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Searching for Users: SEO as an Engine for Customer Acquisition (Stephan Spencer, Startonomics SF 2008)


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Presentation by Stephan Spencer,, on startup stragies & tactics for using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as a core customer acquisition channel.

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Searching for Users: SEO as an Engine for Customer Acquisition (Stephan Spencer, Startonomics SF 2008)

  1. 1. Searching for Users: SEO as an Engine for Customer Acquisition By Stephan Spencer, Founder & President, Netconcepts
  2. 2. The 4 Big Keys to SEO <ul><li>Keywords – Target the words that your target market uses. </li></ul><ul><li>Content – It’s got to be great, unique, linkworthy, fresh, keyword-focused content. </li></ul><ul><li>Links – No links? No rankings. </li></ul><ul><li>Site structure – It’s essential you get the technical details right (redirects, HTML templates, URLs, internal linking structure) </li></ul>
  3. 3. SEO Fundamentals <ul><li>Tried-and-true SEO tactics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Topically relevant links from important sites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anchor text </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keyword-rich title tags </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keyword-rich content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internal hierarchical linking structure </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The whole is greater than the sum of the parts </li></ul><ul><li>Synergistic effect of natural + paid search </li></ul>
  4. 4. SEO Fundamentals <ul><li>Links (internal and inbound, along with the anchor text) beat out content </li></ul><ul><li>Link building, link baiting, blogging, SMO are crucial SEO activities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SMO (Social Media Optimization) = infiltrating, popular,, reddit, StumbleUpon, Wikipedia,… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ A rising tide lifts all boats” </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Light on content, but on page 1 in Google for “silver earrings”
  6. 6. Their CEO’s blog accounts for over 13% of online sales
  7. 7. SEO Fundamentals <ul><li>Rewrite your URLs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid ? & = characters, minimize directories, include keywords, hyphens preferred over underscores </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Rejig your hierarchical internal linking structure </li></ul><ul><li>Optimize your HTML templates and CSS </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduce code bloat, separate out “presentation layer” from “content layer”, image replacement, optimized elements like H1 </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. SEO Strategies for Your “Head” Terms <ul><li>Focus a page on no more than 3 keyword themes – place targeted term in the title tag, H1 tag, & high up in the body copy </li></ul><ul><li>Build link gain (PageRank) to that page through internal links & inlinks </li></ul><ul><li>Consistent keyword-rich anchor text from internal links </li></ul><ul><li>For deep inlinks, vary the anchor text a bit </li></ul>
  9. 9. SEO Strategies for “The Long Tail” <ul><li>Focus on unbranded search markets </li></ul><ul><li>Leverage website scale and brand strength </li></ul><ul><li>Employ testable strategies that scale </li></ul><ul><li>Treat consumers as co-creators </li></ul><ul><li>Measure against a new set of KPIs </li></ul><ul><li>Grow your long tail of search </li></ul>
  10. 10. The “Freeloaders” on Your Payroll <ul><li>Most merchants have 80%+ of their pages driving no search traffic </li></ul><ul><li>Most don't even know this, or why it is a problem (no javascript based analytics package will tell them this either) </li></ul><ul><li>It’s a red light that they lack a long tail of unbranded keyword traffic </li></ul><ul><li>The # of searches for unbranded keywords is nearly 40x as great as searches for the brand name (put another way, 97x the # of pages onsite) </li></ul><ul><li>Tapping that opportunity means leveraging the size of the website and the brand strength to convert unbranded searches into clicks </li></ul><ul><li>How to achieve this tail? </li></ul>
  11. 11. Scalable Long Tail SEO Strategies <ul><li>Mass optimization: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Single techniques capable of creating cascading effects throughout large websites – template pages for instance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Rewriting URLs: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Simple and static have profound impact on PageRank™ and traffic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Thin Slicing”: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Touching key elements across thousands of pages quickly, monitoring, and expanding based on results </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Scalable Long Tail Strategies - Web 2.0 <ul><li>User generated content (e.g., wikipedia) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Freely append searcher vocabulary into your website </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tagging and social bookmarking (e.g., Flickr, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Listen and create feedback loops – using search terms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use cloud taxonomy to flatten your structure using good link text </li></ul></ul><ul><li>RSS and Blogging </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Long tail is driven by efficient distribution of pages </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Create link bait rather than soliciting link targets </li></ul><ul><li>Provide lists of most searched keywords </li></ul><ul><li>Long tail optimization means outsourcing … to your users </li></ul>
  13. 13. Gone Off the Rails <ul><li>Misfires, mistakes, etc. often occur because your developers, sysadmins, or marketers “didn’t know what they didn’t know” </li></ul><ul><li>Examples… </li></ul>
  14. 14. Not Spider Friendly <ul><li>GET --> 302 Moved Temporarily </li></ul><ul><li>GET --> 302 Moved Temporarily </li></ul><ul><li>GET --> 302 Moved Temporarily </li></ul><ul><li>GET --> 200 OK </li></ul>
  15. 15. Not so good title – where’s the phrase “credit card”?
  16. 16. No link text or body copy
  17. 17. No link text or body copy
  18. 18. Duplicate pages
  19. 19. Still feeling good about being at the bottom of page 1?
  20. 20. Search listings – 1 good, 1 lousy
  21. 21. Title tags the same
  22. 22. Spider unfriendly URL structures
  23. 23. Yikes! home page PageRank score looks abysmal
  24. 24. Phew! – true home page PageRank score
  25. 25. hosted many “doorway pages” like this one
  26. 26. “ Sneaky redirect” sent searchers to this page
  27. 27. Hidden link – in the “All” of “All Rights Reserved” – leads to a hallway page
  28. 28. Hallway page – not meant for human consumption – Let’s start scrolling…
  29. 29. Everything still looks copasetic, until…
  30. 30. A-ha, spider food
  31. 31. Screenfuls and screenfuls of it!
  32. 32. Find Link Targets <ul><li>Review links of competitive sites, sites in your keyword market </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use tools like the ones just mentioned </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Check sites with high rankings for relevant keywords </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The fewer the number of links on their page, the better </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Review links to your site; look for opportunities to get the link text revised </li></ul>
  33. 33. Request Links <ul><li>NOT: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Hi, Let’s swap links!” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I’ve already linked to you.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Great site!” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ You already link to our competitor and we offer a better product.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Please use the following text in your link…” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Maybe? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>” Hi, found a broken link on _____. btw, you might want to add as a link.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What then?… </li></ul>
  34. 34. Hi Lois, My name is Eric Ward, and I am working with to help them announce the launch of their new web site located at I am hoping you will consider mentioning or linking to the site on your Water and Wastewater Engineering page at I have included a brief overview of the site below, and should you need anything at all I am a real person and actually reply to email. You can also contact me by phone. Thank you for your time and consideration. Regards, Eric Ward (On behalf of voice 865.637.2438 ------------------------------------------------------ Overview of Source: Eric Ward
  35. 35. More on Links... <ul><li>Some links get “discounted” </li></ul><ul><li>Anchor text opportunities </li></ul><ul><li>Linking best & worst practices </li></ul><ul><li>Blogging for links </li></ul><ul><li>“ Baiting” for links </li></ul>
  36. 36. Watch Out For… <ul><li>Types of links that are likely to get discounted: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reciprocal links </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Affiliated sites (on the same IP range or hostname) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Footer links (at the bottom of the page) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Site-wide links </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Links contained on a page called links.htm / links.asp </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Links with the exact same anchor text </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Remember: the more links on the linking page, the less PageRank you’ll get </li></ul></ul>
  37. 37. Update Link Text <ul><li>Link text (anchor text) is critical for SEO </li></ul><ul><li>Review your existing links and link text </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SEOBook’s Back Link Analyzer tool </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Are the keywords you are targeting in the link text? </li></ul><ul><li>Contact webmasters, particularly those who you have a relationship with & those with the most valuable links </li></ul>
  38. 38. SEOBook’s Backlink Analyzer
  39. 39. Best Practices: Linking <ul><li>Offer link-worthy content. Keep it fresh. </li></ul><ul><li>Try to get good keywords in the link text </li></ul><ul><li>Make it easily shareable (RSS feeds, Email to a friend, Submit to Digg/delicious/etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Simple keyword-rich urls encourage deep linking </li></ul><ul><li>When you redesign your site, keep your old URLs or 301 redirect them to the new URLs </li></ul><ul><li>“ Nofollow” any links you don’t want to spend PageRank on </li></ul><ul><ul><li><a href=“/privacy-policy.htm” rel=“nofollow”> </li></ul></ul>
  40. 40. Worst Practices: Linking <ul><li>Participating in “link farms” or FFA (“Free For All”) sites </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hallmarks of a link farm = more urls per page & less organization </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Splogging, comment spamming, guestbook spamming </li></ul><ul><li>Linking to “bad neighborhoods” </li></ul><ul><li>Hiding links </li></ul><ul><li>Hoarding all your PageRank </li></ul><ul><li>Unnatural link structures </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Too much symmetry, link text never varies, or otherwise “engineered” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Acquiring links from sites all on the same IP block </li></ul><ul><li>Acquiring links only from the same TLD (.com, .org, .edu, etc) </li></ul>
  41. 41. Blogs <ul><li>Search engines – and Google in particular – love blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Inherently link-rich </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Hat tips” – part of blog etiquette </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blogrolls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>RSS feeds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trackbacks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comments </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The dark side of the blogosphere: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Blog comment spam </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Splogs (spam blogs) </li></ul></ul>
  42. 42. Blog SEO <ul><li>Don’t leave title tags to be auto-generated. Use the “SEO Title Tag” WordPress plugin </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t squander your “crawl equity” by letting pages get indexed that don’t deserve to be (“Email this page” etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Having multiple “homes” for your blog </li></ul><ul><li>Utilize “Optional Excerpt” to minimize duplicate content </li></ul><ul><li>Use rel=nofollow to direct PageRank flow (e.g. date-based archives) </li></ul>
  43. 43. Blog SEO <ul><li>Intro copy on category & tag pages with sticky posts </li></ul><ul><li>Optimal URLs (short, not too many directories) </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple RSS feeds, optimized </li></ul><ul><li>Hosting blog/feed URLs on a domain you don’t own </li></ul><ul><li>Use optimal anchor text when linking internally </li></ul>
  44. 44. Link Bait <ul><li>Offer a niche-specific blogroll, tool, How-To, or compilation of news stories </li></ul><ul><li>Post a scoop </li></ul><ul><li>Expose a story as flawed or a fraud </li></ul><ul><li>Be a contrarian about a story, product, or prominent blogger’s opinion </li></ul><ul><li>Be humorous. Good topics include a bizzare pic of your subject, “10 things I hate about…”, and “You know you’re a when…” </li></ul>Source: Performancing
  45. 45. Link Bait <ul><li>Publish or commission some original research </li></ul><ul><li>Creative-Commons-license photos you made of an event you’re blogging about </li></ul><ul><li>Make available for free a theme, plugin or piece of software </li></ul><ul><li>Start a meme that others can replicate and that links back to you (e.g. buttons/stickers/tools for bloggers/webmasters to post on their sites, contests, quizzes, surveys, etc.) </li></ul>
  46. 46. Get Creative <ul><li>Give awards / recognition </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Badges with link text underneath </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Allow webmasters to republish your articles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Require a link in your byline </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Publish unique content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Podcasts (e.g. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Screencasts (use TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wikis (e.g. </li></ul></ul>
  47. 47. Get Creative <ul><li>Offer useful tools for webmasters, such as… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hit counters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. NOT like </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Weather stickers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>E.g., </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>RSS feeds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lottery winning numbers from </li></ul></ul></ul>
  48. 48. Get Creative <ul><li>Start a blog </li></ul><ul><li>Give testimonials </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sponsor a nonprofit </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. Kohl’s supports the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Leverage your affiliates </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Get a straight link (e.g. from Legal Notices page) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>301 redirect </li></ul></ul>
  49. 49. The 4 Big Keys to SEO <ul><li>Keywords – Target the words that your target market uses. </li></ul><ul><li>Content – It’s got to be great, unique, linkworthy, fresh, keyword-focused content. </li></ul><ul><li>Links – No links? No rankings. </li></ul><ul><li>Site structure – It’s essential you get the technical details right (redirects, HTML templates, URLs, internal linking structure) </li></ul>
  50. 50. Q&A! <ul><li>For an ebook on Google power searching, SEO checklists & worksheets, an audio recording of an interview with Matt Cutts of Google, and an audio recording, executive summary & transcript of an SEO thought leaders teleconference, e-mail your request to [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>To contact Stephan, email </li></ul>