Advanced SEO Roundtable: What Is It Really? And Where Is It Going?
The advanced SEO roundtable — undoubtedly one of the most packed sessions of the show. People are lining the walls for this one. Should be awesome! Our moderator is Richard Zwicky, Founder & CEO of Enquisite. Our distinguished speakers are:
- Matthew Bailey, SES Advisory Board & President, Site Logic Marketing
- Bruce Clay, President, Bruce Clay, Inc.
- Mike Grehan, SES Advisory Board Co-Chair
- Todd Friesen, VP Search, Position Technologies
- Todd Malicoat, Independent Search Engine Marketing Consultant, stuntdubl
Matthew Bailey, Todd Malicoat, Todd Friesen, Mike Grehan, Bruce Clay and Richard Zwicky
Why can big organizations get away with more than little ones?
Mike: User expectations is what it comes down to. A user expects a company like BMW to come up for their search for German automobiles. When they were penalized, they were back fast because of that user expectation.
Matt: He had a good business for a while in cleaning sites up that had been pulled because it was usually caused by amateur mistakes.
Bruce: How many in the audience had a site get pulled? [About five hands go up.] How many knew they were doing something wrong when they did it? [A few raise their hand. Mike calls them naughty!]
When a search engine penalizes a site, is it ever motivated by the engine’s desire to preserve their image?
Todd F: Again, it’s about user expectation. It’s not as much about Google’s brand. It’s what a user wants to find in search results, because if they don’t find it in Google, they’ll go to another engine.
Bruce: There was a session in which Matt Cutts indicated that there are sometimes a large section of an account that will be dropped, and maybe not the whole thing. Part of the penalty that Google can apply is partial blocking of a site.
Todd F: If you’re a really big brand, it may be worth the links to get banned. BMW was getting a lot of links at the time as the story was covered. And when the site came back, they had the positive effect of linking.
Matt: It’s ironic BMW got busted for what they were doing considering they didn’t have to do it in the first place. They were a strong brand.
Can you please discuss buying links? When I buy a press release in PR Web, I’m pretty much buying links.
Todd M: If you buy direct links, only do a small number. Approach it as a partnership, form a relationship. And of course optimize the link.
Mike: At the end of the day, who’s Google to tell you what link you can put on your site? But if you’re thinking of why you need to buy links, maybe there’s a reason you can’t get a natural link. Ask why you built the site in the first place.
Todd: If you’re going to buy links, get professional help on that. You can do it, you just gotta do it right. You have to keep it ant a low percentage. You want to hide it or blend it in.
Bruce: If you’re a local business, get local links. Build in obsolescence in your link program so they rotate through.
How do you manage pages that fall in and out of the index on a daily basis? How do you group keywords into an actionable reporting function?
Matt: Rely heavily on analytics, which he believes is what advanced SEO comes down to. Rather than where am I for this term, ask where you are in the family of the term. And then sub-segment that out. What are the most consistent segments of that word? It’s much more useful to look at slices rather than in aggregate.
Todd F: The total number of unique search queries is obviously very high. That’s a ridiculous number of keywords to manage. So they focused on the front end, the top 1000 that actually drive 99% of the revenue. Also take into account on-site search because if they got to that landing page, that wasn’t what they were looking for.
Should we make a policy for getting links back from charitable donations?
Todd: Don’t make it a policy — that’s kind of… sleazy. But if you ask, nine out of ten times they’ll do it.
What about purchasing links on high-quality sites that don’t actually relate?
Mike: Cross-promotions, sponsorships, joint ventures — links come as a byproduct of doing great business.
Todd F: Google can discount links at the link level. So a lot of what you see as blatant paid linking, probably isn’t’ working anyway.
Matt: If you look at the best link building companies, they’re doing business and adding value. Value propositions through marketing is what it ultimately comes down to.
Mike: Backlink checkers only tell you what’s happening right now.
Todd M: You can stretch relevancy in a lot of ways, but it has to be targeted at a page level. The stretches should happen deeper in the site.
Todd F: If you do start getting links on a viral article or video, be careful of the fact you’re going to dilute your site theme. Stretching relevancy is fine, but be careful how far you stretch it because you don’t want to dilute the topic of the site.
If you combine Bing and Yahoo!’s best algorithms, will it matter? What is the effect of the partnership on SEO?
Mike: I think it’s great. Why do SEOs talk about the next Google killer? The difference is a huge change in Bing’s results once they get access to Yahoo!’s historical data. You’re going to see much more relevant results.
Todd F: If Bing results just went over to Yahoo!, that’d be a disaster. Bing is a mess. But it would be nice to dust off our old tools from 2002 because those would start working again. Also, he hopes to see paid inclusion stay around.
Matt: Search is going to become more of an experience, and that could be good competition.
Mike: It’s the end of an era. Crawling the Web as far as search is concerned has reached its limits. That’s why he talks about new signals. Everyone’s looking to get data in real time. It gives Microsoft that one step up in hanging on to the current phase of search.
Todd M: Again, analytics is what advanced SEO is about. But the difference between Bing and Yahoo! is a different kind of user than Google. Ecommerce sites convert better. 200 visitors from Yahoo/Bing could be better than 2,000 from Google. The volume might not be high, but when Windows 7 comes out, he predicts more people will be using the engine because it’s the default.
Bruce: Traffic will likely go up if relevancy goes up. Yahoo! has a lot of technology. They bought a lot of algorithm heavy weights. They have a better algorithm than Bing. Combine the algorithms with the Yahoo! data, and you could end up with a power player.
Todd F: He honestly sees the Bing algorithm go “boop!” ;)
Is there any benefit from reciprocal links?
Todd F: It’s heavily discounted.
Mike: If you’re linking all your sites together, what’s the value?
What about search suggest? How can we get there?
Matt: There are a lot of angry, bitter suggestions. The question is raised, how often is something searched on to show up in search suggest. By typing in “how 2” you’ll find things like “how 2 buy drugs.” If you look for “how does one” you’ll find “how does one split an atom.” It’s an insight into the searcher mind.
Does siloing still matter? What about siloing in pyramid form?
Bruce: Theme-aligned content structure. It’s not about nofollow. It’s about keeping content from bleeding across all parts of the site. It’s about lining up content to the way people search. He’s been doing the practice for six years, with minimal nofollow usage. The use of nofollow was brought up when Matt Cutts commented about nofollow for PR sculpting. But he believes the nofollow issue is not exactly understood and probably doesn’t work the way people think it works.
Mike: Nofollow is bunk. The three engines came together for this protocol. But why have it there if you don’t want it followed.
Todd F: The conspiracy theory over nofollow is that search engines will know what sites are being SEO’d based on the occurrence of nofollow. But to back up to siloing, he looks it as proper architecture for your Web site. Keep it focused all the way through.
I’m spending a ton of time and money creating unique content and distributing it across a network. How can I do this without duplicate penalties?
Todd F: Google’s really good at detecting duplicate content. Where you can, try rewriting, re-titling, and so on, but at some point there’s a diminishing return. You have to pick with publication is going to take the lead at certain times.
Matt: Rely on local properties to localize the content. It’s a tough model, and he’s seeing a huge rethinking of strategy in the publishing industry.
Bruce: If it’s duplicate, one will be filtered, and if it’s syndicated by a higher authority site, they could rank instead of the original creator. There are also instances where there are words dynamically replaced. That’s more considered spam.
Mike: There has to be some kind of white listing. He asked someone at an engine if duplicate filtering was on all the time. Every university has this manual on their site, so does that mean every university is going to be filtered? There’s got to be analysis on when it should be filtered and when not.
Todd M: It’s hard to argue against duplication consolidation when you consider site quality scoring — if there is such a thing. Even the publishing industry will need to consider this.
The best analytics tracking package is blank.
Todd F: His favorite is Core Metrics. Omniture is a beast to set up. Google is free. Enquisite has a free trial period. Look at what you need to do and what package will meet those needs.
Mike: He agrees with Todd. A hammer to crack a nut might be too much technology for you.
What do you recommend when a term gets localized and ten spots pop up at the top of the results?
Everyone: First get into the local results if you can.
Todd F: Localization is getting so broad now. Local results show up for queries that don’t even have a city name now. And you can’t use a P.O. box. There are places that are re-mailers that will forward your mail to wherever.
Mike: Get a paid listing.
Todd M: You can do re-mailing for your top offices and locations. Include those office addresses on your contact page. You won’t be across the board anymore.
What are your thoughts on Caffeine?
Todd F: Everything he’s checked on it is relatively at the same position as it was before. It’s less an algo shift as it is an infrastructure shift.
Bruce: Some of the spammier sites have dropped.
Mike: The end user expects the freshest results. Crawling the Web has always been about lateral results. So the intention is to speed up the process within the HTTP protocol we’re working with.
Todd M: When there are significant changes, it can take up to six months to find out how it will affect the search industry.
We’ve invested heavily in PR and the links have done nothing for our rankings.
Mike: You probably won’t. The notion of a press release isn’t to get the links. You want the guy at the Wall Street Journal to write about your press release and get one big link.
Todd F: Be judicious with the topics of your press release.
Matt: Are your targets those newspapers that after 30 days the article is in archive and then it’s behind a registration wall? Target publications with longer lasting links.
I thought login pages were a good place to use nofollow, but Matt Cutts told me take them all off. And my observation has been that Google hasn’t taken all their nofollows off. What’s going on?
Todd F: He’s seeing that nofollow is just evaporating PageRank, not consolidating it. He doesn’t see a reason to use it
Mike: He never gave nofollow a second thought — never bothered with it. Use robots.txt if there’s something you don’t want in the index.
Do you still think all press is good press?
Todd F: Yeah, even bad press gets links. But it depends on what the business goals are. If you can avoid bad news, avoid it. There are sites out there like RipOffReport that can take control of your SERPs.
What are the most obvious questions that customers don’t ask when engaging an SEO program that they should be aware of and plan for?
Matt: There’s still a focus on rankings and not business model and revenue. That’s an old mentality and it’s not necessarily the case.
Todd F: Clients don’t understand the space. If you ask, “who are your competitors for your shoe store?” they say Nike, Adidas, etc. But really it’s Zappos. They can’t get their head around who their online competition is. The other big issue is that they want certain major traffic keywords, when those words don’t convert.
Bruce: They often don’t know what their key performance indicators are. A lot of people have been flying blind and don’t have a sense of how to measure the success of an SEO program.
Matt: There’s no concept of what it takes to compete in certain spaces. The days of the little guy competing against the big guy are long gone in many verticals.
Mike: And look at the whole marketing strategy of competitors — not just online. If a competitor is spending money on TV ads and other channels too, then are you prepared to do the same?