On Site Moves and Search

Even the smallest site move can have big ramifications for search referral traffic. The greatest challenge to producing a successful site move is to create a holistic game plan. Information technology, marketing, Web development, corporate communications, paid and natural search players are all specialists on the roster of an average digital team.

While organic search expertise will have a key role in developing the playbook, ultimately it is the execution of the game plan by technology players that determines the outcome of any type of site move. By complementing noteworthy content upgrades with public relations or social outreach, and inflating paid performance plans for the duration of the site move, we arrive at an optimal outcome for everyone on the digital team.

Read the entire article at Search Engine Watch:
On Site Moves and Search

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Enterprise SEO in 2013 … And Beyond

It’s time to adjust our concept of search engine success and realign our online marketing strategies and priorities by engaging searchers with content created around client needs that are also beholden to greater business goals.

These are the primary challenges for enterprise search in 2013:

  • Can your organization realign its search engine marketing goals to focus on resolving real business issues this year and beyond?
  • Will your organization transcend conventional departmental barriers to produce tangible business results?
  • How can you get your SEO team to stop tormenting themselves about perceived ranking shifts when more than 40 percent of search engines referrals can’t be attributed to a keyword or phrase?

These are types of questions the enterprise needs to ponder if search is to be successful in 2013. Read the rest of my recommendations for Enterprise SEO in 2013 over at Search Engine Watch.

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10 Guidelines to Producing Search Engine Optimal URLs

  1. Describe the Content: An obvious URL is a great URL. If a user can look at the address bar or a pasted link in a Tweet or blog post, and make an accurate guess about the content of the page before ever reaching it, then the URL is likely optimal. These URLs get pasted, shared, emailed, written down, and indexed by the search engines. Online marketing success starts with presenting users with descriptive URLs.
  2. Keep URLs Short: The shorter the URL, the easier to copy and paste into a document, read over the phone, write on a business card, or use in a hundred other online marketing initiatives, all of which contribute to better usability and consistent branding by keeping URLs short and to the point.
  3. Static URLs are Best: Some of the major search engines treat static URLs differently than dynamic URLs. Humans and bots dislike a URL when the primary components are “?,” “&,” and “=”. Dynamic URLs can often be the ultimate barrier to successful positioning in the major search engines.
  4. Keywords Never Hurt: If you know that you’re going to be targeting a lot of competitive keyword phrases on your website for search traffic, you’ll want every advantage you can get. Keywords are certainly one element of that strategy. Even dynamically created pages through a rigorous CMS can create the option of including keywords in the URL.
  5. Subdomains Aren’t the Answer: Never use multiple subdomains (e.g., category.www.frequency-search.com); doing so adds unnecessary complex layers to what will likely be lengthy URLs. Secondly, consider that subdomains have the potential to be treated separately from the primary domain when it comes to passing link and trust value. In most cases where just a few subdomains are used and there’s good interlinking – subdomain-based site architecture won’t hurt. For example, forums.frequency-search.com is completely in line with best practices. Just remember that the limited benefits derived from flooding the SERPs with different subdomains are minimal when compared to the potential loss of link juice and domain trust.
  6. Fewer Folders Are Better: A URL should contain no unnecessary folders or paths (or words or characters for that matter). The equation is simple — the more folders in the URL, the further away from the root domain and the further away from the root domain, the less important the page. Always strive to eliminate superfluous folders and/or paths in URLs. Relevant directory names are helpful for both search engines and human users since they provide an idea about the content of the URL. It’s a best practice to use keywords in the URL structure in the form of directory names and subdirectories to optimize your website.
  7. Hyphens Separate Best: When creating URLs with multiple words in the format of a phrase, hyphens are best to separate the terms (e.g. /sure-safe/field-dressing-glove/); followed (in order) by, underscores ( _ ), plus signs (+) and nothing ( spaces ).
  8. Be Consistent with Naming Conventions: If your site uses a single format throughout its architecture, don’t consider making one section unique. Stick to your URL guidelines once established, so users (and developers) will have a clear idea of how content is organized into folders and pages. This can apply globally as well for sites that share platforms, brands, etc.
  9. Don’t be Case Sensitive: Since URLs can accept both uppercase and lowercase characters, don’t ever allow any uppercase letters in your site structure. If you have upper case URL constructs in play now, 301 (permanently redirect them) to all-lowercase versions to help avoid confusion and content duplication. If you have a lot of type-in traffic, you might even consider a 301 rule that sends any incorrect capitalization permutation to its rightful home.
  10. Don’t Append Extraneous Data: There’s no point to having a URL exist in which removing characters generates the same content. You can be virtually assured that people on the web will figure it out, link to the content in different fashions, confuse themselves, their readers and the search engines (with duplicate content issues), and then wonder why their link building initiatives aren’t working. If you have to append URLs, then you better know how to normalize URLs by way of Google and Bing webmaster tools.

Did I miss anything?

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Overreaching Over Optimization Penalties?

It is true that when I first read about Google’s warnings for its forthcoming over-optimization penalty I checked the calendar to make certain it wasn’t April 1. Reassured that the idea of an over-optimization penalty was not some sort of bad April Fool’s gag, it became obvious that at least to Google “over optimization” is indeed the new search engine spam.

What can you do to avoid triggering one of Google’s algorithmic penalties or results-dampening filters? Act smarter than a fifth grader, and create great content that your visitors will randomly comment upon and share with various friends. And read Your Website Might Be Over Optimized If … over at Search Engine Watch.

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SEO Voice of Reason

Vanessa Fox, the perennial voice of reason about search engine optimization, talks about Google’s Upcoming Algorithm Change: “Overly-Optimized Sites” and Matt Cutts. As usual, it’s not so much what Google’s chief spam cop says or where is says it, it’s what he does not say.

If you have followed a slow and steady course of making data driven decisions about improving content on your website or for the most part, have embraced only Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices over the years, then you probably have nothing to worry about when it comes to maintaining your search results. If you have taken more drastic or risky measures, then you probably do need to make some changes about how you promote your web content. The difference between over optimized and under represented in Google isn’t about how relevant you think your content is. It’s about how interesting people think your content is.

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