Moderator Loren baker
Vanessa Fox, Founder, Nine by Blue
Adam Audette, President, CEO AudetteMedia
Two of my favorites in this session, Vanessa and Adam – let’s see how this one goes!
Up first is Vanessa
When I think of search, it’s not just this ranking aspect. It’s about understanding your audience, and how to meet their needs. With a client I start with what is your business about? What are your goals?
Example – Google insights for search related to Health Care Reform shows not a lot of people were searching for the official bill by it’s number (HR 4872). The highest search volume was for “health care bill text”. The official site for the bill included that phrase in the page Title, and the text.
In another example, for the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009″, Recovery.gov was launched as a mandate of the act, the actual page on that site you would want to go to has a page title of “The Act” which is obviously not right to us, because it doesn’t include the keywords most people would search by, but to the person maintaining the site, he knew it as “The Act”.
How are you solving people’s problems?
Doing a search, – what are people actually looking for? We should be building our sites based on what people are searching for.
What is the goal of this page? Does the page function as an entry to the site? Does it answer people’s questions? What’s the call to action?
Example – Peace Corps – people search “what doe peace corps volunteers do? They set up a page with that question as the primary focus – page Title, header, and content.
Example – healthy eating
Eatingwell.com home page’s title is “EatingWell Homepage | Eating Well”. So there’s a disconnect even though the page shows up in the SERP.
Building Search Into Content Development Process
Start with the Search issues – what people search for, focus on Ranking, SERP display, then go from there.
Market Research – Clarify Business Goals.
This tends to be the hardest thing. I find it’s one of the things that takes the longest. Popular goals – I want a lot of traffic. If that’s the goal, I would suggest putting a lot of porn on the site – you’d get a lot of traffic
Once you start to clarify this, even if the visits go down, the conversions may go up and that’s what matters.
Whats the project goal? What’s the brand objective? What’s the value proposition?
Look at personas – who are the people searching? What problems are your market having? What is their behavior across the site?
You can look at competitive information, such as Google Adplanner, Alexa, etc. Look at Social Media. These give you keywords to review.
For each persona I identify, I look at what they’re asking, how do we answer that? How well do we answer that? How well do we get them to conversion? It helps me see what kind of content is missing (content can typically be created for different visitor personas).
Up next is Adam
(In addition to AudetteMedia, Adam is head of SEO for Zappos)
Focus on information architecture and the user experience – implementing SEO into those.
Instead of “If you build it, they will come”, it’s “If you build it, they might not care”.
How do you build traffic?
Influence, contribution, authority. There’s buzz, all kinds of ways.
Answer users questions – solve people’s problems, what the need is.
Great content plus a great experience plus SEO DOES guarantee traffic.
Content & User experience come first, then SEO comes after. If you don’t have great content or a great user experience, you can’t truly optimize.
Good SEO thinks about users and information architecture.
Great slide – Unicorn! Rainbow! Issac from the LoveBoat!
So IA, UX + SEO = $$
We want to make the best user experience possible. Then leverage that for maximum SEO.
SEO is the invisible layer – it’s unseen.
SEO Do’s & Don’ts
Don’t bring SEO into the flow too early. First create a really great product, service, value, experience. Yes – have SEO team in the loop on that. SEO is going to support that value though, it shouldn’t drive it.
In redesigns, we want to know about the design, the taxonomy, so we can chime in if we need to, but we don’t want to be talking about “what-if” scenarios” from an SEO perspective at that point. It’s better if we can see a staging server, and provide input along the way. (YES! This is how I pray my clients do things – so I can help them in keeping SEO in mind, but not get in the way of the unfolding process)
Don’t place restrictions on your SEO team. It’s best if they can talk directly with C level clients. Don’t force them to get approval just to interact with the client.
Don’t listen to what most anyone says about SEO. Try things and build your own experience. It’s not rocket science.
Give SEO teams their own dev resources – the single biggest obstacle is in the development process
(OMG I knew I liked Adam before this but he’s just killing it right now!)
SEO has to be built into the flow
Everyone on the project needs to know who the SEO people are. SEO’s need to be in on all the meetings during the project. Otherwise we have to react to things we didn’t know about.
Encourage and facilitate creativity in SEO – let your team think outside the box – example – user experience things (beyond links on pages and anchor text).
Allow your SEO team the freedom to take risks. For SEO to not FAIL, it can not be stifled.
SEO should fail quickly to succeed. I feel SEO should fail often, and quickly to learn and then succeed. You have to be willing to make a mistake, find out why it failed, and then change.
Good SEO integrates with the busines
Beware of “reactive” SEO
Good SEO stays hidden behind the user experience. It’s success hinges on the user value.
Good SEO is patient because SEO is a long road. Yes it can have short term success, but it’s the long haul.
Good SEO accepts risk and encourages failure.
Push your team to take risks. Not stupid risks, but risks. Calculated risks. And ultimately, glory.
(Alan: THAT was one of the best presentations I’ve EVER listened to! Not only because Adam was 100% dead on, but because it’s what I drive over and over again with clients. )
Q – At Zappos there’s a lot of links at the footer of the site – what’s up with that?
Adam – I personally agree the Zappos footer is not great. It’s okay, but i would hate to use that footer as an example of what to do. They have a lot of domain authority and other value from other aspects of SEO.
Vanessa – I would agree with that. But when you’re looking at a site with a million pages, it is nice to have some helpful navigation there for users. But if it’s there for search engines, I ask people – how many of your users click on those links? If the answer is “oh that’s for the search engines”, you know you’re NOT going to get any search engine value from that.
Vanessa – look at which links do I want for both my users and the search engines to determine what’s valuable. If you’ve got a page that’s mostly links, the search engines are going to devalue that, AND your users are going to find no value in that page, which results in a high abandon rate.
(NOTE FROM ALAN – SEE MY LATEST SEJ ARTICLE: Information Architecture – Rocket Science Simplified for more clarification on the problem with stuffing navigation and footers with links )
Q – Can you name an epic fail at Zappos?
Adam – Oh – wow – yeah but I don’t want to say it. We ended up ranking for tons of stuff that we didn’t anticipate. (He’s really hmming and hawwing…) There are failures every single day in something. Just the other day at Zappos, we realized – we saw our organic search trending down. We realized – we have an old version of Zappos – all were 301’d to the new site, and a barely crawlable URL structure. that wasn’t the cause in the drop in search, but finding that led to something else and we ended up doing something else that has led to success in an area we hadn’t previously put focus on.
Loren – Obvious failure to us becomes a critical failure that leads to finally taking action in areas initially started out as observed problems that weren’t previously dealt with.
Vanessa and Loren – It’s amazing that a Google update that causes a big negative impact can be an opportunity to finally make other changes that you’ve put on hold for fear of temporary losses of traffic. Like the Mayday update.
Q – You talked a lot about failure today and that SEO takes time- as time goes on, is it going to be easier to the C suite as part of the normal business operation?
Adam – it’s going to become more and more of a part of things developers and others factor in. It’s always going to be a problem for some C levels to get that. the companies that get it are succeeding.
Vanessa – When I work with companies I only work with companies to help build things into their process. I almost always work with the executives. Early on I figure out what they need that’s unique, then I lay that all out. These are the things you probably need the most, that you need to measure the most.
Sometimes we need to spend a lot of time doing market research and audience analysis if they don’t know the answers to that.
Q – Question about IE6 – clients are larger, legacy systems, and by the way half our customers are on IE6 ,including our CEO. Can you just say – that has to change?
Vanessa – if half their audience really does use it, they need to support it. From an SEO perspective, it really doesn’t matter. You’ll have to jump through more hoops. I feel bad for you but that’s just what you have to do.
Loren – You’re not going to be able to force that audience to go over to Chrome, or Android – work with it.
Q – We have 200k pages. We’re now multi-lingual. Do you have any suggestions on how to get those subdomains crawled?
Vanessa – how are they linked to?
– They’re in the footer.
Yeah – you can go in and associate the countries with each subdomain.
You don’t want to mix languages on those – like the descriptions shouldn’t be in English on the German pages… Also – try to get local links in each country.
And the best session I’ve attended this year just ended. #Awesome!