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Drive Web Traffic with Search Engine Optimization

Future customers are out there searching for you.

  • The CEO Googled your most important product type and your offering was not on the first page, but your competitor's was. Now it's your job to get your product to the top with search engine optimization (SEO).
  • SEO can attract new customers, reduce marketing costs, and help your organization gain a competitive edge. But knowing how to implement it means wading through a sea of conflicting advice or paying big bucks to Internet marketing consultants just to figure out how to get started.
  • Use this solution set to focus on the most important elements of SEO, and get started with a program that leverages search engines to drive traffic to your site.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • SEO requires that you develop interesting and useful content, and get other Web sites to link to it.
  • These practices will increase the traffic and stickiness of your Web site, independently of their SEO impact, and are well worth investing in.

Impact and Result

  • Cut through the conflicting advice on SEO and learn fundamental SEO methods that will drive traffic to your site.
  • Use our tools and templates to jumpstart your SEO program.

Drive Web Traffic with Search Engine Optimization Research & Tools

1. Lay the groundwork for search engine optimization.

Educate yourself and the team on SEO.

2. Brainstorm, select, and implement the right keywords.

Create a comprehensive and functional list of effective customer-centric search terms.


Drive Web Traffic with Search Engine Optimization

Info-Tech Research Group

Introduction

  • Why Search Engine Optimize? SEO can attract new customers, reduce marketing costs, and help your organization gain a competitive edge. All organizations should invest some resources in SEO.
  • When not to Search Engine Optimize. SEO is a cost effective marketing method, but organizations that don’t intend to get much business over the Web should only invest in basic SEO and put their marketing resources elsewhere.
  • Target audience. This solution set will give IT leaders an overview of SEO that will help them to decide how to proceed with an SEO effort. It also covers the key technical issues a Web developer needs to know to search optimize the corporate Web site.
  • Scope. This solution set focuses on search optimizing for external traffic and does not cover optimizing enterprise search.
  • Research methods. This solution set is based on an Info-Tech Research Group study of IT leaders and Web professionals conducted between October, 2009 and April, 2010. The study included 24 interviews and two surveys, one on Web 2.0 (n=257) and another on Web redesign strategy (n=166). All statistics and data graphics that are not otherwise cited are from this Info-Tech Research Group study.

Executive Summary

  1. Follow Info-Tech’s five step program to drive traffic with SEO:E& s
    • Know SEO’s Value & Methods
    • SEO provides cost-effective value. It increases traffic, stickiness, and revenue while improving branding and impressing stakeholders
    • Focus on Classic SEO. Classic SEO focuses on keyword research and placement, site architecture, and link building, practices that are predictably effective over time. Move to bleeding edge SEO if you derive significant revenue from the Web, and avoid the spammy methods of deceptive black-hat SEO
    • Plan your SEO strategy. You’ll derive maximum value if you plan your SEO effort as part of a broader Web redesign and marketing strategy
  2. Define Search Terms
    • Create a long list of keywords. Brainstorm, talk to customers, do online research
    • Reduce it to a shortlist. Optimize for ten good words to get started
  3. Optimize Pages & Structure
    • Get your pages right. Remove landing page barriers & strategically place keywords. Use quality HTML, English, & URLs
    • Get your architecture right. Use a broad, not a deep structure. Guide robots to relevant content with redirects & robot/sitemap files. Speed up your site for even higher rankings
  4. Promote Backlinks
    • Get the link juice flowing. Place pages for link juice flow
    • Build backlinks for real ranking impact
  5. Execute the Strategy
    • Resource the SEO effort. Get focused staff, measure the results, refine the plan

Know SEO’s Value & Methods

  • SEO increases traffic, stickiness, & revenue
  • SEO improves branding & impresses stakeholders
  • Classic, Bleeding Edge, & Black-Hat SEO
  • Know the Jargon
  • Plan the strategy
  • Capture the strategy with the SEO Audit Tool

Search Engine Optimization increases traffic and more

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

  • SEO increases quantity and quality of Web traffic generated from unpaid (organic) search engine results by strategically placing search terms on Web pages, streamlining Web site architecture, and promoting backlink (links from external Web sites)

SEO: Speculation, con artistry, or good marketing?

  • Because search engines do not publish all the details of how they function, some SEO practises are speculative. Despite this, there are classic SEO techniques with proven efficacy that are well worth implementing
  • Some SEO practitioners over promise and under deliver, and some use deceptive (or “black hat”) practises that have a negligible or negative effect on search rankings. Despite this, there are SEO practitioners that deliver solid marketing value.

Info-Tech’s survey respondents reported SEO value as defined by increased and improved traffic, stickiness, brand image, revenue, and stakeholder satisfaction

Info-Tech recommends SEO to increase traffic

  • Thorough SEO is SEO that is planned as part of a broader Web and marketing strategy and applied consistently over time

Making some major changes to our URL structure, using keyword-rich page titles, and cleaning up code errors has resulted in a nearly 200% traffic growth year-over-year.
-Marketing Manager, Professional Services

SEO increases stickiness

What is stickiness?

  • Stickiness is the tendency for a user to visit a site more often, spend more time there, or browse more pages

Does stickiness matter?

Get Sticky with Thorough SEO

This is an image of a bar graph which demonstrates how one can Get Sticky with Thorough SEO

Info-Tech Recommends:

Info-Tech recommends implementing SEO to increase stickiness

SEO improves brand image

36% of Internet users said that seeing a company listed among the top results on a search engine made them think the company is in the top of its field (Source: iProspect)

Having a more prominent search engine response page presence helps proliferate and define your brand, as it creates greater online exposure and accessibility.
-Marketing Coordinator, Electronic Distribution

This is an image of a bar graph which reports survey results demonstrating that Thorough SEO is Good for Brand Image

Info-Tech Recommends:

Info-Tech recommends implementing SEO to improve brand image

SEO increases revenue and impresses stakeholders

Thorough SEO Produces Revenue Results

Thorough SEO Impresses Stakeholders

This is an image of a bar graph which demonstrates that Thorough SEO Produces Revenue Results This is an image of a bar graph which demonstrates that Thorough SEO Impresses Stakeholders

SEO provides multiple points of value, not the least of which is the ROI from increasing sales through search engine yields.
-Marketing Coordinator, Electronic Distribution

I have found SEO to be a major benefit to garnering executive support.
-Marketing Manager, Professional Services

Info-Tech Recommends:

Info-Tech recommends SEO to increase revenue and improve stakeholder relationships

Follow Classic SEO’s four steps for good ROI

Classic SEO

  • Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms to improve results and prevent unscrupulous or black hat search engine optimizers from polluting their result pages with irrelevant spam
  • Despite constant algorithm change, some approaches to SEO, referred to here as “Classic SEO,” have remained effective for years and are likely do so for the foreseeable future

Classic SEO demonstrates good ROI because:

  • Results are relatively predictable and likely to continue to be effective in the foreseeable future
  • Requires useful content, good information architecture, and good inbound links, all of which will increase the traffic and stickiness of your Web site independently of their SEO impact

Before optimization, our company was buried past the 10th page when you searched for “PMA Canada.” We just followed Google’s guidelines and moved to the top spot within a year.
- Mark Pleasance, Data Center Manager, PMA Fine Wines & Spirits Canada

Four Steps to Classic SEO

  1. Define
    • user search terms that can be converted to sales or other valued user behaviour
  2. Place
    • search terms on Web pages were they can be search engine indexed, while ensuring the page contains useful content
  3. Structure
    • the site’s information architecture so it’s accessible for search engine indexing
  4. Promote
    • inbound links to the site, especially from popular and credible sites

Bleeding edge SEO is good for some, black-hat is good for none

Bleeding Edge SEO attempts to:

  • Speculate on, or reverse engineer, gritty details of search engine algorithms and optimize to exploit them

Bleeding Edge SEO only shows good ROI for some organizations because:

  • It takes more effort and expertise to implement than Classic SEO
  • It produces results that are less predictable than Classic SEO, and is more likely to become obsolete earlier
  • Therefore, it only makes sense for organizations that rely on search for a significant amount of their revenue
  • For these organizations even a proportionally small increase in traffic can result in a meaningful revenue increase

I promise that no harebrained scheme to manipulate search rankings is either new or going to work. Apply your creativity in white hat ways and make sure it passes the Google Web spam litmus test.
-Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOmoz

Black-hat SEO:

  • Uses deceptive practises to trick search engines to list content that may not be useful to the searcher
  • While it can increase traffic, this traffic is unlikely to convert into sales
  • Additionally, sites discovered using black-hat methods can be removed from search results

SEO expert’s top 4 negative back-hat methods

  • Maliciously offering different content to robots than to users
  • Link acquisition from known link brokers/sellers
  • Links from the page to Web spam sites/pages
  • Hiding Text with same colored text & background

Avoid these black hat methods to prevent removal from search engine indexes
(Source: SEOmoz Ranking Factors

Know the jargon: White hats, PageRank, link juice, etc.

301 redirect. A W3C defined status code used to redirect surfers from an obsolete or unused URL to an active one

backlink. A link to a landing page from a page on an external domain

black hat SEO. Deceptive practises used to trick search engines into listing content that may not be useful to the searcher. Also called search engine spamming

canonical URL. Where multiple URLs exist for a single Web page, or multiple pages contain the same content, the canonical URL is the standardized and preferred format

keyword. A word which searchers enter into a search engine that is used to index Web pages

landing page. The page surfers arrive at after they click a link in the SERP.

link juice. The ranking influence of a backlink calculated as a combination of its PageRank, relevance, trust, & authority

PageRank. A value calculated by the Google algorithm that interprets every backlink as a vote for the importance of a Web page

robot (bot). Software that crawls the Web and collects information that is indexed by search engines

robot.txt. A file placed on a Web server to request that search robots not crawl specified pages

search engine results page (SERP). The page containing the list of sites returned in response to a search query

SERP rank. The relative position of a Web page listing on the SERP. SERP rank is determined by many factors, of which PageRank is a minor component

sitemap.xml. A file placed on a Web server to guide robots to preferred content

stickiness. The amount of time a surfer spends on a site during a visiting session

organic traffic. Web traffic from non-paid sources, particularly SERPs

white hat SEO. The use of search optimization techniques that lead to useful content for end users and are generally endorsed by search engine providers

Answer the strategic SEO questions before executing, or risk wasted effort and disappointing results

Goal Setting

  • What is my goal?
  • E.g. Sell yellow widgets

Keyword Research

  • For what do prospective widget buyers search?
  • E.g. Selecting yellow widgets
  • E.g. Cost of yellow widgets

Content Development

  • What content appeals to these searchers and linkers?
  • E.g. How to select the right yellow widget
  • E.g. The yellow widget cost calculator

Backlink Promotion

  • What high link juice sites might be interested in linking to my content?
  • E.g. WidgetProfessionals.org
  • How can I appeal to them?
  • E.g. Provide an article on “The 10 critical Factors in Widget Selection”

Ask yourself what’s the goal. And if the goal is to sell more yellow widgets, you need to organize the whole optimization process around yellow widgets.
-Michael Fleischner, author of SEO Made Simple.

SEO works best when it's architected alongside a business’s marketing plan
-Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOmoz

Get on the first results page, or lose 62% of your prospects

Target 1st place, never settle for 4th

  • 23% of searchers click one of the first listings
  • 62% click a listing on the first page
  • 90% click a listing on the first three pages

There is such a significant drop off after, say, the first five results that it’s not even worth optimizing if you can’t get near the top. You really need to be in the top few positions if you want to get a positive return on your investment.
-Michael Fleischner, author of SEO Made Simple.

Info-Tech Recommends:

If competition for a search phrase is so vast or well established that first position or at least first page placement is an unrealistic goal, find another search phrase and optimize for that.

How far do searchers look before clicking?
62% don’t get past the 1st page

This image contains a graph charting the % of searchers that clicked on a listing, by listing page location

% of searchers that clicked on a listing, by listing page location (Source: iProspect)

Optimize for Google’s 86% market share, that will also attract Yahoo! & Bing traffic

Optimize for what search engines?

  • Today, search engine optimizers mostly target Google (86% market share), fortunately Yahoo! (5%) and Bing (3%) respond to similar optimizations, and will soon both use the Bing engine (Source: NetMarketShare)

86% of Google users click organic search results, compared to

14% for paid search (Source: AvinashKaushik, Google’s Analytics Evangelist)

This image contains a screenshot of a google search result, showing the difference between an organic listing and a paid listing for Info-Tech Research Group

SEO case study: TW Rentals sees >10 times increase in traffic

Challenge

  • TW Rentals, a Florida-based vacation rental agency that promotes beachfront hotels and condos, was looking for a way to increase Internet sales on a modest budget
  • They contracted with WhiteCloud Marketing to develop an Internet marketing campaign with an SEO focus

Strategy

  • The campaign spanned a year, Nov 2008 - Sept 2009
  • It began with a pay per click (PPC) effort that increased traffic immediately and also was used to learn which keywords led to sales
  • SEO techniques were then used to optimize on the keywords that led to PPC sales

Result

  • Organic traffic increased by more than 10 times in a year
  • Cost per Internet lead reduced steadily from a starting value of $70.67 to $19.74 a year later, as the proportion of traffic slowly shifted from PPC to organic (see next slide)
  • The SEO portion of the campaign produced an ROI of 99% (see next slide)

SEO increased organic traffic (visits) by over 10 times in a year

This image contains a bar graph comparing number of visits between Organic and Paid web traffic between November 2008 and September 2009

SEO case study: Cost per lead down, ROI of 99%

Cost per lead declined as organic traffic increased

This image contains a graph which shows the cost per lead between November 2008 and September 2009.  Over that time the cost per lead decreased from $70.67 to $19.74

TW Rentals SEO Case Study
Nov 2008 - Sept 2009

Inquires 350
Closes 20%
Unit Margin $375
Net Income $26,250
Consulting Fees $13,200
Gross Profit $13,050
ROI 99%

SEO can take four to six months before initial results are evident, twelve-plus months before a significant impact can be measured
- Tim Mischuk, President, WhiteCloud Marketing

Capture your strategy with the SEO Audit Tool

This is a screenshot of the SEO Audit Tool, with arrows pointing to where you can use Tool to jumpstart your SEO Program

Download the “Search Engine Optimization Audit Tool

Define Search Terms

  • Create a Long List of Keywords
  • Reduce to a Shortlist
  • Capture the Keywords in the SEO Audit Tool

Create a long list of keyword phrases

Keywords are search terms prospective customers enter into a search engine.

  • SEO campaigns are only effective when they target actual keywords that prospective customers use

List the following types of keywords:

  • Company name. Users who don’t have your URL will search for you by your name
  • Location. Especially important for brick-and-mortar businesses
  • Names of your products or services. E.g. Kleenex
  • Generic terms for your products. Tissue paper
  • Phrases as well as words. Wholesale tissue paper
  • Common misspellings. Tisue papre
  • Abbreviations and expansions. TP
  • Useful information. Consumer preferences for two ply vs. three ply tissue paper

Four Steps to creating your long list

  1. Brainstorm
    • Meet with colleagues (especially those who have customer contact, like sales) and list all the keywords you can think of
  2. Speak to customers
    • Poll existing and prospective customers to find out what keywords they are likely to search for
  3. Review analytics
    • Review Web analytics to see what keywords users are searching for before arriving to your site
  4. Analyze related sites
    • Inspect content of competing and related sites for keywords

Info-Tech Insight:

Think like a customer! List search ideas in customer-centric language, not industry jargon. E.g. a medical site targeting patients should optimize for "stomach flu” not “viral gastroenteritis”

Whittle down the long list into a shortlist by eliminating unpopular, low value, and highly competitive terms

Use online research tools to whittle down your list to ~10 words:

  • Google AdWords Keyword Tool. This free tool can be used for organic search as well as paid listings. Suggests search synonyms and provides average monthly search volume
  • WordTracker. This tool costs $59 per month, provides similar features to Google’s free tool, but also estimates the amount of competition for a given keyword. This feature makes it a must have research tool
  • Microsoft’s Commercial Intention Tool displays the probability that a search for a particular word or phrase will convert to an online purchase. It uses data collected from Bing searches to make these predictions.

Eliminate the following terms:

  • Unpopular. They don’t have to be the most popular but they should be somewhat popular
  • Low-value. If a searcher is unlikely to convert into a buyer, it’s a low-value term
  • Highly competitive. If there already are a lot of highly ranked sites that contain good content for a keyword, it will be very difficult to get a high ranking.

Create phrases with 3 or 4 keywords:

  • It’s very difficult to get a high ranking for a single word (unless it’s a unique company or product name).
  • Combine keywords into phrases of 3 or 4 terms to attract more traffic, these are now the most popular searches in Google.

Find the balance: Include popular keywords that attract high-value prospects, but not those that have a lot of high-ranked competition

4 is the average number of keywords in a Google search (Source: AvinashKaushik, Google’s Analytics Evangelist)

Capture your keywords with the SEO Audit Tool

This is a screenshot of the SEO Audit Tool, with arrows pointing to where you can use Tool to jumpstart your SEO Program

Download the “Search Engine Optimization Audit Tool

Optimize Pages & Structures

  • Remove landing page barriers & strategically place keywords
  • Use quality HTML, English, & URLs
  • Guide robots to relevant content with redirects & files
  • Speed up your site for higher rankings
  • Audit your site with the SEO Tool

Remove landing page barriers or be invisible to search engines

Landing pages are keyword-rich Web pages intended to attract search engine traffic:

  • Home pages are often landing pages, especially for the organization’s name
  • Articles, blogs, and product pages can also be landing pages and should be optimized
  • Landing pages must be readable to search engine robots or they will not be indexed

To ensure a good robot read, avoid the following:

  • Site access restrictions like site logins and cookie access restrictions
  • Unreadable content like words in images. Plain HTML is the most easily consumed
  • Poorly implemented Flash. Text in Flash can be read by search engines, embedded images cannot. However, the non-hierarchical nature of Flash content makes it more difficult for search engines to understand. If Flash is required, for example for highly interactive applications, imbed Flash in HTML
  • Big, slow files. Robots have limited time to crawl a page, if it takes too long to load they simply move on. Keep critical content in the first 200 words to ensure it is read
  • Deep site hierarchy. Keep landing pages within the first 2 to 4 clicks of the homepage, content deeper than that may not get indexed

Search engine crawlers are limited. They are not good at determining what’s in an image, or what’s in a video, including Flash. Just because you can build a Web site doesn’t mean that the search engines can crawl it and understand it.
-Eric Enge, coauthor of The Art of SEO.

The following Barriers to Search Engine Visibility are listed:  Site Access Restriction; Unreadable Content; Poorly Implemented Flash; Big, Slow Pages; Deep Site Hierarchy

Put keywords in header tags & URL to boost rank & click through

Know Where Keywords End Up on the SERP

This is an image of a google search for the term User Experience Engine.

Tag/Example Impact Comments/Result

Title

some keywords

Very High

  • Each page needs a unique and descriptive Title tag
  • Preferred format: Keywords, Organization Name
  • Only the first 70 characters get displayed, so keep it short
  • Appears as the title in the SERP and as the Bookmark/Favourite name in the browser
  • SERP links with descriptive titles get clicked

Meta Description


High
  • Each page needs a unique Meta Description tag
  • Only the first 155 characters get indexed, so keep it short
  • Usually appears as the SERP description
  • SERP links with meaningful descriptions get clicked

URL
Good: www.oursite.com/people/john-sloan/Ineffective:…com...

High
  • Appears as the URL in the SERP
  • SERP URLs that are short and meaningful get clicked

To boost rank further, put keywords in Heading, Hyperlink, Image, and other Body tags

Tag/Example Impact Comments/Result

Heading, H1

main-keyword

Low

Each page should have one, and only one, unique heading that contains the same keywords as the Title tag

Heading, H2 & H3

supporting-keywords

supporting-keywords

Low

Use related keywords in H2 and H3 tags

Taken together, H1, H2, and H3 tags should form an information hierarchy that helps both users and search robots understand the content of the page

Hyperlinks

More keywords

Moderate

Links in the main body of the page influence rank more than plain text; therefore, take advantage of the title attribute and the anchor text to repeat keywords

Effective anchor text:

Ineffective anchor text:
For details on Info-Tech’s Web Redesign research, click here

Image”keyword”/

Moderate

Influences both Web and image search

Strong

keyword

Low

Text in the Strong tag has slightly more impact than plain text, so put some keywords here especially if it improves the skim-ability of the page

Body keyword

Moderate

All text matters somewhat

Best practise is to concentrate keywords at the beginning and end of the page

Quality matters: Use valid HTML and good English

This image contains the pathway to higher rankings.  This includes: Logical information structure; Correct spelling; External CSS & Javascript; Working links & Hyphened file names; Valid HTML

Can a search engine recognize quality?

  • Search engine algorithms execute sophisticated technical and linguistic evaluations of Web sites in order to determine their quality. This quality evaluation impacts page ranking and is influenced by HTML and English language characteristics (or equivalent language)

To insure HTML quality, avoid the following:

  • Invalid HTML. Use the W3C’s Markup Validator to ensure each page meets the current HTML standard
  • Broken links, both internal and external.
  • Whitespace in URLs. These are displayed as “%20” in the SERP URL, which makes it difficult to read. Use hyphens instead
  • Excessive use of inline elements. All CSS and JavaScript should be kept in an external file

To ensure English language quality, avoid the following:

  • Spelling and grammatical errors. Disciplined copy editing should be part of your release process
  • Poorly structured pages. Use HTML’s H1, H2, and H3 tags to structure the information architecture on every page

URLs matter: Make them intuitive, short, and standardized

This image contains the pathway to higher ranking URLs.  It includes: Use intuitive plain language; Keep static URLs to 4 levels or less; Limit dynamic URLs to 2 parameters or less; Standardize.

Use intuitive, plain language URLs

  • Search engines index text in a URL so, avoid arcane abbreviations, numbers, or code, and stick to plain language. When required, divide words with hyphens. This is particularly important because backlinks from other sites must use the URL you define. This way you control the keywords in backlinks to your sites, which will influence ranking.
  • For sites with auto-generated URLs from a content management system that are difficult to change, consider using your Web server’s URL rewrite function
  • Effective: www.oursite.com/people/john-sloan/
  • Ineffective: www.oursite.com/20100107/ 57494954adg_45/a3c444eaa089

Keep Static URL depth to 4 levels or less

Limit dynamic URLs to no more than 2 parameters

Standardize URLs

  • Search engines index URL variations as separate sites, therefore, to avoid diluting link juice between URL variations, choose a single standard URL for each page, “the canonical URL.” Although you can standardize any URL, the homepage style most familiar to users is www.oursite.com/
  • Effective: www.oursite.com/
  • Ineffective: www.oursite.com, www.oursite.com/index.html, oursite.com

Manage your content for better rankings: Redirect non-standard URLs and duplicate content

Redirect nonstandard or obsolete URLs with a 301 status code

  • Configure your Web server to redirect non-canonical URL variations to the canonical version using a 301 status code (an HTTP method defined by the W3C). Also use 301 redirect if you need to change a URL for any reason
  • Other forms of redirection may be interpreted by search engines as spam attempts and could lead to removal from their indexes
  • In Apache, add a 301 redirect command to the .htaccess file; in IIS, use the administrative console

Avoid or manage duplicate content

  • Search engines prefer to index a single version of a document if they find several with identical or substantially similar content. For this reason, and simply because it’s easier to manage, avoid duplicate content if possible
  • Some duplicate content is unavoidable and has legitimate design purposes, for example, simplified pages designed for printing or mobile browsing, or syndicated content. However, duplicate content is sometimes used deceptively by spammers and these uses can be penalized
  • To prevent penalties for duplicate content, or having secondary documents indexed instead of primary documents, put the following tag in the head of secondary documents:



    This tells a search engine to index the page defined in the href attribute

Redirect with 301 codes & canonical links

This image depicts the pathway to using 301 codes and links.

This type of redirection avoids penalties and focuses link juice

Guide robots to relevant content with a Sitemap.xml file; Keep them from the irrelevant with a Robot.txt

Encourage indexing with Sitemaps

Avoid crawling with robot file /tag

  • Sitemaps are xml files (usually www.oursite.com/sitemap.xml) that help search engines index more effectively by providing URLs, modification dates, change frequencies, and priorities (compared to other URLs on the site).
  • Sitemaps are especially useful for highly interactive sites with few static URLs, but they can add value to any site
  • You need to submit the Sitemap and/or include its location in the robots.txt file.
  • Google’s Web Master Tools can manage the Sitemap file from a user-friendly GUI
  • Place a file named “robots.txt” in www.oursite.com/robots.txt to prevent irrelevant pages from being crawled (for example, beta versions of a site) and to direct robots to the Sitemap
  • This reduces the time robots spend on irrelevant content and the amount displayed in the SERP
  • However, crawlers may still read links to excluded pages, so to completely prevent irrelevant pages from being displayed, also put a robot meta tag in the page header:
Example Sitemap Snippet Example Robot.txt File Contents

Example of Sitemap Snippet

Example of Robot.txt File Contents

Bleeding edge SEO: Google now rewards faster sites with higher rankings, so speed optimize your site!

For users, faster is better

Google encourages speed

Google rewards speed

  • In March 2010, Google began using page-load speed as a ranking factor for English-language searches from Google.com (Source: Using site speed in web search ranking)
  • Although speed doesn’t carry the same weight as relevance in ranking search results, if sites have similar relevance, the faster one will rank higher

Speed Optimize Your Site!

Google rewards speed

Google encourages speed

For users, faster is better

Info-Tech Recommends:

For a big impact on user satisfaction, and a moderate one on search rankings, optimize your site’s page-load and execution speeds

Speed optimize your site: Set speed targets, test current speed, optimize performance

How fast is fast enough?

Seconds User Impact Development Target
< 1 Users are fully engaged and don’t notice time passing Coding of system responses like button clicks, table sorts, and drag-and-drop for <1 s responses
< 4 Users stay involved but will notice the wait Render elements of interest like useful text < 4 s responses
> 4 Users begin to worry that the Web site isn’t listening to them Add system status indicators if events take > 4 s
< 10 User satisfaction remains acceptable for total page-load time if a page contains ~3 elements of interest. Longer load times are OK if there are >3 elements Progressively render elements of interest at 4 s intervals to keep users involved. Keep typical page loads to <10 s

Based on data from How Users View Application Performance

Test site speed

Improve site performance

  • Optimize your current site and consider the performance-functionality trade-offs of any new features. Use tutorials and best practises from Google and Yahoo! to get started

Google’s all about having a robust search experience, so if the page takes three weeks to load, it’s not going to rank as well as a faster loading page.
-Michael Fleischner, author of SEO Made Simple.

This is a screenshot of the SEO Audit Tool, with arrows pointing to where you can use the Tool to Evaluate Landing Page Barriers and keyword placement

Download the “Search Engine Optimization Audit Tool

Promote Backlinks

  • Understand link juice
  • Place pages for link juice flow
  • Build backlinks

Optimizing on the page will get you indexed, but you’ll need backlinks for a high SERP rank

Major impact on rankings
minor impact on indexing

Major impact on indexing
minor impact on rankings

  • Build backlinks
  • Strategically place keywords
  • Remove landing page barriers

You could view links as citations, and the pages with the best collections of citations are probably the most valuable page to people searching on the topic. The page with the most and best links win rankings.
-Eric Enge, coauthor of The Art of SEO.

90% of your results are based on off-page optimization [backlinks], and 10% on-page optimization. But you still need to start with on-page factors, because they are the foundation. If the foundation is shaky, you wont’ be able to build a tall building.
-Michael Fleischner, author of SEO Made Simple.

PageRank, relevance, diversity, trust, & authority: Get backlinks from sites with these five key link juice factors

PageRank

  • The original Google ranking algorithm interprets every backlink as a vote for the importance of a Web page. It assigns additional votes if a backlink comes from a page that itself contains many backlinks
  • The free Google Toolbar displays a logarithmic approximation of PageRank when you surf to a site with it installed
  • PageRank alone is a poor predictor of SERP ranking since Google and other search engines have long since been influenced by the other factors listed below

Relevance

  • Links from pages on the same topic as the landing page provide additional link juice, especially when the link’s anchor text matches keywords on the landing page

Diversity

  • Links for different types of sites (news, corporate, educational) provide a ranking boost

Trust

  • Links from sites that are directly or closely linked to highly trusted sites (harvard.edu, un.org) provide additional link juice

Authority

  • Links from many well established sites within the same industry or topical area as the landing page provide additional link juice

Five key factors combine to determine link juice:

  • Relevance
  • PageRank
  • Diversity
  • Trust
  • Authority

More link juice leads to higher rankings.
Reach out to sites strong in the five link juice factors to maximize your backlink ranking boost

Visualize link juice relationships to understand its influence and maximize its impact

This image describes how you can optimize your Link Juice.

Place key pages close to landing pages so they inherit link juice

Understanding link juice flow

  • Link juice enters a site from any page that has backlinks. This is often the homepage, but could be any other landing page. Popular articles, blogs, and tools may in fact receive much more link juice than the homepage
  • The link juice received is passed on to other pages that the landing page links to, and is evenly divided between them. These pages also pass on link juice to their linked pages

Place key pages close to landing pages

  • Conversion pages and other critical areas should be kept as close to the landing pages as possible so they inherit plenty of link juice. Try to keep them directly linked or no more than two clicks away
  • This will improve click-through from the landing page, make them more likely to be crawled and indexed, and improve their direct SERP ranking

You want the underlying architecture of a site to be based on sound logic, right, but then what you do is take the opportunity to highlight and more aggressively promote the things that are most important to your business. For example, a link from the homepage to best selling products.
-Eric Enge, coauthor of The Art of SEO.

Place conversion pages close to juicy landing pages

This image describes how you can use proximity to a juicy link to boost traffic to key conversion pages.

To boost rankings and click-through, keep conversion pages within two clicks of juicy landing pages

Create a marketing strategy to attract juicy backlinks

Create Good Content

  • Useful, informative content attracts links and drives conversion. It is the foundation of any link building effort
  • In addition to information rich content like articles and blogs, consider developing tools and widgets that are of interest to potential backlinkers and customers (e.g., a mortgage calculator for a bank or real estate brokerage)

Find Relevant Sites with Good Link Juice

  • Brainstorm to create lists of related and complementary sites
  • Use Google search to expand this list
  • Include general directories like dmoz, Yahoo! Directory, & Librarians Internet Index, as well as respected industry directories
  • Use online tools to see whose linking to you and your competitors
  • Create a list of sites with good juice from all the five main link juice factors

Give Sites a Good Reason to Backlink

  • Helping your company make money is not a good reason for someone to link to you
  • Offer articles and content they can use for free
  • Create widgets that are in their interest to display, e.g.: “Best of the Industry” awards
  • Leverage existing business and personal relationships
  • Make backlinking a contract requirement for distributors & other partners

Backlink Analysis Tools

Don’t assume that just because you have a cool site, Web masters will link to you. Be proactive, contact the administrators, business associates, personal associates. You may need to contact them two or three times. Our company president even asked our business partners to link to us.
- Mark Pleasance, Data Warehouse Manager, PMA Fine Wines & Spirits Canada

Great links come when the linker is rewarded. Is there an audience or Web site owner who directly benefits when they link to pages on your site? Keep brainstorming content ideas until the answer is yes.
-Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOmoz

Audit your backlinks with the SEO Audit Tool

This is a screenshot of the SEO Audit Tool, with arrows pointing to where you can use the tool to determine your current optimization level

Download the “Search Engine Optimization Audit Tool

Execute the Strategy

  • Resource the SEO Effort
  • Measure the Results, Refine the Plan

SEO success requires dedicated resourcing & persistent effort: Get it in-house if you can, outsourced if you must

Outsourced resourcing:

  • Pros: The right consulting firm will have an up-to-date knowledge of SEO and bring abundant experience to the SEO effort
  • Cons: Doesn't always have the internal influence to get all the required departments to move forward. The long-term effort required for success can be expensive
  • Buyer beware: Many unscrupulous consulting firms will promise unrealistic results and practise deceptive black-hat SEO. Credible firms will follow a process similar what is outlined here. Use this solution set as a guide to evaluate a firm’s methods

In-house resourcing:

  • Pros: Provides persistent effort, internal influence, and is accountable for results
  • Cons: Can be difficult to find competent resources. Consider hiring a less experienced resource to be mentored by an established consulting firm

SEO results inevitably falls short every time, unless there is someone in the organization that owns it, is responsible for it, and nothing else.
- Michael Fleischner, author of SEO Made Simple.

Info-Tech Recommends:

Dedicate at least one resource to SEO and Internet marketing. Merging SEO with other duties usually means it rarely makes it to the top of the priority list after the initial effort

We hired an SEO consulting firm that provided useful advice. We assigned the implementation to our Web master who had many other responsibilities. After an initial push, not many of the recommendations where implemented and we didn’t see much change in our rankings
- Marketing Manager, Financial Services

Measurement pays, so plan to measure

Why measure

Measurement gives you the intelligence to understand search, click-through, and conversion behaviour

It allows you to understand your users and refine your strategy for better results

How to measure

Use Web analytics like Google Analytics or Ominture, and optimization tools like Google Web Master Tools

What to measure

Search terms that lead searchers to your page

Search terms that lead to conversions

On-page click behaviour

What to do next

Take lessons learned from measurement and apply them to the ongoing SEO effort

Info-Tech Research Articles:

Inform yourself about how analytics can provide your organization with valuable insights:

Web Analytics 101: Taking Off the Blindfold | The Measurable Web 2.0

Measured Goals Increase Revenue

Info-Tech recommends creating well defined SEO goals with specific measurement criteria.

Most people are not measuring. But all top quartile performers are.”
- IT Executive, Consulting

Info-Tech Research Articles:

Inform yourself about how analytics can provide your organization with valuable insights:
Web Analytics 101: Taking Off the Blindfold | The Measurable Web 2.0

Summary

Know SEO’s Value & Methods

  • Focus on Classic SEO
  • Know the Jargon
  • Plan the strategy

Define Search Terms

  • Create the Long List of Keywords
  • Reduce to a Shortlist

Optimize Pages & Structure

  • Remove landing page barriers & strategically place keywords
  • Use quality HTML, English, & URLS
  • Guide robots to relevant content with redirects & files
  • Speed up your site for higher rankings

Promote Backlinks

  • Understand link juice
  • Place pages for link juice flow
  • Build backlinks

Execute the Strategy

  • Resource the SEO Effort
  • Measure the Results, Refine the Plan

Appendix

Associated Research and Tools

SEO

The SEO Audit Tool

Web Redesign Strategy

Create a Effective Web Redesign Strategy Solution Set

Web Analytics

Web Analytics 101: Taking Off the Blindfold

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