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FEATURE FOCUS: Bruce Clay Announces SEO Charity Contest Winners

FEATURE FOCUS: Bruce Clay Announces SEO Charity Contest Winners

May 15, 2007

Bruce Clay Inc. celebrated the start of May by launching the first-ever Bruce Clay SEO Charity Contest. We challenged search marketers and wanna-be search marketers to donate their time to help a non-profit increase their visibility through a well-structured organic search engine optimization campaign. In return for their pledge to spend at least three months working with the non-profit of their choosing, the selected search marketer would receive a free pass to next month's debut Search Marketing Expo conference in Seattle, as well as a free pass to Bruce Clay's SEO training course and the Advanced Certification Course.

In all, the search marketer had the chance to win a prize package of almost $4,000 in search marketing education and training.

We asked applicants to partner up with a local non-profit that they felt would benefit the most from an organic search engine optimization campaign. The search marketer was to submit a site analysis documenting what that site was doing well and where they could improve. They had to show us how their non-profit would benefit from an organic optimization campaign and come up with a plan for action.

Over the past two weeks we've received some great entries highlighting an amazing set of worthy non-profit organizations. Today, we announce the winners.

Yes, I said winners. Because of the great response, we've selected both a Grand Prize Winner and a worthy Runner-Up. The Grand Prize winner will be awarded the prize package detailed above, while the Runner-Up will receive a free pass to our SEOToolSet and Advanced Certification Training course to be held July 16-19 in appreciation for all of their hard work. We hope this individual will consider using what he learns from training to help the non-profit he originally chose reach their goals.

And the winners are:

  • Winner: Keri Morgret partnered with Open Education Resource
  • Runner-up: Cavan Moon partnered with Chicago Canine Rescue Foundation

Congratulations to both Keri and Cavan. Below you'll find a quick summary of both winners selected nonprofits and their plan for action.

Winner: Keri Morgret/Open Education Resource

We were first introduced to Keri when she emailed us to alert us to a potential "problem" she was facing. A few weeks before we announced the contest, Keri had decided on her own to pair up with a worthy nonprofit to help them improve their Web site. Keri sent us an email asking if she was still eligible, given that she had already starting working with the charity. Our response went something like this: You freely volunteered your time to help a worthy cause succeed and you want to know if you can enter to learn and share even more? Of course, absolutely, and we're glad to have you!

Keri selected the Open Educational Resources, a teaching and learning network run by ISKME, a non-profit educational research institute studying knowledge management in education. The Web site was launched in March 2007 and is used to house all of OER's shared materials for teaching and learning. The site allows educators to collaborate on course material to benefit the education experience of its students nationwide.

Keri found that the OER site is already doing many things well. They're indexed in all three major search engines, their site contains lots keyword-rich content, they're using Title tags that are unique and descriptive to the content on the page they reside, they're using static URLs, multiple analytics programs and their site is hosted on a dedicated server. Upon our own review of the site, we were particularly impressed to see that the site is already using many Web 2.0 features, including tagging, ratings, social networking, reviews, etc.

Because Keri had been working on the site for a few weeks, she was able to include some of the changes she had already made in her analysis. Keri noted that she had begun a link building campaign, created unique Meta description tags, added a robots.txt file and XML sitemap, and ensured the site was verified in Google's Webmaster Tools and in Yahoo Site Explorer. Just a few weeks into the project and Keri was already working to give the site a solid foundation for optimization.

Despite all of the positives, there is still a lot to be done on the OER site.

One of the most pressing issues facing the site is to get rid of duplicate content. Currently, there are three version of the OER site indexed: oercommons.org, oercommons.org and www.oercommons.org. Keri's first recommendation was to implement a 301 redirect so that users and the engines are directed to www.oercommons.org.

Keri also advocated doing more keyword research, digging into the analytics data being compiled and to review the site's past optimization efforts to see what was done and what can be improve upon.

In terms of off-site optimization, Keri wanted to increase link popularity, reaching out to bloggers, direct contacts and providing news articles. She's also interested in extending the site's reach into social media.

We are confident in the depth and scope of Keri's proposed campaign. She has laid out a plan that focuses not only the "hot" optimization tactics that are all the rage in SEO forums and search blogs right now, but she also understands the importance of doing the little things right as well, taking time to focus on things like Meta tags. We feel that if given the opportunity, Keri will be able to significantly improve the OER site in both the eyes of users and the search engines.

Runner-up Cavan Moon/Chicago Canine Rescue Foundation

Cavan partnered with an organization that fights for something that is near and dear to all of our hearts - puppies! Or more specifically, the Chicago Canine Rescue Foundation.

The Chicago Canine Rescue Foundation provides homes each year for hundreds of dogs and cats that are traditionally slated for euthanasia because they are older, too young, have special needs or have simply been overlooked for too long by potential adopters.

Because the CCRF takes in even the most vulnerable of animals, all of their money must go directly to caring for the animals. This has made them unable to afford a physical shelter. Instead, all of their animals are cared for in foster homes, veterinary clinics and animal day care facilities. Without a physical adoption location, the CCRF relies 100 percent on its Web site to attract potential adopters. Cavan felt this made CCRF a unique and exceptional candidate for an organic search engine optimization campaign and we wholeheartedly agreed.

The CCRF site is five-years-old, has more than 80 pages indexed in the major search engines and is ranking (though not well) for several of its important key phrases. Because of the CCRF's low visibility, they have had to depend on costly pay per click campaigns to drive traffic into the site. Cavan hopes that by increasing its organic rankings, they will be able to lower their PPC costs.

He suggested a top-to-bottom optimization campaign to remove indexing obstacles such as confusing navigation, duplicate titles, broken links, and slow load times. Most severe, the entire ChicagoCanineRescue.com site is duplicated at ChicagoCanineRescue.org.

The first step in Cavan's optimization plan was to conduct a baseline analysis for the site. This analysis would evaluate the site today and track its progress over the next few months. The success of the campaign would ultimately be determined by increases in site traffic, donations, volunteers, and membership signups. Cavan would also begin his keyword research during this stage.

Like Keri, Cavan's search engine optimization plan focused on both on-site and off-site adjustments. Focusing on the on-page optimization, Cavan suggested reorganizing the navigation to make it both more accessible for users and more spider-able for the search engines. He would update page titles, description and keyword tags to incorporate newly defined keywords, create additional keyword-rich content, tweak internal anchor text, perform a site-wide link check, etc. Obviously, he also wanted to determine which was the most appropriate TLD and redirect all of the site's links to that domain in order to get rid of the duplicate content problem.

One thing we particularly liked about Cavan was his awareness of the getting into the engines' local search. Cavan was the only applicant who mentioned local search as part of his campaign. Cavan stated he wanted to create and expand the CCRF's business profiles in order to increase CCRF's visibility locally. Cavan also planned to focus on link building and creating an additional site to help garner support for the CCRF domain.

We were very impressed by Cavan. He demonstrated a clear understanding of the principles of optimization, even the seemingly "small" elements that are often looked over. If you're in the Chicago area, you can show your appreciation to Cavan and the Chicago Canine Rescue Foundation by adopting one of the available animals. May we suggest Tony, Wrigley or Saturday?

Both contest winners demonstrated a solid base of knowledge that we felt elevated them above the rest of the competition. We think given some additional training, both Caven and Keri will be able to make significant improvements to the Web sites for the non-profits they chose. We are excited about working with them to build upon their current knowledge in a way that will benefit both them and their causes.

To everyone who entered, we thank you for putting so much time and energy into your analysis. We're happy to announce that because of the overwhelming interest in this contest, we'll be running similar Bruce Clay SEO Charity contests through the year. If your charity wasn't selected this time or you weren't able to enter, keep your eyes on the blog to updates about the next SEO contest which will begin in July for a chance at a ticket to SES: San Jose.


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