I had the opportunity to go to the Search Marketing Expo (SMX West) in Santa Clara, California last week. Here are some notes I jotted down during the session: Industrial Strength SEO. For further reading, I’ve found another resource covering this topic here.
SMX West: Industrial Strength SEO
Martin Laetsch, Sr. Director of Search Strategy, SEM Director Inc.
David Roth, Director of Search Engine Marketing, Yahoo! Inc.
Marshall D. Simmonds, Vice President of Enterprise Search Marketing, The New York Times
Martin was the first speaker. Going to go into doing SEO for really big sites. What you need:
1) Current site audit. What pages are ranking well? What challenges are present on the site? What are the problems? This allows you to benchmark where you’re at today compared to six months down the line. Look into ‘spiderability’ of the site – if your pages aren’t getting spidered, it doesn’t matter what you do. This is also the best time to start mapping keywords to specific pages on the site.
2) Set up a repeatable process – audit the site monthly and track how things are going. Now you’re able to show to management where you’re going and that SEO is valuable. This will also show any problems that you didn’t see when doing your initial site audit.
3) Come up with standards & best practices. Create consistent process & written standards. After getting some guidelines down on paper, train publishers, web authors, writers, etc. on how to do SEO by following the guidelines. Take everything you’ve documented and publish a “style-guide” with SEO best practices within. Create a knowledge base where active discussion can take place where users ask your ‘SEO guy’ questions on optimization.
4) Ensure continuous improvement with an ongoing SEO & SEM campaign.
Performance monitoring for critical keywords is key. “You need to make sure where you’re sending the searcher is appropriate.” Start optimizing pages that aren’t ranking well.
5) Track your SEO performance by deploying a tool framework for analytics, management & reporting. Showing results is something that’s critically important for you to do on a monthly basis. Even one bullet point of the best performance indicator is sufficient.
You can use a number of different reports. A bar chat works well. But format it any way it looks the best.
David from Yahoo! was the next speaker. Going to show us some screenshots of tools they use internally (with mock data of course). What he’s doing to take us through: search marketing at Yahoo!, quantifying results, infusing SEO into the process, organizing around SEO and results.
Lifetime value optimization:
1) What is a lifetime value of a conversion? Subscription? Referral? CPM/CPC Revenue?
2) What is the net present value of that lifetime revenue stream?
3) What is the acceptable profit margin?
Believe it or not, Yahoo! pages doesn’t get any sort of “special treatment” when it comes to search rankings for Yahoo!’s search engine.
Build out an “opportunity report.” Establish predictive SEO models for SEO traffic. Identify “gaps” between you and your competitors. Also identify problems with the site. Then show the “Show Me the Money” report on how many (estimated) searches you’re getting, how many competitors are getting, and how many you could possibly get by optimizing your site.
Make sure to be plugged into the whole website development process. Ensure 100% SEO compatibility. When you do this, it makes sure you don’t hold up the site launch; you won’t have to worry too much about the actual “launch” of the site.
“SEO Scorecard” – showing results and overall “SEO Health.”
Stick with a plan and stick with it across a huge landscape.
“If you can’t measure it, it can’t exist.” Need to show results & value for your SEO efforts.
Marshall was the last speaker of this session. “Not every SEO campaign is the same.” Unfortunately, you can’t just box up an SEO campaign and resell the same thing for every client. Presented some of the things he has done with the NY Times site (namely, take down the registration walls for content).
Good strategy he said – optimized a section of the site (movies) and in 4 – 6 months showed the higher-ups the kinds of results they were seeing. This helped them get sign-off to do the rest of the site.
Always reassess your SEO efforts – were the changes positive? What has happened during the time the site has been optimized?
It’s important to let appropriate people control of key on-page elements. However, make sure these people are versed with how to write for search and know what SEO is all about.
Take advantage of seasonal traffic. Do some seasonal promotions; this shows users that you’re not just a plain old static site and that you’re reaching out a bit to the users.
Went into high-level case studies about the problems and solutions of sites that the New York Times owns (like Toys R Us, TV Guide, Time Inc., etc.).
What to avoid doing:
1) Walling off content
2) Under communicating success
3) Not checking in with IT / Production / Design / Ad Sales
4) META keywords tag – automate this process
5) Implementing the changes. Who is doing this and communicate effective before, during & after.
6) Excessive expectations. SEO is a long-term strategy and you need to communicate that. It’s about building momentum; build that critical mass. Also set realistic timeframes and growth patterns.
7) Lack of editorial oversight. Need several sets of eyes looking at new content going up.
Produce reports that everyone can understand. This could mean making several different reports for different people! It could be as simple as showing percentages up or down in traffic for certain sections of the site.
QnA followed with some good questions about how to make changes after being brought in to a project AFTER a launch (be reactive, worry about doing the “quick-n-dirty” fixes first…) and some architecture questions (make sure internal links aren’t broken – HUGE no-no).