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Where should companies focus their SEO efforts? This question is front-of-mind for me at the moment since from March, I'm the tutor of the new advanced SEO training course from
It's also a good time to review this since I attended and spoke at Search Engine Strategies (SES) in London last week, so it was interesting to see which topics got the most attention, and SEO was certainly more popular than paid search.
If you didn't make it to SES London, or even if you did, you may want to checkout these other more in-depth writeups of the event including these excellent 77 SES London Takeaway Tips & Tricks from Kevin Gibbons.
So what's important for SEO success?
On more general digital marketing training courses I still find it useful to refer attendees to the combined wisdom of the SEOmoz ranking factors checklist - although it could use a refresh since it's a couple of years old now.
This list is useful since it rates 30 plus ranking factors scored out of five in terms of importance by their panel of experts. The ones I highlight in training are:
- <title> tag = 4.9/5
- Keyword frequency and density = 3.7/5
- Keyword in headings = <h1> = 3.1, <h2> = 2.8
- Keyword in document name = 2.8
- Meta name description = 2/5
- Meta name keywords = 1/5
It's useful to highlight the myth of the importance of meta tag which so many generalist marketers seem to cling to...
- Link anchor text contains keyword = 4.4/5
- More backlinks (higher PageRank)= 4/5
- Link Popularity within the Site's Internal Link Structure=4/5
- Page assessed as a hub = 3.5/5
- Page assessed as an authority = 3.5/5
- Link velocity (rate at which changes) = 3.5/5
Popular SEO topics from SES
Of course, these factors are well known by SEOs, so how should a company or an agency best improve their results from SEO?
I'm very much a process-driven person, so on the course we will be looking at using different tools and analytics to audit existing performance against competitors. For me, future sucess in SEO will be based on who makes the best use of web analytics together with other sources of customer and competitor insight. These techniques will help identify areas where competitors are stronger and opportunities for new and improved approaches. It's notable that many of the larger search and digital agencies now have teams devoted to 'insight'. For instance I was talking on the keyword research panel along with David Hughes who is head of analytics at iCrossing.
I thought the programming for Search Engine Strategies was great, with the session titles really highlighting the current / future issues of SEO well. So I don't have space for 77 pointers, but here's five, along with some tips and tools along the way.
1. Beyond Linkbait: Getting Authoritative Mentions Online
We saw more of a move to traditional PR techniques. With the aid of some excellent examples, Greg Jarboe reminded us we think of the "News Hook" beloved of traditional PR rather than "Link Bait".
2. Search Friendly Design and Duplicate Content & Multiple Site Issues
It's not all off-page optimisation, every site can be improved by reviewing the link architecture, page relevance and reducing the amount of duplicate content so Google identifies more unique pages.
There was a lot of discusion of the new Google, Yahoo! and Live rel="canonical" <link> tag attribute. While this was seen a Good Thing by many, caution was urged by the panellists since implementation needs to be precise and many felt disallowing duplicate content through robots.txt or using 301 redirects may still be better options.
3. Balancing Paid & Organic Listings
SEO really pays its way when the benefits in terms of savings in AdWords/CPC are demonstrated. Bill Hunt showed the type of analysis that needs to be done to focus PPC spend away from where SEO is already performing. Alternatively there may be issues where SEO isn't converting through the wrong-landing page or experience.
- 16/20 highest CPC terms had Top 4 ranking in SEO
- 8/20 highest CPC terms converted 2x more than SEO
- 2 of highest CPC terms had no Google rankings in SEO
4. Blended/universal results
I had a discussion/argument with Mike Grehan about this since I don't believe it's the panacea that some present it to be. He reckons it's relatively more important in the US than Europe. Anyway I violently disagree with the assertion in the Forrester blog stating that Video is The Easiest Way to a First-Page Ranking on Google.
Still video/local/image search is definitely part of the SEO armoury but for most companies best results are going to continue to come from text rich pages.
5. Search Term Research & Targeting
Actually not so well attended since Social Media Optimization was next door, but my presentation focused on integrating data sources including web analytics to spot poorly performing keyphrases which I think is important. I have written up my presentation which suggests a process for auditing and improving SEO results.