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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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…
Google local listings…
SEO for news sites
Finally, Conversion Rate Experts deserve a mention for their great presentation and the giant squirrel they brought along with them :-) . . .
As promised, here is an update with some of the related blogs posts on the seminar…
Have you noticed new document preview on Bing search results?
This useful function allows you to get an extended snippet of text providing key content and links from the destination page, without having to click on the link.
But what if you do not like the content which is displayed by this feature? Since this content is automatically scraped using intelligent algorithms designed to extract the key topic of the page, there is no direct way to control what text or links are displayed.
If you would like to disable this preview, so that searchers must click on your website in order to see your content, you can do so using the following meta tag in the <head> section your page HTML. . .
<meta name=“msnbot”, content=“nopreview”>
<meta name=“msnbot”, content=“nopreview”>
Alternatively, if you would like to disable this preview for EVERY page on your site, you can do using the following robots.txt entry. . .
It would be interesting to know whether removing this preview for a site actually increases traffic (because people need to click to find out more), or decreases it (because other websites do provide the preview, so customers choose them instead). If anyone experiments with this and finds out, please let me know :-)
If you want your customers to find your content using particular keywords, it is fairly important to use those words on your pages, ideally in the body AND the title. The more competitive a particular keyword is, the more important it becomes to use it in titles, body and links to your page.
But what if the most popular searches for a particular topic are not ‘politically correct’? Or do not fit in with your established corporate writing guidelines?
Let’s imagine that you manage a support website for a software company, which has a product called ‘Super Spreadsheet’. Super Spreadsheet has a bug causing it to regularly stop responding. What do you think customers are going to search for when looking for help with this problem?
. . .probably not! They are more likely to search for one of these. . .
In fact, by looking at popular search queries on search engines, we can see that ‘freezes’ is the most popular term for this type of query.
Guidelines, Guidelines, Guidelines. . .
But internal publishing standard policies will often recommend against using such language on corporate websites. Even if this is a common customer problem, there will most likely be plenty of people inside the company who would object to having page titles using ‘freezes’ and ‘crashes’ due to the potentially negative effects it could have on brand and customer perception.
Translation. . .
Localisation teams may also object to the use of ‘spreadsheet freezes’ since it may be interpreted incorrectly by machine or manual translators. . .
So how are you supposed to rank well for these searches? There are plenty of pages out on the web using ‘freezes’ and ‘crashes’ in their page titles, particularly in forums, blogs and other community sites where users directly control the language used in page titles and content. Those pages are likely to be ranking better than your ‘stops responding’ page, since they use the exact keywords as your customers are searching for.
However, if you have forums or other community generated content on your site, you may have an opportunity to resolve this problem, ensuring that your customers arrive on your site when using non-standard language. . .
1) Check your forums for posts written by your customers using the keywords you are trying to target. . . 2) Check that the posts have a valid answer from the appropriate users on your site. . . (or if they don’t provide a suitable answer yourself) 3) If possible, mark the post as ‘answered’ and lock it to prevent any additional posts 4) Link to the post from related content on your site, including…
1) Check your forums for posts written by your customers using the keywords you are trying to target. . .
2) Check that the posts have a valid answer from the appropriate users on your site. . . (or if they don’t provide a suitable answer yourself)
3) If possible, mark the post as ‘answered’ and lock it to prevent any additional posts
4) Link to the post from related content on your site, including…
In other words, instead of creating a page on your website using the ‘non standard’ keywords, simply take steps to raise the PageRank of the forum content on your site which already uses the words your customers are searching for.
The more links you have pointing to the post, from important sections of your site (i.e. those with high PageRank), the more popular it will be considered by the search engines (i.e. it’s PageRank will be higher), and the higher it will rank against similar content from other sites.
I would love to hear from anyone who gives this a try.
Please feel free to contact me if you need any further explanation!