SEO 101

March 23, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Good morning, my faithful liveblogging friends!  We’re about to kick off Day 2 of SES New York.  If you missed any of our coverage yesterday, head over to our SES NY 2011 schedule to pick up what you missed.

All caught up? Sweet.  Because now it’s time for a search engine optimization refresher and who better to school us on the basics than Bruce Clay?  Take it away, Bruce.

He’s making bad jokes. Like, really bad jokes about Starbucks being the first session of the day. People are humoring him and laughing. I remember this routine well from when I used to work with him. [Love you, Bruce!];)

Bruce says his session is less a session and more a “course”.  He’s not going to teach us what a Title tag is. The intent is to cover all the things that are really important at a fundamental level for search engine optimization.  Sounds good. Let’s do this.

The job of an SEO is not to get rankings. The real job is to get traffic.   If we do not get traffic from our efforts we may as well not bother. It has to be something that makes money or achieves a goal. We have to focus on getting people to your site. The job of Internet marketing includes things like conversion. The job of the SEO is to actually get you the traffic so you can handle the conversion. So that means you need an SEO AND an Internet marketer? At Outspoken, we prefer they be the same person.  Us. ;)

Best Practice Overview

  • On Page Factors: Tags – Title, Description, Keyword, Headings, Body Copy
  • Expertness:  Inbound links, Outbound links, Internal links, Focus on controlling PageRank movement
  • Copywriting: This is structural content, sentence structure (sentences versus bullet lists) and word usage, clarification words.
  • Engagement Objects: Video, images, maps, books, news, blogs, etc.  Everything in Google Universal results.

Technical Overview

  • Site Architecture/Siloing: You need to theme your content by the search query used. Also, sitemap and XML files. Later in the session Bruce calls “pagerank sculpting ‘poor man’s siloing'”.  Ouch.
  • Server/Software Performance: A slow server discourages spiders and you need a usable CMS.  Bruce has been able to increase site’s rankings for years by focusing on performance.  He’s mad Google finally told everyone about it.  If your site is slow the only thing that matters is if you’re faster than your competitor.

Content Overview

  • Use “clarification words” that help explain the meaning of your content, such as “my apple is a lemon” vs “My Apple computer is a lemon.”
  • Write in a natural way for your audience.
  • Be sure to localize if appropriate to your subject.

“Least Imperfect”

  • Perfection is impossible
  • All search engines are different
  • What is “natural” is different for each search engine
  • Your site changes

They use standard distribution curves to measure “normal” based upon results.  Your goal is to be “least imperfect”.  What makes the search engine believe you are better than your competition? It uses statistical analysis that figures out what is the common characteristic of a million pages.

Curves need watching [insert your own joke here…]

  • Se up alerts to see how the natural distribution may have changes.
  • There are 200+ curves in the Google Algorithm. [again…so many jokes! If I didn’t have so much respect for Bruce as my former boss, I’d totally be making them. ;)]

Associated Words

Bruce asks how many people search with a tilde.  No response.  He asks how many people know they CAN search with a tilde.  Crickets.  He asks how many people know what a tilde is. Hee!   Search is funny.

  • Your keywords will be defined by the company it keeps
  • Surrounding words help keyword “clarification”
  • Proximity (LSI) concepts apply
  • Synonyms
  • Make sure you’re equal before you’re better. Use words your competition uses and the search engines reward


  • Need to make sure the search engines understand what your site is about.  BCI doesn’t believe that pages are ranked by themselves. He thinks pages are ranked based on their connection to the rest of the pages on your site.
  • Supplemental, complementary, synergistic words to clarify meaning of keywords

Bruce advises that you navigationally connect 20 pages that are all based on the same keyword together. What that does is to establish a theme. When you do that you become more of an expert in the eyes of the search engines.  What would you prefer – a paragraph on a topic or a site with 20 pages on a topic? You’d rather the latter. So does the search engines. He says the URL is important but it is not the theme.

Linking Overview

  • Inbound links: Describe content of your page and give you PageRank value. If all of your links go to your home page, you’re not an expert on anything. Your home page can’t be about that many things.
  • Outbound links: Demonstrate the “reference site” aspect of you being an expert. Be careful where you get your links. The trust of the people linking to you matters.
  • Internal links: You get to vote for your most important pages with specific anchor text.  This is critical. It’s where a lot of people mess up. Your internal links move PageRank from page to page just like a link from somebody else gives you PageRank from that page. The PageRank formula is complex but fundamentally you take the number of points on the page and divide it by the number of links on the page.
  • Link to (and get links from) experts within the geo-targeted zone where you want to get traffic.

Structure your site in “silos”: theme aligned content paths with a clear relationship to surrounding pages. Align your content by how people search with a clear hierarchy in the navigation and link relationships and so that it makes it clear that you have groups of content about every query term.  Bruce advises using both “user” (HTML) and XML sitemaps.

  • Nofollow: Works or not? Bruce says it works. Google has it’s own language called “Google-speak”. It’s really fine tuned to not answer anything.
  • Paid links: Under the radar. Now in the hot seat. They’ve seen a lot of people get penalized badly with paid links. If you build content worth linking to and tell everyone about it, people are going to link to it.
  • Link Life: Should be random. If every link to your site lasts for exactly 90 days…that’s a red flag.
  • PageRank: Should be a natural distribution. If every link to your site is a pR 5…that’s a pattern.
  • Random IP: Should be varied. 1000 links from the same IP…you might be a spammer.

Engagement Objects

  • Video (Flash) is a problem if used correctly: Not all parts of Flash can be indexed.
  • Video sound tracks are being indexed
  • Images are searchable – as an image and as words on an image: See Google Book Project
  • Blogs have high social value, as do feeds.
  • News, Books, Maps are engaging

Server Overview

  • Slow servers impact spidering of your content
  • Improper technology for search engines can prevent indexing/spidering
  • Technology that prevents page editing can prevent content from being properly implemented
  • Improper or missing redirects are bad

Future of Search & SEO

  • Behavioral search
  • intent-based search
  • localized search
  • engagement objects


  • Analytics measuring traffic
  • Ranking is not SEO
  • Ranking still first step

One of the things that’s the message here is that if you want to rank for your keywords you have to think about what the population coming to your site may have already searched for and use some of those words on your site, as well. It’s not just about one keyword, it’s about the experience that user is going through when they type in consecutive queries.

And we’re out of here!  See you in soon.




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