FINALLY the long awaited sequel to SEO Part 1 is here! In this episode we cover things you can do off-site to improve your SEO. We’ll talk about links and the quality of those links. You’ll learn how to get good natural links, and how to use social marketing to improve your SEO. This is an important episode, because this type of SEO is where you can really shoot yourself in the foot if you don’t know what you’re doing (or you hire someone who doesn’t).
Links from the show:
Welcome to Automate My Small Business where we show you how to setup and run your own automated business on the cheap. So get ready to take back your life and add a little spice. It’s time to build something automated.
MATT: Hello and welcome to episode 29 of Automate My Small Business. I’m Matt.
BRANDON: And this is Brandon.
MATT: And in this episode we’re going to bring you (Part 2) of Search Engine Optimization.
How to SEO your site so that you show up higher in the Google rankings. If you haven’t listened to episode 1, you should go back and listen to that. Brandon, you want to give a recap, just in case?
BRANDON: Sure. So you know last episode we tried to breakdown what SEO was. And we talked about what it was, in that you’re trying to rank your page higher in Google or Bing or any of the search engines and you know what exactly do you do, to do that. It actually will make or break your business depending on if you can do this well or not.
And so the first step is really to focus on certain keywords. We talked about how to research those keywords, finding those keywords using certain tools like: Google Keyword Tool, Wordtracker and then finding what competitors are targeting. What keywords they’re targeting, any sort of mutations of those keywords. And then kind of finding what you’re top 10 keywords are and then kind of going to work at getting those, the keywords that you show up on, when certain people are looking for any particular topic that you’re trying to sell. A product you’re selling or a service you’re selling.
And so we talked about what you can do on your site which they call onsite SEO which you have a lot of control over. The things like: what title your page has or what description your homepage has and you know using certain keywords throughout your content. You’re making sure that you have a sitemap that’s easily readable and that Google or Bing have access to. And then basically, making sure that your site performance is up and that your speed to your site is fast. And other factors like fresh content and your link structure.
And then we even gave some tools that you should definitely make sure that you have. Things like webmasters tools, the Google Webmaster tools and the Bing webmaster tools is absolutely by far the number one thing you should make sure you’re registered with, so that you can have good insight as to how well your sites are ranking and what they’re ranking for and what keywords people are searching for.
So that brings us all the way around to offsite SEO which is basically, how do you gain higher ranking on Google or Bing using things that you don’t necessarily have as much control over, but are just as important and really make sure it really brings a higher ranking for your site.
And then we are going to talk a little bit more about what kind of optimization, what we call SERP Optimization (Search Engine Results Page optimization) to make sure that you have attention grabbing links that you can maybe, figure out ways to maybe have little badges or different things that Google can offer you.
And then we’re going to talk a little bit more about the future of SEO and kind of, some of the things that Google has changed or Bing has changed over the past even few months that really changes the game of how to SEO best practices. And how to make sure that you can really take full advantage of some of the changes in the algorithms Google and Bing are doing.
So getting back to the offsite SEO, Matt, what would you say is the best strategy for going into offsite SEO?
MATT: We talked a little bit in the last episode about how links are really the lifeblood of how Google figures out what pages are authoritative. So you want to be able to get links from other sites around the web and so a lot of what you’re doing in offsite SEO is just finding links. And you want to find links that are high quality, relevant links. And so high quality comes from other sites that are viewed as authoritative in Google or in Bing, so you want to find things that are ranked—other sites that are ranking high on their own for the same or similar tools that you’re trying to rank for and you want to get links that are pointing to your site or to specific pages within your site. Those are called deep links.
So a shallow link might be something that points to your homepage, the root of your site. A deep link might be pointing to a page that’s an article that you wrote or a product page or something that is not directly on the top of your site. You want to get these links, but there are ways of measuring kind of how important the link is.
So one, we talked a little bit about the page rank of the page it’s linking from, from their site to your site. You’re going to get some of that authority, some of that page rank to flow to you. And there’s other things like domain rank and this is really how authoritative your whole domain is, not how authoritative a specific page is. So if you have a lot of other domains that are linking to your site and they’re high quality domains, you’ll get credit for that in addition to high quality pages linking to pages on your site.
And there’s a bunch of tools that you can figure out who’s linking to your site and what authority they are. Some of my favorite tools are from SEOmoz (seomoz.com.) They have a whole suite of tools. One of their tools is the Open Site Explorer. You just pop in your URL and they’ll tell you everyone that’s linking to you. A good trick is pop in your competitors URL and look at all the people that are linking to them because those are probably going to be good targets for you to find places to link to you.
And then a competitor of SEOmoz which also has a good suite of tools is called Raven Tools, so check those things out. They really streamline and optimize the process of figuring these things out. You know, we’re all about automation so finding good tools to help you do this will really reduce the amount of effort it takes and make sure that you are focused on the things that are going to bring you the most value. They are paid tools, but I think both of them offer month long free subscriptions, so try it out, see what you learn. Even if you only use that month you’ll probably get some very actionable intelligence from those tools.
BRANDON: So one of the major strategies in building page rank or increasing your search result ranking is really all about link building because as we know Google puts a lot of emphasis on counting the number of links that, let’s call them inbound links, from other sites and using those links to, basically as votes to, vote your site more important or less important, but—
MATT: —but not all votes are equal, remember that.
BRANDON: But not all votes are equal. They do have a mathematical formula to kind of—basically you can think of it as number of lengths times the level of authority those links have. So if you’re getting a page length from—
MATT: —the New York Times or something, that might be worth a 1000 links from no-name sites.
BRANDON: Right. If you’re going to go about trying to build these links, inbound links to your website, you’re going to want them from authoritative websites (a) and you want to get as many of them as you can. So there’s some real obvious ones like some directories that you could easily get your links on like: dmoz (d-m-o-z, dmoz.org,) Yahoo directory is another one, Best of the Web (botw.org.)
MATT: Yahoo and Best of the Web are both paid listings. You have to pay a certain amount of money each year. I think Yahoo is $300 a year, Best of the Web is $70 or $80 a year. And usually Google really hates when you pay for links and they will, you know, even ban you from the search engine results as you saw with like JC Penney’s this year, got banned because they were buying links. But for some reason buying listings and directories is okay with Google and the Yahoo directory has an incredible page rank.
I mean, I think it goes up to ten and there’s only a few sites that are at the ten level. You can think of page rank as you know, a number between one and ten and each number being exponentially more than the previous number. Yahoo, dmoz are both page rank ten, so great places to be.
Dmoz is a community edited directory and they have all kinds of topics so go to the topic where you think your site should be in and request inclusion. Make sure that you write a really good description because it is all human edited and they’re very picky about what goes in it. And it might take them a long time to review your submission because they’re kind of understaffed.
You can also go and volunteer to be an editor and that might help you get in as well. Although they will let you list your own sites, but they kind of want to make sure that it is a high quality site and you’re not just putting it in because it is your site. But those are a great a place to get links from.
BRANDON: You have a good story about that, are you willing to share it?
MATT: Sure, I guess. So I had submitted my site and I didn’t hear anything back for a while.
BRANDON: To dmoz.
MATT: To dmoz, yeah and the—so I finally decided, well either the editor is not paying attention or for some reason he doesn’t like my really nice quality site that I had submitted, so I decided to apply to be the editor and I was able to you know, help clean up that category and also get my site listed, so it is a way to get your site into the directory.
Be fair when you’re there because you don’t really—you don’t want get kicked out from being editor and get delisted because then you lose all that value you got from being in there, so be a good editor, kind of respect their rules.
BRANDON: So, but you became an editor which is amazing and very few people get to do that, right?
MATT: And it was a very good link to have. I could definitely tell the difference in my search results—
MATT: —after I did that.
MATT: I’m not convinced it does anything anymore.
BRANDON: Yeah, in this day and age it’s probably not necessary because you know once they see you on the radar from any other link you’re in their radar so you’re pretty much registered right away, but—
BRANDON: —it’s not something that can hurt, so go ahead and do it if you.
MATT: Yeah. And if they don’t see you on the radar, but you do submit your site to them, they’re not going to care anyway because they don’t think you’re authoritative because no one’s linking to you. They’re going to say, “You don’t matter.”
BRANDON: But it—I mean, might as well do it, right, it takes ten minutes.
MATT: —do those things instead.
BRANDON: So then there’s other areas of link building that you can do. A real great one that I like to do is to write press releases and then post them to websites like PRWeb or PR Log or there’s another one called PR Newswire, all of which are very authoritative sites and do a fantastic job of not only getting your link out there, but also getting your product or your service read about and you know, maybe even picked up for distributing in other areas to the web or even on newspapers and things.
MATT: It’s amazing how many sites will scrape those press releases and you’ll put out a press release and you’ll start seeing sites pop up all over the web that have links back to your site and information about your press release. So it’s a really great way to get distribution on the web and get a lot of link backs and like you mentioned PRWeb and PR Newswire are both really good very authorit—
BRANDON: High quality.
MATT: —high quality, but they’re also paid. And I think it’s like 200 bucks plus, for some of their press releases. Those are the press release companies that the big guys use like you know Apple and those guys. They use big press release services like those, which you can use. It’s nice to have that ability to get your word out like that, but there’s also free ones like PR Log that you mentioned, publish your press release for free and get really good distribution and freepressrelease.com, I think has all dashes. There’s a bunch of these, so you can just submit to a bunch of these free ones and get pretty good distribution. Not as good as PRWeb and PR Newswire, but still get a lot of distribution.
BRANDON: Yeah and like I said, you get not only links but you get the content up there. People start to know more about you and your product and service just because of it, so it’s good stuff.
MATT: That’s a good point. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up when you’re doing SEO and what Google thinks and what Bing thinks and forget that the end goal of all this is real people, so don’t forget that.
BRANDON: Yeah. Well you know and that’s probably a good point to make because I think anybody trying to be their best at getting their links out there—we’ve all done some article marketing where we post articles about our products or services. We’ve even hired VA’s to do a lot of it for us and you know you’ve got to make sure your quality is good. The content without quality is a lot of times meaningless and it actually will hurt you over the long run so make sure you, if you publish or post articles or press releases, that you really make sure that it’s high quality stuff.
MATT: I know I’ve put out some things that I wasn’t so proud of in the past and I don’t think they helped me. I don’t know if they hurt me or not, but I’ve definitely had much better success putting out quality stuff and stuff that when people read it they want to click on the links and they want to find out more about the information, so quality is key.
BRANDON: And now it’s even more so because with the changes that Google and Bing are making to their algorithms, they’re kind of—they’re now catching on to this content farming and they’re you know, making sure that the links that they recommend are very purpose-driven, relevant information, research driven, you know, information. So you’ve got to really provide good quality content to make the search engines notice so just—it’s just going to become more and more that way. It wasn’t always that way, but it is now.
MATT: Another great source of links is your profile pages from all the other sites that you’re a member of or your business is a member of. Things like your LinkedIn in page and your LinkedIn company page, your Facebook fan page, Twitter account, you know all those things they usually have a place for you to link back to your main website. Make sure that you’re taking advantage of all those.
You know, I know we’ve mentioned the tool KnowEm before that will help you register for a whole bunch of social sites and preserve your profile. Now most of those have links back to your website. Make sure that you’re doing at least the most popular social sites that it can help you sign up for. There’s a lot of ones that you can probably ignore on there because I think they have hundreds of them now, but you know the top 50 ones, make sure you have profiles on and linking back to your website.
And you can’t always do it, but there’s a tag that you can add into the link back called rel=”me” which will tell Google that all these profiles that your linked between, they’re all about the same person or business or entity. And that will help Google, you know, associate them all together.
BRANDON: You know one thing that I don’t think we’ve covered yet is the anchor text that you used in these links when you link back to your own website. Let’s say you put a press release out there or you put, you know, you write an article and the anchor text is the text that you can read, but the link underneath it is what you don’t read.
And so, even though the link underneath it is the most important part, that’s the part that link, the actual link that gets to your site, but the anchor text that you use or you choose to use could be just as important because what you’re trying to do is establish a keyword that is pointing to your website. So if this is your—this is basically your opportunity to take your most valuable keyword or keyword phrase, let’s say and use that in that in your anchor text as to link back.
Now one thing I have learned here recently about some of the changes to the Google algorithms is that it’s actually important to vary that fairly often. You don’t want to the use the same anchor text every time all over the internet because that will also not bode well for you. So you kind of want to have a variety of anchor text.
MATT: The more things that you can do to make it look natural, the more Google’s going to like that. If it looks artificial like you’re using every site the link sees, the exact same anchor text, that doesn’t look natural. That looks like it’s engineered or it’s you know, you’re trying to game the system. Google really hates to be gamed, so.
BRANDON: Yeah, they’ve got all these anti-gaming features built into their algorithm now.
MATT: Yeah, so make sure it’s natural, that you’re using different link text, you’re linking to different pages, all that sort of stuff. And not just the link text, but Google will also figure out relevancy from the text that’s around the link, you know the sentence of the link might be in. What the top keywords it finds in the whole page that you’re on. If you’re on a page about cats and you’re linking to you know merlot page, well it’s going to say: This isn’t relevant at all. But if you’re on a page about a vineyard and you’re linking to your merlot page it’s going to go: Hey, this makes sense. You know, this might be a more relevant link. I’m going to attribute a little bit more value to this link.
BRANDON: I think what we might touch on just a little bit later, but there is black hat SEO versus white hat SEO. Basically, the black hat SEO is all the stuff that’s going you know, that you’re trying to game the system. You’re trying to, you know, get authority or value or credit to your website that you really haven’t earned and Google will try to—will basically ban you for it if they catch you. There’s a whole list of things that are included in black hat SEO.
Some things are kind of you know, what we call grey hat where it’s kind of in between. In fact, most everything you do offsite SEO is kind of in between because you’re trying to promote yourself in ways that are off of your own website. So in a way, you’re artificially creating this value all around your website that wouldn’t otherwise be there if you just were posting your own products or services on your site.
So these are all good strategies and Google has kind of tipped their hat to it, no pun intended for the hat part, but they’ve basically said: You know, yes we realize that you’re promoting yourself, but we’re okay with it.
In many of these instances where you know, let’s say you’re posting your site to the directory or you’re giving a press release. I mean these are things that are basic business steps that businesses take when trying to promote their products or services and Google realizes this so, their not saying: Hey, you can’t so this.
They’re saying: No. Go ahead, as long as it’s valuable and the content is relevant, these are pieces of information that somebody would find valuable. Yeah, we like that. We’ll go ahead and give you page rank for it or give you value for that.
But try doing things like cloaking or link acquisition or you know putting malware on your site, there’s a whole list of things that you should just not do. Matt you want to touch on that a little bit?
MATT: Yeah. So to explain what cloaking is, basically there was a tactic a while ago where people would check whether a regular user was coming to a site or if the Googlebot crawler was coming to the site and they would serve up a bunch of keywords to the Google crawler and then they would serve up some page that’s full of advertising to the users. And Google thought it was sending people to a really relevant keyword rich site and really the user is getting dumped on this spammy, trashy, everything is an ad that you click on, sort of thing. And so they started banning those sites.
The black hat SEO guys are really—it’s all about a quick win because when you’re doing black hat, Google is eventually going to catch up, find out and they’re going to ban your site and you can petition to get re-included once you’re banned, but it’s possible that you may never get that domain to rank again. It may never show up in Google again, so black hat really isn’t a long term strategy.
So anything you’re doing that is going against Google’s rules for SEO—and they have a document that you should read, we’ll probably link to that—anything that you’re doing against that, you need to understand the risks that it might delist you out of Google and then you’re kind of screwed. You’re really screwed, so.
BRANDON: So that also includes, you know, link farms which is what—
MATT: You are buying links, you know, that was the JC Penney thing, right, they were buying links.
BRANDON: Yeah, so JC Penney was caught using this SEO company that I guess was kind of a shady company who bought a number of links from these websites that are just basically set up to provide inbound links to companies that pay them for them. You know if you get enough of them, it actually will start increasing your page rank on Google’s results, which it did for a while. JC Penney did a fairly good job of doing it, but then when Google figured it out they said “Hey, yeah, JC Penney, you’re no longer ranked a higher—as high as we thought you were and not only that, you’re going to be penalized.”
So surprisingly JC Penney did not get banned. They still do show up if you do a direct search for JC Penney and they do search fairly high for a direct search, but for any indirect or sub-direct search, where you know, you’re searching for shoes or penny loafers or whatever JC Penney sells, they just don’t show up at all. So they really got shut down.
Now I have to say it probably does help to be paying about $2.4 million a month in ad words to Google, that JC Penney was paying, so who knows whether that actually did make a dent in the decision making process there.
MATT: Well I think, you know, if you get that first ban you have an opportunity to try to rectify things and appeal Google for re-inclusion into the listings. So as long as you try to get rid of everything and it wasn’t obvious that you were trying to game the system, if you made a mistake you might be able to get back in. JC Penney I think was able to say “Hey, we hired this company. We didn’t really know what they were doing. We’re going to fix everything and we fired the company,” and that sort of stuff.
MATT: I mean, but it’s interesting to see these giant brands that spend millions on brands with Google can also get banned or get penalized. You know, I think BMW a few years ago got delisted for a while because they were—I think it was cloaking. I can’t remember exactly what they were doing. But yeah, it doesn’t matter who you are whether it’s, you know, you with five users that come to your little personal website or if it’s BMW or JC Penney or these giant multinational brands. The rules are the same.
BRANDON: All right, so getting back to some of the link building strategies. You know, there’s some blogs out there that maybe reviews your type of product and you want to maybe be included, you know, in one of their articles. Maybe you have to email them or pick up the phone and call them and say, “Hey, I got this great product. If you’d like, I could send you a sample or I could maybe give you pictures of it,” or you know, whatever it might be. They maybe review it and they talk about it, and you know, who knows and they put a link on their site after maybe posting a blog or an article about it and it get’s you another inbound link. And maybe—
MATT: I think some of the best links come from things like that where you’re getting someone, where you actually have to pick up the phone and call someone and talk them and get them to endorse your product. Those are the hardest ones to get, but it also means it’s going to be the ones that are unique to you that you’re competitor might not get.
BRANDON: And typically those are the higher value blogs or review sites.
MATT: Yeah. I mean there’s a lot of sites where it says, “Hey submit your link here,” and everyone does it and that’s not going to be the difference maker. The difference maker is going to be you getting your response from David Pogue or whoever to write a little blog post about you.
BRANDON: You might need to send your product in for review. You know, I’ve had this asked from me a number of times. They want a free version or free product. And a lot of the people that do these review sites, they’ll tell you, you know, nine out of ten times they usually have to send the product back anyways. So you know, you think that they get all this free stuff and if they’re really professionals they usually don’t. They usually have a you know, a policy where they get this stuff and they send it back anyway, but—
MATT: Yeah, I thought I was going to get free camcorders from the camcorder site, but they wanted me to send it back.
BRANDON: Yeah, it’s just—it’s kind of now, kind of part of the protocol. But yeah, wouldn’t that be nice, you just get all these camcorders. Well you did get some good stuff, but it’s not—don’t count on it as being your source of products.
Then there’s also competitor research that you could do to find out where they are posting links or getting links from. And there’s a site called Site Explorer that we talked about before at opensiteexplorer.org that can really give you a good idea of where those links are and what your competitors inbound links from—
MATT: What I like about that tool is that it actually sorts the links by how important they are; how much Google juice is flowing through them. You know that’s really important because you can see Yahoo or any of the other search engines kind of, you know, who’s linking to a site, but it doesn’t tell you like what are the important links?
They also have a really—SEOmoz has a really cool tool called the Juicy link finder which will just suggest all these places that it thinks you might be able to get a link from. I found some great links for some of my sites using that thing. That is a really, really cool tool.
BRANDON: I actually haven’t tried that yet. Juicy link finder, huh?
BRANDON: I have to try that one, huh?
MATT: I think it’s one of the paid ones so you’ve got to sign up for the trial to get it.
BRANDON: Oh, is that why?
BRANDON: You know, there’s also—Google’s kind of watching how fast you add links or you know, so they have like this trending momentum tracking that they’re doing with your site, so don’t just add 300 links or inbound links and find ways to get all these links all at one time. You kind of want to be kind of consistent with it over time to make sure you’re seeming relevant and you’re seeming human. Again all this is—they’re trying to take a computer program and measure how human all of this is, which is actually quite a feat.
MATT: It might human that, you know, 300 people link to your site in one day, but in those cases what Google is going to think is that: Hey, this site is important today.
And when no one links to it for the next week after 300 people linked to it in a day they’ll go: Oh, this must not be important anymore because no one’s linking to it anymore.
BRANDON: So it’s time sensitive.
MATT: It’s time sensitive, right, so if you want to rank high for a long time be consistent in how, you know, you’re adding links and some of that will happen naturally as more people get your product and start writing about it. I mean, I see your Porch Potty stuff all over the freaking web now, so—
BRANDON: It’s been a long hard trail. So, you know, registration is another real easy thing you could do. First of all, if you are going year by year on your domain registration and you know let’s say you have your dot com and you’ve signed up for one year and it cost you nine bucks on Go Daddy, well you might want to pony up the extra nine bucks for let’s say five years going out so you get a registration five or say even ten years if you can. Does Go Daddy go ten years? I think it does, right?
MATT: I think so, yeah.
BRANDON: Yeah, so not that that makes a big difference, but at least get five years, you know, so that Google says: All right, this guy’s in it for the long run. You know he’s got this website registered for the next five years.
And believe it or not, this is something you can’t, you really don’t have a lot of control over, but it’s really important—it really does make a big difference on your ranking, is how old your domain is. You know, if you’ve been around since 1995, back when the internet started, and you rank for certain keywords and you’re still ranking for those keywords to this day, you’re going to be pretty much at the top of the list just based on that, as part of it I should say, as part of your ranking.
MATT: You can buy domains that existed before or you can buy domains from people that have been registered for a long time. It’s one signal of hundreds, but you know if it’s important to you, then there are ways to find older domains.
BRANDON: I’m going out on a limb here and saying that the keyword search engine optimization has got to be one of the most competitive keywords to find online because every search engine optimizer out there is trying to show how professional they are. You know, because if they can show that their website is ranked #1 for SEO, they can pretty much get anybody’s business to do their SEO for them.
So if you do the search, I did that the other day once and I realized that the top SEO company that comes up on that list is one that’s been around for well over ten years, you know, doing basically search engine optimization before search engine optimization was even around it seemed like. So you know it does matter how long you’ve had your business or how long you’ve had your domain.
MATT: So for me the top three are Wikipedia which is the top for everything I search I think now. So that goes to say good rich deep content and lots of it is a great way to be at the top. The second one is Google so it helps to be Google. And then seo.com so matching the domain name. There you go. That’s what I see for the top three for me.
BRANDON: When you search for SEO?
BRANDON: Oh really, there you go. That’s kind of a good wrap up of offsite SEO, so these are all strategies that I would probably start looking at and pick your favorites. Make sure you do the easy ones first, but you have so much control of your onsite SEO that you should really just kind of start there and then start focusing on your offsite SEO as kind of like a second step. But it’s also important that you don’t really want to miss any of it.
MATT: Yeah, so the next thing we’re going to talk about is Search Engines Results Page Optimization. So once you’ve done the work to, you know, optimize your site, to get lots of links from offsite to your site, you’re going to start ranking higher. And that’s only going to really matter if people actually click on your links. So we’re going to go into some strategies for getting a higher click-through rate once you’re on that search engine results page.
BRANDON: Right so you’re one the first page. You did a good job doing your keyword research, your onsite SEO and your offsite SEO and now it all comes down to the competition of who gets the click, right? There’s ten links on the page, showing up on the Google or Bing search page and you want to be the one who gets the click, right?
So first off, the most important is what the customer or the consumer, the searcher is actually going to read. So what’s the title of your page? What’s the description of your page? And we talked about this before, the way you control that is making sure that your meta title and your meta description is well written, is keyword you know rich, you might want to make sure that your brand is in that title. And you want to write a title so good, no matter what you’re looking for it’s interesting and you’re going to grab the attention of the searcher. So make sure that your title and meta descriptions are really well written.
MATT: You can actually see the click-through rate if you go into Google Webmaster Tools. You can see, you know, how many times your page was shown on a search engine result page and how many times people actually clicked on those and that might help you optimize some of your pages a little bit more. A lot of people don’t know that you can actually get that data from Google, so it’s a great thing to go look at. Another thing about optimizing for click-throughs is, we’re not really sure, but Google might be using some of this click-stream data of how many people are clicking on your link to kind of determine the quality of your title and your description and remember they’re all about quality. So all these things that contribute data to Google, they have and they’re probably looking at it somehow.
Now click-through is something that could easily be gamed. You know, I get a whole bunch of people to go click on my organic result and boost it up, but they have ways of analyzing traffic that they may not be using all the click-stream data, but they’re probably using some of it. People that are registered Google users for a long time, they have a good pattern of traffic that they think is natural. Click-stream data from those users, they might be using that.
Also things like long click’s, like if I go to Google and I click on one result and I immediately click on the next result, Google is going to probably look at that and say: Well, he didn’t really like that. The first thing must not be very good because he came back and he went to another result. So maybe the quality of that first link is not so good and we should demote it and promote the one that he took an hour. He went to it and was gone for an hour before he came back to Google.
So things like that, making sure that people come to your site and they get what they expect and what they found. So those titles and those descriptions match up with what they’re actually going to get on the page is really important.
BRANDON: And so there’s all sorts of little let’s say—how would you call it—widgets or little graphics or different ways that Google has offered new features. Let’s say that Google is offering all the time that it’s coming out with new ways for the search results page to look, to you know, maybe new ways to interact with it. You know maybe—
MATT: They’ve really changed their search like, you know, up until maybe two years ago Google was all about just ten blue links on the page, right?
MATT: And then they came out with this thing that they called universal search where really they made that search engine result page include all types of different results that they had had in other search products like shopping results and news—
BRANDON: —or movies.
MATT: Yeah, video. Lots of video you know or local, right, all the map results. They started including all these things on the main results page and now when you search, you don’t just see—
BRANDON: —ten links.
MATT: Ten links, you see a couple links, a big section of videos. You know, some images—
BRANDON: And products.
MATT: So there’s all kinds of different ways to get up in rank now. Where you know, your competitors might be focused on just that regular search link where you might rank really high just for having a nice video about that.
BRANDON: So I just recently went through a little experiment with getting products to show up as an image on my search results and the first step is to register to get—register your products with Google Merchant Center. So if you actually have a hard tangible product that is shippable, you’re going to want to register it with the Google Merchant Center.
Now that’s different than Google Base. Where Google Base is kind of like the older version of what is now called Google Merchant Center. But they still use Google Base, but it’s mainly for informational products and it’s kind of become a protocol to use. But if you have a real product Google Merchant Center is where you’re going to want to register it and it’ll ask you all sorts of information about the product. It’ll make you upload an image of it and so now you’ll actually show up in the shopping results.
When somebody searches for a product or a category of a product and it shows all these shopping results, you want to be in that list so that people will find you. And you know yes, it does allow you to be compared for you know, different pricing so you know, you will float to the top if you have the best price. But hoping you have a unique product you are the only one in the market that has that particular product so the price is the price, unless you’re reselling somebody else’s product, then you’re going to have a little bit tougher time. So but it’s none the less still important that you’re in that list and that you want to be included in it. So it’s important to get registered with Google Merchant Center.
MATT: You bring up a good point and that’s I think one example of anything you can do to draw attention to your listing on their search engine result page is going to increase your click-through. So having your product actually show up as a picture and having a price next to it is a lot better than just the normal blue link and text below it, but there’s a bunch of things that you can do to get this extra attention on the search result page.
One thing is a lot of people have different tool bars installed. I think you had—what was the one that you had that was modifying all the links that you saw—
BRANDON: —Alexa, Alexa.
MATT: Alexa and Norton Antivirus. If you have Norton Antivirus installed, they actually add stuff to the Google results on the webpage that says: Hey this is a trusted Norton partner.
BRANDON: Yeah, just like two weeks ago. They no longer give you a little badge or a little icon that says you’re a Google Checkout website. So yeah, but I remember when they first started doing that, you said to me one time, you’re like, “Yeah, Brandon we got to get this. Look at the value of just having a little icon next to your link where nobody else has it. You somehow stand out in a way that you are somehow special. All you did was register with Google as having the ability to checkout with Google Checkout.”
BRANDON: So anytime those little opportunities come up where you can set yourself apart from all the other links, that’s really what we’re talking about here, is getting optimization.
MATT: One of the things I use on the review sites is the star rating. So you might notice as you search for certain things that some listings come up with an “out of five stars” and some information about the author and the date it was published and all this data that Google is pulling from the actual web page that it crawled. The way it’s getting this data is through a format called microformats and if you just search for Google Rich Snippets you’ll find out all the different data that you can add into your site and your page to help Google extract this stuff. All this is kind of extra data that you’re embedding into the page is part of something called semantic markup. You’re adding extra semantic information about what that page is at into the page itself.
Then the Google Rich Snippet and microformats is kind of—has been around for a few years now. Just recently Bing and Google and Yahoo, they all standardized on a new format called Microdata. So if you to schema.org (s-c-h-e-m-a dot org) you’ll kind of find out more about the formats that they support and all extra little things that you can get into your search engine listing on Google, Bing and Yahoo. So that’s a big win.
BRANDON: So which—like give us some examples. So like if you are a business and you wanted to make sure that Google knew your phone number and address properly so that it could list it in the right format or if you have recipes of some sort, you want to make sure that the ingredients are properly formatted. Those are the things you’re talking about, right?
MATT: Places, local business, product offers, aggregate offers, reviews, person, organization, event, like embedded objects like video image, audio. And then authors, different information about books and movies and all kinds of stuff. They have a bunch of schemas, they are you know adding more and more as they go along. Really they want to have a rich set of information they can surface on these things to provide searchers as much data as possible.
BRANDON: As a little side note this actually reminds me that we haven’t mentioned this, is that anytime there’s something where Google can’t get information like an image or video where they want to know what it’s about or what it’s showing. Anytime that you have the opportunity to help them understand what it is, so that they can include it in their search results, that’s even better.
So part of an SEO, and I think, I can’t believe we haven’t talk about this, forgot about this, is that you should really make sure that your alt tags are filled in for all your images so that you have keywords pointing to those alt tags and that gets picked up in the indexing. So that’s important too.
MATT: Yeah, that also helps when people are using screen readers like blind people that want to know what’s on your site. All that information also helps them so you’re actually helping real users as well as helping your search engine optimization stuff.
BRANDON: Yeah. So getting back to one other thing that I thought was important that I just recently did a couple months ago which I find is valuable is getting site links setup with Google Webmaster Tool. And basically what site links are is that it’ll maybe take the first or second ranking link and show the “Contact Us” page with a single link and a “About Us” page or “How it works page” or you know all these pages that are on your website directly right below the main link, the homepage link.
Yeah, it is a convenient way to get your, to get the customer or the consumer to link to a page within your site, but more than anything it stands out. It makes you look more authoritative and your link looks more professional because you have these site links right built in to the Google results. So it’s worth doing.
MATT: And if you make the search functionality on your site, you know if you tell Google how you’re doing it, I’m not sure if they figure it out through the analytics when you register or how they figure out how you’re actually set up your search on your site. Sometimes it will actually show a little search bar or search text box on the search result page to let them search within your site. But yeah, there’s not much you can do to kind of get them, you have to be the number one result. You have to be you know, really dominating way above the rest of the results on the page and then it’ll go, “I have a high degree of likelihood that this is the site that they want, let me show more detail from this site,” is basically what Google’s doing.
You should definitely get these for things like your brand name. It would be awesome if you got if for something else, but not that likely.
BRANDON: Okay, and then there’s Google Instant. You want to talk a little bit about that?
MATT: Yeah, I guess so. Google made a change in the last—I can’t remember, was it this year that they made it—where they started showing results on the page as you’re typing and not waiting for you to you know, type your whole search and then hit search. It just started showing stuff and so this has kind of changed the game as you’re optimizing because one, they’re starting to show things and so you need to rank for things before they’ve even completed typing. So they might see something as they’re typing and go, “Oh, that’s what I want” and click on it.
And the Second thing that this has affected is Google showing a lot of autocomplete options now. So if you’re searching for “dog” it might say “dog potty, dog breeds, dog something” and so it’s kind of guiding people as they’re searching. And so making sure that, I don’t know how you would do this, but making sure that the autocomplete that you want up there is kind of what you’re ranking for. It’s going to be increasingly important as we go forward, but I don’t know how you would kind of manipulate that.
BRANDON: The only way I have been able to do it is if there’s something like coupons in my—that I want to stop having show up as a suggestion. I’ve asked all of my affiliates to stop using the term coupons in any of their pages just so people stop searching for it.
MATT: The other option is just to have yourself rank high for it and say, “There are no coupons.”
BRANDON: That’s kind of a back door approach but yeah. There is a lot to do when it comes to SEO and it’s always changing and it’s kind of a game between who can out think the other side. It’s the SEO team against the Google search engine teams that are always trying to predict what each other are doing. You know, as Google and Bing kind of become smarter and they try to be better search engines because after all, if they don’t have people coming to their search engine to search and they feel like they’ve got the best search engine around then they lose all those advertising dollars that is basically driven by the traffic.
They spend a lot of money and a lot of time trying to make the best results possible. And so by doing that, they’re constantly coming up with new iterations to the algorithm that either try to penalize people that are trying to game the system as we talked about earlier or try to boost up the rankings of people that are doing a great job of offering really valuable content. We wanted to kind of cover some of the future of what SEO might entail by trying to outline some of the trends that we’re seeing in the news and in the blogs.
MATT: Yeah, I think the biggest thing that’s going to happen or has all ready started happening is the beginning of personalized search. A couple of years ago you could say, “I’m number one on Google and that would mean you were number one on Google for anyone that searched.” But Google has started really tweaking their search results depending on who’s searching and they’re doing this on a bunch of factors.
As you search on Google they’re recording all the things that you’ve searched and so they know what you typically search for and they’re starting to learn what you click on and what you like. But even if they didn’t know that, they know where you are. So when I search from my house in Los Angeles, I get skewed results towards things that are local to me, especially if I look for businesses, right? Where as if you are in New York or Uruguay or somewhere else, you’re going to get a completely different set of results even if you search for the same term.
I’ve read some articles about this and started learning about this and I’m amazed by all the different factors that it seems like they might be using. Things like: What type of computer are you using? Are you using a Mac? Are you using a PC? Are you in an urban or a rural area? What resolution do you have? That might say, If I’m running a really high resolution maybe I’m younger. Maybe that will help my demographics.
They might even know some of that demographic information based on other sites you’ve gone to and forms you’ve filled out. They might know that, hey, you’re a male in your mid-thirties or you’re a female in your fifties and they might be able to skew their results based on that. So they’re really learning more and more about you.
You know all that profile information that you have on your social site, they’re learning all kinds of stuff about you. It’s going to make it so that you can no longer say that you’re number one on Google, right? You’re going to be number one for one person that searches and another person you might not show up at all. So it’s going to really change how you optimize things.
BRANDON: There’s a quick test you could do to see where you really rank, if you just try to take away some of the personalization so to speak and you can do that by opening up your browser and going to the so called porn mode or in other words, also know as private browsing mode in Firefox or internet.
MATT: Incognito, right?
BRANDON: Incognito mode in Chrome or they call it In Private Browsing in Internet Explorer and so you go into your file menu and you select this private browsing mode and you basically are now supposedly outside of the tracking that Google usually has on you and you’re able to search.
So let’s say you search in Google with that browser window and now you kind of get a better sense of where you land on your page rank because—and I’ve done this before, I’ve searched for my products or my websites in the past and I’m like, “Wow, I’m number one. How’d I do that?” And then I realize, oh, I’m number one because I use those keywords all the time in my Gmail and I have them you know full, I go to that page everyday to check my stats, you know, so it’s kind of obviously a page that I find relevant.
So Google knows that about you so you’ve got to get out of your typical browser session and go into a private browser to find out where you rank.
MATT: That helps but that’s still skewed by your IP, your location, all those things, right?
BRANDON: Right, I know.
MATT: There are services that you can sign up for and you know, SEOmoz and Raven Tools and those guys all have tracking services where they will, you know, monitor your ranking from different places around the world with different browsers and all that kind of stuff which would give you probably a better indication of where you, on average rank. Because remember it’s not a single rank. But even that is going to be really hard as things get really truly personalized because right now it’s kind of semi-personalized, but as they get more and more personalized, you’re going to be all over the place.
BRANDON: So another part of a personalized search is not only what you are interested in, but what your friends are interested in. And this is kind of—opens up a whole new area of search results and what you know, they’re kind of taking the leap of faith to say: Well you may not be interested in it, but if your friend is, maybe you’re more likely to be more interested in it. So you know, let’s try to list the results that maybe your friends have shown interest in.
And so there’s all sorts of social searches as they call it that’s happening. And you may not have even known it, but if you take a real close look at your searches, you’ll start seeing things like you know “Susie shared this” or “Matt likes this,” right underneath the link that is only there because he’s a friend of yours and so the results show up because of that social link because they know that you are a friend with or you are a Facebook friends with so-and-so and now it’s a higher relevance to you.
MATT: This is going to totally change how you do search engine optimization. You know I think that this makes social networking marketing, social marketing so much more important. If I can get all my customers to like my Facebook page you know, I’m going to rank higher for all their friends, all the people that they’re connected to. That’s hugely powerful. I mean that’s going to really change the way everything works.
BRANDON: Yeah. We had a little grand opening party with some of the customers for Drenched Fitness and I was chatting with some of our customers and lo’ and behold you know, they said, “I know about the porch potty.”
We were talking about the porch potty and they said, “Yeah, we were looking into that. We really want to get one of those.”
And I’m like, “Well, are you sure it’s the porch potty?”
And they were like, “Oh yeah, it’s the one with the sprinkler system and all this.”
And I showed them my business card and sure enough it was the porch potty. And I have to think that there is a connection not just by chance ,but you know—and I hope it was by chance because it would show that we’re doing a good job of promoting or marketing out website, but if I think about it, there is actually a connection. Because if that’s a customer of ours that’s on Facebook and I’ve facebooked them due to them being a customer and wanting to connect better with them and them being a friend of mine on Facebook and me having the site Porch Potty as a link on my Facebook page, I bet you anything that they probably searched for some sort of keyword and up pops my other business Porch Potty showing it as a link that your friend recommends or suggests or even likes or shares. It added a sale to my other business.
So like Matt’s saying, this is so important now to really start taking social media seriously even though you may have kind of brushed it off as something that’s kind of a fad. It is now a huge force in the way that search results are going to show up among your friends and among your friend’s, friends and so there’s a huge network dynamic going on here.
MATT: Yeah. I remember when we did our social media marketing podcast and we were talking about: Is social worth the money or worth the time that it takes to do it? And we weren’t sure and we said it could go either way. It depends on what your product is.
MATT: Now I think this is going to change that equation so that it’s so much more relevant to so many more things.
BRANDON: There is definite value in getting social media up and running for all of your businesses and your websites.
MATT: Ways that this might be important you know, I think we’ve kind of jumped into this topic and we didn’t say, how do you do this, right? Putting a Facebook Like button on your webpage, if you just go to Facebook and search for like button, I think it will probably come up. Getting your followers or your customers to tweet about your product or follow your Twitter account is another way that you can get linked. The Google +1 button, which is kind of like Google’s version of the Facebook Like button, all those things are going to help you get that social connection to your customers and to their friends and so on. So make sure that you’re getting all those things or putting all those things on your website.
So another change that came recently or Google announced is the idea of attributing authority to pages because of who the author is. So they’re starting to get a feeling for you know, who a person is, what authority they have based on what they’ve written on other sites and so you can start using the “author” rel tag. So remember we talked about rel=”me”, rel=”nofollow” all those things before? Rel=”author” is going to indicate who wrote this content and that might actually help that page rank based on you know the authority that author carries with it. So that might be something that’s coming around the corner.
A new way to up the SEO value of you site if you have guest authors posting on your site or on your blog, make sure you’re attributing them properly and maybe that will help out.
BRANDON: So all in all you know Google and Bing are changing their algorithms on an on-going basis all the time. In 2010 it was the Caffeine update and then this year 2011 it’s the Panda, what do they call it, is it an update or do they call it a rewrite—
MATT: I don’t know Panda algorithm change or something.
BRANDON: Algorithm Panda update and so as these changes come and as these updates come so should your strategy about how to implement SEO. So these are just kind of some ideas, some things that we see coming around the corner that you need to start taking, you know, seriously such as the social search and things like that, that really will make a big difference in the future.
The general trend is Google has always said they want to make sure that you know, all the results are high quality, well thought out, rich-rich content that is going to be relevant so any way that you can follow along in that direction is always going to be better in the long run for you.
And one of them, I think we’ve mentioned this before is to make sure that your inbound anchor texts are more varied so instead of just using the same keyword in all of your anchor texts with your press releases or your articles that you write or you know the directories that you list them in. You know make sure that you vary your anchor texts.
That’s one thing that the Panda update kind of changed. Also the article marketing may not necessarily be worth it as much anymore because if you’re really just pushing out bad content just to get a link, and your paying somebody the $2 an hour like we actually have done in the past and your just pushing out content just to get the links back, Google is kind of figuring this stuff out and not necessarily giving as much, if any credit to you at all for that so.
MATT: You know I think the three main themes going forward starting now and are going to be increasingly important you know are social, like we talked about. The data—the microdata that we talked about, you know, embedding more information that Google can access and read without trying to parse out the English language. All the extra data that you can put in your site: geo locations and information about the business and services and operating hours, all that stuff that you can encode and give Google a hint about what that data means is really going to help. And then performance, I think they’re going to get more and more on making sure things load fast and that they’re quick. So going forward, make sure you’re doing all those three things.
BRANDON: That’s a lot of content for SEO. Though I think two hours of the SEO content will hopefully satisfy you guys. I think there’s lots to start working on and I know there’s even things that I feel like I can go back and start working on, getting my SEO.
MATT: You know and the funny thing is, is that you know everything we said now, in a year we’re going to look back go, “Okay. The game is completely changed again. Google’s come out with this new update or Bing has done this different thing,” and you’ve got to start doing a completely different style of optimization so—
BRANDON: Well that was kind of one of the reasons why we decided to do this topic again because I think we’ve covered it in a previous episode quite a while ago and you know, it’s amazing how much things have changed even though a lot of it is still the same. But you know, the basics are still there, but Google and Bing, they’re all trying to get better and by doing so, you’ve got to stay up with this stuff.
MATT: I think a lot of times the old things don’t go away they just become less important, right? So we talked about Google starting with one ranking factor, it was the page rank, right? And now they have hundreds or maybe thousands of things that contribute to how you rank on that search. So I mean they’re just adding more and more things and changing the weighting of those things to improve their results.
BRANDON: You know, now so we’ve gone over a lot of some of the basics and we’ve even gotten into some really advanced stuff. And if you’re really into the advanced stuff and want to learn more there’s even articles or reports written that you can get access to that takes—and the one I’m thinking of 132 SEO professionals and uses their input from the thousands of pages that they manage for their clients.
MATT: Is that the SEOmoz ranking factor survey?
BRANDON: Yeah, that’s the one.
MATT: Yeah, that one’s awesome.
BRANDON: We’ll put a link in our notes for that one and if you really want to dive into all the data and figure out which variables like Matt was just talking about, as they add every year more and more variables to consider, you can dive into all these variables and find out which ones actually make more of an impact on your SEO ranking versus others. You know, nobody really truly knows the formula that Google has—
MATT: Someone knows.
BRANDON: Someone knows, but nobody outside of Google knows how their algorithm really truly works, but it’s fairly well known in general how it works. So and they do release some information about you know, what they’re trying to do. You know Google will try to say: We’re attempting to make it better in this area or that area.
MATT: And actually that’s a really good point. Another really great resource for finding out what you should do for optimization is the head of Google Web Spam, kind of the person that’s trying to determine how good quality all these sites are, is Matt Cutts. And if you search for his blog and his series of videos, they have a whole site of videos for website owners where he’s answering questions about: What should I do in this scenario? Is this okay? How would Google view it if I did this?
They’re really, really informative and they’re all two minutes each. Easy to watch, you know you learn a ton of stuff about the way that Google is interpreting things and their intentions behind things and it’ll really help you optimize your site.
BRANDON: And if you’re not interested in learning any of this stuff and you just want a company to do it all for you, there is a number of companies that I could probably recommend. However, I have to say I’ve had some bad experiences with some of them because there are a lot of fly-by-night SEO companies, but there are a number that are truly reputable and they don’t come cheap though, but they do get the job done and they’ll do it for you and they’ll do it for a price.
MATT: And maybe now because you listened to this you know some of the things that they’ll be doing. Because what they’re doing has the potential to get you banned in Google, you want to make sure that you understand what they’re doing. And if you find an SEO company that won’t tell you how their going to optimize your site don’t hire them—
MATT: —don’t trust them.
BRANDON: And there a lot like that that you know they try to sell you on this idea that they’re going to do all this stuff for you that is under the radar of Google and they’re, they have these link farms in India that are going to get you to the top ranking and they’re going to guarantee you these top ranks.
First of all, if they tell you anything about using black hat strategies, just stay away from them. But a lot of them won’t talk to you about what they do and if that’s the case then you’ve just got to stay away from them also.
What you really want is a partner somebody’s who’s going to kind of guide you through the process. And in fact, not only do that, but they’ll do the work for you, but they’ll suggest that you make these changes to your site and they can go ahead and then do them for you or have your webmaster do them for you. So if they say, “Hey, you know, we really think that if you put these keywords in your title or these keywords in your description, we can make a big increase in your page rank.”
Then you know you’d read it, you’d say, “Yeah. Okay, I agree with that. I think that’s a natural sounding way to describe my product. It doesn’t say anything that’s not true.
And then you say, “Yeah, let’s go ahead and do that.”
So that’s a good tip to have. I recently even today had somebody talk to me about some ideas about getting some SEO tips and it turns out that, I just don’t agree with their strategy. And it’s only because I know this information that I was able stop the update from happening and say, “Hey, no, this isn’t what we—this isn’t even relevant. It’s not even describing the product properly.”
So you know, sometimes when you outsource this stuff, you know, they don’t know your product as well as you do and they may try to describe it in a description area or title somewhere and they’re totally misrepresenting you. So you’ve got to watch out for that.
MATT: I’d say the other thing that you should do is—like all the things we tell you to do is experiment, try something and then monitor those experiments. Make sure that you’re tracking what keywords are converting on your site with your analytics. You know, make sure you’re getting all that data so you can make decisions about whether you should keep optimizing for a keyword or change keywords or whether whatever strategy you just started implementing this month is making an effect on how many people are coming and your rankings.
Track your rankings in SEOmoz or Raven Tools where they’ll actually, you know, monitor if you’re going up, if you’re going down, how you’re changing, if your competitors are going up or down, all that stuff. Make sure you’re monitoring, you’re getting data so can make decisions about how you should be spending your SEO money.
BRANDON: Well I think that pretty much wraps it up for SEO. If you guys have any other questions feel free to contact us. We prefer to have you guys contact us on the community site so that everybody else can kind of watch along with us and learn along with you.
So if you get a chance go to our website AutomateMySmallBusiness.com and click on the community site for the question and answer area and post a question. Or if you have some answers, post an answer and we can really appreciate your input on that. So we’ll see you on the website or the next podcast and we’ll see you next time, thanks.