SmokeJumping

June 25, 2009

Dude, Where My SEO At?

Recently I was engaged by a security software company to assess their rankings in search engine results.  As their new SEO consultant, the results were not good.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) had not been core to their online marketing practices:
* No knowledge of keyword search market. Without understanding the volume and competitive dynamics for search keywords, it is hard to target SEO effectively.
* No understanding of where they ranked. Due to the lack of focus, the firm was ranking low (or not at all) on many highly relevant search keywords.
* Poor execution.  The website was sub-optimal from a search engine perspective – lack of keyword density; non-unique headers, missing descriptions; inconsistent utilization of header tag: and no quality link building.
After analyzing the market for search keywords, assessing competition and baslining the site’s current search engine ranking, we established a list of 25 target keywords (with a broader list of 75 keywords that could be dran from).
From there, we took the top 125 pages of the site and developed SEO recommedndations to improve search engine rankings.  (Due to client direction, we opted to leave page copy link-building alone for the time being).
Several months passed and we re-assessed the client’s site.  Badd news – performance hadn’t moved much, begging the question (my worlds – not the clients):  “Dude, Where My SEO At?”
Well as a dutiful SEO consultant, I came up with the following 5 factors:
1. Changes to website
The client was making some structural changes to their site hierrchy.  Previously URL’s were structured country.company/com.  Now, the URL’s were reading home.company.com/country.  Overy time this will be fine.  In the short-run, however, the search engines hate this kind of change.
2. Implementation lagging
Despite the passage of time, few of the changes on the 100+ pages have been implemented.  This is due to resource constraints and competition for scarce development talent.
3. Keyword densities – page copy
Product (and other) pages were not drafted with search egined keywords in mind.  As a result, there is much opportunity to redraft many pages with targeted, SEO-friendly copy.
Google measures “keyword density” which helps it establish the content and relevancy of a webpage to a keyword search.  It is measured by copy in the main body of the page and the page’s meta description.
4.  Links
The quality of links to a page help establish its relevancy and authority for the search engines.  Fore one of the targed keywords,  here are the # of  external site links pointing to each of the 3 pages:
Client: 8
Competitor A: 182
Competitor B: 2,550
Page Rank is a Google measure of “authority”.  10-point scale.  10 being best.  For example, http://www.google.com rates a 10, http://www.facebook.com a 9.
Sticking with the same keyword example:
Client = PageRank 5
Competitor A = PageRank 7
Competitor B = PageRank 7
5.  Competition
Lastly, the search market is dynamic and increasingly competitive.  While the client has stood relativelystill and, in the case of site structural changes, actually moved backwards, it is safe to assume that for highly searched terms, that competitors are putting forward a concerted effort at improving their own organic rankings.

View this blog post “Dude, Where My SEO At?” on my new blog site at SmokeJumperStrategy.com/blog.

chicken-little-sky-falling“The sky is falling!”

Chicken Little

Recently I was engaged by a security software company to assess their rankings in search engine results.  As their newly appointed SEO consultant, the results were not good.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) clearly had not been core to their online marketing practices:

  • No knowledge of keyword search market. Without understanding the volume and competitive dynamics for search keywords, identifying the most appropriate search keywords is impossible.
  • Low organic search rankings. Due to the lack of focus, the firm had low search engine ranking on many highly relevant search keywords.
  • Poor execution.  The website was sub-optimal from a search engine optimization perspective – lack of keyword density; non-unique page titles; missing page descriptions; inconsistent utilization of H1 | H2 tags: and no quality link building.

After analyzing the market for search keywords, assessing the competition and baselining the site’s current search engine rankings, this SEO consultant established a list of 25 target search keywords (with a broader list of 75 keywords that could be drawn from).

From there, we focused on all “top-of-funnel”, information and product pages (100+) in their two largest geographical markets.  For each of these webpages, we crafted specific SEO recommendations designed to improve search engine ranking.  (Due to client direction, we opted to leave page copy and link-building alone for the time being).

Several months passed and we re-assessed the client’s site.  Bad news – the search engine ranking hadn’t moved much.  Before they fired their SEO consultant, I asked the question:  “Dude, Where My SEO At?

Well, as the dutiful (and, for now, still employed) SEO consultant, I came up with the following five factors that were holding back their search engine rankings and overall search engine optimization:

  1. Changes to website.  The company had made some structural changes to their site hierarchy.  Previously URL’s were structured “country.company/com”.  Now, the URL’s were reading “home.company.com/country”.  Over time this will help expose the whole site to search engine ranking / indexing = goodness.  In the short-run, however, the search engines hate this kind of change = badness.
  2. Implementation lagging.  Despite the passage of time, few of the recommended SEO changes on the 100+ pages have been implemented.  Technology, internal process and competition for scarce development talent were to blame.
  3. Search keyword densities – page copy.  Web pages were not drafted with search engine keywords in mind.  As a result, there is much opportunity to redraft pages with targeted, SEO-friendly copy.
  4. Links.  The quality of links to a particular web page help establish its relevancy and authority for the search engines.  Example:  for one of the highly desirable SEO keywords, the number of external site links pointing to the company’s web page was eight (8).  For the same search keyword, the number links pointing to Competitor A was 182 and Competitor B 2,550.
  5. Competition.  Lastly, the search market is dynamic and increasingly competitive.  While the client has stood relatively still and, in the case of site structural changes, actually moved backwards in the eyes of the search engines, it is safe to assume that for highly searched keywords, that competitors are putting forward a concerted effort at improving their own organic search engine rankings.

While the picture for Chicken Little and the client may appear bleak, there are several things that can be done immediately to help reverse the trend and put them on a path to SEO bliss (whether this SEO consultant is involved or not).

  1. Accelerate implementation of SEO changes (already recommended).  If this is not possible given existing constraints, then consider outside resources or focus on the select pages that will have the highest impact on the business.
  2. Increase search keyword densities.  Implementing the keyword changes already recommended will be a great first step.  In addition, I recommend to rewrite copy on the handful of pages that will have the highest impact on the economics of the business.
  3. Increase quality links.  A focused effort at increasingly high quality links to select pages will also help drive relevancy, authority (PageRank) and overall search engine ranking.

I’m SEO’d out . . . more later

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