January 8, 2008
The Secrets of Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

The Secrets of Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Presenters: Peter Samland (petersamland@90octane.com) & Kelly Hall (kellyhall@90octane.com)

RMIUG, January 8, 2008

Kelly Hall is a Project Manager with 90octane. She has been with the interactive marketing agency for three years and has experience in the strategic development and execution of both online lead generation and search engine marketing programs. She has led SEM programs in the manufacturing, technical, and nonprofit verticals, with a focus on integrating new search technologies. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a major in Communications.

Peter Samland is the Senior Systems Engineer with 90octane. He has been doing web site development since 2002. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science/Philosophy and Religion and is currently finishing his Master of Computer Science remotely at Kansas State University. While he has worked with a variety of web technologies, he has always been a proponent of open source, accessible technologies, and standards-based development. At 90octane, he has driven micro-site development that is search engine-friendly and fun to use.

90octane is a results-driven interactive marketing company that was founded in 2000 by some of the first search engine optimization experts in the world. The company takes a strategic approach, creating a customized search engine marketing plan that generates sustained results for your unique business needs. 90octane primarily does two types of search engine work:

• Lead generation

Introduction by Josh Zapin

2007 is known as the year that Search functionality grew up.

• Google owns 65% of the SEO market and growing
• Yahoo – 2nd
• MSN – 3rd

Search has matured and grown in the last year, in some of the following ways:

• Social media sites that aggregate content (Facebook, MySpace, Digg) have become more popular
• You can get "blended" search results; instead of just getting 10 "blue" links, you also get some pictures, video, audio

Peter's presentation

When you first start a Web site, the design may not be optimized for SEO

Current problems with web sites:

• Clients may think they know what's best, but they don't always
• Designers know how to make things look good, but make the SEO process more difficult (no crawlable content)
• SEOers prioritize optimization above all else
• Other developers – their code may limit SEO
• The Web itself – standards are not uniformly enforced and there are lots of variations.

We forget that the primary goal of web sites is to present information (i.e., Information Superhighway).

Cool is a problem

Everyone wants to use cutting-edge technology, but it may get in the way of SEO. For example, some cutting-edge technologies that interfere with SEO include:

• Hosting solutions
• Content Management Solutions
• Ajax
• Flash
• Silverlight
• Anything in a box
• HTML5 Specs
• Widgets
• JavaFX

Accessible content

• Web development is maturing: started out incredibly standards-based (e.g., bulletin boards). Evolved into something more; now we have Best Practices as a model for development.
• Real coders and coders who care about the Web
• Real standards and reasons to code for them.
• Return of information (the real ROI)
o Wikipedia
o Craigslist
o Google

Web design and where it's headed

Standards-based design

Validate your web page with the following tools:
HTML: http://validator.w3.org
CSS: http://jigsaw.w3.org
SpeedReport: http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/

Accessible Design
Is your design 508 compatible?
Accessible Design validator:

• Use HTML to describe your information – use this as a way to mark up the page for information, its importance on the page (H1 tags)
• CSS is a way to display described information
• JavaScript – a way to interact with the display of the info
• Flash and other apps are a black box. Back up your Flash content with alternate content and navigation
• Content Management Systems should generate each type individually. Have unique links to content/have an alternative.

HTML Accessible Design – a great example is the www.nasa.gov site.
Good example of separation between content and the JavaScript.

• The same site viewed in the Google Cache shows all the content and the navigation in Google's cache. This info is easily crawlable.
• Google Cache is link at the bottom of the Google site.

You should know what your page looks like when:

• There's no JavaScript installed on a machine
• Old browser
• Viewed in another language
• Viewed with large text
• It is crawled (check the Google Cache)
• You have to make SEO changes

Kelly's presentation

Organic optimization – who are the players?

• Google (more than half of the searches take place here)
• Yahoo
• Ask.com

But don't focus only on Google, since that leaves a significant amount of traffic at risk.

Keyword Selection

Content is king – foundation is the keywords you choose

Keyword Selection Process

• Knowing words/phrases that your audience will use when searching is essential to good SEO.
• You can launch a paid campaign to locate keywords.
• You can now track how many leads you get from clicks on a web site.

3 Key Factors Control site placement on search engines

1. Onsite factors: everything you can do on back end, code of the site
2. Offsite factors: external linking, press releases, all links that point to your site; everything that you do on this outside of your site to get a better ranking.
3. Site wide factors: everything that emphasizes online collaboration and sharing.

Key onsite factors

• URL structure should be flat structure: domain name,
• Navigation and links: SE must be able to crawl navigation
• Headers: use them to describe important info in your site rather than for design on site
• Page copy: use 5-8 keywords per page
• Footer: important for historical and trust factors. Address and email, physical address at bottom of page indicates to Google that you're trustworthy. Local search (local address has become more important)
• Metadata: title, description, CSS info

Image Optimization – onsite factors

Many sites are image heavy. Use Alt tags. Best to describe your picture instead of loading up site with lots of keywords.

To code your site to optimize specific images, use keywords in the image file names and include in the image alt tag. Optimize the page containing the images. Keep the image near supporting keyword rich content.

PDF Optimization

• Develop PDFs so they're text based so they can be crawled. SE can't read images.
• Complete the document properties (indicates the content that will be displayed in the heading of the search results page)
• Optimize the copy for a PDF just as you would for web site. Fine line between talking to user and talking to SE.
• Linking. Incorporate links in PDF.
• Version control. Don't use latest, greatest version.

XML Sitemaps

XML Sitemaps have nothing to do with the typical web site map. They inform the search engine about the perceived relevancy of your pages.

Show example slide. XML Sitemaps can indicate how often the URL is likely to change, last time URL was modified, priority of this page relative to other pages on the same site.

Key offsite factors

Ways to drive traffic. Valuable incoming links, directories/local search (your location), press releases.

Sitewide factors

• Social Bookmarking: People who use social networking sites can add your content to their sites. Add links, buttons, etc. that makes it easy for user to save to Digg, Delicious, others.
• Blogs: Keep in step with the culture and other blogs on your industry. Good way to generate incoming links to your site and overall buzz.
• Podcasts: Establish RSS feeds to syndicate your podcast and update users about new content. Mostly used in B to C context now. Submit to podcast search engines, too.
• RSS feeds: Push your content to users and sites that want it.
• Video: Produce traffic virally by posting them to sites like YouTube, Meta Café, etc. Video is crawlable.

Good References – list of references to check:


Note: A PDF of this presentation can be found at:

Audience Questions and Answers

Q. Is metadata no longer as important?
A. Title and description tag are very important; keywords are less important in meta data. Lowest common denominator – Search engines crawl only a certain number of characters, so you want to design for the lowest common denominator.

Q. How do sites end up on garbage link sites?
A. Their partner may put content on untrustworthy sites OR one can pay for links on these sites.

Q. Historical and trust factors. Can you talk more about this?
A. Historical factor: everyone has to register a domain. Small sites that are set up to spam will often set up a short-time URL, so it's suspect. SEs like to see a site registered for at least 10 years. New sites end up in Google Sandbox.

Trust Factors: have a physical mailing address on your site. Be careful with domain names because some are hard to come by.

Email contacts are often helpful to users but less important than physical address.

Q. When you set up an account at Google, you are assigned a score and you stay at that score. How do you deal with that aspect of how Google looks at you (quality score for pay per click)?
A. It's a matter of keyword selection, your creative (are you offering something of use and you taking user to the link you say you will). Optimizing match types on things that aren't working. Fixing keywords with low click thru-rate; all these factors have a positive impact on your quality score. Optimize your campaign. Don't put in every keyword if it doesn't match your creatives. You don't want to use keywords that don't make any sense for your company.

Q: How do microsites relate to SEO? Should they target certain keywords or pay per click?
A: Microsite development has been largely used for lead generation purposes. Often good response when the site is content-rich. Used to both drive traffic and to drive organic optimization.

Q. Flat directory structure: How important is this?
A. Main point is that it's SE crawlable. Underscores, content mgt system notations, keywords buried several directories deep, avoid spam-like tactics -- these are often dealbreakers for SEs. Make sure you put in proper redirects when you move content.

Q. Client has not done any validation on very old web sites. Can they run old web sites (like newspapers) through validation sites?
A. Judgment call about how much you want to spend and how much time to put in.

Q. How often does your company build sites as new, how often do you redesign sites?
A. Right now we do mostly redesigns, but the trend is to have us start with designers, from the beginning.

Q. How do you get around Google sandbox?
A. New URL is put on "back burner" by them and may not exist to them for a long time. Never submit to Google directly. Work with keywords, site design to get best results.

Q. How do you use keywords effectively?
A. Use 5-8 keywords per page. Keywords must align with content. Don't write to describe keywords; keywords describe content.

Q. On index page, s/company name be there?
A. Depends on client goals. Some clients have been around a long time, don't need to do this. But newer company may need buzz around company name. We (90octane) never start a tag with a company name.

Q. What's a good bounce rate?
A. Some sites have high bounce rate, without negative performance. Biggest concern is that you don't want to lose clients. Content must match what they're looking for. Bounce rate has had an impact in the past on search ratings. Not so much of an impact today.

Q. What are the priorities for SEO?
A. Crawlable site, no funky URLs, no black hat stuff on your site, content is king, content matches keywords, 5 keywords per page (include in title and description, too), metadata (title and description tags are important), offsite linking (pr, linking back to your site).

Offsite linking includes: Press releases in Adobe, they hit newswires, Google news, easy visibility. Lots of free distribution services. PRnewswire and BusinessWire are the most popular paid ones.

Q. Video. My company did this (out on YouTube and other sites) and had no ROI. How do you turn this into money? Local search? We're located in Denver, but it's a national company. How to be local with national presence? DO NOT have duplicate content on both local and national sites. Big red flag for search engine. For SEO, just have a national site but for pay per click you can do a lot with geographical targeting in Google (certain marketing radius, etc.)
A. For lead generation: need to be pushing people to it. External push media, pay per click. Even things like your own home page ads that advertise YouTube videos, etc. Has to be not sales-ey, creative, etc.

Q. Any success from ad words, any ROI?
A. Yes, big success. Because you have analytics, it's amazing how much you can track. One company has all its revenues driven from ad words.

Q. How to set up shopping carts for SEO?
A. Make sure products are accessible and you have good linking to your products.

Q. Pre-Google days, it was more difficult to do SEO. With 53% Google share growing, should a company just focus on Google as far as SEO?
A. Many companies will follow suit because they're the leader. Second and third tier players are shifting. Ask.com is moving up. Don't know how much Google will grow, so it's best to not design just for Google. But since Google is so big, many lesser players are following their lead.

Q. Blended results. Any tips for getting those types of results?
A. It's new, so it's not understood that much. Could link to your YouTube video so you're sure it comes up in the results.

Q. If you have a Google or other map on your site, does this give you more visibility?
A. The more content you have on your site, the more traffic you get.

Q. For non-commerce site, does Google Analytics help?
A. Use a variety of services depending on what you're looking for. Some
companies pay for analytics because then they're accountable for what
the result is.

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