You are previewing The Art of SEO, 2nd Edition.

The Art of SEO, 2nd Edition

Cover of The Art of SEO, 2nd Edition by Eric Enge... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  1. The Art of SEO
  2. Dedication
  3. Foreword
  4. Preface
    1. Who Should Read This Book
    2. Conventions Used in This Book
    3. Using Code Examples
    4. Safari® Books Online
    5. How to Contact Us
    6. Acknowledgments
  5. 1. Search: Reflecting Consciousness and Connecting Commerce
    1. The Mission of Search Engines
    2. The Market Share of Search Engines
    3. The Human Goals of Searching
      1. Who Searches and What Do They Search For?
    4. Determining Searcher Intent: A Challenge for Both Marketers and Search Engines
      1. Navigational Queries
      2. Informational Queries
      3. Transactional Queries
      4. Adaptive Search
      5. How Publishers Can Leverage Intent
    5. How People Search
    6. How Search Engines Drive Commerce on the Web
    7. Eye Tracking: How Users Scan Results Pages
    8. Click Tracking: How Users Click on Results, Natural Versus Paid
      1. Distribution of Search Results and Traffic
      2. Different Intents and Effects of Listings in Paid Versus Natural Results
      3. Interaction Between Natural and Paid Search
    9. Conclusion
  6. 2. Search Engine Basics
    1. Understanding Search Engine Results
      1. Understanding the Layout of Search Results Pages
      2. How Vertical Results Fit into the SERPs
    2. Algorithm-Based Ranking Systems: Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking
      1. Crawling and Indexing
      2. Retrieval and Rankings
      3. Evaluating Content on a Web Page
      4. What Content Can Search Engines “See” on a Web Page?
    3. Determining Searcher Intent and Delivering Relevant, Fresh Content
      1. Document Analysis and Semantic Connectivity
      2. Measuring Content Quality and User Engagement
      3. Link Analysis
      4. Evaluating Social Media Signals
      5. Problem Words, Disambiguation, and Diversity
      6. A Few Reasons Why These Algorithms Sometimes Fail
    4. Analyzing Ranking Factors
      1. Negative Ranking Factors
      2. Other Ranking Factors
    5. Using Advanced Search Techniques
      1. Advanced Google Search Operators
      2. Bing Advanced Search Operators
      3. More Advanced Search Operator Techniques
    6. Vertical Search Engines
      1. Vertical Search from the Major Search Engines
      2. Universal Search/Blended Search
    7. Country-Specific Search Engines
      1. Optimizing for Specific Countries
    8. Conclusion
  7. 3. Determining Your SEO Objectives and Defining Your Site’s Audience
    1. Strategic Goals SEO Practitioners Can Fulfill
      1. Visibility (Branding)
      2. Website Traffic
      3. High ROI
    2. Every SEO Plan Is Custom
    3. Understanding Search Engine Traffic and Visitor Intent
    4. Developing an SEO Plan Prior to Site Development
      1. Business Factors That Affect the SEO Plan
    5. Understanding Your Audience and Finding Your Niche
      1. Mapping Your Products and Services
      2. Content Is King
      3. Segmenting Your Site’s Audience
    6. SEO for Raw Traffic
    7. SEO for Ecommerce Sales
    8. SEO for Mindshare/Branding
    9. SEO for Lead Generation and Direct Marketing
    10. SEO for Reputation Management
    11. SEO for Ideological Influence
      1. Advanced Methods for Planning and Evaluation
    12. Conclusion
  8. 4. First Stages of SEO
    1. The Major Elements of Planning
      1. Technology Choices
      2. Market Segmentation
      3. Where You Can Find Great Links
      4. Content Resources
      5. Branding Considerations
      6. Competition
    2. Identifying the Site Development Process and Players
    3. Defining Your Site’s Information Architecture
      1. Technology Decisions
      2. Structural Decisions
    4. Auditing an Existing Site to Identify SEO Problems
      1. Elements of an Audit
      2. The Importance of Keyword Reviews
      3. Keyword Cannibalization
      4. Example: Fixing an Internal Linking Problem
      5. Server and Hosting Issues
    5. Identifying Current Server Statistics Software and Gaining Access
      1. Web Analytics
      2. Logfile Tracking
      3. Google and Bing Webmaster Tools
      4. Search Analytics
    6. Determining Top Competitors
      1. Two Spam Examples
      2. Seeking the Best
      3. Uncovering Their Secrets
    7. Assessing Historical Progress
      1. Maintain a Timeline of Site Changes
      2. Types of Site Changes That Can Affect SEO
      3. Previous SEO Work
    8. Benchmarking Current Indexing Status
    9. Benchmarking Current Rankings
    10. Benchmarking Current Traffic Sources and Volume
    11. Leveraging Business Assets for SEO
      1. Other Domains You Own/Control
      2. Partnerships On and Off the Web
      3. Content or Data You’ve Never Put Online
      4. Customers Who Have Had a Positive Experience
      5. Your Fans
    12. Combining Business Assets and Historical Data to Conduct SEO/Website SWOT Analysis
    13. Conclusion
  9. 5. Keyword Research
    1. Thinking Strategically
    2. Understanding the Long Tail of the Keyword Demand Curve
    3. Traditional Approaches: Domain Expertise, Site Content Analysis
      1. Include Competitive Analysis
    4. Keyword Research Tools
      1. Things to Keep in Mind
      2. Keyword Research Data from the Engines
      3. Keyword Research with Tools
      4. Other Tools of Interest
    5. Determining Keyword Value/Potential ROI
      1. Estimating Value, Relevance, and Conversion Rates
      2. Testing Ad Campaign Runs and Third-Party Search Data
      3. Using Landing Page Optimization
    6. Leveraging the Long Tail of Keyword Demand
      1. Extracting Terms from Relevant Web Pages
      2. Mining Keyword Research Tools
      3. Identifying Long-Tail Patterns
      4. Editorial Content Strategies for Long-Tail Targeting
      5. User-Generated Content Strategies for Long-Tail Targeting
    7. Trending, Seasonality, and Seasonal Fluctuations in Keyword Demand
    8. Conclusion
  10. 6. Developing an SEO-Friendly Website
    1. Making Your Site Accessible to Search Engines
      1. Indexable Content
      2. Spiderable Link Structures
      3. XML Sitemaps
    2. Creating an Optimal Information Architecture (IA)
      1. The Importance of a Logical, Category-Based Flow
      2. Site Architecture Design Principles
      3. Flat Versus Deep Architecture
      4. Search-Friendly Site Navigation
    3. Root Domains, Subdomains, and Microsites
      1. When to Use a Subfolder
      2. When to Use a Subdomain
      3. When to Use a Separate Root Domain
      4. Microsites
      5. When to Use a TLD Other than .com
    4. Optimization of Domain Names/URLs
      1. Optimizing Domains
      2. Picking the Right URLs
    5. Keyword Targeting
      1. Title Tags
      2. Meta Description Tags
      3. Heading (H1, H2, H3) Tags
      4. Document Text
      5. Image Filenames and alt Attributes
      6. Boldface Text
      7. Avoiding Keyword Cannibalization
      8. Keyword Targeting in CMSs and Automatically Generated Content
      9. SEO Copywriting: Encouraging Effective Keyword Targeting by Content Creators
      10. Long-Tail Keyword Targeting
    6. Content Optimization
      1. Content Structure
      2. CSS and Semantic Markup
      3. Schema.org and Microformats
      4. Content Uniqueness and Depth
      5. Content Themes
    7. Duplicate Content Issues
      1. Consequences of Duplicate Content
      2. How Search Engines Identify Duplicate Content
      3. Identifying and Addressing Copyright Infringement
      4. How to Avoid Duplicate Content on Your Own Site
    8. Controlling Content with Cookies and Session IDs
      1. What’s a Cookie?
      2. What Are Session IDs?
      3. How Do Search Engines Interpret Cookies and Session IDs?
      4. Why Would You Want to Use Cookies or Session IDs to Control Search Engine Access?
    9. Content Delivery and Search Spider Control
      1. Cloaking and Segmenting Content Delivery
      2. When to Show Different Content to Engines and Visitors
      3. How to Display Different Content to Search Engines and Visitors
    10. Redirects
      1. Why and When to Redirect
      2. Good and Bad Redirects
      3. Methods for URL Redirecting and Rewriting
      4. Redirecting a Home Page Index File Without Looping
    11. Content Management System (CMS) Issues
      1. Selecting a CMS
      2. Third-Party CMS Add-ons
      3. Flash
      4. Flash Coding Best Practices
    12. Best Practices for Multilanguage/Country Targeting
      1. Targeting a Specific Country
      2. Problems with Using Your Existing Domain
      3. The Two Major Approaches
      4. Multiple-Language Issues
    13. Conclusion
  11. 7. Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing
    1. How Links Influence Search Engine Rankings
      1. The Original PageRank Algorithm
      2. Additional Factors That Influence Link Value
      3. How Search Engines Use Links
    2. Further Refining How Search Engines Judge Links
      1. Additional Link Evaluation Criteria
      2. Determining a Link’s Value
    3. The Psychology of Linking
      1. Why Are Links Created?
      2. How Can Sites Approach Getting Links?
    4. Types of Link Building
      1. Using Content to Attract Links
      2. Marketing Content for Link Acquisition
      3. Directories
      4. Incentive-Based Link Requests
      5. Direct Link Requests
      6. Manual Social Media Link Creation
      7. Gray Hat/Black Hat
    5. Choosing the Right Link-Building Strategy
      1. Outline of a Process
      2. Link-Building Process Summary
      3. Putting It All Together
    6. More Approaches to Content-Based Link Acquisition
      1. A Closer Look at Content Syndication
      2. Leveraging User-Generated Content
      3. Creating Link Bait/Viral Content
    7. Incentive-Based Link Marketing
      1. Helping Other Sites Boost Their Value
      2. Offering Customer Discounts/Incentives
    8. How Search Engines Fight Link Spam
      1. Algorithmic Approaches to Fighting Link Spam
      2. Other Search Engine Courses of Action
    9. Social Networking for Links
      1. Blogging for Links
      2. Leveraging Social News and Tagging Sites
      3. Forum and Social Network Participation
      4. Offline Relationship Building
      5. Some Success Stories Using YouTube
      6. Social Media Tips for More Sites
      7. Social Media Summary
    10. Conclusion
  12. 8. How Social Media and User Data Play a Role in Search Results and Rankings
    1. Why Rely on Social Signals?
      1. Social Media Signals Provide New Tools
    2. Social Signals That Directly Influence Search Results
      1. Tweeted Links Are Similar to Web Page Links
      2. Facebook Shares/Links as a Ranking Factor
      3. Facebook Likes Are Votes, Too
      4. Google+ Shares as a Ranking Factor
      5. Google +1s Are Also an Endorsement
    3. The Indirect Influence of Social Media Marketing
      1. Social Search Features from Google and Bing
      2. Summary of Social Sources to Consider
    4. Monitoring, Measuring, and Improving Social Media Marketing
      1. Best Practices and Recommendations for Social Media Marketing
      2. Claim Key Profiles
      3. Deciding on a New Social Network
      4. Tracking Social Media in Your Web Analytics
      5. Tools for Measuring Social Media Metrics
    5. User Engagement as a Measure of Search Quality
      1. How Google and Bing Collect Engagement Metrics
      2. Potential User Engagement Signals
      3. Voting Mechanisms
    6. Document Analysis
      1. Poor Editorial Quality
      2. Reading Level
      3. Keyword Stuffing/Lack of Synonyms
      4. Ad Density and Offensive Ads
      5. Sameness
      6. Page Speed
    7. Optimizing the User Experience to Improve SEO
      1. Step 1: Build a Survey
      2. Step 2: Send It to Your Customers/Potential Customers
      3. Step 3: Record Responses and Leverage Them to Build What the People Want
    8. Additional Social Media Resources
      1. Social Media Blogs
      2. Tools
    9. Conclusion
  13. 9. Optimizing for Vertical Search
    1. The Opportunities in Vertical Search
      1. Universal Search and Blended Search
      2. The Opportunity Unleashed
    2. Optimizing for Local Search
      1. Foundation: Check Your Local Listings
      2. Introduction to Local Business Profiles
      3. Local Agency Management
      4. Optimizing Your Website for Local Search Engines
    3. Optimizing for Image Search
      1. Image Optimization Tips
      2. Optimizing Through Flickr and Other Image Sharing Sites
    4. Optimizing for Product Search
      1. Getting into Google Product Search
    5. Optimizing for News, Blog, and Feed Search
      1. RSS Feed Optimization
      2. RSS Feed Tracking and Measurement
      3. Media RSS (mRSS)
      4. Other RSS Optimization Considerations
      5. Blog Optimization
      6. News Search Optimization
    6. Others: Mobile, Video/Multimedia Search
      1. Mobile Search
      2. Video Search Optimization
    7. Conclusion
  14. 10. Tracking Results and Measuring Success
    1. Why Measuring Success Is Essential to the SEO Process
      1. The Tracking Cycle: Produce, Launch, Measure, Refine
      2. How to Establish a Proper Baseline
      3. Using Analytics as a Business Case for SEO
    2. Measuring Search Traffic
      1. Basic Overview
      2. Selecting the Right Analytics Package
      3. Valuable SEO Data in Web Analytics
      4. Segmenting Search Traffic
      5. Referring Sites
      6. Using Analytics Dashboards
      7. A Deeper Look at Action Tracking
      8. Separating the Analytics Wheat from the Chaff
    3. Tying SEO to Conversion and ROI
      1. Attribution
      2. Setting Up Analytics Software to Track Conversions
      3. Segmenting Campaigns and SEO Efforts by Conversion Rate
      4. Increasing Conversions
      5. Determining Project ROI
    4. Competitive and Diagnostic Search Metrics
      1. Search Engine and Competitive Metrics
      2. Site Indexing Data
      3. Link Building, Link Tracking, and Link-Based Metrics (Including Anchor Text Analysis)
      4. Ranking
      5. Shelf space
      6. SEO Platforms
      7. Crawl Errors
      8. Tracking the Blogosphere
      9. Tracking Your Blog(s)
      10. Search Engine Robot Traffic Analysis
      11. Web Traffic Comparison
      12. Temporal Link Growth Measurements
    5. Key Performance Indicators for Long-Tail SEO
      1. Tracking Duplicate Content
    6. Other Third-Party Tools
      1. SEO for Firefox
      2. UrlTrends
      3. SpyFu
      4. SEMRush
      5. Covario Organic Search Insight (OSI)
      6. Covario Organic Search Optimizer (OSO)
      7. Searchmetrics Essentials
    7. Conclusion
  15. 11. Domain Changes, Post-SEO Redesigns, and Troubleshooting
    1. The Basics of Moving Content
      1. Large-Scale Content Moves
      2. Mapping Content Moves
      3. Expectations for Content Moves
    2. Maintaining Search Engine Visibility During and After a Site Redesign
    3. Maintaining Search Engine Visibility During and After Domain Name Changes
      1. Unique Challenges of Domain Name Changes
      2. Pre-move Preparations
    4. Changing Servers
      1. Monitoring After Your Server Move
      2. Other Scenarios Similar to Server Moves
    5. Hidden Content
      1. Identifying Content That Engines Don’t See
      2. Identifying the Cause of Non-Spidering
      3. Hidden Content That May Be Viewed as Spam
    6. Spam Filtering and Penalties
      1. Recognizing Low-Quality Domains and Spam Sites
      2. Competitors Can Report You
      3. Duplicate Content
      4. Basic Rules for Spam-Free SEO
      5. Identifying Search Engine Penalties
      6. Reinclusion/Reconsideration Requests
    7. Content Theft
    8. Changing SEO Vendors or Staff Members
      1. Potential Problems
      2. Documenting SEO Actions and Progress
      3. Rapid Training
      4. Cleaning Up
    9. Conclusion
  16. 12. SEO Research and Study
    1. SEO Research and Analysis
      1. SEO Resources
      2. SEO Testing
      3. Analysis of Top-Ranking Sites and Pages
      4. Analysis of Algorithmic Differentiation Across Engines and Search Types
      5. The Importance of Experience
    2. Competitive Analysis
      1. Content Analysis
      2. Internal Link Structure and Site Architecture
      3. External Link Attraction Analysis
      4. What Is Their SEO Strategy?
      5. Competitive Analysis Summary
      6. Using Competitive Link Analysis Tools
      7. Competitive Analysis for Those with a Big Budget
    3. Using Search Engine–Supplied SEO Tools
      1. Search Engine Webmaster Tools
    4. The SEO Industry on the Web
      1. Blogs
      2. Forums
      3. Communities in Social Networks
    5. Participation in Conferences and Organizations
    6. Conclusion
  17. 13. Build an In-House SEO Team, Outsource It, or Both?
    1. The Business of SEO
      1. Understand Your Market Opportunity
      2. Get Buy-in Across the Organization
      3. Lay the Groundwork
      4. Motivate Resources That Don’t Share Your Goals to Help You
      5. Progress Through the Stages of SEO Maturity
      6. Build an SEO team
    2. The Dynamics and Challenges of Using In-House Talent Versus Outsourcing
      1. The Value of In-House SEO
      2. The Value of Outsourced Solutions
      3. Leveraging SEO Knowledge in an Organization
    3. The Impact of Site Complexity on SEO Workload
    4. Solutions for Small Organizations
      1. In-House SEO Specialist
      2. Outsourced Agency/Consultant/Contractor
      3. Working with Limited Resources/Budget
    5. Solutions for Large Organizations
      1. Contracting for Specialist Knowledge and Experience
      2. Applying SEO Recommendations Intelligently
    6. Hiring SEO Talent
      1. How to Select the Right SEO Practitioner
      2. Pitching the Person
      3. Sample Job Opening
      4. Making the Offer
    7. The Case for Working with an Outside Expert
      1. How to Best Leverage Outside Help
    8. Selecting an SEO Firm/Consultant
      1. Getting the Process Started
      2. Preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP)
      3. Communicating with Candidate SEO Firms
      4. Making the Decision
    9. Mixing Outsourced SEO with In-House SEO Teams
    10. Building a Culture of SEO into Your Organization
    11. Conclusion
  18. 14. An Evolving Art Form: The Future of SEO
    1. The Ongoing Evolution of Search
      1. The Growth of Search Complexity
      2. Google’s Dominance
    2. More Searchable Content and Content Types
      1. Engines Will Make Crawling Improvements
      2. Engines Are Getting New Content Sources
      3. Multimedia Is Becoming Indexable
    3. Personalization, Localization, and User Influence on Search
      1. Determining User Intent
      2. User Interactions
      3. New Search Patterns
      4. Growing Reliance on the Cloud
    4. The Increasing Importance of Local, Mobile, and Voice Recognition Search
      1. Local Search
      2. Mobile Search
      3. Voice-Recognition Search
    5. Increased Market Saturation and Competition
    6. SEO as an Enduring Art Form
    7. Conclusion
  19. Glossary
  20. Index
  21. About the Authors
  22. Colophon
  23. Copyright
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How People Search

Search engines invest significant resources into understanding how people use search, enabling them to produce better (i.e., faster, fresher, and more relevant) search engine results. For website publishers, the information regarding how people use search can be used to help improve the usability of a site as well as search engine compatibility.

Data from comScore provides some great insight into the types of things that people tend to search for. Table 1-4 shows a breakdown of many of the major categories that people’s Internet searches fall into, based on comScore data for August 2011.

Table 1-4. Searches by market segment

Parent category name

Total searches

Directories/Resources

2,789,625,911

Entertainment

1,750,928,801

Retail

1,686,123,715

Services

1,288,400,837

Conversational Media

837,067,182

Community

653,405,269

Travel

462,129,796

Health

435,860,663

News/Information

421,756,642

Sports

297,503,391

This shows that people search across a very wide range of categories. Search engines are used to find information in nearly every area of our lives. In addition, user interactions with search engines can be multistep processes. Witness the user search session documented by Microsoft and shown in Figure 1-5.

Merrell shoes user search session

Figure 1-5. Merrell shoes user search session

In this sequence, the user performs five searches over a 55+ minute period before making a final selection. The user is clearly trying to solve a problem and works at it in a persistent fashion until the task is done.

However, it is increasingly common for search sessions of this type to take place over the course of more than one day. A 2007 study of ecommerce sites by ScanAlert showed that 30% of online transactions occurred more than 24 hours after the initial search (http://searchenginewatch.com/3626363).

The purchase cycle can sometimes involve a large number of clicks. Marin Software (http://www.marinsoftware.com) provided us with data on one consumer durable retailer (whose products represent high-cost, considered purchases) for whom 50% of the orders involved more than 10 clicks leading up to the conversion event.

For this particular retailer, when you look at the number of different ad groups that were clicked on in those 10 clicks, the clicks were mostly on the same keyword. In fact, for more than 75% of all conversions that came from multiple paid clicks, all the clicks were from the same ad group. Only 7% of conversions came from three different ad groups (and none from more than that).

Table 1-5 shows the average delay between the first click received by the site and the resulting purchase for this example retailer.

Table 1-5. Delay between first click and purchases

Delay between first click and purchases

Percentage of users

Same day

50%

2 to 7 days

9%

8 to 30 days

12%

31 to 90 days

26%

More than 90 days

3%

This behavior pattern indicates that people are thinking about their tasks in stages. As in our Merrell shoes example in Figure 1-5, people frequently begin with a general term and gradually get more specific as they get closer to their goal. They may also try different flavors of general terms. In Figure 1-5, it looks like the user did not find what she wanted when she searched on Merrell shoes, so she then tried discount Merrell shoes. You can then see her refine her search, until she finally settles on Easy Spirit as the type of shoe she wants.

This is just one example of a search sequence, and the variety is endless. Figure 1-6 shows another search session, once again provided courtesy of Microsoft.

Health user search session

Figure 1-6. Health user search session

In this search session, the user has a health concern. This particular user starts with a five-word search, which suggests that she may have some experience using search engines. At 3:01 her search on headache pregnant 3rd trimester leads her to Answers.yahoo.com. After visiting this site, her search suddenly gets more specific.

She begins to focus on gestational diabetes, perhaps because something she saw on Answers.yahoo.com led her to believe she may have it. The session culminates in a search for first signs of gestational diabetes, which suggests that she has concluded that this is quite possibly the issue she is facing.

The session stops there. It may be that at this point the user feels she has learned what she can. Perhaps her next step is to go to her doctor with her concerns, prepared to ask a number of questions based on what she has learned.

Our next search session example begins with a navigational search, where the user simply wants to locate the travel website Orbitz.com (see Figure 1-7). The user’s stay there is quite short, and she progresses to a search on Cancun all inclusive vacation packages. Following that she searches on a few specific resorts and finally settles on cancun riviera maya hotels, after which it appears she may have booked her hotel—the final site visited on that search is Bookings.occidentalhotels.com, and the direction of her searches changes after that.

Travel user search session

Figure 1-7. Travel user search session

At that point, the user begins to look for things to do while she is in Cancun. She conducts a search for cancun theme park and then begins to look for information on xcaret, a well-known eco park in the area.

Users traverse countless different scenarios when they are searching for something. These example search sessions represent traditional PC interactions. Recent data from mobile search shows different behavior for mobile searchers, who are more likely to be close to completing a transaction. Data from a May 2011 eMarketer study showed that 55% of people visited a business they found in the search results after searching for information on their smartphone devices. Search engines do a lot of modeling of these different types of scenarios to enable them to provide better results to users. The SEO practitioner can benefit from a basic understanding of searcher behavior as well. We will discuss this in more detail in Chapter 2.

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