Monday, November 18th, 2019

There are some tactics that should raise a red flag if your SEO company tries to sell them to you. Others are so outdated and worthless, that they should send you packing out the door. …

In a recent survey of industry experts, four of the top five search engine ranking factors were link-related. Links may not always be the most important ranking factor, but today, it appears they are the dominating force. …

Posted by RefurbUPS

This post was originally in YOUmoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

Before I begin, I would like to emphasize I had never before done SEO. I had no clue about the terminology used, and I was never part of the club most of you have been in for a while. I have a tendency to ramble, but I assure you it is all relevant to my tale of mystery, drama, and eventually, wonder. So please bear with me. I am not trying to bring new information to the table, rather I am trying to teach others through my learning curve.

I am, and always have been, a developer, and I could not be more proud of that fact. My theme song is the classic remix of Steve Ballmer. Got a problem? I cant wait to figure out a solution. Little did I know I was about to realize a new realm of usefulness for my skills, and it was not going to be easy.

A few months ago, I started my current job at RefurbUPS as the in house website manager. It was my job to clean up their huge database of products and clients, and generally update the website. What started out as a simple prospect, has turned into an incredible learning experience for me. Little did I know how much work the site needed (and still needs!)

This company has been in business for over 10 years, relying almost entirely on SERPs and Google Adwords for traffic. I was horrified to find out that there was never any analytical software installed period! No one had any idea if anything was working. Google was just getting cut a check every month for a mountain of money, and we did not even know if it was converting! So I rolled up my sleeves, put the database overhaul on the back burner, and immediately went to work implementing Google Analytics and Adwords conversion tracking. A great start I thought, now it was time to actually look at the site.

Being a self taught developer, I have never been a marketing person. I am used to building a website from the backend up, and ease of use for the users has always been the number one priority. So walking into this job, and knowing how successful they have been before I started, I thought they had to be doing something right, after all, they were getting decent traffic and generating conversions. Now I had a way to analyze where and how visitors were coming from and converting — an amazingly important step. Imagine my shock when EVERY PAGE was nothing but keyword spam. When I say spam, I mean titles with no relevance to the page and absolutely no description. Pages loaded with keywords stuffed into font tags with the same color as the background. I soon learned that this was called "Black Hat SEO". So I started investigating.

Immediately it became clear, no internal pages at all for the most part would rank anywhere near the first three pages, if at all. My course of action was forced to change from simply updating the site, to an almost near revamp from the ground up. After all, only having the homepage show up for specific generic terms is no where near ideal.

So I was forced to change gears, and focus my attention on the SERPs. A whole new ballgame for me. Where should I begin? I was a greenhorn, in fact, I definitely still am. So I did the only thing I knew how to do: revamp the site for the users, make them feel at home and make the store friendly without a labyrinth of marketing to wade through.

I soon made myself a checklist of obvious issues and concerns I had. It looked similar to this:

  • Remove as much code bloat as possible
  • Revamp all the titles
  • Remove all meta tags, and build good, relevant description tags
  • Search and destroy: hidden keywords
  • Remove as much bloat as possible
  • Clearly define call to actions and make the cart page user friendly
  • Make our knowledge base crawlable
  • Use one common link for all pages
  • Try to work on the alt tags for images

Simple right? Definitely no where near an end goal, but a start was what I needed. Now I had to wade through the thousands of products and duplicate content. Immediately I found out about the new canonical tag, almost immediately solving one problem! With the way our CMS system works, it LOVES having 20 different URLs for the same page. So this was a breath of fresh air. Also, our system was already using descriptive urls, not dynamic. Half way there I thought! And so I began.

A few weeks later, I had greatly optimised many of the pages, and got rid of most of the spam I could. And then my heart sank. We dropped a page in Google for our "major" keywords. I started feeling like all my work had been for naught, but one thing most developers (at least myself) learn early on, is being stubborn is an advantage. So I dug deeper, and soon saw a brilliant ray of light at the end of the dark, dark tunnel I had been crawling through: We had results for product pages showing up! Landing pages would now show up. In fact, we even had a rank one for a certain keyword; I was now motivated to continue.

RefurbUPS Analytics

Now was where I started investigating this behemoth known as keyword analysis. This arcane artform is constantly pushed by many if not all SEO professionals, so I took this tool and stuck it into my belt. I built new analytics reports strictly for Adword keywords and gathering actual searched keywords, and I saw something quite incredible: those supposedly "important" keywords which we now rank lower on, were only less than 20% of the now current traffic. We saw orders picking up, more people calling in, and generally a less confused customer base trying to find the right battery for their keyword. I can only attribute this to us now resulting for interior pages.

I recieved a pat on the back, and told to keep at it.

So now here is where I stand; I still have only made a dent in the slew of changes I need to make, but the initial results are promising. My time was not wasted; in fact it has been shown to help, although the drop in the "important" keywords is heart breaking for my coworkers, for me its not that important. I now have been slowing down on the updates, and I am trying to see which changes I am doing now that help. Adding an H1 tag, bolding this term and unbolding that, and writing more user friendly copy on the category pages. But where do I go from here? Or rather, where does it end? The quest continues, and now I have the SEOmoz community behind me, offering encouragement at every turn. I particularly felt encouraged by Jen’s posts here, seeing how she also came from a development background. In fact, it was her posts that got me to register and start commenting.

I have two points of view, my original developer perspective which almost every single change I have done has been based from, and my new found SEO viewpoint, tracking those SERPs (and yes, SERP was never a term I had in my vocabulary!). I now have two months of Google Analytics history to use, and the steady increase in visitor percentages is nothing short of fantastic. I only wish I knew more on how to use it.

So to recap (and stop rambling!) I had four major updates: Relevant titles, improved meta descriptions, a much smoother and understandable checkout process and knowledge base, and much less marketing keyword spam, including hidden keywords. Almost all of which has shown nothing but a tangible benefit. My last remaining struggle is trying to show up on the first page again for those few "important" keywords my managers use as a baseline for gauging our performance against. Thankfully I have all of these extra sales and pages showing up in SERPs to use in my fight to say that removing the massive keyword spam is nothing but a benefit.

So to all you developers out there, what we know best is finding problems and fixing them. I knew nothing about SEO (I only recently in the last month discovered this site, oh how I wish I found it sooner!) so I went with what I knew, making the user experience better and more pleasant. And it worked! It had results I never expected and did not know to expect. The learning experience has been tremendous, and dare I say it, even fun at times!

You too, can develop for SEO. Take it from me, it’s not wasted time. Just take your time, and be consistent. 

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Search activity at Yandex grew by 94 percent this year, topping Google’s 58 percent and Microsoft’s 41 percent growth. Is it economics? Or is it something to do with search technology? …

Posted by audiore

This post was originally in YOUmoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

Audiore is an in-house internet marketer for Bill4Time – a time billing company.

Ok, fellow SEOmozzers, this is my very first YouMoz post and I’m pretty nervous about it. It’s just like songwriting where you compose something from your personal perspective and cringe a bit as you put it out there for everyone to see. (And if any of you are even thinking about checking to see if I know what I’m talking about, let’s make it easy for you.)

Now, this post is coming from someone who is not much of a socialite butterfly. I admit, I procrastinated 30 minutes before I gathered enough courage to get in the door.   

Behind these scary doors are diamonds waiting for you!

Ominous Doors

So for all you shy introverts or nervous newbies, I know where you’re coming from. You’re not alone.

In Response to Lunch

For all you skeptics out there who find that the lunch during the conference is enough, let me dedicate this paragraph to you. Yes, yes, there is a one-hour lunch break and yes, you do some networking then. But it’s only an hour, and people use it to eat, catch up on emails, do quick phone calls, etc. People are more likely to think about what time they need to be back to the conference room. It doesn’t compare to the after-party. If anything, the lunch conversation is to prepare you for the after-party. Hopefully the other person will be there too, and you can start off talking to him/her again to build your confidence to talk to others.

Those that leave the seminar when the presentations are done, are leaving the event early. They’re missing out on the part of the event that gives the entire experience life. There’s even a few gems waiting for you. The Hidden SEO Diamond

Where the Opportunity Lies

 

Unlike Your Typical Networking Events

We remember all those other networking events. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there: you talk while the other person is looking around at other people. It’s either that or they’re merely being polite but utilitarian about it. You exchange cards and then go to the next guy to do it all over again. You wonder if they’ll ever speak to you if you passed by them on the street. It’s almost like those speed-dating scenes you see in the movies.  

 OMGsh, do I really have to do this?

A networking event after an intense seminar is completely different from this.

Sure, there will be those that take it like they’re at a typical networking event. And that’s to be expected. Not everyone gets it. But not to worry. They will soon leave you very quickly since that’s what they’re supposed to do in order to “cover the room.”

What You Have in Common

You’re probably saying to yourself, “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I were there. What do I have in common with them?” The answer is: Plenty! And there’s going to be no dating around there, so rest assured – despite what you’ve been told – we’re strictly professional (of course if it was SEOmoz that brought you two together, it’s only fair to invite Rand & the staff to the wedding).

Besides the fact that we’re all into SEO, all of us just got our minds blown from receiving massive amounts of useful information at a rapid speed for several consecutive days. People in this state – when with other people of a similar state – tend to bond quicker. It’s just like college again! Although we all come from different levels and different SEO backgrounds, we were just exposed to the same information. Newbies, you have something intelligent you can discuss with the seasoned SEO-ers!  Bridging the GapAnd if there is any residual fear you brought with you when you entered the room, there’s probably liquid courage not too far away.

Then What?

If immediately coming up to someone isn’t your style, try joining a small group of people listening to a single person (it’s most likely Rand or one of the presenters). You just entered into a little extension of the seminar! It’s a gem that only a few will get. ooooh, shiny! And why shouldn’t you be amongst them?

Afterwards, talk to the person next to you. If you were blown away by what the speaker said, say so. If you didn’t understand, voice it out. Maybe even ask the speaker. Chances are, the person you talk to will have his/her own insights to share on the subject.

Who Else Can I Talk To?

Ok, let’s say you just finished talking with someone from that group, his friend comes along, you give your thanks and then walk around. Who else can you talk to? The presenters are the easiest to start with. They are very approachable and more than happy to impart knowledge. They wished they had more time to elaborate on what was rushed through in their 45 minute set.

Try asking them about their SEO beginnings. You’d be surprised. Their answer will make them human. They started out as a newbie, too, once upon a time. A connection will be made and you won’t feel so distant anymore. You might even get out of your shell and let your own personality shine!

Some side people you don’t want to miss talking to is the SEOmoz staff.

A good person to talk to. Jen is one of the most approachable people you will ever meet at the party (yes, the more you get into this, the less it feels like a networking event). Her warm personality will get you out of your shell in no time. By the time you’re done talking with her, you’re pretty confident you can talk to anyone else in the room. 

Brings his Mac wherever he goes And then there’s Danny. Remember those string of emails you’ve been exchanging with him over technical difficulties? He brings his MacBook Pro wherever he goes, and he will troubleshoot right there and then. He gives you his 100% attention and if it’s still unresolved, you’ll see him – with your own eyes – put your issue on his "To Do Right Away" list. No joke! Pretty impressive stuff

Pool of Friends

My favorite approach is by pool. I like to start with doing what I find enjoyable. It gives me more time with the person and we have fun doing something together. You don’t have to talk all the time, and when you do, it comes naturally. Rest assured, no one will bash you if you’re not that good. Sometimes one of the presenters will step up to play. 

 More facetime with a presenter

One of the presenters, Dharmesh Shah from OnStartups.com.

They will become even more human and down-to-earth, and you will have more face time with them. Another gem! Another one for the taking!

“But I’m really not that good at pool. Maybe I don’t want to play,” you object. Ok fine, but you can still be a part of it. Be on the sidelines and contribute from there by giving comments to various shots. If one of players did a good shot, let him/her know. Chances are, he/she will appreciate it. Every piece of encouragement helps.

The Rewards

By the end of the party, you will feel like the knowledge you got from the seminar had some life breathed into it. You just hung out with like-minded people who understand you and your obsession with SEO. Someone once told me, “The best person who appreciates a body-builder is another body-builder.”  You’ll also feel inspired to work hard just like the presenters did when they were in your shoes. Maybe someday you’ll find yourself also speaking at a podium sharing what you learned along the way.  All in all, you will come back to work knowing you’re a part of something great. You’re included in a group of crazy, creative, hard-working, dedicated SEOers.

Smiling SEO faces

After the After-Party

A moment of courage is rewarded a hundred-fold. With the business cards you earned, write something on each card that describes the conversation you had with them. Email them back with your thanks or follow them on Twitter. I recommend Twitter – you keep in touch with them, quickly exchange thoughts, and continue to build a relationship with them. 

In the future, they’ll more likely bounce SEO ideas and questions with you. And don’t forget to follow the presenters, too, to continue the stream of gems.   As Twitter Intended A good SEO friend is worth his weight in gold.

If you have pictures from the party, post them and give your new SEO friends a link. Chances are, they’ll reference your post and give a link back. Susan Urban, one of my first SEO mentors, calls this “link love.”   Give a Link - Get a Link - The Natural Way

Presenter, SEOMoz Staff, and friends

Left to Right: Tom Critchlow from Distilled, Adrian Ridner from Remilon, Jen Sable Lopez from SEOmoz, Sam Niccolls from SEOmoz, me from Bill4Time, Fabio Ricotta from MestreSEO, and Cassiano Travareli from BrasilSEO.

SEOMozers at The Garage

Left to Right: Fabio Ricotta from mestreSEO, a really cool SEO professional but didn’t get his business card, Dennis Yu from Blitzlocal, Cassiano Travareli from BrasilSEO, and Adam Carson from CarsonBiz. 

Happy SEOers

Ray Watson from audio123 & me

To Sum It Up

When you develop a genuine interest in someone or a common interest, it isn’t hard to talk to them. But if self-consciousness gets the best of you, allow me to share:

The Little Icebreaker Cheat Sheet

•    Ask them what fascinated them most in the seminar. Then ask why. Elaborate on it or give your own insights.

•    Ask what the SEO industry is like from their hometown.

•    Give your own take on a single subject of the seminar and ask their opinion.

•    Ask what they did previously and how they got into SEO in the first place.

•    If watching a game, ask if you can play the next game.

•    If playing, invite the onlookers to play the next game with you.

•    After talking for awhile, be the first to ask for their business card.

•    Offer your sincere gratitude to a presenter that inspired you. Tell how you’re inspired.

And if you haven’t been hovering over the diamonds, here are the diamonds waiting for you at the next after-party:

for the taking Bridging the gap between you and those more advanced 

for the taking Extension of seminar presentations

for the taking Personal SEOmoz Tech Support

for the taking More face time with the presenters

for the taking More genuine Twitter friends

for the taking Fellow SEOers off of whom you can bounce ideas

for the taking Opportunity to get a link

And in a special party like this, you’ll want to bring as many business cards as you can carry. Chances are, you’ll run out by the end of the evening.

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Posted by Tom_C

One thing that you’ll hear over and over again in the SEO industry is "make sure that you embed SEO in your business". I know I’ve said it a lot at conferences and in client meetings but what does it actually mean? Well this post is chock full of tips to help you actually embed SEO in your business. Since I’ve not long come back from the Seattle SEOmoz Pro Training Seminar (which was totally awesome by the way! thank SEOmoz) I’m still in tip-based mode so this post is going to be written mainly in bullet points!

If you don’t have an online business but instead work for an SEO agency then be sure to skip straight to the part where I talk about how to sell SEO services which help your clients embed SEO in their business.

How to Embed SEO in your business…

…if you have an ecommerce website

  • Make sure you add friendly reminders (otherwise known as calls to action) to link to your site in your thankyou emails. Rand wrote a great post on this over here. (By the way, while googling for that post from Rand I came across this which is also a nice read on order confirmation emails.)
  • Keep keyphrase research in mind when naming both product categories and products themselves. Things have an annoying habit of ranking for their own name (e.g. wikipedia) and this is also true for the little guys so next time you’re going to release the awesome-o-matic-1200 spend a little time thinking if it might not make more sense to call it the awesome-curtain-rail-o-matic-1200 (assuming you’re selling curtain rails that is….). This can apply to many many different industries, think about which one of these is going to rank better in Google for [hotel in Seattle]; "The Westin Seattle" or "The Mayflower Park"
  • Last but not least, check out this super-awesome post (that Sam also linked to in his round-up but it’s just so relevant here that I’m linking to it again): Surviving and Thriving as an Ecommerce SEO

…if you have a content website

  • Motivate your content writers with analytics so that they get excited about writing content which gets lots of pageviews/SEO traffic.Brent is world class at this and has achieved some astonishing results with the Tribune and one of the major things he did was to educate and excite journalists about SEO so that they both understood and craved page views.Brent talks about the process he used in more depth in this amazing interview.

…if you have a physical presence

  • Engage in the local community. This might not sound like SEO advice but there are plenty of links you can get from local newspapers, local directories and local radio stations if you just play your (seo) cards right.
  • If you have shops in shopping centres or offices in business parks then get links from their websites. You’d be surprised what has a website these days!

…if you have UGC on your site

  • Build your systems in such a way that the data inputs from your users structure your data in an SEO friendly way. I might write a blog post on this another time but in a nutshell think about the kinds of subtle ‘nudges’ you can provide your users such as "recommended tags" or "user also tagged this content with …". These kinds of calls to action can really help your SEO.
  • Ensure that your community manager (or whoever moderates and engages with your community) understands the importance of linkbuilding and SEO in general. The contacts and relationships that your community manager builds up can be invaluable for spreading linkbait, launching competitions, writing blog posts and getting links!

…if you have a PR agency

  • Ensure that the PR they’re generating gets you links! Especially since newspaper sites are so dreadful at linking out it’s crucial to educate them about the importance of linking so that the work they’re doing anyway can get you more links.
  • If your PR agency isn’t focused on getting you links then make sure someone follows up with any places which mention you but don’t link. A classic example of this was when a client of ours recently appeared in the Daily Mail website of the week column – there’s a link there now but when the article was first published there was no link!

…if you are doing PPC or conversion rate optimisation

  • Don’t leave your PPC or CRO guys locked up in a dark room separate to your SEO team, instead make sure they talk to each other. Your PPC guys will have tons of data about which kinds of headlines work, which search phrases people use as well as which keyphrases convert. Feed that back into your on-site optimisation for higher CTR in the SERPs and nice keyphrase optimisation.

Sweet. Bullet points ftw. But what about if you’re an SEO agency/consultant as I know many of you are? How do you get it into the heads of your clients that they should be integrating SEO into their business?

How to help clients embed SEO in their business as an SEO agency

I can only speak from personal experience at Distilled but we’re constantly looking to improve our processes and systems and here are a few tips that have helped us when managing client projects to aid them in integrating SEO into their whole business.

  • Allow your SEO team to be agile and flexible in the work they deliver. If you’re selling a specific SEO deliverable it’s often almost impossible ahead of time to understand the impact of the recommendations on the client’s business. When you dig into their site you might find evidence of paid links, or you might find that they license exact copies of their content to other sites to use. The solutions to these problems might not fall directly within the scope of what the client thinks they want, but it’s certainly going to bring benefit to look at and fix them. We’ve found the key to making this work efficiently is regular client contact and quality project management.
  • Educate your clients. It’s no use delivering a bunch of recommendations if the client doesn’t have the tools, skills or resources to implement them. By educating the client on the WHY of the SEO recommendations you’re making you can help them sell the changes necessary either to their boss internally or to other internal departments.

I’d love to hear feedback from anyone else who has actively thought about this problem from an agency stand-point in the comments.

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Posted by Dr. Pete

Warning: This post contains tactics that may be considered black-hat. SEOmoz does not condone these practices. I have simply done something dumb to my own website to prevent you from doing something dumber to yours.

If you believe the rumors, we all now live in something called the real-time web. The once steady trickle of user-generated content became a torrent, and search engines face the difficult task of drinking from a fire hose without drowning. It only stands to reason, then, that fresh content is becoming more important, and anecdotal evidence seems to back that up. Every day, blog posts and Tweets seem to get indexed and ranked a bit faster.

Freshness seems important, but what signals does Google use to determine freshness? Beyond the original cache date, do the spiders pay attention to on-page signals, such as dates in body content or URLs? I thought it might be fun to try and find out.

1. Manipulating URLs (non-301)

My plan started out simple: manipulate a URL on my blog and rename it to use a date-based format (as some blogs do by default). So, for example, a URL that normally looked like this:

http://www.mysite.com/topic-goes-here

…became something like this…

http://www.mysite.com/2009-09-01-topic-goes-here

I chose a blog post that was recent enough to still be archived and spidered but not so recent or popular that it was likely to attract new inbound links. I chose 3 long-tail keyword phrases to track for that post, and then flipped the switch and changed the URL. In part 1 of this experiment, I did not 301 the old URL to the new one. By not 301’ing, I was hoping to nudge Google into updating the original cache date. The graph below shows what happened:

Rankings without 301

The rankings axis is inverted to show low rankings at the top, with 1 line for each keyword phrase. Here’s where things got weird. Even after spiders indexed the new URL, that URL showed up in rankings on 3 different days for the 3 phrases (indicated by the gray, dotted lines). Some rankings dropped before the new URL appeared, others after, until they eventually stabilized slightly lower than the original URLs. Oddly, the one keyword that hit #1 after the switch also managed to cache the 404-error (so, that ranking was completely useless).

2. New URLs, Take Two (301)

Of course, outright changing a URL without 301 redirecting it is a bit unusual, and would mean that I lost whatever inbound link juice I had flowing to that page (it wasn’t much, but it still can’t be ignored). So, not generally one to learn from my mistakes, I tried again, this time with a new blog post but with a 301 in place.

Rankings with 301

Not surprisingly, the spiders were a bit better behaved, with all 3 rankings reflecting the new URL on the same day. Somewhat surprisingly, though, some keywords lost ranking, some gained, and the overall average ranking change was roughly a wash. Not a promising sign for my URL-based freshness theory.

3. Mad Science Is Science, Too

So, what can we learn from my little experiment in freshness? I’m not entirely sure, but I’d like to offer a few takeaways to trick you into believing that reading this post was a good idea:

(1) Google Isn’t That Dumb
If you were considering changing all your URLs to trick Google into thinking that your posts are brand, spanking new, here’s some advice: don’t.

(2) Always, Always 301
Although I had my reasons for not using 301s in the first experiment, don’t ever rename an important URL without redirects in place. If nothing else, Graph (I) should be a lesson in what can happen if you do.

(3) Proceed With Caution
Even if you do rename your URLs for a perfectly good reason, and you put 301s in place, expect some short-term consequences. Rankings may fluctuate, and where you end up when you’re done might not be exactly where you started. Changing your URL structure is a big job – sometimes, it’s necessary, but don’t do it just to make a minor SEO tweak.

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Posted by Whitespark

This post was originally in YOUmoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

Whitespark is an Edmonton Search Engine Optimization and Web Design Company in Canada

Having recently returned from the SEOmoz Pro Training Seminar Series, I wanted to recap a few of the things I learned, and create a list of actionable items that I need to start implementing in my SEO business. I’m writing this for my own reference, but figure that I might as well write it as a YouMoz post as it could be useful for those of you who couldn’t attend. Of course, what I found valuable and actionable may be different from what other attendees found valuable, so if you attended the seminar it would be great if you could share your top take-aways in the comments. The conference was packed with a ton of useful information, and this list focuses on the items that I’m currently excited about.

Take-Away #1 – Ask For A Link In Order Emails (And Other Customer Communications)

Tom Critchlow suggested asking for a link in your order emails. It’s a genius tactic, and I’m ashamed to say that I have heard this tip a few times before, but haven’t implemented it yet. That’s no good. This is so simple, so easy to do, and potentially so valuable that there is no excuse for not doing it, right now.

If you control the code on your e-commerce sites, then stop reading right this minute, fire up your code editor, and add some kind of version of this text to your outgoing order confirmation emails:

Do you have a website or blog? Link to us! Just copy and paste this code: <a href=http://www.oursite.com>Subtly Optimized Anchor Text</a>

If you don’t control the code, then stop reading right this minute and fire off an email to your dev team.

I just did this on five different e-commerce sites I manage and it took me exactly four minutes and 12 seconds. You do the math and figure out what the ROI is on that, even if it results in just a few extra links.

While you’re at it, think about other places this could be added to. Put it in the footer of your email marketing, put it on your website somewhere, maybe even put it in your email signature. You’ll be surprised what people will do when you tell them to, and "link to us" is a clear and direct call to action.

Take-Away #2 – Use The Top Pages Tool To Identify Your Competitors’ Link Bait And Learn From It

Rand pointed out that you can use the Top Pages Tool (Pro only) on your competitors’ sites to see the pages that have earned them the most links. Run this on a good set of sites in your industry to learn about what kind of link bait content will likely be successful for attracting links to your own site.

Take-Away #3 – Use The Google Adwords Keyword Tool To Identify Keywords That Have High Search Volume, But Low Competition

Ken Jurina from my home town of Edmonton, Canada showed how you can run your keywords through the Google Adwords tool and then sort the columns to identify high search volume keywords that have low competition. Optimize a page of your site for these terms for some easy pickings in the rankings!

Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool

Take-Away #4 – Use The Top Pages On Domain Tool To Find Linked To Pages On Your Domain That Should Be Redirected

This may be old news for many of you, but somehow I missed a great YouMoz post from Richard Baxter where he describes a sweet side-effect of the Top Pages Tool. You can run your domains through it and it will show you all the pages that have in-links, but that are now 404ing. Redirect them and keep that link juice flowing through your site!

301 redirect pages that now 404

You might be thinking that you can identify these cases in Google Webmaster tools, but there are a couple scenarios I can think of where you might not be able to:

  1. You’re analyzing a site for a prospective client where you haven’t been given access to their Webmaster Tools.
  2. When the old domain has been redirected to a new domain. Webmaster tools won’t show you the data if the entire domain has been redirected (I think), but the Top Pages tool will. This is the case that Richard points out in his post. This is awesome because now you can 301 those "lost" pages too.

Take-Away #5 – Use The Competitive Link Finder!!!

Nick just posted about this hot new SEOmoz tool, so maybe you’re already aware of it, but I saw this for the first time at the Pro Training Seminar and it is crazy awesome. Looking for some links? This tool makes it so easy! They have officially called it the Competitive Link Finder, but I like to think of it as the "Link Intersect Tool". You punch in your domain, and your competitors’ domains (works best with 3 or more competitors), and the tool magically shows you the pages that link to multiple competitors. If they link to a couple of your competitors, then chances are good that you can be included in that list too with a carefully crafted email.

Take-Away #6 – Optimize Your Google Local Listings With these Tips

David Mihm is a great speaker and his talk was full of great info. Here are some of my highlights from it:

  • It’s better to claim your listings manually, even for multiple listings. Google trusts these more as bulk uploads are susceptible to spam.
  • Use Keywords in the Business Title, but don’t overdue it. (I can say from experience that this is a huge LBC ranking factor.)
  • Adding custom categories can be a helpful ranking factor. Use the maximum # allowed. (I have also found this to be a big factor in my own Local rankings.)
  • "Citations" are the links of Google Local rankings. Get listed on Localeze, InfoUSA, Openlist.com, etc. Americans should check out this list of places to get citations. Others should check out David’s guides to citations in Canada, UK, Australia, and Continental Europe.
  • You can also identify citation sources by checking the "Web Pages" tab of your competitors.
  • You can use the search engines to find even more citation sources:
    • yourcity, st blog
    • yourcity, st directory
    • yourindustry, st blog
    • yourindustry, st directory
    • yourindustry yourcity, st blog
    • yourindustry yourstate directory

Take-Away #7 – Use the Google Adwords Content Network To Find Sites To Buy Links From Directly

Tom Critchlow mentioned this tip in his talk. Building links can be hard work. If you have more cash than time and want to just buy some links, this is a great tip for identifying potential link sellers. If they are trying to make money on their sites with Adsense ads, then chances are good that you could contact them about "purchasing some advertising". If you’re willing to walk a grey line, well, then this could be an interesting tip for you.

Take-Away #8 – Enjoy Some Serious Link Love By Becoming A "Green" Business

Also from Tom’s talk, "going green" can be a great way to get some authoritative links! There are a ton of sites out there that will list your business if it’s "green". Ethical Directory, EcoFirms.org, Guide Me Green, etc. If you’re not green now, then figure out what you can do to be more earth friendly in your business, get a badge and info up on your site about it, and then contact all these sites that list green businesses.

This tip got me thinking about other angles for this. I can imagine plenty of link opportunities for a shoe store that sells "vegan shoes". I can imagine a pet supply company that donates a portion of its profits to animal shelters. I can probably think of something along these lines for almost any business.

Take Away #9 – Use Seth Besmertnik‘s Market Opportunity Calculator To Help With Your SEO Sales Pitch

Seth Besmertnik‘s talk was super funny, and super valuable. One of my favourites of the seminar for sure. He showed us how to demonstrate the value of SEO, and how to keep an SEO project on track.

You can download his presentation and a number of useful spreadsheets here: How to Win SEO Budget and Influence your CMO. One that I particularly like is the Market Opportunity Calculator. All you have to do is this…

  • Input the list of keywords in Column  B
  • Input Current Rank in Column C
  • Input Global Monthly Search Volume in Column D
  • Input Conversion Rate in Column R
  • Input Average Value per Conversion in Column S

… and the Excel template will produce stats on what your current market share is for those terms, and what your potential market share could be if you had top positions. It also gives you a great looking pie chart that should make the serious ca$h value of SEO very clear to your potential clients.

Chart Illustrating Value Of SEO

Take Away #10 – Start Working On Your Conversion Rate Optimization Immediately

Is it just me, or do many of you also suck at Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)? After seeing Ben Jesson’s presentation on CRO, I felt like I had just received a serious wake-up call to remember why I’m optimizing websites in the first place. I’ve been so caught up with increasing my clients’ ranking and traffic, that I have not been giving nearly enough attention to making sure that the visitors we do get become customers. Sure, I have dabbled in this a little bit by removing extraneous text from my forms, moving the important stuff above the fold, and dropping in a few starburst graphics to get attention, but damn, I have a lot to learn. Fortunately, Ben’s presentation was full of great advice and direction.

There are many things you can and should be doing to better understand your customer’s needs so that you can properly address them on your website. If I had to pick out a few pieces of wisdom from the presentation for you, it would be these:

  • Implement tools on your website to learn from your customers. Find out what their objections are to buying your product, signing up for your service, subscribing to your e-newsletter, or whatever conversion goals you have, and then make sure you address those objections clearly on your site.
  • Get some unbiased feedback on your website (not from your friends or family.) Ben’s tip: ask someone at a café if they wouldn’t mind giving you some feedback on your site. Tell them you’ve just had it redesigned and you’re just not sure about it. Offer to buy them a coffee. One of the best quotes from the seminar was when Ben said something like "The sign of a good usability test is when you’re holding back the tears because they told you the truth about the problems with your site."
  • Here is a list of good tools for learning about your customers
  • Long sales pages are ok when done right. In fact, they are often necessary to be able to address all the different objections your customers might have about your products or services. Check out the Conversion Rate Experts optimized SEOmoz Pro Page, or the Amazon Kindle Product Page for two very successful examples.

Conversion Rate Optimization has a massive return on investment. Get started on it right away!

Conversion Rate Experts Testimonials

Check out these great articles on the Conversion Rate Experts website, and also sign up for their newsletter. I have been on their list since January, and they do not spam you. They just send you an occasional email every few weeks that is full of good tips.

 

Well, that covers the top take-aways I can think of at the moment. I am certain that I forgot a few gems, so please, if you attended the seminar, it would be great to get your additions in the comments. Hope this post is helpful to you!

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Posted by Nick Gerner

Just before the SEOmoz PRO Seminar, over the weekend, we updated the Linkscape index.  This is great timing because we’re also unveiling (to PRO members only, sorry free members) the prototype for a new tool!  We’re calling it our competitive link finder, powered by Linkscape.  But Tom Schmitz was good enough to explain things in a blog post some weeks back.

But before I dive into the new tool, as is traditional, some numbers:

  • URLs: 39 billion
  • Root Domains: 55 million
  • Subdomains: 208 million
  • Links: 443 billion

The sharp members of our audience will recognize that this index is, in fact, smaller than our last.  Our index size is varying from update to update as we tune quality vs coverage.  And this creates some issues around historical tracking.  Believe me, we are working on the issue, stay tuned for more information around this scenario.

More interesting is an Index Quality Study we finished just before this update.  From that study two things are immediately interesting to me. 

Linkscape Index Coverage vs Yahoo! Site Explorer

First, we estimate that between 60 and 70% of what Y!SE might give you (including no follows, duplicate links) are in our index today (the small one, remember?).  Moreover, we estimate that nearly 50% of what Y!SE will give you, we could too, but we filter out as duplicates, nofollows, or otherwise less important than other data we’ve got in our top 3000 links.

Next we’ve gotten a lot of feedback about how mozRank matches intuitive understanding.  Sure it’s a 10 point scale, similar to Google Toolbar PageRank, but often people are finding it’s off from what they’re expecting.  This is because of the data we’ve been optimizing our index for:

Linkscape Index Focus on high PageRank pages

In the past we’ve been concentrating on a more or less random sample of pages users might care about (the red bars).  As it turns out, you guys care a lot more about important pages and want mozRank to be focused at describing the authority of these pages (the blue bars).  So we’ve dramatically shifted the focus of mozRank toward these pages.  Hopefully you should get a better experience out of mozRank and mozTrust for these high authority pages and sites.

We have more data for partners and power users.  PM me if you’re interested.

Finally, here’s the new competitive link tool. (I know you guys already took a peek at it!)  The idea is to identify authoritative sites and communities you could get links from, but don’t already. 

Linkscape Competitive Link Research Tool

What we do is take your site, and up to five related sites (maybe competitors).  From those we find all the links the related sites have, and find the common ones.  From that we create a check-list.  These are the big important sites your industry is engaging with, but you aren’t. 

Of course, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to get some of these endorsements too.  I mean, you’ve got great content, products, tools, and services.  Users want that stuff.  Google, et al. want to deliver those search results.

So go check out your latest updated data, our new tool, and stay tuned for a Linkscape FAQ adapted from my PRO training slides.  That’s a little something for those of you who couldn’t make it to the seminar :)

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Posted by Lucy Langdon

Coming up with the right SEO answer is just one part of improving your website’s performance online. The strategy you devise then needs implementation and, more often than not, project management. The purpose of this post is to share what I (and a few others) have learned about managing SEO strategies over the years. There isn’t much hardcore SEO though- I suggest you take a look at this if you want some of that!

Goals/Objectives

If you’re developing an SEO strategy for a website, you need to make sure you have some objectives in place. A simple, ‘increase traffic’ or ‘rank better’ is not specific enough but, having said that, creating goals that are so specific they exclude any recognition of improvement across the board are similarly limiting.

Applied to SEO
You’re an in-house SEO for a website that sells cheese online. Your overall goal is to increase conversions on your site. Your strategy goals are threefold:

  • reduce bounce rate by about x%
  • increase the number of new visitors by about x%
  • increase conversation rate by about x%

It’s a painfully obvious thing to say, but having aims in place like this will really increase your chances of creating a successful strategy; everything that goes into it has to have a motivation. Recommending a Twitter account? Is that because you think it’ll increase the number of new visitors by x% or because you quite like Twittering? By giving every task you outline a definite purpose, you’ll reduce the risk of wasting time on tactics that don’t work.
 

Getting everyone on board

These goals and objectives need to be developed in partnership with whoever you’re creating the strategy for, whether that’s a client or your boss. It really helps if you can demonstrate to this person why you’ve chosen these goals and, once you’ve come up with the strategy, how you’re going to achieve them. One of the main reasons for this is that you’ll probably need their help at some point along the way.

Applied to SEO
SEO isn’t rocket science but if your client’s/boss’s expertise lies elsewhere then it’s really worth making sure they understand what you’re trying to do and why you’re trying to do it. Make sure someone (and it can be you) really believes in the strategy and can champion it to whoever needs convincing. It’s important that this person can communicate the overall idea as well as go into the specifics. We’ve found powerpoint, graphs and the odd screenshot of a ‘moz tool helps with this. (My post about using ‘moz tools in the sales process talks a bit about this).

In terms of implementation, if you can show (preferably with diagrams) how changing that title tag or contacting that partner site is crucial to the strategy then you’ve won half the battle.

Develop Indicators

If you’re putting together a strategy that’s going to last for more than a week or two, you want to be able to check up on it along the way. One of the characteristics of a ‘holistic strategy’ could well be that it won’t start showing results until you’re quite a way in (eg. if you start by making a load of techy changes to the website that will only affect rankings once you start linkbuilding), so you need to come up with a way to show the plan is working before it actually is! Sound challenging? It is, but it’s definitely worth it.

Applied to SEO
"Leading indicators and signature analytics" are the buzz words of the moment. The idea is to think of the stuff you can spot that indicates something is working. For example, if your overall objective is to improve the performance of a certain few search terms and you decide that one of the ways to do that is to increase domain diversity, then your leading indicator is simply to monitor the number of domains linking to you. If your aim is to improve the longtail traffic to your site, then your signature analytics could be to monitor the number of 3 or more word keyphrases that are driving traffic to your site.

Delegate tasks

Once your strategy, goals and indicators are set up, it’s time to start delegating some tasks! Personally, I love this bit, but I know lots of people find it hard to handover tasks that are intrinsic to the success of a strategy. Unless you personally have infinite time and resources, the project will probably suffer if you try and do everything yourself.

Applied to SEO
A nice spreadsheet with a list of tasks, due dates and who’s responsible for what will do wonders here. Whatever works though, just make sure everyone’s up to date and ready to go.

Actions

No matter how convincing and attractive a strategy might look, it really won’t work unless it’s actionable and then actioned. As long as all your tasks are created, handed out and acted upon from day one you can’t fail. If only it was that easy….

Applied to SEO
In reality, fitting your SEO strategy in alongside all the other challenges that the website you’re working for faces can be really difficult. How can you decide between a bug fix or a new widget for your limited dev resource? This is where an ability to prioritize comes in very handy. There will be actions within your strategy that are more important and time-sensitive than others but spotting which they are is hard; you often have to make calls on the potential benefit of future actions. Your strategy must be grounded on solid SEO concepts that you can see working on other sites. If it is, then you should have no problem making a call on the potential benefit of one action over another.

Reviews

Regular catch ups with whoever the strategy is for are essential throughout the project. People forget things, the market changes, stuff doesn’t work… this all needs to be discussed and accounted for. If your goals need to be tweaked half way through a strategy, for whatever reason, you need to be able to adapt quickly. It’s also important to tweak the expected results and leading indicators accordingly. A regular review is also a really good time to check that all those tasks you delegated are being completed in the best possible way.

Applied to SEO
How you go about these reviews obviously varies hugely from case to case but put something in the diary and keep to it! I’ve found it’s worth keeping this kind of catch up quite formal- sort out an agenda and try and stick to it. These catch ups are also an excellent opportunity to help keep you on track. Most folk would rather be building a Twitter network than digging through a list of niche directories to spot any missed opportunities. A good catch up that lets you check off what’s been done and what still needs doing will remind you which actions will actually make your strategy work.

Things to bear in mind

Quick wins vs. diminishing returns – Implementing an SEO strategy often involves picking off the low-hanging fruit first. For example, if there are problems with the indexing of the site you’re working for and your improvement of the navigation fixes these problems and suddenly allows new pages to rank, you’re going to look pretty good in month one. However, this kind of quick win approach can’t last forever; you should think about whether your client or boss will understand this. Two things will help with this:

  • Work the concept of diminishing returns into your strategy as a positive thing- ie. make sure your boss or client understands that, although the value you’ll be adding month on month will be worth the investment, the value you add in the first few months might well blow them away.
  • A strategy is a cumulative project so make sure you always look at the progress the site has made from the day you started, not just from the previous catch up.

Know your resources – As I mentioned above. an SEO strategy with no actions is terrible- as bad as a kitten in a box with no videophone on standby to capture the magic. However, an actionable strategy with no-one to actually do the work is so much worse. (If anyone can work out how to bring in Schrodinger here I think that would be great. Something along the lines off ‘if an actionable strategy has no-one to action it, is it a strategy at all?). Know thy minions and what they are capable of and remember, if the rules change half way through the game, then you should rethink what a ‘win’ will look like.

_________________________

Before I sign off, last week Will ran a popular conference call about how we use SEOmoz tools at Distilled. A recording of the call and the notes are now available online. If you would like to hear about future calls (and get future recordings) you can sign up on that page too. There was particular enthusiasm for one about advanced Excel (especially PivotTables) – watch out for that coming soon.

(My thanks to Tom and Will Critchlow and Stephen Tallamy for their advice about Project Management for SEO)
(Thanks to modenadude for the image).

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