How to Rank: 25 Step SEO Master Blueprint

If you’re like most SEOs, you spend a lot of time reading. Over the past several years, I’ve spent 100s of hours studying blogs, guides, and Google patents. Not long ago, I realized that 90% of what I read each doesn’t change what I actually do – that is, the

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Content Isn’t King. Trust Is King.

As you likely already know, the goal of content marketing is to build up familiarity and trust with your prospective customers. In this case, the content isn’t designed to sell a specific product or service, but rather to sell you, and to interested potential customers.

People buy from people that they

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How to Perform the World’s Greatest SEO Audit

World's Greatest Audit MugNow that tax season is over, it’s once again safe to say my favorite A-word… audit! That’s right. My name is Steve, and I’m an SEO audit junkie.

Like any good junkie, I’ve read every audit-related article; I’ve written thousands of lines

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Duplicate Content in a Post-Panda World

by SEOMoz

“No one saw the panda uprising coming. One day, they were frolicking in our zoos. The next, they were frolicking in our entrails. They came for the identical twins first, then the gingers, and then the rest of us. I finally trapped one and asked him the question burning

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SEO for the iPad

from SEOMoz by Phil Nottingham

When the iPad first came out, like many people, I didn’t really get it. My initial thoughts were something along the lines of “Steve… what the hell?! You’ve produced a giant iPod and are somehow trying to claim its some sort of brilliant new product.” I resolved never to buy one, considering it simply a folly for overly wealthy businessmen or an iPod designed for the visually impaired.

18 months later, a lot of words have had to be eaten with very little garnish or dressing. Now the proud owner of an iPad 2, I consider the tablet to be the coolest gadget ever made and the piece of technology I use most at home and when out and about.

My belief is that the form-factor of the tablet PC will become the primary device for personal computing over the coming decade and will form conduit for the bulk of consumer search queries.

While this “tablet revolution” may end up meaning very little for the classic SEO model, unaffecting the nature of link-building, keyword targeting, on-page optimisation, content creation or social media; It will form a catalyst of change for the world of CRO, analytics and offer new vertical opportunities so far mostly untapped…

In this post I hope to scratch the surface of things that will need to be considered by the SEO community going forward.

Tablets have been common-place now for a over year and a half. Yet, the world as a whole, still seems relatively baffled by them. Where do they fit in relation to the notebook and the smart-phone? Are they a mobile device or a static home-based device? Are they more useful in a personal or a business environment?

The answers to these questions remain somewhat elusive as we see tablet devices used creatively and strategically in numerous different arenas for multiple different purposes, but without a singular, uniting core function.

Some of these uses have been inspiring in their creativity and originality…

 

Some of these have amused us with their breathtaking ill conceived stupidity…..(fast forward to 0:24)

 

In beginning to question the exact USP of the iPad, it becomes clear that the mutually exclusive definition of “personal computer” and “mobile device” is broadly defunct, false dichotomy.

By displaying multifunctional appeal, eluding concrete definition, yet morphing its value and form to fit the subjective perspective of the user, the Tablet PC defines itself as a post-modern tool for personal computing – doing nothing particularly new, but a number of things much better, than any other device.

The defining feature of the tablet is clearly its UI. While the touch screen technology used in smart-phones and tablets is essentially the same, the way that translates to end usability differs considerably. The size of tablet allows for multiple fingers to be used simultaneously, allowing for a wider frame of user interaction with content previously viewed primarily on laptops or desktops; made navigable through the integration of a full two-handed QWERTY keyboard.

The touch-screen tablet interface on the iPad is extremely intuitive, feeling responsive, flexible and mutable to the chosen behaviours of its user. Using the device feels effortless compared with the computing via a keyboard and mouse, requiring considerably less mental investment or formal effort.

When we are on a desktop/laptop computer, we are normally entirely using a computer; unable to be simultaneously cooking, brushing our teeth, watching the television or walking to work. The same is not true of a tablet device, where the “pick up and play” nature of the hardware and operating systems allows for genuine multi-tasking and partial engagement with technology.

As such, the tablet perfectly fits the frame for what the PC always felt a bit forced into, casual web usage and content consumption. Most of the time we use the web in a personal frame, it is for an immediate task – be that finding the answer to a question, reading the news, communicating with our friends or making a necessary basic purchase.

Last week Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, a tablet with a similar 7inch 16:9 form-factor to the Blackberry Playbook and the original Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The fire looks to be an incredible product and an un-missible bargain at $199 (£130), but while the eBooks, music, movies and gaming functionality on the Fire may be superb, I do not think it will prove to be a viable or productive device for mobile computing and therefore search.

I played with the original Galaxy Tab for a while when it was released and found it the screen far too small and restrictive, with too low a resolution to be used effectively as a tablet computer. It was not large enough to be more functional than a large smart-phone, yet too cumbersome to be used instead of one. I expect the same to be broadly true of the Playbook and the Fire.

For my money, the 9-10 Inch 4:3 screen will push forwards and the main tablet form factor for years to come, with screen-size slightly expanding to 11-12 inches, – increasing when technology allows for smaller, lighter batteries and even thinner devices. Until the Android UX improves and the App store expands dramatically and a hardware manufacturer is able to produce a device with design quality on par with the iPad for significantly less cost, I can’t see Apple’s sales figures or market share slowing down anytime soon. Even if the iPad doesn’t gain users, it probably won’t lose many due to the core Apple ecosystem i.e. those with iPhones, Macs etc will probably not switch to Android. According to technology research firm Gartner 69.7 million tablets were sold his year, of which a vast 68.7% were iPads. While Microsoft may eventually produce an exciting iOS competitor with Windows 8, this release is still a way off and with the luke-warm consumer reception to Windows Phone 7, one does have to wonder whether Ballmer and co will enthusiastically turn up just a bit too late for the party, arriving to discover the revellers have long-ago passed out drunk on Steve Jobs’ sleek, minimalistic, unibody aluminium sofas.

Therefore, I think it’s worth putting time and development resource into optimising for the iPad form factor, treating it as the only current tablet device worthy of consideration for site-optimisation.

The iPad crosses the boundaries between mobile and desktop, being of particular value in the following locations and situations:

  • In front of the TV

The iPad is great for finding out the names of actors, undertaking research alongside informational programming or casually engaging with twitter while keeping up to the date with the latest sit-com.

  • As a TV

This morning, I could not be bothered to move into my living room to watch the Rugby World Cup matches at 8am GMT, so kept up to date with all the action without leaving my bed. This felt awesome, even if it was just laziness on an unprecedented scale.

  • As a complementary device for meetings conferences.

In an age of earth shatteringly boring powerpoint presentations, the iPad is a welcome visitor to help liven up even the dullest of boardroom presentation. You can easily pass round presentations, videos and images with the rest of the room.

  • Travel

Trains and planes are not designed with laptops in mind. The iPad’s shape, size, weight and battery life take away the cumbersome hassle of trying to do work on the move.

  • Reading

Not only books, but also reports, PDFs, articles and newspapers are a breeze to look through while on the move or multi-tasking.

  • In and around the home

Particularly for casual browsing and quick enquiries, where the effort of loading up a PC seems unwarranted – the Tablet is the go-to device.

  • Collaboration

Happiness is best when shared and the iPad works really well for watching Youtube videos with friends, reading articles together or sharing holiday snaps.

My hypothesis is that sites in certain niches are likely to see more growth from tablet devices than others.

Everyone who has currently bought an iPad will have tethered it to a personal desktop or notebook pc. While this will change going forward, with the introduction of iOS 5, most tablet owners will still have access to a desktop or laptop and probably a smart phone too, meaning they have an option for devices to search from.

Due to usability factors such as screen-size, technical incompatibilities, typing efficiency and to the poor integration of tabbing within the native Safari Browser; the iPad is not suitable for heavy or sustained internet usage, the kind of which you are likely to do at work or when undertaking serious research.

Where the iPad comes into its own is with quick, frivolous tasks and I think this nature is beginning to manifest itself in the sites generating the most tablet traffic. The graph below shows the percentage growth of access from iPads for Distilled clients in a variety of different niches.

TV Media

A Distilled Client in the TV Entertainment Niche has had considerable growth of traffic from iPads over recent months, while maintaining a steady level of traffic across the board. Year on year for the month of august, traffic from iPads has grown from 0.47% of total traffic, to 2.52% of total traffic. While this may sound like only a small fraction of overall traffic, this growth represents a 400% increase. Meanwhile traffic from Windows devices reduced considerably over that time frame, by about 9.5% from 82.49 to 72.95%.

The further development of excellent TV media apps such as TVguide, Sky remote record, Netflix IMBD should be increasing the amount of traffic driven to entertainment and media sites via the iPad, as people choose not to switch devices in order to find out the name of that actor, or when the next episode of a certain program is on.

Travel Tourism

If you’re going abroad, a tablet is great way to keep up with your communication and computing on the move, without worrying yourself over luggage allowance or battery life. Ticketing sites, restaurants, hotels and activity planning businesses should start to see sustained growth in visits from tablets.

Leisure E-commerce

If you’re making a major purchase, such as a car, business insurance or an engagement ring you’re going to want to meticulously check through different options, from multiple providers and make copious notes on all the actions as you go. This sort of purchase is unlikely to be undertaken from the armchair with iPad in-hand, however smaller, more frequent purchases often are. The touch screen interface can be a fantastic way to browse through the kind of items that don’t require as much research and planning. For example, when searching for a gift for a friend, people will often browse a store on a sofa while perhaps taking into account other’s opinions.

News Information Resources

We have all been in the situation where in the midst of a heated argument one side reaches for the last resort: Wikipedia. Alongside the smart phone a tablet is the ideal device for quick information retrieval on a particular topic of reference. Tablets also provide a great way to consume journalistic content as demonstrated in this recent article from Net Magazine. If you run a content aggregation site, a popular blog or a news resource – prepare for a shift in the devices comprising your overall traffic.

Social

For some reason everybody, when amongst friends and family, usually groans when somebody reaches for their mobile phone or laptop to access a social network. This stigma has so far managed to find itself inapplicable to tablets, their users and their peers. The pedantry associated with social network browsing on a phone isn’t applicable and the giant expedition that requires setting up a laptop with charger doesn’t make it seem like too much of an aside from maintaining the current real-life social setup. A tablet is a complement to a group trying to include, perhaps talk about or explore others who aren’t in their immediate vicinity.

Flash

The iPad doesn’t support flash and from the vehemently stubborn quality of the comments made by Apple on this matter, I think it’s pretty safe to assume the iPad won’t be supporting flash anytime in the future either.

The SEO world have been pretty negative on flash for some-time, given Google’s inability to crawl it, but if you need another reason to take it down or convert your content to HTML5, here it is. Creating flash-style HTML5 content sounds extremely daunting to those of us without a front-end development background, but it really needn’t be. Check out Tom Anthony’s post on how to fix common issues with HTML5 and these sites for good tutorials:

HMTL5 Rocks

W3 Schools

Hype, a program for Mac OS X program allows even layman’s to create smart looking interactive HTML5 content and costs only $29.99 on the Mac App store.

Site Speed

Most of the time, tablets will run off reasonably speedy Wi-fi connections in homes, offices and coffee shops. But on trains, buses, cars, in airports and in meetings at other offices, iPads with the capability will often rely on their 3G connectivity to provide internet services.

The BBC recently conducted a comprehensive survey of 3G availability around the UK, which showed patchy connections in many areas outside of the major cities.

Despite an often advertised speed of 7.2Mbps for 3g connections, the BBC found most UK users get speeds of about 1.5Mbps, if stationary. In moving vehicles, connections can slow to a sloth like 284kbit/s – not enough to consistently stream video from YouTube. For iPad users opting to tether their device to their phone’s 3G connection for mobile browsing, the same sort of connection speeds apply.

This data simply reinforces the value of a fast loading, well constructed site, most easily achieved through:

  • Ensuring your images aren’t bigger than they need to be
  • Combining External Javascript
  • Minimizing DNS lookups

For tutorials on how to achieve these and more hot site-speed tips, check out Craig Bradford’s guide

Make an iPad friendly site, but not a duplicate

Mobile websites create unnecessary duplicate content, which can have bad consequences for your crawl bandwidth and keyword targeting, yet most desktop sites are not ideal for use on either smart phones or tablets.

The best solution is to serve different versions of the same site, perfectly optimised for each device, through changing CSS. Check out CSS zen garden to see how the same content can be delivered in totally different visual styles.

If you have built a mobile version of your website which you automatically serve to mobile devices, ensure this does not happen for users on an iPad. Although I can’t find any research to back this up (I’d be interested to hear if anybody else can), I expect that the vast majority of web browsing on tablets is done in landscape mode, where most full-sized sites can be navigated without any difficulty. The only reason I can see for supplying a mobile site to an iPad is if the full-sized site contains heavy elements of flash, which you are reluctant to lose.

Simplify the check-out/conversion process

Using the keyboard on a tablet is a little bit arduous. In small doses, it’s not a problem, but typing stuff in does often require the user to put down the device and engage two-hands on the keypad. If you’re looking for a simple conversion to purchase, try to minimise the amount of content a user has to manually input.

This can be achieved by:

  • Only forcing the user to input the minimum amount of data you require
  • Using cookies to store data from previous visits
  • Automatically matching addresses from postcode/zipcode inputs
  • Allowing payment through paypal

Create an App

My iPad has a folder on it labelled “Shopping”. If I have something i wish to buy, then my first port of call will be the two clicks required to open up one of the apps in this folder, rather than the lengthy process of searching Google then trawling the results. Ebay, Asos, Amazon and Ocado have all done really good iPad apps which are worth taking a look at for anyone with an E-commerce focus.

Apps allow you to permanently store your payment details and ensure you can produce a graphically rich online store without the concern of page loading times. While an app will likely provide conversions in its own right, they are also valuable tools for generating brand-trust and can act as fantastic bits of linkbait for improving overall domain authority.

Pagination

Scrolling through lengthy pages is a breeze on a tablet, requiring only a casual flick of the finger to move the page down. Clicking through to another page, however, can be time consuming – especially if the clickable icons are difficult to locate and the page contains heavy graphical content.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t paginate content when serving tablet devices, providing your “next” and “previous” icons are suitably tablet friendly, but simply that the visual impact of long pages is not such an issue.

Tabbing

While there are decent third party browsers available for the iPad; particularly Opera Mobile, Diigo Browser and Dolphin HD, the vast majority of users (around 96%) use only the native Safari browser, which currently offers an inelegant solution to tabbing.

If you’ve set all your external links to open up in a new tab or window in order to keep users on your site, beware that this may have an adverse effect for iPad users. Clicking back on the iPad is not nearly as dull or time consuming as going back to a page in another window.

Scrollers multitouch

Smart use of HTML5 and CSS3 allows you to integrate scrollers and multitouch into your site delivery, as seen in Google tablet search and the upcoming BBC site redesign, currently in beta testing.

The best of use tablet UI and architecture is where traditional vertical scrolling is combined with horizontal navigation, to allow a great deal of content to be delivered on a single page. This lessens the need for tabbing and 3+ click journeys to deep pages; which feel irksome on the iPad, while allowing users to locate content without spending a long time finger-flicking through giant pages.

Check out the way my previous company, LocateTV, integrated horizontal navigation, and the way the extremely pretty Sky News App displays big pages of rich content.

Button Size

Fingers are bigger than cursors and therefore require more space to be clicked. Having to zoom-in in order to make a selection gets extremely tiring, so nip this issue in the bud by making small adjustments to your CSS.

Downloads for Quality Content

One of the most useful and natural functions for the iPad is as a portable eReader. The iBooks application contains an extensive bookstore, offering a wide variety of both paid and free content. The iBooks App also works as the primary PDF reader on the iPad, allowing you to bookmark places, zoom in and out and store the content in an extremely visually appealing library.

One way we can utilise this functionality as website optimisers is to ensure quality content is PDF downloadable, giving users to option to store our content on their tablet device for viewing in environments absence of an internet connection. With many iPads only offering Wi-fi connectivity and frequent usage in internet free areas such as the London Underground, having offline readable content can improve long-term user engagement.

Two ways to make effective use of this would be to ensure that any HQ content you produce has a PDF download option as per the SEOmoz Beginner’s Guide or hitting mail subscribers with PDF versions of your new content so they can quickly upload it to iBooks in the morning before beginning the train journey into work.

When building the acrobat files, carefully consider the formatting of your document. The standard PDF looks like this:

An iPad in portrait mode has a width of 728px , considerably less than the average 15 inch laptop monitor screen, which clocks in at about 1440px. It’s best to test out your PDF document on an iPad so you avoid the need to excessively zoom in and out in order to make the text legible.

With the introduction of Apple’s reading list into the latest version of Safari on OS X Lion, expect iOS 5 on the iPad to provide an integrated system, which may open up more possibilities in off-line downloadable content.

Google Analytics make it very simple for you to work out how much traffic your site is getting from iPads, by treating the device as an operating system entirely separate from iOS on the iPhone or iPod touch.

Just go to Visitors Browser Capabilities Operating Systems to see a basic report.

However, I think setting up an “Tablet” Advanced Segment is the best way to go with this, so you can include the appropriate Android versions and other tablet devices in overall analysis.

You may notice unusual referrers coming in through GA, ones which don’t drive any traffic from other devices. These will most likely be Apps and if you’re getting significant traffic off the back of these, it’s well worth delving a bit deeper to see if you can leverage further opportunities in this area.

The vast majority of traffic on the iPad will come through Safari, with small amounts through Opera mobile and other niche browsers. However, there are also a few other quasi-browsers that may pop up their heads. The Twitter app for the iPad contains an integrated webkit based browser, which should show up in GA as “Mozilla Compatible Agent”.

Don’t be immediately alarmed if you see higher than normal bounce rates coming through from tablet traffic, it may be that many of these visits are coming in via social references and through apps such as twitter, Facebook, iReddit and Flipboard. The things to be wary of are low times on site, low conversions and any pages which may contain iPad hostile flash or aspx server-side scripts.

TV Companion Devices

One of the major futures for tablets will be as the “Second Screen” for home-based broadcast media. When watching sport, meta-data will be pushed live to the viewers phone and tablet, allowing them to browse through statistics, replays, commentary and static shots. Users are already beginning to make moves in this direction, with the plethora of Sky Apps released for the iPad. The current function of “The Red Button”, will be replaced by content wirelessly pushed to an App on a tablet.

For marketers, there will be opportunities within these integrated broadcasts systems; be it ads, creative content or affiliate recommendations. For example, imagine seeing the outfit a character is wearing in a TV show, then being provided with an image and a link to an E-commerce seller for that outfit on your tablet device.

The tablet will fulfill the main role as the TV companion device, as it’s informal, flexible nature makes it much easier and less cumbersome to use than a laptop while curled up on the sofa with most of your attention focused on your big screen.

Content Creation

The thing currently limiting tablets from becoming realistic content creation devices is not the hardware, but the creative software.

I can foresee voice-activated document creation coming back into the fray with tablets. While this technology has been around for a while, the speed and accuracy of dictation software has held back any wide ranging adoption. Tablets may become mainstream devices for illustration and design, video and music creation once innovations in UI take the next step and cloud syncing systems have been properly established to allow heavy processing tasks to be shared with more powerful computers. However, I do think it’s unlikely that heavy multitasking or database creation will find a mainstream form within the tablet functionality.

4G

Within the next few years, along with phones, tablets will take advantage of the 1Gbps 4G networks, improving the ability to watch HD videos on the fly and edit large documents stored in the cloud.

Operational Remotes – Media Libraries

Apps already exist to allow the iPad to be used as a remote mouse for Mac computers or Apple TV and if you have the money and the tenacity to set it up, it is possible to use a tablet device as a control for a large home-media library stored on a static disk. I expect this functionality will improve and expand going forward, with fully integrated media control across devices, service providers and screens.

Cloud Computing

The upcoming iCloud service will allow users to edit documents and content originally created on their larger personal computer, while also allowing access to their full iTunes library anywhere they have an internet connection. Full cloud integration will lessen the need for large hard discs and for users to pair any tablets with a desktop/laptop personal computer. We will start to see more individuals having a tablet as their only personal computing device and people in the same household having personal tablets, while sharing the use of a larger desktop/laptop machine.

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the possibilities the tablet world is bringing to search marketing. If there are any areas I’ve raised that you would like to delve practically into, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I can find some good resources.

Many thanks to John Warnes at http://www.transparency.org who helped me with this post and my girlfriend Kim for making me a brilliant cake while I was typing away.

Follow me on twitter @philnottingham

Local SEO Checklist for New Sites

from SEOMoz

Hola! Bienvenidos mis amigos! Welcome to the first ever Peruvian edition of Whiteboard Friday. It’s Peruvian because as you can see I am attired in a Peruvian football jersey, which I recently picked up on my trip to Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. I had an incredible experience. I had such a great time for Mozcation. I wanted to say hi and a special thank you and shout out to all of our friends in Peru and South and Latin America. Just amazing time with Mozcation.

I am taking some experiences from the Mozcation we had. I know that there were a lot of questions at the Mozcation event about some of the local SEO best practices. I talked with some folks after the event and in the QA about some things we can do from a local SEO standpoint. I realize we did a checklist the other week on Whiteboard Friday about some SEO basics, but we really didn’t target local SEO sites specifically. What I want to do today is give you that local SEO checklist that you can follow for local and small businesses in a regional area, what they can do to improve their SEO. So let’s start.

Number one, registration with major engines. Now, in the United States, in Canada, in most of Europe, in parts of Asia, it’s very easy. You either send a postcard to Google or Google sends you a postcard to your address and you fill out the code that they give you or they call you on your phone and verify where you are. But in Peru, and in many other places in the world, Google does not offer this registration. So the key to getting included is actually going to be step number two. This first step is very easy. Everyone can and should do it. I know you’re going to check that off your list really quickly. The major engines typically are just Google and Bing, but in Russia remember it could be Yandex. In China, it might be Baidu. In the Czech Republic it could be Seznam. I think in Norway there is actually a tertiary engine that is doing relatively well there. Some places you might even want to double check with your Yahoo local listing if that sends traffic too.

But for those folks who can’t do it, and for everyone else, you should also be claiming your listing on all the major local portals. These are the international major local portals. In countries like Peru, one of the big powerful ones there is actually Trip Advisor. You want to be doing this for places like Yello Pages, YP.com, Urban Spoon, CitySearch, Yelp. In many places, Foursquare is actually quite popular. We found that in South American and Latin America Foursquare was actually huge, and weirdly enough Foursquare was a much more accurate map system than Google Maps. I think probably because of this issue, wink, wink, nod, nod, Googlers hello. So, take care of claiming those listings for your business on all of these portals. If they don’t have you listed yet, remember you can add your business to them.

Number three, get listed on key local sites. This means regional portals. A lot of times these are media institutions. Here in Seattle, it might be KING5.com. It might be TheStranger.com, which is a local weekly publication. It could be The Seattle Weekly. It might by KOMO TV. All of these local regional sites that have listings for local businesses and you want to try and get included in those. Many times, remember that these media stations they love to cover whether it is in the newspaper, the weekly, on their website, or with a TV camera crew, they want to cover new local businesses. So, if you are a new local business, you want to reach out to them, and it is a great way to generate some press. You also want to be considering regional portal sites that may not be specifically local focused. So in the Seattle area, I believe it is Northwest, what is that? NWSource.com is sort of our big local portal for aggregation. These are wise ones to consider as well.

For these three, it is absolutely essential that you have consistency. What I mean by consistency is the same name, exactly the same name. I don’t want to see SEOmoz, Inc. versus SEOmoz Incorporated versus SEOmoz, LLC, versus just SEOmoz or SEOmoz.org. Same name. Exactly the same name every time. Same address. Same format of the address every time. Same phone number with the same phone number format every time. All of those things are critical to the consistency of citations that engines look at to determine is this the same exact business that is being referred to here. Even slight variations can generate those differences and can mean that you don’t get all of the sort of link juice or citation juice that the engines are using to rank things.

Number four, do competitive research on listing sources of high-ranking sites for your keyword. So, let’s imagine that one of your keywords is Seattle plumbers. So, you do a search for Seattle plumbers, and you see here are the guys in the top eight spots. Where are they getting listed? Now, it used to be very simple. You just click on them and you could see a big list of all the sources where Google pulled data from. Not so simple anymore. They will still show you some of the sources for the images, so it might say Yelp or Insider Pages or Zagat or something like that, Gayot, but now it is much harder because they will no longer show those. But it is easy. You just have to make a quick tweak. What you want to do is take the name of the business and the address and search for that, possibly minus the site colon of the actually business’ listing, and that with show you all the places where the address is. So, for example let’s say I wanted to find all the local places where SEOmoz was listed, I would do a search like this. I would do a search for “SEOmoz (11919 Pine Street)-site:Seomoz.org”. I am going way off on the side here, but that’s okay. The reason that this is going to work is because it is going to show me all the places where there is a listing for SEOmoz not on our site that includes our address. That’s what you want to do when you are doing this competitive research on those high-ranking websites, and it is going to show you a ton of different sources where you should be listed for your local business to help with your local SEO.

Step number five, review your reviews. What I mean by this is you want to go through all the places, all the listings that are popular, your Google Profile, your Yelp Profile, Insider Pages, City Search, wherever you are listed, Trip Advisor. If there are reviews for them, see what they are saying and see if there are ways that you can get more people commenting on the positive stuff and fewer people commenting on the negative stuff. For example, if someone says, “I was very frustrated that I didn’t get a receipt.” Great. So make sure that the folks at the front desk know they need to be giving out receipts. If someone says, “Hey, I had a fantastic experience when I ordered this particular thing,” great. Tell your wait staff, “Hey, guys, people seem to love this thing. Feel free to recommend it when people ask for a recommendation,” and then when they do, great. Maybe there is something special that your restaurant, that your business, that your service offers and does that really gets people excited and you find that when you do it for people, they are much more likely to leave a positive online review. Great. Do that thing. This is your customer research. This is telling you what people think about your business, and it is a great way to learn, grow, and become a better business.

Number six, last one here, for goodness sake, maybe I should put this in number one. It’s so important. Audit your site’s usability, accessibility, and content. Now, a local website does not need to go through all of the steps of inbound marketing and thought leadership that a scalable B2B company or a startup or someone who wants to take over the Web in their category needs to go through. A local business can stay relatively focused on their local niche, and you can earn top rankings with just a lot of the first five things that I have talked about here. However, however, you want to make sure that usability, meaning your site is phenomenally simple to figure out the places. I hate when I go to a local restaurant’s website and I can’t find the place for reservations. It is not on the contact page or the about page. Where is it? I am looking for this. Have those key buttons that drive users to say, oh, right, these are the seven things I can do on the website, those are the seven things I want to do on the website. Have buttons for all of those. Have pages for all of those. Make those easy to access. Make sure there is not a Flash intro that is blocking someone or an experience that can’t be, for example, seen on a mobile phone or by search engines. This happens all the time with a lot of local business websites.

Then finally, make sure that you have the right content. You can do this, very simply, by when people come into your business, if you’d say, “Hey, we will give you a 5% or 10% discount if you can take this little survey for us or send it to ten of your friends, or email ten of your customers that you have got.” That survey should simply say, “What are the top five things you would look for from us on our website?” The top five pieces of information. People will tell you the same things all the time. It will be things like I need your hours, I need directions, I wish you had a little Google Map built in where I could just plug in my address. They’ll tell you that they need a list of services. They almost always want prices. If you can provide these things, you’re just going to do a phenomenally better job of converting people faster once they find your website through the great local SEO that you’re going to do.

There you have it, my local SEO checklist. I hoe you enjoy it everyone. Thank you very much, and thanks especially to our friends in Peru. Ciao!

Title Tags – Is 70 Characters the Best Practice?

by SEOMoz

It’s often pretty difficult to make a short title for a webpage that offers a lot of varied or super-specific information. At SEOmoz, we say that the best practice for title tag length is to keep titles under 70 characters. That’s pretty pithy considering that the title also includes your site or brand name, spaces, and other nondescript characters. So, does it matter if you go over 70 characters? How important is it to strictly adhere to this best practice? Cyrus Shepard does SEO for us here at SEOmoz, and he’ll answer that very question in this week’s Whiteboard Friday. Think title tags could or should be longer? Shorter? Let us know in the comments below!

Video Transcription

Howdy SEOmoz! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Cyrus. I do SEO here at SEOmoz. Today we’re talking about title tag length. How long is your title tag?

Bad title tag joke. For years, we’ve been telling people, the length of your title tag should be 70 characters or less. That this is best practices. But what does this really mean? Is it absolutely true? What happens if your title tags are longer than 70 characters? For example, the title of today’s post within the meta description is 77 characters. Not this title, but the actual HTML title tag, if you look at the source code, you’ll find that the title tag of today’s Whiteboard Friday is 77 characters. We’re actually over the 70 character title tag limit. Is that bad? Are we going to go to SEO hell for that? What does that mean?

Well, recently people have been doing some experiments to see just how many characters Google will index within a title tag. For years, we thought it was 70s. It’s fluctuated. But recent experiments have shown that Google will index anywhere between 150, one person even showed that they will index over 1,000 characters, and I will link to these experiments in the post. But does this mean that you should use all of those characters to your advantage? Can you use them to your advantage? Well, I got really curious about this. So I decided to perform some experiments here on the SEOmoz blog with super long title tags. We’re talking extreme title tags, like 200 characters long, 250 characters long, just blew them out of the water just to see what would happen.

Experiments

On the first experiment, I took 10 posts that did not get a lot of traffic, but they were pretty consistent traffic from week to week. I kept the old title tags and I just extended them with relevant keywords up to about 250 characters long. The results blew me away. In that first experiment, my traffic, over about a 12-week period, rose 136%. You can see, I’ll try to include a screen shot in the comments below of the Google Analytics. It exploded. I got really excited. So, I tried a second experiment. (Correction, the experiment took place over a 6 week period, not 12 like I stated in the video.)

Analytics

The second experiment I tried with existing successful pages, pages that were already getting a fairly high volume of traffic, that were getting a consistent level of traffic every week. On that experiment, over about the same 12-week period, traffic rose 8%. Cool, but overall site traffic rose 9%. So it was actually 1% below the site average.

For a third experiment, I tried again on a completely different site, a personal site. I changed a few pages, title tags. Traffic actually went down over a 12-week period 11%. On that site overall site traffic went down 15%.

So, in one of these experiments, the long title tag seemed to work really well. In the other two, it just seemed to be a wash. Why did this happen, but not here? I am going to get to that in a minute.

Title Tags less than 70 Characters

Now, what are the arguments for short title tags? The best practices that you always hear about, keep it less than 70 characters. There are reasons why this is best practices and why we recommend it time and time again.

The first reason is that Google will only display the first 70 characters, in general, in their SERPs. After that, they’re truncated. Users aren’t going to see them. So, if you are writing title tags longer than 70 characters, you’re basically writing it for the search engines, and time and time again we’ve found that if you’re doing something specifically for search engines and not for users, there is probably not a lot of search engine value in it. There might be some, but probably not much.

The second reason is our Correlated Ranking Factors, a survey that we perform every couple of years. Our highest on page correlation value for keyword specific usage was if it is found, if the keyword is found in the first word of the title tag, that was a 0.09 positive correlation. It is not a huge correlation, but it was our largest on page keyword factor. Year after year after year when we perform these correlation studies, we see a direct correlation between the position of the keyword in the title tag and how important it is in the query. So, the closer the keyword is to the beginning of the title tag, the more likely it is to be important in the query. You’re going to see this time and time again. It’s very consistent. Hundreds of webmasters know this from personal experience. You want your keywords at the beginning of the title tag to rank for those keywords. The further out you do it, at 220 characters, those keywords aren’t going to count for very much.

Title Tag Best Practices

Now the third reason is kind of new in today’s world, and that is the rise of social media. Twitter limits characters to 140 characters. So, if you have a 220 character title tag and you’re trying to share it on Twitter through automatic tweets or Facebook or whatever, they look spammy, they’re not shareable, people don’t want to share them. Shorter title tags, snappy, work really well.

For all these reasons, and for most of the time we found that longer title tags don’t help you, we say that less than 70 is best practices. Now, people get confused by when we say best practices what that means. Does it mean an absolute rule? No. It just means best practices works most of the time. It’s going to be your best bet. All other things being equal, it’s going to be what you want to implement, what you want to teach people to do, and generally how you want to practice.

So, what happened here? Why did this experiment rise 136%? Well, if you remember, these were low volume pages, pages that weren’t getting a lot of traffic anyway. The reason it rose, we suspect, is because those title tags were poorly optimized in the first place. They didn’t match the content. When we added a few keywords to the end, Google interpreted that as, hey, these match a little bit better to the content, and that’s why it rose. It was a fluke. If we would have wrote the title tags better in the first place, we could have seen this traffic all along.

So, with this in mind, I have some suggestions for your future title tag use, and best practices is going to continue to be less than 70 characters.

Best Practices are Guidelines, Not Rules

The first rule is always experiment. Like I said, if we would have tried something else, if we would have written different title tags in the first place, it could have helped us. What did it cost us to change those title tags? Zero. If your pages aren’t performing well, you can always try something different and you should try something different. I still see sites all the time, large eCommerce sites, that on thousands of pages they have their brand name, the first 20 characters of the title tag in places where they shouldn’t necessarily do that. SEOmoz did that for a number of years up until a few months ago. So, always experiment, not too much, but always try different things to see what title tags are going to work best for you.

Second is write for users. Here at SEOmoz our title tag is the same as the title of our post on our blog because we think it is important to meet users’ expectations. When they see a title tag in the SERP and they click through to your page, you want them to feel like they’ve arrived where they thought they were going to arrive. So, it doesn’t always have to match the title of your post, but something similar, something to make them comfortable, and something to talk to the users.

Third, remember to keep your important keywords first. Putting your important keywords out here isn’t going to help you much unless your titles are so poorly optimized in the first place that you really should rewrite them. So, put your important keywords, they don’t always have to be in the very first position, but as close to that first position as you can.

Lastly, what happens if your title tag is over 70 characters, such as the title tag of today’s Whiteboard Friday post at 77? Don’t sweat it. In our web app, in our Pro Web App, if you go over 77 characters, we issue a warning. It is not an error. It’s a warning. We just want you to know that maybe if your title tag is over that limit that it might not be the best written title tag. You might want to have a look at it, but here at SEOmoz we have thousands of title tags that go over the 70 keyword limit, and for the most part, we’re going to be fine. Best practices means that it’s best most of the time, but you can go outside of best practices if it’s warranted.

Remember, experiment, try different things out, find out what works best for you.

That’s it for today. Appreciate your comments below. Thanks everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Big Brand SEO

by SEOMoz

Throughout my six years as an SEO, there have been times when I’ve questioned the value of SEO for clients. The reasoning behind this was that popular non-brand phrases were unlikely to drive business or in some cases where markets were dominated by aggregator sites, where people require choice from the offering, rather than an individual brand. Data was often backed up by generic paid search generating negative return and eventually being switched off.

There are always long tail phrases that will generate return but ultimately, that is not what this post is about. Brand terms are vital and in the majority of cases drive more revenue than high volume generic phrases, especially for big brands yet are often ignored on the basis that a site should rank for them. There are also opportunities that are not strictly related to the brand itself that are often ignored.

Working at OMD has exposed me to working with some of the biggest brands out there and my role is getting stuck in to the chunky pieces of work. Working with existing media clients, it would not make sense to not offer the service and it wouldn’t wash to argue the toss for not doing SEO. For the same reason, integration with other digital and above the line channels is crucial too. Offline marketing types don’t tend to understand digital and to be fair, there is likely a mutual misunderstanding but the two channels need to work together for the greater good and co-ordination is required between teams.

Campaign Based SEO Integration

One common failing of above the line work is that there is no measurability. There are ways in which to rectify this by the use of vanity URLs/domains and redirecting with campaign tracking codes but not everyone will remember the brand, let alone the URL. As much as TV advertisers will hate to admit it, people will often remember the advert but not the brand, unless the brand is drilled in to your head to the point of infuriation like the Go Compare and We Buy Any Car adverts here in the UK. If the branding is not strong however, there are other ways to get visitors to the site via other marketing channels and ensure the brand message is passed. Taking the first example to come to mind:

 

I remember watching this video and not being entirely sure what it was for immediately afterwards, so this is a perfect example of what I am talking about. In actual fact, the video is promoting Cadbury’s Dairy Milk; however, even four years after the advert, there are related terms that are not brand related:

gorilla-keywords

I’ve deliberately excluded unrelated and brand terms, which add to the number of searches and while the volumes aren’t ground breaking, the advert is four years old and is still receiving search volume. Searches for these phrases further extend the measurement of above the line activity and increase traffic and ensure the brand association is made online, if it was not clear to begin with. In this particular example, the brand (Cadbury’s) appears eighth in the search results for the phrase, though visibility is poor due to the dominance of universal search:

drumming-gorilla-serp

None of the videos or images are from an official YouTube channel and the brand association is not clear on the titles which is certainly not ideal. Other, non-TV advertising can quite happily live on the site in harmony with regular content, particularly if it is humorous or emotive in some way. This could be in the form of advertising from newspapers, magazines, pub toilets or public transport. The same rules apply.

My strategy for integrating campaigns in to search and to gain maximum exposure and offline tracking would look something like the following:

1.       Ensure the client keeps you in the loop with any upcoming marketing activity

It is difficult to carry out campaign optimisation strategy without being forewarned. This is often the most difficult part so prepare to be reactive.

2.       If at all possible get a sneak peak of the campaign from the client or at the very least a brief

Again, a nice luxury if you can make it happen but seeing the campaign first hand will give a better understanding of what the campaign it is and allow you to properly brainstorm potential related keyword searches.

3.       Create official YouTube and Flickr accounts if they do not already exist

Fairly obvious point, however you’d be surprised by the amount of brands that don’t have a branded YouTube account.

4.       Prepare a paid search campaign covering brand and advert related terms, as well as any generic phrases that may apply, i.e. “drumming gorilla”

We all know that ensuring number one positions for every potential keyword is difficult so for maximum exposure and tie in to above the line, PPC will help assist and ensure maximum coverage.

5.       Ensure there is a section of the site for adverts and campaigns and use a tailored landing page for paid search, as well as SEO

Again, an obvious point but not all brands have spaces on their site for their advertising campaigns.

6.       Brief other digital teams to include relevant imagery for display and affiliate activity to amplify the campaign digitally

Display creatives should be altered on a regular basis and while I’m no expert on display, it would make sense for them to match any television advertising. The same creatives could be passed on to affiliate networks for affiliates to use on their own site, which should amplify the impact and engrave the advert on peoples’ minds.

7.       Prepare and optimise a landing page for the campaign in question, include imagery and a description of the campaign for the visually impaired

Not the same as point five, which suggests having a dedicated section of the site for advertising, my point here is to ensure a dedicated landing page for each advert and not all adverts on a single page.

8.       Launch the campaign

By launch, this could be the first TV airing, date of coverage in newspaper, etc. The following post launch strategy should occur as soon as possible afterwards and should be fairly self explanatory:

  1. If video based content, upload the video to YouTube and link to the landing page in the video description with Analytics tracking
  2. If image based, it wouldn’t hurt to upload to Flickr and watermark any images relating to the campaign for branding in universal search
  3. Optimise images for related terms in the filename and alt attributes, ensuring the latter are descriptive of the image in question
  4. Embed the campaign/video in to the pre-prepared landing page
  5. Put the paid search campaign live
  6. Amplify the launch by promoting through official social media channels and PR
  7. Do not remove the campaign page from the site

The last point is important; often brands will remove older adverts from their sites and YouTube channels, which is completely unnecessary. If the campaign is successful and memorable it can drive traffic for years to come. One further point I’d highlight is tracking content on third party sites using the Google Analytics URL builder where possible.

Search can be avoided altogether with the use of QR codes, however I’d argue that until QR code readers are native in modern smartphones, rather than requiring a third party app, the uptake is likely to be small and regardless, there will always be searches, so it is still worth covering all bases.

Extended Brand Terms

Campaigns are not the only brand related searches that get overlooked. There are many extended brand terms where a brand will not rank in first position. Often brands have parent or sister companies that will outrank them, even if they are less relevant and traffic is lost to these sites. This can be avoided by linking between the sites or if required, by link building targeting these terms.

In my experience there is one common brand related suffix that is usually outranked by third party sites and they relate to the brand and vouchers/discounts. Those pesky voucher code affiliates dominate these terms though this is often due to not having a relevant landing page on the site. If there is no brand presence, people will visit the affiliate sites for these terms anyway, so why not have a discount and voucher code landing page on the site? The offer doesn’t have to be earth shattering, as long as it gets the traffic to the site and not your affiliates. This can be supported through paid search.

Other common brand variations include complaints, contact, prices etc. Make use of your Analytics data, internal search and Google suggest for common variations and see where you rank. I’d imagine you’d be surprised at what ranks for these terms. If you don’t rank, it’s likely that there is no relevant landing page.

Brand Products

Products are effectively brand terms. To use the example above, the main brand was Cadbury’s; however the product was Dairy Milk, which is a brand in itself. Often the product can have greater search volume than the main brand. Again, ensuring a dedicated page for each brand assists with this, though in many cases, the product will have its own site. Of course, there are further terms relating to the product, Dairy Milk itself is a chocolate bar, a milk chocolate bar at that.

Vanity Searches

This leads nicely on to vanity searches, something which the largest brands seem to be adamant on ranking for, despite a likely poor ROI. The brand association is enough for them to want to rank. In the continued example, Cadbury’s and Nestle may want to fight it out for “chocolate”. Levis and G-Star may want to fight it out for “jeans”. It would be poor show to not advise the client that ranking for these terms will take a lot of resource, time and effort for little return but for them, it is often necessary and as long as they have a reasonable budget, there is no reason not to chase it.

Related Terms

There are always less obvious related terms that can be taken advantage of, on top of the primary generic keywords. For food related terms, there are always nutritional searches. “Calories in chocolate”, “fat in chocolate” are two examples following the same theme. Governments, particularly in the UK and the US, are placing a larger emphasis on health awareness and encourage brands to educate their consumers. It is good PR for brands associated with obesity to actively promote healthy eating and a balanced diet. Being upfront and offering honest advice can lead to good publicity and help capture more search traffic, though of course, people will be critical of the dealer preaching to the addicts approach.

Piggybacking

Finally, piggybacking on current affairs is a great way to increase search traffic assuming that it can be made relevant. This could be the form of linkbait or just simply an article/blog post discussing the topic. I’d advise that it is kept on topic and that caution is taken with the topics that you chose to jump on. Choosing a topic that is close to people’s hearts can lead to negative attention and unless you’re Ryanair who seem to thrive from trolling the public, bad publicity is not good publicity. One very recent example is a Dragon’s Den funded popcorn brand that jumped on the riot bandwagon:

social-media-fail

This particular gem was blogged about by Andrew Burnett and the image is from his post.

The key here is to discuss events relevant to your site and brand, perhaps showing some thought leadership while avoiding potentially emotive topics.

After all this, I still believe there are companies that will not see a significant return from search. My experience has told me however, that there are always ways to increase traffic, even if you are concentrating solely on integration with campaign based marketing and brand terms. The extra traction from SEO and search as a whole is 100% worthwhile, if you can get the integration part right.

3 Tips for Local Search Optimization

Writing by Nick Stamoulis


In an increasing mobile world, local search profiles are becoming more and more important. If someone is looking for information on their phone, say the address or phone number of your business, they don’t want to dig through you site to find it. A local profile gives them all the information they need in a fast and efficient format. Local profiles can also rank on their own in the search engines, increasing your online brand presence. They can also be a source of targeted traffic and quality inbound links.

The same rules of on-site optimization still apply when it comes to local profiles, but here are 3 tips for local search optimization:

1. Create multiple local search profiles
Business owners definitely want to claim their listings in Google, Bing and Yahoo. These profiles often show up in the top of the SERP for each search engine, respectively. But there are plenty of other local search sites that deserve attention. Sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon are incredibly popular with customers looking to make immediate purchasing (as in choosing a place to eat or shop) decisions. Other sites like YP.com (the online Yellow Pages), Citysearch, MerchantCircle and Local.com are also great places to create a profile.

2. Fill profiles out as completely as possible
The more content you have on your local search profiles, the more information the search engines can comb through. Don’t just post your phone number and address (although those are must!) and call it a day. Include business hours, accepted forms of payment, languages spoken, directions, company biography, pictures, videos and consumer reviews. Customer reviews in particular can be incredibly beneficial. Having that element of a 3rd party recommendation goes a long way in encouraging potential customers to choose you over another business.

You can encourage your customers to write a review by offering them an incentive, like 10% off their next purchase. Most people only write a review if the experience is truly remarkable or absolutely horrible. You want everyone who was pleased with your company to say so.

3. Monitor your profiles

If you are accepting customer reviews, it’s important that you are aware of what people are saying about your company. You need to know if a string of bad reviews went up recently; they might be buying your good ones. You also need to see if other people are creating local search profiles on various sites for your company. Usually anyone can create the listing, but as the owner you want to make sure you claim each one. This is the only way you can remain in control over what gets posted.

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SEO Interview Questions

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking about SEO interview questions, how there are a lot of times in your professional life when you’re going to be either interviewing someone who might be working with you on an SEO team inside your company, who might be contracting for you, perhaps a consultant, you’re interview someone, you’re the CMO or the VP of marketing and you want to know who all these SEO people know their stuff. It can actually be kind of tough to know what questions to ask unless you’ve got some background experience. Likewise if you are someone who might be interviewing for an SEO position, if you’re someone who is a consultant and might be talking to some clients and you want to be prepared for the questions that they’re going to throw at you, this Whiteboard Friday is for you.

So in the SEO interview process, the questions that I would ask, these are very SEO specific ones. So in every interview, particularly when you’re bringing someone on to your team, you’re going to asking questions about cultural fit and background and their biography, like what have they done in their past. Are they going to be a good fit for your team? Are they going to be able to handle the responsibilities? Does their work/life balance work with sort of organization you’ve got? I’m not going to talk about that stuff. I am going to talk about the very specific knowledge kinds of things that you want to use with an SEO or that you want to be prepared for as an SEO when you’re going into these types of discussions.

So the first general section, the section that I start with is general knowledge. This is a great way to feel out whether someone is comfortable and capable. I would use these, honestly if we were doing this, I would be using these on phone screens or maybe even in the interview process, like right in the form field just to get a sense, like, “Does this person have a good sense of SEO? Do they know things like, what’s a rel=canonical? What does it do? How does it work? How do search engines treat the meta refresh? What’s an image title versus an alt attribute?” So you’ve got different properties of a particular graphic or an image, and you want to know that the SEO person understands. “Yeah, I know that image title describes the image, but it isn’t necessarily being used by search engines to the same degree that the alt attribute is. It doesn’t show up when you hover in Firefox. It’s not going to become the image label in Google image search, those kinds of things, versus the alt attribute that gets used as anchor text when the image links off to somewhere. So those kinds of things.

You might even have a question like, “How do you remove personalization from search results?” What you want to see is somebody goes, “Oh, yeah, yeah, it’s google.com/search?Q=whatever the search term is @pws=0.” You find someone who can write off search strings and tell you, “How do I change the country language code?” “Well, you just add in @gl=uk. To get the UK or ‘us’ to get the US.” You want to see that sort of knowledge that indicates that they’re really deep into the process of doing SEO. They live and breathe this stuff. They know it like the back of their hand. That’s what you want to see from an SEO, and this general knowledge section is a great way to get a sense of that.

Now next up, I like to get a little deeper and understand a person’s thought process and be able to explain your thought process to somebody else. That’s why we have a section on strategy and tactics. So this is asking questions that will elicit a response that indicates to you how well this person can really do the functions of SEO. A lot of this general knowledge stuff they should have a good background, but if they miss a few of these questions, it’s fine. They can always go learn them. They can go look them up. They’ll figure it out, it’s okay. But you really want to know things like, “Do they understand how to run a keyword research campaign? Do they understand how to run link building? Do they understand what’s involved in a content strategy? What does that mean? It doesn’t just mean a blog, does it?” It’s all sorts of different things.

So I like asking broad questions like, “How would you create a site to rank for give them a keyword or a set of keywords?” Like, “I am getting into the men’s fashion industry. Just imagine for me, brainstorm with me a site that’s going to perform really well in men’s fashion.” And if you hear things like, “Well, I would like to build a site that naturally incents lots of creators, lots of designers of clothing, and lots of brands to put their stuff on our site. So it will be a big important site where lots of people will come to. They’ll put their stuff up and they’ll essentially promote it for us, but we have a lot of unique form fields and unique content that they have to fill out so that the content itself is unique and it doesn’t just look like the manufacturer’s suggested description across everything else, because we don’t want to have duplicate content problems.” That’s shows some level of depth in terms of thinking. It gives you a sense of how they’ll tackle problems.

You can ask questions like, “What are some of your favorite scalable link building tactics?” And if they say something like, “Well, I really like contacting webmasters.” No, like, “Nope, you’re clearly missing this word scalable and also probably favorite, because nobody really likes contacting webmasters.” That’s the least fun part the SEO’s link building job. But if they say things like, “Well, I really like building up popular social accounts,” or, “I like running a blog and building up content to attract a community,” those are pretty good answers. If they say things like, “I really think that content syndication or image licensing or badges and embeddable widgets is a great link building strategy that’s scalable,” those are great answers. You want to hear that kind of stuff.

“How would you get video content into Google?” More of a tactical question, but it gives you a sense of some of the knowledge and then how they do it. So if you hear a question like that and the person gives you a response and they say, “Well, Google has this video protocol.” All right, they do, Google does have a video protocol. But what you really want to hear is, “Oh, it’s great! What I like to do is make content using YouTube or Wistia or Vimeo,” or whatever it is, whatever their preferred video hosting service of choice is and let them tell you why that is, “and then embed it on our pages and we use the video XML sitemaps feed to send to Google so that appears as rich snippets in the search results.” Perfect, this person clearly understands the tactical knowledge, and maybe they don’t even know how to craft it. I don’t know how to write a video XML sitemap. I couldn’t start writing you the protocols from scratch, but I can go find it online and copy what Google suggests it needs to be. I just need to have the knowledge of how to do that.

So that strategy and tactics section, also really important.

Last up. I do like to ask about some tools and metrics because this can give you a great sense of both an SEO’s depth as well as they way they think about a lot of problems. Because the field of SEO, granted, is some art, some science, and a lot of research and learning and trying new things, the tools and metrics, the statistics that we use, the correlation data kinds of things, the link data that comes out of Yahoo Site Explorer, or Bing Webmaster tools, or the Google link command, or Exalead, or Majestic SEO, or SEOmoz, you want to know that they’ve got a good grasp on, “Oh, here’s all the ways that I could potentially get that data and here’s why I like this one and I don’t like this one. I like the Bing or the MSN Ad Center or the keyword tool. I don’t like the Google keyword tool. I really don’t like some keyword tool here, but I think Keyword Spy’s great or SpyFu is awesome,” or whatever it is. And you want to know, not just what those tools are, but how do they evaluate them.

That gives you a really good sense for how that person thinks about problems, how they’re going to attack things, whether they’re a critical thinker or whether they just take things on face value, which in the SEO world is not a great idea. Like even the things that I might be telling you on Whiteboard Fridays, you probably want to verify for yourself. So things like, “What data would you use to use to judge the value of a link?” And you want to hear things like, “Well, I’d try and gets some metrics around how important the domain is, how important that specific page is. I’d try and get some metrics about where is that link going to be placed, what sort anchor text will it use, how many other links are on that page, where do they point to, or they spammy or manipulative, or are they good and authentic?” Those kinds of things. “What tools do you use to measure competitors’ keywords and traffic?” And if they tell you, “Well, I really like this SpyFu or KeyCompete, or some of these other ones, Compete.com has a competitive intelligence tool. Hitwise has one, very enterprise level.” Hey, yeah, those are good ways to measure keywords.

On the traffic question, if they say, “Well, I really like, Alexa.” I’d be like, “You do? Why do you like Alexa? What do you find useful about it?” There are good answers, which is, “Well, for the top 1,000 or 5,000 sites on the Web, Alexa’s pretty good at saying what the relative difference is between them.” Which is relatively true, most of the time at least. But for those sites in the tail, sites in the midrange, Alexa’s terrible. You kind of want to hear, “Well, none of the data sources are particularly excellent, but I like to look at Google Trends for websites, or Compete.com, or I like to look at Quantcast. I like to compare across the set. But I really like to look at maybe how many people are subscribing to their blog through Google Reader. That’s a great signal.” It’s let’s you know that person is thinking more deeply about these questions.

“How do you measure social activity on a site?” That’s more of a broad based question. Like, “Do you just track tweets? Do you have some sort of an analytics tracking? What do you set up for that? Are you using something simple like a shared count? Do you have a statistics dashboard? Would you be using a Twitter client to be measuring that?” Whatever they’ve got.

If you ask these questions or you can answer these questions, I think you’re going to do a lot to cement a good relationship between things. If you’re in SEO right now and you’re thinking to yourself, “Boy, I’m not sure I can answer all those questions that Rand had on the board,” I mean, these aren’t the toughest things that’ll get tossed at you at an interview. They shouldn’t be definitely. So you might want to spend some time having good answers to these questions, thinking hard about these things, researching them. And likewise, if you’re an employer or a contractor and you’re trying to find SEO people to work for you, do consulting work, you definitely want to amass a good set of these. I would actually recommend trying to ask relatively consistently again and again with the same people because having that consistency between questions let’s you really grade people on the same level. If you change up your questions every time, it can get tough to remember how well a candidate might have done against another one.

All right, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed this addition of Whiteboard Friday. I hope you’re going to find some great jobs and some great SEOs, and I look forward to seeing you again next time. Take care.