compete has good tools. Hitwise and Comscore can also do this. Competitive research session covered some of this.
Bruce: Will give people tools free for sixty days if you give him a business card and write Tools on it. Danny calls Bruce a crack dealer.
Danny: Is changing H1 tag bad for rankings? Does it make a difference these days?
Greg says he thinks it does make a difference. It's not the holy grail, but it does help. The more you can do reduce the chances that Googlebot will make a mistake in determining what is important is good.
Stephan: H1 is good, helps to put together theme for page. you don't want exact same wording for H1, Title tag, etc. You do want a consistent keyword theme on page, for a couple of themes, not ten or fifteen keywords. Jill: For title tags, no specific number of phrases or words. She likes to do 11-12 words, that's three keyword phrases, still look good in SERPs, works well. Sometimes can be call to action.
Greg: Don't put commas in your titles. You're diluting the phrases you could rank for, and people don't think about clickability of that title. Your title is a call to action in the SERP. Don't make them read like they were written by a five year old. Stephan: Try to keep the H1 tags fairly short. Bruce: Doesn't seem to be a magic number for number of words, but do it in a natural way and have it be compelling.
Danny: Link building. Have you seen any change in the way you're doing SEO since "Matt's war on paid links"?
Jill: hasn't bought or sold, doesn't make a difference for her, recommends to keep it underground.
VBruce: Doesn't do paid links for rank, but they can help for traffic.
Todd: Yes, he does do paid links for ranking. You have to be careful (especially since Matt is sitting in the back of the room). It's all about disclosure to your client, what Google thinks about it, what the risks are, etc.
Greg: How to torch a competitor is to pretend to be them at a site clinic where Matt is in the room.
Stephan: Think creatively. A paid link could be PR. Get involved with a non-profit organization, such as donating money to a non-profit or volunteer time. You get mentioned on their website. Needs to make good business sense. Good corporate citizen, like karma. Think about organizations that fit your mission and that are compatible with you.
Greg: Really need to look at your space. Some areas on the web, you have to buy links to compete, just the way things are. He uses it as a short-term thing while he works on good content and longer-term ranking solution. Everything on the web is paid for, in one way or another. Bloggers friend with each other, non-profit example, etc.
Jill: You have to have something work linking to.
Bruce: If Matt walks up behind you and your first step is to shut your computer, you're probably spamming. If you can't say why you have this link, or you do say why you have it and your only answer is for PR, it's probably not a good thing.
Danny: Which to do, on page or link building, if you could only do one
Jill: On page
Greg: History of site
Todd: If you have right CMS, you can do all on-page for 3000 pages on site in an hour. Doesn't necessarily have to be something you can do. Need to have both.
Greg: Age an authority make a difference. Onpage factors on a trusted site will trump anchor text from a non-trusted site any time. Goal is to get to point where you can publish and you rank.
Stephan: Favorite type of new client is age, authority, trust of site but running horrible type of CMS with long query strings, bad internal linking structure, etc. It's great because you fix stuff and you easily double or triple their sales.
Bruce: Reluctantly agrees with all of these guys. You should do both in any case. Even if it's a new site now, it will be aged later on. Why not do it now so it's there when it's older? Don't think you should spend 100% of your time on one or the other.
Jill: They focus too much on off-page social media and ignore on-page. Need to get on-page done before you worry about social media.
Bruce: Someone came to him talking about they wanted to blog, social media, etc. and half of their pages had "insert title tag here" for title tag. Need to get that fixed first.
Question: What about using keywords in URLs and strings?
Greg: Don't use underscores, dashes are better than underscores. Having name in domain really helps you rank for that name. Don't do a bunch of keyword hyphen keyword hypehen all over.
Stephan: Don't do hyphens in domain if you can, run them together, looks better. In rest of URL, hyphens better than underscores, underscores are not yet treated as word separators (according to Matt).
Jill: Don't change your whole site to just to put keywords in domain.
Todd: resource issue. If you can do it, go for it. If it's real competitive, it might be the one little thing that gets you into the top ten. Prioritize things, but would be lower on list than site structure.
Stephan: Test it for yourself, don't just take our word for it. His experience with testing shows switching URL to keywords from number it did help rankings.
Bruce: Content is not just html. Images are being indexed. Keywords in URL can help, but not end all and be all.
Jill: Be sure to 301 stuff.
Question: If you're ranking well for underscores, should you switch to hyphens?
Stephan: Could help. Everyone else: If it isn't broke, don't fix it.
Question: What about duplicate content issues?
Greg: SEs pretty good at detecting dupe content, scraping sites don't work as well. Mashup sites on web can provide good content for user, but not for the search engines. Google knows you pulled that content from other sources. How to interject user generated content and unique content so they can convince algo that it is valuable content.
Todd: See it a lot in verticals like consumer electronics. When everyone is selling the seame products with the same description. Everyone is using customer reviews to add different content to the pages.
Stephan: Missed some. Need to have RSS feed, that's how people know you're the authoritative source. If you don't have an RSS feed, someone else will put it out and Google will think they're the authoritative source. Be sure to have a link to your company in the byline/bio in case your stuff gets syndicated. This tells Google you're originator of this content even if it is lower rank.
Bruce: Nothing worse than writing an article and having other people take credit for it. There are some things you can do about it, lengthy process.
Jill: You're not penalized for duplicate content, doesn't mean you're going to be banned or penalized. Your pages just may not show up, it's more of a filter than a penalty. Don't sweat if you have some of it.
Stephan: Filter is query-specific. You can show up sometimes and not other times, depending on query you search.
Question: Domain age, how important to rank. Stephan: usage, not just age. If you've had it parked for nine years, there could be issues.
Question: Length of time for which you register an issues?
Greg: gives example of where it could matter. Older site can rank better and you can do good things with them that you couldn't do with new site.
Stephan: renew for multiple years if you can. Don't worry about really old domains.
Todd: Practical side of it is he has lost good domains because he's lazy and forgets to register. Do it for ten years, easier and cheaper.
Question: Any last top tip to share with people for SEO?
Jill: sign up for high rankings advisor
Bruce: All of the reports and things you are going to be doing are going to be based on data you observe ..it's just data. Best thing you can do is get properly changed and apply intelligence to process.
Greg: prioritize, you can get overwhelmed by data. need to map strategies, do it in chunks.
Todd: Number one reason SEO doesn't get done from an agency standpoint is there are resource issues, IT departments not in loopol. You talk to marketers, they're excited, but IT doesn't care. Big tip is to include IT. Take them out to dinner, send them gifts, etc.