I was lucky enough to attend the SMX Sydney conference at the start of April. Even though I think I was the only government employee working in the web space attending amongst all the business types the content was very relevant and learning’s equally applied to government and business web sites alike.
Some of my key takeaways are:
- changes its algorithm about 450 times a year = once every 13 hours
- put a tilde (~) in front of a word in Google search to get synonyms
- now modifying search results based on previous search behaviour
- everybody’s search results are different – so that two people doing the same search
from two different locations – get two different result sets with even without signing into their iGoogle accounts.
- Ranking is no longer a measure of success
- looking at the intent of the search at the same time as looking at the IP address from where the search came from
- an aged domain will always rank higher than a new domain
- According to Hitwise, Google has 90% of the search market in Australia and 92% in New Zealand, but only 73% of the market in the US.
- Lots of brand name searches in Australia., eg., Facebook, eBay, YouTube, MySpace, BOM, Hotmail, etc
- Search term length is decreasing in Australia and search term success is increasing from March 2007 – March 2009 – but in the us the reverse is true where search success is declining.
Google Webmaster Tools
- use Google Webmaster Tools
- Will give you: top search queries, crawl errors, external links, internal links, what Googlebot sees, and more…
- According to Hitwise, Yahoo! only has 4% of market share of search in Australia, but 16% in the US.
- Still gives approximately 10% weight to the meta keywords tag.
- is vital!
- Drives your website information architecture
- Identify what keywords people are putting into search engines
- avoid jargon
- avoid general words
- Try to more your website words to what the market is searching for
- Long tail is very important
- The top 100 terms only drive 5.7% of traffic
- Check out your competition or like sites
- Use variations in spelling, misspelling, word stemming, hyphenated words, synonyms
- Add descriptive words to your keywords eg., faster internet, slow internet
- Use action words in your html page tiles, eg., buy, find, etc.
- Use keyword research before you write that press release
Writing for the Web
- Solve problems for people
- Important stuff at the top of the page, fluff at the bottom
- 1-2 key phrases per page – no more than three
- People scan and jump from page to page – they are time poor
- Cut the waffle
- Forget the "welcome to my website" introduction – no one cares!
- Title tag is most important – stick your brand name at the end – it is more important to get found first
- Turn features into benefits
- Unique and fresh content
- Be conversational
- Link to related content within your site – look at the success of Wikipedia
- Use headings – but use them correctly
SEO – Measuring Success
- Not rankings any more
- Its all about analytics
- Funnel conversion rates
- Segment your data – eg., new versus returning visitors
- Bounce rate is next to useless if you look at it as a whole
- Context is important
- Need to find out what your visitors want and why they are leaving your website
- There URL’s are all different
- But they point to the same page.
- Pick one "canonical" url for each page and ensure you link consistently within your site
- Make all non-canonical url’s do a permanent (301) HTTP redirect to the canonical/preferred URL
- Google’s Webmaster Tools: specify www vers. non-www
- Break ties in Google by submitting your preferred url in a sitemaps file.
- Set preferred domain on your sever to www or non – www
Search Engine Spam
- Spam is anything that violates Google’s quality guidelines
- White Hat: SEO within Google’s quality guidelines
- Black Hat: SEO outside Google’s quality guidelines
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines
- Ask yourself – Does this help my users? Would I dod this if search engines did not exist?
- Report spam to Google – http://www.google.com.au/contact/spamreport.html
- Nobody likes ugly pages, but will people find your pretty ones?
- specify SEO requirements before design plans, eg.,
- Unique page titles/ URL’s
- Nested heading tags
- Reasonable amount of body copy
- Spiderable links
- Treat Flash like images – or create a HTML only version*
- Use image alt attributes and keywords in file paths*
- Apply ‘CSS image replacement’ to replicate text embedded in an image*
- Use CSS layers to position text
- Ask yourself – Would you drive a car built purely for aesthetics?
* No cloaking or hidden text!
- Links = Votes
- The more votes your site gets the more important the site is seen by search engines
- Relevance = Content
- Importance – Links
- Quality links
- Relevant links
- Be seen as an authority in your topic – provide quality content and be a resource – for a government website this should be really easy!
On the whole it was a great conference – the 2 days went in a flash – will try to go again next year.