The SEO Pro Training Seminar was taken across the pond and held for the first time in London after previously being held in Seattle. It was run by SEOmoz and Distilled who did a great job of the event. I’ve put together all of my notes from the seminar and highlighted key points I took away as well as a few of my own ideas that came to me as I was listening.
This is a rather long post so I’ve put some quick links in below to help you find any particular presentations a little quicker. I’ve also included links to all of the speakers at the end as well as links to other reviews of the seminar. If you write a review and want a link just drop me a message on Twitter and met me know. Also thanks to Paul Forcey for recording some of the #proseo tweets for me to fill the gaps in my notes!
Quick Links -
I’d previously seen Will present on Google Analytics at SMX London 2009 in his face off with Rand Fishkin. It was a great presentation but I was a bit worried that it would be a bit repetitive this time round. Luckily it wasn’t and he talked about some very interesting points and neat little hacks for Google Analytics which could help you interpret the data you get much more easily.
I’ve always thought that most people look at Analytics data and don’t quite understand what they are supposed to do with it. Will shared this opinion and came up with some great ways to interpret and actually action the data you find. The basis of the talk was very much centered around importing data into Excel and doing all sorts of cool stuff. This kind of set the tone for the conference and Excel suddenly became the tool of choice for most SEO data.
Try to use Google Analytics to discover new links to your website, you can do some fancy work using the Excellent Analytics plugin to pull out the data and then run some cool lookups on the data to highlight new links over a given time period. I can’t give you the exact details here as they were detailed in the slides but when they are available I will link to them.
Another interesting way to use Analytics is do diagnose website problems such as duplicate content or multiple versions of the same page.
This was one of my favourite talks. Richard talked about how to build a good SEO team from scratch right through from the best recruitment process, to group interviews, to nurturing and training your SEO team. He gave us a basic hierarchy of how an SEO team may look, it was split into four basic areas below the SEO manager -
- Link Building
This structure made a lot of sense but Richard was eager to point out that these teams do not work independently of each other, they can cross over and support each other wherever necessary.
A very interesting part of Richard’s talk was how to integrate an SEO strategy into a company, especially how to justify costs of resources against the potential results. He demonstrated some very clever uses of Microsoft Excel pivot tables to gather data and display it in such a way that shows you what return you can expect to get from a certain keyword. Obviously this isn’t an exact science but it can certainly help when approaching your client or your boss and asking for extra resource to work on this keyword.
These spreadsheets included the use of pivot tables which (I think!) Richard is a BIG fan of .
Richard also recommended a really cool Firefox plugin that makes it very easy to copy and paste data from Google Analytics in a nice clean format – take a look at Dafizilla.
Social media is a relatively new concept and its becoming more and more important to at least have a good understanding of how it works if you are an SEO and how it can apply to your clients. Lucy gave a good presentation on getting ideas for social media and how to apply them for your own clients. She explained how to brainstorm properly and get ideas from your workmates and pointed out that brainstorming is more than just sitting down with someone and saying “so what ideas you got?”
A key point I think most people miss when looking at social media is not relying on Facebook for your campaigns. In the Q&A afterwards Lucy was asked about this and said to ask yourself if Facebook is actually really necessary. Its a fair point because its far too easy to jump on the bandwagon and think Facebook will work for you just because it does for everyone else.
AKA “spam-girl” Jane was up next with a presentation on how to spot penalties imposed on your website by Google and if necessary the best practice to get them lifted. One of the main things that people need to understand is the difference between just not ranking and being penalised. You can usually do this by running a few searches for your page title and exact text from the page. If your page isn’t showing up for exact searches such as this, then there may be a problem. If you are showing up for these but not for your broader terms then chances are that you are just not ranking well, particularly if the sites above you are fairly strong.
One interesting point was on the matter of re-inclusion requests and whether to send them from your own “SEO” email address or to act as if you are the client and send it from their address. Jane recommended sending it from the client address and playing dumb really to get Google to let you back in. Later on in the day Dave Naylor made the point that he always done these requests as himself and this is because they are usually taking over a campaign from a previous SEO company who have caused the penalty.
The bottom line with a re-inclusion request – be totally honest and up front!
Duncan caught my attention with lots of cool pictures of animals at the start of his presentation but soon got into the nitty gritty of large site architecture and information architecture. We run a number of large websites at Pin Digital and do sometimes come across issues with the best way to structure a website so i found this presentation interesting.
You need to think about information architecture and making sure that not only is there only ever one version of a piece of content, but also that this content is easy to navigate to.
Despite the fact I didn’t get a huge amount of actual knowledge or actionable tips from Ben’s presentation, I really enjoyed it and found him to be very funny and an extremely clever guy. I think sometimes that he forgot that he wasn’t talking to a room full of maths experts but getting himself out of these situations proved to be quite amusing at times – thanks for that Ben
The basis of his presentation was to present the results of some tests he’d been running using data from Linkscape and Google Search results. The idea being that he wanted to discover exactly what ranking factors mattered to Google according to the data found in Linkscape.
It was quite funny to hear the gasps as Ben showed us that the H1, H2 and H3 tags make no difference at all to search results. Rand had mentioned this before in SEOmoz blog posts and Rand helped out a little in explaining that its not that they don’t matter, its more that there are more important things to think about.
I was very much looking forward to this session and although the content was very good and advanced, I’d come across the tactics before and often use them for our own clients. The common methods for finding links were -
- Using Linkscape to Reverse Engineer a competitor
- Using the SEOmoz common link finder to see who links to your competitors but not you
- Searching for related niche directories and local directories to find easy targets
- Coming up with USPs of websites to get links and devise widgets
Ben and Karl from Conversion Rate Experts were very good speakers and talked about how they added over $1m to the bottom line of SEOmoz by improving their homepage and call to action pages. At Pin Digital we are always looking for ways to improve the conversion rates of our ecommerce clients so I was looking forward to this presentation.
The guys made some good points including -
- Removing someones “objections” to converting (becoming a customer)
- Identifying the desires of the customer and seeing exactly what it is they want
- Using the principles learnt from face to face selling and applying them to the website
- Using different levels of membership on SEOmoz to increase value
- Giving the customer a good reason to act quickly and no leave their decision until later
- The importance of call to action buttons and making them stand out
Another important thing which they do themselves as standard is A/B split testing which is essential in learning exactly what does and doesn’t work on your website. You can do this quite easily yourself using something like Google Website Optimiser.
After the previous showdown at SMX London, which Will won, the guys had a rematch to see who could delivery the best presentation and win the votes of the audience.
We saw some interesting keyword data from Will that indicated that 3 – 4 word keyphrases converted at a much better rate than broader 1 – 2 word phrases. This makes perfect sense when you think about it but what Will did was to combine this real data with ranking results to see where rankings could be improved with these more targeted keywords.
There is also always the issue of how to implement keyword research across a large website, to deal with this Will recommended running analysis (using Excel ) to definte the intention of the majority of your visitors and base your on-site keyword use around this.
Rand went off on a little bit of a tangent in my opinion. He delivered a great presentation with lots of interesting data, graphs and information, sadly none of it related to the presentation subject of keywords. Sorry Rand but Will got my vote because of this!
An interesting point from Rob’s presentation was that Google will actually crawl a news story twice in a short period of time. This is to see if there have been any updates or changes to the news story. This makes total sense as sometimes a breaking news story can be just a few lines as facts and information are not yet known. As time goes on more information is found out and added to the page so Google wants to know about this. So if you are a news publisher then make sure you update a news page to let Google know you are keeping on top of the story.
You can also use a news sitemap and manually ask Google to add you to their list of sites that they accept news stories from. There is no guarantee you will be accepted but its worth a try if you think your content is good enough.
Rob recommended using Google news suggest to come up with new ideas for news stories as these suggestions seem to be updated a lot quicker than the suggest data on the web search. Using old news stories can give you a headstart on new breaking stories if the content is generic enough to come up more than once in the news. One example of this was news stories related to Michelle Obama’s dress which generated news on several occasions. So an old URL with this story could be tweaked to cater for the breaking story and Google will have an established page to show as opposed to brand new URLs.
As most of us know, link building is the one part of SEO that confuses and frustrates just about everyone – myself included! Everyone seems to think that there is some kind of secret or tactic no one talks about which you can use to solve all of your link building issues. The fact is that whilst yes there are tactics that some companies use that are not public, there are still tons of great techniques and tools out there to use.
Tom quite rightly pointed out this fact in his presentation by saying that there was no secret sauce to link building. Instead he came up with some good, solid methods of getting links that are scalable and applicable to most industries and niches.
Google Content Network – If you run Google Adwords, you may have the content network enabled, if you do then take a look at the sites that are sending you traffic and conversions. Go to these sites and see if they will link to you directly. These are super targeted sites to approach for several reasons -
- They are commercially minded
- They don’t mind linking out to other websites if they already use Adsense
- They are relevant to your website
Extra Tip – You don’t have to actually be running Ads on the content network to find out which sites in your industry are running Adsense. Yes its slightly better if you are because you can get a good idea of the quality of traffic prior to approaching them. However sometimes you can’t do this for whatever reason so bear in mind that it isn’t totally necessary.
Tom made a good point that you need to find a USP for your client that you can leverage for link building. What do they do that your competitors don’t? Its great reverse engineering your competitors and getting links they have, but the real high quality links are the ones which you can get which your competitor can’t. Also look at the business as a whole and see if you have any assets such as people who may help you get links. One example was a company who had a very well know CEO who’d met some famous faces, perhaps he could use his influence to help you get links for his quotes or guest blog posts.
Try to work out why competitors rank in the way they do – do you need links in volume? Do you need anchor text links? Think about what type of links you need rather than just going out and getting any you can.
If you are planning on writing some new content or linkbait, have an email list of potential linkers to contact and email them all as soon as the content goes live to let them know about it.
Giveaway products or a discount to bloggers and the community. Most bloggers love to receive free stuff, you don’t even have to ask for a link most of the time. Many bloggers will use the product, review it and write about it – with a natural link. Another good thing to throw into this mix would be to ask them to actually do something with the product and make it into a competition.
Use Linkscape to find competitor links and order them by Domain mozRank to narrow down the list and find the best quality links first.
Look at the links of other websites that are listed in niche directories, add these to your list of link targets.
Rand delivered another great presentation on the importance of content in the SEO process. He came up with some great tips which I’ve summarised below -
- Review traffic stats for new content pages and give these stats to the writers – cc in their boss on the email to let them know they’ve done a good job
- Give regular visitors who contribute to your website an ego boost by highlighting their contributions
- Make user generated content as easy to share as possible, make the buttons similar to call to action buttons to do this
- Define your future content strategies by looking at what has worked well in the past – most linked to pages and traffic stats provide this data
Patrick covered a few different parts of universal search, one of which was Google Image Search. He pointed out many of the on-page factors that Google seem to look at when deciding what an image is about. The most important aspect seems to be the closest text to the image and its use of your target keyword. Other things included ALT text, including the image with a paragraph and making sure that the image is high resolution. An interesting idea was to approach the websites that currently show at the top in image results and seeing if you could contact them to edit the images to include your brand, this would make the images stand out a bit more in search results and could work quite well for some images and brands.
He went on to talk about Google video search and recommended the use of a video sitemap in getting your video files indexed. This isn’t as straight forward as a normal webpage sitemap so you may need some development time for this to be implemented. Patrick showed some interesting examples that indicated Google’s eagerness to index video content. We saw an example of where Google had indexed a flash file which wasn’t a video at all but it will ranked. He also showed an experiment where he created a “video” with his own image as the thumbnail, this was showing up in www.google.it for the term “search engine optimisation” yet when you clicked through there was no video at all. This was achieved by submitting a video sitemap and adding extra parameters such as length, rating and a thumbnail image.
The point with this was that not all video results are from Youtube, many are from other sources so if you do this right, you can become one of these sources too and have your videos showing up in Google.
Tom Critchlow – Local Search
I’d read previously that Tom had performed a fair bit of research on local search factors and what is involved in making your website show up at the top of results that show local map results.
- Verify your website via Google Local Business Centre
- Claim your listing if you haven’t already
- Get people to review your business and leave feedback on your listing
- Get citations in particular ones that mention your address or phone number
- Choose relevant categories
One interesting point was getting reviews for your business. Tom pointed out that the nature of people when making reviews is that they are more likely to leave a bad review than a good review. For this reason, it doesn’t seem to matter whether or not your reviews are positive or negative, its the number that matter. So let your customers know about this and link to your Google profile so they can leave you reviews. Try to motivate them to leave a review as you would with usual customer reviews on your site.
You can also look at your competitions Google business profiles, go to their reviews section and see where they are getting citations from. In the same way you’d reverse engineer a competitor for links, you can reverse engineer them for business citations.
Extra tip – Google your competitors phone numbers and addresses to find more places to get citations from.
I was really looking forward to Dave’s presentation as I think automation and software plays a big part in the SEO process. Yes there are certain things which you can never automate which Dave pointed out during his talk. He told us about some of the internal tools his company had built to help with gathering SEO data and running analysis. There were some publicly available tools as well which he mentioned such as -
Something that Dave pointed out in the Q&A was the importance of making contact with the search engine engineers at conferences. I’m sure most SEO’s would avoid talking to the likes of Google and Bing, but as Dave pointed out, these guys want to know how to improve search results and SEO’s are in a great position to give constructive, technical feedback on search results. Communicating with these guys can help you in the future if you want a little bit of help or advice.
- Will Critchlow
- Duncan Morris
- Tom Critchlow
- Lucy Langdon
- Rob Ousbey
- Rand Fishkin
- Ben Hendrickson
- Jane Copland
- Patrick Altoft
- Dave Naylor
- Richard Baxter
- Ben Jesson
Other Reviews of SEO Pro Training Seminar 2009
- 9 Things from SEOmoz/Distilled Training 2009
- Photos from SEO Pro Training courtesy Fernando Macia
- Seminar Review from Chris M