SMX Advanced 2012 was held in beautiful Seattle this year. While “beautiful” in Seattle means rain and clouds, we did get a few rays of sunshine, and it’s always nice to see the mountains (we’re from Chicago).
While SMX Advanced is primarily for advanced SEOs, all of the information can easily be translated to useful, actionable, advice.
On the SEO side of things, the big takeaway was to start being genuine (read: social) and stop trying to deceive Google. Any links that are not natural (meaning you paid money for them in one way or another) should be: 1. No followed, 2. No keyword anchor text, or 3. If the first two are impossible, remove the link.
If you choose to keep buying links with the effort of improving your rankings, Google will squash you. If not this Penguin update, future updates are guaranteed to catch up with you.
Google is not trying to produce fear as much as they are trying to clean up their search results and encourage site owners to be genuine. Google aims to improve search results for their users, while making sure their billion dollar algorithm is not gamed.
In a nutshell, this is what you should, and shouldn’t do:
- Penguins and Panda’s (oh, my!), who cares? Just make your site great and don’t worry about silly, useless names.
- Create great content that users enjoy reading and share on their own, naturally (today’s link building).
- Make sure your site has a quality “about us” page, with team member profiles (including bio’s), company phone number and address, etc. A large percentage of people visit this page, and determine whether your site is worthy (i.e. whether they trust you enough to make a purchase).
- Make sure your Copyright date is fresh: © 2012.
- SEM quality signals carry over to SEO. While Google claims to not organically rank sites based on Adwords usage, a quality SEM campaign can be useful for SEO. If you’re getting sales or leads with your paid campaign, you can take the same variables and keywords that are working and kick some SEO butt.
- Adding SEM to your SEO efforts in not a bad idea. You get more branding in the SERPs, and potentially higher organic clicks based on users seeing your paid ads and inherently clicking your organic listing (the more you see something, the better).
- Small companies can benefit from this as well. You can smartly manage your spend by only bidding on keywords that appear to your local audience (e.g. set a 20-mile radius for your campaign).
- Users look highly at website trust signals (BBB, security/privacy seals, McAfee, Verisign, Norton, TRUSTe, etc.)
- Spelling and grammar matter, a lot. Learn to spell and write good :p
- JetPack has a great spelling and grammar plugin. It’s free, use it.
- Eighty percent of click activity happens ‘above the fold.’ Put more important links up top, and avoid giant ads atop your site. Google hates big ads on the top of your site, and so do users.
- The browsersizeapp is going away soon, use it.
- Microformats will help you stand out and make you famous in the search results. Use it before your competitors do.
- User experience is huge. Master your sites’ analytics and learn what your users are doing/not doing.
- Google loves Google+, and wants you to love it too. Heck, if it helps your site in the SERP’s, why not (hint: connect rel=author with your Google+ profile; get a bunch of people to +1 you by sharing useful content and being genuine and likable).
- Local search is huge, especially on mobile. Optimize for local, and make your site mobile friendly (create local specific content with local keywords; don’t spam).
- Website speed is really important. Make your site fast (W3TC, CloudFlare/CDN, caching, etc.) If you combine W3TC and CloudFlare, make sure its set up properly.
- Instead of seperate TLD’s for your different country content, keep it on your original domain and use a subfolder (e.g. yoursite.com/ca for Canadian content, not yoursite.ca). Passes more link juice.
- Don’t worry about anchor text links (exact match will trigger the animals!). Instead, properly silo your site (organize and name content correctly, based on keyword research) so your homepage directs traffic intelligently to the pages you would like to rank well. Use breadcrumbs. See: BruceClay.com.
- Learn what users are searching for by looking at instant search (start a Google search with “e” and see if eBay is suggested to you). Do it for local searches.
- Make your site as user friendly as possible. You can kill two birds with one stone by adding a live chatservice to your website, which will increase leads as well.
If you made it through that entire list, I congratulate you! If only SEO were as simple as the three little letters that make it up. It helps to surround yourself by smart people, and choose your business partners carefully, especially ones that you hire for SEO or website optimization. A Bad SEO company will get your site banned, which is the last thing you want.
Link wisely, and create great content!