SEO Hot Topics and Trends

PubCon wouldn’t be PubCon if we didn’t have at least one session to discuss SEO hot topics and trends. SEO is ever-evolving, and it’s all about being able to adapt and roll with the changes. [Bonus points for anyone who gets that reference. :-)] Whether it’s for your own business or your clients, keeping abreast of changes in the industry is the only way to remain relevant and keep things fresh [waves at Google]. We couldn’t ask for anyone better to address changes in the SEO industry than Stephan Spencer, Jill Sampey, and Greg Boser while Andy Beal moderates. Be ready to put some things into action by the end of this session!

Jill Sampey starts us off with a presentation titled “5 things that piss me off.” This oughta be good!

Jill says this is more about things she consistently sees in SEO strategy that, while they may have worked before, don’t work now. She’s not feeling well while fighting a bout of food poisoning, so she’s going to go through this very quickly.

1. Canonicalization
This is used and abused.

Problem 1: it’s a hint, not an absolute
Problem 2: blanket implementations

This is especially true on e-commerce sites

The canonical tag’s purpose is to do away with duplicate content, not different pages. Instead, use noindex/follow tag, or you can also use rel=”next” rel=”prev”. Some landing sites should also be indexed.

2. Fluid interactions
Using Javascript for speed and user experience
Jill says, design for the user, but build for the spider
Use selective graceful degradation

3. Local
Do it
On-site location pages
Use microformats
Enable local store publishing access for e-commerce sites:

  • blogs
  • promotions
  • sponsorships
  • ambassadors

This all takes time to set up, but the ROI makes it worthwhile. And don’t forget about Google Places and Bing Local.

4. Exact match title tags
These used to work well, but over the past year or so, longer title tags have been ranking better. Also allows you to rank for a wider range of terms

5. Exact match anchor text
This is a telltale sign of what you’re trying to do, and by using it, you’re doing your clients a disservice
A more effective link building strategy focuses on branded anchor text.

Thanks, Jill! Hope you feel better soon!

Next, we have Greg Boser who is going to give us the lowdown on SEO hot topics and trends. Andy says his reputation precedes him…in a positive way, of course!

Site Quality vs. Page Quality

Google is no longer “page” focused. The days of Google determining what will or won’t rank primarily based on page-level analysis are gone. Overall content performance is the key!

This is a fundamental shift. The idea used to be crack open databases, get as much content indexed as possible, but that’s all changed. He shares some information from Google’s own blog that says they’re going to judge your site based on quality. If it’s not good content, you’re going to pay the price.

You don’t need to be a spammer to get Panda slapped. You can get hit inadvertently just by not paying attention to certain things. He uses .docstoc as an example, a cloud document storage site. They got hit hard earlier this year.

The problem is they have 26 million pages indexed by Google. That many pages are not producing organic results for them. It’s just not possible.

What happened is AdSense spammers are using .docstoc to re-establish accounts after they have been banned. There are forums where black hat people hang out, and they’re discussing this tactic that uses .docstoc. This can be the downside of not monitoring your UGC.

What happens now is people are using docstoc as part of their article link building strategies to steer people toward affiliate programs. So not only is it a high volume of content no one thinks is valuable, it’s full of poison terms no one wants associated with their brand. There are thousands of docs uploaded by their users with terms like Viagra, etc., so now they have to figure out how to get 18 million or so pages removed from their index.

Content Performance

Do you kno your site’s CPR (Content Performance Ratio)? Understanding how your content is performing is critical.

Questions you need to answer:

  • What is the ratio between total pages indexed and total number of organic landing pages?
    If the number is out of whack, you have to trim down your database.
  • What is the ratio of total pages indexed and the total number of deep links?
    In theory, good sites tend to link to interior posts. If there’s not a lot of deep linking, that’s not good. It turns into a spam attack. Everyone forces page rank to the home page, and that has a negative effect.

Most content performance issues are related to poor canonicalization. Use the proper tools for your specific situation:

  • rel canonical
  • robots exclusion
  • noindex/follow
  • redirection (conditional?)
  • Webmaster Tools (parameter exclusions)

Human Engagement Signals

Rand Fishkin came out with a study that showed correlations of social media-based factors. Then Google acquired PostRank with the intent to replicate what PageRank did for links, but for social engagement data. Then they rolled out Google Plus. This whole thing has changed the link map and the way content grows. Now a lot of people don’t blog, they just share things on social networks, so it doesn’t generate links the way it used to. The mommy blogger space is a great example where they get hundreds of comments and people share, but when you check it three months later, and virtually no links were developed. A way to track what people are doing is becoming more important.

Human engagement is the new PageRank. Focus your efforts on two main things:

  1. Building consistent engagement signals to your content. You have to be a content publisher. There’s no way around that these days. Content Google didn’t like originally can rise in rankings thanks to social sharing.
  2. Develop link from pages/domains with consistent engagement signals. Put content on quality sites like Mashable rather than on sites that don’t have consistent social engagement.

Backlink Diversity

Brute force is dead! If it’s not dead in your space, it will be soon. Google has come a long way to understanding natural language. Anchor text strategy focuses on building a natural footprint. In blogger outreach, if you’re pitching content and you find a blog that wants to publish your content and you ask for a link in the bio, it will turn people off. Greg says he just looks for quality links, even if they don’t have the exact anchor text he needs.

  • No exact-match in the first 6 months; branded/domain links only
  • Synonyms and related phrases (don’t be so obvious!)
  • Branded partial matches ()

Look at related searches. (left hand column on the SERP) Pay attention to words that are bolded. These are common words found in pages that rank for this term. Mine that data and see what Google likes to see on the page with the search term you’re using. If you’re using words that don’t naturally show up, it’s going to be more difficult for you. Those bolded words should show up in your backlinks.

Thanks, Greg!

Andy says Stephan Spencer is the only guy who’s written a book on Google power queries, and he encourages everyone to ask him about that. He also co-authored The Art of SEO, and a new edition is coming out soon with a whole chapter on social signals.

Stephan starts out by saying Google and Bing index more than html files. You can get links from pdf files, etc. How do you know this is true? Perform this search: link:google.com inurl:pdf These are pages that link to Google from pdf documents. This proves Google values links from other types of documents.

LinkResearchTools.com is the shiznit, according to Stephan. He takes a break from his presentation slides to actually demonstrate the tool. Any good SEO has a good SEO toolkit, like SEOmoz, Majestic, SEM Rush, the whole gamut. You can’t do your job without good tools.

LinkResearchTools shows who’s linking to a site, and the type of site linking in—blog, social network, etc. You can find anomalies, things that are going to stick out like a sore thumb to Google. You want that edge over your competitors. You can get a breakdown of types of links—followed, nofollowed, just mentions, etc. If every mention of your brand on the Internet is a link, doesn’t that look suspicious? He shows us a few other cool things it does like link alerts, competitive analysis, etc. The point is, LinkResearchTools is a valuable tool you should really check out.

High authority social sites nofollow external links, but what about getting internal pages to rank? Send PageRank via internal links (from YouTube channels, Wikipedia categories, etc.) Stephan says some social sites have a ton of authority and even low quality links cause the content to rank. Don’t go building crappy links to your YouTube videos. The point is, there’s a much lower barrier to entry.

YouTube the Search Engine

Are you tracking your rankings there? You need a tracking tool for the YouTube SERPs. Voot.net to the rescue!

Optimize the video thumbnail. It’s even more important than the SERP position. The video needs to meet a certain popularity threshold to choose any frame. The video thumbnail has more influence than the video itself in the search engines. If you have a really compelling frame in the video, choose that for your thumbnail.

  • Engagement metrics matter – likes, dislikes, embeds, inbound links, etc. Track these for both your and your competitors’ videos with voot.net
  • Keywords in the title – don’t forget this simple tactic
  • See your competitors’ engagement metrics. The Show Video Statistics button next to the number of views shows trend in views over time, significant discovery events, demographics
  • YouTube automatically machine transcribes your video, but you can override and upload your own transcript. It’s searchable, not only within YouTube, but with Google as well. You can also upload foreign transcripts that apply subtitles, and begin ranking in other languages. DotSUB and Automatic Sync are affordable options for transcription.

Did you know someone can torch your site by buying your links? The links don’t even need to be bought. There are tools that submit spammny links to blogs. Your competitor could be doing this to you. It’s evil. Don’t do it.

Keyword Brainstorming

Stephan shares one last tool: Soovle.com. You know Google uses auto suggest. You can get this data from a lot of other sources. It pulls from Wikipedia, Yahoo!, YouTube, Bing, amazon.com, Answers.com, as well as Google. You can get a lot of keyword ideas from this tool. [He goes online to demonstrate this tool too. All I can say is: WOW.]

You should also be using YouTube suggest to go after keywords for certain industries.

[Okay, I lied. There's one more tool.] Stephan breaks out Ubersuggest. The tagline is “suggest on steroids.” It gives you keyword suggestions based on alphabetical possibilites. For example, he searched for baby. Ubersuggest offers baby acne, baby boots, baby carriages…the list goes on.

Stephan says if you want a beta invite to Voot, give him a business card and he’ll try to hook you up. [See why you need to get to PubCon in person?] He also says, if you want an SEO myths and misconceptions white paper for free? E-mail Stephan at [email protected]

Whoa. Looks like we all have some work to do!

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About the Author

Michelle Lowery

Michelle Lowery is an ardent word nerd, but is also known to say "y'all" from time to time.

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