SEO and Big Search

Nov 14, 2006 - 2:37 pm 1 by
Filed Under PubCon 2006

SEO and Big Search

Moderated by Joe Morin. He welcomes everyone to Pubcon, says that it is officially the largest conference in their history.

Melanie Mitchell from AOL. Starts with a review of the “old AOL” versus the new AOL. Said it was a good 20 year ride. With BB, the writing was on the wall: change or die. Recently, their response was to give it all away. Trying to generate more of an audience on the web. Needs to gather new audience and grow revenues in advertising. Simply put, they have changed their entire business model. This includes SEO for their goals, since it is so important to their new strategy. Feels they will win with deeper content in longer tail of search. They want to market the plays, and not the theatre (AOL). They generate revenue through advertising and search and commerce by allowing people to navigate through their new areas.

One of the first things they needed to do was to establish an organization to succeed at SEO. They created channel leads for multiple areas, accountable for SEO. Created a core SEO group working towards common goals. First looked at indexing and rankings to determine problem areas. Needed to allocate resources from other areas of the business in order to support. ID’d issues and prioritized channels to support the program.

Next, they need to optimize assets. Increase number of indexed pages. Raised quality of rankings of AOL pages. Optimize existing pages to increase presence. Next, they needed to track metrics. By implementing consistent metrics with a consistent methodology, they were able to create an SEO dashboard to communicate results across the company. They need to track PV’s, search referrals, visits, and financial seo goals. Lastly, they needed to increase consistency of the SEO. They defined SEO-compliance standards and developed training. They drive a consistent approach to SEO strategy for products and programming. SEO needs to be a part of the company’s DNA.

They created a workflow which allowed for the requirements to be forwarded to the unified team and then onto the project teams, programming teams and other stakeholders. For paid search efforts, it is more centralized than SEO because they want to look at efforts across the company. They need to understand the quality of their traffic, recirculation, and lifetime value, and understand it better in order to generate revenue. They use a reporting system that provides tracking value, and then manage bids based on research. Once they ID the value of the visit they can define CPC and break even points and set daily budgets. Lastly, how do they work with partners, and how do they fit into the equation. Is it working? Yes. They continue to see growth wit the majority of traffic coming from non-members. Q3 results showed a 46% increase in revenue from paid search. She finished with a couple of short case studies which showed AOL sports having a 60% increase in traffic from organic search. This translated to 130% increase in page views from organic search. Finishes with a funny slide of a mockup NY Times cover saying “AOL is really serious.” (This answered the question “how do you know we are serious.?” (laughs)

Dave Roth, Director of SEM for Yahoo! Starts by thanking AOL for all the ideas they gave them for their new home page (laughs). He will focus more on organic search, although like Melanie he focuses on both paid and organic. Why does Yahoo! do search marketing. Made some jokes about is name and quitting “The Band” and hating Sammy Haggar. Is “an agency guy from way back.” Yahoo! has been doing SEM for some time. They need a central perspective to deal with Efficiencies, best practices, and Scale (3 billion page views a day). Needed to ask, like a lot of big companies, “why don’t we rank for a term like “search engine?” Feels that this is our time, regarding those who do SEO/SEM for a living. He advises to have fun if you have time. (Laughs)

Now, everyone knows that SEM is the best way to acquire customers, even if you are an SE. Refers to it as the holy trinity of performance marketing: Paid, SEO, and Affiliate. Y advertises on millions of keywords. Y! rolled out a central SEO program across all business units. Y has a corporate affiliate marketing program that works closely with paid. Lists a variety of areas across the org that participates in search marketing. Lots of different business models in play: subscriptions, conversion, transactional, lead generation, CPM revenue. God thing is that it’s just marketing, and we need to come up with one method to measure. For example, what is the lifetime value of a conversion? What is the net present value (NPV) of that lifetime revenue stream? What is an acceptable profit margin on NPV? Created a monthly “scorecard” across business units. Good news is that this scorecard works for SEO too. They can compare organic referral value versus paid, analyze differences in users behavior, and adjust accordingly. Offers some examples like what is branded versus non-branded value, and how they can track progress of how much of the opportunity can they realize?

Central group provides resources and expertise; training and education; standards and best practices; tools and technology; and acts as a product release gateway. The business units and properties needs to assign points of contact per property; coordinate a baseline SEO audit; build and execute the SEO plan; use their own scorecard metrics and related actions, and evangelize ongoing SEO implementation. This is important because you have to get it into everyone’s head that SEO is important. culture must be preserved and cultivated even through employee turnover. In terms of centralizing versus de-centralizing…business owners need to know their business. SEM’s know search. They have to manage the tradeoffs and manage against a single standard. Also important to allow budget mobility, in order to “keep people honest.” They struggled on “build versus buy.” They found that you want to build to core business, and buy the rest. Finishes with “it’s just marketing…no voodoo involved. They do SEM just like everyone else, but on a larger scale. SEO is mostly about training and trying. It is a game of tradeoffs…finishes with “I’m hiring!” (laughs)

Adam Lasnik from Google. Introduced by Joe as “works with some guy named Matt.” (laughs). He introduces himself as Google’s “Search Evangelist.” Will discuss what happens when “Google SEO’s Itself. fancy SEO tricks G has up it’s sleeve: (Page intentionally left blank). (laughs) When G sneezes, people notice. Sometimes this isn’t good, but others times it is. SNACC attack: Speed, Navigability, Accessibility, Clarity and Comfort. First: “speed really really counts.” People will notice and care if there is even a delay of a half second. Has two component: throughput (how fast can it be sent) and latency (how long until after someone clicks link until something happens. Navigability: where am I and how did I get here? Users should know where they are going. Anchor text is important…important for SEO and important for users. It is about the users (great he just used up two of the main points I’ll be presenting later today). You should be able to see the URL at the top, for example. AJAX does not allow bookmarking, for example. Back button should always go back…no two links on the page should link to the same thing.

Accessibility: need reasonable URLs, useful ALT Tags, and accessible search. He is the first to admit that google has it’s own problems with sometimes subdomains sometimes subfolders. They recently introduced audio capchtas, which can help with SEO. Feels that using these will lead to more links from blind people, for example. Clarity: makes links easy to find. Comfort: text easy to read. Black text is never a loser…pretty boring maybe but easy to read and appreciated by users. If you can’t read it or easily copy text, users may not come back. Also suggests that italics should be avoided, since they can be hard to read. Consistency: routine can be rewarded. Make sure that if you have notes, you print them out (talking about his presentation…laughs). Use consistency in fonts and colors.

Some of the prior speakers spoke about how they do SEO. At Google: what do we do? The answer is not much and I don’t do it. (laughs). They don’t worry about PageRank. They have user interface people that are fabulous and work with people across organization to make content more accessible, usable and intuitive. What about real SEM? Integration is being worked on, and content is being updated, for example tree like structure of Gmail. They try to keep pages simply, focusing more on text and “whiz bang” type of stuff. Use the same domain, for example “” uses separate URL for “” Having more content in one domain will serve better than lots of different domains. This also is better for user because it reduces the chances of Phishing and makes your site safer. For example if you use web host, pretty soon phishers will pick up on this and try to get data from your clients.

Use “smart AJAX and Flash” to only support the other content on the page. Also, use 301’s…they once bought the website and forgot to 301 it. He added during QA that 301’s will transfer link juice as long as you are linking from/to equivalent content. Sometimes we are not perfect, and sometimes we “cheat” by adding additional topics or content on a page simply to plug its own products. Conclusion: “yes, it really does come down to making the user happy.” “Your rankings will improve, your love life will improve, and you will make it on time for breakfast.”

Attend the next Pubcon or come out for the last three days and get all the QA.


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