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Advanced SEO: Mind-Blowing Advice

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Do more people search for "digital camera" or "digital cameras"?  If you guessed the plural version, you're wrong, according to Stephan Spencer, who spoke to SEMPO Atlanta last week.

It's common knowledge that the jargon we all use within our industries is often different from wording our prospective customers use, but it bears repeating.  Stephan told about a bank client who insisted on using the words "home loan" on their website, despite the fact that web searchers were looking for "mortgages" instead, and an apparel site that ignored the fact that customers want "hoodies," not "hooded sweatshirts."

Stephan Spencer founded Netconcepts in 1995, grew it to a multimillion dollar Internet marketing agency, and then sold it to Covario earlier this year.  Stephan's presentation about Advanced Search Engine Optimization lived up to its name - it was quite technical and packed with little-known tips and techniques.  We tried to capture the information that was coming at us fast and furiously in our recap below.

Stephan Spencer speaks on Advanced Search Engine Optimization for SEMPO Atlanta
Stephan Spencer speaks on Advanced Search Engine Optimization for SEMPO Atlanta
Keyword Research Soovle is a new keyword brainstorming tool that simultaneously searches (and autocompletes keywords from) Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, Wikipedia, Amazon and Answers.com.  It'll help you think laterally.  Example: you've got a site selling baby supplies and notice that a lot of people are searching for baby names.  Add content to your site about baby names and optimize it for those types of keywords. Be sure to log out of your Google account when using Google for this type of brainstorming using their autosuggest feature.  That way, the suggestions you see right below the search query box won't be personalized to you but will be applicable to the world at large. When using Google's Keyword Tool, the default is broad match, which means the data's inflated with related searches (the search volume numbers for "mortgage" on broad match will include every search that includes the word "mortgage").  Change the settings to exact match for much more accurate data. Linking Make sure your most important pages (most profitable products, etc.) are all linked to from your home page.  Keep all pages no more than a couple of clicks away from an external link source. Test everything.  Sample test: if you've got site-wide links pointing to the home page with a keyword in the anchor text, is it really helping the home page rank higher for that keyword?  Stephen bets it isn't.  Establish a baseline or rankings for that keyword, then switch all links to say "home" and watch the rankings impact. Don't have huge blocks of links to lots of internal pages at the bottom of your page or on the sidebar.  Google's "reasonable surfer" patent indicates that they think it terms of whether the link is likely to get clicked on by a typical web surfer.  If not, due to its placement on the page, it'll probably be discounted by Google. Be creative with external link-building.  Netconcepts created a contest for a printer client asking people to design Shoemoney's business card.  The winner would receive free business cards for life.  (Small print: 1000/year for 20 years - total cost to the company wasn't much.)  The printer received so many inbound links with "free business cards" in the link's anchor text that they actually ranked #2 for "business cards," which they were never visible for before.  (More on this case study, and using SEO to drive your social strategy, here.) To find .edu sites where you might get a link by making a donation, put this in Google's search box:  site:.edu "sponsors" or "patrons" or "donors" Coding Issues When using canonical tags, be sure to use absolute URLs (the entire URL, like http://www.site.com/directory/page), not relative URLs (/directory/page).  This is a mistake even Wikipedia makes. Several examples of "canonical tag misfires" were displayed.  Since I can't recreate the screen captures, read Stephan's articles about the topic (here and here). XML sitemaps can be a crutch - better to have an easily crawlable site.  Google now has vertical-specific sitemaps for news, video and mobile. Click for Stephan's primer on robots.txt.  Make sure you're not inadvertently blocking search engine robots from your site - we've all seen that happen. Since Google has never supported keyword meta tags, there's no reason to use them.  Spend your time on SEO tasks that are outcome-focused, not activity-focused. H1 tags (a way of coding headlines) no longer count for much with the search engines.  (But Stephen says don't take his word for it - test this - test everything!) URLs MarketingSherpa found that searchers are twice as likely to click on short URLs as long URLs.  Not only that, long URLs seem to drive searchers to instead click the listing directly below them - those listings get clicked on 2.5 times more often!  So use short URLs when you can, test everything, and if you have to redirect a long URL to a short URL, use a 301 redirect. WordPress uses 301s automatically when renaming post slugs, so you don't have to even think about it.  You can mass edit WordPress URLs with the "SEO Title Tag" plugin. SEO Metrics (that not many people track but should)
  • Page yield:  % of unique pages yielding search engine-delivered traffic
  • Keyword yield:  ratio of keywords to pages yielding search traffic
  • Brand-to-nonbrand ratio:  % of search traffic coming from brand keywords vs. nonbrand keywords
  • Unique pages:  non-duplicate pages crawled
  • Visitors per keyword:  ratio of search engine-delivered visitors to keywords
  • Index-to-crawl ratio:  ratio of pages indexed to unique crawled pages
  • Engine yield:  how much traffic the engine delivers for every page it crawls
  • Top converting/performing pages that are ranked on page 2 of the search engine results (expending some effort to get them on page 1 will have a big impact)
  • Top converting/performing keywords on one engine that are non-performing on another (buy PPC ads on the other engine - you already know that keyword works for you!)
Click to read what Stephan talked about in terms of scoring your SEO. There are some new real-time feedback tools that will score your web content or blog post as you write it - no need to wait for crawling, indexing and re-ranking to see the impact.  These include Scribe (WordPress plugin), Compendium Blogware and Covario Organic Search Insight. Are there pages that are being crawled but aren't delivering traffic?  Fix these freeloaders!  Target the most frequently crawled nonperforming pages (they’re low-hanging fruit) and reoptimize them.  If they don't perform after repeated attempts, consider dumping them from your site's link graph (nofollow, noindex, etc.). Advanced SEO Odds & Ends Stephan reviewed a number of SEO myths that won't die but need to (click at left for article, and here are even more in his follow up article). You can add "&pws=0" to the end of a Google search results page URL to turn off personalization (this doesn't work with Google Instant, though - you have to turn that off first). If you want to see 100 sites listed on Google's results page instead of 10, add "&num=100" to the end of the Google search results page URL.  (You can replace "100" with any number.) Stephan questioned the common knowledge that it's ideal to have both a paid and organic listing in the search engine results pages.  While there often is synergy, he showed an example of a client where some degree of cannibalization occurred instead.  (Read his article on the topic here.) When you post a video to YouTube, put your complete URL (including "http://") in the description field - early so it's displayed without the viewer having to click "more" to see it.  These links are nofollowed, but they're clickable. Stephan also walked us through a mind-bending example of how to bump a competitor's second, indented organic listing off the first page of results.  I'm afraid there's no way to 'splain it in text - same with his tip for finding free Forrester research using search engines...shhh!  You'll just have to come to SEMPO Atlanta's events next time! Follow Stephan on Twitter at @sspencer and view his slides on Slideshare. Tomorrow, we’ll cover Matt Bailey’s presentation on Advanced Analytics.  Click here or on the “sempoatl1010″ tag below to see all the posts in this series (a new one will be added at 6 am EDT daily from October 4 - 8).

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