October, 2009

  • The Search Blog

    SEOMOZ Pro SEO Training London (#proseo)


    photo4 I am on the train on the way back from the fantastic SEOMOZ/Distilled Pro Training seminar in London.  It has been an absolutely fantastic 2 days, with great speakers, insightful SEO tips, a free bar and lots of interesting people to talk to.

    The Pro training seminar was as it’s name suggests, aimed at SEO professionals, with lots of technical and thought provoking content for all of the attendees.  The presenters did not sugar coat any of the topics, they simply delivered presentations on a variety of complex subjects and let the tech savvy audience soak it up :-)

    Whilst nothing makes up for actually being at the conference, I would like to share my thoughts, key takeaways and links to other’s comments to give you some idea of the great information which was delivered.

    There were LOTS of topics covered, so I am not going to discuss them all in this post, however I will update the post with links to other blog posts as I find them.

    Lots of love for Excel (#ExcelRocks)

    image If there was one consistent theme (other than SEO), it was Microsoft Excel.  Being within Microsoft, I probably take Excel use and knowledge for granted, however many of the audience were very excited to hear about imaginative use of pivot tables, vlookup formulas and other Excel functions to help analyse site referral data and keyword lists.  I will share some of the specific recommendations when I receive the Powerpoint slides from the training (since I cannot remember them all right now).

    I was apparently (based on a show of hands) one of the few in the room who had used Excel ‘tables’ before.  Richard Baxter explained to the attendees how they make referencing data much easier compared to using standard cell references, since a table reference never changes, even when data or columns are added/removed.  This is a great tip and I recommend you check this page for more info on using tables.

    Pivot tables were also highly recommended by all of the presenters.  Pivot tables allow you to mash up data, order it, filter it, group it and perform some really advanced manipulation to make sense of seemingly complicated data sets.  If you are not familiar with pivot tables and you work in SEO, I recommend reading this page for information on how to use them.  There is also plenty more FREE tutorials on http://office.microsoft.com to explain how to use lots of other Excel features.

    image A common problem with working in Excel is the fact that copying and pasting data from Google Adwords is often problematic and time consuming.  The Firefox plugin available at http://bit.ly/daffizilla eases this process – a great time saver for anyone regularly working with AdWords data.


    Organisational SEO

    image I was very pleased to hear so much advice aimed at Enterprise level (‘in house’) SEOs.  Richard Baxter presented a great session on ‘Getting SEO done against the organisational odds’ where he discussed how an SEO manager in a large company had to tackle a different set of challenges to an SEO professional in a smaller or agency based company.

    As well as discussing the challenges an in house SEO has such as internally communicating the value of SEO, managing lists of SEO activities and influencing peers/management he also provided some great advice on building an SEO team.  He described the key roles which an SEO team must have…

    • Technical people (Developers)
    • Content/Social Media people
    • Link building people
    • Analytics people

    And also discussed how it is important for an SEO manager to provide an umbrella SEO strategy, which his/her team/v-team must understand and buy in to.  It is important for every member of the SEO team to track every action, so that the SEO manager can review the teams workload and keep it on track with the strategy.

    He also shared some interesting insights on hiring SEO team members…

    • Hate doing lots of interviews?  Do a group interview instead.  Set them group challenges, see how they interact with the rest of the group, observe and then by the end of the session you will KNOW who you are going to hire.
    • Employ someone who knows how to search properly – they are usually the people who are interested in how the search engines work.
    • Instead of hiring a ‘link builder’, hire a ‘business development manager’ or a ‘community manager’
    • Employ people to fill the gaps you need (e.g. if you do not like doing link building, employ a link builder)
    • Blog post about recruiting an SEO

    Ranking Models

    image Ben Hendrickson delivered one of my favourite presentations.  Ben was obviously a very smart guy, and an incredibly funny (perhaps not deliberately) and entertaining presenter.  Having previously read this blog post on the SEOMOZ blog, I was keen to understand how SEOMOZ produced correlation to do show exactly which SEO factors were most significant in affecting search engine rankings, Ben explained how this worked…

    SEOMOZ have created their own crawler and search index.  They basically crawl the web and create their own mini version of a search engine, with a sole purpose of analysing the data they have collected and using it to provide SEO recommendations.

    SEOMOZ run a bunch of searches against their own search index, compare the results to those of Google’s and then make tweaks to the large number of variables controlling their results.  They repeat this process until their results are as close to Google’s as possible. 

    When they have an algorithm and set of search results close to Google’s, they run large numbers of tests on their own data to determine the effect of various SEO techniques (e.g. headings, titles, inbound links, keywords in domain, etc…).  Whilst there is some error or margin, this technique allows SEOMOZ to get a completely unique (outside of Google) insight in to what really matters for SEO.  Please read the blog post  from a few months ago for information on which key factors emerged from this data.

    Golden Tweets

    image There was a lot of Twitter activity over the 2 days, so there are plenty of top tips available by searching for the #proseo hash tag on Twitter.  Some notably active people on the Twitter feed were @rodnic66, @RichardShove, @distilled, @tomcritchlow, @thetafferboy, @jaamit, @AriNahmani, @RobOusbey, @foliovision, @RobBothan, @SearchPanda and @Lou_geek.

    I tried to tweet as many of the golden nuggets of information as they came up, so here are some of mine and other people’s key tweets…

    Universal search…

    • jaamit: #ProSEO great tip from @patrickaltoft: easy way for visibility on image search for big terms- pay blogger to slap big branded logo on img!
    • ChrisMdotCom: Google will TRUST a lot of info from video sitemaps from trusted domains. Lots of potential to easily get videos in results #proseo

    Google local listings…

    • ChrisMdotCom: Google local can pick up a citation from a website even if they don't link to you (by finding a matching company name/address) #proseo
    • ChrisMdotCom: Number of reviews on Google local listings is more important than the rating #proseo
    • ChrisMdotCom: Key Google local ranking factors verified listing, # of review, citations, distance to centre, categories #proseo
    • ChrisMdotCom: uploading products in Google base with a location, can be a good way to get bulk results in to google local #proseo



    • ChrisMdotCom: Use old URLs which already have link juice. Put new content on old url and old content on a new url #proseo
    • ChrisMdotCom: To launch a new site, put everything in a folder on your existing site, get it ranked, move it, then 301 redirect #proseo
    • jaamit: #ProSEO now @randfish on content. "if u cant answer the Q 'who's gonna link to this' u'll get beaten in seo. Make links part of brainstorm
    • jaamit: #ProSEO dont be afraid of dupe content. Why not submit a guest post that u already published. < I agree!
    • RobOusbey: CR Experts: "your product page should include at least all the information that you would give to someone when selling in person." #ProSEO
    • ChrisMdotCom: Placing keywords in headings does not significantly affect rankigns #proseo

    SEO for news sites

    SEO Stats…


    • ChrisMdotCom: The majority of penalties from Google are a result of bad inbound links #proseo Sometimes you need to ask people to remove links!
    • jaamit: #ProSEO Vince has led to more over optimisation filtering (not penalty) - eg if most of ur backlink anchors r keywords not brand name links


    • jaamit: #ProSEO @randfish suggests hot tweets affect google rankings. I agree, they gotta be looking at this for fresh web
    • ChrisMdotCom: @davenaylor says that the ‘search suggestions’ are the latest battleground for SEO (x3 on Bing) #proseo
    • jaamit "removing certain toxic backlinks can actually give u a boost in rankings" @davenaylor #ProSEO"
    • jaamit: #ProSEO interesting: re-using old, well ranking urls 4 new stories can b awesome BUT keep title, meta same or G will reset its power. True?
    • jaamit: #ProSEO @robousbey: ppl like linking 2 print friendly pg&apos;s (uncluttered) but eg guardian robots.txt blocks em! Use canonical 2 keep juice
    • rodnic66: "The harder a link is to get, the better it is" @randfish on link building #proseo
    • ChrisMdotCom: Brainstorming is important. Don’t just do it with one person. Do it down the pub if that works #proseo

    Finally, Conversion Rate Experts deserve a mention for their great presentation and the giant squirrel they brought along with them :-) . . .


    Update (25/10/09): related links…

    As promised, here is an update with some of the related blogs posts on the seminar…

  • The Search Blog

    Download Bing Photos


    imageIf like me, you visit www.bing.com at LEAST daily to check out the latest homepage photo, you will love the new Bing homepage photos Windows 7 theme pack which is downloadable from the Windows 7 personalization gallery

    Every day Bing presents a brand new photo, along with clickable hotspots which link users off to photos, videos, search results or other information about the featured scene…


    The Bing homepage team have selected the top images from June, July and August and made them available in a downloadable theme which will periodically change your Windows 7 desktop background to display one of these gorgeous photos…


  • The Search Blog

    How Q&A contributed to Baidu’s market share in China


    image I am very excited to be able to bring you a guest blog today from our local site management team in China.  Charles Li has done some fantastic research in his region to get a better understanding of the local search engine and social networking market.  In the post below he has shared his analysis in to the local Chinese search engine Baidu, and provided some of his own thoughts on why the search engine is so popular in the region.

    Since many of the valuable online discussions about Baidu are in Chinese, this is a rare opportunity for non Chinese speakers to get some insights on a very significant search topic for any websites aimed at internet users in China.

    chali_24161104082009 (2) Guest Post
    Author: Charles Li
    Country: China (Shanghai)
    Job: International Site Manager

    Did you know that in China, in January, 71% of internet searches were made on Baidu.com and only 13% on Google? There are lots of discussions and researches around this interesting topic already. Recently Manshu Verma has a very good summary to talk about why, which got lots of echos in China. He listed 5 major reasons why Google trails Baidu in China. . .

    1. Google is not a natural word for the Chinese: Google is not a natural word for the Chinese and people had trouble remembering it. This played as a big negative, and eventually Google got hold of g.cn – which is its Chinese version. That may be the shortest web address ever, and it was bought to overcome the problem of introducing a product that the locals can’t remember.
    2. Search results in traditional characters: I read this interesting comparison between Google and Baidu, and one of the things it mentions is that on occasion Google returns more search results in traditional Chinese character (which is spoken in Taiwan, Hong Kong and by overseas Chinese). People in mainland China are not too comfortable with the traditional character, so they shy away from such results. These search results make Google look foreign to mainland Chinese users.
    3. Better in localized searches: The same comparison uses a local phrase and finds that although Google returns a much larger number of results, they are not relevant. Baidu comes up with fewer but far more relevant results.
    4. East is best: Another interesting article I found said that a lot of times Baidu has smartly positioned themselves as knowledgeable locals while portraying Google as clueless foreigners.
    5. Download music on Baidu: One of the big things about Baidu is that it is used to download music, much of which is copyrighted, but Baidu says that just linking to such music doesn’t break any law. This was something that Google didn’t do initially, but later started doing through its intermediary Top 100. This gave Baidu a distinct edge over Google.

    These five are very true. But I would like to add the 6th reason which could be the most important one from a native Chinese speaker’s viewpoint: Baidu is not only the largest Chinese search engine but also the largest Chinese Questions and Answers Community. Which means Baidu is not only taking customers to the right destination but also is actually generating answers for customers’ questions. This gives Baidu huge competitive advantage.

    Take a look the following example: Search “XP SP3 cannot be installed” in Chinese on Google. Guess what? The top results in Google are all pointed to zhidao.baidu.com (Baidu Answers Platform means “Baidu Know”).


    It’s not limited to computer problems but covering all kinds of questions in your life. You will see similar results when searching answers like “Which mutual fund perform the best in last year?”, “how to cook a special Salad”. Etc.

    Answers Communities in China

    The market surged in 2008. The following chart shows the visits and increase rate of this market since 2007Q4. As you can see, the total visits in 2008Q4 exceed 4 billion per quarter (not limited to computer related).


    Source: www.iResearch.com.cn

    The following chart shows the market share of key players in this market.


    Source: www.iResearch.com.cn

    • Baidu has about 50% of this market.
    • Soso Wenwen has 25% of this market. It’s owned by Tencent, the biggest internet company in China
    • Yahoo Answers is the 3rd. Yahoo brand is not operated on their own in China. It’s a joint venture with Alibaba.com, and operated by Alibaba.com.
    • Interesting Movement of Google. Google announced to have a strategic partnership with Tianya, who has about 7% of this market, and make Tianya Answers as one of its service in China. See screenshot below:



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