Sunday, September 2, 2012

SEO Diagnostics @ SES San Francisco 2012

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Diagnostics for the Skilled Search Mechanic

Speaker: Chris Boggs, SES Advisory Board; Director, Rosetta

This session at Search Engine Strategies San Francisco 2012 was one of the most valuable strategic guidance presentations during the entire SEO knowledge-packed week, which is saying a lot, as all the SEO presentations were top-shelf in terms of quality and value. Chris covered mission-critical steps anyone can take to help understand the true situation when confronted with poor or mediocre SEO. He then shows a path forward to fix problems and exploit opportunities on a prioritized basis.

First SEO Diagnosis Steps:
  • Confirm the SEO problem exists
  • Look at the log data
  • Look at the analytics data
Second SEO Diagnosis Steps:
  • Begin Assessment
  • Look at off-site promotion
  • Look at on-site promotion
  • Look at website's technical status
Ask yourself: 
  • Is the content still worthy? Unique? Up-to-date? 
  • What are the competitors doing?
  • Does your snippet still work for a keyword?
  • Is the right webpage ranking high? 
  • Review your linking strategy, as the Google Penguin updates are punishing low-original content sites and spammy sites which have heavily relied upon link-building for SERP rankings.
  • Black-hat Negative SEO - - beware of competitors buying links to YOUR site to hurt you.
  • Is your anchor text over-optimized, so that Penguin is punishing your site?
Social Media:
  • If you're having SEO problems reviewing your social media activities will be valuable. Are you exploiting this growing area of search behavior? Are your competitors busy with social media postings and content? Evaluate your relative positioning with Social compared to your competition, and take steps.
Intelligent SEO Diagnosis will help
your SERPs stand out in the crowd.
After diagnosing and taking action - - Go BACK and RE-MEASURE. "Things change rapidly with SEO."

Chris Boggs emphasized that putting a priority on potential actions to take is crucial.... there is never going to be enough time, investment or knowledge to do it all. So our priorities for diagnosis and action must focus on the most lucrative fixes - those fixes we think which will generate the most profit at the end of the day. He stressed that SEO managers should be in 'diagnostic mode all the time' to get the most out of your efforts.

Chris stressed the 'sweet-spot' is when you are working on PROACTIVE fixes, not REACTIVE ones. Proactive actions include analysis of a new competitor, review of algorithm updates, catching market or industry shifts, and 'cleaning your own rifle' - - making sure your SEO campaigns are clean, efficient, and effective. Reactive fixes are similar to panic-driven actions - - scrambling to repair sudden losses in traffic, conversions, phone calls, email, etc. Better to avoid having to implememt damage control in the first place, with proactive diagnostic methodologies.
Common SEO problems may be caused by our own people. Serious problems can occur from our IT making changes  to pages which can hinder search engine bots (robots.txt), for example. Other SEO problems can originate from issues as simple as not using best practice for H1 and H2 titles. Your existing CMS system may be lousy, or inadvertently set-up to hurt your SEO efforts. Constantly  "check with your IT team!" is Chris' advice.
New competitors, or reinvigorated competitors, can cause SEO problems. "Check your competitive neighborhood". Use analytical tools to drill-down, analyze, and see those important "Uh Oh" moments.
Chris listed a number of useful SEO tools he likes, including Bright Edge, Google Webmaster Tools, URI Valet, Majestic, Raven, and SEOMOZ.
At the end, Chris emphasized that the best SEO diagnosis and fix is good content. "Content is still King". Links will still have place in SEO, though deliberate at-scale link-building campaigns are losing value thanks to Penguin. Chris stressed don't ignore social media. Matt Cutts from Google himself pointed in a direction where Google will search deeper and rank social media content more highly than in the past. This all points to having great, original content on  your website as a prime proactive step which can be taken to improve your SEO and SERPs.
My other take on this presentation and many others at SES is that we should learn to exploit Big Data (analytics) as much as possible. Conducting SEO campaigns without factual website analytics knowledge to help guide us is similar to driving a car with just one eye open, a lot can be missed!