Last week Search Engine Journal announced the launch of SEO Clinic, a free service where businesses, individuals and organizations can submit their web sites for a review by our search marketing columnists, or our Resident Pimps.
The reaction to the announcement was phenomenal with well over 100 different sites ranging from personal blogs to established businesses to web 2.0 style social networks, all gunning for the chance for a free and public SEO review of their sites.
Essentially, our hope is not for only the lucky sites we chose to benefit from our expertise but also for our reader base to learn from the reviews, and even contribute ideas. Our mission is for SEO Clinic to become a public platform of SEO discussion, and we encourage all readers to sound off, critique our critique and contribute your own ideas to this public forum.
SEO Clinic Patient : TechSmith
For our first patient of the SEO Clinic we decided on a rather well known software company which is looking for some help with their SEO, TechSmith.
TechSmith is the parent company of SnagIt, a rather popular screen capturing and image editing tool which was first launched in 1991, 16 years ago. According to TechSmith, there are over 7 million SnagIt users worldwide and its success led to the expansion of the company into screen recording with their Camtasia Studio tool.
In 2004 TechSmith also launched Morae, a digital user experience testing solution for recording, analyzing and sharing the user experience on software applications and web sites.
Although TechSmith is a large and established web property with a Google PageRank of 8, they seem to be having problems ranking for their more competitive terms.
TechSmith has designated four major keywords for their four major products: Screen Capture (for SnagIt), Screen Recorder (for Camtasia Studio), Screencast (for Screencast.com), and Usability Testing (for Morae). They have performed some link building initiatives and on-site contextual SEO.
TechSmith is being outranked by many smaller sites for some common keywords associated with their products. Although many other sites link to the TechSmith.com homepage, their internal navigation does not share the link love given to their site among their main product lines. Their site needs more of a hierarchical structure, better product pages, more quality linkage to product pages, and better use of their blog for social marketing, which will lead to more organic links among the web and blogosphere.
Today’s SEO Clinic Resident Pimps
Helping us pimp out the SEO of the TechSmith site today will be a group of Search Engine Journal contributors along with one special guest. Today’s SEO Residents are Carsten Cumbrowski, Ahmed Bilal, Jessica Bowman, Gemme van Hasselt and Rhea Drysdale.
If you read SEJ, you’re probably familiar with these contributors.
Our special guest resident is Bill Slawski of SEO by the SEA. I’ve worked with Bill in the past and have been a fan of his for many years. We’d all like to thank Bill for jumping into the SEO Clinic for our first SEO review of TechSmith. I’m kind of sitting in the backseat of this first review as a server change took up most of my time last night and over the weekend, but will be chiming in with my thoughts and connecting the dots amongst our Resident SEO Pimps during the Clinic.
SEO Clinic’s Review of TechSmith.com
SEO Basics : URLs, Meta Tags, Content, Navigation :
1. 301 Redirects, and 404 error pages: www.TechSmith.com (PR8) vs. TechSmith.com (PR 6) :
From Gemme van Hasselt:
www.techsmith.com and techsmith.com haven’t been combined. A 301 re-direct will fix this. Maybe even considering re-directing index.asp/html/htm/php to the root with a 301 as they now give 404′s The domain www and no-www is the first call though.
Interestingly enough Techsmith is already using 301 re-directs for some of its pages, example www.techsmith.com/products/snagit to www.techsmith.com/snagit.asp But they’re not consistent in this. Typing http://www.techsmith.com/products gives me a 404 which could also easily be re-directed to http://www.techsmith.com/products.asp
Suggestion is to check all pages and where needed implement the right re-directs.
2. Title Tags:
Title tags are probably the most important part of defining your site via meta data to search engines. Titles should always include your company’s name and one or two major search terms you want to rank for, which of course are also repeated on other parts of your site.
Gemme van Hasselt adds:
Most Titles are pretty much ok, for the pages that rank well for their preferred keywords I wouldn’t change too much. Changing the order and putting the preferred keyword at the beginning is an option to play with for Usability Testing, Screencast & Screen Recorder as they still trail for these in the Top 10 of Google. They already rank well with their domain screencast.com for the screencast keyword (Wikipedia is the number one result here in both YH and GG:) and having Techsmith rank as well in there is nice use of the available real estate.
This is a bit off topic, but if Wikipedia pages for screencast and screen recorder show up in top Google and Yahoo results, TechSmith should obtain links to their products (or even photo examples) via those pages. Sure, Wikipedia NOFollow’s outgoing links, but don’t think of this linking in terms of SEO. TechSmith has the online reputation to do so and these links can be excellent traffic and brand building tools.
3. Meta Description Tags :
From Carsten Cumbrowski:
Some Search Engines, including Google use the description meta tag content as snippet or short description of the page in the SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages) if they are provided and considered relevant to the actual page content. If no Meta description is provided or if it is considered irrelevant, search engines generate a summary of their own based on content from the web page itself, something you can not control. If you have a Meta Description and it is not used by the SE, change it.
Have the main keyword phrase(s) appear in the description. If you have a Copywriter, great, let him write the description. Keep it under 200 characters and make it as clear as possible what the visitor will find and can do if he clicks on the link to that page. If they keyword is right and the description clear and reinforcing the users intend which he expressed by using the search phrase in the first place, conversion will be greatly increased. A large number of visitors coming this way to the page should at least download the trial versions of the software.
Carsten gives an example from the SnagIt product page, http://www.techsmith.com/snagit.asp
Their currrent description looks in the SERPs like this:
Here the description of the top 2 listings. Which one is more inviting if you would put each of the two next to the one from SnagIt?
Jessica Bowman adds that she would like to see TechSmith test different descriptions and see how those influence click thru:
You can test variations of copy for the SERPs to determine which make the best copy and reel in users, however, Jarrod Spool is a name any usability expert would know. There three big guys in usability – Spool, Nielsen and Norman – they’re the Danny Sullivan of search. Spool gave a great testimonial; weave it into the meta description to see if it improves click-thru rates.
But not all descriptions in the search results are coming from the TechSmith.com description tags. TechSmith may be suffering from the double-edged sword of establishing quality Yahoo and ODP listings as some of the search engines are using those directory descriptions as their default SERP descriptions. Gemme van Hasselt suggests:
Results for “Snagit” in Yahoo and MSN display respectively the description from the Yahoo directory and the ODP.
Using the NOODP and NOYDIR meta tags gives more control on the text to be displayed in the SERP’s and can make it more appealing for searchers.
Results for the Keyword – screen capture – shows the Yahoo Dir description for example
Start with adding the NOODP and wait a little with the NOYDIR as it is a very recent implementation and it’s always good to give it some time and see what experiences are from websites that implemented it. Alternatively test with some less important pages. Techsmith already ranks for Screen capture no1 and 2 in Yahoo so most searchers with this keyword will get to them anyway.
On Site Content
One of the major holes in the SEO of TechSmith.com is the lack of Headers, especially H1, used in the text of the homepage and content pages. An H1 tag is like the Title Tag, but for on the site content. If your title defines your page, the H1 tag defines the content of your page.
From Jessica Bowman:
You’re missing the coveted H1 tag on most pages, including the homepage. Hands down, of all copy on the page the H1 is the most valuable so find a way to incorporate that into the site and include your targeted keyword phrases.
On the homepage, make your headlines clickable. The buttons felt very committal, as though it’s part of the buy process. I kept trying to click on the product headlines. Plus, if they’re links, they have they’ll have a keyword in the link to the product page.
Great addition of H3 tags throughout, but they’re not optimized. For example, the Morae page has nine H3 tags, but not a single keyword in them. Instead of “What you can do with Morae”, consider “What you can do with the Right Usability Testing Software”, or a calmer “What you can do with Morae Usability Testing Software”.
Carsten Cumbrowski also notes :
H1 is not used at all. H2 tag is used for the page heading instead. It contains the primary keyword “Screen Capture” which is good. Change the H2 to H1 if you can and add H2 -H3 etc. Sub Headers where appropriate.
If some content is moved to the product page as suggested, plenty of opportunities will come up to use header tags and also add the primary and some secondary key phrases and words to them
5. ALT Attributes
Alt attributes are used to define images on the site via text and have a special purpose in explaining images and pages for the blind or some people who are using primitive mobile browsers. There is also some SEO benefit to using ALT attributes and as a rule of thumb, don’t go overboard with keyword stuffing your ALT’s, just title the images on your site with them and use your keywords where appropriate.
Jessica Bowman suggests:
There isn’t ALT text on images, which is usually recommended for usability and to incorporate keywords. I rarely use the boring “picture of woman” or “Screenshot”. I
nstead, consider using something that contains keywords and conveys a value proposition. It doesn’t always work, but it often will. For example: Each product image on the homepage could have ALT text, such as “Get your screen capture done in seconds with Snag-it Software” or “Create video highlights for management with Morae usability testing software”
6. Enhance Copy on Product Pages
Ahmed Bilal sugests adding more depth and optimized text to product pages:
Text optimization for product pages – your target keywords are already very focused terms. I don’t know whether how much keyword research you’ve done here, but there are two scenarios:
Scenario 1: Digging deeper and building lists around each product term gives you more keywords with good search popularity
Optimize internal pages for those keywords, and add more text to the product pages.
Scenario 2: Digging deeper does NOT yield keywords with decent search popularity
Shift internal page text onto main product page, boosting the page’s relevance and focus.
I imagine that for keywords such as ‘screen capture tool’ and ‘quick screen capture’, you’d want searchers to land on the main product page instead of internal pages. So I would recommend going with Scenario 2.
Jessica Bowman adds:
The site has quite a few rich informational pages. Leverage them to their fullest potential. Optimize the copy and weave links to your product pages using targeted keywords. Look for ways to cross-link to the pages you want to appear in the search engines (your highest converting page).
- A prime example is a page all about usability testing, a wonderful quick and easy to read intro; however, it doesn’t once drive users to the Morae software page – Morae is mentioned, but there’s no link to it within the body text. Make the most of these great informational pages and nudge users to where you want them to go – further into the buying funnel (and use keywords in links to the pages you want to appear in search engines).
- A second example is the Usability Resources page. Not once in the main body of the copy is Morae software even mentioned. A great section to add would be “how do you prove to management the value of usability testing?” One way is to show management highlights videos made with Morae software. My usability experience saw amazing impact when we showed management Morae videos of our usability testing. Add a link to the Morae software page and use your keywords in the link.
Optimize those PDFs. I’ve had great results with PDFs, if you have it flaunt it in front of the search engines. With the full Adobe Acrobat product you can set the Page Title, Meta Description and Meta Keywords.
Never Take Users to a Dead End
There are a few pages that have great copy, but if you didn’t find anything that captured your attention, you’ll hit the back button and leave. Instead, always offer other places on your site for a user to visit, guiding them deeper into your site, where you want to go. This is particularly important with informational pages that don’t really “sell”. For example, the Screencast Features page has great info, but when the user reaches the bottom the page, they have to scroll back to the top to continue looking on your site. Instead, nudge them further along the buying funnel and put a link to the page you want them to go to – and if it’s back to the product page with the buy button front and center, use keywords in the link to the product page. This is how you can both improve usability and provide more links to your most coveted pages.
You have a lot of pages on the site – use them (meaning optimize them). The more pages, the more keywords you can rank for. However, it needs to make sense for users. There is a lot of great feedback about the pages in this site review, read the review thoroughly and those you decide to keep, optimize and use strategic linking back to your product pages with targeted keywords.
7. Fix Dead Links on Site and Site Navigation Loops
Bill Slawski points out that some of the simple tools used on the site for resizing font & text to linking to newsletters actually confuse the search engines because of the URL structures.
Bill outlines some technical changes which will be very beneficial to the ranking and search friendliness of TechSmith.com:
1. Find a different way to resize text on pages that doesn’t create multiple URLs pointing to the same page, like the following examples:
2. Use normal links from the online newsletter pages rather than passing information through them in the URL (strip out the newsletter referral information from the newsletters when publishing them to the web.)
For example, links from this edition of the newsletter (http://www.techsmith.com/snagit/newsletter/snagitnews022207.asp) pass along information in the URLs on the page:
3. Either robots.txt the /company/contact/webmaster.asp page
Or find a different way of passing information about pages for feedback (through the “site feedback” link in the footer of each page) that doesn’t create a different URL for each page like the following:
4. Fix broken links as follow (ordered by page):
In a separate text file. (there were a lot of them.)
8. TechSmith’s Sitemap
The site map is not a fair representation of the amount of informative pages available on the TechSmith.com domain. You may want to categorize and restructure your sitemap for a more accurate model of the the site’s structure and content.
9. Blog Optmization
Blog opimitization is part of the social media optimization puzzle. Blogs can act as a communications tool for our businesses which connects usand our clients, customers, or future customers.
Not only are blogs useful for establishing search engine rankings from all of the original content and inherent linkability, but by using the blog to connect with other bloggers, TechSmith can build better brand loyalty, reputation and perceptions of their product – further enhancing its web presence.
Ahmed Bilal adds:
I would love to get some time to chat with Betsy Weber and discuss what goals she has for the TechSmith blog and what audience she is shooting for. Right now (first and second impressions) I’d say they’re looking at increasing brand loyalty by engaging current customers. I would recommend expanding that strategy and to use blogging as a tool to bring in non-customers as well (how – well, by writing about topics that get links, and then using search rankings and referral traffic from other blogs to build a readership. You know, how blogs normally do it…)
Also, I know it’s in asp, but can’t they at least rewrite the URLs into something more search engine friendly?
Mapping media / blogging coverage of TechSmith’s products and doing a weekly wrap up of that coverage (as a way of paying tribute to people who write about TechSmith) is also a good idea (took this from Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable).
Rhea Drysdale also lends her expertise:
I agree with Ahmed about needing to know more about the TechSmith blog objectives. I’m most interested in their target market. What are their age, location, position within their company, income and most importantly how do they spend their time on the web? I’d wager that TechSmith buyers are early technology adopters with a greater percentage of bloggers and social network users than the norm. Obviously, just look at Carsten! ;-) That should bode well for spreading quality content and garnering backlinks.
Their forum appears to be used entirely for tech support. They should encourage more of a community atmosphere with a few threads where users can post links to their own creations or achievements with the TechSmith products (not just a form buried deep in the product pages). If they see some quality stuff being posted this provides fodder for the blog, which will result in great linkbait potential. People are ego-centric and will love to spread links when they’re about them!!
How about some social bookmark buttons or MyBlogLog community reader? Anything to give it more life! And, I’d love to know how the Meebo live chat widget is converting for them.
From Gemme van Hasselt :
From the couple of posts I read they mention the use of their tools and tips by others which is nice. I like it also that Betsy’s (the writer) email and phone number are available. That shows the will to interact with their users.
Content wise I’d like it to be more informative and less dull. Get more tips out from the side of Techsmith itself and find ways to stir the screen capture /recording etc pot.
Techsmith already has a bunch of newsletters, adding a subscription by mail to the blog is always good. Not everyone uses RSS.
I was clicking on the “Visual Lounge” logo in the blog but it doesn’t resolve to the blog home page, fix that.
The bread crumbs menu is highly confusing, clicking on “Community” I’m taken back to the “Community” page and clicking there on the Blog url a new window opens. Not nice, as I’m still in the same website.
The Title of the blog lacks the Company name at the end. It’s part of the brand so use Techsmith
I was surprised to see at the bottom of the page the disclaimer
“The postings on this site are the author’s and do not necessarily represent TechSmith’s positions, strategies or opinions.”
Maybe this is something legal but having a company blog and than adding a disclaimer seems kind of weird to me. It would be the same as having the disclaimer for a sales employee saying, “everything he says to sell you our product is the sales guy’s and does not necessarily represent TechSmith’s position, strategies or opinions.” The blog is part of Techsmith and as such all postings will be regarded as being from Techsmith.
10. Link Building
One underlying problem with TechSmith.com is that the site attracts a lot of links, but their individual product pages do not. Since the navigation and internal linkage is a bit bundled and can be improved upon, those product pages are not getting the link love and rankings they deserve.
Sure, actually linking the product names from the homepage to the product pages will help this, tremendously, but other efforts to motivate TechSmith customers and bloggers to link to the product pages should be considered.
- One of the easiest ways is to ask bloggers to review the TechSmith products. Notice a blogger uses a competitor to capture their web surfing videos for tutorials? Send them an email with a free keycode for full access to Camtasia, asking them to consider the product and possibly even blog about it. SnagIt software costs about $40. By giving it away to a blogger hoping or in exchange for a review of SnagIt, the product page is not only going to get a nice incoming link worth more than $40, but also an indepth and honest review, which could send more traffic and sales to the company.
- List the individual product pages in all of the major directories and listings of software sites. Directory listings in BOTW.org and Yahoo will help your overall SEO campaign.Take the time and the budget to build links in trusted and valued web directories.
- Do a competitive analysis of your rivals incoming links and see where they are getting their link love from. You may find some sites which were not in your original linking plan that may link back to you in a jiffy.
- Participate in forums and blog comments. If someone is writing about or reviewing TechSmith products, or the products of your competition, take the time to leave a comment or thread on their blog or forum thanking them, correcting them, or adding some information which may not be covered. Do this tastefully however, and not as a spammer but as an educator.
- Since TechSmith specializes in image capture and online video, take advantage of the social media outlets which also do the same. Start a Flickr group with demostrations of SnagIt in action and make sure those demos link back to TechSmith product pages. Look into YouTube and other online video sharing sites as well since uploading demos to YouTube for Camtasia would surely bring in some YouTube’rs who may be looking for such a software application.
More ideas from the SEO Clinic crew:
Carsten supports the blogger review angle:
There is tons of opportunity to promote the software and get the right backlinks from relevant pages with the correct anchor.
Give it to a list of bloggers for free, let them review it and provide their honest opinion and if they like it ask for a link to the product like
done. If they point out things they don’t like, let them, look at those things and fix them if they make sense.
Ahmed suggests reading up on linkbaiting, with some articles from the professionals:
The first problem is that you’re not getting enough deep links to your product pages.
The second problem is that you’re not getting the right anchor text in your main page links.
What to do?
Step1: Read this post: Types of Links
And spend 1 day (or 1 week, depending on how much time you have and what part of it you are outsourcing) on each link types, and get them done.
Step 2: Read this post: Linkbaiting Hooks
And learn what linkbaiting is about, then…
Step 3: Read this post: Industrial Strength Linkbaiting
And understand how you can get to #1 for your keywords by spending money on content.
The key is that you don’t need to spend 5k a pop for linkbait pieces – follow Andy’s advice above, find a quality writer, pay them $200-$400 per linkbait piece and you’re good to go.
If one out of 10 is a home run = tons of links, that’s more links than you could buy for $4k (considering that the other 9 linkbait pieces would also get you ‘some’ links).
Gemme feels that tapping the Firefox community will be a great way to market TechSmith products while building backlinks:
Not clear whether the Firefox extension needs support of the installed trial. From what I understand from the website it doesn’t work standalone. Carsten mentions giving the Snagit away for free to a list of selected bloggers. I would take it one step further. A free basic Snagit Screen Capture extension for firefox and IE is a great start for later up selling to the premium version and other Techsmith products.
My favorite screen capture tool, although very basic, is the Firefox extensions Pearl Crescent. I use the free extension and have been seriously considering buying the paid version. (Haven’t yet though, waiting now for the Snagit license:)
Of course it’s limited to just making screen captures of Firefox pages but for basic use it’s a great tool. The advantage of having a basic free version of Snagit is that it will get it in the browser and once a user needs more features they’ve gotten used to the product already.
Having a free basic screen capture tool for browsers, if launched in the right way can create a lot of back links. If you want to go one step further a scenario is possible that blogging about it with the right keywords can get you a free 6 month license or something like that although this may wake up the SE’s too much. In that sense the good alternative is Carsten’s list of bloggers but like I said, a free basic version goes far.
Rhea Drysdale suggests holding a contest:
They could hold a contest to see who can put together the most accomplished presentation or ingenious use for each product. Then announce a winner in each category, interview them, add a photo and personal info and include a unique blog post for each winner/product.
Even better, have the readers vote for the winners. They already have a dedicated following, this could result in tons of backlinks. Most importantly, they should put out a press release prior to and following the contest about how they really listen to their users, etc. and then get that featured on marketing and industry-related sites.
I also like the idea of offering the free, basic SnagIt Firefox/IE extension, it would open the product up to markets that are less tech-savvy. People that would likely never purchase the product anyways will suddenly become familiar with the name and discuss it. Regardless of whether they purchase an upgrade, it would generate phenomenal buzz and hopefully, backlinks.
By addressing the major factors of SEO such as meta tags, titles, site content, internal navigation, link building and blog optimization; TechSmith should rank higher in the search engines for not only the major terms identified in this post, but for many many long tail terms which will result in enhanced traffic and sales.
This has been the first installment of SEO Clinic by Search Engine Journal. We will be focusing on more of a social media initiative next week and hope to bring diverse sites, examples, markets, organizations and situations into the SEO Clinic.
Like I said before, if you wish to add your own tips, add upon what was printed above, or critique the recommendations, please feel free to do so in the comments below.