With Google cracking down on questionable (or downright dirty) eCommerce SEO behavior, following best practices become more important than ever. Don’t sacrifice higher rankings – and lose out on potential revenue – join us to learn how you can optimize your Magento SEO.
What you’ll learn in this free webinar:
- Tips to avoid getting caught in Google’s recent webspam algorithm updates, aka Panda & Penguin
- Quick Magento settings improvements
- Panda and Penguin – friendly tactics that improve keyword rankings
- Foolproof process to create quality content that Google (and that Panda) will love
Join us and watch the recording of our webinar below:
View the transcription of this webinar below:
Mack McGee: All right everybody, thanks for your patience. Good afternoon. My name is Mack McGee and welcome to the July edition of the Groove Commerce Webinar Series. Today’s topic: E-Commerce SEO—Improving your Search Rankings in a post-Panda World. Exciting topic and it shows based on today’s registered number. So thanks for joining us.
I’d like to welcome our panelist for today—CEO and Founder of Groove Commerce, Ethan Giffin. Ethan is Groove’s search specialist and will be navigating today’s presentation and providing what should be a lot of valuable content for you to take forward in a post-Panda world. Ethan, welcome.
So let’s take a look at what’s going on today. Before we start with that, welcome to anyone new who has not attended the Groove Webinar series before. A little bit about Groove Commerce. We’re a full service online interactive agency focused in the e-commerce space. We are a Magento Gold Solution Partner providing design, development, and customization services around the Magento platform, as well as providing ongoing services, including pay-per-click marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and conversion rate consulting for companies looking to improve their online performance.
So with that, let’s jump in to today’s agenda, talk about what we’re going to be hitting on today. So first, review the Google Panda and Penguin updates; talk to you about what it means, what to look ahead for. Next we’re going to talk about Groove’s 8-step SEO audit process, what to look for. There’s eight steps that the Groove Commerce SEO team has identified are critical to really assessing the situation. Today we’ll walk through that process.
Where and how you can assess your current site. So, wondering how you are doing to date? Wondering if you can be doing better? This area of the presentation today is really going to be helpful, I think. This is probably where people are really going to take away a lot of great information. How does your current site stack up? How do you make that determination? And then, how do you raise your hand for help?
And then what probably should be some of the more active Q&A portion, so we’ve allotted a lot of time toward the end for this Q&A time. So throughout the presentation, we really encourage you to send those questions in as they come up. We’ll get to those at the end of today’s presentation, so please stick around. Don’t feel like we’re not answering your questions. A lot of great content we want to get through for everyone. We’ll hit the Q&A at the end. And if you stick around long enough, those left over we will be doing a drawing right after this webinar for a chance to win a free site consultation with the Groove team. And we will announce the winner in our follow-up email. So make sure you stick around for that Q&A time.
With that, let’s get this thing going and a little interactive nature with poll #1 today. So, what version of Magento are you currently on? For those of you that have been on these webinars before, you know we want to know who’s our audience? So go ahead and take a second and vote. Which version of Magento are you using? This is going to help Ethan as we navigate through today’s presentation.
All right. It looks like we’ve got enough to close this poll out. Let’s take a look at the results. You’ll see them right there. So Ethan, we’ve got an audience today with a very diverse group. We’ve got some people on Community, about 43%, 20% on Enterprise, 23% not on the Magento platform, and about 7% on Professional, and about 10% on go there. So, wide enough group for your Ethan?
Ethan Giffin: Yeah, that’s great, Mack, thanks again. Let’s get going today and talk a little bit about what is SEO, so just to make sure we’re all on the same page, we’re all speaking a common language. The one thing I want to start with is SEO shouldn’t be a black box. I really hate that when people try to talk about SEO and talk about it as this unknown thing with secrets and kind of mythology. Well, it’s not. It’s real world actions. It’s things that make your visitors turn into revenue on your site. So no more thinking black boxes in terms of SEO.
We’re going to talk a little bit about the anatomy of the SERP. What we mean by SERP is the Search Engine Results Page. You see here an example of a Google search with the word “lacrosse clothing”. You’ll see our search query in the box, the keyword there. You’ll see the paid ads, the pay-per-click, at the top and at the right-hand side of the Google search results. And then ultimately the organic is lower. Over time we’ve seen Google search cannibalize more and more the organic results and show a lot more paid listings. Your search results may look different than this, but it is something that they are constantly testing and changing and working on and trying to come back with the optimal mode to actually drive more revenue.
So just so everyone is on the same page, we’re going to be talking mostly about organic search today. And if we mention the word SERP, it’s the Search Engine Results Page.
Next is a great little element slide that I stole from Search Engine Land; a great resource and a great website for search resources. But you’ll see here that there’s no one thing that makes up the SEO spectrum. It’s things like content, the quality of your content, it’s your keyword research, it’s your engagement. It’s the way your site is built—the titles, the descriptions, the headers, the architecture around how your site is crawled by search engines; the speed, the URL’s you use, the types of links that you have, the quality of those links, the trust, where you are coming from.
So all of these factors work together. That is the kind of “recipe”, so to speak, that Google and other search engines use to determine which sites come up first. So there’s not one single element that you can work on. It’s multiple elements.
The next is a slide that discusses SEO tactics. You may have heard about White Hat and Black Hat SEO. White Hat is things, people that are on the up and up, people who follow Google’s Webmaster guidelines. Black Hat is things that are underground. Black Hat can definitely get you in trouble. I tend to think that many things these days are more Gray Hat, so they’re kind of in the middle. So you’ll see here just different methodologies, things like XML site maps, internal link architecture, press release optimization, reciprocal links, keyword stuffing, automated blog spam; more on the low value Black Hat. And a lot of what we’re going to discuss today is talking about how Google has gotten smarter in terms of their updates and has started to eliminate many of these Black Hat or Gray Hat methods of optimizing websites.
So the game has changed. That’s the biggest thing that I really want to let you know about today. We get it all the time. We have people that came to us and said, “Hey, my site did amazing in 2005, 2006, 2007. But in 2008 I started to go downhill. Or, with the recent updates I’ve really fallen off the search results pages.
So I wanted to kinda give just an overall landscape of what search engine and search engine optimization started with, a little bit of timeline.
In 1994 the Yahoo! Directory launched. And the Yahoo! Directory was a human edited directory of websites. So a person on the other end actually went and graded each website and make a determination on if that could go into the index or not.
In that same year, Web Crawler, the first full text index launches, and that started to crawl the web, as basic as it was at the time, and just pull back keywords. And so in kind of the late 90’s—’96, ’97, cloaking and meta tag spam became very, very popular, just because search engines weren’t very smart at the time. They were just pulling down keywords that they found. And you could go in, and you may remember this, people would stuff the meta tags with all kinds of words and those pages would rank. So that become very, very popular in the late ‘90s.
So around ’98 Google launched, and it wasn’t that good at the time. But they did have something going for them there. DEMOZ, which is a human edited directory, also launched, as well as GoTo, which later became Overture, which was later purchased by Yahoo! and became their pay-per-click platform.
So in 1999, Danny Sullivan, who edits a website Search Engine Land, he started the first SEO conference. I’ve had the chance to go to many of those and it’s a great time and a lot of learning goes on. But the industry, again, is very new. At my first SEO conference I think there were 300 of us, and it’s very interesting to see where we all are today.
In 2002 Google launched their AdWords as a pay-per-click platform. It was very new at the time. This is how they generate most of their revenue, if not 90%. It’s all based around their AdWords pay-per-click program around the world. It wasn’t very good at the time and they’ve gotten a lot better with it. Now it’s pretty great.
We go into 2000-20007. This is what I like to call The Golden Years. These were the years when like, basically, you could put a site up, put a bunch of links together and basically start ranking for keywords and driving traffic. You could go generate some links to some press releases, you could stuff keywords on your site, you could build dynamic pages that had multiple instances of a keyword and you were in business. So I kinda call this The Golden Years.
Around 2008 Google started to get smarter and they came up with what they called their Brand Update where they started to focus more on bigger brands and return them higher in the results. And in 2009 they started getting away from what they called The Google Dance, which was a once a month indexing and spidering of the web, to more of an ongoing process.
So we used to have to optimize a site, wait 30 days and see what happens. Around 2009 that started to change, and it was more of an ongoing effort to constantly index the web.
In 2010 they started to look at things like negative reviews. In 2011 we have our Google Panda Update. And recently, in 2012, we had our Penguin Update in April. There have been multiple updates since, since it’s a process that they’re working to refine. As recently as this week there was an update to the algorithm. So it’s an ongoing changing landscape. What you did years ago doesn’t work the way optimizations are going to work today. So I just wanted to give a high level overview there.
So here comes the Panda. In February of 2011 a major, major release was made to the Google algorithm that was called Panda. What that focused on was people who had lots of duplicate content; people who had duplicate content internally on their site as well as externally around the internet. People who had poorly written content. There were articles where you could go submit articles with links in it. Those types of sites were very, very quickly kind of lowered in value within Google. Sites that were low quality but had a high volume of links. It was a very common thing to go build a micro site, throw a bunch of links at it in a rapid fashion, and start to get it to rank for a specific keyword. Sites that had a high ad ratio, meaning sites that were just all Google AdSense or other ad networks that overtook, basically, the content on the site. And then what we call content farms; those were those article sites that people could submit articles to with inbound links to their sites.
So the kind of underneath of that, we’re looking at these things like engagement. They’re looking at how long people spend on the site. What’s the bounce rate on the site? How many times do you search for something, click on it in Google, and then come right back again? They’re tracking all of that. They’re tracking inbound links; what sites link back to you? How many are there? How clean is the coding on your site? Are there hidden links? How fast does the site load? Is your content in-depth? They’re able to determine the grade level of the content that you have on your site. Is this content high quality and unique, meaning it doesn’t appear everywhere?
And then your design. How do people experience the site and do they trust your site? So these are all kind of things that started to come out of that Panda update.
Then, bam, you had Penguin, another change. That came out recently this spring. And really, that update was to focus on web spam. So, death to web spam. People that had unnatural nonorganic links to their site. Were they out buying links? Were they out doing other things? People that had lots of boilerplate text on their site, meaning they had paragraph after paragraph that’s the same content and inserting keywords in various pieces of that. So that boilerplate text was really focused on. People that were stuffing the keyword into the page to maybe have 10, 12, 15 instances of that keyword in the page in the meta tags, descriptions, and title, etc. And really focusing on how to uplift sites that have fresh content and news. So again, that was really the focus of Penguin.
And a lot of e-commerce sites have issues with this, right? They’re dealing with product pages, category pages. And so, these are very, very easy prey in terms of these updates. Making sure that you are doing the right things, having unique content and not a lot of boilerplate text, all of that is things that you want to be thinking about as you are optimizing, building, and maintaining your e-commerce site.
So now it’s time for poll #2. I’m going to turn it back over to Mack.
Mack: All right, Ethan, great stuff so far. So, poll #2. We want to know who was affected by the latest Penguin update? So go ahead and hit that poll button and let us know if you saw some noticeable effects coming out of the latest Penguin update. Give everybody a minute to weigh in here and then see our results.
All right. It looks like we’ve got enough to close that poll, so let’s go ahead and take a look at the results. Ethan, we’ve got 17% saying yes, 33% say no, and then I guess, well here comes the next part of the presentation, 50% not sure. So, Ethan, with that I’ll turn it back over to you.
Ethan: All right, so kinda getting into this, a lot of people aren’t sure what’s happening. It’s definitely not a horrible place to be, although it is. Knowing is half the battle like G.I. Joe used to say.
We have an 8-step SEO audit process, patent pending. I’m kidding. But it is a process that we use here. And Charlie, I want to share it with you again. No black boxes today; we’ve a very open agency.
Typically, the eight steps that we start to focus on when we’re looking at a site is, #1, we want to review the current keyword list. We want to make sure that it’s in alignment with what’s happening. We want to then look at things like top revenue generating keywords, top revenue generating landing pages. This is very important to look at because we want to see what pages are driving money on the site. From there we kind of go back and make sure we have those top generating keywords in the keyword list.
We perform a baseline rank check. We want to see where you are for all of these words. You’d be surprised how few typically of the words that you are ranked for. And it’s something that most people wouldn’t engage with us; they’re like, “Well, I can’t believe that’s all.” But it’s really important.
From there we start to get into a deep crawl and architecture review, meaning, what does Google see when they call your site? So we have a lot of different tools and things that we’re going to share with you that you want to look at to make sure that what they’re seeing is what you want them to see.
Things, then, like reviewing the on-page optimization, an inbound link analysis, and then lastly, it’s an overall content and social analysis as well. So that’s our eight steps, the eight areas that we want to look at in terms of analyzing a website.
Let’s get into a crawl review. We’re not going to get too geeky today, but I want to kind of let you know, generally, when people have issues, this is the big place to start.
First off we’ve got our crawl errors. We’re going to look and determine if there are any crawl errors out there. We want to see if there are any 404 errors, page not founds, or 500 errors, which are application errors with your site, internal duplicate content, unessential pages that are indexed in Google’s index—very, very important, again, to look at.
We want to make sure there are no spider traps or query parameters that basically cause Google to get caught up and make your site that has 1,000 pages look like it’s 50,000 pages.
And then, ultimately, we want to look at the percentage of overall quality pages that are in the Google index versus non-quality pages.
So in terms of this crawl, this is typically where problems begin because it’s kind of under the hood; most people don’t think to look there.
This is a screenshot from Google’s Webmaster Tools. If you haven’t done this already, you want to go up and create and account and then verify your site with them. You either put a meta tag on the site or your upload a little HTML file. That way you can verify and get more in-depth information about how your site is performing.
You’ll see here, this is a very, very interesting report where there were basically 20,411 errors that Google was seeing on a daily basis. So, you want to really look at this. It’s very important. This should almost be like zero or negligible. Like, if you have two, three, four, five, 10 errors, maybe that’s OK. But to have 20,000 errors on a daily basis, to have 27,000 not found errors, all of this is very, very bad.
If you look here, we engaged with this. We started to make some changes. It’s starting to go down. It’s going to take some time for Google to kind of learn from its bad ways. It might take three, four, five, six weeks to kind of get some of this tuned out.
But you’ll see below, you’ll see the top 1,000 pages with errors that they detected. You want to kind of start going through those and see if there’s any kind of systemical pattern. If you’ve transitioned website platforms and you’ve gone from .ASP, or .ASPX, or .PHP, you want to look at those things and you can start to figure out, “Well, are there orphan pages that we didn’t redirect? Are they looking for something? Do we have a bad link somewhere on the site that’s causing all these [xx 18:13]? You want to start to diagnose this and get rid of these errors.
Next we’re looking at the crawl statistics. Google also gives you this as well. The interesting thing about this is, as you can see from the orange arrow, we made some changes to the overall way that the site performed and kind of tuned it in multiple methods, and those pages crawled per day significantly decreased because they’re starting to actually find the good pages and not look for the bad pages.
This particular site has about four or five thousand pages in it and it was indexing as many as 25,000 a day, meaning it’s coming back with combinations that just don’t make sense. So as you can see, you want that to be in line with the amount of pages that you have on your site.
One of the things you can do with Webmaster Tools as well is you can submit an XML sitemap of your site, which should be generated. If you have Magento it’s a built-in feature. If you have a bigger site we suggest an extension. But what you do is it will basically give Google a roadmap of all the category, product pages, and content pages within your site. You want to make sure that that’s in alignment with all of these numbers as well.
If your site performance, as you can imagine, having this crazy of an arc and this much content being pulled down by the Google bot in a single day, for such a small site you can tell it was an overall taxing amount on the server. So there are ways that you can tell Google bot to slow down. We actually prefer to fix the issues and see how that reacts. This is the crawl stats page.
Next we have the URL parameters page. This is where Google starts to look at things with like the ? and query strings at the end of URL’s. So, things like SID, things like order, or P for Page. If you’ve got a lot of filtered navigation, we’ll show you in a minute, these are all the different things that are going to come back in those query strings.
So query strings aren’t necessarily bad, but kind of untamed query strings are bad. So you have some things here that you can kind of see. And you can actually make some modifications, but use this feature only if you are sure how the parameters work.
You can actually go in and tell Google not to index pages that contain parameters and not to spider them. So if P is your pagination, you may want to tell them that that’s pagination and they can react accordingly. So don’t go messing around in there unless you know what you’re doing, but if you do it can help you to kind of eliminate some of these crawl issues that you’re having. And again, it takes a few weeks for all of this to kind of work itself out because they’re indexing so many pages.
Another tool that we really like is the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. I think it’s around $100 to purchase. It is available for MAC and Windows, I believe. We used to really love the tool Xenu, but it was very limited in terms of what it would bring back. Xenu Links is a free tool.
This allows us to do a lot of things. We can write regular expressions. We can actually put in there and evaluate and look for things like your Google Analytics code. So we can spider an entire site and get back what pages don’t have the right code on it. But it allows us to kind of pull back and see a lot of things like linking, URL structure. Status code meaning 200 is good; that means the page is returning good results. 404 means it is missing. 301 means it was redirected. It can pull out things like meta descriptions and H1 tags and H2 tags and kind of let you know a lot of what’s happening with your site. So it’s a great tool that we utilize to go in and diagnose issues in terms of crawling.
Filtered navs; spider traps. So people are like, “What are these spider traps?” So meaning things like price, color. When you have a lot of navigation with these, if you don’t do it the right way, these all look like different integrations of pages. So if you go red first then price, or price first then red, if you go white, etc, it may give the appearance of many different pages in terms of the URL, but it’s actually one page with one set of content.
For instance, things like pagination. You may want to tell Google not to index page 2 of a category page but to follow it to pick up the products, because page 1 has all of the content and your descriptions and stuff. Really kind of thinking about that, like looking at the overall depth of your site. Again, these updates are all about quality scores. So, what’s the amount of quality pages versus non-quality pages?
We look at things like site speed and performance. Again, this can sink your SEO and effects your conversion rate. Site speed loads your AdWords quality score. And it eliminates the ability to diagnose errors.
So some things to think about. What is the level of quality pages that you have versus indexed pages in Google? We recently look at a site, a very small site, but it had about 1,200 pages indexed in Google, but maybe there was only about 400 actual pages on the site. Again, it’s got that perception that you are 300% bigger than what you are.
So again, you want to kind of peel that back and make sure that you are putting your best foot forward there.
Is your speed good? Many people don’t have a proper robots.txt file. Especially if you are using Magento, it’s one of the things that people can look at. But making sure you have a proper robots.txt file that blocks out all the different iterations and helps you kind of eliminate those bad Magento URL’s and duplicate content.
Are you using canonical tags? Meaning you can tell Google that even if you’ve got all these query strings on the end, this is the URL for this page. And it tells it that this is the specific URL for this. So using that canonical tag is important.
Is there a trailing slash? So, you want to go one way or the other. You want to always have a trailing slash or always not, but you don’t want to mix and match that. I tend to be a fan of the trailing slash. I think it’s much cleaner than not having it. And I think that by having it you eliminate the possibility of it ever getting indexed without.
And then WWW versus non. You gotta pick one and go with it. I tend to think whatever Google has you indexed as already is what you should go with. It gives the appearance of multiple sites. HTTPS versus non-HTTPS, that’s another thing. Google could potentially think there are four sites when it’s actually one if you look at all the different combinations. So if you change that around, there are some settings in the Webmaster Tools. There are some things you need to do there. You can actually get some dips in rankings because of that if it’s not done properly.
And then, should you NoIndex follow certain pages on the site? Whether you are a blog site, categories and archives under an e-commerce site, things like paginated pages, things like filters in the nav, all of that stuff should potentially be NoIndex and followed.
So if you’ve got a lot of pages with manufacturer’s descriptions, or if you have products with no description, there is no value to Google in those pages. They are not going to rank you for an H1 tag and a page title anymore unless it’s a very unique thing.
So if your site has been hit, you don’t have the ability to create good content, which we’re going to talk about here in a minute, you may want to NoIndex those pages.
Let’s get into the next block, which is our content and kind of social review. What we’re going to look for now is duplicate content externally. Not within your own site, but people that utilize the same content that you have; maybe steal or you content or places where you steal your content from and it devalues it. We’re going to look at user generated content. We’re going to talk about unique page titles, alt text and meta tags, and then other social signals.
So, coming back to no manufacturer’s descriptions. Here is a screenshot for a Linksys router. As you can see, it may be difficult, there are 24,100 pages in Google that have this same paragraph on this router. So how is Google to differentiate what’s good if 24,100 people also have the same paragraph on their site. So creating unique product descriptions is very important. And if you are not able to do that then you don’t rank on those products, you can determine that from steps 2 and 3, which is the top keywords and revenue and the top landing pages, you may want to NoIndex these pages. You want to shrink the size of your site and then go back and say, “Listen, we’re going to go and we’re going to do 100 products a month. We’re going to rewrite descriptions and then we’re going to un-no follow them and they’ll bounce back into the index quickly.”
So really thinking about this from a content standpoint. Don’t reuse the manufacturer’s descriptions. Write your own.
You’re going to look at things like user generated content. Indexable reviews is a very powerful way to create unique content on your site. And you don’t even have to do it. Your customers do it for you. You send out a review email. 30 days after the order is shipped. You ask for a review. You get them to come back.
Don’t use things like Power Reviews Express. If you have Magento you can use the internal review module, which is great. You just need to figure out a way to send a follow-up email. You just do an extension or third-party like Listrak. But it allows you to go out and create all this unique content around your top products. So a great way to differentiate yourself in the search engines. This is one of the things that Amazon is amazing at. Their product pages rank in the top five across the board for things that have a ton or reviews and information on them. So again, things to think about when you are determining how you are going to develop this unique content.
You want to create some sexy brand pages. How do you out brand the brand? Panda loves brands. Go in and create unique content, create videos, buyer’s guides, specific blogs around these. And again, it’s ways for you to kind of create that unique content as you are building your site; creating quality pages for the search engines to latch on to.
You want to think about your internal linking strategy. Don’t link with the words “view” or “more”. You want to create links to other products within these descriptions. Don’t do it in an automated fashion. Do it by hand. You want to create links within category descriptions. But don’t repeat the same navigation on all pages if you don’t have to.
So really thinking about the way that the site internally links together. You want to create a pyramid of pages by importance. You want to kind of link accordingly and make sure that you’re not putting very, very generic stuff on those pages.
You want to make sure you have your social embeds. One of the big changes that we’ve seen over the last few years is Google’s reliance on social things versus links. So, things like likes on Facebook. Things like re-tweets. Things like Google +1. You want to make sure that you are embedding these social elements within your pages.
And thinking about the power of likes. According to Facebook, people who click the like button on external sites have more friends than the average Facebook user. These word of mouth advocates are very important, but you don’t want to have death by the share button.
Again, you can kind of see here there’s, I don’t know, a ton of things. A lot of these kind of search engines don’t really matter. Unless you are a B2B site I don’t know why you’d have the LinkedIn button. I would say the most important things these days are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +1, and then maybe there’s some specific things in your industry that you’d want to look at with that. So you don’t have to have the death by the share button.
You want to think about how you can embed things like video into your pages. This is an example of a very cool extension where you can embed YouTube videos onto your product pages within Magento. And again, you should have a YouTube strategy as part of your social strategy. Embedding that video content into your pages helps increase your conversion rate. You can do video SEO. There’s just a lot of cool stuff there. So thinking about how you’re going to kinda tie these worlds together.
So now it’s time for poll #3.
Mack? All right, Ethan. Great content. Let’s break for a second and poll the audience. How effectively are you utilizing SEO? Go ahead, choose from below there. How effectively are you utilizing SEO? Very effective? Leads are pouring in, sales are pouring in? Somewhat? Could be better? Not very? Or, hello, do I need help? We’ll wait a minute and get a consensus here.
Let’s go ahead and close that poll. So, Ethan, in asking folks how effectively are they utilizing SEO, about 9% say very, 66% say somewhat, it could be better, 23% not much, and then we’ve got 3% that are admittedly lost.
Ethan: [laughs] Well, we’re here to help you. So that’s good. It’s very interesting information to see how people in the e-commerce ecosystem are handling these types of changes. So that’s good. Let’s roll into our link analysis.
This could be like use your illusion [?] 1 and 2. I could speak for three hours on each of these sections in terms of the time and thought that goes into it. But we want to kind of just give a high level overview of link analysis.
So, we’re going to talk a little bit about inbound links. First off, you want to build natural links to your site, meaning don’t go out and try to build 50 links a day. Think about a link or so a day in terms of building those to your site.
You want to think about your social sharing. How can you get people to share your pages within Google +? How can you get people to share your pages within LinkedIn, within Twitter, within Facebook? All very, very important. So how are you going to engage people to get more social sharing?
How are you going to embed comments on your pages? We’re starting to embed Facebook comment sections on pages and those are great. It all goes into Facebook and helps build your overall social sharing piece.
Don’t buy links. So don’t go out and purposely buy link networks. A lot of those have been devalued. It was a great strategy although Matt Cutts never liked it at Google, but it was a great strategy for a bunch of years. But that whole business has really gone topsy-turvy. So don’t buy your links. They know who these links are. They’re devaluing people. Entire sites are kinda getting dropped from this. If you are working with a firm on your SEO, you want to make sure that they’re not buying links on your behalf and not telling you about it. We’ve seen some major brands get into issues here. So it’s definitely a no-no.
You want to stay attuned for any Google Webmaster notifications. If you sign up for this and you verify your site, they will let you know things—if they are having a problem spidering it, occasionally they will let you know if you have unnatural links, so they’ll send an unnatural link warning, although they did have a false positive that went out recently with this. They will tell you if you have WordPress and you need to upgrade. Very, very interesting things that are coming out of that and getting better all the time.
No Russian Link Farms. You want to just make sure if you do have a drop in links, you want to go out and see where they are and you want to make sure you don’t have a bunch of unnatural links or no one else has done that on your behalf. You also want to make sure that no one has gotten mean and spiteful and tried to link you up in places that they shouldn’t.
There used to be these Russian Link Farms. Make sure that you don’t appear in those. But don’t stress if you are doing nothing wrong. If you don’t have a lot of unnatural links, if you are kind of doing this naturally, you want to just have this organic process of building links on an ongoing basis.
And then, how do you find your inbound links, we’re often asked? There’s a great tool out there. We use it a lot. It’s from SEOMoz. It’s their Open Site Explorer. It can go out and pull things. There’s a paid and free version. It can go out and pull back and give you a lot of information.
So, with that, I think that we’re almost here to the end and we’re going to get into some Q&A. We have one more poll question for the day.
Mack: This one is: Would you like to be contacted by Groove to discuss your own SEO in more detail? So again, at the end of the Q&A session today with the group left, our marketing folks are going to grab that group and we will draw a name for a free consultation. But let us know now if you’d like to be contacted by Groove to discuss, from what you’ve seen today, do you need help? That 3% or maybe some of that 10-60% that said they were unsure, feel free to go ahead and click one of these buttons. We’ll close this poll out in just a second and then we’ve got a few final slides, and then we’ve got some great questions rolling in. Please keep asking those questions. Let us know. Ethan?
Ethan: Again, thank you. Again, I could write a book about each one of these sections. A lot of years experience from the entire Groove team has kinda gone into building our audit process with this. We’ve tried to share a bunch of it with you here today.
One of the great things is why SEO is like caffeine—too little and you don’t get results, too much and it becomes unhealthy. But used correctly it can jumpstart your online business and increase your online sales. So something to think about there.
So your next steps after viewing this webinar. You really want to think about performing your own full site audit. We’ve given you a lot of tools. We’re going to be sending out a link to this webinar, kind of posts that you can go back and review.
So performing a full site audit, beginning to develop a regular, fresh content schedule is important. You really want to map that out and determine how often you are putting up blogs, how often are you going to go update your product descriptions, etc?
You want to think about ways to increase your social engagement, whether that’s creating your own Pinterest boards, your own Facebook application, embedding social links within your site, etc. You want to really think about how you’re going to increase the amount of tweets of your content and Facebook shares of that.
You want to think about how you are going to build natural links. How are you going to do that on an ongoing basis? Well, you have manufacturers, you have partners, you have organizations. You can go out and kinda do that on an ongoing basis and add those. And you want to make sure that you are monitoring these changes as well on an ongoing basis. Things like ranking, etc should all be monitored on a monthly basis to make sure that you’re doing the right things and you don’t have major losses in revenue.
So the goal is to kinda be ahead of these updates. No one knows what Google is going to do. As soon as people figure things out they tend to kinda tweak and tune that algorithm. But if you are doing the right thing for your visitors, it’s very, very hard to kinda get caught up in some of these Google penalties. Make sure if it’s good for the visitor it’s good for the search engines, so how you are going to monitor that.
So with that we’re going to get into some Q&A. Really, really quickly, though, I would like to mention our next webinar, which is Christmas in August: How to Maximize your Holiday Revenue. It’s something you want to start now. So that’s going to be on August 16th. Of course we’re going to email that out and let you know about that. You can register there.
Also, if you have any follow-up questions that we don’t get to, we’re going to leave this email address up and you can email those questions in.
So with that, I’m going to let Mack get started with the Q&A session of today.
Mack: All right. Thanks, Ethan. Great content again, as always. This will be sent out following this, so feel free if you haven’t digested everything, this will come out to you so you can take a look at it.
We have some great questions rolling in, Ethan. So we’ll get started with them. The first one is somebody is asking, so they’re about to re-platform and they want to know how do they stay ahead in the planning process of this? How do you kinda have a good strategy going in, knowing that they’re changing to Magento and they want to know how to prep as they make that move.
Ethan: OK. So, what you want to think about is going through a process…we had, actually, a great webinar about this a few months ago, earlier in the spring. But there’s a whole process to think about. If you are moving platforms you are going to change URL structure probably. You want to do a content audit. You want to go through and kinda make a determination of everything that you have. You want to make sure that you are determining what are the most important kind of landing pages on your site—the ones that drive the most revenue and figuring out what keywords drive the most revenue, and make sure you protect those.
You want to look at things like your overall navigation. You want to try to keep that somewhat consistent in terms of don’t completely change what categories things appear in. You want to make sure you maintain those pages. You want to maintain links to those pages. I wouldn’t go changing a ton of content on your most popular pages. Try to keep things as…you gotta change what’s going to the new platform, but I would try to keep things consistent and make sure you are tracking.
Mack: OK, great, Ethan. Next question. This one is a little bit of a longer one, so here we go. “We use layered navigation extensively. Is Google indexing all of these filtered navigation results?” They just want the category pages indexed, but they think with layered navigation the unique pages could be endless.
Ethan: Yeah. I mean that is what we call a spider trap. We think that the layered filtered nav is definitely good for the visitor. Typically, unless you are not preventing it, those pages are getting indexed and probably devaluing the main category page.
If you are using something like a canonical tag you can protect yourself. But if you are not doing anything you are probably having some issues.
One of the reasons why I kind of brought up the layered navigation earlier on in the Webmaster Tools is not only is it…even if those pages are canonical tagged, Google is still using a lot of system resources to suck down thousands and thousands of pages that shouldn’t be there by just following the links. It’s a two-pronged approach—figuring out what it is that’s coming out of your Webmaster Tools report and what are you seeing in the index? Those may be something to look at.
Mack: OK, great. Next question coming out, Ethan. This one has to do with Power Reviews. Somebody wants to know any thoughts on using or not using Power Reviews Express?
Mack: OK, next question. “I offer vacation packages and I fall into an issue of content duplication. Even if I create unique content, there’s still duplicated data. How do I make sure I don’t devalue those original pages?”
Ethan: That’s a complex question that we probably can’t answer in a 30 second sound bite. But you want to make sure that the percentage of overall content is different. If you have kind of a parent and then a bunch of child variants underneath, you may not want to index those variant pages. You want to really let yourself kinda shine for that overall content.
We used to see back in the day people creating a lot of boilerplate text and then just kind of add variables in that text with their keyword and they could generate a lot of traffic. That’s really kind of fallen away.
So it’s difficult to tell without seeing that what the best approach would be there to go forth with. So it’s a complex question.
Mack: OK, next question. Do feeds to the shopping portals rankings, and customer reviews of their shopping experience, which do you recommend in terms of review services?
Ethan: Feeds to shopping engines definitely can affect search rankings. So you want to make sure that you’re able to create different descriptions that go out to your shopping feeds versus what appears on your website. That’s the best way to go about that there.
Again, it’s added effort, but if you are able to create a different description for your Google feed or something else, I would kind of utilize that same description for your shopping feeds across all your shopping engines. But I would try to change that up from what you have locally on your own site. That’s going to be the best case to kind of beat that duplicate content issue.
Mack: OK, Ethan. Next question is: Do micro formats have any effect on SEO and ranking?
Ethan: Absolutely. Again, it’s one of those elements that we could get into, but building micro formats into your templates is very important. We definitely do that here with the sites that we build at Groove. If you are not ware, micro formats are a way to structure data so that it appears as structured data within the template. So Google knows, and other search engines know, this is where the price is and this is field that it’s in, this is the description, this is the product name, this is the product brand or manufacturer.
So those micro formats are a very, very important part of, actually, things like reviews. If you have star reviews of your products, those stars will appear in the SERP when people search for your products. So micro formats are good. Not a lot of people are still utilizing them yet, so it’s one of those things you can go out and do that are White Hat and compete against other folks.
Mack: All right, Ethan, your answer to this question may be tune in next month. But people want to know when the prep for the holiday shopping season to do a new holiday gift guide, landing pages, stuff like that within your site, is there a way to maximize the SEO efforts behind that now so you benefit during the holiday shopping season?
Ethan: I think the whole point is, like, let’s do that now. So, July, August, September, you know, I often joke that I’m going to go buy a Christmas tree and put it up in the Groove offices in July, August, and September, because that’s the time that we begin helping people prep up for the holiday season. You don’t want to be doing that in November/December. You want to start doing that stuff now.
We’re going to talk a lot more about that next month in terms of our webinar. But you want to be working on those buyer’s guides, those landing pages, you want to work on optimizing them and driving links to those things right now so that they have time to percolate and get some quality to them in the index.
Again, that’d be something that I would start to work on now. That’d be the #1 thing that I would go for.
Mack: OK, great. A couple more questions, Ethan. Are rich snippets beneficial to ranking or just the potential visitor experience?
Ethan: It’s both. They are less, actually, to visitor experience and more to ranking. Rich snippets, micro formats, they’re kind of the same thing, although if you are an in-depth programmer, they are a little bit different. But they are basically kind of the same thing. It’s structured fields to put data in. so, rich snippets, micro formats are something that you should be utilizing on your product pages in terms of things like ratings, stars, description, price, brand, name, SKU, etc.
Mack: So we’ve got an e-commerce person here with multiple stores on Magento, one focusing on men’s shoes, one’s focusing on men’s jackets. Obviously the e-tailer wants to appeal to both. So putting the same products on both sites, is this a bad move? Should those products just live on their focused site? How do you promote multiple product types to that audience without getting punished?
Ethan: We’ve seen this problem before. Magento makes it easy to kind of launch these multiple stores. You want to make sure you are creating unique content for each of the stores. So, again, you don’t want to put the same description across two stores. One will win in the search results.
So, you want to make sure that you’re getting unique content. It depends upon what your strategy is. Some people tend to maybe focus on a page for secondary stores and kind of more unique stores because of the conversion rate you can achieve from a more focused kind of site like that.
So if that’s the case, then you might want to NoIndex the whole site. Otherwise, you really need to create unique content on both sites.
Mack: All right, great. So as we wrap up here, Ethan, final thoughts for today for everybody for sticking around at this point? Any big takeaway that you’d recommend?
Ethan: Well first, I’d like to thank everybody for sticking around today. I hope you enjoyed the webinar. We love putting these on for you. If you have any follow-up questions don’t hesitate to reach out. Follow us on Twitter: @GrooveCommerce. Follow us on LinkedIn. Follow me. I’m @opie. We’ve got a lot of great stuff happening here at Groove and we like sharing it with folks.
The biggest thing I can tell you is that this stuff will change. What is working today will not be what works a year from now. So it is an ongoing process. You need to try to stay engaged with this. If your site has lost all its rankings, there’s probably a reason. It’s probably poor content, bad links, or many folks just kind of set it and forget it with this.
Our most successful customers, the people that are out there doubling sales on their sites, are the ones that are engaged and making change on a monthly basis to everything they are doing.
So that’s the biggest thing that I can tell you, is just do something. Stay engaged. Coming to webinars like this are good, good information. There’s a lot of conflicting SEO information out there and you really need someone that can help kind of break that down and kind of tell you what’s myth and what’s real. So that’s the most important thing that I would look at.
Mack: Great. And with that, Ethan, thank you as always. A lot of valuable content. Just a reminder, w will be sending out the presentation afterwards so that you’ll be able to share that as well as step back and review what’s been discussed today; a lot of great content.
Again, as Ethan said, August 16th is our next webinar. We’re getting ready for Christmas in August. So throw on the Christmas sweaters, I guess, and join us on August 16th. That invite will be heading out. Make sure you register for that one. Should be a lot of great content to prepare for what should be a very exciting holiday e-commerce shopping season.
As always, Ethan, thank you. Thank you to everyone for joining us. We appreciate the time you take out of your day to be with us. Hope you found today to be a valuable use of your time. Good luck out there and we look forward to seeing everybody next month. Thanks everybody.