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Now were on to the session I've been looking forward to the most out of our coverage of SES London 2010. Five heavyweights of the SEO industry sharing their tips and strategies of successful SEO campaigns in the web's most competitive niches: Dave Naylor (on competitor analysis), Richard Baxter (Travel), Rob Kerry (gambling ) and David and Allan from FireflySEO (recruitment / ecommerce). Here we go...
Dave Naylor from Bronco on Competitor Analysis
Dave starts with the importance of understanding your niche - we cant dive in like an inhouse SEO but we can get a snapshot. He talks about Touchgraph to give you a quick idea, and also looking at which competitors rank. But the latter can be plugged into one of Dave's tools (free to use) for data and keyword mining -> repeat and rinse till you have a massive keyword list. Then analyse the data. Nowadays rather than using Google's keyword tool Bronco have an inhouse tool which compares traffic, ranking, clickthrough, PPC data - this can give you an idea of what you can get out of ranking for which specific SERP positions. This is checked on a monthly basis. This produces a visibility / opportunity 'score'. Damn I would love to have access to this tool he is showing, I will definitely be following Dave up on that!
The next stage of analysing this data is mining all of the backlinks of the same competitors - using a range of sources including Yahoo, Majestic, Linkscape and his own index.
Dave on the fact that Bronco are a small boutique "We're like the SAS" - small, specialist and targeted :)
Allan Stewart from FireflySEO on Recruitment SEO
Allan is going to focus on the "candidate" side (rather than recruiter side) of a Recruitment site.
Ranking for company names is an important strategy - eg recruiter brand names.
Split between pre-defined content pages is 40%, where as 60% comes to search result pages, ie the long tail. A lot of people noindex their search result pages - but you shoud make them crawlable up to a point. The problem with this comes with the practice of sites "rolling back" to the parent category where there are no search results - this can obviously lead to a lot of duplicate content issues.
Watch out for duplicate content issues - eg is a search result page pointing to the same content as a static page
Where there are blank pages turning up you can create a script to detect these and fire off an alert email to the relevant team telling them to create content for this page. I like this idea.
Use JS/CSS # solution for paginated pages - all pages are loaded as one page, avoids duplicate content cannibalisation for page 2,3,4 etc.
Use microformats on vacancy pages - make your listings stand out - the one specific to recruitement is called H-Resume microformat (in beta at the moment)
Random quote from Allan's slides: "CV Matching? Portable CVs? Where wil it all end Rodney?" - I'm not sure what this means but the Only Fools and Horses reference is a winner in my book :)
More resources on his slide deck - definitely one to check because that was a really quick one!
David Fairhurst from Intelligent Retail - Retail SEO
David starts with the importance of understanding your visitors when planning your ecommerce navigation structure - most of the time users dont want to be funneled, they want to get straight to the product they're looking for. The traditional model of a complex tree structure with 4-5 branches / categories before you get to the products are not actually the best way to do things. To SEO this kind of structure you need to spend a lot of time injecting unique content onto each of these pages - a big time drain. This also creates a "content vaccuum" where you have pages that just have links to other pages. These are low value pages to search engines, especially because Google will track individual bounce rates (not sure if he means via Google Analytics here). These funneling pages also dont allow much cross-selling - high dropout rate, even up to 90%, and in the worst cases people start using internal Search instead - one step away from going elsewhere.
Instead - give visitors immediate access to exactly where they want to go - eg mega menus with loads of categories in the dropdown - sites like diy.com (B&Q) have switched to this. This gives you content heavy categories as standard, and better opportunities for cross selling, but still options for refinements. Bottom line: less clicks = less abandonment.
Richard Baxter, from SEOGadget - Travel SEO
1. How people search for flights in the UK
There are 6 main categories of keywords in terms of flights:
- generic (flights, cheap flights)
- destination (eg "flights to new york")
- routes - v important (eg "flights from london to new york") look at all the different variations eg "london to paris" is different to "paris to london". Route based keywords are actually less competitive than others and easier to target because not many people optimise for it.
- Brand ("easyjet flights")
- Departure (eg "flights from manchester")
Take your keyword lists and put all variations into Google Keyword tool - over a large scale of iterations you end up with a huge target long tail graph.
Then you can play around with new longtail variations of different types of keywords eg "cheap easyjet flights from Gatwick to Malaga"
How this translates into site architecture:
You can map each 'type' of keyword against different levels of your sitemap architecture - eg hompage -> generic,
Site indexation issues:
The problem with mapping out this kind of country based architecture is that you end up siloing pagerank down through your main destinations but there are 'neighbour' countries/categories that dont have much juice. Get around this by using crosslinking (similar / nearby / most popular / recently reviewed suggestions), and of course flattening your site architecture. Also learn from bloggers - use tagging as a way to spread internal juice to pages that don't traditionally get power.
Analysing competitiveness and competitor linkbuilding strategies:
Richard pimped out Open Site Explorer to show how you can look at competitor backlinks. Eg - Kayak - tools like Top Pages on Domain are really powerful for finding out about things they have had a lot of success with.
Phew! That was intense - years of experience at CheapFlights condensed into about 15 mins - crazy!
Rob Kerry from Ayima - Gambling / Gaming SEO
The gaming world is probably the most competitive niche in SEO - esp poker and casinos.
There is no secret sauce as there used to be eg with old link networks being burned. Rob shows a graph of search volume and est clickthrough
888 vs William Hill - #1 and #4 respectively. Both are similar in terms of optimisation but their backlinks are what separates them. Rob uses a similar process to Dave Naylor to rank links according to anchor text, class C IPs and other metrics like PR.
Once you've dominated a market - eg casino in UK, what about branching out to other countries - eg France. Uses backlink comparison to look at a few top ranked sites in France. Main conclusion is use a subfolder NOT a subdomain - with a subdomain your authority is starting from scratch. You can register a subfolder to a different country within Google Webmaster Tools - so do that. Rob expanded on this more in the Q&A - it is much easier, quicker and cheaper to use a subfolder on a generic TLD to rank for really competitive keyphrases in different countries, compared with building up authority from scratch on different (sub)domains. [In my experience with less competitive niches it can actually work the other way round - separate interlinked ccTLDs can rank v quickly]
This was an excellent session as expected with such top class speakers, all so experienced that if you let them talk for any amount of time there's going to be valuable stuff for any SEO to soak up. The problem is (and I've heard this said about the big SEO conferences compared to say the SEOmoz Pro seminar last year) is that all the talks are so short that speakers cram a shedload of good stuff into a verbal diahorrea of bullet points. It's easy for it to go over your head and I'm knackered trying to get it all down! Needless to say I'll be checking out the slides when they're released and chatting to the speakers in the pub if possible!