The Secrets of Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Presenters: Peter Samland (firstname.lastname@example.org) & Kelly Hall (email@example.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
• 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
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
• Anything in a box
• HTML5 Specs
• 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)
Web design and where it's headed
Validate your web page with the following tools:
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
• 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.
• 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:
• Old browser
• Viewed in another language
• Viewed with large text
• It is crawled (check the Google Cache)
• You have to make SEO changes
Organic optimization – who are the players?
• Google (more than half of the searches take place here)
But don't focus only on Google, since that leaves a significant amount
of traffic at risk.
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
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
• Develop PDFs so they're text based so they can be crawled. SE can't
• 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 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.
• 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
• 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
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?
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?
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
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
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
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
The more content you have on your site, the more
traffic you get.
Q. For non-commerce site, does Google Analytics help?
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.