Designing Web Sites for SEO Visibility, by iCrossing's Rob Garner for SEMPO


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Extensive 101 of SEO considerations in a web site redesign. Includes both technical, creative, and organizational considerations required to get the job done. Over 60 slides.

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  • you need to know where you were to find out where you went.
  • Inform your personas through interviews, and ask subjects to talk about how they search; or, better yet, observe how they search online Map keyword learnings into more complex scenarios for the process of finding. This comes from understanding who your audiences are; what their needs and desires are; and what linguistic cues play into various stages of their connected search and digital journey. Leverage learnings from paid search early on. If the right analytics are in place, then this is proven data that can help validate or inform other data on the front end of research processes. Keep in mind that sometimes the real gold mine in all of market research is finding that one word   -- the one linguistic cue that could be a seed concept to a much greater universe of language and intent. Get out of the habit of making assumptions based on what you think your target audience will search for.   Go ask them directly, and free your initiatives of your own biases. Look to social networks for linguistic cues - search and social both provide open windows into how audiences speak, and what they seek.   And many enterprise businesses have gotten even smarter and are leveraging them both for major initiatives.  Use internal searches to help inform campaigns and future designs, and follow up on this data in early customer research.   If consumers are getting all the way to your site and typing particular terms, this could be a strong indicator of a particular intention, or may identify something that is currently lacking in the existing design, content, or architecture.  Consider the various types of digital assets, and how your target audience searches for them.   This insight works on a redesign, or for ongoing content strategies.  This ultimately helps you engage more with your target audience, and also extends reach into universal search and social networks. 
  • Develop your target user's search persona, and use search to develop a picture of your user's journey both in-search, and on-site.  When some sites receive 25%  to 45% of traffic from search engines, a huge area of research is being ignored by not finding out how those same users seek out content in engines, both linguistically, and from an engagement standpoint.
  • For the most part, search engines are still very literal, and truly effective semantic intelligence still lies far ahead. Position content and language that reflects the way users search, in order to rank for those terms. The path to understanding this language is through linguistic and keyword research, and also by studying and knowing your target. Language and keywords impact and guide information architecture and content strategies, among other aspects.
  • Search has expanded well beyond Web pages and 10 blue links to offer video images, news and social streams, among many other vertical asset types.  Many industries tend to have assets that are more relevant than others (images, maps, and video tend to fit more for travel-related sites, for instance).  Ensuring that there is a search strategy and place for these optimized assets is critical in the planning and design stages. 
  • Rich Internet technologies that are implemented without search engines in mind can instantly render a once-thriving natural search program into total obscurity. Flash and Ajax are key tools in the design and development toolbox, but considerations must be made for search upfront.
  • When you change phone numbers, the phone company will leave a recorded message telling the new number to the person who called your old number. This is the effect a 301 permanent redirect has on a search engine -- it applies the old URL and backlinks to the new URL; the search engine is happy, and your site is happy. A canonicalization problem occurs when 302 redirects are pointed to permanently moved pages. I have seen instances where clients have gone through four or five redesigns using 302s, and a string of six-to-eight redirects points to a single page, each with its own set of inbound links. This basically makes it difficult for engines to determine the "real URL" to show in results and apply backlinks to. How do you fix it? See the next point.
  • you need to know where you were to find out where you went.
  • Designing Web Sites for SEO Visibility, by iCrossing's Rob Garner for SEMPO

    1. 1. SEMPO’s Sponsors & Donors Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization
    2. 2. Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization Designing for Visibility Presented by: Rob Garner, Senior Director, Strategy, iCrossing and SEMPO Board Member
    3. 3. <ul><li>Considerations for SEO in a </li></ul><ul><li>website redesign </li></ul>
    4. 4. Overview
    5. 5. Why consider SEO in a site design or redesign? <ul><li>Opportunity to transition existing search equity </li></ul><ul><li>Much more effective to prevent obstacles at this stage, rather trying to reverse engineer later </li></ul><ul><li>Costs a fraction of the price of a site fix </li></ul><ul><li>Cures headaches associated with a site fix </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity to position site for long term SEO potential </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity for search user data to inform design and strategy elements </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity to build modules for agile content creation and development </li></ul>Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization
    6. 6. <ul><li>Planning and early stage considerations </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    7. 7. A few planning considerations <ul><li>Effective communication – and your brain – </li></ul><ul><li>is your best SEO tool </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    8. 8. A few planning considerations <ul><li>Budget and scope for search </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    9. 9. A few planning considerations Start with search at the beginning of planning and process … search is not an afterthought Planning Development Launch
    10. 10. A few planning considerations <ul><li>Give SEO a seat at the design table </li></ul><ul><li>… along with back- and front-end developers, creatives, user-experience, marketing stakeholders, project managers, information architects, etc. </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    11. 11. A few planning considerations Include search as both a business and technical requirement … Building business cases may be critical at this stage Planning Development Launch
    12. 12. A few planning considerations Remind your teams and developers that not considering SEO throughout the process could come at the expense of existing search equity … Maintaining the search equity that you already have through a redesign should be the primary goal Planning Development Launch
    13. 13. <ul><li>Early planning </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    14. 14. Benchmark analysis, followed by post-launch reporting <ul><li>The following data points can be used as benchmark metrics: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ranking visibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Traffic volume from search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Volume of various defined actions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revenue generated from natural search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Content gap analysis </li></ul></ul>Before launch After launch Planning Development Launch
    15. 15. Market research and extensive data analysis <ul><li>Knowing your target audience is now more important than ever </li></ul><ul><li>Inform your personas through interviews, and ask subjects to talk about how they search; or, better yet, observe how they search online </li></ul><ul><li>Map keyword learnings into more complex scenarios for the process of finding </li></ul><ul><li>Leverage learnings from paid search and analytics data early on </li></ul><ul><li>Remember that often the real gold mine in all of market research is finding and leveraging just one new word or linguistic cue </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    16. 16. Market research and extensive data analysis <ul><li>Get out of the habit of making assumptions based on what you think your target audience will search for </li></ul><ul><li>Look to social networks for linguistic cues </li></ul><ul><li>Use internal search data to help inform campaigns and future designs  </li></ul><ul><li>Consider the various types of digital assets, and how your target audience searches for them </li></ul>Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization Planning Development Launch “ The Days of Guessing at Keyword Research Are Over”
    17. 17. Use search data to inform and develop personas Planning Development Launch
    18. 18. Industry vs. consumer language Industry Language Oral care Oral health Locate dental professional Good oral hygiene Oral hygiene Good Oral hygiene Whitening Battery-powered toothbrush Kid’s toothbrush Professional whitening system 148 5,232 10 190 5,155 190 5,075 145 592 670 17,407 Search Volume per month Consumer Language Dental care Dental health Find a dentist Dental hygiene Dental hygiene Personal hygiene Tooth whitening Electric toothbrush Child toothbrush Tooth whitening system 188,818 74,588 29,525 24,558 24,558 17,670 146,212 16,522 835 6,205 529,491 Planning Development Launch Search Volume per month
    19. 19. Develop content strategy <ul><li>Opportunity to leverage search data to inform strategy </li></ul><ul><li>GO BIG – the amount of engaging content is directly proportional to SEO success </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    20. 20. Determine which types of digital assets make sense, and create a place for them   <ul><li>The days of ten blue links are gone </li></ul><ul><li>Universal search leverages various asset types </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This includes images, video, social, news, real-time, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus on the most appropriate asset types, depending upon your vertical </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that your new site design has a place to accommodate these asset types </li></ul><ul><li>Optimize and distribute assets both internally (within your public facing site) and externally (locations outside your domain like social networks, feeds, etc.) </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    21. 21. There is a problem with a key approach to site architecture <ul><li>“ Top down” is the most common approach </li></ul><ul><li>In other words, the site is only designed for people who come in through the front door (homepage) </li></ul><ul><li>The reality is that most aggregate entry traffic comes from the sum of all other pages </li></ul><ul><li>Search may refer 10-50% of a site’s traffic </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    22. 22. Consider a relational approach to architecture, as opposed to &quot;top-down&quot; Creating experiences that meet the unique needs of each visitor Dog Breed: (category total: 611,743 monthly searches) Standard Schnauzer Type of Dog (70,197) “ hunting dog” (15,892) “ Fancy Dog Bed” (5,088) Travel Plans Cheapest Tires Size (61,044) – included small, large, miniature Feeding baby Kittens Both Dog and Cats: both dog and cat owners searched for pictures and names frequently Pictures (955,145) vs. Photo (77,475) Names (390,909) tires Boxer Photos “ hunting dog” <ul><li>Dog Health (143,703) </li></ul><ul><li>> Information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ dog health problem/question” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>> Grooming </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ dog grooming tip” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>> Health/Solutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ dog health symptom” </li></ul></ul>Minivan tires “ Premium Dog Food” (22,358) Cat Breeds (307,140) “ Persian cat” Volkswagen Rims Planning Development Launch ‘ dog grooming tip’ Cocker Spaniel Puppies Puppy Breed (category total: 1.7 million monthly searches) Mercedes Wheels Kitten Descriptors (63,273) – these included cute, baby, kitten color 5Zigens Wheels Cat Breeds (307,140) Kitten Breeds (119,383) Sweet rims Cat Behavior (21,782) Cats (72,640) “ older cat care” Travel Expedition
    23. 23. Training - Educate your organization about search <ul><li>Educate your organization on the value of SEO prior to planning for any redesign </li></ul><ul><li>Allocate and budget time for SEO education </li></ul><ul><li>Create and distribute a general “SEO overview” presentation or handout </li></ul><ul><li>Integrate SEO training into each phase of the project </li></ul><ul><li>Present a list of technical obstacles of your current site, and how they could be remedied </li></ul><ul><li>Teach your organization that SEO is an on-going process, not a finite task  </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    24. 24. URL structure and information architecture <ul><li>URL naming conventions should also be addressed in the planning stage, and then more refined in the development and design stage </li></ul><ul><li>Work closely with IA to ensure crawlability, and proper content and asset support </li></ul><ul><li>Architecture should be informed by user language </li></ul><ul><li>Sitemaps for both the user and search engines are also critical, and should be planned at this stage </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    25. 25. <ul><li>Design and development process </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    26. 26. Things we can control: Basic considerations are anything but basic <ul><li>Article Syndication </li></ul><ul><li>Body Content </li></ul><ul><li>Canonicalization Issues </li></ul><ul><li>Cloaking </li></ul><ul><li>Directory Presence </li></ul><ul><li>Document Accessibility </li></ul><ul><li>Duplicate Content </li></ul><ul><li>Frames </li></ul><ul><li>Internal Linking Optimization </li></ul><ul><li>Javascript & Flash Navigation </li></ul><ul><li>Meta Data </li></ul><ul><li>Micro Sites and Sub-Domains </li></ul><ul><li>Obtaining Links from Relevant Sites </li></ul><ul><li>On-page Javascript and CSS </li></ul><ul><li>Optimizing Images </li></ul><ul><li>Page Titles </li></ul><ul><li>Redirecting </li></ul><ul><li>Requiring User Actions </li></ul><ul><li>Robots.txt Files </li></ul><ul><li>Secure Servers </li></ul><ul><li>Sites Built in Flash </li></ul><ul><li>Splash Pages </li></ul><ul><li>URL Structure </li></ul><ul><li>Using Ajax </li></ul><ul><li>Video </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    27. 27. Ensure that Flash is both crawlable and indexable <ul><li>Factor: </li></ul><ul><li>Valuable website content is implemented using Flash technology </li></ul><ul><li>Implications: </li></ul><ul><li>Search engine spiders cannot read content or follow links implemented in Flash </li></ul><ul><li>Best Practices/Action Required: </li></ul><ul><li>Implement a static HTML, low-bandwidth version of the website that mirrors the content within your Flash files </li></ul><ul><li>Implement user-agent detection to deliver the HTML site to spiders and the Flash version to human visitors </li></ul><ul><li>Alternative Practices: </li></ul><ul><li>Break up the Flash movies into smaller components and lay the SWF files into optimized, linked HTML pages with unique URLs </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    28. 28. Ensure that Ajax is both crawlable and indexable Factor: AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, is a Web development technique used to load content from a server without changing pages AJAX relies heavily on JavaScript to display and swap content Implications: Search engine spiders generally cannot read AJAX content Implementation could block content visibility to spiders Best practice/Action required: Use AJAX selectively, primarily for supplemental content associated with low search volumes Alternative Practices: Create a static, spider friendly version of your site that includes content from within your JavaScript Planning Development Launch
    29. 29. Source On-Page JavaScript & CSS to External Files Factor: JavaScript and style elements that reside in the webpage code increase loads, and requiring more processing to parse. Impact: Can impede search engine crawling and indexing performance, and also page load time. Best Practices: Keep JavaScript off the webpage by putting it into an external file and calling this file from the webpage. Additionally, using external JavaScript files will increase the flexibility of the code, enabling fast, easy updates and JavaScript maintenance. JavaScript that cannot be called from an external file without sacrificing the functionality is acceptable. Planning Development Launch
    30. 30. Manage Threshold of Duplicate Content Factor: Duplicate content exists when two or more pages within a website, or on different domains, share identical content. Different domain names do not create distinct content. Implications: Major search engines consider duplicate content to be of less value to searchers, and the ratio of duplicate to unique content on a site can greatly impede or improve performance Best practice/Action required: Avoid duplicate content issues by using unique copy and other content on each page of a website, whenever possible. Duplicate content may also be given a robots.txt or meta robots directive to not index or follow pages with wholly duplicated content. Planning Development Launch
    31. 31. Avoid the creation of URL canonicalization issues <ul><li>Viewed as the same by most search engines: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Factor: </li></ul><ul><li>Canonicalization is the process of picking the best URL when there are several choices, usually referring to the homepage of a website </li></ul><ul><li>Implications: </li></ul><ul><li>Search Engines may not pick the client-preferred URL, rather the one they determine to be most relevant </li></ul><ul><li>Best practice/Action required: </li></ul><ul><li>There are a few ways to ensure that the proper URL is indexed: </li></ul><ul><li>Consistent linking </li></ul><ul><li>Use 301 permanent redirects on the Web server </li></ul><ul><li>Redirect the non-www homepage to the www version of the homepage Use the canonicalization tag </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    32. 32. Set up a URL redirection plan <ul><li>In just about every redesign project, at least some content is removed, and URLs go away </li></ul><ul><li>Redirection helps the engines and users to point them to the most similar page on your site </li></ul><ul><li>Important to spend time mapping out which URLs are going away, and where they should be pointed </li></ul><ul><li>Don't sit on the plan – execute the plan on the day or evening that a site is pushed out of production </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    33. 33. Case study: Understanding the impact of a site redesign Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization Site relaunched with new URLs in mid-month <ul><li>404 errors spiked, and the site never fully recovered </li></ul><ul><li>These error visits represent real people and link equity lost </li></ul>Site relaunch on renamed URLs, with no redirection plan Planning Development Launch
    34. 34. <ul><li>Factor: </li></ul><ul><li>RSS (which, in its latest format, stands for &quot;Really Simple Syndication&quot;) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or special promotions, and a great way to easily syndicate your content to website owners </li></ul><ul><li>Implications: </li></ul><ul><li>RSS feeds give full control to the publisher </li></ul><ul><li>The benefit to RSS is that individuals opt-in to content of interest, controlling the flow of information that they receive </li></ul><ul><li>RSS is a great way to share your information with other site owners for virtually no cost </li></ul><ul><li>Best Practices/Action Required: </li></ul><ul><li>Provide users with fresh relevant content specific to your industry </li></ul><ul><li>If you can break up frequently changing content into specific groups it may be more appealing for others to subscribe </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the information short but descriptive, tempting users to visit your website for more information </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure to syndicate your feeds </li></ul>Implement RSS feeds for various types of content distribution Planning Development Launch
    35. 35. <ul><li>Allows for on-page content to become portable across multiple channels </li></ul><ul><li>Engines are all displaying enhanced listings for sites with RDF or microformats-tagged data </li></ul><ul><li>Recommended inclusion in HWS 2.0 requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Prominent in travel, restaurant, anything local (reviews), and event-based data </li></ul>Implement structured data (rich snippets, microformats, etc.) Planning Development Launch
    36. 36. Wireframe reviews <ul><li>Wireframes are a visual representation of where things will be laid out on the different templates of the website </li></ul><ul><li>Your SEO team should review these and make recommendations on the wireframes, as this layout can have a major impact on natural search performance </li></ul><ul><li>Basic elements include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Title </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meta description </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meta keywords </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>H1 & H2 headings (page title) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Page body, text </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Image alt text </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Linking </li></ul></ul>Planning Development Launch Page H1 & H2 headers Pages textual content Title, meta description & meta keywords Image alt text Linking from content Navigation linking Global Sitemap link
    37. 37. Assign keyword themes to pages for copywriters Planning Development Launch <ul><li>Keywords should be assigned to specific pages based on the page theme </li></ul><ul><li>It may not be possible to assign keywords to all pages, but there will be many pages where the most relevant keyword will be fairly apparent based on the theme of the page </li></ul><ul><li>This information should be communicated directly to content strategists and copywriters </li></ul>
    38. 38. Copy deck reviews <ul><li>After the copy deck is created by incorporating your identified keywords, your SEO team should review this to determine if any further modifications need to be made to ensure copy is optimized </li></ul><ul><li>This is also a good time to re-evaluate pages that keywords were not found for during the roadmap review </li></ul><ul><li>Now that these pages have copy available, there may be more opportunities for optimization </li></ul><ul><li>Depending on what was scoped, this would also be the time to create meta descriptions </li></ul><ul><li>This may have already been done by the client or the Web development copywriters </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    39. 39. <ul><li>Launch considerations </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    40. 40. Launch redirection plan <ul><li>Upon launch of new pages, it is important to activate the redirection plan </li></ul><ul><li>This ensures a smooth flow for users, and search engines </li></ul><ul><li>Redirects should be setup on a one-to-one basis </li></ul><ul><li>Every page should be redirected to a corresponding page </li></ul><ul><li>If no page corresponds, it is recommended that these be redirected to the homepage </li></ul>Planning Development Launch
    41. 41. Remember post-launch reporting <ul><li>The following data points can be used as benchmark metrics: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ranking visibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Traffic volume from search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Volume of various defined actions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revenue generated from natural search </li></ul></ul>Before launch After launch Planning Development Launch
    42. 42. <ul><li>Case Study: Combined Insurance </li></ul>
    43. 43. Project goals <ul><li>Primary goal </li></ul><ul><li>Drive more qualified leads </li></ul><ul><li>Secondary goal </li></ul><ul><li>Help existing customers find what they need </li></ul><ul><li>Success measures </li></ul><ul><li>Captured leads, qualified leads, converted leads </li></ul>
    44. 44. Solution <ul><li>Our approach: Combine in-depth market research with search analytics to drive the architecture, creative and search strategy for the new </li></ul><ul><li>iCrossing believes: If you truly understand what people are looking for and how they search for it, you can create connected online experiences that deliver on promises and engage the user at every step of the customer journey </li></ul>
    45. 45. Planning Develop User Experience Strategy Brief SEO Planning Gather business, brand, user insights, and search data Development Create site framework, design and development, page build Launch QA testing, deployment
    46. 46. Development Establish hosting environment Develop visual design Create site map and wireframes Develop creative concept Baseline search metrics SEO Create copy deck Planning Gather business, brand, user insights, and search data Development Create site framework, design and development, page build Launch QA testing, deployment Develop test strategy
    47. 47. Launch Ongoing measurement and optimization SEO Planning Gather business, brand, user insights, and search data Development Create site framework, design and development, page build Launch QA testing, deployment Deploy Analytics Deploy new site Execute QA tests
    48. 48. Before Existing global wireframe
    49. 49. After Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization A creative solution that considers a wider user-experience
    50. 50. A creative solution that considers a wider user-experience Where search intention is met with relevant answers: High ranking pages get straight to the heart of what searchers are seeking Findability is a usability issue: Both new visitors and existing customers can find what they are looking for, faster Delivering on the search “promise”: Multiple points of entry create a relevant and engaging experience
    51. 51. Search keyword “supplemental insurance”
    52. 52. Search keyword “supplemental insurance”
    53. 53. Action-based vernacular reflects user goals Find > Browse > Learn > Connect
    54. 54. Case Study: <ul><li>YOY Interactive Results – 2008 to 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>Unique visitors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Up 34% </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Search Visits </li></ul><ul><ul><li>35% of all traffic (natural search previously represented 20%) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Natural Search Optimization </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Increased keyword visibility YOY by 46% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Branded keywords up 47% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Non-branded keywords up 84% </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Top non-brand keywords </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Supplemental insurance, disability insurance, accident insurance </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>25,000 online applications captured in the new Applicant Tracking System (June 8, 2009 - December 31, 2009) </li></ul>
    55. 55. Key takeaways <ul><li>Search deserves a seat at the website design or redesign table </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rely on a dedicated SEO expert </li></ul></ul><ul><li>There are many important aspects of SEO performance that are “baked-in” to the process </li></ul><ul><li>Considering SEO throughout the process helps remove obstacles that may impede natural search performance </li></ul><ul><li>Develop business cases for including search in design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Emphasize not only what can be gained, but what could be lost </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Using search to inform design can increase various metrics from 100-1000% </li></ul><ul><li>Search is an integral part of user experience </li></ul>
    56. 56. Questions and Answers Join SEMPO today at SEMPO, Inc. 401 Edgewater Place, Suite 600 Wakefield, Massachusetts 01880 +1 781.876.8866 [email_address]
    57. 57. Thank you Rob Garner Senior Strategy Director, iCrossing SEMPO Board of Directors [email_address] 214.676.2089 Twitter @RobGarner Media Post Search Insider blog