SEO is one of the hottest topics currently in the world of web sites and web applications, since a high ranking in search engine results can have a tremendous impact on the amount of traffic a site receives. So it was no surprise that the session on Designing Search Engine Friendly Sites was so popular, at the WebGuild Web 2.0 Conference and Expo last week.
As a co-founder of Search Engine Marketing firm Bloofusion, moderator Andreas Mueller is no stranger to the topic of SEO; in addition to asking incisive questions, he was able to add to the discussion with the other panel members.
The other members of the panel were:
- Paul O'Brien, Marketing Director, Zvents (see writeup)
- Charles DiFazio, Software Engineer, Google
- Lance Loveday, CEO, Closed Loop Marketing
Near the start of the session, Paul O'Brien outlined the most basic three items required for Findability - changes you should complete before even attempting any explicit SEO tactics:
- Access: Crawlers from the major search engines have to be able to access your site and get at the content
- Structure: You must organize the content on your site so that Google (or other search engine) can understand it
- Content: The content must follow the basic requirements of SEO, such as optimizing keywords, using adwords and so on
Based on the discussion at this session, I've compiled the following list of SEO tips provided by this panel of expert Marketers.
- Optimize the content that people are searching on, not search terms that you would like to rank for even if no one is searching for those terms
- Try to articulate explicitly what the expected outcome is - which terms would you like to rank highly for? Which specific page should rank high for which term?
- Think about SEO early in the web design process and throughout the life-cycle of the product or site; adding it in as an after-thought is less effective and takes a lot more resources
- Within a company, it is better for the SEO function to live within the Marketing department, rather than within Engineering. At the same time, you need outside validation that the company is going in the right direction.
- Create a hierarchy of web pages, optimized for both human users and search engine crawlers.
- One word: Linkbait! Create content that's unique, valuable, and most important, consistent with your brand. Optimize it for keywords that are important within your domain.
- For SEO purposes, avoid dynamic web sites that rely too heavily on Ajax or Flash; if it can't be crawled, it won't rank highly with the Search engines.
- Creating a static site that can be crawled, separate from the main dynamic web site, has the effect of diluting PageRank for those web pages.
At one point, Mueller asked a really interesting question: given that resources are finite and constrained, should you focus resources more strongly on inbound links, or on optimizing the content?
The panelists agreed that since link popularity is weighted much more strongly, focusing on getting inbound links is a top priority; optimizing the content by adding keywords in links, using meta tags, etc. remains a distant second.