SEO for Startups - AlphaLab Aug 2011


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SEO is one of the last things that Startups often consider, and yet it's your best and cheapest sales channel. This presentation was given in August of 2011 at AlphaLab, a startup accelerator in Pittsburgh, PA

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  • What is SEO? SEO stands for “search engine optimization”, and unfortunately, this is probably the first thing you think of, comment spam. This is a type of blackhat SEO from the early 90s that unfortunately still exists today. It’s almost entirely pointless but gives a bad name to the entire industry.I’m talking today about “White hat” SEO, which is a combination of knowing how to present your site in a way that search engines understand what it contains, and the best way to get legitimate traffic to your site in a way that search engines find acceptable.
  • The most obvious reason to focus on it is that organic traffic represents free advertising. When you think about customer acquisition, what do you picture? Cold calls? How do you personally find out about most businesses you patronize, via a cold call/email or via Google?Trust – Coming up in a top result on Google is a mark of trust for consumers, whether that’s accurate or not, people trust Google’s reputations and usually a site at the top has that trust levelYour website is your 24/7 salesman. While I’m talking to you right now, the sites of mine I mentioned at the beginning are aquiring new users, who are converting and putting money in the bank.
  • First Google has to find you. I’ll go more into that in a little bit, but this is actually the hardest part in some ways.When a search is performed, Google has to rank your site with thousands of others, this is the 2nd largest piece to SEO.
  • First steps first, how does Google even know your site exists? In reality it knows the second you register a domain. It has access to that database and uses factors like the expiration, address etc, to know about you right away.It will not appear in it’s index though. Google only links to things it thinks you’ll find useful, so squatter sites won’t appear in index.Once you submit a sitemap to Google (I’ll show you where later), you generally should start appearing at least for company name.The typical way Google finds you though (or at least has for the past 12 years) is via a link from someone else. We call this “juice”. Every site has a certain amount of juice to give, so when my site links to you, I give you a little bit of my juice. Whoever has the most juice should in theory show up to the top. Juice is domain specific though, so my used car site linking to your group buying site isn’t as valuable as if groupon linked to you.In the past 3 years though the Internet has changed. Most of the internet is happening out of Google’s reach, people are not writing blogs with keywords hyperlinked, they are sharing links with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Google quickly realized this and this is one the primary ways things appear in the Google index, and also the FASTEST. Google may index your site in seconds if it’s being talked about on Twitter (this may change since they lost Firehose access, but Facebook and G+ should work the same).
  • Machines like Google see our sites completely differently. They have to try to use machine learning to figure out what the heck your site is about and what terms are relevant for it.Google tries to think like a human, and uses syntactical clues to imagine what a human would see. So the title of the page, the heading tags, bold words, repeated words, etc.. Are used to determine what the page is about.(After alternate slide deck, pass out cheat sheet)
  • Google does a lot of research into how people find valuable results, and because the trend when the web started was that you buy “company”, people ended up googling for bestbuy, and the most accurate link was, so that is a large part of the Googalgorhithm. It’s very hard to compete with someone that owns the domain for your keywords.When thinking of a new website, I always try to get the word in the domain. It’s better to have a dumb domain like “” rather then “” because you miss out on the domain keyword bonus. Really good domains for people do make search harder: ex, color, delirium, devotee. I wanted Levlr’s blog to instantly become an expert on game mechanics, but every variation of was taken, so I made a blog with a subdomain,, which is much better then “”.Title tags are what show up in a search result,
  • Trust is the most significant factor in Google. The bottom line is that if you have a trustworthy site that people are linking to or searching for on a specific topic, you will eventually rank high. If you lose Google’s trust you may end up being dropped in the worst case, or penalized in the typical case.
  • We already talked about the first two points, it’s important to note that inbound links is less important then it once was, and having 1000 inbound links from spam sites is not as valuable as 1 link from a good site. Also not all links are created equal, rel=“nofollow” has virtually eliminated the usefulness of comment spam.The speed of a site is a big factor with Google now, all other things being equal, Google will prefer an optimized site over a pretty one.Google has ways to figure out how usable a site is. If it requires Silverlight instead of just HTML, you may get dinged.Google has found that sites covered in ads are less helpful for people, this is a penalty.Unique, fresh content is a big thing with Google. If it knows you will have new content often, it’s crawlers will come back often, it’s index will be updated often etc…Search volume is a big indicator. You may be at the top of the results now, but if people are always going back to SERP or clicking other links for your term you will be dinged.
  • Show Beerby flow -> Used cars pittsburgh landing page
  • Cloaking is detecting that it’s a bot and presenting different contentTry not to show ads.Scraped content has a huge penalty since Panda.
  • SEO for Startups - AlphaLab Aug 2011

    1. 1. SEO for Startups<br />AlphaLab 8.26.11<br />
    2. 2. About Me<br />Phil Anderson @jamespanderson, Co-Founder:Levlr<br />Created several websites that have organic search traffic as 99% of visitors<br />Google Certified Professional – Search Marketing<br />Former Vivisimo Employee<br />
    3. 3. What is SEO?<br />
    4. 4. Why is SEO important?<br />Free Advertising<br />Trust<br />24/7 Salesman<br />
    5. 5. SEO Major Components<br />Crawling<br />Ranking<br />Displaying<br />
    6. 6. Crawling<br />
    7. 7. How is my site found?<br />Domain registration<br />Sitemap submission<br />Inbound links<br />Social networks<br />
    8. 8. How is my site viewed?<br />By people<br />
    9. 9. How is my site viewed? <br />By computers<br />
    10. 10. Quick Syntax Items<br />URL is VERY important for keywords<br />Google thinks,,, and are completely different (unless you tell it otherwise)<br />If you can’t get, get keyword.tld, if you can’t get that, get or<br /><title> is most important both for click-through and Google.<br />
    11. 11. Ranking<br />
    12. 12. Most Important Factors<br />Trust – length of registration, reputable inbound links, contact information, non-spammy feel<br />Relevance – Does theme of page match query?<br />Popularity – If above is true, how popular and accurate is it?<br />
    13. 13. Other factors (juice)<br />Social network activity (Likes, +1, Twitters)<br />Speed of site<br />Usability<br />Prominence of advertising<br />Uniqueness, Freshness<br />Search volume<br />
    14. 14. What should I do?<br />Create original content by the truckload<br />Think what keywords you want<br />Generate landing pages targeting verticals<br />Optimize titles, URLs, heading tags<br />Inbound links with keyword text<br />Get social<br />ANALYTICS<br />
    15. 15. Long tail<br />My site, Used Cars On-line - was found via 4019 different keywords, last week alone.<br />Beerby already 259 different keywords, such varied terms as “pipers pub”, “stellaartois”, “nude beach”<br />
    16. 16. What shouldn’t I do?<br />No Paid Links<br />No Cloaking<br />No Ads<br />No Scraped Content<br />Don’t worry about META keywords<br />
    17. 17. Paid Advertising <br />AdWords works similar to Google, they reward valuable content<br />Ad text should have call to action<br />Ads should have landing pages tailored to campaign<br />Look for long tail keywords<br />
    18. 18. Tools<br />Google webmaster toolkit<br />Google Analytics<br />SEOMoz<br />SEOMoz checklist:<br />Always use &pws=0<br />