Stephan Spencer - SEMPO Atlanta.  October 1, 2010.  Topic: Advanced SEO
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Stephan Spencer - SEMPO Atlanta. October 1, 2010. Topic: Advanced SEO



Stephan Spencer - SEMPO Atlanta. October 1, 2010. Topic: Advanced SEO.

Stephan Spencer - SEMPO Atlanta. October 1, 2010. Topic: Advanced SEO.



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  • Stephan gave a great presentation! If you'd like to read my writeup (and put narrative to his slides), it's here: (note that I changed the order of some of his topics around to group them into categories).
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Stephan Spencer - SEMPO Atlanta.  October 1, 2010.  Topic: Advanced SEO Stephan Spencer - SEMPO Atlanta. October 1, 2010. Topic: Advanced SEO Presentation Transcript

  • Advanced SEO: An Assortment of Tools, Tips & Tactics Stephan Spencer Founder, Netconcepts; Co-Author, Art of SEO
  • Who Am I?
    • Co-author of The Art of SEO
    • Founded Netconcepts LLC in Madison WI in 1995. Sold it to Covario in 2010. Founded Netconcepts Ltd in Auckland in 1999.
    • Lived in New Zealand for 8 yrs, returned to US in 2007.
    • Invented GravityStream, a pay-for-performance SEO technology (now Covario’s Organic Search Optimizer)
    © 2009 Stephan M Spencer Netconcepts [email_address]
  • A Blog is an Asset My daughter, blogger & SEO. $5 - $30 / day passive income. Started when she was 14. SEO: So simple even a child can do it!
  • Making Assumptions about Customer Vocabulary?
    • Your customer doesn’t use industry-speak
    • Just because it makes intuitive sense doesn’t mean it’s right
    • Example: home loan vs. mortgage
    • Example: kitchen electrics
    • Example: digital camera(s)
    • Example: hoodie vs hooded sweatshirt
  • Keyword Brainstorming
    • Keyword brainstorming should be integral to your content planning. Think laterally!
    • Example: Neopets
    • Example: baby furniture manufacturer
    • Soovle – autocompletes simultaneously from from Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia, Amazon,
  • Use the Tools Properly
    • Log in (to Google Trends, Google AdWords Keyword Tool, etc.)
    • Log out (when searching) – turn off personalization
    • Broad matching is the default in AdWords Keyword Tool
    • Run the right Google queries
      • Estimated results w/o including omitted results
      • Use “” or intitle: operator
        • white noise vs. “white noise” vs. intitle:“white noise”
  • Don’t Cannibalize Organic w/ Paid
    • The so-called “synergy” of paid search with organic search is often manifested instead as cannibalization
  • SEO Should Drive Your Social Media Strategy
    • It’s not a social media “strategy” if it isn’t driven by SEO needs
    • Write “link bait” and seed it into social media like
    • “ Power users” on social media get a lot more mileage out of their submissions
  • Watch Out for Duplicate Content
    • Multiple URLs leading to the same piece of content
    • Duplicate content triggers Google’s “duplicate content filter” – all but one gets filtered out
    • It also results in PageRank dilution
    • Technical reasons:
      • Canonicalization ( vs.
      • Session IDs, tracking codes, superfluous parameters
    • Indicators of (likely) duplicate content: duplicate title tags, duplicate meta description, duplicate page copy
  • Canonical Tag Misfires
    • Example #1:
      • Many thousands of non-canonical URLs of are indexed, despite use of the canonical tag
      • For example, click on the listings on and compare those URLs to what's listed as the canonical URL in the link tag in the HTML source of these pages
      • Canonical tags have been in place for many months
      • Why did it happen? Hint: it has to do with space characters
    • Example #2: Wikipedia
      • What’s the reason for this one? Hint: absolute vs. relative
  • XML Sitemaps
    • An easy partial fix. Assists indexation of site.
    • Provides a canonicalization signal
    • Industry standards at:
    • Google vertical specific sitemaps: news, video, mobile
    • Can obscure the true problems with your site
    • If using Sitemaps, use “autodiscovery”
    • Moving URLs around (e.g. redesign)? Submit all your old URLs, have 301 redirects to everything
  • Robots.txt
    • To bar crawlers from...
      • non-public parts of your website
      • trying to index scripts, utilities, or other types of code
      • duplicate content, such as “print” versions of html pages
    • For auto-discovery of XML Sitemaps
    • Syntax:
      • User-agent: *
      • Disallow: /admin/
    • Read my primer on robots.txt:
  • Robots.txt
    • Done wrong, can block bots from entire site
    • Too often implemented incorrectly, unfortunately
    Tip: This will block all bots from your entire site User-agent: * Disallow: / Are you sure that’s what you want?
  • Rewrite Spider-Unfriendly URLs
    • 3 approaches:
      • Use a “URL rewriting” server module / plugin – such as mod_rewrite for Apache, or ISAPI_Rewrite for IIS Server
      • Recode your scripts to extract variables out of the “path_info” part of the URL instead of the “query_string”
      • Or, if IT department involvement must be minimized, use a proxy server based solution (e.g. Covario’s Organic Search Optimizer)
      • With (1) and (2), replace all occurrences of your old URLs in links on your site with your new search-friendly URLs. 301 redirect the old to new URLs too, so no link juice is lost.
  • Eliminate the Low- (or No) Value Activities
    • Meta keywords, anyone?
      • Google never supported this worthless tag
      • Free info for your competitors
    • Guaranteed there are items on your SEO to-do list that aren’t worth doing
    • Be outcome-focused, not activity-focused
  • URL Testing & Iterative Optimization
    • URL affects searcher clickthrough rates
    • Short URLs get clicked on 2X long URLs (Source: MarketingSherpa, used with permission )
  • URL Testing & Iterative Optimization
    • Further, long URLs appear to act as a deterrent to clicking, drawing attention away from its listing and instead directing it to the listing below it, which then gets clicked 2.5x more frequently.
    • Don’t be complacent with search-friendly URLs. Test and optimize.
    • Make iterative improvements to URLs, but don’t lose link juice to previous URLs. 301 previous URLs to latest. No chains of 301s.
  • URL Testing & Iterative Optimization
    • WordPress handles 301s automatically when renaming post slugs
    • Mass edit admin for URLs (post slugs) in WordPress – via the “SEO Title Tag” plugin (
  • Tune Your Internal Linking Structure
    • Make sure your most important pages (most profitable products etc.) are all linked to from your home page
    • Try to keep all pages no more than a couple of clicks away from an external link source
    • Move your important internal text links from blocks of "SEO copy” at the bottom of the page or sidebar to more visible parts of the page.
      • Think in terms of whether the link is likely to get clicked on by a typical surfer or not (i.e. Google's "reasonable surfer" patent). If it's not likely to get clicked on because of its placement, then it's probably getting discounted by Google
  • Run SEO Tests
    • Vary only one thing at a time
    • With SEO, tests can’t be run in parallel
    • Try different synonyms, different verb tenses, different word order
    • Tighten the keyword focus of the title tag
    • H1 tags are no longer a strong signal. Don’t take my word for it, though. Test it for yourself.
    • Measure the success of tests based on multiple metrics - not just rankings. E.g. spidering activity, traffic, sales, page yield, keyword yield
  • An Example Experiment
    • Question: Is the site-wide home link that is full of keywords actually helping your home page rank higher in Google?
    • Hypothesis: It is not.
    • Run the test: Establish a baseline of rankings for the home page for the keywords in the anchor text. Then change that link to simply say "Home" and watch for the rankings impact.
    • Further confirmation: Then switch it back to the original keyword-rich link. Did it drop then rise again?
  • SEO Metrics
    • Page yield – % of unique pages yielding search engine-delivered traffic in a given month
    • Keyword yield – ratio of keywords to pages yielding search traffic
    • Brand-to-nonbrand ratio – % of search traffic coming from brand keywords vs. nonbrand keywords
    • Unique pages – non-duplicate pages crawled
  • Sample KPIs Page Yield & Keyword Yield
  • SEO Metrics
    • Visitors per keyword – ratio of search engine delivered visitors to search terms
    • Index-to-crawl ratio – ratio of pages indexed to unique crawled pages
    • Engine yield – how much traffic the engine delivers for every page it crawls
  • Score Your SEO
    • On-page factors
      • e.g. title tag, heading tags, anchor text, keyword prominence, meta description, etc.
    • Off-page factors
      • e.g. inbound links, trust, authority (harder to change quickly)
    • Technologies:
      • Enterprise level: Covario’s Organic Search Insight
      • Small business: HubSpot’s
    • See
  • Covario Organic Search Insight
  • Real-Time Feedback
    • No need to wait for crawling, indexing and re-ranking to see the likely impact of your content revisions/additions
    • Content analysis tools like Scribe, a WordPress plugin, that gives real-time feedback on the SEO of your content
    • Content analysis baked into enterprise-level tools like Compendium Blogware or Covario Organic Search Insight
  • Scribe for WordPress
  • Real-Time Feedback on Content Compendium Blogware: analyzes the blog post’s keyword strength on-the-fly
  • Nonperforming Pages
    • What percentage of your unique crawled pages aren’t driving traffic in a given month?
    • These are affectionately known as “freeloaders”!
    • This percentage is larger than you think
    • Target the most frequently crawled nonperforming pages. This is the “low-hanging fruit”
    • These pages are likely to have some good PageRank and changes will get picked up quickly.
    • If you can’t get them to perform after repeated attempts, consider dumping them from your site’s link graph (nofollow, noindex etc.)
  • Non-performing pages report, sorted by crawler activity
  • SEO Metrics
    • Top converting/performing page 2 ranked pages
    • Top converting/performing keywords on one engine that are non-performing on another
    • Highest potential keywords you’re getting traffic for
    • Highest potential keywords you’re not getting traffic for, based on potential referrals, revenue, and ROI
  • Don’t Buy into SEO Myths
    • Myths are created inadvertently, unintentionally
      • Easy to confuse correlation with causation
    • Some myths are perpetuated by snake oil salesmen
      • e.g. If some SEO consultant starts talking about how they’ll help you rank by optimizing your meta tags, turn and run!
    • Bottom line: SEO is an experimental science
  • Don’t Buy into SEO Myths
    • Personalization means nobody’s #1 anymore
    • Meta tags will boost your rankings
    • Country sites are “duplicate content”
    • JavaScripted links will keep the spiders away
    • Googlebot doesn’t read CSS
    • You must update your home page daily
    • Linking out (such as to helps rankings
    • SEO is a one-time activity
    • Using Flash will tank your SEO
    • SEO is free
    • Google penalizes for duplicate content
    • .edu links get extra weight
    • etc.
  • Let’s apply our knowledge to a real-world scenario...
  • Here’s a super-important home page (PageRank 9)
  • What’s up with the weak navigation?
  • The lack of strong text-based navigation is a real missed opportunity
  • Contrast this with the strong text nav on Yahoo’s home page
  • Great that these are text links. Bad that these are uber-generic keywords.
  • What’s the keyword focus?
  • Google AdWords Keyword Tool
  • Sort by search volume and switch to exact match
  • CTR: ~40% ~10% ~9% ~5%
  • The SEO power of lies with their community. Let’s pick one of their blogs...
  • Everything looks copasetic until you dig deeper...
  • Duplicate content & canonicalization issues
  • Uh oh. The redirect is a 302 instead of a 301, which doesn’t pass PageRank
  • Now What?
    • What can you do tomorrow that will improve your site’s SEO? Write down 3 things. Get ‘em done!
    • Remember: you eat an elephant one bite at a time
    • To contact me: [email_address]
    • For an SEO Best & Worst Practices whitepaper & checklist, e-mail me